Maschile Plurale


The project "Countering Gender Violence by Transforming the Culture That Produces It," implemented by “Maschile Plurale” Association thanks to SGI-Italy's 8×1000 funds, carries out an integrated action on the level of education, communication and production of guidelines in order to promote male awareness of the relational dynamics that underlie gender violence.

Stefano Ciccone, President of “ Maschile Plurale” Association

There is an urgent need to rethink interventions to combat gender-based violence by involving more and more men in promoting new gender relations. You are the President of “Maschile Plurale” Association, what is your mission and to whom is it addressed?

Maschile Plurale was born from our awareness, as men, of how much male violence against women is calling all of us into question. This phenomenon leads us to question our culture and to call for changes in our idea of love, family and our conception of sexuality. Reducing violence to a matter of “crime news” and calling for repressive responses ends up being an escape from one’s responsibility: we delegate the repression of gender-based violence to the justice system without undermining our daily life. We began many years ago now to speak out as men against violence, but also to build spaces of confrontation among men; the goal was that to investigate the subterranean threads that connected us to the violence that we knew was neither mere deviance or pathology nor a residue of the past, nor reducible to the result of marginality and degradation.

This confrontation between men is not only about violence, but it tries to interrogate our lives to produce change. It is not just about voluntaristic engagement as the result of taking responsibility for violence exercised by men. We have often thought of change by separating the social dimension from the individual dimension. We believe that power and privilege have also produced a misery in men’s lives, and we believe that women’s freedom and autonomy are not a threat but, on the contrary, an opportunity for our freedom and the quality of our lives.

What exactly does the project “Countering gender-based violence by transforming the culture that produces it” consist of?

We started from our experience and the frustration encountered by the many people involved in countering violence. More and more people are talking about violence against women, but too often it is talked about incorrectly. Institutional and civil society’s initiatives are growing, but the phenomenon does not seem to be dented. We asked ourselves, then, what is missing? What is not working? And we have reflected about all the limitations we have encountered in the various areas of intervention in which we are engaged: from communication to work with perpetrators of violence, from interventions in schools to institutional campaigns to combat the phenomenon. In recent years we have reasoned about the ambiguities, contradictions and even the unconscious complicity that these interventions imply within the culture that generates and justifies violence: from the representation of weak women to the nurturing of an unjustified nostalgia for traditional social models, to the language that is often superficial and conformist. We thought it was necessary to try to spend some time, beyond the daily rush of doing, to fine-tune all these limitations in order to try to give some answers and some indications based on our experience on the comparison with the many realities we have encountered and with which we collaborate. Starting from the assumption that gives the project its title – producing a cultural transformation – we therefore decided to put in place a work that holds together reflection, listening to experiences and a commitment to propose solutions, offering cultural tools and concrete references to help change the way we all face the phenomenon of violence.

SGI-Italy supported the project through 8×1000 funds. What impact do you hope to have through this contribution?

The willingness of SGI-Italy to support the implementation of this project was a very important surprise for us, that also charges us with responsibility. The goal is to overcome the fragmentation of initiatives of interventions and to build integrated and useful responses that are reproducible, shareable and coherent. The impact we are aiming for unfolds on two levels: the first is to realize real opportunities for confrontation between the different actors, institutional associative realities, and the different professionals engaged in various capacities in this field to advance more conscious approaches. We began with the most controversial area, which is that of working with perpetrators of violence and with that of educational and awareness-raising interventions in schools. This, too, however, is known to meet with much resistance. Two meetings that we are very keen on will take place soon, involving on the one hand information and communication workers for a critical reflection on the many limits of the way the media treat the problem, but also on the limits of the awareness campaigns produced by institutions, companies and associations. The second meeting will involve associations, cultural mediators, women’s associations and immigrant communities and will cover violence in a multicultural society: from the xenophobic use of the alarm about violence against women, to the widespread and institutional violence exercised on migrant women subjected to human trafficking. We want to reason together with those working “in the field” on how to build a communication aimed at young males from other cultures on gender relations and to value the experiences and elaborations of women from different cultures and religions. All this work is always accompanied by the involvement of the association’s local groups whom we ask to enhance their territorial relations, but also to intervene in the discussion. The second level of intervention to achieve a significant and lasting impact is the one we will be working on in the last phase of the project. It consists in the production of guidelines as working tools that offer references to enrich and qualify the interventions in the field nowadays. The objective is to offer indications for communication professionals on the construction of more effective and coherent campaigns, indications for teachers and associations to build educational and participatory experiences in schools, indications to rethink the awareness paths of men who have acted violence, and so on. At the center there is always the confrontation between men and the experience of groups as a place for processing, listening and practicing change. Therefore, one of the goals is also to “tell” what men’s sharing groups are and promote the emergence of new local experiences.

Is there a significant story within the project that you would like to share?

We are still in an early stage in which we have been mainly dedicated to analysis, comparison with experiences in the field and the development of proposals to be brought into confrontation with others. Personally, I have been struck by the intensity and the ability to measure up to complex situations that we have encountered in the experiences of working with male perpetrators of violence. These are difficult experiences in which to come to terms with our ambivalence in the relationship with a man who has beaten, abused, raped or injured a woman; there are several aspects that have to be taken into account: the temptation to assert a distance, the need to build an empathic listening that does not give in to the collusive call, the difficulty in confronting the contradictory emotions that that relationship makes us feel. During the meeting “Male Violence Against Women. How to rethink the work with perpetrators,” which took place in Rome in September 2023 in the context of the project, it was very meaningful for me the meeting/contrast between the emotional bearing of the experience of women who work in anti-violence centers to support victims and that of women and men who promote pathways to change and awareness of perpetrators. Those people are all committed to the common fight against the phenomenon of violence, but they could not understand each other to the fullest extent; it was difficult to make different sufferings and stories dialogue, to recognize each other’s point of view and the fear that understanding the other might deny their own story. Our work attempts to stand on this plane of complexity without escaping it and without seeking simple solutions to a phenomenon that is complex, controversial and deeply intertwined with our imaginary, our desires, our fears and our representations.

Testimony of Andrea Bernetti, Educator

Based on your experience as an educator, what are the most innovative aspects of the project?

The work of countering gender-based violence, and more specifically the work aimed at perpetrators of violence, lacks spaces for shared reflection both on the level of the effectiveness of interventions and on the broader level of a discussion on the different ways of intervention and their verification. In this sense, Maschile Plurale’s project takes on a function that is innovative and necessary, offering an opportunity and a method for reflection, sharing and revisiting the approaches adopted to date for combating gender-based violence and male involvement in this significant goal.

In your opinion, what should be done to prevent the phenomenon of gender-based violence? How to help men become aware of their role in countering gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence is a deep and structural phenomenon in the history of cultures and human relations, and prevention is a necessary action that requires awareness of the deep relevance of the phenomenon. In my opinion, prevention is based on several axes, such as: working on a cultural proposal that deconstructs the culture of possession and transformation of the other, especially the woman, into an object that is functional to the stability of male identity (which is based, precisely, on possession); working on the knowledge and appreciation of emotions as a source of knowledge of one-self and the other; working on the acceptance and sustainability of the confusion caused by that emotions; working on the knowledge of the emotional and behavioral signals that indicate ongoing violent escalation, training all those professionals who most frequently might detect them; working on the creation of a collaborative and cohesive anti-violence network that can read the signals and engage people experiencing violence.

Men absolutely need to be put at the center, but not only within the current vision that sees them those who have to take the blame for violence and, in a process of blaming, have to redeem and change; this strategy is not enough. My idea is that men have a demand for change that needs to be brought out and supported; the patriarchal culture also hurts men by depriving them of their emotional part, forcing them into empty and repetitive relationships and a rigid identity, making them unable to stand in situations of change. Therefore, there is a need to develop the demand and the desire of men for change, as well as clearly insisting on the disvalue against violent behavior.

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