by Cara Gardner

Most parents try to protect their children as much as possible from acts of violence. They would never, for example, let one person come into their house and brutally attack another in front of their children, but kids see these things within the home almost every day. The average 16-year-old has seen more than 16,000 murders on television. Acts of violence, no matter how they contribute to plotlines, are so prolific they exceed 11 per hour on TV. These statistics, determined by the Kaiser Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics, only begin to quantify media's obsession with graphic murders, rapes and attacks. For Jackson Katz, a gender issues guru and violence prevention consultant, educating people about violence in the media is crucial to stopping violence in the real world.

"Violence is inherently a gender issue," says Katz. "Violent masculinity is a cultural norm in the U.S., so when men or boys act out violently there's the underlying idea that you shouldn't be shocked."

On Tuesday, Gonzaga University will host "Thinking Out Loud," a presentation by Katz, who plans to talk about and deconstruct representations of violence in media.

Katz founded the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society, which is an effort to enlist athletes in the fight against violence toward women. He is also the creator of Tough Guise, an award winning video about violence in media, and he is a violence prevention consultant for the U.S. military. From discussing the lyrics of rapper Eminem and analyzing the Kobe Bryant case, to advocating against the incessant portrayal of victimized women on prime time television, Katz takes mass media to task.

"Media is the great teaching force of our time," Katz says. "It's na & iuml;ve to think media images and representations of men and boys have not contributed to a definition of manhood."

Jackson says that no expert in gender or media studies will assert that people commit acts of violence solely based on media exposure, but he does say that pervasive messages, seen again and again over a lifetime, reinforce deep-seeded ideologies about women being victims and men being aggressors.

"It's the normalizing affect," Katz explains. "Massive exposure to violence is desensitizing. It's been measured in study after study for decades that if you've been exposed to massive amounts of women being raped, brutally assaulted etc., you are less affected by it."

Violence against women in the media has traditionally been a "women's issue," but Katz says that's part of the problem.

"It's more about men than women. Men are the ones doing it. My goal is to get men to acknowledge that violence is a men's issue. The prevention of violence means understanding cultural definitions of masculinity and doing something about it."

Publication date: 04/08/04

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