MALE STEREOTYPE: Tom Hardy from the Mad Max: Fury Road epitomises the stereotypical
MALE STEREOTYPE: Tom Hardy from the Mad Max: Fury Road epitomises the stereotypical "real man”. Jasin Boland

Ditch the 'real man' stereotype to fight family violence

Chris Turner is the founder and CEO of SunnyKids which provides more than 10,000 nights of domestic and family violence related emergency accommodation, and partners with the community and government through health, education and child protection agencies to keep kids and communities safe.

  ARE you a real man?

Domestic and family violence often starts from your definition of what being a "real man" means to you.

Recent events with surfing champion, Mick Fanning and local star Juilan Wilson, have been celebrated around the world, and rightly so.

Both made it to shore safely - shaken, in tears and hugging each other - because that's what real men do, or is it?

The definition of a "real man" or the "stereotypical male" is often thought of as the way we perceive and believe a man exhibits masculinity, e.g. tough, courageous, stoic, adventurous (think Rambo, Mad Max, James Bond), which by virtue of their very existence as fantasy characters in action movies, is unrealistic, and therefore unattainable.

It is important to remember being a "real man" is not just about these traits and this is where a lot of domestic and family violence issues stem from - expectations and learned behaviours due to male stereotyping.

Male stereotyping places an unrealistic hierarchy of masculinity onto boys and men.

Men who unwittingly identify their worth within such stereotypes will inevitably seek male privilege and assert this to achieve success; and those who don't succeed will feel frustrated, angry, confused and cheated, and herein lies the very real potential for domestic violence.

Perhaps even more frightening is that such men have learnt that expressing this anger amongst the general public is not socially acceptable and therefore take it behind closed doors.

Add to this, alcohol and/or other drugs and you have a pressure cooker of anger that will eventually burst.

It's the perpetuation of such stereotypes throughout our society and communities that leads some men to believe they have a right to make claims upon women, including violence due to their belief in male superiority.

When it comes to violence against women, the 2003 Against All The Rules study found that 91% of men aged 21-29 would not confront their peers when it came to violence against women.

The tragic case of Rosie Batty's son, Luke, who was killed by his father in front of others at cricket practice, is an extreme case of domestic violence but unfortunately murder and domestic violence are far from mutually exclusive.

The point must also be made that men can also be victims and that women can also perpetrate violence against their partner, but we must also simply accept the predominance of domestic and family violence is perpetrated by "stereotypical males" who believe they have a right to make claims upon women, including violence due to their frustrated belief in male superiority.

The solution to this is to ensure the current "stereotypical" male persona is put to bed once and for all.

Our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, "Real men don't hit women" and good on him and others for taking a stand, but we need to do more than say what real men don't do - we need a clear and unequivocal message to boys and girls, men and women as to what real men actually do.

Which brings us to back to

the question of what is a "real man", and how can we help raise one, be one and help end the stereotypical masculinity that perpetuates domestic and family violence?

First we need to acknowledge and accept we all play a part in the promotion of the current male stereotype, and that we all have a moral responsibility to challenge and change it.

We need to engage men to challenge other men's sexism and violence; promote gender equality in the state, workplace and in the home.


  • 25% of Australian men believe the use of 'some' violence against women in their relationships is acceptable
  • 91% of men aged 21-29 would not confront a mate for being violent towards a woman
  • On average in Australia, there have been two women murdered per week through domestic and family violence in 2015
  • Every three hours a woman in Australia is hospitalised due to domestic and family violence



  • DV Connect domestic violence hotline: 1800 811 811
  • If you are in immediate danger call 000
  • Learn more about SunnyKids at