Gender “Men-Streaming”

CVE: Countering Violent Extremism by Addressing Masculinities Issues.

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The article examines the role of “men-streaming” in the context of violent extremism where it plays a dominant role in influencing individuals’ choice of participating in violent activities. Academicians, policymakers and researchers, have already discussed the issue of a “problematic male” at great length but Ezekilov argues that the gendered nuances regarding the way men are involved in such conflicts are not well examined. By illustrating the example of the Boko Haram conflict, he elucidates that the concept of gender is predominantly raised in the context of women and the way they are targeted as instruments of war. The complex grid of masculinity and radical violence remains significantly undervalued. To raise this problem, Ezekilov suggests that study of this issue can lead us to the understanding of the multifaceted ways through which violent radical groups come to exist, operate, and flourish whether ISIS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in West Africa, or hate groups in the West. In order to map out these barriers, he further defines some “push” and “pull” factors towards extremism that presents a useful analysis of the conditions needed for the radicalization of men.
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By invoking the work of Hassan on the Somalian conflict, he explains that push factors are the negative factors in one’s “societal environment” that aid in “pushing” men toward violent extremism, while “pull” factors are the perceived positive features of extremist groups that pull men towards joining. The article then explains the determinants, which make men join the violent extremist groups. One of the predominant push factors identified by Ezekilov is the lack of economic opportunities, which leads to poverty and unemployment. The inability to work and provide for oneself and family represents the ultimate emasculation in many societies, and it has been shown to have a negative impact on men’s health, self-image, and general well-being (Barker, 2005). The above proposition is later justified with the remark of former al-Shabab fighters in Somalia who cited that the motivation of joining was the ability to provide for themselves and not be reliant on relatives (Hassan, 2012). The second pivotal example of a push factor is social marginalization where men face sociocultural barriers within their communities which make them disengaged and more vulnerable to radicalization (Jasko,LaFree, & Kruglanski, 2017). Such barriers can relate to race, age, religion, ethnicity, or any other social identity.

While explaining the push factors, Ezekilov ascertains that a “sense of belonging” where a common cause is interlinked with male social marginalization is one of the strongest push factors for men towards violence. Groups like IS exploit this factor in their messaging, calling for the unison of all Muslims, regardless of race or ethnicity (Khader et al.). Defense of one’s identity is another aspect, which is mobilized by violent groups as a means of defense against the destruction of shared values, calling on men to be defenders of religion, country, ethnicity, or way of life.

After probing the genealogical factors that contribute to “men-streaming”, the article also identifies effective ways to combat “men-streaming” in the context of radical violence. It names some successful examples like White Ribbon Campaign (Kaufman, 2001) and men’s clubs against violence (Tu-Anh, Trang, & Tam, 2013) that have already played an indispensable role in raising the issue of masculinity and violence. These examples are pivotal because they can act as a role model for their effectiveness in providing a sense of belonging, space for men to deconstruct their preconceptions of masculinity, and/or an opportunity for men to evaluate their harmful behaviors without judgement, all of which are needed to foster true behaviour change. Finally, Ezekilov concludes that inclusive and participatory planning processes can help to identify specific factors that are still unexplored but greatly contribute to the marginalization of young men and hence in their contribution to radical violence.


  1. Barker, G., Heilman, B., & Harrison, A. (2017). The man box: A study on being a young man in the US, UK, and Mexico. Washington, DC and London: Promun do-US and Unilever. Retrieved from
  2. Ezekilov, Jossif. 2017. “Gender “Men-Streaming” CVE: Countering Violent Extremism by Addressing Masculinities Issues.” Reconsidering Development, 5:1; Chant, Sylvia and M. C. Gutmann. 2002. ‘Men-streaming’ gender? questions for gender and development policy in the twenty-first century. Progress in Development Studies, 2:4, 269-282.
  3. Hassan, M. (2012). Understanding drivers of violent extremism: The case of Al-Shabab and Somali youth. CTC Sentinel, 5(8). West Point: Combating Terrorism Center. Retrieved from
  4. Jasko, K., LaFree, G. and Kruglanski, A. (2017), Quest for Significance and Violent Extremism: The Case of Domestic Radicalization. Political Psychology, 38: 815–831. doi:10.1111/pops.12376
  5. Kaufman, M. (2001). Strategic planning to end men’s violence: The White Ribbon Campaign. Aggressive Behavior, 27(3), 158-158.