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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Manhood Lost...really?

I ran across a YouTube trailer of a new video called "An Emasculating Truth" while reading fellow bloggers and was dumbstruck by the idea that someone would contend ("scientifically") that the end of manhood is near. Take a look at these two trailers/teasers and tell me if you think this guy is serious:

I watched this first video and thought it must be a set up as he doesn't look all that serious about his project as his body language seems to portray sarcasm more than someone passionately concerned with the subject matter. Case in point, look at his facial expressions during the hunting scene as well as the scene at the circumcision. My first impressions from this video was that it was some sort of mockumentary.

But this second video raised some concern in me that this guy really does believe that there's a crisis in masculinity and, accordingly, it stems from some sort of loss of those good 'ol tough guy days when men were men and everyone else were girls or at least 'girlie men'.

On one hand, I'm not sure I can take this arguement seriously because traditional masculinity is still the norm and reinforced all around us daily (you can even fill in a link for "all around" or "daily" as there are endless amounts of sites, videos, commercials, etc that prop imagery of a specific type of manliness in your face 24-7...why else would chevy choose football legend Howie Long to sell their brand? Is he known to be smart about cars? What audience are they aiming for by using him? Are they selling a car/truck or the brand of a "man's man" vehicle?).

The fact of the matter is we are over saturated with ideas of hegemonic masculinity. Any given day in any given town I can walk into any teen or pre-teen class room and ask boys (and girls) to point out stereotypes of what it means to be a "real man". I actually do this quite often as part of my vocation and volunteer life, yet, it never ceases to amaze me how many various groups of kids can always produce the same tired list of images and ideas of traditional masculinity ("real men are tough, don't cry, prove their toughness by beating others up, prove their prowess by hooking up with girls for one night stands, work tougher jobs, drink beer, are in charge, fix things, and deserve a specially designed area in their homes to be men, etc"). In the face of all this, to postulate manhood is not only in crisis but nearing "total emasculation" -- or will become obsolete in the future as women will somehow win the evolution battle, rid the world of men, and become lesbians as Glenn O'Brien suggests -- seems absolutely ridiculous.

Almost as ridiculous as the stream of reminders in our culture that tell us how to be "real men".

Still, I have read and seen all the evidence he raises in the second video before and heard many critics raise the same incredulous conclusions: men are being feminized in the classroom; title IX is hurting men in sports and is the sole reason there are fewer men on college campuses; and women are stealing men's jobs especially in this bad economy. However, the stat "13% of men live at home" (with their parents of orgin) is a new one. Although, the only study I found that comes close to backing this stat actually reports young women are more likely than young men to stay at home.

That said, I'm not sure how we are to blame women for that one or any of this. And, yet, that's exactly what these critics, including this film maker "Oscar", are attempting to do in blaming women's empowerment for men's short comings. Essentially, Oscar, and others like him, are attempting to say that men are oppressed and we need to free men before they become extinct. The problem is in their "proof" in that their blame game holds all other factors in a vaccum and suggests that men are not to blame at all for their (alleged) collective, recent, lack of achievement. The other factors have to be considered and when one does (example in a moment) we find there are far better significant correlations that explain these trends. One also finds these trends are not necessarily interrelated nor conclusive that women are taking over the world at the expense of men.

Take, for example, the claim that testosterone levels have continuously dropped over the past 20 years in men. Oscar not only suggests that this is part of "femization" of men but also suggests this will contribute to more female births. Though there are several studies that back this stat most suggest that the key contributing factor is increased high glucose diets among men. Suggesting that lower testosterone levels in a man will cause him to have only female off spring is a leap with no backing.

Whether you take Oscar and his co-conspiracy theorists seriously or not, I would ask that you thoroughly and critically vet their assumptions and proof...and then send me your thoughts as I'm always curious what others think.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Walk A Mile...2009 Pics, Highlights & Thanks!

Is there anything harder than walking in heels up and down hills or stairs or while pushing a stroller on a college campus? Last night on the campus of the University of Missouri Kansas City, nearly a hundred men found out first hand and gained a new appreciation for what women are put through to look "fashionable" or "sexy" in our culture. 200 more people came out to support these men as they took a stand to speak out against sexual violence.

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes has been around since 2001 but has received some critism of late for making a mockery of women's experience as well as limiting the victimization of sexual violence -- as if it only happens to women. Both are valid points. I believe this march creates space to begin conversations about how men and women can partner together to end sexual violence. High heels are only a representation of ALL the devices that are meant to keep women, collectively, "in their place". As you see above, many men take on other devices in this walk as well such as pushing a stroller, wearing hose, painting their nails, and wearing skirts.

Even in walking in these shoes for a mile, participants recognized that they will not fully comprehend what it means to be stereotyped and oppressed by these things daily. That said, many men complained of blisters, turned ankles, and felt gawked at during the march as well as many reported they did not know how women dawn heels ever after their mile experience. For men to catch a glimpse of women's daily experience, have an opportunity to broaden their awareness about how sexual violence impacts their loved ones, and learn that they can be a part of the solution by becoming active allies in their communities -- this is the goal of "Walk A Mile" events and I believe that was accomplished at UMKC's 3rd annul event.

Thanks to all that participated and supported the event. It was great to see so many campus and communtiy men and women join together to walk in support of ending sexual violence. A special thanks to the UMKC's Women Center for making this event possible.

UPDATE: Cross posted at UMKC's Women Center.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

UMKC's 3rd Annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes

UMKC's 3rd Annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is only a week away, please feel free to come out and support us! Or, better yet, march with us by signing up at UMKC's Women's Center.

For more information about men's activism as a part of "Walk A Mile In Her Shoes" please visit their website here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why misogyny in sports culture?

Why is it that an aspect of sports culture appears to go hand in hand with misogyny?

I have been listening to a lot sports talk lately on the subjects of Ben Roethlisberger and Erin Andrews, reading articles about both, and reading the comments from sports fans after the articles. In both, hearing what is said by radio sports talk show guys and the comment sections by knucklehead sports fans I find myself really disappointed in recognizing how today’s sports culture and misogyny goes hand in hand.

It has been really interesting to see how sports culture handles these two incidents and, specifically, the women involved. In the report of Roethlisberger’s alleged sexual assault, many have jumped on his bandwagon to show blind support for their “hero” and suggesting the reason they do so is because of all they “know” about him or that they know him so well that they are on first name basis with him. What many know about Ben is his on-field performance and accomplishments but most of us have no clue what he is really like off the field, including how he treats women in his life. (To be honest, I don’t know Ben nor do I know a thing about his criminal history or his significant other relationships other than he’s not married.) On the other hand, most in sports culture do just the opposite with McNulty. Though we know she held a high position at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino, many fans immediately assume she is a “gold digging-jersey chasing- psychotic slut” simply because they would prefer not to wrongly condemn their pal Ben . ESPN even chose not to run the story, at first, taking a silent bystander approach of support for Ben.

I get, to some degree, if sports culture wanted to fault on standing up for their own but their reaction to Erin Andrews shows me that is not the case. In case you don't know, Andrews is a sideline reporter for ESPN and recently someone has posted peeping tom videos of her on the internet. Andrews has been described as “the woman every man loves”, “THE sexy sideline reporter”, “sideline siren” and “America’s sexiest sportscaster” by not just fans but many media networks and outlets. As opposed to Ben, Andrews is shown support for how she looks rather than her on camera work and accomplishments as if that’s all that matters to sports culture. What’s worse is that many in sports culture have belittled the violation to Andrews or are proposing that women have no place on the sideline or sportscasting in the first place. Even a local sports talk show I have generally found respectable in these matters was discussing what other sexy sideline reporters they want to see in slimy videos or nude photos. I was not surprised one bit, however, when the other local sports talk show discussed how it is the fault of the networks for putting "sexy girls on the sidelines" and how this wouldn't have happened if Andrews was "homely".

Look, I'm an avid sports fan and usually stand up for the values that sports provide youth as well as the entertainment college or professional sports provide adults. There's a lot about sports that I don't like including the power and privilege we give to certain athletes, the money that's thrown around, and, among other things, the exploitation of young athletes for their physical talents over and above their intellect, character, or other talents. But it absolutely disgusts me when stories like these come out and sports fans, members of the sports media, and sports networks are quicker to feed and support misogyny as if it were intrinsic to sport rather than consider justice for the victims.

We would prefer to think that these, and incidents like them, are rare or some shadow side of sports culture rather than consider that sports culture is intrinsically misogynistic. But in order for us to believe otherwise, two things must happen: 1) incidents like these must decrease in sports; 2) more men need to speak out against the sexism and misogyny we see in sports culture. I am convinced that in order for (1) to happen we need to put more time and energy in (2). That is why I was grateful to find this article by Jim Williams of the Washington Examiner who not only supports Andrews but all women sports casters that are "subjected to ridicule and sexual innuendo despite, in most cases, being smarter and knowing more about sports than their male colleagues." Unfortunately, I have not seen many men in sports culture that are willing to put themselves out there not only to not judge McNulty but also to consider her side of the story apart from what they know of Ben’s on field accomplishments.

UPDATE: Two more male journalist speaking up & out about who's to blame and how these incidents are a show of men being men at their worst.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is Rape Serious?

A friend passed this article on to me and it really is a great piece about the seriousness of rape. Nicholas Kristof, author of the Op-ed, focuses on how our criminal justice system has deemed the crime of rape as trivial by leaving countless rape kits untested. He shares a story about a suspect that sexually assaults two more victims while the rape kit of his first victim remains unprocessed.

To many of us working in the field of Sexual Violence Prevention this story is all too familiar and we are very aware of how often these undetected rapists will strike again before being caught. Still, the statistics in this article struck me in the wake of the "Swine Flu" scare (less than 5,000 victims) which has recently been elevated to pandemic status despite the fact that influenza (aka, "the common flu") continues to infect more people (200,000 victims) and is responsible for more flu-related deaths. What catches my eye at the moment is how sexual violence, by comparison, is a far more wide spread problem in that there are nearly a million victims worldwide each year (including 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the United States), yet, it remains one of the lowest priorites to be dealt with as shown in Kristof's article.

When will we take rape seriously?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another installment of a feel good story: "A Journal for Jordan"

A friend recently told me the story behind this journal which was explained to me as a father to son version of "PS I love you" -- which I have no problem admitting that I actually liked the movie (even though I never read the book). I was immediately taken in by the fact that a parent, especially a father, had the foresight to write down everything that he wanted his child, in this instance a son, to know just in case he was not around to teach him.

What a daunting task! I recently have become a parent and can not even began to imagine all the things that I would want to write down in such a journal to make sure my son would know, just in case I'm not around to teach him. I also can not imagine how this father was able to write such a work of love under the pressure of war, where the harshest realities of life are continually on display.

I went to the local bookstore to read more and found that the book leans more towards telling the love story between the parents than advice giving between father and son. Many people on Amazon have given bad reviews because of this fact. But, I got to tell you that a father that professes a legacy of love for his partner might be leaving behind some of the best advice his son will ever receive. Sure, there are a lot practical things to teach a 2 year old before they become an adult. However, I am certain that the most practical thing for a young man to learn is how to treat women in his life with love, equality, admiration, and respect.

Without his father in his life to model these essential characteristics as an emotional coach, what more for his father to do then to write his personal journey to manhood in a journal to his son? We need more young men to learn these things and more fathers to mentor the young men in their lives about why loving and honoring women in their life is so important.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feel good story of the day: The real hero was the man inside the costume

Too often in doing this line of work I get bogged down by story after story that fit in my file entitled "Worst Stories Ever". Positive stories that promote healthy and safe visions of masculinity come few and far between. So I wanted to take advantage of a this feel good story when I had the chance despite the awful video retelling of the story on Rachel Maddow's Show.

There's so much I like about this story: a fireman having super hero costumes at the station to connect with kids on their level; this man's patience and emotional attunement to hear and meet this child's needs; and his recognition and insight that there was a connection between the child's risky behavior and the fear/anxiety the child was experiencing in separating from mom for a first day of school.

Wouldn't it be great if this sort of response was normative behavior by men and not just in their relationships with youth but also with men and women in their life as well (costume not included, unless you need it to act like that)?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Upcoming Events: April is SAAM

In case you did not know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). MOCSA is taking part this year in the calendar events listed below but I wanted to highlight three as great ways men can be involved:

1) Sunday April 5th the Kansas City Wizards are playing host to the San Jose Earthquakes and will be honoring SAAM by having their players sign "Men As Allies" pledges as well as filming a YouTube about the pledge. For ticket infomation please visit the Kansas City Wizards online ticket office.

2) Saturday April 25th, Kansas City Free Health Clinic (KCFree) and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., are co-sponsoring a 3 on 3 basketball tournament and health fair at the Niles Home for Children called "Call the Shots". The tournament for youth 13-18 years old will run from 1-4pm. Food and prizes will be awarded to the winners! At the tournament, the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, Good Samaritan Project and the Kansas City Health Department will offer FREE STD and HIV TESTING to persons age 13+. Incentives will be offered to those who test.

3) Tuesday April 28th, MOCSA & the YWCA of Kansas City, KS, will be having their 2nd annual "Speaking Out: Empowerment Through The Spoken Word" poetry event at 7:30pm. Poetry is not for everyone, but I can tell you firsthand from taking in the event last year that there is something freeing and inspiring in hearing men and women speak out against sexual violence from the stories of their own life experience.

Other events on the MOCSA Calendar include the following:

Thursday April 2nd
2009 Crime Victim’s Rights Art Show
Johnson County Central Library, 4pm-6pm

Saturday April 4th
Create Your Own Reality: Free of Sexual Violence
Gifted Hands, Crown Center 6pm-9pm

Sunday April 5th
Wizards Game
Community America Ball Park 2pm-4pm

Tuesday April 7th
Take Back the Night
UMKC 6:30pm

Thursday April 16th
Community Festival
Harmon High School 6pm-7:30pm

Saturday April 18th
Health Fair
Paseo Baptist Church 10am-2pm

Saturday April 18th
Rock Out- Reach Out Benefit Concert
Crosstown Station 6pm – 11pm

Saturday April 18th
Walk a Mile in her Shoes
Liberty High School 8:30am

Saturday April 25th
KCFree 3 on 3 Basketball Tourney “Call the Shots”
Niles Home for Children 1pm-4pm

National Crime Victims Week
April 26th through May 2nd

Tuesday April 28th
Speak Out: Empowerment through Spoken Word
YWCA of Greater KC 7pm-9:30pm

Thursday, April 30th
Women’s Political Caucus Discussion
The Writer’s Place 7pm

Please come out and join us in any and all of these events as we step up and speak out against sexual violence in the Kansas City community.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"What would you do?"

ABC's Primetime has recently decided to play mad scientist by attempting to cross reality TV with social experimentation (throwing in a little “candid camera” and possibly “Punk’d”) in order to ask the age old question of staged situations, “What would you do?”

If you click the link, you can view the video of a man putting something into, presumably, his date’s drink and watch the reactions of two sets of couples (a couple of friends and a husband/wife couple). According the comments section on Jezebel’s website, this staged situation has caused quite a stir and rightfully so, as the reactions of ‘innocent bystanders’ leaves a lot to desired.

My favorite comment, by far:
“Ugh. I hate this show…These shows seem to set out to prove that the world is full of assholes when in reality it’s only about 60% assholes.”

Six of 10 of us being assholes is still a huge problem if you ask me. The more pressing concern I have in the “What would you do?” videos is that neither of the three men (two friends or the husband) respond pro-socially to the situation.

There are several things I want to ask them as well as the two actors of how they interpret these inactive bystanders’ behaviors. Do the male bystanders believe its someone else’s problem’, ‘not a problem’, or simply fail to act because they are unsure how to help? Does the actor playing the perp feel emboldened in his role by the way the first two ally themselves with him? Was it easier to thwart the confrontation of the wife because the husband was not doing anything? What’s going through the actress’s mind in the way the first two guys respond? Was she surprised that the husband never said or did anything considering how outspoken his wife was?

Unfortunately, I think we can rule out any optimism with the first two guys as they not only do not see it as a problem, they actually support the potential perpetrator (“asshole”). Maybe if there was one more man that was present that raised concern they might have acted differently. I would like to have seen how they would have responded but it appears that they were in “save face among other men” mode -- a common, albeit ignorant, response by men abiding by the rules of homosociality (the idea of revering men above women in any given situation). There’s also the high likelihood that they were assholes themselves as their behaviors were basically cheering on the perp.

What could be said of the husband? His wife was actually speaks out, however, instead of supporting her he has a dismissive look of his face as if to say “what are you thinking?” “Why would you involve us with her lot?” “Oh no, here we go again…” He smiles and appears relieved when he finds out it was all part of a show, but it comes off as lackluster and very disappointing for he neither supports his wife or the victim.

These scenarios obviously bring up issues of bystander effect, group inhibition, and diffusion of responsibility but there’s also something going on here with men, in particular, that needs to be questioned. Several studies have shown that women are more likely to intervene as bystanders than men no matter the victim or the situation. What’s going on in men that, put in situations like this, we don’t perform bravely? Rather, we choose to not see it as dangerous nor take any personal responsibility? What do these men gain in not intervening? Would they have responded differently if they were at the bar alone, or if other men at the bar had expressed concern about the situation? What would you have liked to seen these men do in response?

What would you have done?