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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Talking trash

I like trash talking as much as the next sports fan but with technology today, how do you know when it's gone too far? Whether it's emails, texts, twitter, facebook, or ESPN's "Conversation Section140" there are a lot more outlets today to chide your friends over rivalries or critique your own players/teams performance. Many video games, also, allow online players to talk trash to one another. Trash talk, or talking smack, is not limited to just sports as we see it in politics and other arenas as well but it's my assumption that it has become socially acceptable because of sports. It's well known that Michael Jordan did it a lot and was good at it and some fans believe there is even an art to it. Maybe Jim Rome should get the most credit (or blame) for this becoming an art form with the development and annual event of his radio show's "Smackoff" in which caller's compete for "Best Caller of the Year" honors by degrading rival teams and fans alike. But I believe trash talk is older than Jim and Michael and believe it may go back to the days when fans' “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” signaled life or death for a beaten down gladiator.

And while that's all fine and good - and sometimes quite entertaining - there is a line that gets crossed when you strike a nerve with someone by getting too personal. Moreover, there seems to be less of a filter when people post their smack through technology then what they would say face to face to another in bars or other establishments where rival fans come together. I mean, you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at a bar and you might literally get smacked. The lack of the prospect of this happening through technology allows people the "freedom" to say whatever they want to others.

Fortunately, many sites have policies to govern inappropriateness between fans. But what happens when the reader is not a fan at all, rather the athlete that made a bad play that everyone is trashing?

Recently, two such players have taken a lot of flack from their fans for their crunch time short-comings in Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman and Missouri basketball player Kim English. Brotzman missed two field goals leading to a loss to Nevada that will keep them out of a national championship game. English saved a ball going out of bounds to the other team allowing them to hit a game tying three point basket with no time left in regulation that eventually lead to Missouri's unraveling in over time. Both players received a lot of disapproval the following days and Brotzman even received death threats, including some aimed at his family members.

When you boil it down, smack talk is all about proving oneself to others over something you take (often entirely too much) pride in by degrading something or someone else. Certainly women talk smack, but it seems like they are imitating a very masculine past time and that trash talk is often linked to calling out one's manhood by degrading feminine characteristics. Scenes like the one from The Sandlot come to mind concluding with the ultimate dis in boyhood, "you play like a girl".

I have heard fans argue about how athletes at any level can turn it off by not listening or reading all the comments and, ultimately, someone always says, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me". But are these type of comments really the responsibility of the athlete? Do fans really have the freedom to say and do whatever they want? Are personal verbal attacks about someone's on field performance not only OK but something worth rewarding if it leads to others taking another step by leaving death threatening messages? Do boys value girls less in environments where fans and coaches regularly talk smack with put downs like "you throw like a girl" or worse? It's well documented that cyber bullying has lead to death in the forms of suicide and murder - is that what it will take for us to seriously consider when we have taken smack talk too far?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Upcoming Event: Man Up! Winter Workshop

We are very excited about the direction Man Up! is headed and want to invite you to take part in our Man Up! Winter Workshop Thursday December 16th from 6-8:30pm at Johnson County Community College in their Carlson Center in room 107. We will highlight new directions for Man Up!, preview our new program "Strength Clubs", and this will be the first step for all interested Man Up! volunteers. If you have interest in our Man Up! Program as a potential volunteer or in simply learning more about the program, especially “Strength Clubs”, this will be the perfect opportunity for you.

In case you don’t know, Man Up! is MOCSA’s program that aims to engage men and boys about how they can play a vital role by being a part of the solution to end sexual violence. There a lot of reasons to have a program that specifically addresses men but two standout: 1) men know survivors as family members, neighbors, and co-workers and care to see sexual violence end; 2) men can challenge other men to stop rape before it starts. At MOCSA, we believe all men can...

SPEAK UP!- If a brother, friend, co-worker or teammate is disrespectful to girls and women, don’t look the other way, speak up. Increase awareness of others by letting them know its not the victim’s fault.

STAND UP!- Mentor and teach young boys how to be respectful men who don’t degrade or abuse girls and women. Understand how media, attitudes, and behaviors might inadvertently demean women and perpetuate sexual violence.

MAN UP!- Be a part of the solution by being an ally to those working to end sexual violence; support organizations and events publicly and financially

You also might be interested to know that Strength Clubs are MOCSA's multi-faceted programs offering a proven model and a vital next step for engaging and reeducating young men toward the crucial goal of reducing levels of violence (against men and women) long-term. The program aims to mobilize young men to find and use their strength for creating a culture free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Strength Clubs provide a safe, structured, and supportive space to connect with male peers through exploring masculinity and male strength. Exposing young men to healthier, nonviolent models and visions of manhood, Strength Clubs challenge members to develop their own definitions of masculinity and to translate their learning into community leadership, progressive action, and social change.

For more information about how you can participate in this event, call MOCSA at 816.931.4527 and ask for the Man Up! Program Coordinator.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blame it on her clothes...and "biology"!

Working in the field of sexual violence prevention, we regularly bump up against men (and women) that though they report they are "totally against rape" - women should be more careful with what they wear when they are out and about. Some even add in, "... because men biologically can't control themselves when aroused...". This is displayed in the write-in response of a 'well-meaning' father below but has been echoed by many before and throughout our culture:

As the father of a daughter, I am 100% supportive of the fact that sexual assault is something that should not occur under any circumstances.

The one area that many women seem to conveniently overlook is that biological studies have shown that the most basic way men get "aroused"
and become sexually attracted to women is through visual stimulation.

While nothing justifies sexual assault, there are many instances where women should be charged with indecent exposure. For example: Wearing a bikini on the beach is a natural situation where women wearing scantily clad bathing suits may be "racy", but still appropriate. However, a woman wearing that same scantily clad bathing suit in a mall or at a grocery store is inappropriate.

One way to dramatically reduce sexual attention in inappropriate environments is for women to dress more conservatively in those environments. I'm not talking about burqas and excessive clothing covering every inch of the body; I'm talking about "dressing appropriately" for the theater you are going to.

There's a lot to say in response to those that buy in to these beliefs that both blame what happens to a person based on what they wear as well as exonerate men who are unable to control themselves in various situations for "biological" excuses. First of all, to suggest that "the sins of men are, in part, the fault of women, specifically women in tight-fitting clothing" is putting a lot of responsibility at the feet of women. But we know that women that dress conservatively, even in burkas, can be victims of sexual assault. It also suggests that certain types of clothing holds power over men that they can not resist to the point they must respond with violence and aggression - rape is not romance. If tight fitting clothes really caused men to act this way then the surgeon general needs to put warning labels on most (if not all) clothes sold to women these days. Many in the know in this field can tell you that sexual violence has nothing to do with how a woman dresses - as many victims we see are not wearing anything that is particularly "sexy" - and it has everything to do with how a potential perp chooses to behave.

Secondly, as man, let me just tell you that it is insulting to men to claim that they are helpless to control their own actions. The implication of this thinking is that every male, given any situation where they have the opportunity to take advantage of someone else, could and would commit sexual assault. While it is true that the majority of assaults are committed by males, it is not true that the majority of males are sexually violent. Moreover, to base this on biology as if to suggest by stating something is "biological" is to imply it is instinct or ingrained and, therefore, impossible to alter or change is erroneous in and of itself. We (READ: human beings, both male and female) all have instincts and we are, in fact, instinctual but instincts are only a part of our decision making process - and, yes!, we do have "knee-jerk" reactions to certain things but even those can be altered and controlled.

Bottom Line: Men choose and are solely responsible for how they behave and/or respond to how women freely choose to identify themselves through their fashion - to suggest anything else is ridiculous!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Art of Manliness

I was looking for some clips from "guy movies" to use in our pilot program and came across this great website "The Art of Manliness". I wanted to share this site with all of you as a fantastic resource for critical discussions about the dominant stories of masculinity.

I'm also curious about what movies have influenced the shaping of your norms or expectations of what it means to be a "real man" in today's world and/or the subculture that you identify with?

I know the movies that have shaped my ideas are the ones I own and watch, or have watched, over and over each year. Five come to mind quickly: "A River Runs Through It"; "Good Will Hunting"; "Borne Identity"; "Once"; and "Marley and Me". Several questions occur to me as I make this list but the most important is "how do these influence my perception(s) of my own masculinity today?"

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I shape my whole identity around these movies but it is funny to think how many parts of these reinforce several of my beliefs, attitudes, aspirations, and behaviors. For example, a couple years ago I took up fly fishing because of Brad Pitt's character and how effortless and peaceful those scenes look on the river in Montana look. Now whenever I'm fly fishing I hear Robert Redford's voice commentating in the background...just kidding. I have, seriously, always loved the outdoors and getting away from the busyness of city life makes fly fishing alone on a river or lake all the more life-giving.

"Good Will Hunting" had its influence on my pursuit of a therapy degree and my continued work with troubled youth in programs I coordinate as well as where I spend many a volunteer hour. I like "Once" for its indie feel and clean break from American status-quo movies about bands -- that said, with the exceptions of "Spinal Tap" and HBO series "Flight of the Conchords". The Frames did an excellent job of weaving their music around the story without the usual emphasis on sex and drugs. And I really liked how Marketa had her own agency with regards to decision making in relationship with Glenn. "Marley and Me" is a no-brainer in that I am fan of big dogs, especially Labradors, and the influence of pets on people's lives. And I will freely admit that I just like the action in the "Bourne" movies for what it is.

Often, in doing this work we become very critical of the influence of media for stereotyping unhealthy norms of men and women and relationships. Thankfully, "The Art Of Manliness" got me thinking about these various movies I'm reminded media can provide positive inspiration as well as be a powerful educational tool. I hope you all can make use of their site and look forward to hearing from you about the various movies or TV series that have had an influence on your experience of masculinity (or femininity).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Upcoming April Events: SAAM

Thursday April 1st
Crime Victim's Rights Art Show
Johnson County Central Library, 4-6pm

Saturday April 3rd
Create Your Own Reality: Free of Sexual Violence
Gifted Hands, Crown Center, 3-6pm

Tuesday April 6th
Unified Government of Kansas City, Ks & Wyandotte County Denim Day
Kansas City, Kansas, City Hall, 10:30-1pm

Wednesday April 7th
Blue River Health Fair, 10am - 2pm

Saturday April 10th
Riverside Project Aware, 11:30am - 1pm

Thursday April 15th
Health Fair
Kansas City Kansas Community College, 8:30 - 11:30am

Saturday April 17th
Walk A Mile In Her Shoes
Liberty High School, 2:30-4pm

Research Foundation Block Party
Research Medical Center, 10am - 2pm

National Crime Victim's Rights Week April 18th - 24th

Monday April 19th
Clothesline Project: Sexual Assault Awareness
Avila University, 8am - 5pm

St. Luke's Plaza Lunch and Learn
St. Luke's Hospital, 12-1pm

Tuesday April 20th

Clothesline Project: Sexual Assault Awareness
Avila University, 8am - 5pm

University Missouri Kansas City "Take Back the Night"
UMKC, 6-10pm

Wednesday April 21st
Clothesline Project: Sexual Assault Awareness
Avila University, 8am - 5pm

Thursday April 22nd
Clothesline Project: Sexual Assault Awareness
Avila University, 8am - 5pm

Denim Day at UMKC

Friday April 23rd
Clothesline Project: Sexual Assault Awareness
Avila University, 8am - 5pm

Saturday April 24th
UMKC School of Nursing Health Fair
UMKC, 9am-2pm

Tuesday April 27th
"Speak Out: Empowerment Through Spoken Word"
YWCA of Greater Kansas City in Kansas City, Kansas, 7-9:30pm