Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Missing in media accounts is a thoughtful exploration of actions taken by the Penn State board of trustees. While less provocative than the actions of some Penn State students, the board’s decision to fire all of the top officials involved in the scandal–including the legendary football coach—represents an appropriate and informed response to the facts of this case and the serious nature of what has been alleged.
It remains to be seen whether Coach Paterno or university president Graham Spanier violated the law by failing to comply with “mandated reporter” requirements (an allegation facing Bishop Finn of the Kansas City Catholic Diocese). What is clear is that the admitted failure to take swift and decisive action after learning of the abuse constitutes a moral and ethical failure that makes them unfit for continued service.
Childhood sexual abuse can have devastating and lifelong consequences. Penn State officials would do well to shift their focus now to addressing the needs of any possible victims of abuse and instituting reforms to prevent future abuse. And rather than facing punishment for breaking laws or codes of conduct, protesting students would be better served by education on the serious but gravely misunderstood issue of child sexual abuse.
As a volunteer for MOCSA (a Kansas City-based organization that treats survivors of sexual abuse and assault) and a professional grant maker in the social service arena, I am acutely aware of the critical importance of a prompt and therapeutically sound response to victims of sexual abuse. Failure on either account re-victimizes those who have fallen prey to sexual abuse and delays their difficult—yet highly possible—recovery from its effects.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
In my last post I discussed the portrayal of men in the media, television in particular. The inspiration came from an article by NPR’s Linda Holmes that explored whether, even considering all the advancements our society has made in terms of social issues, television has begun to regress in terms of its portrayal of men. I must admit, it had me sold: while there are certainly some great programs out there that do a fine job at positively portraying the multiple roles modern men do and should take on (I’m thinking ABC’s Modern Family), there are about a million others that do nothing but promulgate a flawed, stereotypical, testosterone-fueled image of men (i.e. anything Spike TV has ever aired). Unfortunately, I write to you all bearing news of another TV show that can be added to the latter list: Last Man Standing, a new sitcom starring Tim Allen which promotes itself as one that is retrieving masculinity…whatever that means.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have never seen Last Man Standing. However, I have seen its advertisements and read Linda Holmes’s latest article reviewing the pilot. From what I can gather, it does in fact seem to mindlessly parade stereotypical notions of “real” masculinity with an unapologetic, boastful attitude that tramples anything that some sort of macho culture deems as an obstacle to their ideas regarding manhood. For example, Holmes points out that Tim Allen’s character proudly pulls his grandson from a daycare that seems to be promoting an open mind towards things like homosexuality and gay men and instead chooses to take him to the outdoors store he operates, which he loves because “it smells like balls.”
Holmes goes on to point out that unlike Allen’s first sitcom, Home Improvement, his character this time around has no loveable qualities nor does he have a “sensible-wife counterbalance that can take the ugly out of all (of it).” As Holmes puts it, there “ is a sense in the pilot that someone sat around a table and said, ‘We need to make a show for people who are really upset about the fact that sitcoms don't make as many jokes about women, gay men and people from other countries as they used to.’”
I can say that I am definitely going to check out Last Man Standing and I’m curious if any readers have seen the first episode. Is it as bad as Holmes claims? Furthermore, does this in fact prove my earlier hypothesis that television, and the media in general, is in fact regressing in terms of its attitudes towards masculinity?
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Power is an amazing thing. It has the ability to change everything from the way we live to the way we think. It has the ability to create positive change. It also has the ability to destroy.
A couple of years ago, I saw a documentary that truly changed me. It started by enlightening me about the current status of HIV and the AIDS virus. I knew there was an increased infection rate among African-American women. According to researchers and medical experts, the increase was attributed to several factors – drug use, Black men on the “down low”, an increase in sex among teenagers, etc.
But the documentary, All of Us, decided to truly examine the subject by focusing on the realities of some unique women, including:
- Dr. Mehret Mandefro, public health practitioner and medical anthropologist. The documentary was filmed as Dr. Mandefro was completing her residency at
, in the Montefiore Hospital South Bronx. She took on the task of researching why there is an increase.
- Tara, also HIV+ and battling a form of cervical cancer that has required very invasive surgery. She has also dealt with sexual/physical abuse and rape.
As Dr. Mandefro conducts her research, the film records her discovery of the connection between increased infection rates in women and issues such as poverty, education, and of course, sexual abuse and assault. But the biggest revelation occurs during a section of the film with
One afternoon, Dr. Mandefro separately speaks with Tara and her boyfriend. She asks them questions about specific areas of their lives and who makes the decisions in those areas.
In another scene in the film,
As Dr. Mandefro begins to discuss this revelation with her peers, and even travels to her native
The title of the film comes from Dr. Mandefro's realization that it was not just Black women who become powerless in the bedroom. It affects
What I realized after watching the film is that if we, as men, have the power, we have misused and abused this power. Essentially, we sometimes take the power away from the women in our lives by using sex as a bargaining chip or a carrot…or even worse, a weapon. Sex should be a mutually agreed upon experience, a shared pleasurable experience.
One woman alone can’t decrease the rate of HIV infection and the spread of AIDS. One man alone can’t cause a paradigm shift in the way we men view sex and its power. It’s going to take all of us to do that.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Often, as I prepare to write for this blog, I make what I call my usual “internet rounds” (a scan across the web of some of my favorite sites) in search of material to write about. Last week, I came across an editorial on NPR’s website in which Linda Holmes proposed a rather interesting proposition: that the media (television in particular) “is even worse at managing its ideas about masculinity than about femininity.” Such a sentiment seems ridiculous at first; the conventional wisdom of course being that women have been unrepresentatively characterized in the media and that television and other forms of entertainment have put forth a series of “ideal” yet impossible expectations of women in terms of appearance and even behavior. While I am not here to challenge such a notion (of course the media has unfairly represented women) it is interesting to wonder what sorts of expectations the media puts on men.
The NPR article goes on to describe a new CBS series entitled How to be a Gentleman. Apparently, the show is a sitcom that explores the definitions of masculine, rugged “real men” and their counterparts found in delicate, sensitive “gentlemen.” Holmes points out that the show’s “overt and unapologetic sexist stereotyping, in which only certain kinds of men are ‘real men,’” suggests that the show promulgates the notion that there is a very specific set of criteria that determines what masculinity is and that, through countless manifestations of such a sentiment in the media, television has become even worse at presenting a fair and varying portrayal of men than it has of women.
Furthermore, I am reminded of ESPN Magazine as they are set to release their latest “Body Issue” soon. For those not familiar with the sports magazine, the “Body Issue” is an edition that features nude and semi-nude photographs of professional athletes. To be fair, while the photos can be a bit racy, they are shot artistically and do feature both men and women. The “Body Issue” has been criticized for its contents not just because of their risqué qualities, but because they prominently feature what many consider impossible body types. The men featured in the magazine especially strike a chord with me, as their chiseled bodies represent an ideal that many of my male, college-aged peers strive for yet will most likely never realize. To be honest, I am torn on this issue. ESPN’s “Body Issue” does represent images of men that are typically considered to be at the peak of health and fitness; and what’s so bad about ensuring a healthy body? The problem, however, is the fact many young men are encouraged into unhealthy habits - such as steroid usage- in pursuit of such physiques.
As always, readers, I am curious to hear your thoughts on the portrayal of men in the media? Has it really reached a point that, as Linda Holmes believes, is worse than its portrayal of women? Moreover, what do you make of shows like How to Be a Gentleman and publications such as the “Body Issue”?
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
It’s 7:30 a.m., and Taylor is in a strange town, laying on a hospital exam table, totally exposed and vulnerable, with a medical professional conducting a very invasive examination, and a policeman waiting outside the room wanting to ask some questions about an “alleged” sexual assault…Taylor is feeling scared, embarrassed, ashamed and hoping that family and friends will never find out. How did Taylor end up here?
Taylor came to Kansas City on business, staying overnight at a downtown hotel. After a day of meetings, Tayor decided to accept an invitation to join some colleagues for drinks at a bar in a popular, local entertainment district. These are co-workers that Taylor just met that day; and after a long day of meetings, having a drink or two and unwinding seemed like a good idea. After only a couple of drinks, Taylor started feeling light-headed, and the colleagues showed genuine concern and offered to help Taylor back to the hotel room, which was greatly appreciated. When they reached the hotel, Taylor blacked out. Upon awakening at 5:30 a.m., alone and naked in the hotel room (which was trashed with some personal items missing), Taylor’s body is aching and the friendly colleagues are nowhere to be found. Taylor is married, has never experienced anything like this before, and is scheduled to fly home the next day. While tempted to let it go and save the embarrassment of uncomfortable questions and possible disclosures to family, friends and employer, Taylor knows the best chance of seeing justice served for the suspected crime committed is to be examined immediately by a medical professional and by filing a police report. Dazed and confused, Taylor drives to the nearest hospital, where police are notified. Within the space of half an hour, Taylor is on the hospital table being examined, with the police waiting outside.
Did I mention that Taylor (not the victim’s real name) is a guy? Everything described above actually happened, except Taylor didn’t know what resources were available to him in Kansas City, and he didn’t want anyone to find out, so he didn’t seek a medical exam or file a police report that night; no, instead, Taylor caught his flight home the next day, vowing never to discuss it with anyone. Weeks went by and Taylor was haunted by what had happened to him and felt violated and wronged – he called a local agency in his hometown for help. They, in turn, called MOCSA here in Kansas City to provide Taylor with advocacy services and morale support when he returned to file a police report.
Had Taylor gone to the hospital or notified the police, chances are very good that MOCSA would have been notified immediately and a volunteer Hospital Advocate would have been dispatched to the hospital to meet with Taylor, to figuratively (and literally) “hold his hand” throughout the process - from the medical exam, interview with the police officer and filing the police report, should that be Taylor’s decision.
In the past, the MOCSA Hospital Advocate would have been a woman, and don’t get me wrong – any friendly face at a time like this is welcome; however, MOCSA has recently decided to allow men to act as Hospital Advocates for other male victims. There have been instances where male victims have expressed some hesitation to share the details of their sexual assault with a female advocate, out of concern for the advocate’s discomfort and their own embarrassment. Hopefully, by providing male advocates to victims, it will encourage these men who have been assaulted to get the help they need following such a horrible event. To simply “be there” for the Taylor’s in this world, during one of the scariest, most embarrassing and uncomfortable experiences of their life is a good and noble endeavor. In order to act as a MOCSA Hospital Advocate, you must complete the in-depth, 40 hours of volunteer training and become accepted, but what a small price to pay since I think we can all agree…
NO ONE should go through this alone!
by Mike Eggleston
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
“Hey, you’re _____. Good to see you! So what are you up to these days?” That was the question that got asked a lot at my last high school reunion. No wonder – 25 years have passed since we were all 18, and a lot has changed in our individual and collective lives: gains and losses, triumph and tragedy. But would there be enough commonality to connect us? I was curious about how these people – who came to the reunion voluntarily as opposed to a forced-fun situation -- would interact: would cliques be intact? Would the former debaters huddle and talk politics? Would the jocks boast about the glory days? Would the “nerds” be CEOs? Could the cheerleaders have sustained peppy personalities for a quarter of a century?
Moving from conversation to conversation, I noticed a gender-relevant trend: almost without exception, the women tended to relate via their life stage situation: “I’m a single mom now, and I’m helping take care of my aging parents.” Whereas guys seemed to define themselves by their job or major life changes: “I gave up music once I finished my engineering degree”; “Now, I’m ready to settle down with the right girl…not easy, ‘cause I’m a single dad”; “I’m still in the military, but now I teach strategic leadership courses”; or “I’m still in the insurance business, and I coach my kid’s soccer team. They’re 4-1”.
Unlike our 5-year reunion, where everyone was riding the wave of being out of college (or at a solid job), or our 10-year reunion (where people felt compelled to justify their progress or barriers), the 25-year reunion had a certain calm about it. Could it be that we, the rowdy Class of 1986 had actually settled down? Yes. Even the former rebels, punks and self-proclaimed ‘freaks” were pretty easygoing. A unifying commonality was the willingness of people to open up to catch up. The women were in their natural element of emotional connecting; the men had retired their braggadocio and were comfortable enough in their own skins to relate as current contemporaries, not shells of former selves.
But what really took me by surprise was how many people had used Facebook as a portal for connecting personally: They offered condolences on my mother’s death; they asked if I was dating anyone, and asked me how the house remodeling was coming. The overall feelings was one of relief – that we somehow made it 25 years and were brave, able and willing enough to come back home – and reconnect as alums, regardless of where we are on life’s path individually, as a bunch of dudes, or as just people. Life as we knew it is no longer; the Blue Ridge Mall and Bannister Mall that defined our social lives have been torn down. Male or female, “popular” or not, we were all there, together, if but only for brief chats. “Remember when we…?” was often followed by a “Yeah, I think…”
So where do you stand: firmly in the present, longing for the past, or focused on your future? If you knew then what you know now, would you have lived your “glory days” differently?
by Derek McCracken
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
In my opinion, by talking with and listening to our young men, we can make a difference in how they view what is true and healthy manhood. To add to this, you as their mentor, have to be what you preach. It is not just about saying the right thing but doing the right thing by example as well. As part of that teaching and communicating you must be brave enough to ask the young man some straight forward questions and listen carefully to his answers. Sometimes young men’s replies may be shocking but it provides room for teachable moments
Let me give you an example. My step-grandson was visited my wife and I one weekend. He began telling us some of the things he had learned from his friends about relationships. At some point he stated that he was not worried about getting a girl pregnant. My eyebrows went up into my worry lines as his grandmother asked him to explain, we braced ourselves for the response. As we listened we became increasingly concerned that our grandson had picked up some misinformation from his buddies and potentially was embracing harmful attitudes towards young women in his life. We explained that in the real world such behavior was not only disrespectful but it would be considered abuse towards the girl to do such a thing. This of course led into an entire discussion of respecting women and not using them as sexual objects. We talked about his friends’ exaggerating or even lying about having sex. A week later we were very pleased when we heard he had confronted one of his buddies about an exaggerated sexual encounter.
In the many discussions we have had with our grandson we have never yelled or acted condescending in correcting his misconceptions about relationships and intimacy with possible partners. We want him to be able to talk with us about anything going on in his life without fear of a scolding or scoffing. Our goal was to make him comfortable asking tough questions no matter how sensitive a question was or for what to do in a pressure situation. I have shared with him some of my own missteps and mistakes in how I treated partners as I grew up. Especially those I made during the teen age years when I had no one to talk with about these things.
Teens are not stupid even when they sometimes lack wisdom. They need straight, honest talk from their mentors. They need to be able to respect you as a mentor because you are who you say you are and you act accordingly. The more men that “man up” and help young boys get through these difficult developmental years with the right mindsets about what is to be a man the less abuse there may be in our children’s future.
By Terence E Ross
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Much has been written on this blog site about masculinity, and I thought it high time to share from my half century of being a man, some simple, everyday things NOT to do, if you want to protect your very precious masculinity:
1) Don’t express feelings or emotions – You’ll be accused of being “too sensitive”, and as you’ll see, that’s almost a fate worse than death in America, at the beginning of the 21st century.
In the recent movie, “Horrible Bosses”, there is a scene between the three male “buddies”: two are talking about who is going to be raped first in prison, each indicating that due to their good looks, they think they’ll be first; however, when they turn to the third and ask him his opinion, he responds that it isn’t about their looks, but instead it will be the guy who is “more vulnerable and sensitive”.
Wow, so imagine how crazy mad I got the other day when a good friend of mine (also a guy) told me I was being “overly sensitive” because I thought he seemed like he was in a bad mood, based on some recent behaviors (not responding to e-mails, not returning calls, and basically, just not communicating at all). I’ll admit it, I’ve been accused of being too sensitive all of my life, and it has become a hot button for me…now with this movie, I guess I’d better drive my sensitivity down even further – heck, maybe just bury it completely with a veneer of macho “I don’t care” and “what’s it to you”!
2) Don't buy greeting cards – If you’re like me, I still like the personal touch of a hand-written note or card. I just don’t get a warm and fuzzy from an e-mail or e-card, I think in large part because I have to wade through so much junk e-mail to find it in the first place. So, because I enjoy receiving hand-written correspondence, I feel compelled to purchase cards and to send them myself. I wish I could walk in to the card shop, grab the first one that’s close and buy it. But no, I have to read every card in the section to make sure I have found just exactly the right one for the person and the occasion. While card companies have made great strides in the past decade in offering more male-friendly greeting cards, there are still certain areas where improvement is needed. I mean it’s fairly easy to find a “manly” birthday card for a dude, but good luck finding a sympathy or thank you card from a man’s perspective. Watch out, if you buy for content, you might just end up with one that’s pink with glitter because it says the right thing and you don’t have any more time (or desire) to look at another card. If you need more explanation as to why that’s so terrible, re-read #1 above.
3) Don’t expect relationship reciprocity with other guys – I mean it’s just too much to expect a guy to be the one to pick up the phone or to initiate the next get together. I realize this may sound a little harsh, but seriously, while I’ve found a few guys in my 50+ years who are the exception to this rule, most don’t pay any attention and are sort of clueless about it being their turn to plan the lunch, the after-work beer or whatever. I’ve learned it’s just easier and less hassle to be the one who calls and suggests whatever it is, whenever I think of it – I certainly don’t complain about it, because to do so, would bring me under the auspices of rule #1.
4) Don’t speak about women in a positive way when a woman isn’t around – I suspect most guys have heard the usual locker-room banter, but I recently overheard 2 guys I don’t know talking at the gym. One asked the other if he had a son, to which the first replied, “No, sorry to say, I don’t have a son, only a daughter!”…Wow, that had to secure his masculine role model status with his buddy. I was startled and actually pretty mad about the carelessness of this remark, and felt instantly sorry for this guy’s daughter; however, I didn’t say anything. While I’ve seen them frequently, I didn’t know the guys – and frankly, now, I don’t want to; and besides, who wants to be accused of violating rule #1.
5) No matter what, don’t ever, ever let them catch you crying – It’s rare, granted, but there are those moments where it just seems so darned appropriate (like in moments of intense anger or frustration, or driving by your almost-adult kids’ grade school, or at an especially sentimental scene in a movie or play). My kids (18 & 21) will tell you, it’s not hard to catch their Dad tearing up, but I sure try to shove it down when I’m around others – especially guys. I mean, after all, above all else, remember rule #1!
By Mike Eggleston
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
(Blogger’s note: the names in this post have been changed to protect the identities of my accomplices, particularly so their children don’t give them guff.)
Reading about the recent swift action to enact a curfew for tweens and teens on the Country Club Plaza made me have a flashback, to a time in my teens when I had a minor brush-up with Plaza Security. Due to “The Incident”, I missed my own parent-enacted curfew and felt compelled to explain my tardiness with a 1985 Oscar-worthy performance of “Why I Was Wronged by the Law.” The drama unfolded something like this:
(Ward and June were watching TV when I came in.)
“I know I’m late, but let me explain. We were hanging out at the Plaza just looking at music and I accidentally knocked over a display of cassettes and when I bent down to get them, I got knocked over, and the cop grabbed me by the shoulder and made me come with him to security to make sure I didn’t steal anything! Can you believe it?”
My father looked up from his news program. “Were you buying anything?”
“No, just looking.”
“Were you shopping?” my mother asked.
“No, just hanging out.”
“Did you steal anything?”
“NO! You don’t understand—we…”
He and my mother exchanged the dreaded ‘has our youngest child learned nothing from his 7 older siblings?’ look.
“I understand that you boys had no business loitering there.”
Loitering? What kind of thug did they think I was? Why were they not taking my side? But the parental academy had rendered their decision: case dismissed.
As a current daughter-protective dad and former bored teenager, I understand much better that tweens and teens are a frustratingly mixed-up bunch. Over dinner, I asked my high-school-freshman daughter what she thought of the curfew. “They’ll just do what they were doing on the Plaza someplace else, earlier.” She went on to say that if the pack of kids was all boys or mostly boys, maybe they felt like they had to be together to be safe. Thinking back to my own impetuous youth, I had to admit that we came to the Plaza to escape Raytown, even for a night. We didn’t have much money, but we had ample time, a Camaro with a half-tank of gas, and each other…to egg on each other. We weren’t thinking of causing trouble; we were not thinking, period.
So to the merchants of the Plaza who have endured years of knucklehead teen behavior, I am sorry. To the kids who feel like they can get away with anything if there are enough of them, you are wrong. And to the parents who assume their kids are doing what you assume they are doing, you may just be right… but probably not.
By Derek McCracken
In his book The Macho Paradox, violence prevention educator Jackson Katz states, “True and lasting change will require – at a minimum – a critical and multicultural mass of men emerging to partner with women in confronting men’s violence on both a personal and institutional level.”
What will it take to build a critical and multicultural mass of men who will partner with women to confront men’s violence? I believe there are many answers to this question including a very important one: Race Matters. For us to ever experience this reality, we must be willing to acknowledge and confront the racism that has permeated our history and particularly the characterization of sexual violence.
Since the beginning of the enslavement of Africans in
While lynching no longer takes place in its historical form, the racist narrative that informed those terrorist acts is still subtly perpetuated in many facets of our dominant culture. Now it is not just relegated to African American men, but also includes other men of color and men with lower socioeconomic status. This must be challenged by stating the facts that sexual aggressive behavior is perpetrated by men of all races, classes, cultures, religions, and beyond. If a man is to become a good ally with women, it must be based on his willingness to challenge sexually aggressive attitudes and behaviors in himself and other men.
For all men to see the importance of partnering with women to end men’s violence, all women’s voices and experiences must be given equal respect and prominence. While the Women’s Movement throughout history has included all races and classes, the white middle-class narrative typically dominates. If we are asking men to realize that they need to be involved because someone they know and love (their sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers, etc) could be at risk, then all women need to be represented. Diverse representations of women must not be relegated to the stories shared, but must be realized at every level of the efforts to end violence against women, including those women providing the leadership in which men are engaged.
If the leadership of efforts to end violence against women reflects the diversity of men in our communities, then culturally inclusive strategies will be incorporated in time. This in turn can begin to build the “critical and multicultural mass of men” partnering with women in ending men’s violence against women.
By John Tramel
Thursday, August 18, 2011
“Hey, are you ready to do our training?” I hollered to my daughter. For 5 years we had been developing a self-protection system for teen-aged girls and their dads. More than just a way for girls to protect themselves from threats, it is a way to connect dads and daughters in this typically awkward time. “Almost!” she hollered back in our usual exchange.
Traditional roles between dads and daughters seem tough these days. Cultural norms create distance and opposition between dads and daughters creating fear for and in our daughters. We don’t’ generally give our daughters the physical contact or the space they need that help them develop healthy relationships with boys. We know we need to send them out into the world, but fear they might get hurt.
My relationship with my daughter began when she was 3 months old in a town just north of Hanoi, Viet Nam. The adoption took about a year and the strong bond between us took about an instant. I stayed home and took care of her for the first two years of her life because it was what she needed. I stepped outside of the traditional male role for her. That’s pretty much how our relationship continued for the next 13 years. Certainly I am her protector, but more, I am her teacher so that she can protect herself. The result? I am excited for her to start dating and she remains connected to me.
From one father to another, I strongly encourage you to not be afraid to step out of traditional roles. Be the type of man that you would want your daughter to date; calm and loving as opposed to violent or controlling. Watch your language about women and girls, and demand that society treat your daughter with respect.
“So, what do you want to practice today?” I asked carefully waiting for the usual "I don’t care” or “Whatever dad”. Instead she said, “Can we go over the escape from the bear hug? That one is fun to practice.” For years I have been waiting for her to have fun with this training; to really connect with me and my passion for this training. “Sure. Remember, first to stay calm and breathe, and wait for the right moment to respond…”
Jim Doyle – Founder, Self-Protection.org
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I once had an English professor who made his thoughts on feminism abundantly clear: “if you’re not a feminist, you’re an idiot,” or something to that effect was to be expected from him on an almost daily basis. Clearly, he was an outspoken yet entertaining professor. While he had a habit of ruffling more than a few feathers in class, he was usually right; his views were not only well articulated but also well supported. It is thanks to this professor that I became confident in identifying myself as a feminist. For me, the word “feminist” has evolved and transformed from the days of bra-burnings into a label for a movement that has perennial relevance. However, some of my peers (male and female alike) are uncomfortable in calling themselves feminists because of some of the radical connotations it may or may not have. I am interested in what the “f-word” means to the readers of this blog as well as the experiences that have led them to their perspectives.
As made clear in Jessica Valenti’s recent Washington Post article entitled “Slut Walks and the Future of Feminism,” the term “feminist” allows for a wide spectrum of meanings. While there is most certainly a place for relatively reserved feminists, recent years have seen a revival of the more extreme demonstration tactics reminiscent of the bra-burnings of the 1960’s. “Slut Walks” are an example of such demonstrations. As Valenti explains, the protests have been some of the most successful “feminist actions of the past 20 years” and “began after a police officer told students at Toronto’s York University in January that if women want to avoid rape, they shouldn’t dress like “sluts.’’ Participants have made efforts in over 75 cities (including Kansas City) to take back the term “slut” and to combat the notion that victims of rape and sexual assault are more often than not “asking for it” by dressing in a suggestive manner.
While I fully support the objectives of “slut walks” and similar demonstrations, I cannot help but think that these sorts of somewhat radical protest tactics have isolated some of the mainstream from identifying as feminists. I think that many males and females are weary of being labeled a feminist because they do not want to be perceived as some sort of outlier or fringe member of society. To me, feminism is a movement that has been fundamental to the advancement of not only women’s rights but also civil rights as a whole. It is important that modern day feminists embrace not only the activists in the streets (i.e. the participants of the “slut walks” across the country) but also individuals who truly believe in the ideals of the feminist movement whether they realize it or not.
So I ask, readers, what does feminism mean to you? Where does it fit in society today? What is the future of it? What relevance does it still have? I would argue that its relevance is enormous and that if we are going to continue to advance in terms of civil rights then we must maintain a population of feminists motivated enough to organize and participate in “slut walks” as well as those feminists inspired to make more low-profile impressions on those they are closest to.
By Ryan Derry
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Thanks to Patrick for letting us cross-post this on our Blog. Please check out more of his work at http://mencanstoprape.blogspot.com
Director of Strategy & Planning
I finished writing Part 5 of “How I Came to Work at Men Can Stop Rape” yesterday (the part where I actually finally end up at MCSR) but then this morning read the Washington Post and learned that Rep. David Wu (D-OR) is accused of having “aggressive and unwanted” sex with a teenage daughter of a friend. My reaction, said out loud at the kitchen table: “What is wrong with these guys?” It wasn’t directed at Abby, my wife, as much as it was an expression of exasperation. So, I’m delaying posting Part 5 for addressing political scandal.
Part of me still expects, I suppose, high standards of behavior from our public representatives. Idealistically, I assume they understand their need to uphold and represent our democratic principles, and that “sexual indiscretions” (media language) are not in line with those principles. In a more practical sense, surely they have already seen enough politicians fall from grace so that they are aware of the potential consequences to their own careers? When I went to Texas Tech we told Texas A & M jokes about how many Aggies it takes to screw in a light bulb. Although I can’t quite wrap my head around it right now, I’m thinking there’s a similar joke about how many politicians it takes to stop a sexual indiscretion.
Of course I know why these male politicians keep acting in inappropriate ways. Isn’t traditional masculinity the root cause for so many things we men do? And doesn’t it need a light shined on it in the hallways of our government buildings? It has been invisible for too long in our Capitol, I say! Not only do politicians suffer the consequences when one of their own creates a “Guys Gone Stupid” video, we as citizens lose any sense that the people in charge of our country are credible, responsible, and respectable adults.
Our politicians need help! They can’t prevent these indiscretions on their own or they would have already done so. I challenge them to bring in the masculinity and gender-based violence prevention experts.
Politicians, I beg you: ask not what masculinity can do for you, but what you can do to change masculinity.
* * *
Patrick McGann, Ph.D. has been involved with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) since the organization’s inception in 1997. As Director of Strategy and Planning, Patrick co-authored a sexual assault prevention strategy for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2008 and oversaw the development of the HURTS ONE. AFFECTS ALL. public education campaign for DoD in 2010. He regularly gives presentations across the country on engaging men in the prevention of gender-based violence.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
My last post (“Speaking Up: When, Where, Why?”) called attention to the issue of males calling out hostile males when surrounded only by other men. I mentioned a recent lunch I was having with a friend who had a few choice words regarding a female friend of mine when I decided to speak up. While I do feel confident in my actions regarding the incident with my friend, I realize that it was a conversation among friends and in private. However, I have recently been a part of several situations in which I have seen male-perpetrated harassment of women taking place in an entirely different setting: at work and among people I do not know very well.
My summer job involves a great deal of interaction with new students at the university I attend. My fellow undergraduate colleagues and I often find ourselves in situations in which we are working 1 on 1 with students. Recently, I and a few other members of my staff have noticed some elements of the behavior of James (not his real name) that we do not feel entirely comfortable with. James has a habit of working with three or four of the female students each day in a much greater capacity than with any other incoming student. Often, his behavior crosses the line: sharing seats with women that did not invite him to do so, giving certain female students massages (again, without being asked to do so), and persistently asking for numbers (and not resting until he gets at least what could be the phone number of whoever he is asking).
Personally, James’ behavior infuriates me. I have brought it up a few times with my peers and most have similar feelings. However, we never do anything about it. Admitting that I have done nothing to stop behavior that is clearly demeaning, inappropriate, and offensive makes me feel horrible. Only now do I realize how silly it is to let James’ actions persist. The students we work with daily are already in a stressful position: the start of their college careers. The last thing they need is an aggressor like James stressing them out even more. I would greatly appreciate knowing what you all would do if in a similar position. Is it best to confront James? To inform his supervisor? What have been your experiences with workplace aggression?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Recently, I was loading up the car for summer family vacation, and as I was checking my tires in preparation to hit the road, it reminded me of some unfortunate comments from a couple of months ago.
This is not going to be a blog post about partisan politics, religion or abortion - honest! No, it's a blog about the antiquated and harmful attitudes and insensitivities expressed recently by a member of the Kansas House of Representatives that perpetuate the idea that victims of sexual abuse are somehow responsible or to blame for what happens to them.
Last May, during a Kansas House discussion of a bill that will ban insurance companies from covering abortion insurance under general healthcare plans, Kansas State Representative Pete DeGraaf from Mulvane basically said women needed to "plan ahead" for being raped and possibly impregnated against their will; that being raped is like getting a flat tire. I remember thinking after hearing his comments, "Did he really just say that?!" You can read this report, in its entirety, from the Associated Press article posted on May 13, 2011.
Mr. DeGraaf, you are off base with these remarks and have demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the violation and loss of dignity experienced by a victim of sexual assault. This point was well illustrated in the attached Venn Diagram showing some of the notable differences between having a flat tire and being raped: in one instance, you call AAA and have them replace the flat tire with your spare tire, and you are quickly on your way; however, in the other situation, you may have to face contracting HIV/STDs, an on-going and often overwhelming sense of shame and of violation, and/or unwanted pregnancy. I am not of the opinion that the two events have anything in common, and I am not willing to accept that rape is an eventuality of being a woman in today's society or that anyone should ever have to plan ahead to be raped.
I respectfully suggest that Mr. DeGraaf issue an apology to all the women and men of Kansas (and thanks to the internet, the rest of the Country), for his insensitive remarks. While these comments were prominent in the media a few months ago, they are no less relevant today and we need to continue to address the insensitivity behind them. There are several petition efforts currently underway (even one on Facebook), as well as a "send a tire" campaign, and of course, feel free to drop him a line at his office. Check out your options and act appropriately!
By Mike Eggleston
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
“Paula Nelson was at a Kansas City park with relatives Wednesday night when three young women walked over a grassy hill and opened fire without saying a word.”
While it is certainly in the realm of possibility that three young women would savagely murder another female in pubic, it is not the norm. And it comes as no surprise that we find young men committing acts of horrific violence. While I’m not advocating an increase in female violence (I’m guessing that is not what people mean when they speak of gender equality), I was taken aback by how shocked I was when I switched the sex of those involved in the story.
What does it say about men that violence is so normal, acceptable, and even encouraged among us? What are we doing do change this overwhelming problem? What are you doing about violence dominating masculinity?
Try switching the sexes in this story.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Now, there are entire ad campaigns for men’s body washes that seek to make it socially acceptable and even desirable for men to use these products.
In another Dove commercial, they discuss “man-hide” and the toughness of men's skin in relation to cow hide or leather. What is interesting is Dove’s argument that its product is actually made to soften the man-hide. Does this mean that American culture has actually shifted so as to allow men to have moisturized, soft skin like their female counterparts? Perhaps, as long as there is there is first an allusion to the toughness of such hide… Are gender roles shifting gradually, or are they equally present but masked by effective marketing? Hmmm…
Old Spice, on the other hand, tells men to “be comfortable in your own skin”. Its commercials allude to one man’s “muscle body” and his “striking brown eyes” while a man in another ad encourages men to use Old Spice instead of lady-scented body washes. The marketing this company employs appears to also appeal to women to a certain degree. In placing attractive male models in their commercials, these companies are not only trying to appeal to men who use the products but to women who will (in the minds of the marketers) shop for the products and smell the products their partners use when they bathe. Are these men’s or women’s products?? Again, does it matter? It’s just soap…
I still remember the original Old Spice that my grandfather wore when I was younger, and I will never forget that smell…. I knew that I probably did not want to smell like that when I grew up, but he, my other grandfather, and my father encouraged my interest in body care and cologne. This connection we make with the male figures in our lives can result in our long-term commitment (or lack thereof) to body care and maintenance of our appearance and bodies.
It is fascinating that as we get older we often keep similar if not better hygiene routines that we learned from such figures in our lives. The focus on hygiene, however, becomes less of a connection with male figures in our lives but how appealing or masculine men are when they use such products.
What do you consider when you purchase masculine hygiene products (aka “soap”)?
Update: Sesame Street takes a jab at Old Spice with "Smell Like A Monster" and makes you think how ridiculous this approach to stereotyping men through hygiene products really is:
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It is no secret that the professional sports world often portrays some of the worst of what it means to be a man in today’s world. Former and current athletes being accused and convicted of sexual violence, super star athletes celebrating their hubris on national television, and athletes using their money and power for sexual conquests, the examples are sadly easy to come by.
But how about this for a positive spin on today’s athletes?! While I know nothing about Rory McIlroy’s personal life, it seems that many in the sporting world have been drawn to the young man’s humility, poise, and character. After breaking several records, and dominating the U.S Open, it is his positive, humble personality making headlines. A prime example mentioned in the article is that following the Master’s Tournament, in which Mr. McIlroy fell short, some might say “choked”, he used his post-game interview to mention that it would help build his character rather than belittling sports fans.
I don’t know about you but this is was much needed breath of fresh air for both professional sports and masculinity.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Recently, I was at lunch with a good friend of mine. Let’s call this friend Jack. Jack and I were enjoying each other’s company and conversation until he brought up a girl we both know (we’ll call her Susie). Jack went on to describe how much he did not like Susie. “She’s cold,” he said, “honestly, I have never felt an ounce of warmth from Susie,” Jack went on. Now, I may not have gotten my feathers all ruffled if it wasn’t for the fact that I happen to like Susie! I told Jack that perhaps all his built up frustration with Susie is stemming from the fact that he doesn’t know her all that well. “I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time with Susie,” I told him. “She really is pretty awesome,” I continued. “No man,” Jack said, “she’s cold, she’s a b****.”
And there’s the rub. I was perfectly respectful of Jack’s thoughts on Susie until the final above-mentioned comment of his. Sure, I thought his opinions were unwarranted. I had concluded that Jack just didn’t know her and that he just didn’t know what he was saying. However, that all changed when he employed the use of a single word: a word so derogatory, chauvinistic, and offensive that I simply could not listen to my good friend Jack any longer. I stopped him right in his tracks. I interrupted him and told him he had crossed the line. Jack looked confused, surprised at how irritated I had become. I explained to him that that word was exceptionally hateful and that he had no idea what he was talking about. Jack laughed it off and insisted he did not mean to be hateful. I believed him. In fact, I felt bad I had gotten so hostile towards him. I even apologized!
Now, as I reflect on my scuffle with Jack I only feel worse. I should have held my ground. I should have defended Susie with more passion. I definitely should not have apologized. So I ask, readers, am I analyzing this too closely? Was I out of line in confronting my good friend and perhaps, if the discussion was prolonged, putting our relationship in jeopardy? In a more general sense, what are your thoughts on speaking up? When is it appropriate and when is it best to just let it slide?
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
As allies in the fight against sexual assault, we need to lead a similar paradigm shift when we support victims of sexual assault. Just accepting and understanding that a trauma has occurred and taking this view to our communities would be a good first step. But then a trauma informed model pushes us to accept that we must help stabilize, care for, and heal victims - without judgment. Some (perhaps not readers of this blog post) have a difficult time with the “without judgment” part of the trauma informed model. How do we lead this paradigm shift in our community?
The idea of Historical Contingency (future events are caused by a unique past) can inform our interaction and relationship with victims of sexual assault and bring the same to the larger community. If we can agree that events share a cause and effect structure then we can view a sexual assault as an event caused by other specific events in a certain context. This cause and effect structure is actually at the root of victim blaming so prevalent in our culture. But, this cause and effect structure can also be at the root of our counter argument if framed by the ideas of Historical Contingency.
We have all heard the insane chorus; “if she was not wearing this or that”, “if she would have not been drinking, or if she had planned ahead the attack would not have happened”. Historical Contingency asks, “How do you know?” How do you know what would or would not have caused the attack to happen? How do you know if it was what she was wearing, or where she was, or what plan she had would have changed the outcome? How do you know?
Historical Contingency makes a distinction between events with necessary causes and events with contingent causes. Put another way, for the outcome that did happen, could only one thing cause it or could many causes still have resulted in the same outcome? Were the events that lead up to the attack necessary (could the causes have not lead to any other outcome) or were the events contingent (could many causes have still lead to the same outcome)?
If the causes were necessary or contingent, it does not matter. No matter what the circumstances are or how many times we run through a scenario the only person that is responsible for sexual assault is the offender. The victim is never at fault no matter what she/he does. And all that matters is that the trauma occurred and forever impacts the victim. The critical point; the necessary cause of a sexual assault is always the attacker. The surrounding circumstances, the other causes, should not be part of our conversation.
Jim Doyle – Founder, Self-Protection.org
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
“Get up! You ain’t hurt.”
“Quit crying or I’m going to give you something to cry about.”
“Suck it up!”
“If someone hurts you, you hurt them back!”
“Never back down!”
“Win at all costs!”
And the list goes on….
Ensler talks about two types of power in the aforementioned chapter, a power that comes from feeling and adequately processing emotions, and a power that comes with denying and suppressing emotions. She says:
"There is a power that comes out of surrendering to grief and a power that results in refusing it. I think they are two different types of power. The one that emerges through allowing grief feels clean, purged, and inclusive. You have experienced pain and grief so you would not want to inflict it on someone else. The kind of power that emerges through the denial of grief is aggressive power. It is trying to conquer something, annihilate something, and over come something. It emerges out of fear and a need to protect oneself from feeling, which then becomes a country, a people, etc. It is inauthentic power. It is not shamanic; one has not passed through something in order to arrive there. It is manufactured power in order to manipulate, bully or deny.”
In the midst of this tragic reality there is good news. We can choose to reclaim our full emotional lives and as Ensler describes above, surrender to moving through our hurts in ways that don't harm others but instead heal us and others. If more men would open themselves up to the full range of emotions, and process and express them in respectful ways, the world would be a much safer place. And if more men and women would stop emotionally amputating young boys and instead nurture them to experience, process, and respectfully express all emotions, the world could be transformed…because all at once the power to heal would replace the need for the power to harm.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Saturday, June 4th 10a.m.- 2p.m. Cabela's 10300 Cabela's Drive, Kansas City, Kansas in Legends Shopping Center
Featured speakers: "Coaching Boys Into Men" Brian Porch & Andre Tyler former Tampa Bay Buccaneer
-AND- "Man Up!" David Belt, with MOCSA
For Dads Attending this Free Event: Free Gift Card, Door Prizes, and BBQ Lunch Provided
Pre-registration required by June 2nd: Call Terri at 913-371-2220ext1254 OR Patty at 913-621-2016ext1205.
Organized by: Kansas Children's Service League and Circle of Parents
Apparently I did and didn’t even realize it….
As many of you probably know, men strive to be “real men” via a variety of behaviors. This results from years of conditioning of them as boys and men by a variety of sources. Of course, this is not true of all circumstances but is an idea that appears to be prevalent among many groups of individuals. Men and boys who deviate from normal masculinity are considered to be societal deviants, to be abnormal or weird, and are still (even in 2011) often considered to be gay or “effeminate”. This relates to the “man card” in a sense that “losing it” is the equivalent to being gay or to being abnormal. This appears to be true of bar culture specifically, with which I have quite a bit of experience given I am employed by a restaurant/bar.
When I order a drink at a bar or restaurant, I generally don’t decide what I want based on what is “manly” but on what sounds good. One time, I ordered a cosmopolitan at a bar. An acquaintance of mine was nearby (though not really hanging out with me), and interjected, “Those pink drinks are for b-----s. Why the hell would you order that s---, man?” I was appalled, as I would not have thought he would talk to me like that, nor did I see a problem with the drink I chose.
Another time, I ordered a dirty martini, for which I was chastised by a coworker. He poked fun at my “marteenee” and continued to drink his beer. In a sense, he implied it was a delicate, light drink for wimps. Unfortunately, this type of commentary is common in the bar context, and continues to be present when men do not interrogate the social norms that dictate what beverages they “should” order. This is true of their behavior as well, as they should be willing to contradict social expectations of normativity but are often unable to do so due to peer pressure.
On askmen.com, there is currently a list of the “Top 10 manly summer drinks”. The caption reads, “You’re a man, so sipping on a drink that’s garnished with an umbrella or a small tropical forest is not an option.” What does that mean? How does a drink with a miniature paper umbrella connote femininity?!? Furthermore, why does it matter? When we have expectations of men to behave in certain ways, we tell them that other behaviors are wrong or inappropriate. This causes them to view such behaviors as weak and less than equal to their own.
In regards to the list of drinks, what about them is “manly”? Sure, there are “strong drinks” including whiskey sour and Moscow Mule. Among them, though, is the vodka martini. Perhaps the culture allows drinks of this sort to be considered “manly” once an “expert” like askmen.com claims they are.
At present, who decides that such behaviors (and drinks) are manly? The answer: We do! “Snips and snails and puppy dog tails” and “Boys will be boys” are two common expressions that relate to gender, with the latter being more relevant to this post. Why do we as a society consistently adhere to the ideals that gender is a “natural” concept? Likewise, why do we not allow individuals to deviate from such “natural” behaviors? I'm still not sure. Maybe because it is just easier that way.
So, if I order a martini, does that make me lose my man card? I don’t think so—James Bond drinks martinis, and is in some ways the epitome of masculinity. And yes, I consistently prefer mine shaken, not stirred.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Rewind: “Dad, you made that Grace your bitch.” On its own, that quote from Talladega Nights (a Will Ferrell comedy) may seem like a harmless “kids say the darnedest things” candidate. I used to quote it, as an obtuse compliment to friends when they accomplished something particularly challenging: finishing a tough home improvement project, winning a weekend softball game, beating the IRS etc. I considered it a harmless “guy thing” -- only now I know it is not harmless and may – singularly or as part of a cumulative effect – be quite harmful. How?
Fast forward: MOCSA volunteer training 2011. The Man Up facilitators walked us through a “how bad is it?” analysis exercise where we considered various phrases or actions and ranked them low-to-high in context of how damaging we perceived them to be to women. Initially, I would have ranked the movie quote low. It’s a quote! From a comedy! Said by child actor! Our group’s discussion, though, led me down a different path: the casualization of derogatory language is just one way that men ( and society in general) can demean or degrade women, even unintentionally.
Pause: Having grown up with three sisters and plenty of female friends, I do not consider myself abusive or even chauvinistic. So how does a sensitive (I work at Hallmark for crown’s sake!) guy like me get his foundation shaken? Fatherhood. Now when I listen to the radio, watch TV, read books and blogs and interact with others, I do so with a keen ear toward defamatory words: alone or as part of a social cycle of verbal degradation. My slow evolution from “tool” to a more thoughtful dad and citizen has been a timely and necessary change. Fatherhood, and working at a company with a strong female leadership presence will do that to a guy. And I’m grateful. And I’m beginning to realize more and more the true power of language, beyond that which is just sexist. ANYTHING that minimizes another person is not OK. Here are a few observations; I encourage you to reflect on your own, too:
1) Sarcasm has a weak exchange rate in the emotional economy. I used to love the stuff, tossing out barbs here and there to keep the conversation going, interesting, stimulating…at least to me. Now I have my own live-in reality check, my daughter, who is a mirror and a megaphone. When I grimace, she grimaces. If I ask her, “Did you CLEAN your room?” I can pretty much expect a “Yes, I CLEANED it.” Touche!
2) Ke$ha kannot be kontained. I’ve tried changing the radio station, downplaying her relevance to contemporary society, explained the difference between creative and trashy…and yet “…brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack” seems to seep its way into our car radio play. Teaching moment: I asked my daughter if she knew what that lyric meant; she said she did not. I explained that Jack is short for Jack Daniels, and brushing your teeth with it makes no sense, and “I got it, Dad” was served up swiftly.
3) Overhearing doesn’t justify over-reacting. I’m all about diversity, and don’t shy away from a range of cultural events ranging from the downtown symphony to Santa Caligon Days in Independence, from tuxedo dinners to Taco Bell. With my family as company, we hear a lot that is not meant for the common ear, and often its an interchange between males about female passers-by. My shoulders tense when I hear a wolf-whistle being directed toward a woman, or my all-time-most-degrading-least-favorite overheard comment: “I’d like to tap that.” SERIOUSLY?!? Do guys (or any human being) think it’s OK to use that language? Dreadful.
4) Repetition risks affirmation. The Talladega Nights movie quote is an example; I used to repeat it so often that the word “bitch” lost its meaning. But taken to its truest, earliest meaning – am I OK with anything being compared to a female dog? No I am not, and by NOT repeating that language – as well as addressing (in safe environments) those who do, I can help stop the cycle of verbal abuse. Whether it’s said to a woman or not is immaterial; that which is said ABOUT women is just as offensive.
5) It’s OK to substitute, with creativity. Instead of saying “bitch and moan” I can use the word “complain.” Instead of quoting that line from Talladega nights, I can offer up a heartfelt but demonstrative high-five accompanied by a “YESSSSSS!”
For one week, take the language challenge. Be aware of what you say, read, hear or observe; how rampant is sexist/derogatory language in your social/work circle? Are you part of the problem? Have you perpetuated sexist language unintentionally? If you answer “Ye$” to any of these questions, you have room for improvement. And on behalf of MOCSA’s Man Up movement and dads and daughters everywhere, I hope you’ll use the power of language for good. Trust me. It’s a lot better than my mom’s method: dirty mouth = bar of soap.