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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

Wild Child: Confession of a Reformed “Plaza Thug”

(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.”

“With whom?”

Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp.”

“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

Race Matters: Engaging All Men to End Violence against Women

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 America through Jim Crow segregation, African American men were painted as sexually aggressive predators that posed a serious threat to White women. This led to countless acts of terrorism by White America to murder African American men for the slightest suspicion, rumor, or for no reason at all. While lynch mobs were forming to conduct these acts of terrorism, White men were frequently known for pressuring African American women, who many times worked in domestic services with their families, into unwanted sex. There is no record of a White man during this historical period ever being prosecuted or lynched for these rapes.

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

Dads & Daughters

“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,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Does It Mean To Be "A Man Of Strength"?

In the spring of 2010, MOCSA's Man Up! Program piloted Strength Clubs in the Kansas City area. Strength Clubs are modeled after Men Can Stop Rape's MOST Clubs and is a program that engages young men in preventing violence against women. The video below displays lessons learned this past year from local Strength Club members about what it means to be a man today, including what it means to be "a man of strength".

As you can see (or hear), one of the many lessons they learned was how to think on their feet and respond to introspective questions with distractions in the background. We won't put you on the spot like these guys, but we are interested to know what you think it means to be "a man of strength" in today's culture?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feminism: What is its Role Today?

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