FROM THE EDITOR
The Shortcut Too Often Taken By Rob Okun
Ring the bells that can still ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. —Leonard Cohen
here’s an ache in my heart and I am not exactly sure why. It could be because I am writing these words the weekend an idyllic New England summer was supplanted by autumn (even as its riot of color was still tucked away in hillside pockets). Maybe it was the haunting melodies at high holidays services awakening memories of my parents, still dead and gone at the start of another Jewish new year. Or, it may be the empty feeling my wife and I felt on the way home from the airport after dropping off our oldest daughter and her girlfriend, returning to jobs in Nepal. As true and real as any and all those reasons may be, when I dig a little deeper, I see something else—a shadow inside that I call cutting corners. It can be little things—like cutting across the parish house driveway to create the shortest route between Voice Male and the post office. Or, cutting across the baseball diamond at the high school to shorten my walk home. I usually take a shortcut out of the bank parking lot, instead of following the arrow that would have me drive around the building. It’s a slippery slope and I don’t always know how to stop the slide. For me these days, the question of cutting corners is tied up with my ideas about “healthy” masculinity.
That term, long a part of the conversation among many men and women working for gender equality, is in the spotlight this fall in the wake of a “Healthy Masculinity Summit” in Washington, along with a baker’s dozen of short essays on the topic that were solicited for this issue (see page 24). While some of the writers—national advisory board members and colleagues—find the term “problematic” or
This is the season I review my actions over the year, and I had to admit I missed the mark many times. “oxymoronic,” others see it as an escape from the “man box,” an opportunity to be “loving, passionate and joyful,” “democratic,” “courageous,” and part of a “collective journey.” Well said, all. As you will read, they have created a mosaic of possibilities for men as we continue our efforts to redefine ourselves as human beings. For me, though, as I read and edited the submissions and worked to put this special section together, I was left with questions not just about “healthy masculinity” but about my own efforts at achieving the healthiest expression of my own humanness—as distinct from my male identity. This is the season I review my actions over the year, and I had to admit I missed the mark many times, failing to intervene when pride and stubbornness were pushing humility
and conciliation off my inner stage. I had to acknowledge that sometimes I speak more and listen less than I’d like, forgetting my father’s sage advice: “You have one mouth and two ears, so it’s a good idea to listen twice as much as you speak.” Waking up and staying present to my shortcomings—my shortcuttings—is not easy. I do best when I remember that slowing down is key to allowing my heart to stay soft and open. And I have to stand up to the “Yeah, but” voice that tries to justify wrong actions. My wife, who has been my friend for 32 years (half of them in marriage), is skilled at holding the mirror up to me when I take short cuts, positioning it at just the angle I need so I can’t avoid its glare. When we were driving home from Maine after a vacation at the ocean not long ago, we were surprised how much gasoline prices had risen in the week we’d been gone. On our way up she had pointed out a station with the lowest price so before our trip home, I planned to fill up there. Unfortunately it was on the opposite side of a busy road. There was an exit across from it although, upon closer examination, I saw it was actually an entrance for cars on the other side of the road. The sign before me read, “Do Not Enter” but I told myself the inexpensive gas was over there, and we had gotten a later start than we’d wanted, and we had a long drive ahead and, and...I kept cataloguing excuses and justifications. Despite my wife saying to keep going and that I could turn around down the highway, I shot across the road and pulled up to the gas station’s pump. I had seen the “shortcut” and had taken it. The drivers of the oncoming cars were incensed at what I’d done. My wife was livid. “What are you doing?! What were you thinking?! I can’t believe you did that.” I sat there as she called me out. I had no words. It was a long drive home. In the days that followed we haltingly found a way to talk about what had happened and to keep talking. I had created a chasm between us—a long, way far from our customary harmony. Our conversation is ongoing; my inner dialogue about shortcuts has taught me they often aren’t short at all. As I sifted through the essays about healthy masculinity in this issue, I couldn’t help but conclude that healthy masculinity sometimes means learning to take the long way home.
Rob Okun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 16 No. 58
Changing Men in Changing Times www.voicemalemagazine.org
Hanna Rosin and the End of Men
Masculinity and Mass Violence
By Michael Kimmel
By Elizabeth Drescher
Now Can We Talk About Masculinity and Men?
Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood
Men’s Bodies—and Minds—after Football
What Is Healthy Masculinity?
By Rob Okun
By Jackson Katz
By Robert Jensen
National Advisory Board members and other colleagues respond
Rounding Third, Heading for Home
Four Parents, Three Legal Guardians, Two Children, One Family
By E. Ethelbert Miller By Joan Tabachnick
Columns & Opinion 2 4
From the Editor
Men @ Work
11 15 22
Advice to ProFeminist Allies By Maia Mares
Notes for Survivors
When Abuse Survivors Leave the Family By Rythea Lee
Men and Meaning
The Way Men Are By Joseph Gelfer
Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood By Carlos Andrés Gómez
male positive • pro-feminist • open-minded Fall 2012
Rob A. Okun Editor
Michael Burke Copy Editor
Arjun Downs, Maia Mares, Adam Leader-Smith Interns
VOICE MALE is published quarterly by the Alliance for Changing Men, an affiliate of Family Diversity Projects, PO Box 1280, Amherst, MA 01004. It is mailed to subscribers in the U.S., Canada, and overseas and is distributed at select locations around the country and to conferences, universities, colleges and secondary schools, and among non-profit and non-governmental organizations. The opinions expressed in Voice Male are those of its writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the advisors or staff of the magazine, or its sponsor, Family Diversity Projects. Copyright © 2012 Alliance for Changing Men/Voice Male magazine. Subscriptions: 4 issues-$28. 8 issues-$45. Institutions: $40 and $55. For bulk orders, go to voicemalemagazine.org or call Voice Male at 413.687-8171. Advertising: For advertising rates and deadlines, go to voicemalemagazine.org or call Voice Male 413.687-8171. Submissions: The editors welcome letters, articles, news items, reviews, story ideas and queries, and information about events of interest. Unsolicited manuscripts are welcomed but the editors cannot be responsible for their loss or return. Manuscripts and queries may be sent via email to www.voicemalemagazine.org or mailed to Editors: Voice Male, PO Box 1280, Amherst, MA 01004.
Mail Bonding Raising Mamas’—and Papas’—Boys
Reading through the Summer issue of Voice Male, the review of The Mama’s Boy Myth by Kate Stone Lombardi really touched a vulnerable spot in me. There are so many facades breaking down in my belief system at this time in my life—or maybe just an awakening to what my truths really are in raising my sons to be whole men. Having those truths mirrored in the article encouraged me to see that my intuition has been right on even through the moments of extreme self-doubt. My husband worries I have raised soft boys, thinking they need to “toughen up.” I believe our sons are strong, confident, compassionate young men and these are valuable, far reaching qualities that are not only healthy for my sons but for the community at large. My sons enjoy “guy” things but also are the ones who initiate hugs with their male friends. Living with my husband’s reactions to our sons as they are emerging into manhood has been a painful eye opener. He has a more traditional philosophy about manhood and being a father/ husband and what a mother’s role is than I do. If I step back and observe the dynamics, I can see that my husband is trying to sort this all out for himself, perhaps in an unconscious way. He has his own pain from his own childhood. The emotions are bubbling up all at once and I’m having a hard time letting each one speak right now. I have a strong desire to get the word out to our young men in our community to cultivate their hearts as well as their heads. And that this cultivation will spill out into the greater community with deep and
National Advisory Board Juan Carlos Areán
Novelist and author, The Gender Knot
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co.
Mentors in Violence Prevention Strategies
White Ribbon Campaign
The Modern Dad V-Day
Professor of Communications Westfield State College
God Bless the Child Productions
Prof. of Journalism, Univ. of Texas
Media Education Foundation
Allan G. Johnson
National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities
Bill T. Jones
Michael Kaufman Joe Kelly
Fathering Educator, The Emily Program
Prof. of Sociology SUNY Stony Brook
Other & Beyond Real Men
Mentors in Violence Prevention
lasting tendrils of healing for both men and women. I’m grateful for having stumbled across your magazine and your work. It has helped shed light on so many questions I have, particularly about masculinity and the role of women in raising boys. I have a long way to go and I am learning while I stumble through this process but it is a great path of discovery even with the bumps! L.C. via email The writer, from Maryland, requested anonymity. Men’s War on Everything?
Although I am not attracted to “men’s issues,” I recognize and want to support your efforts to “redefine” and transform masculinity. On occasion an article in Voice Male speaks to me, but mostly not—I tend to view things from somewhat different perspectives. For example, I see, especially in the U.S., an ever-growing war-on attitude or meme which, although based on Roman-rooted male supremacy, reaches far beyond sexual issues: we don’t just make war; we make war on poverty (i.e. on the poor), on weeds, on insects, on fungi, bacteria, microbes in general, on cancer, on drugs, on women, on government, on President Obama, on Democrats in Congress. In our own lives this was a boy thing before it became a man thing: “It’s a bug, step on it, kill [continued on page 31]
Letters may be sent via email to www.voicemalemagazine.org or mailed to Editors: Voice Male, PO Box 1280, Amherst, MA 01004.
Prof. of Sociology Univ. of So. California
E. Ethelbert Miller
African American Resource Center, Howard University
Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe
Our Bodies Ourselves
Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund
Joan Tabachnick NEARI Press
Prof. of Gender and Sexuality Studies, California State Long Beach
Men @ Work
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, has clarified that the 2010 Affordable Care Act bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.
Obamacare Ending Sex Discrimination? Sometimes, it’s possible to win big victories by reading the small print. In June, a coalition of organizations that advocate for the rights of the LGBT community sent a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services (HHS), requesting clarification on a provision within the Affordable Care Act banning discrimination based on sex. The letter requested a public statement on whether this ban would also protect against discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotypes.
A month later, their wish was granted. A letter from HHS stated unequivocally, “We agree that Section 1557’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and will accept such complaints for investigation. Section 1557 also prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the individuals involved.” While it’s unknown how vigorously HHS will pursue such investigations, their letter is an
important victory. Transgender individuals and others who do not conform to stereotypical notions of gender face tremendous barriers to receiving adequate health care, and often face intentional and unintentional discrimination from their health care providers, with potentially serious consequences to their mental and physical wellbeing. The National Center for Transgender Equality has published a guide to laws protecting transgender individuals from discrimination, and how to respond if discrimination has been experienced. To access the guide go to: http://transequality.org/ Resources/HealthCareRight_ UpdatedAug2012_FINAL.pdf.
[continued on page 6]
Circle Up for Safety A new app for the iPhone called Circle of 6 demonstrates the potential for technological approaches to protecting against sexual assault and relationship violence, and increasing the confidence with which women walk the streets at night. When someone downloads the app, they choose their “Circle of 6”—six friends they can trust.
istory will notice—even if we are too chickenshit to face it now—that the extraordinary turpitudes of U.S. politics today represent an unprecedented failure of American manhood. It’s everywhere and pervasive along the spectrum of party politics—as untruth is everywhere and pervasive in American life. The Republican case is too painfully obvious—Congressman Todd Akin being only a recent buffoon from the vast red state flyover cultural wilderness of franchise food and franchise thought to expose himself as lacking the basic male decency to defend womanhood against the consequences of plain-and-simple rape. In Dixieland Republicanism—now a misty region-of-mind that extends way beyond the old Confederate borders—you have the perfect confluence of sheer stupidity with the put-on, fake religiosity of men too weak to take responsibility for their own actions. They can just pawn everything off on Jesus: the good, the bad, the mystifying, the shameful. All the
The app then allows its users to quickly contact those friends with preprogrammed text messages, without arousing suspicion. For example, clicking the button with a car icon automatically sends a text message to a friend of your choice from your “Circle of 6” that says, “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely,” accompanied by a map directing your friend to your current location, thanks to your phone’s GPS. The app comes with a few other preprogrammed messages, and can instantly dial either a national emergency hotline or a local emer-
Will history show that early 21st century politics represented a failure of American manhood?
Republican men have to do is show up at the Nascar oval in time for barbecue. As for the courage of convictions, watch VP-candidate Paul Ryan haul his mom out before a crowd of Florida retirees to prove his allegiance to Medicare and Social Security—two programs he would like to dismantle—on top of the fact that his mom is exactly the sort of multi-
millionaire who a sane society would meanstest out of receiving old-age support from the less fortunate taxpayers. The Democratic Party case is more interesting to me, being a life-long registered Democrat, perhaps partly accounted for by my Manhattan Jewish upbringing. I was comingof-age and paying attention when Lyndon B. Johnson chose manfully to sacrifice the future votes of all Dixieland—his home territory—by signing legislation aimed at resolving the unfinished business of the Civil War. Even the fiasco of Vietnam that followed the Civil Rights years was acknowledged by many Democrats then in power as a tragic error. They had the courage of men who were conscious in crisis. —James Howard Kunstler James Howard Kuntsler is author of several books including The Long Emergency and A World Handmade. The article above is an excerpt from an August 27 post on his blog, Clusterfuck Nation, http://kunstler.com/ blog/2012/08/male-energies.html. Fall 2012
Men @ Work gency hotline you program into the phone. The Circle of 6 app was inspired by the statistic that one in five women report being sexually assaulted in college, and is targeted toward college students. It also includes links and resources within the app directing users to information about maintaining healthy and safe relationships. The app’s innovations have been widely lauded, and it recently won the federally sponsored Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge. Circle of 6 can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. Learn more at http://www. circleof6app.com.
Ming Linsley and Kate Baker won their battle with the Wildflower Inn, which refused to host their wedding party.
Resort Pays Fine for Anti-Gay Stance A Vermont resort sued last year for refusing to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception and violating Vermont’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act (page 5, Fall 2011) settled their lawsuit, agreeing to pay $10,000 to the Vermont Human Rights Commission as a civil penalty and to place $20,000 in a charitable trust to be disbursed by the couple. Kate Linsley (née Baker) and Ming Linsley of New York contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Vermont, after Ming’s mother was told by the events manager at the Wildflower Inn that due to the innkeepers’ “personal feelings,” the inn did not host “gay receptions.” Vermont’s Human Rights Commission later joined the suit.
“We’re glad the Wildflower Inn has recognized that the way we were treated was wrong and that no other family will have to experience what we did,” said Ming. “[A]ll families should feel welcome at any resort that’s open to the public.” The 24-room inn’s website said it’s “Four Seasons for Everyone”; even the family dog was welcome. The couple won’t keep any of the trust money; most will be donated to nonprofit organizations. The remainder will offset costs incurred in bringing the suit. “We did not bring this lawsuit in order to punish the Wildflower Inn or to collect money,” said Kate. “[W]e wanted people to know that what the Wildflower Inn did was illegal. We didn’t want to stay quiet and allow businesses to continue to think they can discriminate.” For more, go to:www.aclu. org/lgbt-rights/lesbian-couplesues-vermonts-wildflower-inndiscrimination and www.aclu. org/using-religion-discriminate
The website’s content will be free and will expand the three boys’ stories, allowing visitors to follow the events from the perspective of any of the three characters. The viewer can make choices on behalf of the characters, and see the consequences, illustrated by video clips and interactive comics. As the narrator of the trailer says, “The scenes are designed to raise key conflicts that bullies, targets, and bystanders are up against to seem tough enough.” Based on interviews with teenage boys conducted around the country, it hopes to help boys devise alternative strategies to violence and hypermasculinity. Documentary-style interviews with men promoting healthy masculinity will also be included. For more information, and a video explaining the project, go to www.theboygame.org.
Taking the Boy Game Seriously Described as “a transmedia project that explores peer violence among boys from the vantage point of the cultural landscape of hypermasculinity,” The Boy Game takes on the masculinity norms many believe are responsible for bullying among boys. Award-winning filmmaker Deirdre Fishel leads the initiative, and the first part of the project has already been released: a 16-minute film that tells the story of three boys—a bully, his target, and a bystander who is a friend of both. The next step for The Boy Game is an interactive website— for which more funding is needed.
Voices and Faces of Survivors Survivors of rape and sexual abuse often have a tough time overcoming the culture of silence. Too often, survivors’ stories of their suffering are considered taboo topics, or they are shamed for what happened to them. While Take Back the Night events and speak outs have created local community spaces for survivors to tell their stories to a supportive audience, the Voices and Faces Project (VFP) is bringing survivors and their stories to a national stage. In doing so, they hope to change the national conversation about rape and abuse and empower survivors across the country. Their approach features a national survivors’ speakers’ bureau, as well as a permanent archive of survivor testimonials. Organizers describe the speakers’ bureau as a “national network of
rape survivors and advocates who are available to speak publicly about the issue of sexual assault,” while the archive is composed of stories submitted through a detailed survey on their website. They hope to shed light on the common themes of rape and abuse and how they impact individuals. VFP is also working on a book, audio documentary, and photo exhibit. For more information about Voices and Faces—including how to submit your own story or engage one of their speakers—go to: http:// www.voicesandfaces.org.
Nuts About Nuts?
While the myth about Mountain Dew lowering sperm count has been thoroughly disproved, new science suggests that your nuts might be nuts about…nuts. Biology of Reproduction Papersin-Press has published a new study that tested the effects of walnut consumption in men 21 to 35 years of age, and found that eating walnuts on a regular basis led to “improved sperm vitality, motility, and morphology” compared with a control population that abstained. In other words, walnuts are the stuff to chow down if you want your little guys to work harder, better, and faster, and be stronger. The study was unusual in its focus on potential papas, since diet and fertility studies have usually only looked at mothers. In the words of the study’s author, Professor Wendie Robbins of the UCLA School of Nursing, “Diet is not just maternal territory anymore.” The study did not definitively conclude why walnuts helped sperm, although they have long been known to contain high levels of beneficial plant-based Omega 3 fatty acids.
Hanna Rosin and the End of (Middle-Class Straight White) Men By Michael Kimmel
ou’d have to have been napping– as those legions of stay-at-home dads often do–to have missed the hoopla over Hanna Rosin’s cover story in The Atlantic two years ago, provocatively headlined “The End of Men.” Well, now it’s a new book that, I believe, will be misread. Rosin’s been called a radical feminist for celebrating men’s demise, and an anti-feminist for suggesting that women have already “won” and that discrimination is a thing of the past. I think some of this misreading is deliberate—people read with agendas, after all. And I think some part of it has to do with the way the book is framed by Rosin and her marketers. After all, the central thesis of the book is contained not in the big, bold headline, “THE END OF MEN,” but in the smaller print subtitle “and the rise of women.” I believe that the subtitle—and the subtext—of her work is entirely right, and the title just as surely wrong. I’ll explain in a moment. But first, a story. I’ve been teaching gender studies courses at large public universities for 25 years. Being a sociologist, and teaching large classes of 300 to 450, I often do little surveys in class. When I started, 25 years ago, I asked my women students what they thought it meant to be a woman. Be nice, pretty, smile, cooperate— these were the typical responses I got. When I’d ask the men, they’d say—remember, this was 25 years ago—John Wayne. When I ask them now, the women say “Huh? What does it mean to be a woman? I don’t know. I can be anything I want. I can be an astronaut, a surgeon, Mia Hamm or Lady Gaga.” And when I ask the men? “Ah-nold.” Okay, so maybe not Arnold anymore. Maybe some other, as Rosin says, “cardboard” cut-out action figure. The women believe that the feminist revolution is over—and they won. They believe they can have it all, they can do anything they want, sleep with anyone they want, pursue any dream they want. And the men are still locked into the same ideology of masculinity that defined my era; that defined my father’s era. In a sense, this change is what Hanna Rosin is writing about—the dramatic change in women’s lives over the past half century. The question is what has been the impact on men of these enormous changes in women’s lives over the past half century?
To try to answer that, I want to tease out some assumptions in Rosin’s argument, and then point to a couple of areas in which I think a different framing might lead to a more accurate understanding of the state of American masculinity. One assumption is causal: The relationship of title to subtitle makes it appear that men ended first, and women have arisen to take their place. Surely this is backwards history. If men are ending, it is attendant upon, and a consequence of, the rise of women. They are women, we hear them roar and we shrivel right up. The second assumption is logical. Rosin’s title and subtitle—indeed, the entire book until the conclusion—assume that gender is a zero-sum game; that one rises and one falls, that neither can they rise together nor can they fall together. Even if she does not share the interplanetary theory of gender—that women and men are from different planets—she does believe that there is a battle of the sexes, a war between the sexes, and that, at present, as one of her male informants puts it, “our team is losing” (p. 61). This is what I also call the “either/or” assumption. Either women are winning or losing; either men are winning or losing. Either things are getting better or they are getting worse. Either we’re all bowling alone or we’re Facebooking everyone we’ve ever known in a virtual friending frenzy, creating the densest social networks the world has ever known. Either hooking up is his wet dream (and her
nightmare) or her sexual empowerment is at his expense. We sociologists see things differently. We see things as “both/and.” Both statements are true. It is understanding the relationship between the two sides that is our analytic tofu. The third assumption is sociological: Rosin treats men—or as she calls her twodimensional cartoon version, “cardboard man”—as some antediluvian dinosaur, unwilling or unable to adapt, slouching towards extinction. But this assumption raises two questions. First, which men is she talking about? When she writes that “men’s hold on the pinnacles of power is loosening” (p. 199), is she speaking of gay men, black men, Latino men, working-class men, upper-class men, Asian men, transmen, older men, boys? Assuredly not. Actually, even if was the “end of men” it’s really the end of middle-class straight white men. And it’s not really the end of them, of course. It’s the end of their unquestioned entitlement. Second, if men are ending, what is driving them towards this cliff of oblivion? Is it the rise of women? I don’t think so. I think it’s the archaic definitions of masculinity that are—and this is key—enforced and policed pretty relentlessly by other men. Rosin omits the central dynamic of masculinity—its homosociality. In fact, not only does Rosin think that women’s rise spells men’s doom, but that women are also responsible for holding themselves back; as she puts it, “the internal barriers are likely to be the harder fight” (p. 230). Hanna Rosin does, I believe, focus the conversation on the right issues. Interestingly, in the book’s conclusion, she changes course. This isn’t the “end of men” at all! Men, she writes, “will learn to expand the range of options for what it means to be a man” (emphasis added, p. 263). Cardboard man is becoming more plastic. And, adds Rosin: “I want to teach them to bend.” She can help, but basically nowadays the brothers are doing it for themselves. Michael Kimmel is the author or editor of a number of books on men and masculinity including Guyland, distinguished professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, and a Voice Male contributing editor. Parts of this article were the basis for some of his remarks at a conference on “The End of Men” at Boston University Law School in October. Fall 2012
Masculinity and Mass Violence
By Elizabeth Drescher Brad Pitt (with cigarette) in the 1999 film, Fight Club. How can we begin to address the culture of violence that is literally exploding all around us without acknowledging that “manning up” in American culture too often involves subordinating others—women, children, nature—to the will of men, who, it is assumed, embody the will of God?
hat is the role masculinity itself— not the biological fact of being male, but the behavioral and ideological markers of maleness that are malleable across time and culture—plays in acts of violence in general and mass violence in particular? Given the centrality of men, masculinity, and masculinist ideologies in most world religions, it is surprising that the influence of such factors on religious and racial violence should be so difficult to engage. After all, it’s been nearly 40 years since Mary Daly’s Beyond God the Father exposed the misogynistic roots of the Judeo-Christian traditions. “If God is male, then male is God,” Daly famously argued, cementing the relationship between religious ideas of divine power and authority and masculinist practices of domination and violence. In Daly’s wake, a generation of feminist biblical scholars—Phyllis Bird, Katie Canon, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Kwok-Pui-Lan, Amy Jill Levine, Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM, and Dolores Williams among them—put forth scholarship that both critiqued the sexist and misogynist roots of the biblical narrative, and attempted to rehabilitate religious traditions by recovering the voices of women in the Bible and offering liberatory readings of biblical texts. Such readings have hardly effected a wholesale rewiring of biblical religions, but they’ve certainly flipped a breaker here and there.
Still, in a world in which even the most progressive of religious groups struggle to move away from the He-God of the sexist tradition, the problem is clearly not solved. If we’re looking at race and religion as important elements that mass killers have drawn upon for their violent rage, there’s no reason for us to look away from associated cultural constructions of masculinity as a comparably important factor.
The Sins of Our Religious Fathers Whatever the unique complex of psychosocial, religious, financial, moral, political, or other issues that tormented the mass killers recently populating Twitter feeds and news headlines, they all sought to solve their problems with a particular expression of gun violence that maps easily to particular configurations of masculinity—apparently across classes and political ideologies. Those of us concerned with how religious ideologies participate in narratives of domination and violence, then, would do well to explore the masculinist roots of Christianity or other religious traditions, particularly as male authority and normativity are emphasized in more conservative expressions. Like pretty much everyone else who’s had anything to say about what was a summer epidemic of mass gun violence, we must begin
to have informed, respectful conversations about regulating access to firearms. We need to address the crisis in mental health care that has raged since the Reagan Administration as though it had something to do with our everyday lives. Because clearly it does. Certainly, we need to disabuse ourselves of the illusion many entertained after the election of Barack Obama in 2008 that we now live in a “post-racial era.” We need to talk sensibly and compassionately about systemic racism and the ways in which it poisons the whole nation. And, we need to revisit with open hearts the ways in which the sins of our religious fathers—which remain too often echoed in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples today—make the resources of our faith traditions available for violent co-optation. However, if we do all of these things and refuse to look at the role of culturally, politically, socially, and religiously sanctioned and normalized masculinities in racism, misogyny, sexism, and violence, we will do no more than teach the “intimate enemy” better manners to cast aside when frustrations mount, when his mental wiring frays, when the world reveals itself as far less under his control than his guns and his church and his hate-broadcast idols have led him to believe.
When an Angry Man Reaches into His Bag...
Of course this focus on masculinity and violence makes many people uncomfortable; particularly men, and perhaps especially those who are not chest-thumping, gun-toting, Christianist, racist extremists. For many women, and others who have a wide range of warm and respectful relationships with wonderful men, tagging cultural constructions of masculinity as factors in this kind of violent rage is troubling. Yet we cannot begin to address the culture of violence that is literally exploding all around us without acknowledging that “manning up” in American culture too often involves actions aimed at the subordination of others—women, children, nature—to the will of a man who, it is assumed, embodies the will of God. These often religiously informed, institutionalized, and naturalized versions of masculinity play no small part in the continuum of violence that moves from the domestic sphere to the public arena. As gender scholar Raewyn Connell has noted: “There are many causes of violence, including dispossession, poverty, greed, nation-
Amardeep Kaleka, center, being comforted by community members mourning the murder of six, including his father, temple president Satwant Kaleka, at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August.
Mass Killings Through Other Lenses As Thomas Caffall was taking the lives of three people and wounding two others across the street from the Texas A&M campus in the third week of August, Notre Dame professor Naunihal Singh complained in the New Yorker about the media’s short attention span when it came to the Oak Creek, Wisconsin tragedy as compared with the Aurora, Colorado shootings carried out by James Holmes two and a half weeks earlier. Singh found it “hard to escape the conclusion that Oak Creek would have … dominated the news cycle if the shooter had been Muslim and the victims had been white churchgoers.” Singh was not alone in his seeing the Oak Creek shootings through racial and religious lenses—Attorney
alism, racism, and other forms of inequality, bigotry and desire. Gender dynamics are by no means the whole story. Yet given the concentration of weapons and the practices of violence among men, gender patterns appear to be strategic. Masculinities are the forms in which many dynamics of violence take shape.” Commentators recently have begun what we can only hope will be productive conversations about the “many causes of violence,” pressing for deeper, more informed examinations of race, religion, the mental health care system (or lack thereof), and gun regulations (or the lack thereof) as factors in the complex dynamics of violence. As Connell makes clear, other factors are certainly at play. Indeed, as I was attempting to finish this piece, a shooting at the Family Research Council offices in Washington, D.C.—this time not lethal, this time with only one victim—promped the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson to ask about the ways in which incendiary political rhetoric and “the problem of guns” play into escalating gun violence: “Why, in this country, when an angry man reaches into his bag, is it so easy and common
General Eric Holder branded the shooting a hate crime. Rinku Sen, writing for Colorlines in the immediate aftermath of the rampage at the Sikh gurdwara, pointed to a pattern that extends far beyond an individual tragedy, and well past racism directed against the brownskinned, turban-wearing Other. Rather, she reoriented our vision toward the dominant race of the mass killers. While senseless violence exists in many communities, white men perpetrate the vast majority of these incidents in America, yet too many white people don’t see this pattern. Others have seen religious intolerance as a central feature in many recent mass killings. Mark Juergensmeyer recently discussed on religiondispatches.org the ways that certain religious narratives meld seamlessly with notions of violence and war. The image of cosmic, religious war, he notes, can be seen at the center of both Islamic and Christian acts of terror. And in a piece the Washington Post, Susan Thistlethwaite suggests that Christianity has a particular role to play in American constructions of whiteness that makes the risks associated with Christian extremism difficult to see, especially for law enforcement. “The face of the ‘intimate enemy’ as a domestic terror threat has now been exposed as a white face,” says Thistlethwaite. “This is a difficult concept, both in theological and in law enforcement terms.” Race and religion are certainly similarities among Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City), Jared Loughner (Tucson), Anders Breivik (Norway), James Holmes (Aurora), Wade
for his fingers to find a gun?” (Emphasis added.) Surely, it’s a vexing and complicated question with no single, simple answer. Still, I have to wonder, is it just me, or does the smoking gendered pronoun lie in plain sight in almost every one of these cases? When will we begin to examine the evidence right in front of our eyes? Elizabeth Drescher teaches in the undergraduate program in religious studies and the graduate program in pastoral ministry at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse, 2011) and, with Keith Anderson, Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. To learn more, visit her website, www.elizabethdrescher.com A version of this article first appeared in RD (Religion Dispatches), www.religiondispatches.org, a daily online magazine that publishes reporting from the intersection of religion, politics and culture. Michael Page (Oak Creek), and Thomas Caffall (Texas A&M)—all white, all Christian. But there have been other non-white, often non-Christian killers as well—Jiverly Wong, a Buddhist Vietnamese-American who killed himself and twelve others in Binghamton, N.Y., in 2009; John Allen Muhammad, the Islamic African-American “Beltway Sniper,” and his Jamaican-born partner Lee Boyd Malvo in 2002; and Eduardo Sencion, a Mexican-American who killed four and wounded seven before committing suicide in Carson City, Nevada in 2011, are recent examples. Connecting these cases is that many of these shooters, regardless of race or religion, had known mental health issues. Likewise, a substantial number of the men were not previously identified as having psychological problems, but were “driven” to violent rage by financial and relationship crises. All of which is to say, yes, the intimate enemy, the mass killer we do not want to acknowledge among us, very often has a white face—but not always. He is often, but not always, mentally ill. He might be Christian, he might not be. Mass killings by women, however, have been exceedingly rare—the most notable being Professor Amy Bishop, who killed three and wounded as many after being denied tenure at the University of Alabama in 2010; and Jennifer San Marco, who “went postal” on seven people before killing herself in Goleta, California, in 2006. —Elizabeth Drescher
“Voice Male is a superb, groundbreaking publication offering a powerful way to engage men in working towards gender justice and to encourage younger men to learn new ways to become a man. Every individual and institution interested in gender equality and violence prevention should subscribe and spread the word!”
“Know Thyself” said the ancient Greeks. “Recreate Thyself” says Voice Male. This vital publication aims for nothing less on behalf of all men. Voice Male is an important tool in our struggle to re-imagine ourselves in the world. —Bill T. Jones artistic director, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
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director, Our Bodies, Ourselves
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Advice to Pro Feminist Allies By Maia Mares
s co-leader of the Listen and feminist group Collaborate on my college Really listen. I mean, campus, I’m always initially sit down, be quiet, and just skeptical of men who listen. It may sound harsh, approach us as allies and but feminist spaces often identify as feminists. I don’t function as safe spaces, and a feel this way because I hate man intruding into that space can cause discomfort or even men; on the contrary, some destroy the feeling of safety of the people I love most in altogether. Understand this my life are men. Neither do possibility and make an effort I believe that men can’t do to cause as little disruption as feminist work or be effecpossible. If you’re attending tive pro feminist allies to a meeting of a feminist club the movement. It’s just that or discussion group, ask the the pattern so far has been members beforehand if it is that very few male allies okay for you to be there. If they say yes, ask what you have impressed me and very can do to make your presmany male allies have disapence as discreet as possible. pointed me. It may be uncomfortable at But I’m not ready to “Being a feminist isn’t easy, even for women. Profeminist allies need to really listen to the women first, but the more you listen, give up on men, especially not they want to help. It may be uncomfortable, but the more you listen the more you learn.” the more you learn. The only after my three months as an way to be an effective feminist intern at Voice Male. Reading or pro feminist ally is to listen the words of more than a hundred pro feminist men—as well as working to the people you want to help and help them however they ask you to with many others—has made me reevaluate the ways I think men can be help. It is not okay for you to come into a feminist space having previously pro feminist. My experience at Voice Male has also helped me develop decided exactly what you are going to do to help. Trust the women you are my own set of suggestions for men embarking on pro feminist personal working with to know what they need from you. Ask them directly what development and social justice work. you can do and listen to what they say. This goes for men’s pro-feminist I remember the start of my own process of becoming a feminist and groups as well. Work together with women; they know what’s up. the harsh realities it forced me to face. Indeed, being a feminist continues to challenge me as an advocate for social justice and as a human being. Don’t Derail Discussions It’s hard work and there’s a lot to understand. Being a feminist sometimes Derailing can happen in several different ways, but the most common makes me feel like crap; it’s not all sisterhood and womanly bonding and that I have experienced are 1) moving the focus away from women (usually solidarity. Feminist theory constantly seems to be blowing everything to men) and 2) asking for explanations of very basic feminist concepts. I think I know apart and makes me question whether I can even know Switching the focus back to men is frustrating because one of the very anything at all. Confronting my own privileges as a white, educated, basic tenets of feminism is the idea that women’s experiences should be middle-class, able-bodied, cisgender woman often makes me feel highly brought to the fore, since they rarely are in any other spheres. While many uncomfortable, frustrated, guilty, and disappointed in myself. feminist issues can and do involve men, before you bring up men or men’s My point is that being a feminist isn’t easy, not even for women. It experiences, consider whether you might end up removing the focus of the isn’t a label you can simply affix to yourself on a whim. First, there’s the discussion from women. Ask yourself whether this is an appropriate time movement’s history to be grappled with. Identifying as a feminist requires to switch the focus. What is the purpose of the discussion? What would a certain amount of privilege and thus comes with a lot of responsibility to the discussion gain from your comment? What would it lose? acknowledge that privilege and to do your best to undo the very systems The second way derailing often occurs is when men who wish to be of inequality that grant you it. As a man, it is likely you may have more allies do not have a sufficient understanding of basic tenets of feminism privilege than most feminist women. It is also possible that on some axes, and end up interrupting and sidetracking a discussion by asking about very certain feminist women may have more privilege than you do, but that does basic ideas. Do some research beforehand. Google “Feminism 101” and do not mean that you are not still privileged as a man in a system that largely some reading. Feminist women will often be more than willing to help you benefits men. You can be privileged in one way and underprivileged in understand something if you ask for help in a tactful and respectful way, another. Understanding the complexities of oppression and how different but when you ask for help in the middle of a discussion that clearly hopes oppressions intersect is key to being a feminist or a pro feminist. And yes, to advance past feminist basics, you are interrupting and focusing the that can be very difficult to navigate. discussion on you, as well as expecting that the women around you should So what do I think men can do to be effective pro-feminist allies? I drop what they are doing and instead devote their time to educating you don’t profess to have all the answers, but I do have some tips for men who right then and there. Instead, if there is something you do not understand, wish to be pro-feminist allies on a college campus. ask someone. If it is not possible to ask during the discussion, wait until Fall 2012
the discussion is over. Ask if there are any resources available to help you understand. Most feminists would be happy to point you toward a book, website, or blog that contains the information you need. (If you don’t subscribe to Voice Male, consider taking out a subscription and using it as the basis of a men’s discussion group.)
Debate Respectfully Realize that women are authorities on their own experiences and do not appreciate you telling them that you know better. If a woman says she experienced a sexist event in a certain way and you contradict her, you are in effect telling her she is not the authority on her own life and experience. If she is willing to answer questions, feel free to ask, but don’t disrespect her by telling her you know better. Always entertain the idea that you may be wrong. Furthermore, recognize that many feminist issues hit home pretty hard for many women. These aren’t abstract concepts that we discuss for fun. Rape, domestic violence, catcalling and street harassment, wage gaps, lack of daycare and other institutionalized support for parenting, housework, the pressure of beauty standards—from major to minor, these issues can and do make women’s lives miserable, or at the very least difficult. Understand that these are not abstractions. These are not lofty philosophical ideas that you can debate without getting personal or emotional. When you debate feminist issues, you are debating the substance of women’s lives. Doing so requires respect, sensitivity, and consideration. If a woman is getting angry or upset, by all means, let her feel those emotions. Do not tell her she is crazy or irrational, and above all do not ask if she is PMSing. Understand that women’s emotions are justified. Instead of blaming her for feeling the way she feels, reflect on the tone and content of the discussion and ask yourself what it was that could have upset her. Was it something you said? Was it how you said something? Could the discussion have touched upon something highly personal for her? Think about it. If an apology is required, apologize promptly and sincerely.
Step Up and Step Back This is a phrase I first heard within the environmental movement and I think it applies to all social justice work. Learn to balance. Learn when it is appropriate to take the lead and when to follow. Learn when to take the initiative and when to simply do what is asked of you and no more. Communicate. Ask the women you are working with about what you should be doing. Striking the right balance between stepping up and stepping back takes practice. Eventually, you will get a feel for it, though you should always ask yourself and those you’re working with if what you’re doing is appropriate and helpful. It’s difficult to be either a feminist or a pro-feminist ally, and if you feel discouraged sometimes, you’re not alone. A lot of what’s necessary comes with practice and you will mess up. We all mess up, but when we do, we need to take responsibility for our mistakes, apologize without making excuses, and do our best to make amends. But difficulty should not turn you away from working toward equality on all axes. It’s important work and we’re up against some seriously nefarious social forces. But it’s not all doom and gloom either. I personally find immense comfort in the fact that working toward gender justice (and, more broadly, social justice) can lead to a better world for people of all genders. It sounds idealistic and a bit cheesy, but that certainty keeps me dedicated to and passionate about social justice. We’re dealing with issues that can make or break a person’s quality of life, if not their life itself, and that makes this work vitally important. Maia Mares, who worked as an intern at Voice Male this past summer, is a junior at Amherst College. Her piece “A Feminist Responds to ‘Desire’” appeared in the Summer 2012 issue. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Dark Knights Falling
L-R Top Row - Luke Woodham (Pearl, Miss., 1997), Dylan Klebold & Eric Harris (Littleton, Col., 1999), Steven Kazmierczak (Northern Illinois University, 2008), Charles Roberts (Lancaster, Pa, 2006). Bottom row, Cho Seung-Hui (Virginia Tech, 2007), James E. Holmes (Aurora, Col., 2012), Mitchell Johnson & Andrew Golden (Jonesboro, Ark., 1998), Wade Michael Page (Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 2012). A society that socializes boys and men to disdain any emotion (except anger)—and that glorifies violence—reaps what it sows.
Can We Talk About Masculinity and Men? By Rob Okun
ven though it was—once again—men who went on shooting sprees in Colorado and Wisconsin this summer, the national conversation following the mass murders again failed to focus on the root causes of these latest lethal outbursts: men’s mental health and how men are socialized. Until we acknowledge those issues, we can only expect more tragic bloodlettings. The massacre July 20 at the Century movie theater complex during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., ended with 12 dead and 58 wounded. The shooter, James E. Holmes, was arrested and is behind bars awaiting trial. On August 5 in Oak Creek, Wisc., Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist, killed six Sikh worshippers and wounded two others at a prayer service in a gurdwara (house of worship) outside Milwaukee. After being wounded by police, he shot himself in the head and died at the scene. The stories may have faded from the news and public consciousness, but for a growing number the shooters’ gender has not been forgotten. The multiple murders are the latest example of an expression of masculinity that society continues to ignore at its own peril. All these years after Columbine High School shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 in Littleton, Colo. (1999); Charles C. Roberts
murdered five girls in a one-room school house in Lancaster County, Pa. (2006); Cho Seung-Hui shot and killed 32 at Virginia Tech University (2007); and Steven Kazmierczak killed five and wounded 16 at Northern Illinois University (2008); isn’t it glaringly apparent what the killers have in common? No, it’s not that all the assaults occurred at schools and colleges. It’s their gender; they’re all men. (As is Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who killed 76 people a year ago.) Men’s violence of the magnitude Holmes and Page perpetrated needs more than news shows inviting pop psychologists on for analysis. We need a national teach-in on masculinity, attended by doctors, social workers, teachers, clergy, the judiciary, legislators and parents. And the facilitators need to come from the ranks of those who have been examining male behavior and working with men and boys for the past 30 years.
Gory Political Narrative A society that socializes boys and men to disdain any emotion (except anger) and that glorifies violence—from video games to kicking Afghan butt—reaps what it sows. Even though the drumbeat of war Fall 2012
and superpower bravado may not be front and center in a presidential The conspiracy of silence about men and depression, too many campaign where neither major party candidate served in the military, men’s reticence to seek counseling, the health care community’s underour country’s love of Dad’s blood and guts has always trumped mom’s reporting of the relationship between men’s mental health and a host apple pie. of related problems—from alcoholism to heart disease—all have to be Our gory American political challenged. This is a campaign narrative stretches from the the surgeon general needs to boots-on-the-ground army at mount with all the resources Valley Forge to the antiseptic that changed social attitudes drone strikes in Pakistan. In about smoking. The current an America equipped with allsocial compact about mascuWe have for too long volunteer armed forces that’s linity assumes that a minority been at war perpetually since of men like Holmes and Page compartmentalized 9/11, maintaining a tough guise are an unavoidable part of male these particular is paramount. How many of behavior. This is both untrue the male mass murderers were and unacceptable; there is too aberrant acts as a soldier wannabes? much collateral damage. The profile of 24-yearOf course society doesn’t kind of “boys will be old Holmes has many simiexplicitly say it sanctions boys gone wild,” not larities with the other male horrific mass killings—except mass murderers. Neighbors through our ongoing love affair as an endorsement but and friends from Aurora, and with war, which, outrageously, Southern California where he is often described as “necesas an explanation of the grew up, told The New York sary” by some of the same inevitable. Times he was “as anonymous as people who are quick to say a glass of water” and described acts like Holmes’ and Page’s him as a solitary figure, always are “senseless.” We have for alone. “Alone as he bought beer too long compartmentalized and liquor at neighborhood shops, these particular aberrant acts as a as he ate burritos at La California restaurant or got his car fixed at the kind of “boys will be boys gone wild,” not as an endorsement but as an Grease Monkey auto shop. Alone as he rode his bicycle through the explanation of the inevitable. streets,” the article reported. Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran who served as a Hawk missile Lives of Quiet Desperation system repairman, was discharged in a 1998 after pattern of misconduct, We can no longer ignore the fact that too many men live lives of played in white supremacist heavy metal bands and was described by the quiet desperation—it isn’t just the loner who doesn’t talk with anyone Southern Poverty Law Center as “a frustrated neo-Nazi.” While racism about life’s struggle. Most of us at one time or another have gone surely played a major part in Page’s act of violence, his profile as an underground with our feelings as part of a misguided strategy to better isolated, alienated male cannot be overstated. In the wake of the killings, the calls for gun control—which the negotiate our lives. Hopefully, we got help; or someone(s) who cared National Rifle Association for years has so successfully fended off—will about us intervened. For too many men like Holmes and Page, too often get louder now; and a new uproar is good. Unfortunately, we probably there is no one. It’s time to draw a new social compact about masculinity that pledges shouldn’t expect timid election-year politicians from either major party we will intervene with moody, shut down, angry males and not just those to put their careers in the crosshairs by introducing bold legislation. found on our campuses or in our offices and factories. Sadly, they are But that doesn’t mean citizens and courageous members of Congress shouldn’t try to press the issue, particularly now. For starters, let’s push also roaming our elementary school playgrounds and walking the corrifor screening Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine at the Century dors of our middle schools. The new school year is under way but there is Cineplex in Aurora, followed by a community conversation on gun still time for educators to draft plans on how to identify troubled boys. As you read these words, behind closed doors in tiny country violence in America. towns, cavernous suburban ranch houses and dark apartments in big cities, lonely, angry, disconnected men are living lives of (sometimes A Singular Characteristic noisy) desperation. How many more must lethally lash out before we Holmes and Page are the latest examples for a society that still acknowledge that men’s mental health is as serious a male health issue doesn’t acknowledge maleness as the singular characteristic tying to- as prostate cancer? Mental health treatment for troubled men must rise gether virtually every similar act of violence over the past 15 years. to the top of the national agenda if there’s to be any hope of preventing We knew it was masculinity two years before Columbine, when Luke future tragedies. Woodham, 16, killed two students and wounded five others in Pearl, Holmes and Page were not aberrations, not just lone, crazed gunmen. Miss., in 1997, after first bludgeoning to death his sleeping mother. They are the latest canaries in a deadly masculinity mine whose coldly Then there were Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, two middle calculated killing sprees warn us of the risks we face if we don’t focus school boys, 13 and 11, who killed five people, four female students our attention on redefining masculinity. Now. and a teacher, at a school near Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998. Heard enough? How much more evidence do we need? To paraphrase James Carville’s tagline when Bill Clinton first ran for president: “It’s the masculinity, people.” The inconvenient truth is not just that all the assailants have been male but that, until we make that fact predominant, all the observations the forensic psychologists and the news programs trot out are pointless. 14
Rob Okun is editor of Voice Male. A version of this article appeared in Women’s E-News (http://womensenews.org/story/uncoveringgender/120724/auror-rampage-shows-dangers-ignoring-mens-health). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for Survivors
When Abuse Survivors Leave the Family By Rythea Lee as “different”—as other—and are shunned and isolated. Such is the payment for their act of survival and self-preservation. The pressure to maintain the silence is so strong, even friends of survivors often feel such discomfort that they advocate that families stick together despite the abuse. The result? Instead of the survivors getting support, they receive misunderstanding and criticism at best; they are ostracized and isolated, at worst. Despite the fact that abuse is rampant in our culture, society still doesn’t acknowledge it as an epidemic. If we did, there would be systems of support in place to help families, to intervene on behalf of both child and adult survivors, and both to prevent and heal from trauma. There would be programs in schools teaching children about abuse and encouraging them to speak up when something harmful is happening to them. There would be extensive programs for parents to learn and share about abuse prevention and treatment. There would be funding for a complete revamping of our foster care system, which currently does not protect children in their care. In order to offer better support and increase effective functioning, the very notion of how we understand family would be the subject of exhaustive examination both in our communities and the organizations that serve them. We cannot afford to forget that one of every four girls and one of every six boys will experience sexual abuse by the age of 18, according to the 2005 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This statistic should spark the level of alarm currently afforded war, famine, and environmental calamity. What could be more important than our children’s safety? What do we need to do to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding child abuse? Isn’t it obvious that such abuse is at the root of so much violence that pervades our nation and that can be found in all parts of our world? The people who have made the painful decision to reject their parents and families because of the abuse they suffered at their hands (or by their silence) deserve our unflagging respect and support. They have risked all the anchors in their lives to heal and to stand for the truth. They are both heroes and angels carrying the light of truth for the rest of society. They have suffered and escaped; they should be revered by us all as they make their way on the journey to healing. Rythea Lee is author of Trauma into Truth: Gutsy Healing and Why It’s Worth It, available at Amazon.com. A psychotherapist with a private practice in Northampton, Massachusetts, she teaches workshops and classes for healing and self-expression. To read more about her and her dance theater company, the Zany Angels, go to www.zanyangels.com. Painting by Rythea Lee
s a therapist, I have worked with people who have been beaten, raped, psychologically tormented, severely neglected, and in many other ways profoundly betrayed by their parents or family members. Never in my 15 years of working with people have I heard of one of their abusers take responsibility for what they did. Most of the time, my client is the one person in the family actively dealing with the abuse. The rest of the immediate and extended family refuse to talk about the incidents. Frequently, they belittle the truth tellers, depict them as the one in the wrong, and even call them crazy. These clients, over the years, experience blame, shaming, walls of silence, and verbal attacks. If they continue to bring up the subject of past abuse, frequently they are disowned. Even in the wake of the revelations at Penn State and the Catholic Church child abuse convictions, we still do not live in a world where abuse is acknowledged and dealt with as a full-scale emergency. Many clients pretend the abuse never happened in order to stay close to family members while secretly suffering from the horrors of the damage. Most people don’t realize how common the pattern is—the one who remembers loses everything. The one who got hurt carries all the pain. The one who was a child victim is victimized again as an adult. It is wrong and yet it happens every day. Often abuse survivors who come to terms with the atrocities perpetrated against them as children recognize that some family members—if not all—are too toxic to be around. Some recognize that crimes have been committed and that justice has not been served. There is an understanding that a child’s life was threatened and damaged, that the abuse had lasting physical, emotional, sexual, relational, and energetic effects. When they bravely face this reality— usually after years of intensive therapy—some people choose to cut off contact with the offenders or members of their families who supported the perpetrator, for months, years, even forever. I believe it is essential for survivors of abuse to establish a strong boundary. The healing begins once the boundary is made. Once survivors have unambiguously decided that the perpetrator’s behavior is not healthy for them, they are then ready to feel, to express, to open up—to trust themselves and others. For such people, pretending or ignoring the abuse is no longer an option. We live in a world where family is everything so the decision to cut off family members is deeply painful and comes with a cost so high it is unfathomable for those on the outside to imagine. It is one of the most difficult choices a survivor will make, especially with parents. Parents who abuse are protected in our culture. Once the doors to a home are closed, they can get away with almost anything. People who have severed ties with their family lose all resources—financial safety nets, comfort, basic support, and a sense of belonging and having roots. They are exiles from their original tribe. Additionally, they are seen
Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood
By Jackson Katz
Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill, Santiago, Cuba, July 1, 1898.
It’s no secret: there is a wide—and growing— gender gap in American presidential politics. Over the past 30 years, Democrats have made major gains with women, while Republicans have been doing far better with men—especially white working-class men. The question is why? In Jackson Katz’s new book, Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood, he makes a compelling argument that U.S. presidential campaigns have evolved into nothing less than quadrennial referenda on competing versions of American manhood. And in the process, he tracks what this development means for women—as both candidates and citizens. What follows is an excerpt from the introduction to the book.
rom the time of the Founding Fathers, Americans have been arguing about the manly qualities necessary in the man who would lead the nation. But since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon figured out how to get working-class white men to vote for the party of the rich by appealing not to their economic interests but to their cultural values, contests for the presidency have arguably been about the interlocking and contentious forces of racial, gender and national identity as much as anything else. And like no other single person, the man—or one day the woman—who occupies the office of President of the United States literally embodies those forces, and the struggles around them. The president wields enormous material and symbolic power— including the power, in a sense, to personify
not only “America,” but American manhood. As a result, how the president is regarded as a man has a lot to do with his political success or failure—especially when politics is dominated by a media culture that emphasizes storytelling and personal narratives to make sense of the workings of larger economic and political forces, and which is governed by the values of entertainment. This does not mean that image is everything and issues don’t matter. Voters make judgments about a (male) candidate’s manhood based on both his personal attributes and his positions on certain key issues. For example, if he comes down on the “right” side of an issue, he’s considered more masculine, e.g. “tough on crime,” “tough on immigration,” “strong on national security.” If he comes down on the “left” side, he’s likely to face criticism that his
position represents personal weakness, e.g. he’s the main argument in Leading Men book rein- question” remains hidden in plain sight. Take “soft on crime,” “weak-kneed on immigration,” forces—that it is not “masculinity” which candi- Drew Westen’s work on the role of emotion in “naïve on matters of national security.” There is date image handlers were packaging and selling politics. Westen’s book The Political Brain: little room in all of this for the nuances of either until the 2008 elections, but distinctive versions The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of personality or policy. of white masculinity. If not, one would expect the Nation garnered a considerable amount of Style and public presentation do matter. The men of color to respond in a similar fashion as attention from Democratic Party operatives and social conservative Gary Bauer, who worked in white men to candidates who perform the type positive reviews in mainstream media during Ronald Reagan’s White House, opined the 2008 election season. The book seeks that moral clarity resonates with “Joe to explain “how the mind works, how the six-pack” because it represents a kind of brain works, and what this means for why manliness. “A man takes a stand, toes candidates win and lose elections.” the line, doesn’t budge even if it gets hot Westen barely even discusses the or tough, and it is seen by some of those gendered aspects of emotions, or the way kinds of voters who may not always be cultural constructs of what is considcomfortable with politics and moral issues. ered “masculine” or ”feminine” help to It is something they can identify with, in structure how people respond to various contrast to a more feminist or more femimessages. He recognizes gender as a nine approach.” George W. Bush’s media political organizing principle; he discusses consultant Mark McKinnon summed up issues of particular concern to women what Republican strategists have banked voters, and he goes so far as to say that on since the Reagan years: “In presidential from infancy, women are more attuned elections people don’t vote on issues, they to the emotional signals around them vote on attributes, and the single most than are men. But it is revealing that in important one is strong leadership,” a a 420-page book, he barely mentions euphemism for manliness. men as men, or offers even a hint that Presidential elections in the age of he understands that campaigns between media spectacle are won and lost largely in men might have a gender component the realm of myth, symbolism and identity, worth theorizing. Instead, he attributes to where feelings about a candidate’s intanother factors in campaigns events that are gible qualities of character, stature and centrally about (white) masculinity. For gravitas carry much greater weight than example, in a discussion about Michael facts about where they stand on issues or Dukakis’s (in)famous answer to a queswhose economic interests they actually tion about the death penalty in a 1988 represent. In 2004 Elizabeth Wilner put it debate with George H.W. Bush, Westen this way in The Washington Post: “Repub- Since the early 1970s, conserva- maintained that Dukakis answered the licans today understand that presidential tive propagandists have waged a wrong question. The moderator, Bernard races are about character and personality, campaign to paint liberal Demo- Shaw, asked Dukakis if he would favor whereas the Democrats’ instinct is to try the death penalty if his wife were raped cratic men—and liberal men in and beat their opponent into submission and murdered. Dukakis answered that with sheaves of policy papers.” As former he would not, as “there are better and general—as neutered, passive, S.E.I.U. labor leader Andy Stern said, more effective ways to deal with violent less-than-fully masculine. “Democrats somehow think that presidencrime.” Political pundits and academic tial elections are like college bowl or Jeopobservers widely believe that at that ardy. We nominate the person who gets all moment, Dukakis’s chances for victory in the answers right. And Republicans understand of presidential masculinity that emphasizes November were finished. Westen explains that it’s American Idol.” “regular guy” qualities, such as knowledge of voters wanted to hear that he understood this In Leading Men I introduce a new way and interest in blue-collar sports, ease of rapport was a “moral” question, and Dukakis’s answer to think about what voters are voting for—or with the uniformed military and the willingness spoke in the language of rational utility. This is a against—every four years when they cast their to take on our adversaries, as well as to support perfectly reasonable–if partial–explanation. ballots. It’s the masculinity, stupid. When candidates who will get “tough” on crime, make A better explanation is that Shaw’s question examined closely through the lens of gender, the “hard” choices on budgetary priorities, etc. posed a challenge to Dukakis. The diminutive, presidential elections can also be seen as But they do not, because for the majority of cerebral governor was given a chance to prove quadrennial competitions not only between men of color—not only African-American men his masculine bona fides with an expression of divergent political ideologies, but between two but other men of color as well—issues of racial controlled violent anger, something that would (or three) distinct versions of masculinity—a identity and solidarity seem to trump issues of signal to voters—especially white men—that in kind of referendum on the meaning of American “masculinity” when it comes to voting prefer- spite of his technocratic approach to political manhood. ences. The implication for the study of presi- problems, at heart he was a fighter. (“Bernie, Like almost everything else in American dential masculinity is clear: the entire enterprise I would want to kill that man myself, but the politics, this contest of meanings has a racial needs to incorporate a racialized understanding question here is whether the death penalty is dimension. Since 1980, the Republican Party of gender, not to mention a gendered under- sound social policy. I don’t believe it is a deterhas regularly received less than 10 percent standing of race. rent—and research confirms this. And what of the African-American vote in presidential Gender is a central factor even in races if we convicted the wrong guy?”) Instead, elections. There is a very slight gender gap in between men. Unfortunately, few political Dukakis failed to rise to the occasion. African-Americans’ voting patterns; nonetheless commentators or theorists describe contempoFew of the books, articles, op-ed columns only about one in ten African-American men rary presidential elections in this way. Most and blog postings that discuss issues related to support Republican presidential candidates. don’t even mention gender as a central factor— masculinity and politics offer much analysis of This dramatic statistic suggests the idea—which unless a woman is running. The “manhood media culture and its relationship to gender and Fall 2012
presidential politics. This is stunning, because in the contemporary era most people experience presidential campaigns through the televisual performance of candidates and the rhetoric about them generated on cable TV and talk radio, and increasingly on the Internet and social media. As the billions of dollars spent on political ads during presidential campaigns make clear, U.S. presidential politics is first and foremost a media spectacle. With scant exceptions, what has been sorely missing from the copious output of presidential scholarship and journalistic commentary on the presidency is an explanatory framework for how cultural ideas about (white) masculinity have—especially in the television era—played a powerful subtextual role in presidential campaigns and electoral outcomes. Leading Men explores some of the political developments, news events, campaign strategies and other factors that have been part of the cultural conversation about manhood and the presidency over the past few decades—with special attention to how this has all played out in media culture. For anyone who is interested in the American presidency, this move to “pull back the curtain” on cultural performances of manhood raises a number of critical questions about media and politics in the 21st century: to what extent are voters’ electoral choices shaped by the televisual performance of candidates and politicians? Which (white) masculine styles or archetypes have been politically successful over the past 50 years, and why? Does the election of Barack Obama change that, and if so how? How does paid political advertising on television—by far the biggest expenditure of funds in presidential campaigns—shape voters’ perceptions of the relative “manliness” of candidates? What are the similarities and differences between how women and men ascertain whether male political figures measure up to the “masculine ideal” that is circulating in media culture at a given historical moment? What types of gendered language about leadership do journalists and other media commentators use, and how do those language choices affect who is seen as a credible—or electable—candidate? What role does right-wing talk radio play in policing the boundaries of what are considered acceptable “masculine” traits expected in a commander-in-chief? How do new digital media formats—including YouTube—either reinforce or subvert traditional constructions of presidential masculinity? And finally, how can aspiring women political leaders demonstrate that they are “presidential timber” when the office of the presidency has throughout American history been a key symbolic marker of (white) masculine power and privilege? In recent decades, the Democrats’ reputation as the “party of women” hurts them with (white) male voters. But it’s not simply that many white men are alienated from the Democratic Party, which they see as the primary political home for a cultural movement—feminism—that they think has undervalued and derided men and advocated primarily for the rights and needs of women and children. Since the early 1970s, 18
Progressive pundits rarely demonstrate they understand the impact anxieties about masculinity have on elections. White men hesitate to vote for Democratic male candidates who have been feminized. conservative propagandists in media have also waged a campaign to paint liberal Democratic men—and liberal men in general—as neutered, passive, less-than-fully masculine. This strategy has been highly effective in part because of a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Conservatives attack liberalism as an ideology of permissiveness and wrong-headed compassion at home and appeasement abroad. But instead of forcefully countering that false and misleading caricature, many liberals have retreated into a defensive stance and sought to either deny or minimize their commitment to progressive principles— including many that have contributed mightily to the success of this country (e.g. the eight-hour day, public education, Social Security, Medicare, etc.). Conservatives then point to the timidity of Democrats as evidence of their emasculation: if they can’t stand up for their own beliefs, they won’t stand up for you. While conservatives relentlessly ridicule the manhood of (male) liberals, it doesn’t work the same way in reverse. Liberals who critique the masculine projections of conservatives are likely to accuse them of being “reckless” or too eager to use force. In other words, they’re too manly. This is one place where the clueless elitism of some liberals creates real communication problems: many of them seem not to get that many male voters consider it a compliment for a man to be accused of being “too manly.” It merely reinforces what relentless conservative propaganda over the past generation has led so many men to believe: Democrats are wimps, and “real men” should vote Republican. Conservative attacks on liberals also resonate because a key pillar of traditional manhood rests on the continued power of an aspect of misogyny—the devaluation of anything deemed “feminine.” Thus “manhood” consists of a negation: a man is not-a-woman. A real man
is not feminine. So when the right actively tries to feminize left-of-center men by saying they “apologize for America” or they’re “soft on crime” or “soft on terrorism,” they send an implicit message to other men that they’d better move to the right, or they, too, will be unmanned. Men receive this message both consciously and unconsciously. The author of The Wimp Factor, Stephen Ducat, argues that until this gender subtext is debated openly and widely, “men’s fear of the feminine will continue to be central among the various motives that drive electoral campaigns.” Countless liberal and progressive activists and commentators over the past several decades have urged Democratic presidential candidates and sitting presidents to “grow a spine” or “take on” the big banks and corporate lobbyists, such as Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, who argued in his book Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge that Democrats are so fearful of looking soft that they abandon their strongest arguments and make whatever claims are in fashion at any given time. But Dionne, like most mainstream political analysts, failed to identify this problem as centrally about gender. It is rare to hear and read analyses from liberal and progressive pundits that demonstrate their understanding of the direct impact that anxieties about masculinity have on electoral outcomes, as millions of working- and middle-class white men hesitate to vote for Democratic male candidates who might better represent their class interests but who have rhetorically been feminized in media discourse. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is a notable exception—and she is sometimes dismissed by conventional political sophisticates for “psychoanalyzing” candidates and emphasizing superficial things like the cultural politics of gender and personality. But whatever one thinks of her generally liberal politics and her sometimes cruel judgments about people’s character, she is without a doubt the most attuned person in the mainstream media to the masculinity drama at the heart of American politics. The majority of Leading Men is focused on presidential masculinity and analyzes a cultural and political system that to date has produced only male presidents. But all of this has enormous implications for women—both as presidential candidates and perhaps even more importantly as citizens. For a generation, feminist scholars have been studying the complex cultural barriers to women’s political leadership. Some of this scholarship is especially revealing not only of the extent to which the presidency has always been a masculine institution, but of some of the mechanisms through which this is achieved. Thus, I draw on the work of feminist scholars and journalists and their work on gender and electoral politics. For example, consider some of the rhetorical practices in media commentary about politics, especially the gendered binary definitions by which men in politics are often judged as successes or failures: [continued on page 34]
Men and Sports
Men’s Bodies—and Minds—After Football By Robert Jensen
s a young child, I liked running, jumping, and throwing a ball around, all the games that let us enjoy our bodies. But I quickly learned to hate sports, especially football. Today, I still hate almost everything about football—the senseless violence, the fans reveling in that violence, the pathological glorification of competition, the sexual objectification of the female cheerleaders and dancers, the obscene amounts of money spent on the spectacle. I’ve hated football since I recognized the damage it could do. I grew up short, skinny, and effeminate in a small midwestern city in the 1960s and ’70s, which meant I had no hope of meeting the toxic masculinity standard that football players seemed to embody. Boys like me dreamt not of playing football but of avoiding being beaten up by football players. My younger brother, the only one in the family with any serious athletic talent, fared worse—he played football, and by junior high he was on his way to chronic knee problems. The smartest thing he did was to walk away from the sport while he could still walk. Yes, I know that for some boys football is a great character-building and teamwork-enhancing experience. But weigh it all up, the positive and the destructive, and my conclusion? Football is a loser. I have complaints about other sports, too, but I really hate football. I hate football from the junior leagues to the NFL, with a special disgust reserved for big-time college football. This has presented a particular challenge for the 20 years I have been a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, home of the storied Longhorn football franchise. I’ve taken up my place among the cranky opposition, quick to criticize the university’s obsession with athletics. Such critique is easy when the head football coach’s salary gets bumped to $5.2 million a year as the university cuts basic language courses. Dealing with jock culture is easy—I attack it, without hesitation. Dealing with student jocks is more complicated. The problem is not that I dislike jocks; like any other group of students, athletes run the gamut from smart to dull, hardworking to slacker. When we interact in my office, roles and rules are clear—I act professionally and they are generally respectful. At a university where football players are demigods, the real accomplishment is to actually treat them like normal students, and I pride myself on doing that. I’m no longer a scared skinny 12-year-old and have nothing to prove to them or myself. The complication comes in my desire to help them, given the limits of the system. Not surprisingly, many of the athletes’ problems are the same as those of students working a job (or two, or three)—only the really exceptional student working full-time has the energy and timemanagement skills needed to succeed in class. The athletes in the highprofile “revenue” sports are unpaid full time employees, but the fact they aren’t paid doesn’t mean their coach-bosses cut them any slack.
For example, one student in my 8 a.m. class was routinely late and missed the quizzes at the beginning of class. When I noticed that the lost points left him with a failing grade, I asked him to explain his tardiness. He was a football player who had required weight training in the morning that delayed him. I asked why he didn’t ask the coach to let him leave early. He said that he had asked but was told to stay until the end of the training session. He and I worked out an alternative assignment so he could recover the points. But I couldn’t help him with the coach who treated him like an employee. I asked the student if he wanted me to inform the athletic department about his situation, and he made it clear that would not be a good idea. He didn’t trust the athletic department and feared retribution. Even if he was wrong about that, his fear says something about the atmosphere in which he works. After 20 years and several interactions like that, I have come to hate football more than ever. I’ve also learned that in some cases, the football players hate the system as much as I do. These players are not naïve and know, perhaps better than anyone, how they are used. They know that the university athletic department, like any other employer, is primarily interested in productivity, not the long-term welfare of employees. My most memorable lesson in the system’s disregard for athletes came in a conversation at the end of a semester with a football player who hoped to make up enough points to pass my class. I don’t remember the details of the missed assignment, but the student seemed honest and sincere, and we quickly worked out a deal for him to make up the points. Beyond those points, he seemed to be searching for the right questions to ask about his future without football. He was a scholarship player with a blown-out knee at the end of his junior year. He would never play again, but the university was letting him finish his last year on scholarship; the football machine had enough decency not to cut loose one of their employees who was no longer able to perform. What’s next? I asked. If his hopes for a pro career were over, what would he do? He said he wanted to be a high school coach. That means teaching as well, and I asked if he planned to get certified. He had no idea what that entailed; no one had advised him on that process. I suggested that he not rely on the advising in athletics and get the information from the College of Education for himself, and we talked about how to do that. I told him bluntly that my main concern was that he understood what it took to be a good teacher and not become one of those coaches who treated teaching duties as a footnote to their “real” job on the field. There are enough bad teachers in the world already, I said, and if you are going to do this, I said, know that it’s hard work but rewarding. [continued to page 21] Fall 2012
Then I asked him what he wanted to teach. History seemed most more, if he wanted. He thanked me, and I thanked him. Then he looked interesting to him. I smiled, because 30 years earlier I had been a college at me and said something I will never forget. student getting certified as a high school history teacher. I told him how “No one has ever talked to me this way before,” he said. I asked intimidated I had felt standing in front of a class as a student teacher. what he meant, afraid I had been too harsh and he had felt disrespected. We kept talking. I asked him what his favorite part of history was. U.S. But he was grateful that I spoke to him honestly, that I had assumed he history? World history? Any particular era? was capable of the conversation. His experience with education up to then had been sadly predictable: No one gave a shit He didn’t have an answer. I asked him what he “No one has ever knew about history. He acknowledged that it wasn’t about his mind as long as his body performed on much. Thinking back on my student teaching, which talked to me this way the field. included several weeks of trying to get seventh I told him I had enjoyed talking with him, before,” he said. Had I which graders interested in the War of 1812 (something was true. I told him I hoped to see him again, I wasn’t much interested in at the time, and must been too harsh, disre- which I knew was unlikely, simply because most confess have never gone back to study in detail), I spectful? No, he was students—athletes or not—don’t come back after asked him what he knew about that war. Nothing, grateful that I spoke such a conversation. he said. Which countries fought the war? He didn’t After he left, I sat by myself for a long time, to him honestly. know. thinking about how toxic masculinity norms in a white-supremacist society defined by economic He was neither ashamed of his lack of knowledge nor angry at me for pushing him. He was equality had affected both of us. All the abstractions struggling to create a new life, and he knew he needed help. We talked about gender, race, and class were palpably real at that moment. He had about the inadequate schooling that he had endured. He was struggling, experienced being the archetypal man, the god on the football field. honestly, to understand who he was now that football was over. He knew When I was a kid, I assumed guys like him had it all. I was now enjoying he had a tough year ahead. the experience of having a secure intellectual job that I liked. Maybe We kept talking. He told me a bit about why he loved sports. I told when he looked at me now, it seemed as if I had it all. him why I loved books. We didn’t dwell on the fact that he was a jock I certainly felt as if I was dealt the better hand, but the lesson isn’t and I was the antithesis of a jock, or that our childhood experiences had which of us—the jock or the geek, the stud or the wimp, the real man or been dramatically different. He was black and I was white, he had grown the not-quite-a-real-man—got dealt the best hand, but that we both are up in poverty and I had been a middle-class kid, and we talked about forced to play a bad game. what that meant for each of us. I talked to him about why I went into teaching, about my own devel- Voice Male national advisory board member Robert Jensen is a professor opment as an intellectual. If his playing days were over, he was going to of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of a have to find a new identity, pick up new habits, see the world in a new number of books on race, class and gender. He can be reached at way. After an hour, he got up to leave. I told him I would be happy to talk email@example.com.
Men and Meaning: An Online Documentary Project
The Way Men Are By Joseph Gelfer
f you believe books such as John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, you would get the impression that men don’t engage in a whole lot of communication, and that when they do it is a direct medium that is all about solutions and getting things done. This assumption has become widely adopted as “common sense” and naturalized to the point that it is seldom challenged. But there are fundamental aspects to this “Martian” logic that are rarely teased out. The thinking goes that this mode of communication is somehow inherent in men. But styles of communication, like masculinity in general, are largely socially constructed and change depending on when and where you are. So even if we see examples of Gray’s Martian communication everywhere around us we are not seeing the way men are, rather the way men are at the moment. Men—like women—are complex beings, and everyone is done a great disservice if we assume that because stories of that complexity are not forthcoming then that complexity must not exist. Men and Meaning is an online art-documentary project that seeks to unravel some of that complexity by combining images and texts that tell stories of men’s interiority, and is freely available at www.menandmeaning.com. The project is informed by my experience as a masculinities researcher and Laki Sideris’s experience as a photographer. Academic masculinities research is crucially important, but I find it often does not provide a compelling account of the interior. Beyond theories and data are people and feelings, and I wanted the opportunity to foreground those feelings in both the subject and myself. Laki’s photography often captures moments of transcendence, an ideal signature to bring to such a project. Laki was particularly drawn to the opportunity to see what new dimensions could be added to his images by putting them in dialogue with text. Throughout the project, the images are a mixture of the staged and the documentary, the text a mixture of the biographical and the imagined. Our subjects have been a mixture of men we know and strangers in the public domain. For example, the following image is of Laki’s friend George in his home, to which I added a speculative interior monologue about desire:
Žižek clearly tells us that “Desire named as desire in this Other is what we think we have chosen, while in fact, by a logic we are not aware of, it was the only choice allowed.” So I have thought long and hard about this desire. From where does it come? Does something stir in the DNA at the sight of these child-bearing hips? Is it the passive availability in her stance that piques my conditioned need to dominate and consume? Could it be—more romantically, more spiritually—the elusive search for completeness? And then I cannot decide if its potency is evidence of the fact that it is indeed the only choice allowed, or whether it is evidence to the contrary (assuming, of course, that such potency can only be authentic). In the end, after all these years, all I know is the net effect of desire: the dissolving away of all things so there is nothing but her and me.
In this image, our friend Sebastiaan is in his office where he works in marketing. Because this image series was staged we embedded the simple text “BRAND IDENTITY” in the mise-en-scène, playing on the concept of what he does for a living, and the way work imprints itself on our identities. One image series looks at men who are strangers to us on both sides of the Occupy Movement, with the text functioning more as political slogan:
The Spirit of the Law
Similarly, we visited a tattoo exhibition and contemplated the nature of becoming a man:
Is a man born or made?
Is a man born or made? In tribal cultures initiation bestows identity upon the individual, facilitating the transition from boy to man through challenge and pain. The mythopoetic men’s movement, typified by Robert Bly’s book Iron John, told us that many of Western society’s
ills can be attributed to a lack of contemporary initiation, resulting in a culture of elderless boys suspicious of authority and seeking structure in all the wrong places. But rather than bestowing, initiation erases identity: now you are marked, now you are one of us, now you are no longer the individual. Initiation is a program of authority, a gerontocracy pulling the young into line and imposing conformity via the sleight of hand that is “becoming a man.” By accepting that Martian style of communication as the truth we are not describing men; rather we are regulating men. Men and Meaning is just one small transgression of this regulation, revealing both depth and beauty in the ordinary. I hope you will join us as this project continues to unfold. Joseph Gelfer is a researcher, consultant and coach in the areas of masculinity, parenting and spirituality. His books include Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy, and 2012: Decoding the Countercultural Apocalypse. He edits Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality and is currently working on Masculinities in a Global Era, to be published in Springer’s International and Cultural Psychology series. He is also author of the free ebook The Masculinity Conspiracy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, go to www.gelfer.net.
What Is Healthy Masculinity? With a healthy masculinity summit in October in Washington, D.C., a key component of an ambitious two-year project to “spread the message of nonviolent, emotionally healthy masculinity,” it seemed timely for Voice Male to ask several members of its national advisory board, and other colleagues and allies, to address in short essays their thoughts about the challenges inherent in trying define “healthy masculinity.” What follows are the voices of those who responded just before the magazine went to press. Their comments, and those of others, can be found on our website, www.voicemalemagazine.org.
Healthy Masculinity Is Oxymoronic The idea of a “healthy masculinity” is oxymoronic, because what patriarchy takes from both women and men is the fullness of our humanity, which is the only valid standard against which to measure the health of a human being. I can think of no positive human capability that is best realized by being culturally assigned to one gender or another, nor can I imagine a truly healthy way of life that does not include the work of understanding and embodying what it means to live as a full human being. To ask what constitutes a healthy masculinity affirms the patriarchal principle that gender is the indispensable core of human identity and that men and women are distinct kinds of human beings, each with their own standard of well-being. It is a separation that forms the basis for the elevation and dominance of men over women and the Earth. Trying to identify a “healthy” masculinity is a distraction because it encourages us to focus on issues of personality rather than the patriarchal system’s destructive patterns of privilege and oppression. In this way, we are kept from the real challenge before us, which is to confront the patriarchal worldview that splits humanity into masculine and feminine and assigns the former an obsession with control that threatens both the well-being of women and men and the Earth itself. Finding the right answers begins with asking the right questions, and what constitutes a healthy masculinity is not one of them. —Allan Johnson Allan G. Johnson is author of several books, including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy and the domestic violence novel The First Thing and the Last.
Democratic Manhood In the twenty-first century I believe we need a different sort of manhood, a “democratic manhood.” The manhood of the future cannot be based on obsessive self-control, defensive exclusion, or frightened escape. We need a new definition of masculinity in this new century: a definition that is more about the character of men’s hearts and the depths of their souls than about the size of their biceps, wallets, or penises; a definition that is capable of embracing differences among men and enabling other men to feel secure and confident rather than marginalized and excluded; a definition that is capable of friendships based on more than common activities (what among toddlers is called “parallel play”) or even common consumer aesthetics; a definition that centers on standing up for justice and equality instead of running away from commitment and engagement. We need men who truly embody traditional masculine virtues, such as strength, a sense of purpose, a commitment to act ethically regardless of the costs, controlled aggression, self-reliance, dependability, reliability, responsibility—men for whom these are not simply fashion 24
accessories but come from a deeply interior place. But now these will be configured in new and responsive ways. We need men who are secure enough in their convictions to recognize a mistake, courageous enough to be compassionate, fiercely egalitarian, powerful enough to empower others, strong enough to acknowledge that real strength comes from holding others up rather than pushing them down and that real freedom is not to be found in the loneliness of the log cabin but in the daily compromises of life in a community. —Michael Kimmel Michael Kimmel is author or editor of numerous books including Guyland and Men’s Lives. His most recent book (with Michael Kaufman) is The Guy’s Guide to Feminism The passage above was adapted from his book Manhood in America, 2nd ed., page 254.)
Men Are Human First The list of traits we claim to associate with being a man—the things we would feel comfortable telling a child to strive for—are in fact not distinctive characteristics of men but traits of human beings we value, what we want all people to be. The list of understandings of masculinity that men routinely impose on each other is quite different. Here, being a man means not being a woman or gay, seeing relationships as fundamentally a contest for control, and viewing sex as the acquisition of pleasure from a woman. Of course that’s not all men are, but it sums up the dominant, and very toxic, conception of masculinity with which most men are raised in the contemporary United States. It’s not an assertion about all men or all possible ideas about masculinity, but a description of a pattern. If the positive definitions of masculinity are not really about being a man but simply about being a person, and if the definitions of masculinity within which men routinely operate are negative, why are we holding on to the concept so tightly? Why are we so committed to the notion that there are intellectual, emotional, and moral differences that are inherent, that come as a result of biological sex differences? It’s obvious that there are differences in the male and female human body, most obviously in reproductive organs and hormones. But how we should make sense of those differences outside reproduction is not clear. And if we are to make sense of it in a fashion that is consistent with justice—that is, in a feminist context—then we would benefit from a critical evaluation of the categories themselves, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. —Robert Jensen Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and author of numerous books including Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. The passage above is adapted from his essay “Masculine, Feminine, or Human?” which appeared in Voice Male, Spring 2009.
Loving, Passionate and Grounded I’ll be totally frank. I understand the label of “healthy” when we talk about masculinity, relationships, communities. In fact, it’s in the name of the very network I lead. However, I don’t like to stop there. When I die, I’d hate to be remembered only as a “healthy” man in a “healthy” relationship or as a “responsible” father. I want my family (and others) to think of me as a loving, passionate, grounded, joyful man and father (who also happens to be healthy and responsible). So, for me, a loving, passionate, grounded, joyful man is someone who lives his life leading with love and not fear; who values integrity and leads by example; who puts the welfare of his family at the top of his priorities; who stands by his word and his vows; who rejoices in his intimate partner’s and children’s dreams and works hard at helping them achieve them; who understands an intimate relationship as a partnership, not with identical responsibilities, but with complementary strengths; someone who takes care of his own physical, emotional and spiritual health; who doesn’t depend on his partner for all his emotional needs; who is real with other men (and women) and is not afraid of showing his feelings and vulnerability, when appropriate; someone who loves other men (and women and children) so much that he is willing to help them stop hurting themselves and others. This is the kind of man I aspire to be. —Juan Carlos Areán Juan Carlos Areán is director of the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities and former senior trainer for Futures Without Violence.
Men’s Existential Vulnerability Men’s health suffers from anxiety associated with deeply felt needs to control the world. Boys, much more than girls, are taught to seek power over things and relationships. Many men sense that control is a male privilege and feel that control should be within their reach. In reality most men have little effective control over the world or their relationships: other men control many aspects of their lives and as a result there is a persistent orientation toward anxious competition and too often doubts about self-worth. Beneath this social level there is the existential vulnerability of living creatures which no one, even the most powerful Alpha Males, can escape. Those who deny vulnerability often seek to dominate others and the natural world in order to escape the anxiety. The best we can do as humans is to increase our odds of health and happiness; we do not control outcomes. Men’s understanding of strength must be repositioned to mean living well with the acceptance of vulnerability. Men who learn to accept vulnerability and are relieved of the desperate need to control will be much less likely to resort to violence in their relationships with others. And they will have happier lives. —Charles Knight Founder of the Project on Defense Alternatives, where he works to change national security policy, Charles Knight is former publisher of Working Papers magazine and more recently editor of the blog OBRM: Other and Beyond Real Men.
Healthy Males, Healthy Females Escaping the Man Box Men must challenge our views and beliefs about each other. A major obstacle will be to confront our traditional male socialization and how it limits us and boxes us in. We must get out of the socially defined roles that sexism, patriarchy, and male privilege provide for us. In addition, we must end our collusion with the violence, objectification and demeaning thoughts and behaviors that we as men engage in toward women. This will require that we address our fears and anxiety about stepping out of our—often harmfully—defined roles and challenge the traditional images of manhood. The fear of being perceived as “soft” or “weak” is an obstacle for many men that stops them from challenging sexist attitudes and behaviors, the hallmarks of male dominance. Social change requires courage, integrity, accountability to women and consistency through action. What is needed from men is to act in appropriate and respectful ways toward women. That will be the day when men, along with our sisters, have redefined manhood so that violence is not a part of being a man. As we promote and work to increase healthy and respectful manhood, we also prevent and work to decrease violence and discrimination against women and girls. —Ted Bunch Ted Bunch is a cofounder of A Call to Men and conducts antiviolence trainings around the country. A version of this passage first appeared in the article “Men’s Role in Ending Violence Against Women”, (Voice Male, Fall 2006, page 8) .
The term “healthy masculinity” seems somewhat problematic to me. Is there a bar or level of measurement we should all attempt to reach? Should masculinity even be linked to topics or issues of health? Are we looking at our actions, thoughts or simple conditioning? Is this a term that’s now a part of our vocabulary because of how men wrestle with their identity and the handling of power in this society? Social change often demands a realignment of power relationships between groups. As women become more empowered does it threaten male privilege? Do men respond by showing “unhealthy” manners and behavior? Do they become violent towards women and other men? If we turn our attention to young males during a time of transformation in our society, how do we raise them to have a “new” idea of what masculinity might mean? Can a society have a healthy male without a healthy female? This is not a Zen koan but instead a serious way of “interpreting” healthy masculinity. Do we need an “other” to determine how we behave and think? The term is perhaps linked to what we want best for our society. It could be connected to the pursuit of the Common Good and citizenship with purpose; how we live and love will determine our health as well as our vision. —E. Ethelbert Miller Literary activist, author and poet E. Ethelbert Miller is the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, and chair of the board of the Institute for Policy Studies.
What is Healthy Masculinity? The Courage to Grow “What are you afraid of?” That was a question I wanted to put to a young friend whom most would define as courageous—a man’s man. He never flinched from tough, physical sports like ice hockey, or dangerous assignments connected with his work abroad. But he seemed to be running from something more challenging—a committed relationship. Mind you, relationships are not for the spineless. They take a lot of work, and, most threatening of all, they require looking inward. They may require even reconsidering everything you thought you knew about being a male in this world. Why are men not well prepared for this challenge? Because traditional notions of courage that society associates with masculinity are not the kind we need in relationships. The flip side of tough is obstinate, and that makes it difficult to hear another person’s needs or pains. The tough-minded also have trouble hearing or voicing their own needs and pains. We are told that denial and stoicism are so much more functional when faced with threats and challenges. Vulnerability only creates an opening for defeat. Press on. Stuff it. We fear emotion, because it may show weakness. These standard notions of masculinity do not serve us well in the most important arena of our lives—relationships with others, especially close, intimate relationships with significant others. One thing I have learned about relationships is that one must dig deep for the courage to grow as a person, to admit you don’t have the answers. You must open yourself to a vulnerability that says to your partner, “I want to grow with you.” Healthy masculinity rejects the superficial social construction of physical courage (though, at times, it may be necessary to draw on that form of courage) and replaces or supplements it with a deeper, riskier, but much more rewarding form of courage, the courage to examine oneself and grow. Committing to a healthy, loving relationship is a path to healthy masculinity and, more importantly, healthy humanity. —Tom Gardner Tom Gardner teaches communication at Westfield State University in western Massachusetts. Formerly managing director of the Media Education Foundation, he served on the board of the Men’s Resource Center for Change for more than a decade.
Beyond Boxes? Describe a healthy masculinity. Sounds easy at first glance. But the word “masculinity” immediately calls up feelings and thoughts— from cultural meanings and practices the word has accumulated—almost none of which seem healthy either to the bearer or those around them. A certified masculinity and its benefits were the devastating “rewards” that male socialized people were given for colluding with ruling elites and carrying out their violence. My colleagues and I have long invited men to step out of the “Act Like a Man” box that glorifies certain attributes and calls them “true” or “successful” masculinity. Do we really want to create another box that claims to describe a healthy one? There are many masculinities, femininities, and transsexual, transgender, and gender queer identities that people claim. None are easily described. All vary widely based on class, race, culture, sexual orientation and a variety of other factors. Some people, ignoring the hierarchies 26
of power connected to particular masculinities, want to default to a non-gender-specific concept of “humanness.” But does everyone in the world share certain qualities? Would it be “healthy” if they did? Would it be appropriate to their circumstances and their other identities? I’m inherently distrustful of any attempt to create new social expectations for people to aspire to or new boxes for people to put themselves into. For me the relevant questions are: • What gender identity do you feel, experience, and live? • What attitudes, circumstances, and practices are healing, healthy, and sustainable for you and your family, friends, communities, and the natural environment you are immersed within? • What can you do to subvert the gender identity and other hierarchies that so many people are forced to live inside of? —Paul Kivel Paul Kivel is a social justice educator, activist, and author of many books and curricula on gender, race, wealth, and power for youth and adults. www.paulkivel.com or email@example.com.
A Collective Journey Healthy masculinity is remembering and reclaiming a caring, loving and sensitive self from the dominant legacies of patriarchy. Even as the boy grows to be a man, learning each gesture of domination or control, he is also searching for ways to express his inherent, healthy desire for connection and natural capacity for compassion. Healthy masculinity is men respecting, and being respected for, the full range of our feelings, no longer denying our pain, our fear, our anger or our joy. It is men from different backgrounds, lifestyles and communities learning to feel safe with, listen to and care for each other. It is men creating a culture where we can practice understanding rather than winning, communication rather than fighting, sharing rather than defending. We inhabit our homes and families, remembering the delights of nurturing relationships, seeking out close, loving companionship with other men and women. Healthy masculinity means learning how to recognize, take responsibility for and change our individual and collective patterns of hurtful behavior. Men find ways to take actions that challenge cultural and institutional systems of domination and control, and give voice to our caring and our commitment. Homophobia, violence against women, and war—the ultimate weapons of gender conformity—disappear, no longer needed to prove and protect “manhood.” Healthy masculinity is a collective journey of men and women joining together to find the courage to stand and face the dominant culture, saying with determination and pride: we refuse to be rigidly boxed into masculinity by seductive promises of power or intimidating threats of violence. Men identify as allies with women, learning how to work collaboratively and developing shared power and leadership. Together, we are creating a new culture where being a healthy man is an open-ended, ever-expanding expression of possibilities. Healthy masculinity means hope for the world in places where we have long felt only hopelessness. —Steven Botkin Steven Botkin is founder and executive director of Men’s Resources International. Long involved in the global movement to transform masculinity, Dr. Botkin recently developed a toolkit for organizing “Masculinity Reflection Groups” for men and women with CARE International in Mali and Niger.
What is Healthy Masculinity Any Gender Is a Drag What is healthy masculinity? There’s no such thing! After all, masculinities are social constructs, descriptions of the power relations between women and men and among men. Especially in their hegemonic versions, they are a set of stereotyped assumptions about what it means to be a man. They are systems of ideas—ideologies. But the thing is, masculinity doesn’t exist, at least not as we think it exists, as a fixed or timeless reality or as a synonym (healthy or harmful) for being a male. Years ago I described masculinity as a collective hallucination, as if we’d all taken the same drug and were imagining this thing actually existed in front of our eyes. Couldn’t, though, we speak of healthy versions of these assumptions and ideas? True, there are healthier and less healthy brands of masculinity. However, by prescribing and proscribing certain behaviors, having definitions of gender (even healthy ones) limits us as human beings to a code that supposedly comes with our biological sex. Ultimately, I think what is important is to encourage healthy men, healthy in the physical and emotional sense. That has a wide range of meanings (which I hope other, more clever, contributors are enumerating!) but perhaps which boil down to men who were raised to be nurturers, that is nurture others, nurture the planet, and nurture themselves. I look forward to the day when the gender terms “masculinity” and “femininity” in either the singular or plural, healthy or harmful, are seen as quaint old terms. I’ll always be a fan of rocker Patti Smith, who said, “Any gender is a drag.” —Michael Kaufman Michael Kaufman is author or editor of several books on gender, democracy, and development studies, including most recently (with Michael Kimmel) The Guy’s Guide to Feminism.
Irreconcilable Concepts “Healthy masculinity” incorporates two distinct but nonetheless intertwined concepts: “health,” which suggests a biological perspective, and “masculinity,” which is a social construct. This interplay between the biological and the societal represents one of the great dialectics of our time, and raises a fundamental question: what does it mean to be a “healthy” man when the very idea of what it means to be a man is so contingent on the maintenance of an economic and social order in which men are arranged hierarchically in relation to one another and as a group are in a position of dominance over women? If we can speak of healthy masculinity, can we speak about “healthy whiteness” or “healthy heterosexuality?” There’s another catch. The very act of deconstructing the term “healthy masculinity” in a brief essay—rather than exploring some of the physical, emotional or relational aspects of being a man—repeats the familiar pattern of a man staying in the more “masculine” intellectual realm and neglecting the more “feminine” realms of emotions and relationship. We do need to explore the meanings that underlie our use of terms like “healthy masculinity” if we want to help build better and more lifesustaining institutions. But we’re also embodied animals who experi-
ence pleasure, pain and love, and are around for a preciously brief time. We might be able to envision democratic futures in which there is such a thing as “healthy masculinity,” but in the meantime we still have to hug our children, laugh and cry, and share our lives with others. —Jackson Katz Author of the new book Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and the Politics of Manhood (see page 16), Jackson Katz is a founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention.
A Thousand Points of Light? A year ago when I typed into a Google search bar “defining healthy masculinity,” one of the first links to appear was “Choosing Healthy Masculinity and What That Means” on the website of the organization where I work, Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/ info-url2699/ info-url_show.htm?doc_id=1090665). I thought, “Oh, good. Maybe we’ve already defined it.” Joe Samalin, my former colleague who wrote the piece in 2009, characterizes healthy masculinity as “a group of high school boys volunteering at a local domestic violence shelter… or, straight and cis-gendered college men partnering as allies with LGBTQ student organizations… and, the enlisted men and officers in the Air Force who come to [our organization] for training on how to create safer workplaces.” But when it comes to defining it, he claims “there is no single definition or ideal of healthy masculinity—there are as many definitions as there are men.” Here’s a definition with the caveat that it’s very much a work-inprogress. Healthy masculinity: • involves the ability to recognize unhealthy aspects of masculinity— those features that are harmful to the self and others • leads to the replacement of harmful, risky and violent masculine attitudes and behaviors with empathetic behaviors and attitudes that benefit men’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being and increase their ability to role-model nonviolence • is based on supporting gender equity and other forms of equality • includes social and emotional skills used to positively challenge in yourself—and in others—unhealthy masculine attitudes and behaviors that harm the self and others. I’ve tried to combine two related sides of the healthy masculinity coin: those of us who use healthy masculinity as a means of engaging men in preventing gender-based violence, and those who use it to advance men’s emotional and physical health. A definition like this could be culturally manifested in multiple ways (healthy masculinity in India might look different in Australia, but the general principles would be the same), so, in this sense, a definition of healthy masculinity might result in healthy masculinities. I am beginning to think that maybe a single definition and a thousand points of light can coexist peacefully. —Patrick McGann Patrick McGann is director of strategy and planning at Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR). Coauthor of a comprehensive sexual assault prevention strategy for the Department of Defense, he has overseen the creation MCSR’s Where Do You Stand? and the highly regarded Young Men of Strength social marketing campaign.
The Prison Birth Project working to provide support, education and advocacy to women and girls at the intersection of the criminal justice system and motherhood.
Rounding Third, Heading for Home By E. Ethelbert Miller
veryone seems to be throwing in the high nineties these days. When did we start keeping track of the pitch count? Throw for six innings and your job might be done. Baseball consists of getting three outs every inning. It mirrors life when we want things to slow down. Rise from bed in the middle of the night and look over your shoulder at your wife sleeping. Turn away and take another look back; you wonder if this woman will be with you for the rest of your life. One day you turn around and the bed is empty. She’s no longer on first base. When did she leave? It’s the middle innings and now there’s nothing left in your arm. You can’t hold a woman close to you anymore. You need time to think and so your mind wanders like another walk. How did the years go by so quickly? When did your hair turn gray? When did you start losing your hair? I think it’s baseball that stops time like Satchel Paige teaching us something about hesitation. Many years before I migrated to Washington, I collected baseball cards. I had a few thousand. I kept them in old shoeboxes and sometimes in small crates my mother came back with from the corner store. I flipped these cards over and over. I read the stats on the back. Now and then when I glance at the obituary pages of a newspaper I come across a
name that I can match with a card. How could a player be dead? I once owned his card. His face should never have aged. One day I gave all my baseball cards to a kid by the name of Patrick who lived on the 13th floor of the St. Mary’s Housing Projects in the South Bronx. I have no idea why I did this. Why did I mug myself? Who was I trying to impress? The cards could have kept me young. Today in my house I have only six cards. My collection consists of Mickey Mantle, Bill Mazeroski, Barry Bonds, José Reyes, Mariano Rivera, and Jackie Robinson. Every card was a gift. I don’t remember who gave me the Mazeroski card. My introduction to the blues started at the end of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series. I was ten and didn’t even have a girlfriend. I didn’t know the difference between love and loss until it left the hand of Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry. What Pittsburgh’s Mazeroski did is what every kid who loves baseball one day wants to do. You live to win the last game of a World Series. In 1960, fans could run out onto the field. Mazeroski touches third and every fan in the world is waiting to welcome him home. I still carry this memory in my bone marrow. It’s something I only experienced once and it has no comparison. When Mazeroski had his big hit, I listened to a radio announcer describe the ball going
over the left-field wall. I was alone in the back room of an apartment on Longwood Avenue in the Bronx. There was no woman to lean into and absorb the shock. No hand down the center of my back or a whisper in my ear. There was no comfort after Mazeroski lost his hat coming around the bases. I was only ten but I felt very old that day. The blues came down hard and it shook me. This year I found myself “dating” the Nationals. I’ve been paying more attention to their games. Checking the Sports Alerts on my iPhone. Talking to friends at work. Giving up when I find them down by a few runs; overwhelmed when they tie a game in the ninth and win in extra innings. In my mind the dust of heartbreaks is still there in the corner. A young kid sits in the stands with a glove, punching into the pocket where he hopes a ball will fall. What does an older person feel? I’ve noticed more adults handing over a caught ball to a nearby child. This gift of the game is priceless. It’s a sharing that says the odds can be changed. A child leaves a ballpark with a ball. What does the man who gave it to him leave with? In between pitches, some fans send text messages to their friends. I can’t do this. When a batter steps out of the box or a pitcher steps off the mound I want my life to stop just for a moment. I want to look at the field and my surroundings. Mindfulness is so elusive. I learned this after Mazeroski became a point of reference in my life. When you love a team, you want them to win. This is more than sharing a telephone number or sending flowers. I plan to take the Metro out to a game before the season ends. I’ll leave my house early and hope the trains are running without delays. It will be just me. I’ll step out of the Navy Yard Station where I’ve been working with some friends who want to place a baseball mural where the escalators are or maybe right by the entrance. I’ll join the crowd and the flow. I know one day my steps will be slower, but the game will be waiting. Maybe the umpire will call time-out and brush the dirt off the plate. For a moment everything will be new the way it was back in the Bronx when I was growing up. I wish I could collect cards again. Who would I place next to Mazeroski and Jackie Robinson? I look at the lineup of the Nationals and check a couple of names. This is how it begins. After all the innings played maybe my wife will still be up when I leave the ballpark. Baseball is the game that begins and ends at home. A version of this column “E on D.C.,” by E. Ethelbert Miller, appeared in HillRag. com September 2012 (http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/touching-third-andheading-home). His author’s bio appears on page 25. Fall 2012
Four Parents, Three Legal Guardians, Two Children, One Family By Joan Tabachnick
Rosie, Joan, Ezra and Jane: “I can’t imagine a more collaborative and loving environment for these kids,” the judge said. He pointed to a box of tissues. Everyone was crying.
ow many legal parents does it take to raise a child? It is not an existential question as much as the prelude to a long journey I recently completed across cultural and legal waters defining family in America. I met Jane at a gay and lesbian social at my synagogue in 1990 and was immediately taken by her sense of joy. By the time we began dating a year later, she was pregnant. Long before we’d met, she and a close gay male friend of many years had planned to raise a child together. The two of them had decided to co-parent. My friends thought I was crazy to date someone five months, pregnant. Not me; I was ready. Ezra was born in 1992. I took one look at him and fell in love. Slowly, I also fell in love with Jane. And—no surprise—I fell in love all over again three years later when Rosie was born. Every day since, I have become more comfortable taking on the role of “mother”— from staying up late helping on a paper for school to schlepping the kids to practice or rehearsal. During this time I have never taken being a mother for granted. I have also carried a vague unease about my legal status; in a word, as a mother or parent, I had none. In every state that allows second-parent adoption, one of the biological parents has to give up parental rights for the nonbiological parent to adopt. That didn’t describe our situation; nor was it ever an option. Because we have always thought of our family as having more than two parents, we were opposed to 30
the idea of anyone giving up their legal right as a parent. When I heard about third-parent adoptions we decided to apply and filed the required papers for a court appearance. On January 26, 2012, in our hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, we walked into family and probate court accompanied by some 20 friends and family. We were hopeful. My mom brought New York bagels and lox, pastrami, corned beef, deli mustard and good rye bread for a postcourt celebration.
Families: Beyond One-Size-Fits-All Adoption laws today are almost as varied as the legal structures within the 50 states. In recent years, a number of states have passed laws that allow for more “de facto” parents who have the same rights as legal parents. In other states, from Oregon to Massachusetts, courts have made decisions that allow for more than two legal parents when it is determined that it is in the best interest of the child or children. Courts in Canada, Spain and New Zealand have done the same in a number of cases. According to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust, more children are growing up within a new family arrangement— divorced parents, single parents, gay and lesbian families choosing to raise children between two couples. The study also showed that young adults are more open to new
Everyone squeezed into the small courtroom. Then the Hon. Geoffrey Wilson entered, an imposing man, more than six feet tall, with white hair and dark robes, obscuring, for the moment, his dry wit and gentle manner. Oran Kaufman, our warm and articulate attorney, explained our plea—to recognize our nearly two-decades-old family structure and our request to make me a legal parent. It took my breath away to hear my dream described aloud. family arrangements than older Americans. Nearly half of those younger than 30 feel that the growing variety of family arrangements is a good thing compared with less than 30 percent of those over 50. The most recent challenge is a bill moving through the California legislature that would allow for more than two legal parents. The legislation was introduced to help keep children out of foster care and recognize the responsibilities and commitment of those who have been parenting for years. If passed, it will open the door for legal recognition of a growing number of new family arrangements. As Nancy Polikoff, a professor at the American University Washington College of Law, explains, “Families are different from one another. If the law will not acknowledge that, then it’s not responding to the needs of children who do not fit into the one-size-fits-all box.” —Joan Tabachnick
Judge Wilson asked if any of us wanted to address the court. Ezra, 19, stood up, looked at the judge, turned to me and said, “You have been ‘Mim’ my entire life. I have had two moms my entire life. It’s just how it is. It’s already how it is,” suggesting that to him the legal paperwork would just confirm his reality. Our daughter, Rosie, 15, who has a strong opinion about nearly everything, surprised everyone. In a quiet voice, she simply said, “I agree.” All of the work, all of the joy, all of the love over all of the years came barreling through me at that moment—my heart was bursting. Judge Wilson sat back smiling. Finally, he said, “I can’t imagine a more collaborative and loving environment for these kids.” He then pointed to a nearby box of tissues and, as it was passed around, I realized everyone was crying, not just me. Taking in the scene the judge asked, “Would you be willing to stay for a while to talk with families here that can’t even agree on what day of the week it is?” As we reached the final part of the adoption, Judge Wilson turned to Rosie and Ezra and proclaimed, “By the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you are now a family of five.” Then, sizing us all up, he added, “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this ceremony.” I let out a huge sigh of relief. All at once, everyone was cheering, crying, taking pictures. We triumphantly exited the courthouse and headed home for the deli banquet my mother had carried from New Jersey. I know the judge’s ruling doesn’t really change anything. But at odd moments in the day I find myself thinking, “I really am a legal mother” and the joy bubbles up. After mothering for nearly 20 years, society is finally recognizing the role I play in my children’s lives. For the first time, I feel I’ve been seen, heard—recognized. When the day began, brimming with such joy and love, I didn’t know how amazing it would feel to end it with me smiling at my children—my legal children—through salty tears falling on a half sour pickle and a pastrami on rye. Voice Male national advisory board member Joan Tabachnick is nationally recognized for her expertise in sexual violence prevention. For the past 20 years she has developed award-winning educational materials and innovative programs, and served on expert panels for national, state and local organizations. Her most recent work includes a National Sexual Violence Resource publication titled Engaging Bystanders in Sexual Violence Prevention and, through the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, A Reasoned Approach: The Reshaping of Sex Offender Policy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. To learn more, visit www. joantabachnick.com.
Cracking the Code of Manhood
Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood By Carlos Andrés Gómez Penguin, 2012 272 pages, $26.00
Award-winning poet, actor, and writer Carlos Andrés Gómez is a supremely gifted storyteller with a captivating voice whose power resonates equally on the live stage and on the page. In one of his most moving
spoken-word poems, Gómez recounts a confrontation he once had after accidentally bumping into another man at a club. Just as they were about to fight, Gómez experienced an unexplainable surge of emotion that made his eyes well up with tears. Everyone at the scene jumped back, as if crying, or showing vulnerability, was the most insane thing that Gómez could possibly have done. Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood was inspired by the award-winning poet and actor’s acclaimed one-man play, which is a powerful comingof-age memoir that redefines masculinity for the twenty-first-century male. Like many men in our society, Gómez grew up believing that he had to be ready to fight at all times, treat women as objects, and close off his emotional self. It wasn’t until he discovered acting that he began to see the true cost of squelching one’s emotions—and how aggression dominates everything that young males are taught. Statistics on graduation rates, employment, and teen and young-adult suicide make it clear that the young males in our society are at a crisis point, but Gómez seeks to reverse these ominous trends by sharing the lessons that he has learned. Like Hill Harper’s Letters to a Young Brother, Man Up will be an agent for positive change, galvanizing men—but also mothers, girlfriends, wives, and sisters—to rethink and redefine the way all men interact with women, deal with violence, handle fear, and express emotion.
Mail Bonding [continued from page 4]
it!”—which very soon yielded to “Shoot first, ask questions later.” … And our poor hostage in the White House? Much as he may want to be a conciliator, he is stuck with having to play the war-on game with men for whom it is the only game. Ed Wilfert Amherst, Mass. Loosening the Soil of Awareness
Every page of Voice Male is worthwhile and integrative of its mission—which I under-
stand to be honoring men as complete with feelings and complexities worthy of getting a shovel under to loosen the soil and bring to light options for growth and self-recognition/ awareness—traits primary to healthy relationships. The breadth of the magazine’s palate seems to encourage an expansive attitude in that direction. If I were a man, I’d so appreciate the nest of it to call home. As a woman, it engenders hope and promise. Laura Pravitz Haydenville, Mass. Fall 2012
Resources for Changing Men Menstuff: The National Men’s Resource National clearinghouse of information and resources for men www.menstuff.org
A wide-ranging (but by no means exhaustive) listing of organizations engaged in profeminist men’s work. Know of an organization that should be listed here? E-mail relevant information to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Young Men Advocates for Youth Helps young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health www.advocatesforyouth.org Amplify Your Voice A youth-driven community working for social change www.amplifyyourvoice.org Boys to Men Initiation weekends and follow-up mentoring for boys 12-17 to guide them on their journey to manhood www.boystomen.org The Brotherhood/Sister Sol Provides comprehensive, holistic and longterm support and rites of passage programming to youth ages 8-22 www.brotherhood-sistersol.org YCteen Magazine A magazine written by New York City teens that helps marginalized youth reach their full potential through reading and writing www.ycteenmag.org
On Masculinity American Men’s Studies Association Advancing the critical study of men and masculinities www.mensstudies.org
The Men’s Story Project Resources for creating public dialogue about masculinities through local storytelling and arts www.mensstoryproject.org XY www.xyonline.net Profeminist men’s web links (over 500 links): www.xyonline.net/links.shtml Profeminist men’s politics, frequently asked questions: www.xyonline.net/misc/pffaq. html Profeminist e-mail list (1997– ): www. xyonline.net/misc/profem.html
Prostate Health Guide Offers a guide to the prostate and various conditions that can affect men’s health www.prostatehealthguide.com
100 Black Men of America, Inc. Chapters around the U.S. working on youth development and economic empowerment in the African American community www.100blackmen.org
National Fatherhood Initiative Organization improve the well-being of children through the promotion of responsible, engaged fatherhood www.fatherhood.org
Concerned Black Men A national organization providing mentors and programs that fill the void of positive black role models and provide opportunities for academic and career enrichment www.cbmnational.org
National Latino Fatherhood & Family Institute Addresses the needs of Latino communities by focusing on positive Latino identity while addressing issues faced by Latino fathers, families, and communities www.nlffi.org
Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community Working to enhance society’s understanding of and ability to end violence in the African-American community www.idvaac.org
Men and Feminism
National Compadres Network Reinforcing the positive involvement of Latino males in their lives, families, communities, and society www.nationalcompadresnetwork.com
ManKind Project New Warrior training weekends www.mkp.org
Dads and Daughters A blog of thoughts and reflections on father-daughter relationships by Joe Kelly dadsanddaughters.blogspot.com
Fathers and Family Law: Myths and Facts Debunking common myths regarding fathering and family law and providing facts directly from the research http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/ site-index-frame.html#soulhttp://www. thelizlibrary.org/liz/017.htm
For Men of Color
Malecare Volunteer men’s cancer support group and advocacy national nonprofit organization providing resources in multiple languages malecare.org
Feminist Fathers Resources for dads seeking to raise fully realized human beings with a mindfulness to how gender socialization affects parenting and children http://feministfatherhood.com/
Homophobia and masculinities among young men: www.xyonline.net/misc/homophobia.html
EngagingMen A public resource for anyone committed to gender justice and overcoming violence against women engagingmen.net
Masculinidades Pro-feminist blog about the anthropology of masculinity. In Spanish http://masculinidades.wordpress.com/
Fathers with Divorce and Custody Concerns Looking for a lawyer? Call your state bar association lawyer referral agency. Useful websites include: www.dadsrights.org (not www.dadsrights.com) www.divorce.com www.divorcecentral.com www.collaborativealternatives.com www.collaborativedivorce.com
Dad Man Consulting, training, speaking about fathers and father figures as a vital family resource www.thedadman.com
Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog An information resource, for both feminists and those questioning feminism finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com Guy’s Guide to Feminism Website companion to a book by Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman which illustrates how supporting feminism enriches men’s lives http://guysguidetofeminism.com/ National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) Pro-feminist, gay-affirmative, anti-racist activist organization supporting positive changes for men www.nomas.org
Men’s Health American Journal of Men’s Health A peer-reviewed quarterly resource for information regarding men’s health and illness jmh.sagepub.com
Men’s Health Network National organization promoting men’s health www.menshealthnetwork.org
World Health Organization HIV/AIDS Provides evidence-based, technical support for comprehensive and sustainable responses to HIV/AIDS www.who.int/hiv/en/
Male Survivors of Sexual Assault 1in6 Provides resources for male sexual abuse survivors and their family members, friends, and partners 1in6.org Black Sexual Abuse Survivors A national online support system for African-Americans www.blacksurvivors.org/home.html Giving and Receiving Guidance & Hope A page of brief stories written by men who were sexually abused. www.jimhopper.com/hope/ MaleSurvivor National organization overcoming sexual victimization of boys and men www.malesurvivor.org Men Thriving A peer-resource offered to male survivors by male survivors. www.menthriving.org/forum/
Overcoming Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault 1in4: The Men’s Program Offers workshops that educate men in women’s recovery and lowers men’s rape myth acceptance and self-reported likelihood of raping www.oneinfourusa.org/themensprogram.php A Call to Men Trainings and conferences on ending violence against women www.acalltomen.org
EMERGE Counseling and education to stop domestic violence; comprehensive batterers’ services www.emergedv.com Futures Without Violence Working to end violence against women globally; programs for boys, men and fathers - www.futureswithoutviolence.org Gloucester Men Against Domestic Abuse Gloucester, Mass. volunteer advocacy group of men’s voices against domestic abuse and sexual assault www.strongmendontbully.com Healthy Dating Sexual Assault Prevention www.canikissyou.com Mending the Sacred Hoop Works to end violence against Native American women and to strengthen the voice and vision of Native peoples www.mshoop.com MenEngage Alliance An international alliance promoting boys’ and men’s support for gender equality www.menengage.org Men Against Sexual Violence (MASV) Men working in the struggle to end sexual violence www.menagainstsexualviolence.org Men Against Violence Yahoo email list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/menagainstviolence Men Can Stop Rape Washington, D.C.-based national advocacy and training organization mobilizing male youth to prevent violence against women www.mencanstoprape.org Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe, Inc. Statewide Massachusetts effort coordinating men’s anti-violence activities www.mijd.org Men’s Nonviolence Project Texas Council on Family Violence http://www.tcfv.org/education/mnp.html Men Stopping Violence Atlanta-based organization working to end violence against women, focusing on stopping battering, and ending rape and incest www.menstoppingviolence.org Mentors in Violence Prevention Gender violence prevention education and training by Jackson Katz www.mvpnational.org National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Provides a coordinated community response to domestic violence www.ncadv.org
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) A national information and resource hub relating to all aspects of sexual violence www.nsvrc.org National Resource Center on Violence Against Women An online collection of searchable materials and resources on domestic violence, sexual violence, and related issues vawnet.org PreventConnect Uses online media to build community among people engaged in efforts to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence http://preventconnect.org/ Promundo Brazilian NGO seeking to promote gender equality and end violence against women, children, and youth www.promundo.org.br/en/ Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) A national anti-sexual assault organization www.rainn.org Sexual Violence Prevention 101 Sexual assault and domestic violence prevention workshops by Todd Denny http://www.olywa.net/tdenny/ Stop Porn Culture A group for those willing to question and fight against pornography and porn culture stoppornculture.org/home/ Students Active For Ending Rape Organization dedicated to fighting sexual violence and rape culture by empowering student-led campaigns to reform college sexual assault policies www.safercampus.org V Day Global movement to end violence against women and girls, including V-men, male activists in the movement www.vday.org White Ribbon Campaign International men’s campaign decrying violence against women www.whiteribbon.ca
LGBTQIA Resources Ambiente Joven An advocacy project and LGBTQ community for Spanish-speaking LGBTQ youth www.ambientejoven.org Beyond Masculinity Collection of essays by queer men on gender and politics http://beyondmasculinity.com
COLAGE National movement of people with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer parent working toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy www.colage.org Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Works to combat homophobia and discrimination in television, film, music and all media outlets www.glaad.org Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project Provides crisis intervention, support and resources for victims and survivors of domestic abuse gmdvp.org/gmdvp Hear My Voice Educates and engages young people in the LGBTQ community to create safe and healthy relationships, and connect victims of dating abuse to help and legal services. hearmyvoice.breakthecycle.org Human Rights Campaign Largest GLBT political group in the country www.hrc.org Interpride Clearinghouse for information on pride events worldwide www.interpride.net Intersex Society of North America Devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female www.isna.org National Resource Center on LGBT Aging Resource center aimed at improving the quality of service and supports offered to LGBT older adults www.lgbtagingcenter.org Oasis Magazine A writing community for queer and questioning youth www.oasisjournals.com/magazine Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Promotes the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ persons and their parents, friends, and families www.pflag.org
Straight Spouse Network Provides personal, confidential support and information to heterosexual spouses/partners, current or former, of GLBT individuals www.straightspouse.org/home.php
Survivor Project A non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of intersex and trans* survivors of domestic and sexual violence www.survivorproject.org Transgender Resources Dedicated to educating those unfamiliar with or curious to learn more about the transgender community www.glaad.org/transgender
Men’s Resource Centers Austin Men’s Center – Austin, TX Provides counseling, psychotherapy, and classes helping men with their lives, relationships, health, and careers austinmenscenter.com Lake Champlain Men’s Resource Center – Burlington, VT Center with groups and services challenging men’s violence on both individual and societal levels www.lcmrc.net Males Advocating for Change – Worcester, MA Center with groups and services supporting men and challenging men’s violence http://www.malesadvocatingchange.org/ Men’s Resource Center for Change – Amherst, MA Model men’s center offering support groups for non-abusive men and batterers’ intervention groups, services, trainings and consulting for men overcoming violence www.mrcforchange.org Men’s Resource Center of West Michigan – West Michigan Consultations and training in helping men develop their full humanity, create respectful and loving relationships, and caring and safe communities www.menscenter.org Redwood Men’s Center – Santa Rosa, CA A mythopoetic gathering dedicated to filling the need for men to come together in community healing redwoodmen.org Saskatoon Men’s Center – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Pro-feminist, male-positive, gay-affirmative center dedicated to offering a safe environment where men may explore their true natures and improve their health www.saskatoonmenscenter.com Twin Cities Men’s Center – Minneapolis, MN Provides resources for men seeking to grow in mind, body, and spirit and advocates for healthy family and community relationships www.tcmc.org
Leading Men [continued from page 18]
strong/weak; tough on crime/soft on crime; experienced/naïve on foreign policy, etc., and how those track with traditional sexist binaries (e.g. men/rational, woman/emotional). Feminist political scientists have also examined such topics as how women candidates are affected by the use of “masculine” words like “attack,” “strong,” “compete,” and “control” to describe strong leaders. Can women demonstrate those traits without evoking the negative judgment of being an aggressively dominating woman? What are some of the special challenges faced by women candidates for public office, such as cultural barriers to the acceptance of women’s executive-level leadership, and the role of national security in shaping public expectations about the qualities (supposedly) necessary in a president? How much have things changed for women in politics over the past 40 years? For that matter, to what extent do men—and women—respond positively to women candidates who display traditionally “masculine” characteristics in questions of foreign policy and the use of force? This question was raised by the groundbreaking candidacy in 2008 of Hillary Clinton, which brought into clear focus some of the ways the American presidency functions symbolically as a bastion of masculine power. Clinton came closer than any woman who previously sought to integrate this historically all-male club, but some of the obstacles she encountered were predictable—and they
Clinton came closer than any woman who previously sought to integrate this historically all-male club, but some of the obstacles she encountered were predictable—and they will be faced by women candidates in future elections.
will be faced by women candidates in future elections. Because the president symbolically personifies not only “America” but American manhood, having a woman occupy that position would—by definition—disrupt the entire symbolic architecture on which the presidency rests. The critical question of when a woman will be elected president is not a question of when a woman will appear who possesses the necessary skills or experience to be a competent chief executive of the country. Over the past couple of generations (and before) there have been many prominent women whose executive talents clearly outshined those of some
men who have been elected to the position. The question is when will the country be ready to elevate a woman to the symbolic status of being the public face of a country that has long understood itself as the most potent masculine force in the world, if not in human history? And what are the necessary personal qualities of a woman candidate for that position? The first woman to be elected president will be one who has—forgive my use of the term—mastered the complexities and nuances of the symbolism that she is shifting, and figured out a way to gain the support of a critical mass of both women and men in that project. Of course issues and interests matter, but the symbolic realm is the true Rubik’s Cube of women’s quest for the U.S. presidency. My hope is that—among other things —Leading Men will provide some insight and clues for women who want to make that journey—sooner or later. Jackson Katz is a longtime antiviolence activist and author (The Macho Paradox) who speaks frequently about preventing male violence around the country and abroad. A member of the Voice Male national advisory board, he is co-producer with the Media Education Foundation of the documentary Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity. For more information, go to www.jacksonkatz. com. The excerpt from Leading Men is printed with permission of the publisher, Interlink Books (www.interlinkbooks.com).
General Support Group: Open to any man who wants to experience a men’s group. Topics of discussion reflect the needs and interests of the participants. Group meetings are held in Hadley, at North Star, 135 Russell Street, 2nd Floor: Tuesday evenings (7:00 – 9:00 PM). Entrance on Route 47 opposite the Hadley Town Hall. Group for Men Who Have Experienced Childhood Neglect, Abuse, or Trauma: Open to men who were subjected to neglect and/or abuse growing up, this group is designed specifically to ensure a sense of safety for participants. It is a facilitated peer support group and is not a therapy group. Group meetings are held on Fridays (7:00 – 9:00 PM) at the Synthesis Center in Amherst, 274 N. Pleasant Street (just a few doors north of the former MRC building). Group for Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Men: Specifically for men who identify as gay or bisexual, or who are questioning their sexual orientation, this group is designed to provide a safe and supportive setting to share experiences and concerns. Gay or bi-identified transgendered men are welcome! In addition to providing personal support, the group offers an opportunity for creating and strengthening local networks. Group meetings are held on Mondays (7:00 – 9:00 PM) at the Synthesis Center in Amherst, 274 N. Pleasant Street (just a few doors north of the former MRC building).