Society & Culture, Practice & Voice, Uncategorized

Redefining Masculinity

Redefining Masculinity
Tuesdays, April 11 through June 6
7:00 to 8:30 p.m. | All Souls Church in Tulsa, OK | Registrations encouraged but not required. Register here.

Redefining Masculinity is a discussion based learning series for men and those identifying as men to inform, evaluate, empower and mobilize good men on their valuable role in ending violence against women. The series will be facilitated by Samantha Wade and Shawn Jackson, Education Coordinators for Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) and is sponsored by the All Souls Men’s Group.

Men can be “more than good dudes” in our relationships with women and can work to achieve gender equality in our cultures.

I have always seen myself as a “good dude” in my views and behavior toward women. I saw myself as polite, respectful, chivalrous, and gentlemanly. I did not see myself as patriarchal. After all, I believed in the concept of the “Sacred Feminine.” I thought I had it all figured out years ago.

In the sister magazine to this blog, BeyondBelief,I discovered a great definition of what a “more than a good dude” can mean from an interview with Dr. Willie Parker and Rev. Barbara Prose.

Dr. Parker defined “more than a good dude” as one who recognizes that “patriarchy costs men something as well. In speaking out I am not being benevolent. I’m being self interested by saying that if a system costs me part of my humanity I’d better be invested in dismantling that system.”

I took this statement to mean that I should be committed to dismantling patriarchy wherever it manifested in my own belief system.

Dr. Parker continued, “I’m engaged in patriarchal treason. My birthright as a man, even a marginalized man of color, gives me privilege over (women). This is a man’s world. But, each of us holds the power, from within our privileged positions, to be traitors to that privilege”.

Dr. Willie Parker and Rev. Prose during their conversation about being allies to each other, him as a man and her as a white person.

Powerful words: A traitor to privilege.

I asked myself, what do those words mean to me on an daily basis?

The 2016 Presidential campaign focused my thoughts on male privilege and the patriarchy endemic in our culture. I was outraged when a presidential contender stated that he could do whatever he wanted to do with a woman because he was “famous.” This notion of male privilege is grotesque.

Recently, an Oklahoma politician, Justin Humphrey, described a woman as a “host” to a fetus in his proposed legislation, HB1441, that a man should have the final word about a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

Unbelievable!

My outrage evolved to self-righteous indignation at how a “man-child” President-Elect would utter such nonsense. Or that a man in a ten-gallon hat could objectify a woman so callously. Self-righteous indignation morphed to self-reflection. I began to think about my own past and current behaviors.

How many times had I said or have done things, to which I was oblivious, that women would see as questionable? As offensive? As threatening? As misogynistic? I am sure that I am guilty of doing these things. I was not conscious of my behaviors because I assumed I was a “good dude.”

At All Souls, we may be replete with “good dudes” who would be mortified to discover they have inadvertently offended women with their unconscious behaviors.

IIgualtat_de_sexes.svgt occurred to me that men might be able to benefit from a guided, group discussion to alert us to inappropriate behaviors embedded in our culture and in our personal lives. The more we learn, the more we are able to institute new behaviors, be an ally to women, and to be advocates for them.

It also occurred to me as the Chairperson of the Men’s Issues and Advocacy Committee of the newly formed All Souls Men’s Group that this was certainly a men’s issue.

Men, whose role as fathers, sons, brothers, teachers, coaches and/or religious leaders, play an important role in contributing to a culture of respect and safety for those around them.

We need to have a safe place unpack our own damaging behaviors, to share our personal experiences, and to discover new ways of behaving and thinking. Doing this work will equip us to stand with women and to do the work it takes to change our culture of violence and inequality toward women.

 

If the All Souls Men’s Group doesn’t address these issues we would be just another boy’s club.

The Purpose of the Men’s Group is to “Create and foster strong relationships among the men of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church so that they may support each other and the community to dwell together in peace, seek the truth in love and to help one another”.

Our Vision and Mission statement provides that we will:

  • “Examine the effects of gender privilege in our relationships with others and act in ways that support and affirm all gender expressions”
  • “Support a wide definition of ‘maleness’ that affirms alternative expressions in our society”.
  • “Share, without judgment, members’ stories, hopes, fears, and emotions in an increasingly complex world and changing role expectations”, and
  • “Serve in the Greater Tulsa area in support of organizations and groups to enhance social justice in our community”.

It was clear, from all of the above, that Redefining Masculinity is a timely and necessary commitment on our part. It was our opportunity to learn to be traitors to male privilege.

How to develop this group was the question. I knew I didn’t have the answers, I didn’t have most of the questions.

Women of All Souls enthusiastically volunteered perspectives, resources, and names of other women who might assist. For example, Barbara Prose referred me to Susan Chase, a Sociology Professor at the University of Tulsa and to Samantha Wade, Education Coordinator from Domestic Violence Intervention Services, DVIS and a member of Tulsa Feminists Unite.

Susan and Samantha helped us to identify and clarify issues. Samantha stepped forward to define, describe, research, and co-facilitate the discussion sessions. The comprehensive range of topics and the depth of discussion presented by Samantha is informative and exciting. David Farnum and Gary Godwin from the All Souls Men’s Group also participated in developing the program.

The results were much more than I could have expected. Redefining Masculinity will assist men to be “more than just good dudes” in our relationships with women. We will be able to be true partners, allies, and advocates for advancing gender equality in our lives and culture.

Men, I know we all want to be “more than a good dude.” I look forward to seeing you at our first session on April 11 at All Souls.

 

 

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