Since starting Redefining Masculinity—a discussion based learning series for men and those who identify as men to inform, evaluate, empower and mobilize good men on their valuable role in ending violence against women
—I have had a lot to process.
Song lyrics help me to create a structure to process my thoughts.
Six lines from Something’s Happening Here by Buffalo Springfield aptly describes this mental structure I’ve created to process what I’ve learned from the first five sessions of Redefining Masculinity. Sessions are held every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at All Souls Church and are open to drop-ins.
“Something’s happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.
Everybody look what’s going down.
Paranoia runs deep, into your life it will creep.”
There’s Something Happening Here
It was obvious that something was happening. As a group, we identified all the messages we had about what it meant to be a “man.” We are taught men are: strong, controlled, focused, aggressive, and decisive—just to name a few out of the words we listed. These descriptions are what we have been taught from the very beginning.
It became obvious that the words used to describe “not being a man” were widely shared and recognized by all of us. It was a shock to me that most of those words were slang, sexual words which are demeaning women. Some examples I’m comfortable sharing here are: wimp, wuss, Nancy boy, weak, sister, and girlie man.
Why is that?
What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear
A TEDTalk by Jackson Katz, Violence Against Women: It’s A Man’s Issue, identified the dysfunction and outright tragedy perpetrated almost exclusively by men as a result of the indoctrination we receive growing up and continue to perpetuate.
Violence against women and men is a man’s issue but we somehow get deleted out of the equation. In our use of language the victim becomes the fault and the real cause, violent men, just quietly slips out the back.
The silence surrounding the issue is deafening and we get no closer to a solution.
Why is that?
There’s A Man With A Gun Over There
The Mask You Live In, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, demonstrates that gun violence is perpetrated almost exclusively by men. Men overwhelmingly commit gun violence against their domestic partners. In America, boys and young men spend 6.5 hours per week, often playing hyper-violent computer games depicting super-sexualized women being rescued by supermen warriors who blast everything that moves.
The resulting numbers are from perpetuating America’s narrow definition of masculinity impacts violence against women, and men.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some kind of physical violence by an intimate partner sometime in their lifetime,
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner sometime in their lifetime,
- Oklahoma is ranked 4th in the nation for the number of women murdered by a male intimate partner, and
- Tulsa County had the most domestic violence homicides in 2014, 22, of all the counties in Oklahoma.
Why is that?
Telling Me I Got To Beware
We certainly have to beware. Who can tell when the next act of violence will come from right across the street by a nice, quiet young man who never caused any trouble?
We have to beware of violence against children and women that could be happening right in our own block or at the grocery store. Maybe in our own home.
Why is that?
Everybody Look What’s Going Down
The Mask You Live In, exposes how messages are conveyed— from the declaration to a five year old, “Be a Man!” to the world of computer games, to mass media, entertainment, and commercials.
We can’t escape it. But, as we are learning, we can change it.
Participating in this class has been eye-opening and the reality of our individual involvement has become painfully clear. We participate in a culture that indoctrinates boys into a narrow definition of manhood. That definition demeans women and condemns some men into dominance and to seek violent action. To a certain degree, this dominance and violent action can be found in all of us.
The indoctrination began before we were born and is continued on a daily basis for the rest of our lives. It is reinforced several times daily in our casual conversations, entertainment, and media.
I am aware that I participate in the perpetuation of the indoctrination in spite of my best efforts. I have occasionally uttered disparaging remarks about women. My words have focused upon a woman’s appearance in addition to her verbal presentation. I have remained silent when someone told a “blonde” joke.
Paranoia Runs Deep, Into Your Life It Will Creep.
We had received a lot of information in Redefining Masculinity. We ask ourselves a lot of questions too. Some of which you may consider asking yourself.
How does these forms of indoctrination show up in our personal history?
When were the earliest times we could recall learning about masculinity?
What was the message?
How are these messages delivered and who is sending them?
How did we feel?
We don’t need to be paranoid but we do need to be aware.
The subconscious receives everything and imprints it in our minds without question and we are unaware that it is doing so. From there the message informs our behavior and we have no clue why we do what we do.
Consciousness calls a received message into awareness where it can be analyzed, evaluated, and selected for acceptance or rejection.
Calling out a message by labeling it sends up a red flag for our minds. We become conscious not only of that message but a whole range of similar messages. Our minds sort those into a bag under the red flag where their influence is moderated by our conscious mind.
We have to be aware that violence against women and children exists and become aware of how our societal systems support the cycle of men committing violence against women.
Now, with four sessions to go, we are in the process of becoming conscious. I salute every man who has chosen to experience the discovery of what was and what can be when it comes to being a man.