Friday, November 13, 2009

Choosing Healthy Masculinity...and What That Means

We greatly appreciate the points raised by Courtney Martin and Anna North in their recent posts for American Prospect and Jezebel. For men and men's organizations working for gender equity, the focus is all too often limited to critiquing, protesting and saying what we're against.

However, speaking out against traditional masculinity is both a necessary first step toward new and more positive masculinities, as well as a lifelong opportunity and challenge for all men.

It is essential, as Courtney notes, not to get stuck in “stage one of gender consciousness.” We also saw men and women across the country protesting Tucker Max this summer, and being against him is, for most men, a very simple step. But in addition to signs reading “Rape is not funny” and “Men Against Tucker Max,” men also held signs reading “Sexual Equality Rocks” and “Real Men Respect Women,” clearly highlighting healthy visions of masculinity.

We see this constantly in our work at Men Can Stop Rape. The thousands of men and boys that we engage every year show us daily what healthy masculinity looks like. It is a group of high school boys volunteering at a local domestic violence shelter, it is straight and cis-gendered college men partnering as allies with LGBTQ student organizations, and it is the enlisted men and officers in the Air Force who come to us for training on how to create safer workplaces. These boys and men are all moving deliberately toward who they want to be.

Putting the support and encouragement of healthy masculinity at the center of what we do has taught us two key things. First, there is no single definition or ideal of healthy masculinity—there are as many definitions as there are men. Second, developing healthy, authentic masculinity is a journey, not a destination. Most significantly, this journey creates the space and the obligation for us to engage our humanity as we look at the intersections of class, race, gender identity and sexual orientation that we see as integral to the prevention of men's violence.

We completely agree with Courtney and Anna that there aren't nearly enough spaces and support for men to create their own versions of healthy masculinity, and at the same time we want to ensure that we are fully aware of and making the most of the spaces and support that exist and continue to grow.

Joe Samalin is the Campus Strength Coordinator and Joseph Vess is the Director of Training and Technical Assistance at Men Can Stop Rape. Share

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