Tag Archives: #metoo

Familiar Men in the Toxic Masculinity Conversation

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Laurie and Debbie say:

The #metoo conversation, instead of disappearing, is expanding to cover many related topics. Discussing rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape culture demands a discussion of masculinity–the toxic masculinity that creates these disastrous stories, and an exploration of alternatives.

While Laurie was taking the photographs for Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, Debbie and her collaborator Richard Dutcher were working on writing the text for the book. All three of us spent five years engaged in examining masculinity from a wide variety of perspectives. Fourteen years after the book was published, those conversations are finally showing up in the mainstream news:

The eyes are clear, focused, expressive. These men are there, present, alive. They engage with each other, they engage with the camera, and they engage with the viewer. These men are not merely their hardened shells; there is somebody home, they inhabit their bodies. These are men you could know, men whom you would want to know.

“That … is resistance to traditional norms. Thesei men invite you in to their world; they do not keep you out. They open doors; they don’t build fences.”

Michael Kimmel, from his introduction

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Paul Kivel, in Men’s Work, encourages people to think about masculinity as a tightly constraining box. The rule of being masculine is to make sure that you always appear to fit inside the box, because everyone is always checking to make sure that nothing sticks out. Everything masculine is inside the box. Everything outside the box is one of three things: female, weak, and queer. … So many men spend an awful lot of time and energy keeping all of themselves inside the box.

–Debbie and Richard, from “To Be a Man,” in Familiar Men

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No aspect of being male is more complex or, perhaps, more determined by the [masculinity box] than sexuality. Who you have sex with, when, and how, as well as who you tell, when, and how, all have very strict guidelines. The first of these seems to be that you aren’t supposed to even think directly about the guidelines; you learn them in your body by watching and copying other men and you defy them at your peril.— from “To Be a Man”

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Power is based on the projection of power, and real male bodies unerringly repudiate that projection. I think novelist Dorothy Allison said it best when she remarked that she thought the penis was the original source of the literary concept of irony, that something so small and vulnerable could be accorded such impressive powers. To see a penis is to know that it couldn’t possibly be a phallus.

Jonathan D. Katz, quoted in “To Be a Man”

In the United States in the beginning of the 21st century, simply being a man is bad for your health and your lifespan. Women statistically live longer than men and stay healthy and functional for a longer percentage of their lives.

— from “To Be a Man”

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As far back as I can remember, I’d always known that Real Men don’t have asses. They walk all seized up, or run the risk of being accused of being a wimp or a faggot. It made my back hurt and it made my soul hurt, just so I could try to be a Real Man. Real Men have strong arms and chests and maybe even legs, but they don’t have bodies. After all, you can’t have a body if you don’t have an ass.

I began to explore new ways to move. The roadblocks I had to get past were amazingly deep and subtle.

Charlie Glickman, quoted in “To Be a Man”

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Grandfather and Grandson

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Thanksgiving 2017: Keeping Hope Alive

Rev. William Barber II leading a song at the end of a news conference

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Laurie and Debbie say:

For the first ten years of this blog, we wrote a Thanksgiving post, listing good things that had happened in the year since the previous Thanksgiving. (We know  the shameful history of Thanksgiving very well; we also like taking stock of good things.)

Last year, less than three weeks out from Trump’s election, we couldn’t bring ourselves to write that post. Instead, we wrote about how we were feeling, and how we were redirecting the blog in resistance.

This year has been one of the roughest years in American political history, and next year is probably not going to be much better. The catalogue of atrocities, cruelties, threats, and stupidities of the current White House and Congress is amazingly long.

Debbie listens regularly to Deray McKesson‘s podcast, Pod Save the People. Deray interviews an extraordinary variety of people on that show: politicians, activists, cooks, fashion photographers, you name it. The interviews are all done through a political lens, and he always asks the same question:

“What do you say to people who have given up hope, people who’ve been fighting forever and feel like nothing changes, people who think the fight is useless?”

That question has as many answers as Deray has interviewees. We each have our own answers, but that’s not where we’re going today. Instead, we want to mention just a few of the literally thousands of initiatives around the country and elsewhere, all fighting against the forces of hate  and contempt–the forces which right now are undeniably running a large portion of the world.

#Take a Knee: Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who led the the San Francisco 49ers to the championship playoffs in 2012 and 2013, decided not to participate in standing for the U.S. national anthem, as a direct response to police murder of black people. He carefully and respectfully chose to go down on one knee rather than any other form of protest. His motives have been viciously misrepresented, and his career is on hold. At the same time, he spawned a nationwide movement: from sport to sport, from pro sports to colleges to high schools, from men’s sports to women’s sports, and (although not enough) from people of color to white people. When Trump got on the anti-takeaknee bandwagon, even some rich white football team owners fought back. And that fight shows no signs of stopping.

After the nakedly inhumane conditions in the Grenfell Tower in London resulted in a fire that caused the deaths of at least 80 people, Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party are calling for an expenditure of at least one billion pounds for sprinklers in comparable buildings. It’s too soon to say if this practical proposal by Corbyn will succeed, but Labour’s star has been rising, and we predict that Corbyn’s call will see some response.

One of the factors fueling the Republican power imbalance is flagrant gerrymandering in many states, including Michigan. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to change this, but so do the citizens of the gerrymandered states. And in case you thought they didn’t care, a group in Michigan trying to put a limit-to-gerrymandering state constitutional amendment on the ballot has collected well over the 315,000 signatures they need, much faster than they expected, and without paying for signatures.  Almost all state ballot measures have to pay for signatures, so this reflects how many people in Michigan are aware of gerrymandering, and want to do something about it–even though it’s an issue that in 2016 was thought to be technical and boring.

#MeToo: The last month and a half has seen an unprecedented series of downfalls and firings — for sexual harassment. We are still in the early days of this process, and no one knows how it will shake out. However, it is a tectonic victory when famous and powerful men are losing their jobs for treating women (and sometimes men) like sexual party favors. Alyssa Milano was the immediate instigator of the #metoo hashtag which took over Twitter and Facebook for days and days, and we also pay homage to Tarana Burke, who started the phrase more than ten years ago.

Disabled people are a particular target of every authoritarian, purist movement in history, and the Trump White House and Republican congress are marching in lockstep with that history. Disabled people are also at the heart of all kinds of resistance, and in 2017 many disabled folks have covered themselves with glory, taking risks that few of the rest of us are prepared to take. Here’s just one example.

Ten protesters, most of whom have disabilities, were arrested …  in the Denver office of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner after staging a sit-in that lasted nearly 60 hours. They are part of a larger network of activists who believe they are literally fighting for their lives in their efforts to stop the Republicans’ health care bill.

The activists are members of ADAPT, a national disability-rights organization, which staged a similar protest in the Washington office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on June 22.

The protesters, which included four people who use wheelchairs and two with cerebral palsy, arrived Tuesday and sat in a 15-by-12-foot room for more than two days.

The Republicans have long claimed some kind of incomprehensible moral high ground, where they will go to any length to protect an unborn baby, but will drag a 10-year-old out of the hospital to be deported, where they will extol the value of military service and starve veterans, and so on and so on. Fortunately, there are real moral movements developing in the U.S., and Reverend William Barber is leading one of them.

 Barber has set for himself the daunting goal of spreading the Moral Mondays model nationally to resist what he views as the dangerous economic and social policies of the Trump administration.

He’s heading efforts that will train an army of activists in the nation’s most conservative states and put the issue of poverty front and center in American politics. Barber said he sees his efforts as the unfinished work of King, who was assassinated in 1968 shortly after announcing a campaign to improve the lives of poor people.

When we think about all of these people putting their feet, their passion, and their money where their mouths are, supporting all of these grassroots movements and hundreds more, hope is a little easier to come by.