A CALL TO MEN 2017 Conference: The Many Faces of Manhood, Day 1
Nearly 350 gathered in Bloomington, Minnesota at the end of September for A CALL TO MEN‘s national conference The Many Faces of Manhood. The conference explored healthy, respectful manhood in athletics, education, incarceration, fatherhood, faith communities, and around issues of gender. In addition to traditional keynotes and panels, the conference featured a series of Transformation Talks, where speakers shared personal stories of adversity, healing and growth.
“Modeling authenticity and vulnerability is critical to creating an environment where we can bring our whole selves, where we can learn and evolve,” said Tony Porter, CEO of A CALL TO MEN. “It is one of the principles of healthy, respectful manhood.”
We are pleased to be able to share many of the keynote speeches and panels via podcast. Below please find Day 1. Click here for Day 2.
with Lina Jurabe Botella, Director of Training, ACTM; Sannii Hernandez, VP, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota; Nicole Matthews, Executive Director, Minnesota Indian Woman’s Sexual Assault Coalition
“A Call to Men we take really seriously that the work to engage men has to be done with accountability to women. Always through accountability to women. If you come to a community institute, if you come to one of our trainings, you will always see a woman speaking first and a woman speaking last. It is the way for us to role model how to be in connection to each other, and how do we do so? By following the leadership of women”
Lina Juarbe B.:
Good morning. Good morning, everyone. I love advocates that don't follow direction. Everyone keeps on talking and doing their thing. Good morning, everybody.
Lina Juarbe B.:
We have been waiting for you. My name is Lina Juarbe Botella. I'm the director of training for A Call to Men. You all look so beautiful from up here. We're just excited to be here with you, and we're excited to be in the Minnesota community. I'm also in charge of, like, all logistics, right? So I'm going to give you some logistics and then some opening words, and then turn it over to Saanii Hernandez and to Nicole from the coalition. I'll talk about that in a minute.
Let me tell you the good stuff, right? Like, where the bathrooms are and stuff like that that you're going to all need. Where is the food going to be, what's happening later? I wanted you to know that the bathrooms are to your left. There's bathrooms on this floor. There's also bathrooms on the first floor, and there's also gender-nonconforming bathrooms, gender-neutral bathrooms on the first floor as well, by the gym area.
I'm sure that you have received a beautiful folder with the information of our conference, with the agenda, and some information about the foundation as well as some tourist information if it's your first time in Minnesota. I assure you, you will get more information in a week. You will get information about what we share with you, resources that A Call to Men uses. We will send you a survey, and any resource that comes to us from our presenters as well, all right? You will get it. But we're trying to do the green thing, as we all should be thinking about doing the green thing, right?
You will be having lunch in this room today and tomorrow. If you want to connect to us through via Facebook, do it at acalltomen ... sorry, at @acalltomen. If you want to do a hashtag and use that today while you're here, we would love it if you would do that. It's #actm17. What other pieces? I want you to know that we also have beautiful t-shirts, we have brand-new hats, books, Tony Porter's books. Anybody have Tony's book?
Lina Juarbe B.:
Was it good?
Lina Juarbe B.:
Do you use it? You can get it over there. We've made it a little bundle for you to purchase as well. We want you to know that there's also a room called the owl room, [inaudible] where you worship at. Everybody has a map, right? That room is called the [inaudible] participant room, for you to use in any way you see fit while you're here with us. I remind you to take care of yourself in the process.
We also have a resource video room that is out here to the left. In that room, I just invite you to engage with us. We have different videos that we use in our own work in connecting to men. We also have a beautiful wall of images where we ask you to go look at those images, engage with us. You will see that there's an opportunity for you to give feedback and to think about, what does that image ... what does it represent to you? What does it mean for you or your work? How could you use that information as you move forward?
I also wanted you to know that there's a change in the agenda. Unfortunately, one of our presenters had an emergency today and couldn't come. Her name is Comfort Dondo, from the African community here. Her presentation is number six today at 11:30, and the name of the presentation is Creating Culturally-Specific Solutions for the African Immigrant Community. We don't have a replacement workshop, so during that time what I ask of you is to look at the other workshops and select from the other workshops, all right?
Okay, I promise you those are all the logistics I have. Okay, you still here? It was all good stuff, you know? Oh, yeah, don't applaud for the logistics. Who started to applaud? Really, you can like it, but really?
You know, at A Call to Men we take really seriously that the work to engage men has to be done with accountability to women. Always through accountability to women. If you come to a community institute, if you come to one of our trainings, you will always see a woman speaking first and a woman speaking last. It is the way for us to role model how to be in connection to each other, and how do we do so? By following the leadership of women. All right?
We have been thinking about this for two years, really, really doing a lot of work over the past year. We have been working really hard to assure that this matters to you. You're giving us your time, and that's priceless. We really offered you a space. You know, we call it a conference, but the truth of the matter in our hearts is that this is a gathering. The foundation of this gathering, frankly, is plain and simple. It's really love. The love that is necessary for us to create the future that we want together.
I stand here today with tremendous amount of admiration for you and the work that you do in your communities. I also stand here in this room as a mother, as a survivor, as a daughter of a man that taught me to never to forget where I came from, and a mother who always was holding the idea of what humanity should look like, every day by her actions and by her words.
I invite you to be in community with each other. To me, I would say I love you because you just showed up. But we're going to be a community for two days. It's my greatest hope, it is my greatest hope, that that community continues beyond this space. I hope not to be that cool event that you went to, and you grabbed the stuff and put it on the shelf. We're going to challenge you and love you at the same time so that you don't do that, because you're here for a reason, at the end of the day.
I invite you to listen deeper than you normally do. I invite you to do that from your heart. I ask you to seek to understand before seeking to be understood. We're all here and we want you to take risks that maybe you haven't taken before. Doing this work in true coalition with each other requires that we take risks. I hope that you support somebody else in taking risks as well. I ask you to share of yourself, to remember that on any given day we're all teachers and students at the same time. We never come to a space as experts. The only thing I'm an expert in is my own experience. I've been blessed by the words of many survivors who've taught me a lot about what I know. Please come with a curious heart, stretch your thinking, make space for new ideas, and seek new connections.
If you know me, or been in any spaces with me, I'm always the one saying that many things are true at once. For me in the context of this conference, I'm here truly because I do want men to be accountable to survivors, to women and girls, to all women and girls. But I also stand in front of you with the bold belief that at the core of my heart, I have an undeniable thirst for men to be their authentic selves, what this conference is all about. I have a desperate need to do work that creates a foundation for that to happen, because I hold the courageous hope that men can have true healing and can be whole.
I also believe that holding hope and healing is necessarily to really stop violence against all women and girls. I've been doing this work for 25 years. There's no other way. We need men loving and talking and invested in other men. That's really, again, why I'm here. I ask you to ask yourself, why are you here today? I'm not trying to make light of this. I'm not asking you because you have leftover funds or someone invited you to come to Minnesota or ... you know. I'm asking you to go much deeper than that. Why are you really here today? I mentioned that before, you're not here by accident. What has led you to this room today? I fundamentally believe that you really are here for a deeper reason, and I ask you to think about that as you are here with us. What is your hope? Ask yourself, what do you need? What's the future that you want to create?
In closing, I want to tell you a very short story before I turn it over to Saanii. Last year we went to Houston and did an incredible event with 300 men. Near the end of that event, a man in his 70s stood up and he said something like this. I'm paraphrasing. He stood up, his voice was shaking, and he said, "I am in my 70s. I wish so much I would have heard this message when I was a younger adult or even a teenager. I'm sitting here today reflecting on my life, and with this information, really thinking about how much of a better father I could have been, what a better brother or friend I could have been, and really with a heavy heart recognizing how much violence and abuse the women that have been with me throughout my life have suffered by my actions or by my silence. All these years I have not been whole. I have been in that man box that you guys talked about and not being full myself. This message is for every man, and we have and can do better. I know I'm going to try to do better because I was here."
I've been holding the truth of so many survivors in doing this work, and in spite of the violence that they witnessed and they experienced, more often than not, women, when healing, for the men that they love and care about. They hold those truths at the same time. At the end of the day, I hope that you take this journey with us. I will declare to all of you, I don't want my healing as a survivor without the healing of men, because at the end of the day I just want collective liberation for all of us. Thank you very much.
Thank you. I get to say some really cool words about Saanii Hernandez. It is my great privilege to introduce to you Saanii Hernandez, the vice president of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. I know she is the mom of two boys, and I imagine that part of why you're here today is because of that. I really want you to know ... you know, people always say thank you to their sponsor, so thank you. But what I really want you to know, and this is no job, the Foundation was in the minute that we called. To me, it has been a visionary role that they have played from the minute that we called, because I work with other foundations that will say, "We don't fund men's work," and who fail to see the connection of the two. Without further ado, I turn it over to Saanii Hernandez. Thank you so much, Saanii.
[crosstalk] Thank you. I'll take my stuff.
Well, good morning, everyone.
All right, this is an amazing group. I'm excited to be here. Welcome. How many of you are not from the Twin Cities area? That includes ... Oh, wow. That's amazing. It's really warm right now. We're having a heat wave, right? Just know that. But we're so thrilled to be here. I'm Saanii Hernandez, vice president of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. The Women's Foundation is thrilled to sponsor today's conference.
You know, I think what we think is important is, is that the ethos of the Women's Foundation really is about working with and listening with community. I want to acknowledge that there are so many of our community partners here. It's incredible. If you are a partner or have been a partner of the Foundation, just raise your hand. You know, what I think is amazing is, is that part of the reason that we know that working with men and boys and partnering with men and boys is important is because that's what community tells us, and so that's what we're honoring with this sponsorship.
At the Foundation, we know that achieving gender equity in a world respect, opportunity, and safety for all women and girls is not fully possible without the leadership, partnership, and solidarity with men and boys, and that's exactly what A Call to Men is all about. That's how they lead, and that's why we're behind this work 100%. Are you all ready for today?
All right. Good energy. Well, you know, as Lina said, I'm a mom of two young boys, and this work is deeply personal to me. In fact, when people find out what I do for a living, they always assume that I have daughters, which is kind of weird. I mean, I am a woman, so this work is important to me personally. But what I say is that I do this work with and for all women and girls, but also for boys like mine, because I understand how important it is.
Let me just tell you a quick story. It's about my first date with my husband, a little over 15 years ago, and the color pink. We went snowshoeing in his hometown of Willmar. Who knows where Willmar is? Right, so it's about two hours west of the cities. It's a pretty small town. I mean, I think it's a small town. My husband thinks it's a city, but it's a small town. It's about, you know, 12,000, 15,000 people.
We went snowshoeing and we had a ton of fun, and then after a full day, we went to dinner, and this is where it got interesting. My husband wore a pink shirt, and as we entered the restaurant, he got a lot of glances, as you can imagine. Then there was this one man in particular who was really bothered by his shirt, and he was so bothered, he decided to come over and ask my husband why he was wearing an effing pink shirt. It was disturbing. You can imagine the conversation that proceeded after that. My husband's like, "We're not leaving. We're staying here. This man doesn't get to take up space." We continue to eat our dinner, but then somebody who knew this man and also knew my husband came over and said, "You know, I think you should go." And so we left, and figuring that this is really this guy's problem, not our problem, and we went on with our evening.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I went to enjoy one of Minnesota's favorite pastimes, and it wasn't ice fishing or the state fair or even beating the Packers. We went to Target. How many of you all have walked into Target and walked out with something you probably didn't need? Pretty much everybody, right? I do that too. But this day I walked out with something that I didn't expect. My son needed a new pair of shoelaces, so we walked over to the shoe section and we looked at the kiosk, and there's all these different colors and sizes, and he picks out this bright pink pair.
I was like, "Um, are you sure that that's what you want?" He's like, "Well, yeah. What's the problem?" I said, "Okay, I just want to make sure. Are you really, really, really sure that you want bright pink shoelaces?" He said, "Yeah, that's what I want." Though I was asking about just the color, what I was really asking him, and I didn't ask him, but what I was really thinking in my head was, "Are people going to pick on you because you got pink shoelaces? What does that mean?" Right? Because I've had this experience, and we've all had experiences around these sort of, what seem silly things.
But I didn't want to alert him that that color, that people wouldn't think that's a boy color. So I bought the shoelaces, and we went home and we're unpacking the bags, and my husband was helping unpack, and what do you think the first thing out of his mouth was? "You bought pink shoelaces?" And so he asked my son a couple times, "Are you sure these are what you want? Do you want a different color?" And my son said, "Well, yeah. I love pink." So we said, "Great." We laced his shoes up and he went to school the next day and he was fine.
But what my husband and I realized is that for all we know, all the enlightening things we know about gender norms and how we want to break down these barriers, we are still bound by them. Right? These norms actually filled us with fear for our son, who really just wanted to be himself, and just likes pink, right? And so what we were struggling with is that we didn't want our son to learn about the man box the hard way. We didn't want him to learn about harassment or shaming or harm by other kids, or adults, who already are stuck in those narrow gender norms about what boys and men should be.
That said, I think it's important to recognize that we all have our biases. You know we do, right? It's important to own that we have those. But part of the work that we're going to do here today, over the next two days, which I'm so excited about is that we get to be learners. I love that Lina said we're teachers and learners. I feel like here, for me, I'm a learner, and a learner with each of you so that all of the boys and men in our lives can be healthy, whole, authentic men. What an incredible gift. A Call to Men, thank you so much for the work that you all do. Are you with me today?
All right. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Nicole Matthews, executive director, Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition.
Wow. I kind of feel like a superstar. Good morning, everyone. I will do a proper introduction. [foreign language] My name's Nicole Matthews. I'm Anishinaabe from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota. Welcome to Anishinaabe and Dakota country. Welcome to Minnesota. We are happy to have you all here. We are happy to see your beautiful faces. We are happy that we're having some really unseasonably warm, warm, warm weather. Never do I usually turn on my AC in September. Welcome.
We are going to start this day out traditionally as we would with a song. I welcome my sisters up here, Sarah Curtis and Guadalupe Lopez. We are going to sing a ... it's a women's warrior song. This song came from Canada, and it's to raise awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women. Many of you might have heard the story this last month, or the last few weeks, about Savanna Greywind from North Dakota, who was murdered. We have, unfortunately, many stories of missing and murdered Native women in our communities, and so this morning we want to lift up their voices and lift up ours, and do a song to honor them.
Do you want to introduce yourself at all, or ... No?
[foreign language ]
Why We Are Here: The Many Faces of Manhood- Men Embracing Their Authentic Selves
with Tony Porter, CEO A Call To Men
“If women can end men’s violence against women, by themselves, they would have. I mean and the violence is at epidemic proportions. We know that. We know it’s one of the leading causes of injury to women in our nation, is men’s violence against women. We know it’s off the chain. We know it’s terrible. We know that’s why Department of Justice- we know that’s why the Center for Disease Control- we know that’s why they call it- they have identified- they have- they see it as, they identify it as, one of the leading causes of injury to women in our nation. Right?
If they could end it on their own: they would have. And some of you may have seen me do this before. I need to do it today. And if my outstretched arm represented all the men in our country, we know there’s about that many men that perpetrate violence against women and girls, and then there’s all the rest of us that don’t.
If they could end it on their own: they would have. We can’t count on these men over here right now, but at A Call to Men, we do hold out hope for them. But who’s left from the equation? As I was listening to Sandy share and I was thinking about it. Who’s left from the equation in any real purposeful way is us.”
As men, we have unwritten rules and agreements; un-negotiated deals and codes of silence that other come to expect from us. This collectively defines many aspects of our manhood. I remember asking a 12 year old boy, a football player, "So how would you feel if your coach told you, in front of all the other players, that you're playing like a girl?"
I thought he would say, "I'd be mad. I'd be angry. I'd be sad."
But no, the boy told me, "It would destroy me."
I said, "Wow."
If it would destroy him being told that he's playing like a girl, what are we as men teaching him about girls? If we continue to treat women and girls as if they are of less value, the property of men, and sexual objects: we continue to maintain a culture that reinforces discrimination and abuse towards them.
Speaker 2: It is important to rethink and reshape how we as men have been taught to act and behave. We need to hold onto the many wonderful aspects of manhood and remove those things that hold us back.
Speaker 1: We need to stop laughing and begin challenging inappropriate comments made about women and girls. We need to educate ourselves, our sons, and other young men and boys.
Speaker 2: Our liberation as men is directly tied to the liberation of women.
Speaker 1: Let's be the solution.
Speaker 2: A Call to Men works with men and women to create a world where all men and all boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.
Speaker 1: Help us create a new world by being part of the next generation of manhood.
Speaker 3: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tony Porter CEO [A Call to Men 00:02:07].
Tony Porter: Good morning. Good morning good people.
Group: Good morning.
Tony Porter: [Elena's] right, y'all look beautiful. I was sharing with her and other folks this morning, I was just meeting everybody. I was meeting with Lena in the back room going over a few things before we came out here and I said, "Man, these are beautiful people. We are gonna have a great time."
And she said, "I know you're right."
Cause sometimes when we come to a room, we meet in the back room, we say, "Oh, shit."
Yeah. But not today. Not today. So this is all good. Yeah. So like Lena, I just wanna give a few shout outs to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota [inaudible 00:03:05] and [Sonie 00:03:07] and the team there, for their great support. It's just like you- you got about 100 folks here that were sponsored by them to be here. That's you, right?
Well, we had a whole bunch of folks on the ground. We don't come to- we're a national organization. So as a national organization there's a way to be in the community, right? A way to be with people. And all of us, as a training team and staff, we all do different kind of organizing ourselves. None of us just do a Call to Men work or whatever. We have a lot of part time staff- their full time work. They don't just do that. We're all invested in community. So we get it. And so there's a way to be in community, a way to be invited in community, a way to be accountable to community. And we're very intentional with that.
Actually, intentional is my new favorite word, right? I just think that in the climate we're in, the experiences we're having: we need to be intentional. Alright. We don't have a lot of time to waste or to play. We need to be intentional. Grab that word, hold on to, I think it's important for us going forward.
So, Lena, the organizer she is, met with a whole group of folks here. So we have a local team of folks here that help us make this happen. We don't just show up. This never- it doesn't work that way. So the folks on the local planning team, can y'all please stand up? Wherever y'all at in the room stand up. I know Nicole's here. I seen Sam. I seen Ed. [inaudible 00:04:39] Y'all stand up. Alright. Preciate y'all. And they was demanding a lot of stuff too man. Like Lena kept- they want- [this 00:04:51] now, so I said, "Look, Jesus Christ!"
She said, "Look, we gotta be accountable."
I said, "I get it. I get it."
Did we do good?
Speaker 6: Yes.
Tony Porter: So far right? We're on it right? Alright.
Then we have a few national partners here as well. [Calcasa 00:05:09] is here. I know David Lee is around here. Maybe a few other folk. Where you at David? Raise your hand, say hi to the nice people. Alright?
Women of Color Network, I seen Tonya, right? Tonya raise your hand, say [inaudible 00:05:22] nice people. I know we also have the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center: anybody here from there? I haven't met them yet. Are they here?
There we go, back here. Alright.
Also the National Football League sponsor as well. They our people. Well, you know, they're here. I'm here. Alright. So give it up. They helped pay for that reception that we're gonna have later on and we're looking to have a blast there. By the way, we're gonna be honoring miss Alice Lynch. Alright. She's a local member of your community. She's also- has been ... was she the first chair of Women of Color Network? And she's retiring now. I think she's retiring, if y'all know miss Alice, she just pretends like she's retiring. But anyway, we're gonna honor her this evening at a reception and we want all of you to be there with her. We have a lot of folks from the community also coming in to hang out.
So just wanna lift those folks up and I wanna life a few of you up; because, like I said, I've been moving around the space here and I met some really cool folks. And I just love who we are together here and the time we're gonna have. So I met these brothers over here at this table here: they're all from Shore University in North Carolina, in the Raleigh area. I thought that was cool meeting them.
We got a whole group here. So we have a- at A Call to Men, we do a lot of, as I mentioned, community based training. And in Tucson Arizona there's an organization named Immerge that we're working with on the ground there doing a lot of organizing with men throughout the community of Tucson. And they came- they brought like a posse with them. Where y'all at? Right? There over there. Alright.
Just doing a few shout outs. Things that kind of like caught my attention.
I haven't met them yet, but I heard there's a whole group from Tulane University in New Orleans that's here. Right? Alright.
And I met three brothers sitting over here- I believe it's three brothers sitting over here. I met Victor and I met Vince and I know there's another one or two of them over here. They are American Samoa. They are five hours by plane south of Hawaii. Pacific. Below the equator. Any of y'all know where that is? Anybody wanna go?
Vince, Victor, y'all raise your hand there. Say hello to my brothers there. Alright.
Men As Peacemakers, there's about 20 of them here. They're local boys from up north here a little bit. Where they at? There's a whole bunch of them came. I'm just gone name a couple more and then I wanna hear a little bit from you all. I know my sister Sharon Turner and Stan, they brought some folks from the bay area, they're here.
North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs: they're here. Alright. I mean this is pretty cool. This pretty cool. And many of us do our work through funding opportunities through the office of Violence Against Women, the Department of Justice, so I gotta always give my sister Darlene Johnson a shout out. Alright?
So, real quick, lemme hear some areas- just shout out areas in the room. I'mma start out over here. Just shout out some areas that you're from.
Speaker 7: O H.
Tony Porter: O H? [crosstalk ] What is O H? Man, I think you need to just say Ohio, okay?
Alright, gimme some more.
Speaker 8: Washington D.C.
Tony Porter: D.C in the house, alright.
Speaker 9: St. Paul.
Tony Porter: St. Paul.
Speaker 10: [inaudible 00:09:24]
Tony Porter: Say that again?
Speaker 10: [inaudible 00:09:26]
Tony Porter: Where's that at?
Speaker 11: D.C.
Speaker 10: Washington D.C.
Tony Porter: Okay, I didn't get it all. I just heard the University part. [crosstalk 00:09:32] Okay.
Speaker 12: [inaudible]
Tony Porter: Say it again?
Speaker 12: [inaudible]
And you know what, I met a woman- I worked with her years ago, Leslie Carthill, came here from Michigan with a whole group of people, some university- where y'all at? Over there, yeah. Alright lemme come to this side of the room. Lemme hear a few places.
Speaker 13: Knoxville-
Speaker 14: [crosstalk 00:09:54] Tennessee.
Tony Porter: Knoxville Tennessee, alright.
Speaker 15: Los Angeles.
Tony Porter: Los Angeles.
Speaker 16: Monterey, California.
Tony Porter: Monterey, that sound like a place I might wanna go. I just like the name.
Speaker 17: Providence, Rhode Island.
Tony Porter: Rhode Island. I kinda go through Rhode Island going to Massachusets fishing all the time. If you blink, you're already through.
Who we got over here?
Speaker 18: [inaudible 00:10:18] Oregon.
Tony Porter: Where?
Speaker 18: [inaudible 00:10:19] Oregon.
Tony Porter: Oregon, alright. What part of Oregon?
Speaker 18: The coast.
Tony Porter: The coast. I always think of my sister Desiree Cruz, right, outta Oregon- Eugene, Oregon I believe, right? Desiree Allen Cruz, that sister taught me a whole lot.
Alright, so we're-
Speaker 19: Memphis Tennessee.
Tony Porter: Memphis Tennessee, alright we got a lot of culture there. Alright, let me talk to you just a few minutes about why we're here, along with being happy we're here. Just wanna share with you a little bit about A Call to Men, how we do what we do, and why we do it that way.
And while we love you all, and we want you to be onboard, and as Lena said- but we wanna be critical in how we be together, in thinking, and have critical courageous conversations, and at the same time we do our work unapologetically. Right? [inaudible 00:11:17] for us, we really believe that if women- and it's organizations like the Women's Foundation of Minnesota, we believe they get it. They've been at this a long time. If women can end men's violence against women, by themselves, they would have. I mean and the violence is at epidemic proportions. We know that. We know it's one of the leading causes of injury to women in our nation, is men's violence against women. We know it's off the chain. We know it's terrible. We know that's why Department of Justice- we know that's why the Center for Disease Control- we know that's why they call it- they have identified- they have- they see it as, they identify it as, one of the leading causes of injury to women in our nation. Right?
If they could end it on their own: they would have. And some of you may have seen me do this before. I need to do it today. And if my outstretched arm represented all the men in our country, we know there's about that many men that perpetrate violence against women and girls, and then there's all the rest of us that don't.
If they could end it on their own: they would have. We can't count on these men over here right now, but at A Call to Men, we do hold out hope for them. But who's left from the equation? As I was listening to Sandy share and I was thinking about it. Who's left from the equation in any real purposeful way is us. I believe we, the men in this room, represent this group. We believe that the more we promote healthy, respectful, responsible manhood the more we decrease violence against women and girls. That's on our shoulders, men. We believe that in order to promote and increase healthy manhood, authenticity is required. We gotta really begin to create space as men to be our authentic self.
You heard Lena and [Sonie 00:13:19]- appreciate that. You heard them mention the man box. That man box, we also call it the collective socialization of manhood. What it does is it holds men hostage. Right? Holds us hostage to the rigid norm of defining what it means to be a man. Alright? And the more authentic we can be, the more we can break out of that box, to break away from that socialization, and be our true self. We believe at a Call to Men that far too often, in far too many cases, we have been socialized to define what it means to be a man by distancing ourselves by what we perceive to be the experience of women and girls.
So if women and girls share their feelings and emotions, then we as men can't. Right? If women and girls can be vulnerable in their expression, then we as men can't. Right? We have these notions of manhood that they teach us that men are strong, and men are tough, and all that nonsense; and that women are soft, and women are weak. Right? And so- and if women are soft and weak, then we as men can't.
So we can't talk about our weakness, we can't talk about our fears, we can't talk about our insecurities, we can't talk about what hurts; we can't even claim emotions, let alone acknowledge that we're in emotional pain. We can't ask for help, because asking for help is viewed as being weak. You ask the average 16 year old boy, he might be looking like something's wrong with him at the moment, "Are you okay?"
And his immediate response is, "I'm alright."
He's saying, "I'm alright" before you even finished the question. So he ain't alright. He ain't alright, but he's been taught since he's this big to say he's alright. In this whole [effort 00:15:22] to define what it means to be a man by distancing ourselves from what we perceive to be the experience of women and girls, we cut off feelings and emotions in boys when they're this big. The moment you tell a boy to stop crying, you're telling him to stop feeling; because he doesn't know the difference between the two. The moment you tell a boy to stop crying, you're telling the boy to stop feeling; cause he doesn't know the difference between the two. And we start that process really early on. We start it very early on.
So what we really- what we see that's central to our work is really releasing ourselves from that as men. Right? We believe at A Call to Men in order to do that, in order to be with men, we have to reach in and grab the hearts of men. Right?
One of our mottoes is to grab the hearts of men, ensure that men leave this space thinking and feeling differently than they did when they entered.
We believe at A Call to Men that it's a transformative experience. Our work is a transformative experience with men. We believe in academia. Right? One of the greatest academic persons in mind is- I know today is with us, Dr. Beth Richie. Right?
She also can teach you how to resist too, because she got that down to a science as well. Right? But we believe in academia. Right? But that's not what moves men. It's that transformative experience. And how do you get there? We get there by the hearts of men.
So for us at A Call to Men, we believe in love. Right? So anytime you're with us, if you're not having a loving experience, we're not doing our job. Right? It's a loving experience. And a lot of folks get a little challenged by that: the notion of being able to love and then be accountable at the same time. See we believe we can love men and hold them accountable at the same time. And engaged them and be in the [inaudible 00:17:30] of change that we wanna see with men and with boys. Right?
We believe at A Call to men that is an invitation to men. Right? That we would say we invite men, we don't indict men. And we can do that in a loving way and in an accountable way.
We believe at A Call to Men that the job is to meet men where they're at. Right? There's no big I's no little u's, it's about meeting men where they're at. Going to them. Going to the places they're at and meeting them where they're at. And meeting them where they're at does not mean that you're [cosigning 00:18:08] whatever you might feel is inappropriate, or impacting on your integrity, you can still meet them where they're at and be you. Right?
So that's how we do it.
You heard Lena mention ending violence against all women and girls. Now I know many of us say ending violence against women and girls. And when we say ending violence against women and girls, we mean all women and girls. Well for us, again being intentional, we feel it's important to say the word all. Alright? Cause you heard the sisters that Nicole was talking about earlier? Right? We're not gonna see those indigenous sisters just when we say ending violence against women. Right? For us. Just for us. We believe, right? We believe we need the word all. Because until we get this right, until we understand that our work is centered around women in the margins of the margins- that's where our work is at. And then everybody benefits. But until we get that right, we're not gonna see those sisters Nicole was talking about when we just say ending violence against women.
When we say ending violence against all women: they come into view. Right? We're not gonna see monk community. The women in the monk community. My sister Mae Tong is here, I seen her in years. Where you at Mae Tong? Where you at? I know you in here, where you at? Oh, you ain't in here. Okay. Anyway.
I met Mae Tong in Milwaukee ... I don't know, seven, eight years ago maybe. Somewhere around that. And began to learn from her, and Pang Tao- if he's not here, he'll be here, about the monk community. And then I think about them when I think about that word all. We didn't even know the monk community exists until we used that word all. And so that's important to us.
Someone sent me an article today about our African American women are being killed at a higher rate than any other group of women of color. And we're talking about intimate partner violence, community violence. We don't think about that.
So for us, that word all is important. Another reason the word all is important for us as an organization is because: to end violence against all women also means to work with all men. Right? We gotta work with the men they love; be it their partners, their fathers, their brothers, their uncle, the men of their community. Alright, so if I'm not willing to work within the African American community, particularly if that's within the area that my intention is, I can't feel comfortable in saying that I'm about ending violence against all women in this community. Cause if I'm not gonna work with the African American men, then I'm not investing in the experience of the African American women. Alright? So, that's important to us. That's important to us.
So, we're here, we wanna use these next couple of days really just, as I said, to be courageous, to be critical, to just really have some conscious raising conversations with each other and a good time in doing that. Alright? What we also wanna be intentional with is bringing the arts into our time together. So be it spoken word, be it- we're gonna have a jazz reception this evening. Be it poetry, be it readings ... My sister Sharon [inaudible 00:21:38] is here: she's gonna do some- she's a photographer. She's a great photographer. Alright? So she's gonna do some expressions of that tomorrow, and some of her photography, and how that connects to her community organizing. She does great work with girls. So- and boys.
So that's kinda the direction we're going in, how we wanna do the next couple of days. As we increase healthy manhood, we decrease violence against women and girls. Bringing men to a place of being their authentic selves is helping men to free themselves from the shackles and the bonds of these rigid notions of manhood and then that's what we're really about.
You know, I wanna say one last thing before I end. I've been talking about distancing, right? I believe- now I'm not even saying we believe now. I believe that women are closer to how we would define humanity. I just believe that. I believe that all the distancing men do to define what it means to be a man, not only does it move us away from the experiences of women, I think it moves us away from humanity; because they're closer to it. It creates these robotic experiences for men, right? These real robotic experiences for men. We're always locked down, can't be vulnerable, we gotta be what we call in control; which is simply another way of saying: locked down. Right?
There's a freedom that I see with women. With all the craziness that we bring into their lives, there's still a freedom that I see with women. I see- I believe as we shrink that distance- now I can go back Call to Men- we believe that as we shrink that distance where we get closer to the experience, we also get closer to humanity, right, as men. It's a win-win all the way around. We create a safer world for women, where they're safe, where they're valued, where their self determination is honored, right? And we became healthy as men, we become whole as men. So for all of us there's a better experience.
And I wanna say one more thing about this distancing thing. Just one more thing. I'm not just talking about heterosexual cisgender men. I'm talking about gay men. I'm talking about trans men. I'm talking about queer men. Alright? You might put heterosexual cisgender men on the extreme end of that distancing. Yeah, I can get with that. But I talk to those brothers all the time. They're challenged by the same stuff in various degrees. And you know we're gonna hear some of that tomorrow. Tomorrow we got this thing that we're doing called transformation talks. Five men are gonna talk tomorrow. Juan Ramos, alright? He's a trainer with A Call to Men, grew up in Brooklyn, grew up in a home with a lot of domestic violence. Grew up in a community with a lot of community violence. Found love in gangs, right? Became leader of one of the largest gangs in New York city and then found his way out. He's gonna talk about that transformational experience.
Another trainer of ours, who also works for the Idaho Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Jeff [Matashida], he's gonna talk about being a biracial man. Part white, part Japanese, growing up in rural Montana. What was that like for him. What was that experience like? Again we're talking about men becoming- you know, getting to their authentic self. What was that experience like for them?
Lenny Hayes, indigenous man from this community, identifies as a two-spirit man: we're gonna hear from him tomorrow. Alright?
Wade Davis, former NFL football player, an out gay man: he's gonna talk about that transformation for him. What was- we're gonna have a blast, right? What was it about for him?
Trey Green, transgendered white man: this guy really said some things, when I first met him, that really like just ... I said I gotta get to know him. He shared with me how other transgender men taught him how to be a man. Said, "You can't sit like that. Stretch your god dang on legs out. Can't sit like that. Can't sit like that. Sit like that. If you sit like that in the bar, this is how you're gonna be treated. Sit like that."
He shared with me how they brought him into the man box. Right? He's gonna talk about that transformation experience. So this is- so what we wanna be doing tomorrow really, along with today, but some of this is tomorrow- is just modeling how we as men can work towards this place of authenticity. And as we work towards this place of authenticity, we shrink this distance that's been required for us to be away from women. In defining what it means to be a man, we wanna shrink that distance. We shrink that distance, we bring ourselves closer to humanity. We bring ourselves closer to humanity and we believe we're intentionally ending violence against women and girls. Right? All women and girls. And becoming healthy men, right, at the same time.
That's why hope for men is important. That's why we lift y'all sisters up and all the rest of you sisters that are in this space: that's why we lift you up. Alright? So I wanna thank you for that thank you very much.
So, wanna say two things. As I mention artistic expression- I also wanna mention my brother Vincent Thomas here, alright? Alright. My brother- we're gonna highlight him- well we're gonna show a video of him at lunch time and he's gonna do a dance performance for us this evening centered around manhood, right? And, again, as we mentioned the arts being really important; but I also wanna say that that performance is at six o'clock this evening- we want all of you here. Alright? And that's why we're highlighting it at lunch time. Ain't no shade on it, we're highlighting it at lunch time. You can see it and you can say, "You know what, I wanna be there. I wanna check that out. That's a cool brother, he's doing some really really nice stuff."
So I want y'all to come and check him out this evening. Right?
So I wanna do two things, then I'm out of here. I wanna introduce a spoken word MC artist, right? I met him, his name is Kyle Guante Tran Myhre. And when I met him I said, "Tran Myhre? What's the Tran Myhre? Tell me what that-"
And he said, "Well you know what the Tran Myhre is a combination of my last name and my wife's last name."
I said, "Damn, that's cool."
We don't do that. Men don't do that. Men are pissed off that she wanna keep part of her name, not let alone connect his name with hers. I thought that was so cool. So he's gonna come up, give us some spoken word, and then, as we would say in church, right? The church I go to, my church- you know we say things like, after the choir sings, the next voice you gonna hear- some of y'all know what I'm talking about. Alright. So, after Guante the next voice you gonna hear is my sister, my mentor, alright? The love of many of our lives, boy this sister is just huge to all of us in this space, Dr. Beth Richie. Alright?
Kyle, come on brother.
Yeah, my name is Kyle, my stage name is Guante, north east Minneapolis ... yeah. I'm not gonna take up a lot of space, this is a really short poem, but I do wanna frame it really really briefly in terms of like: this isn't a poem I usually share-
Spoken Word (pt1)
with Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, MC, Activist and Educator
“I find myself wanting to ask him, “Do you hold your wife’s arm like this when you’re angry with her? Is there a teddy bear somewhere in your history being ripped away from a pair of hands that just aren’t strong enough? Do you remember the first time your father wouldn’t let you hold his hand when you crossed the street? Do you remember the way he looked at you? Do remember being handed your first born son, and not knowing how to hold him? Do you remember squeezing his shoulders like this the first time he disappointing you? Do you remember what it was that you were trying to hold onto?”
Yeah, my name is Kyle, my stage name is [Wantay], North East Minneapolis. Yeah. I'm not gonna take up a lot of space, this is a really short poem, but I do want to frame it really, really briefly, in terms of like this isn't a poem I usually share in a group like this. It's a poem I use as an entry point, and most of the work I do is with undergrads in college, or high school students, particularly young men, and I use it as an entry point into this conversation that most people in this room have probably already had before. Like I don't need to stand up here and talk to you about toxic masculinity, and socialization and stuff, but I think one of the reasons that art is valuable is that it functions on multiple levels, right?
The same poem can mean different things to different audiences, and I'm thinking about this poem as on one level about that man box conversation, but on another level about the connections between the quote-unquote little things and the bigger things. Right? The small attitudes and action and habits and how those are deeply connected to larger systems and cultures and realities of violence and harm, and that's something that obviously plays out with gender, but think about that also in terms of like white supremacy, and colonialism, and transmisogyny, enablism, et cetera, et cetera. And I think that is something that we're gonna see throughout this conference, and I thank you so much to the organizations that put this together for making this that kind of intentional space. So ...
The weirdest thing about having your hand crushed, right? Is that the pair of eyes across from yours never stop smiling. As knuckles are compressed, as the skin is all but torn off the top of your hand, he always this grin on his face, even as the vein bulges from his neck he smiles until you grudgingly mumble, "That's quite a handshake." And he releases you. And see, as a young man, I was taught that ones masculinity was tied directly to ones handshake, right? That when meeting another man for first time no sin is more unforgivable than placing a fish in his hand, or the dead husk of a greeting. Your grip much be firm, right? Like the way you hold your briefcase when you walk through the office, or the way you, I don't know, hold the handle when standing up on the bus. Fine.
Some men however prefer a grip like a, I don't know, like a battleax mid-swing, like ripping the head off an antelope by tugging on the antlers. Some men treat every handshake as a gladiators death match, a test of strength, a test of will. When I meet these men, as I like weirdly often do, right? The tectonic plate handshakes never fail to illuminate my myriad insecurities. Frozen there with purple fingertips I'm reminded of the fact that I cannot stand the taste of beer, that cars confuse and frighten me, that I'll always skip leg day at the gym, that when faced with a barbecue and a pair of tongs I am going overcook the meat every time.
These men attempt to squeeze the testosterone from my body, and maybe I'm just insecure, but studying his smirk more closely I wonder if maybe that would make two of us, because as he wrings the color from my fingertips I find myself wanting to ask him, "Do you ever feel trapped? Like in the mornings when you're watching TV or whatever, and downing that protein shake made from raw eggs and liquified steak and Axe Body Spray, do you ever crush the glass between your fingers by accident? Do you ever get tired of that voice in the back of your head, you know the one that sounds just like Denis Leary telling you to constantly, every day, reaffirm that you are a real man by catcalling women, and eating enormous hamburgers, and getting into physical altercations over trivial nonsense, and I don't know, squeezing things, really, really hard?"
I find myself wanting to ask him, "Do you hold your wife's arm like this when you're angry with her? Is there a teddy bear somewhere in your history being ripped away from a pair of hands that just aren't strong enough? Do you remember the first time your father wouldn't let you hold his hand when you crossed the street? Do you remember the way he looked at you? Do remember being handed your first born son, and not knowing how to hold him? Do you remember squeezing his shoulders like this the first time he disappointing you? Do you remember what it was that you were trying to hold onto?"
And I know that there is so much space between us as men that sometimes we just feel compelled to cram as much contact as we physically can into every touch. I know we've become so comfortable with crushing, so hypnotized by our own strength, we forget how incredible it can feel to let go.
Keynote. A Love That is Motivated by Justice: Black Feminist Reflections on Manhood
with Dr. Beth Richie, Professor of Criminology, Law and Justice and African American Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago
“It’s not enough to take the coordinated community response road that we’ve been on and keep driving the same message about helpless, vulnerable victims and mean-spirited aggressors. It isn’t useful to portray women in the sympathetic light of a sort of gender-essential analysis that says we’re powerless to male violence. All of us are the same. Violence is equal to everyone. It doesn’t advance our work to yield to the pressure from powerful agencies like NIJ, CDC, HHS, the White House, the NFL, our campuses, wealthy foundations that won’t let us tell the real story of what this violence look like. They’ll define it instead of us.
It won’t help us. It won’t help us if we avoid issues like racism, like child abuse by women, like Islamophobia, like sex trafficking, like addiction. It won’t help us if we only argue the same arguments that we’ve had. It won’t help us if we protest only in ways that are acceptable to the mainstream. I want to be clear here, I want to be very clear to acknowledge the progress that I think we’ve made, and we have made a lot of progress, but I also want to realize that for me, in the last few months, this predates November, but want to realize that in the last few months, something from me about our analysis is missing. Something about our strategies are inefficient, and so today, I want to talk about love. I want to talk about how 40 years into this work, I am choosing to embrace love and how that informs radical activist vision of authentic masculinity and how it will help us to end gender violence.”
Beth: ... wish I were a spoken word artist, but I also felt very moved and compelled instead of reaching for your hand to give you a hug, so I'll do that from here. A love motivated by justice. Black feminist reflections on manhood. This is a story in four parts. Part one is appreciation. Peace and love, to you, might just as seeking family.
Greetings to all of you on this opening morning of this critically importance conference. The importance has become clear to me as I sat in this room, as I walked the halls to get to this space. We're invited here by A Call to Men to consider the many phases of manhood. I'm very honored to be here to share some of my reflections on what it means to empower men to be their authentic selves, accountable selves, intentional, accountable selves, Tony.
I'm humbled to be here. In fact, in a rare moment this morning, I was almost moved to tears while Tony was talking about this work, thinking about my relationships with many of you and the work that we've done for so long. I hold A Call to Men and the people who populate the organizations that have co-sponsored this event. Among my most esteemed colleagues, and really, some of the most devoted friends, real friends that I've had in the anti-violence movement. I've worked alongside many of you against gender violence for the last 40 years or so, especially in my work against violence against Black women and women who are incarcerated.
I think of this as my life's work, and I've grown up in this work trying, for years now, trying to end the tyranny of abuse and degradation, that sexism, white supremacy, classism, hetero patriarchy, and settler colonialism uphold, trying to end that tyranny. To me, our work is ending all of those forms of violence, so when we talk about all women, what we're talking about is all of the forms of violence that women experience.
I've done so in my writing when I talk about a prison nation. I've tried to talk different places around about intersectionality. Sometimes I'm yelling, hope I won't yell today, but yelling about the connections between various forms of injustice. For years, I've been trying to find ways to compel anti-violence activist to embrace an anti-racist, queer-positive, class-aware, community-informed vision of what ending gender violence would look like. An anti-racist, queer-positive, class-informed, community-involved vision of what ending gender violence would look like.
Like many of you traveling to many states around the country, some that were mentioned here, serving on many task forces, testifying adherings, writing proposals, presenting at conferences, arguing long into the night when the main parts of these gatherings are over, arguing with many of my feminist anti-violence friends, brothers, and sisters about the importance of the work.
Like many of you in the audience, including those who will sit with me on the panel following my presentation, we've been persistent in trying to find a way to shift the discussion about oppression and masculinity in order to confront gender violence in a fuller, more effective way. We've been trying to make that shift for years. I appreciate you all being here to try to do that again, and it's really challenging us to think beyond what we usually talk about, which is providing services for those who cause harm and those who are hurt.
Beyond counseling, beyond support groups, beyond peer education, beyond trainings, indeed, hundreds of thousands of women and some men and many children are safer because of that work, but what we're trying to do now, I think, in this work is besides the 2000 programs that we offer around the country and the hotlines and the federal legislation and the books, beyond the videos and best practices, we have to realize that what we have done is not enough, is it?
It's not enough to take the coordinated community response road that we've been on and keep driving the same message about helpless, vulnerable victims and mean-spirited aggressors. It isn't useful to portray women in the sympathatic light of a sort of gender-essential analysis that says we're powerless to male violence. All of us are the same. Violence is equal to everyone. It doesn't advance our work to yield to the pressure from powerful agencies like NIJ, CDC, HHS, the White House, the NFL, our campuses, wealthy foundations that won't let us tell the real story of what this violence look like. They'll define it instead of us.
It won't help us. It won't help us if we avoid issues like racism, like child abuse by women, like Islamophobia, like sex trafficking, like addiction. It won't help us if we only argue the same arguments that we've had. It won't help us if we protest only in ways that are acceptable to the mainstream. I want to be clear here, I want to be very clear to acknowledge the progress that I think we've made, and we have made a lot of progress, but I also want to realize that for me, in the last few months, this predates November, but want to realize that in the last few months, something from me about our analysis is missing. Something about our strategies are inefficient, and so today, I want to talk about love. I want to talk about how 40 years into this work, I am choosing to embrace love and how that informs radical activist vision of authentic masculinity and how it will help us to end gender violence.
In my talk this morning, I hope to convince you that if we approach ending gender violence as work about love, then other injustices will be on our agenda, and our work will follow a different path. If we talk about love, we will do anti-racist work, we will do queer-organizing. We'll work on behalf of disabled and undocumented people. If we talk about love, we'll work around elder abuse and for older folks and with young people. We'll work for children. If we talk about love, our legislation will look differently. It'll be more inclusive. It'll be more sustained, and our political work will be more about engagement rather than distance, about what we're fighting for rather than what we're only fighting against.
If we think about love, we will have a clear vision of the intersection between ethnicity, class, violence, sexuality. Radical love will help us make connections between things like education and violence and housing and homelessness and violence and health and human services and sexual assault and global warming, other environmental concerns, about religious persecution and about mass incarceration and how all of those things are connected to gender violence, deeply connected to gender violence in intersecting ways.
Part one of the story begins here where we open our hearts, our minds, open our bodies to feeling the search for authentic love being linked to accountable manhood and how that opens up a possibility of radical anti-violence activism.
I want to acknowledge as we move forward that there have been inadequacies in this work in part because we've closed off that side of ourselves that's willing to talk about love because when we talk about love, we also have to talk about pain, and some of us had been hurt. Some of us in this room had been hurt. We're not just talking about people that have been hurt. We are the people who have been hurt, deeply and profoundly hurt.
In many instances, these are not academic discussions, but painful realities of our lives. There are people here who are surviving every day over abuses and subtle expressions of oppression. It came from all around the country. That's what Tony helped us realize. We came as counselors and advocates and authors and support group leaders. We came from big and small communities, urban areas, rural places. We came excited and ready for new connections, but also reunions with old friends and ... But we also came because of pain.
I invite all of you to bring that pain as well as the work that you have done to resist that pain into this space this morning, intentionally, for it's in the holding of all of that, our strength and our weakness, our joy and our grief, our feeling real prepared, we're also feeling terrified about what to do next in our sense of community and our loneliness. It's from all of those places that we can really begin to talk about and work on radical love for justice. It's about being fully honest, which I think is a prerequisite for talking about and working on love.
Let me tell you about a few of the places that I'm coming from. I just came from having taught my first class at Stateville Prison, so a maximum security prison for men in Illinois. Most of the students in my class are serving multiple life sentences. It's unlikely that they'll ever leave Stateville. Most of them are there for some kind of violence, and whether or not it's the reason they're there, almost all of them have been involved in hurting women. All of them.
I come with them on my mind and in my heart, and I feel them with me. I feel their pain, I feel their sadness, I feel their remorse, I feel their anger, I feel their feeling caged in a place where they will spend the rest of their lives.
I also come from watching my neighbor's son, ironically, return from that very same prison. I'm joyful about his return because we worked hard in Illinois for a change in policy, a shift in policy around juvenile life without parole, so he was released. He was there because of violence that he used, sexual assault, and murder of one of his classmates. I'm grateful for his safe return, and I'm very worried about his future.
I come from having testified at a hearing for a woman who killed her abusive husband after he raped their daughter. She killed him. He raped their daughter. I feel raged that the system that failed her and our services that failed her daughter, and quite frankly, I feel worried about him. I'm feeling him too. He's facing time at Stateville Prison, and I may meet him some semester in the future when I'm teaching a class there.
I come from having just buried my partner Cathy's mother. She lived to be 85. She was married for 67 years to her gentle, beloved husband, and I saw in the family gathering to celebrate her mother's life, multi-generational sweet, Black love and sorrow.
A week before I went to her funeral, I went the funeral of a 24-year-old trans woman who committed suicide in Indiana. There, I felt the deep pain of violence, the deep pain of violence and fear that comes from silence and a visibility and hatred. I turned to look to see there if there were any anti-violence activist standing witness to what this horrific form of abuse was, and I felt alone.
I came from a protest in Chicago a few days ago for two of our students on the campus that I teach in, one whose sister was being deported in a few weeks. I felt the disbelief that many people are feeling about federal legislation around DACA right now. Disbelief. I also felt rage at the federal policy that would target and destroy community so viciously, and I felt curious about who is that affecting women. How is that affecting woman who are in vulnerable relationships?
I came anticipating going in a few months to the 30th anniversary celebration of the battered women's program that I helped to found in Harlem a few years ago. That was the first place I learned about radical love and survival.
This celebration recognizes the formulation of a organization that grew out of a social service agency that was full of racial consciousness in Harlem at the time, clear analysis and strategies around racial injustice and how that influenced health care and education and housing and transportation in Harlem. What it didn't include was an analysis of gender violence. That wasn't part of racial injustice at that time, from not just the male leadership, but also the women who were in charge.
It was where I first met an anti-violence group in the City of New York that was doing, opening shelters and setting up rape crisis centers. This was radical work at the time. No one had even calculated or thought about what the cost of this violence was.
At those meetings where there was such a clear analysis of gender violence, it felt like the understanding about oppression against women was like filling me up. It was a thirst I had that was being filled by the discussions at that meeting. Most of the women there were white. There was virtually no understanding of racial injustice, no ability to calculate how violence was different for the women that I was working with, worried about, and being in community with in Harlem.
Some of you may know the amazing book by Kitchen Table Press called This Bridge Called My Back. This Bridge Called My Back. I remember feeling like I would go to community meetings or organizational groups in Harlem and talk about gender violence, and I would go downtown to meetings at the growing anti-violence feminist grouping and talk about racial injustice and nowhere was there a possibility of having discussions about both, let alone having discussions about class or sexuality or disability. There was no place for an intersectional analysis. Both places offered a rhetoric that led me to have high expectations, but no place was there real work that could capture the kind of issues that the women and I were working on. I began to feel this urgency that has motivated my work since then. Quite frankly, I still feel it.
That brings me to part two of the story. Part two of the story is about violence as a strategy that's used to suppress love. Violence as a strategy that's used to suppress love. In part, this second part of the story is important because it allows us to think differently about hate. Indeed, we live in a world where hatred has become part of our daily social and political lives.
Now, I recognize that hate isn't new. It's not new to any group of us who have ever lived under the supremacy of race or class or gender. It's not new to those of us who've lived in abusive relationships. It's not new to any of us who have tried to survive with limited economic resources, but what's new is how publicly acceptable it is and how it's everywhere. That's new.
We see it in Charlottesville. We see it on streets of New York where children walking to school are threatened by bullets. We see it in hotel rooms in Chicago where girls end up dead in freezers. We see it on campuses in California where protesters are hurt by police. We see it in prison cells all around this country where bad conditions are going to get worse because of an reinvestment of private prisons. We see it in shelters in Houston and other places where conditions are intolerable and where reports of gender violence aren't covered, reports of gender violence in those shelters, those emergency shelters aren't covered by CNN. We see it on football fields where protests are essentially outlawed. We see it on the killing grounds of places around the world like Palestine. There's hate wherever those missing Native women are.
Everywhere I look, I see a renewed commitment to individual and structural violence used to control, degrade, discourage, humiliate, and sanction people, sanction women, sanction trans people, children, prisoners, protestors, worshipers, anyone who dares to try to live out their life, live out their life in an ordinary, peaceful way. Trying to go to school, trying to make dinner, trying to support their family, trying to express their disagreement with policy and politics.
These have become reasons to abuse and use violence, when really, what these people are doing, these targets of violence, are trying to go about living their everyday life. Now, I want to be clear that I'm not suggesting that all of that means that they are innocent victims because I think that's something that's gotten us in trouble in anti-violence work by only focusing on so-called innocent victims because someone gets to decide who's innocent and who's not, and therefore, who's a victim and who's not.
That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is what I see a renewed effort to control people through things like reproductive policy, an erosion of campus sexual assault programs, limit protest of NFL players and Black Lives Matters activists, criminalization of people, putting people into places where they have no other option but to feel like they are doing something against the law. I don't mean breaking the law, but doing something that's against or insulting to mainstream, ideas about what people should be doing. Crack down on people with HIV who, in fact, their partner, people with addiction problems being treated as criminals, people in juvenile detention who can't get their records expunged, et cetera.
That's not to mention what I talked about earlier about Islamophobia, attack on tribal rights with DACA. If we look closely at what this move to use violence, to excuse force, to advocate for sanctioning of people trying to be free, that's where I feel like our new work, a frontier of our work that's really about reclaiming love can take hold. Think about this. Much of the repressive violence that we see in families, schools, neighborhoods, et cetera, prisons, much of the repressive violence we see works because it makes people into objects so that the violence toward them is legitimate.
You've all heard this, right? Men who batter say that women can be hated, we can use violence against them because they aren't good enough wives. Police say Black boys can be hated, we can use violence against them because they're unlawful. Policy makers say that pregnant women who use drugs can be hated because they're going to be bad mothers. Students can be raped, and we don't have to protect them, we can hate them because administrators say they shouldn't have been there in the first place, and that people who use that violence have rights too. That's how that works.
This understanding of how violence is a result of hatred of people who are really just trying to be free. They're just trying to control their reproduction. They're just trying to protest. They're just trying to go to class. Hatred of people trying to be free is useful to our work to end violence against women for several reasons.
It's useful because it points to how certain groups, women who want equality in their relationships, poor people who want jobs, et cetera, those groups are threatened to those people who have power.
Second, it's useful because it helps us not pathologize those who are hurt, but rather, to focus on the people who are causing harm to them because they're threatened by people just wanting to be free.
Third, and this is maybe most important for us, it opens up a vision of justice where marginalized or threatened groups deserve our love and support and credit for their leadership and place a value in our communities as much as our sympathic intervention. They deserve our love, our support, to be recognized as leaders, valued members our community. They're not just victims. They're people who can teach us about freedom.
In some of my work, I talk about this shift turning people into hated objects. I talk about this as part of a prison nation, and in that work, prison nation, I share stories of women who've been harmed by gender violence, Black women who've been harmed by gender violence and are punished for the harm that they experience.
We can learn lessons both about hatred, about how the hatred that they experience affects them individually and how that hatred is reinforced by mechanisms in our society, but we also can see that if we, as a movement, if we loved them differently and we loved how they're trying to love and live their lives, we could do better, deeper, more comprehensive anti-violence work, more authentic work and work that's more accountable.
Part three of the story is how love improves the work for justice, how love improves the work for justice in the face of hatred.
If we start to see how loving those who are most vulnerable becomes an access point, loving those who are most vulnerable becomes our entryway into working for justice, our work, I argue, will be stronger. It'll be more authentic, it will be more accountable. It will mean that we will do more than provide services, offer treatment, create safe space or respond to crisis. These are important things. I don't mean to minimize them. They're necessary but not sufficient.
What do we really need to be doing? I argue we need to find ways to bring justice to those who are most vulnerable and at-risk so that they could live their lives fully. That helps us think about all women and all violence, that they can live their lives fully, so that they have the opportunity to love themselves, love their families, love their communities, and love our country.
Battered women and sexual assault survivors can then go to school. They can go to school. They can get an apartment. They could get health care. They could access to mental health services. They could get in buildings because building out be accessible. They can choose who they love and who they marry. They could become activist in our movements. That's what we would be able to do if we said we love them, and we will allow them to love their selves. This would be way beyond anything that we've imagined yet in counseling or in best practices or in training and technical assistance. It'd be about creating a different kind of world, a different kind of world where people can be loved and they can love as a political engagement, as a political engagement.
In the book Love Warrior, Glennon Melton says, "We know what the existing world really wants for us, don't we? However, we know we must decide whether to stay small, quiet, and uncomplicated or whether to allow ourselves to grow, to grow as big, as loud and complex as we were made to be."
Sounds like authenticity to me. Listen to this part, man, especially, she goes on to say, "Every girl ... " and here, I'm going to add every girl, every queer woman, every Black person, every disabled person, every immigrant, every imprisoned person, every young person, every Muslim, every addicted person, every poor person, every one of us must decide whether to be our true selves or true to the mean, cruel world we live in. We have to decide whether to be our true selves or true to the cruel mean, world we live in. Now, that's a framework, I think, we can use.
Finally she goes on to say, "Every girl ... " and I'm going to say every person, " ... must decide whether to settle for a visibility or compliance and the rewards that come from that or fight for love." I argue we have to fight for love. We have to fight for love in our organizations, in our relationships, in our political formulations, and we have to fight for love to change the world. That's a political understanding of love, people, and it explains, a political understanding of love explains how love is motivated by justice.
My point here is that men need to be engaged in what I'm going to call the project of radical love alongside other activists. To do so, manhood needs to encompass a kind of honest, fearless, self-reflective authenticity, and it must be boldly, boldly on the side of freedom against all hate. That's anti-violence work. Authenticity has to be embedded in that because that links it to accountability. Fearless, self-reflective authenticity, boldly on the side of freedom.
Brings me to part four. This is the last part of the story. This is the Black feminist reflection part. This is the part about all women that Tony referred to. It's a Black feminist reflection that allows me to have come to an understanding of radical political love.
A brief lesson in Black feminism would remind us that we understand the power, by understanding the power and pain of Black lives, especially Black women's lives, we understand something universal about struggle. Black women's lives have something to teach us about the universality of struggle and about resistance. Black gay activist and filmmaker Marlon Riggs said, "Black men loving other Black men is a revolutionary act." It's a revolutionary act today for Black men to love other Black men.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote about Black love as radical resistance to white patriarchy. Now, we need to think of it as white patriarchy and white supremacy. That's radical love to love ourselves.
When Alice Walker talked about loving Black men individually and collectively as part of a womanist understanding of how to advance gender equity, she wasn't re-inscribing heteropatriarchy, she wasn't talking about personal relationships, women as ways of loving Black men, but rather she was talking about community love for our people, at a time when our people are overtly and explicitly hated.
When Assata Shakur said, "We must love and protect each other," she was talking about how, in the face of pain and trauma and violence, we can take lessons form the kind of fierce and steadfast love that Black people have for one another. Not in a romanticized way, not discounting tension and pain, not denying that there is oppression even within our oppressed community, but rather, we can be reminded, we can learn from Black women who have survived violence about how to turn pain into power, how to decide when and under what conditions and even if to forgive, how to find strength and brokenness, and how to use angry, demanding, uncompromising love as a way to make change, how to keep love in the middle of everything we do to survive. Not just individual love, not just romantic love. Hope you all have to that too, but I'm talking about the kind of love that compels us to work against hate in all of its forms. Love motivated by justice.
I think if we can get this right, I think if we can get this right, we're going to understand that this kind of fierce love is contagious. We could bring more people into this work because it's instructive, it's radical, and it's generative. It leads us to the kind of world that we want to build.
A Call to Men invited us here to imagine that world, to give an opening for authentic manhood. Love has to be at the center of that. Love that's accountable, love that doesn't treat us as objects, love that doesn't tear apart the very fiber of our lives, love that says, "Yes, you can be many things, and oppression will come toward you from many sources, and we will hold all of that." Why? Because we love you.
I think about authentic manhood and radical love as deeply connected to this question of masculinity and power. Listen to what Dr. King said, "Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic." Love without power is sentimental and anemic. He said, "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice as its best is power correcting everything that stands against love." Let me read that again. "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."
This understanding of love, to me, is unapologetically radical. It's accountable, it's courageous, and it's empowering. It's the analysis that I'm going to use now to formulate my next steps 40 years later at 60 years old in the anti-violence movement. I think engagement with manhood, for me, is critical to this. Why? Because here among us is where I think we can best understand that what we need is love motivated by justice, by justice with joy for freedom with Black pride and with peace in our hearts. Radical, authentic, accountable love.
Roundtable Discussion: What We What to See from Men When We Think Authenticity
with Dr. Beth Richie, Nicole Matthews, Lina Juarbe Botella, Director of Training, A Call To Men; Eva Tenuto, Exec Director and Co-Founder, TMI Project; Beckie Masaki, Co-Founder, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence
“If men could show up as their authentic selves, when they are hurt, they wouldn’t react in anger. Right? And when they have the emotional side that, Tony, you were talking about, it wouldn’t come out in all kinds of other side ways. Right? Like they could show their authentic emotions. They could be who they are, or who they were meant to be.
When I think about Native men, or Anishinaabe, we do have cultural teachings. We have our seven grandfather teachings, and love is one of them. And truth, and honesty. And so when I think about authenticity, it means all of that. And it means that when men are hurt, they get to cry, and I get to cry, and we get to show up in that way, together, both with our rawness and our pain, and who we are. Right?”
Thank you for that. And I'm going to now invite my sister panelist to come forward to talk a little bit more about some of these, and share their brilliance, their ideas about accountability, authenticity, love, justice. The history of our work in this anti-violence movement.
I should say when I was invited to facilitate this discussion, love came to my mind quite directly. And it's both love of justice that I've been talking about but also the love for these women. Known them or of them for years and years, appreciated their leadership, inspired by their work and by their vision, humbled to sit with them, and excited to hear what they might say.
So, as a way to begin ... I know your names, I think, are on the ... There we go. Wow. Fancy. Their names are here. But I thought we might take a moment to go down the line and have you introduce yourselves, and tell us a little bit about where you come from and what got you here.
Lina Juarbe B:
Thank you. I met you, you know, an hour ago. My name's Lina Juarbe Botella, and I wear many hats and many identities. But today I come to you as the director of training for A Call to Men. And you said a little bit about us. When you said that, the first thing I thought about was about your conversation of love. I try to show up with love. I think that that's what I am. I was born with medicine of knowing, being blessed to know how to give love, and how to receive it. And to me, that's been a privilege to have it. Because many of people who have been my teachers around the process, we haven't had that opportunity. So I do think that love is the answer. That's what I wanted to share.
Thank you. And you do bring love so many places. Wherever you go, you bring love. You bring love. You start us out with love, and I have so much appreciation for that. Thank you.
Good morning again. It's nice to see you. So, again, I'm Nicole Matthews. I'm the executive director at the Minnesota Indian Women's Sexual Assault Coalition. And I think, for me ... We have a word in Anishinaabe, actually, we have more than one word, that describes love. And one of them that really resonates, that I think about with this topic, is [foreign language 00:03:04]. And it means "unconditional love". And so to really make space for what that means. The unconditional love, right?
So I come to this as a Native woman. I come to this as a mother of two daughters and a son. I come to this as a grandmother of a four-month-old grandson, who you will meet later, because I'm his day care. And I come to this as someone who really cares about my community, and I really resonate with what Tony spoke about earlier, that if you are going to say you are committed to ending the violence in a particular community, you have to be committed to working with their men. And when I think about ending violence, and authenticity of men, I think about, "What does that mean for our Native men and for our communities?" And, "What are those values and those teachings that we have inherent in who we are?"
Yes. Thank you. And thank you for offering us the possibility of many different words to describe love. Because "love" is insufficient, isn't it, to describe all of the things that we're talking about? So thank you.
I don't have a mic, so maybe I should ...
Oh, we can share.
I can have a big mouth, but the mic is probably better. Thank you so much for your words. I just feel so open-hearted after hearing you speak, today.
And so ready for what's in front of us for the next two days in such a different way than I had before you spoke. So thank you.
My name is Eva Tenuto, and I'm the executive director of a non-profit organization called "TMI Project". And we do storytelling workshops and memoir-writing classes where we get people to tell the TMI parts of their stories. And we identify those as the parts that people don't usually share, because they're too ashamed or embarrassed. And the parts that we keep closest to ourselves that usually are things that end up blocking us from moving forward, or making connections.
And I'm here today because we're partnering with A Call to Men, with Tony, and A Call to Men on a documentary project that we're working on with the Kingston High School football team in upstate New York, where Tony has come and talked to the boys about the "man box". And we are now working on having them write their personal stories so that they learn how to express themselves, and how to communicate in a different way. And I just met with the boys on Monday, and they've already shifted. So it's been an incredible experience.
When I saw the name of the project, I wondered ... Is "TMI" like what I think of as "TMI"?
And that's a good thing. Because I think it's a shift, right? To take claim of, and own the sense of our stories being important stories. That's what drives us to do this work, right? It's our stories and our relationships. And so I'm glad that you're taking "TMI" and reclaiming it. Again, it's a language issue, but it's really a profound political act.
And whenever anyone has seen our performances where men have been involved ... And it's few and far between. Mostly women sign up, if it's for the general public. But more and more, and the more we engage in communities like this, we hope that starts to shift. But people say, "I have never heard men communicate this way before." And so it's so important that we're not just sharing with each other, but also modeling that way of communicating publicly. Because it impacts all of the boys and men who are listening.
Good. Thank you.
I'm so honored to be here. I'm Becky Masaki, and I'm here. And I think that, actually, a lot of it ... I'm so grateful to be invited by Ted, and Tony, and Lina, A Call to Men. And I was thinking maybe that is part of it, this theme of love. Because I've always been championing the power of love. That's what we need, and the way that I have intentionally practiced and traveled through this life of ending violence against all women. And I'm looking at Beth, because, also, through these past 40 years-
40 years, yeah.
We have been, in many different ways, living the intersection of race and gender justice, and often been kicked to the curb or put to the sides. And so it is so meaningful to say and claim, "Yes. We are the center." And by doing so, it does lift all boats. All of our humanity.
And it also reminds me, Becky, with you at the other end of this line, that ... First of all, I love you. And it's almost like a secret that we have. This may be a TMI Moment. But there has been great love between and among the women of color who have had unrecognized leadership in this work for 40 years. And I look around the room, and I want to say, "You know who I'm talking about, right?" And it has profoundly changed us, but it's also profoundly changed this work.
And, to me, there's a moment of ... Maybe we're on the edge of having that work recognized, that the love that we have for each other and for our sisters and, yes, the men in our communities, has really laid a foundation for this discussion that we're having today. And I know A Call to Me recognizes that. I know that the people who are in the love circle recognize it. But I want the rest of you to know it, too. That this love thing has been going on for a long time. And it has, I think, been unrecognized leadership. I'm going to call it that. And I think our time has come. Unfortunately, because the hate has gotten so blatant, it's time to not have it be too much information, but the reality of our love coming forward.
So I wonder if we could spend a few minutes talking about this question of authenticity. And anybody can start. But I know for myself, when I was first invited to this conference, and I was so grateful ... I may have been invited before. I'm not sure. But this was the first time I could come. So if it's my first invitation, it doesn't matter. I'm glad I'm here now. But I remember thinking, "How do I think about authentic manhood? What does that mean to me? Is there one authentic man?" And maybe it's Tony. He certainly is, in my life. I've seen some authenticity coming from that brother like I didn't know was possible. But what does it mean? Or are there multiple forms of authenticity? Does it show up in different kind of ways? How's it connected to our daily work in our community?
So what is "authentic manhood", or "masculinities"? Let's put a plural on it. For you, what does it look like? And why does it matter? How does it move through your organizations?
So, I've thought about that question, as well. And I've struggled with it. And so I had a conversation last night with my daughter, who's 24, and I said, "So, I'm on this panel. We haven't really had a chance to talk. And I kind of need to process some stuff, like, 'What does that mean?'" And so we had this conversation about ... If men could show up as their authentic selves, when they are hurt, they wouldn't react in anger. Right? And when they have the emotional side that, Tony, you were talking about, it wouldn't come out in all kinds of other side ways. Right? Like they could show their authentic emotions. They could be who they are, or who they were meant to be.
When I think about Native men, or Anishinaabe, we do have cultural teachings. We have our seven grandfather teachings, and love is one of them. And truth, and honesty. And so when I think about authenticity, it means all of that. And it means that when men are hurt, they get to cry, and I get to cry, and we get to show up in that way, together, both with our rawness and our pain, and who we are. Right?
So I think about when my mother passed away three years ago, my brother ... He couldn't. He didn't know how to show up. So it came out differently. And so that's some of the stuff that's I've been thinking about.
Yeah. Thank you.
One of the things about authenticity ... It reminds me of what you said, actually, about ... There's always been hate, but now it's more acceptable to show it publicly. And I think about the emotional states or feelings that need to be closeted, for men. Right? And that authenticity doesn't look like one thing, it's the ability to look like all things, right? In public.
And I think about work we did with incarcerated teen boys who were all there for violent purposes, and had very, very limited experience being able to express themselves. And one of the things that I found that was so touching was that there were all these different ways that the staff used to incentivize them for behavioral reasons. The thing that they were most incentivized by were stuffed animals, because they wanted something to hold onto at night when no one was looking. But it was acceptable for ... They all shared that desire, because they're still little boys. And they're trying to be men. What what does "being men" look like?
So that was a real eye-opener for me. Also, in the work that we're just doing now, Tony presented a very powerful presentation for the entire football team, and at the end, we asked the room full of players, "How many of you would like to move on and take this workshop?" And not one boy raised his hand, because they couldn't admit in front of one another that they wanted to do the work. They want to do the work. We now have nine people who are doing the work, and they're eagerly showing up. Because they have so much that's right at the surface that is dying to come out, but they can't let each other know it. And so, to me, that idea of authenticity is really about being able to be more than one thing.
Yeah. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Lina Juarbe B:
I think about, when you say, "What's authenticity", I just want the circle of men in my life to have the opportunity to show a range of emotions. I have lived at ... The consequences of turning out, usually where ... Men being jacked up, right? Being constipated, emotionally, and I'm not trying to be funny. But just not able to express a range of emotions. There's a consequence to that. And I have lived at the end of that.
And I just think about, "What would it look like if they had the real, true opportunity for vulnerability," with the benefit ... I think again about that seven-year-old man, when at the end he said, "Oh, my God, how I could have shown up in a different way that would have avoided this tremendous ripple of pain." And the shame that he was carrying when he really was able to see it.
I just think that it's what collective liberation is all about, simplistically, really. And that if we want to create a different future, we can't do it without, this morning I invited you to do many things, without taking those risks. I think we all end up in the same space where we are. That it's more normal to talk about the violence that we see and experience every day, and it's kind of odd for me to say "I love you" to another man that I don't have a romantic relationship with. Or to have my son say "I love you" to me. I want to create a space that he can say that without ... Not wanting to do it at school, sometimes, right? So that's what I think about.
Anything to add, Becky?
I think that I really want to underscore, Beth, what you were talking about. Is just that honest, fearless self. So when I think of authenticity, it is that courage to just be our whole selves and not ... Like A Call to Men says. The box, right? Not a box. But, in fact, it does take courage to live your whole self outside and beyond a box. And I feel like, also, what we want to see from men when we think "authenticity" is that, for yourselves, and that, for seeing, recognizing, and opening up for all of us, across the gender spectrum. To be our whole, authentic, beautiful, loving selves.
So one of the things that occurred to me when you were talking is ... Actually, two things. This is to see if you can respond to this. One is that authenticity isn't always pretty. Sometimes if you're going to show up with an authentic self, it's like, "Are we sure that's what we wanted? Your authentic self. Could you keep that part of your authenticity away? I mean, I was talking about something else."
So I appreciate your thoughts about ... Authenticity can be complicated. It's not only attractive. And I think, related to that, is that love isn't always easy, or safe, or automatic. And so what do we do when this gets a little more complicated than this moment of, "We want authentic men, and we want to love one another." What about those harder situations where you can't find the love in yourself? You can't be engaged in a political love with people because they're being authentic, and you don't like that, right? How do we keep it complicated and real at the same time?
That's a great question, because it is true. A lot of times I've had that struggle where I really champion and talk about the power of love, but people think, "Oh, yeah, that means we don't have judgment, we just all care about each other." Even those that are doing harm to us, are facing us with racial and gender oppression. And so, no. It's standing up to that and actually being able to champion over and beyond that, through love. That doesn't mean accepting that injustice, but it's the way that we're going to get through it because of the bigger, collective love.
I think part of love in accountability, right? And so when you love someone, you're going to hold them accountable with love. And you're going speak your truth, and work through that together. I had a really interesting conversation with my coworker Comanche, who's here. Yesterday. And my hair was a little crazy yesterday, and he looked at me and said, "What happened to you?" He's like, "You're usually so ... Your hair is done." And we were talking about men's work, right? And he said, "Your hair is a really great analogy." I guess I'm glad I looked messy that day. But he said, "Women's work ... You guys have been doing this for a lot of years. And it's polished, and it looks right. And men, sometimes we show up and it's really messy." Right?
And then there's that unconditional love, like, "How are we making that space to still have that unconditional love and be engaged in that accountability?" And having those conversations about, "So where do we take this from here knowing that that is how people show up?"
Lina Juarbe B: I think that if it's not messy, it's not authentic. It's like doing anti-racism work. If it ain't messy and complicated, you are not doing the work. And so we have to figure out ways to bring love to the center so that we develop the stamina that it requires. And it requires stamina. If it's not complicated and messy, I think that what we lose at the end of the day is the possibility of real transformation. There's no other way.
Do you want to say anything?
You know, this idea that authenticity is not always attractive is really true. I don't want everyone to see my authentic self all the time. I keep some of that ... Even though I'm the director of TMI, I keep some of it behind closed doors, thank God. But I think it's an interesting question, especially in the context of manhood, because ... I think about this often with my nephew, who I'm helping to raise. There's a way that I want to teach him to be able to be, and there's also a way that's not yet safe for him to be in the world. And so I feel like it's a line that we're always walking on.
And I think about that in the work that we do, as well. I remember in the very beginning, early days, we had ... He was a straight man then. He's a transwoman now. But he came to one of our first workshops and talked about how much he liked wearing women's clothing, and wanted to do his story about that on stage in front of hundreds of people. And I had a lot of fear for him about what could happen if he went public with that story. And so, in my role, it's always supporting the person to tell the story that they're ready and comfortable to share, and never pushing. But that is messy, and it is dangerous, also. And there are risks that need to be taken. But I think that that has always been the case for what happens before change.
Lina Juarbe B: Can I add something?
Beth: Please do, yes.
Lina Juarbe B:
I think that part of this ... Maybe this is an overused terminology. It's kind of like a dance. Because I cannot say ... I do come with love to this work, even when we go to a community and Tony and I are like, "Oh, shit." Even when we have those moments, I'm in love with those people. And I'm up for the difficulty and the challenge. I think we have to love while ... There are times that you push. Because if I didn't love you, I wouldn't push you. And so, oftentimes, what I say when we're in community, I always say, "Hey, we're going to have fun together." Right? Because our work is hard. And one thing I can guarantee you for sure, I'm going to love you. I love you because you showed up. I said that to you this morning, and you know what? I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
But that doesn't come with my responsibility to seek to create space for you to be your whole self. But it does not mean ... I have to love you and push you at the same time. Because if not, if we don't risk that, we end up in the same place again. We end up in the same place again. So we have to find that rhythm. We have to find that rhythm. Because when I'm off, I want you to tell me. Right? But that requires ... How do you say in English? [Spanish 00:25:34]
Audience Member: [inaudible ]
Lina Juarbe B:
Thank you. That is it. And that is love. It requires space. And one of my biggest teachers, [Kaj Rava 00:25:51], when she was checking me in about something that I did not do well in a community, she said to me, "No worries. We're going to tell you. We're going to tell you when I check you in. We're checking you in." And she said, "But no worries, because I have time, love, and commitment." And so, to me, I live by that.
I live by that, and offer that to men, because even though they've created a lot of havoc in my life and in the lives of thousands of women, I just believe that we can't do it any other way. And I'm willing to risk it all. We got to be willing to risk it all. And not just, also, for the men that you love, and not only for the ones that are you sons. It cannot just be that. It has to be with all the men you don't know, as well. As we would say the same thing. "Value all women," right? So we have to be [inaudible] of their ongoing conversation.
Thank you. So we have probably about two minutes left, which gives you each a moment or two to make any concluding comment. Either a new reflection on authenticity or love, something you want to put out here as an invitation to the other participants of the conference, what your hopes are, unanswered questions ... Any last thoughts?
I would say that we need men to show up as their authentic selves, and to figure out what that is. Right? And we need all men to show up as their authentic selves, and in our tribal communities, we need equity and balance. And when men can show up as their authentic selves, we can restore that balance that we need.
I just think about what Tony had said earlier about being controlled and contained when you're in the "man box", right? And so I just would like to leave with an invitation to be messy over the next couple of days, and into the future. That it's the opposite of the "man box", is what we're talking about. It doesn't always look pretty. And it's hard to explore and navigate, but that's what we need from all of you to be able to try to do. It's a new way of being brave in the world, I think.
Becky Masaki: There's so many stories that are bubbling up, and memories, and things about how we lived. The intersection, and how we're moving forward. And what I'd like to invite all of us here is ... Yeah. Look at the past. Think about those things. Think about whose shoulders we're standing on, like Zora Neale Hurston, and Alice Walker. Beth. Myself. Others. But bring them to the present moment, and we are going to move forward together.
Lina Juarbe B:
I just want to remind us, really, that love is the primary ingredient. I know for some folks it might not sound ... I don't know. Academic, or professional. But at the end of the day, it's what my grandmother would've said. It would've been what my great-grandmother would've said. It would've been what my great-grandfather would've said. And we got to recognize that, that love is the primary ingredient for all. And to you, men, who are in this room ... We desperately need you. This is urgent. It is so urgent for us. Frankly, for your own soul, and for all the young men that you can impact that have an incredible ripple effect. You don't have to do it all. You don't have to have the right, exact word to say.
I have a core belief that love [inaudible] storytelling, and having that capacity for transparency. So if nothing else, If you leave on Friday, I'm just asking you to be vulnerable with somebody else. To share a story, maybe one that you've never shared before. And role model how to do that, because I talked about that word that I couldn't say. How do you say that?
Beth: Elasticity. Elasticity.
Lina Juarbe B:
So we need that with love, right? But we also need to figure out how to ... We need you to show that to other men. I want you to struggle with that. To tell another man that you love him. You know? And the moments that I'm most in love with my partner is when he kisses my son every night. And my son, who's exploring his gender, he loves to kiss his dad. And he's had friends say, "Why are you doing that? How come you're kissing your dad? That's nasty." And he has been able to say, at 14, now, "I love my dad. I love my dad." One of the quotes on the table says, "Love is the name of my father." I don't know who has it. You can have tremendous ripple effect.
And I just invite you. That makes me excited, even if it gets messy, and you get a little dented, here and there. Get a little dented here and there. Have a little conversation with someone that you've never had before, and then call us back. I'm committing to talk about it. You know? Let's figure it out.
Beth: Keep it going, yeah.
Lina Juarbe B: Yeah. Keep it going. There's no other way. Oh, why am I giving you this? You have one.
No, no. No. Well, so, thank you all for those gems. I wish we had more time to ... hear from you. What the ... Thank you. Thank you, thank you.
I think what we have is the gift of your wisdom, your thoughts, your responses. But also the beginnings of conversations, right? This is, for many of us, the first time we've thought about there issues in this way. And as you move through the next day and a half, with gratitude for the lessons that we've learned, with challenges for the things that have been put out there, I don't want to just make sure that, as you hold the love, and the desire for authenticity, and the need for accountability, that we remember that we're talking about a radical politic that will lead to not just safety and security, but real freedom. And I think that's what our vision and our goal is. And with that, I appreciate you. Appreciate your witnessing this, and I appreciate the panel, for your wisdom.
Becky Masaki: Thank you.
Eva Tenuto: Thank you.
Last Words (pt1)
with Alexis Flanagan, Resonance and Core Trainer, ACTM
“One of the many things that the man box demands of men, as you’ve heard so many times this morning, is that they stop short, way short, of being their authentic selves. Men and boys, whether they’re straight, gay, cisgender, transgender, gender non-conforming, when they display the authentic parts of themselves that don’t fit into the man box, other men are socialized at the very least to ridicule them or to use violence against them to make them conform. And yet, at A Call to Men event, time and time again, when I witness men responding to our commitment to meet men where they are without blaming and shaming them, with curiosity and a willingness to try something different, it stirs up hope in me for a world that includes their liberation as well as mine.
I’m inspired by the moments of self-awareness with men in our training spaces that are marked by observable physical changes in their body language. They become more open and more engaged, for example. That reminds me of the internal shift that happens in me when I notice a habit that’s no longer serving me and I realize that I have other options. This readiness and openness to personal transformation is what we hope to inspire and to catalyze in these days together.”
I am tickled. I'm absolutely tickled as I'm sitting here listening to everything that has happened this morning.
This beautiful invitation to be our authentic selves, to feel ...
Speaker 2: I think that's me. I don't know what to do.
Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:00:22].
Speaker 2: No, I'm [crosstalk 00:00:22].
That's okay. I'll stand over here. This invitation to feel and to bring our whole selves into this space. I'm tickled, and the reason why I'm tickled is because I know my conference self. If I'm being honest, if I'm being authentic, my conference self shows up at a conference because I was ready to get out of the office. I'm really happy not to have to be there for the next couple of days. I'm going to sit back and check Facebook, and I'm just going to listen to a couple of things here and there. Maybe there's a few important things that are going to stick with me, and I'll mention it when I go back and give my report back, but really, I'm not going to put my whole self in. I'm not going to lean in. I'm not going to open myself up, and I'm truly not going to be transformed.
My name is Alexis Flanagan. I'm a core trainer here at A Call to Men. I'd like to share something with you about my experience bringing my conference self into A Call to Men. I grew up in a family full of women. 17 to three is the ratio of women to men among my first cousins. Both of my grandfathers were ancestors before I was born, and my home was balanced, though. Me and my mom, my brother and my dad. We had large family gatherings for holidays and birthdays and funerals and reunions. They were joyful. They were filled with love and food and belly laughs. Even though our crammed living and dining rooms were overflowing with mothers and daughters and sisters and aunties and cousin besties, the heart of so many of my soulful and youthful memories were the laughs of my dad and my uncle. The men in the room.
Each of their laughs were memorable and distinct, and either connected to some corny joke they had told or poked fun at one of us finding our way through adolescence and trying to find our place at the grown folks' tables.
When I joined A call to Men a year and a half ago, I'd been working for 11 years in mainstream anti-violence organizations. I was drawn in to A Call to Men by the interconnected values of holding men accountable for creating, maintaining, and benefiting from male dominating culture and loving men.
The first few hours in a room with mostly men talking about this work, its impact on them, their desires to show up more powerfully, to promote healthy, respectful manhood and end violence against all women and girls was culture shock. The spaces in which I have engaged this work have been, honestly, cisgender women spaces primarily, almost exclusively. I remember feeling awkward and out of place at our gatherings. It felt like I was spying on some secret club, and the experience was disorienting and confusing, and I tried to make sense of my role in that space as a black, cisgender, queer woman.
Honestly, I was on high alert. All of my black feminist sensibilities were sensing and scanning the environment, scanning the conversations for violations, for micro-aggressions, for erasures, for flaws. You all know how we do. When I could become aware of my breath and take a few deep ones, I was able to access awareness of this habit and name it as hyper-vigilance. Hyper-vigilance that shows up for me when I'm in dominant culture spaces. In that moment, I chose to breathe. I chose to breathe through the hyper-vigilance and instead become present to what was actually happening in the room.
Men were there sharing their hearts, taking risks, being vulnerable, and struggling together to undo their own socialization while preparing to invite and lead other men to do the same. I opened up. I opened up to bear witness to men practicing authenticity with one another, being their whole selves, trying and succeeding, trying and failing, loving and supporting each other through it all. This practice was familiar to me, even if the people were not. I was sure I was in the right room.
One of the many things that the man box demands of men, as you've heard so many times this morning, is that they stop short, way short, of being their authentic selves. Men and boys, whether they're straight, gay, cisgender, transgender, gender non-conforming, when they display the authentic parts of themselves that don't fit into the man box, other men are socialized at the very least to ridicule them or to use violence against them to make them conform. And yet, at A Call to Men event, time and time again, when I witness men responding to our commitment to meet men where they are without blaming and shaming them, with curiosity and a willingness to try something different, it stirs up hope in me for a world that includes their liberation as well as mine.
I'm inspired by the moments of self-awareness with men in our training spaces that are marked by observable physical changes in their body language. They become more open and more engaged, for example. That reminds me of the internal shift that happens in me when I notice a habit that's no longer serving me and I realize that I have other options. This readiness and openness to personal transformation is what we hope to inspire and to catalyze in these days together.
In the last year, we've grown and stretched together as a team. Being in a room with these guys feels like being at Granny's house cutting up with my uncles, and it has the elements of home and family. The radical love and trust that makes it possible for us to see each other and to be seen, to hold each other as we transform together with all of you who care about ending violence against women and all girls.
I do this work with authenticity and hope for healing of men and boys who are in pursuit of respect and safety for all women and girls, and I do it in accountability to the communities I love. For me, showing up in love means that I show up with my black feminist sensibilities. It means that I show up accountable to my queer community and my trans brothers and my trans siblings. It means that I show up in accountability to survivors. It means that I show up knowing that I bring all of my experience, all of my pain, and all of my love with me into this space, and I can choose. I can choose today to be my conference self or I can choose to be open to something that can catalyze the shifts that we need to usher in the world we want. I invite you to breathe. I invite you to choose. Enjoy your day.
The Many Faces of Manhood: Men Embracing Our Authentic Selves – Challenges and Rewards
with Trina Greene Brown, Resonance;Ted Bunch, Chief Development Officer, A CALL TO MEN; Neil Irvin, Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape; Wade Davis, Senior Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, YSC; Ed Heisler, Executive Director, Men As Peacemakers, and Core Trainer, A CALL TO MEN
Please welcome to the stage, Trina Green Brown, Ted Bunch, Neil Irvin, Wade Davis and Ed Heisler.
Tony: Before we get started, I just have to welcome someone who's been with us since this morning. Chelsea, are you here? I want to introduce you all to someone. This is Chelsea and I always have a hard time with the name. [inaudible 00:00:31]. Chelsea is one of our volunteers. She's come to us through the Raven Group by way of [inaudible 00:00:39] violence. Chelsea's a incredibly young woman, Stanford Grad, 2015, did great at Stanford, also ran cross country and track, and then in her junior years switched to rugby. So we're supporting Chelsea and I want you all to just give her some encouragement as you her through today and tomorrow, but we're one of her sponsors, A Call to Men is, because she's training for the 2020 women's rugby team in the Olympics.
Chelsea is no joke. So we're glad you're here with us Chelsea, we love you, and keep up the good work.
Trina: Yay, Chelsea.
Tony: [inaudible 00:01:22]
Trina: I see you boo.
Tony: [inaudible 00:01:23]
Trina: Good afternoon everyone.
Tony: [inaudible 00:01:26]
Group: [Good afternoon 00:01:26]
Trina: We'll try that again, I know it's the end of the day; but let's try that again.
Good afternoon everyone.
Group: Good afternoon.
Trina: Alright, so I'm Trina Green Brown and it's a honor to facilitate and moderate this panel of some incredible, exceptional men that we know in this work. We've heard a lot today about what does it mean to embrace our authentic selves, what does it mean for men, how can men embrace their authentic selves; and so this group is tasked with talking about what are some of the challenges and what are some of the rewards of men embracing their authentic selves. So we're gonna dig into that and I'll just name that- first off, one of the challenges in conference setting to men embracing their authentic selves is things like this. Like, it's a main stage, there's lights: it's hard to really be your authentic and whole selves on a public panel, but that's what I'm inviting y'all to do.
So we talked on a prep call and I said the key to authenticity is vulnerability and revealing pieces of yourself. That might feel hard and uncomfortable, but I'm inviting you into that space, although it be public.
Earlier today Alexis said, "We all have our conference selves and then there's this different panel presenting conference self, where you have to be like, 'Hello, my name is so and so and I'm an expert in this area.' and we're gonna throw all that out."
So guys throw it all out. We're not- literally throw it all out with your bodies. Look it- y'all so tight. Thank you. Let it go. Throw it out. Let it go.
Alright, so we're gonna jump in with some authentic storytelling. And so I want you to introduce yourselves, but not like you're on paper bio. Not that one. Your like authentic selves. So tell us a little bit about who you are. And I invite you to share a piece of yourself that feels vulnerable, that has been challenging to share, since we're talking about what are the challenges.
So welcome. Who wants to go first?
Ted: I'll take the shot.
Wade: Okay. [crosstalk 00:03:38]
Trina: Thank you Wade.
Wade: Go head, yeah.
Ted: Okay, I will. Thank you my brother. Thank you Trina. Good to be here on the panel with you guys and I appreciate you wanting to start off. But I wanna jump in here because one of the things I wanna share around authenticity with my relationship with you. And so Tony- when Trina said be authentic, Tony said, "Yeah, that means you."
And I'm like, "I can be authentic, Tony."
So, not my conference self. My name's Ted. While I am the co-founder of A Call to Men and the chief development officer, I'm also a father and a man; and a man who continues to learn what manhood is, what fatherhood is, what being in a relationship with people is. I have three children. One child who is an adult, another who's in college now, and then another. And one of my childs just came out this summer, who I'm very proud of, and we're celebrating him for that.
And so I was- I wanted to go first because when we- when I first- when we first met Wade, right? When I first was even talking about this conversation with Wade, and Neil, and myself here and when I was gonna meet Wade I had seen his Ted Talk. If you all wanna see a wonderful Ted Talk, it's on masculinity, Wade Davis, it's excellent. Tony also has a very good Ted Talk. GQ magazine said it was top Ted Talks every man should see, outstanding Ted Talk. Really powerful messages from both of these men.
But what was interesting- and we were on the conference call planning this with Trina. We were talking about being authentic and we're talking about- you know, I'm thinking as far as work, I'm thinking as far as working with others, and then we said, "No. We need to delve deep into our authentic selves, me."
And I said, "you know, when I was gonna be on-" when I first met Wade- we've done a thing around black and brown girls. We have an initiative, A Call to Men, around black and latino girls in particular who are missing and who are running away from home, and really calling on African American and latino men around the country to get involved. If we don't do something who will?
So we were- had a think tank [inaudible 00:06:02], Trina was there, and a number of others. And as I was going into the room, knowing that I've heard Wade's Ted talk, and he's an out gay man, and I'm preparing myself for being in the room with an out gay man. Like I need to prepare myself. Like, okay, what's he gonna think of me? Am I gonna say the right things? Right? So being authentic now, alright? Being authentic. So all of this is going through my head, even as being the co-founder of this organization, right? This anti-sexism organization. This organization who works with the margins of the margins and worrying about my own homophobia, how's that gonna play out? Am I gonna say something wrong? Heterosexist? Because we're all homophobic, we're all heterosexist, how can we not be? That's how we're- that's our socialization. It's- we have to be intentional about not being.
Neil: [inaudible 00:06:55]
Ted: Right? Cause it's counterintuitive to the messages we're getting, isn't it?
Ed: We learn that on our own.
Ted: That's right. So being our authentic selves is saying, "Man,"- Y know like I am looking at myself as I'm preparing to meet with these brothers and I'm laughing at myself, but I'm also- there's some anxiety. I'm like, "Man I don't wanna say anything that's gonna- I don't wanna say anything wrong. I don't wanna do anything wrong." And just being my authentic self is enough, I know that, because part of being our authentic selves is that, if it's truly authentic, then you can work with that, can't you? You can work with me if I'm authentic and I mess up, right? You can work with me.
So that's where the authenticity is really something that's very important and something we need as men. So anyway, I'll start there.
Trina: Thank you. Neil, would you like to introduce yourself? Or was Wade ready?
Wade: No, I'm-
No, Wade go please, I don't care.
Wade: Hi everyone. Wow, thank you for sharing that, Ted. I'll dovetail that and say that watching Byron's documentary on hazing- so some of you may not know I'm a former NFL player and hazing was a part of high school, not so much in college, and not so much in the NFL. But I was similar to Byron, I was a bully in high school, and I was a bully because I wasn't out as being gay. But as I was watching the film I was just wrestling with why was I doing that and I really- I think about- it was just me wanting to be loved.
That was at the root of it. I wanted- Yeah, I wanted to be accepted. Yeah, I wanted to be a part of something. But really I wanted someone to love me, because I didn't love myself. I just- I didn't have that skillset, I didn't have a practice. So when I tour around speaking and stuff I typically wear an activist shirt and I had one on earlier today, but I was being selfish and I had some french fries and I spilled something on it. So I wanted to own that and just say hey like, "I'm not in my normal outfit that makes me feel really confident."
Cause I grew up also with a speech impediment, so I'm always worried about stuttering. So I'm just gonna [inaudible 00:09:17] my authenthic self and say, "I don't have my Superman shirt on, but I'mma do my best."
Neil: That's good.
Trina: Thank you.
Ed: [inaudible 00:09:25] Well hello everybody, my name's Ed Heisler, and in my day to day life I'm the director of Men As Peacemakers; I get to be a core trainer for A Call to Men. And also in my day to day life I'm a husband. I have an incredibly kind, amazing wife named Jen. She's a third grade teacher. So that's a big part of who I am. I grew up an athlete in a small town in Wisconsin and I maintained that competitive streak by loving board games and goofiness. And I have this- I have a pretty significant case of hair envy that I deal with. And I have this sort of- I'm 34 years old and I'm just waiting till I'm over the age of 50 so that I can be bald, and grow my hair out like all the way down to my back, and maybe have a motorcycle, or a moped, or something like that, and feel that hair in the breeze. I mean, those sorts of things are something I'm really looking forward to.
But also, on a more serious note, the reason that I'm even here in the first place comes from- you know I had an upbringing where I came straight out of the man box, you know? Athlete, looked at the world through a lens of United States is an equal platform, everybody's on equal footing, it's individualism, it's personal choice, all of that kind of stuff. And my process of getting to the place where I get to do this work with people every day has involved everything from an out lesbian woman when I was in college calling me out when I said, "I don't think sexual assault is actually an issue. I don't think that women should be carrying around mace. I think they just need to take control of their own sort of destiny and step into their own power, right?"
And her having conversations with me about how that wasn't actually the reality that she was living through: it meant graduating out of college and having folks like Tony, and Ted, and Pang Tao, and Sarah Curtis, and others talk to me about the way that we were doing our work. I'll never forget Tony sort of telling me about our boys group, it was run by white folks, exclusively, but had predominantly boys of color in the groups at the time.
He said, "That's one of the more racist things that you could do, right? You're teaching values to boys and you don't have anybody who reflects their community in that room with them, helping them share those values?"
So the sort of version of me that people get to know on a personal basis, get to play boardgames with, is constructed by all of these men and women, people like Lena, who have invested love, and time, and conversation into me. And I think that that's really a reflection the community we're trying to all create together.
Neil: So let me go into my authenthic self I guess, I'm Neil Irvine.
Trina: Go deep.
Neil: Go deep, okay. I work at Men Can Stop Rape and my passion for this work is not around gender based violence prevention, or sexual assault prevention, and that may sound strange for someone who is now- I'm going into my 18th year at Men Can Stop Rape. But as much opportunity as there is to do this work across the country, I'm always really pleased and excited when Ted and Tony give a call to come and be with these brothers and to learn from so many of the men and women in this room. Tonya Lovelace, and Beth Richie, and I see Nicole over there, and there's my girl Becky Masaki. I mean I come here to get reenergized. I think it is the thing that I'm always confident about. I see my man Jason Page coming in, who works with our young people, and our college Christina Gilcrest came back. When I'm here with you all, I don't have to teach, I don't have to perform or role model, I can be messy here, and you all can hold me accountable. I can ask difficult questions, and I can say, "you know, this is really pissing me off. What do you all think about this?"
So what I really fell good about this is it really speaks to the hard work. I've seen every film Byron's made, and my man Quinton Walcott is a constant resource to me. I see my man Jeff over there. So I just come here to get reenergized, and it feels a little selfish, but it feels also like the best of self care to have a network of people. As I say to the boys and young women that we work with in Washington D.C., and have said now for 18 years, you are gonna help me raise my children. And there have been many moments where I have called former members, or they have dropped by when the children are with me, and I've had my children seek their council. I'm dad, I'm supposed to say and do the things I do. But when the young people that we've worked with role model, or communicate, or interact with them. I know that those are moments that have just transformational impact in my own children's lives, and the young people that we work with.
So I'm just blessed to be here. I not a particularly religious person but I'm just so honored every time I have an opportunity to just be with you all, and to learn, and to just take care of myself.
Trina: Thank you. Nice meeting you all on a deeper level. Thanks for revealing those pieces of yourselves that- just the pure desire to want to be loved, the fear of not getting it right or misstepping when it comes to homophobia or gender equity, not knowing it all in the beginning and still learning, wanting to be in learning stance, right? So that is what it means to model and practice vulnerability and give your authentic self. So I really appreciate that and honor you for doing that.
Now, in regards to authenticity, and authenticity requires a lot of risk taking, and so it's sometimes not often safe for folks to be their most authentic selves. So I'll go with you, Wade first- like we know that the level of risk increases or decreases based on a man's identity, his race, his orientation, his class, and the multiple identities could increase or decrease your level of risk when you're being vulnerable. So Wade, what are some of the challenges that you feel men of color specifically face when they're trying to be their authentic selves? What are the challenges or barriers for men of color?
Wade: Yeah, so I think there's a lot of challenges that we face and I know that we had the pre call, but I thought a lot about my pre call, some I'm gonna do a audible a little bit. And what I've been thinking about a lot is, and we talked about this a little bit, is that I don't believe in this idea of safe space. You know, like what's safe to me is not safe to you. I think there are safer spaces, right? And one of my favorite people in the whole world, what bell hooks teaches us, we have to learn to stand in the circumstance of risk, right? And that people of color, people who are marginally oppressed, indigenous folks, differently abled folks, they always stand in the circumstance of risk. They have no choice because they're still here, right?
And then I was reading this article and it said that men commit suicide 3.5 times more than women, and that white men account for 7/10 suicides in this country in 2015. So what I got to thinking about is that actually when you're an oppressed person, you know what risk taking feels like; because your whole life has been that. Like just waking up, you know? That's why we have terms like black girl magic. It's not that black women are superwoman, but the fact that you all are still here means that there is some magic happening, that you know how to stand in the circumstance of risk, and you've done that forever.
Neil: That's right.
Wade: So I think we actually kind of need to push the conversation a little bit and go- we actually need to teach other folks how to take real risk. Specifically folks who commit- like teach men, because black women, indigenous folks, trans folks- we honestly have to say words like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, [inaudible 00:17:33] we actually have to say those names. Those are risks that will have to take in the spaces that you exist in.
You know, Mya Andrews says that the most important virtue is courage, because if you don't have courage no other virtue can be practiced consistently. We gotta have courage to say these actual words out loud. Those are some risk that we can take. So I would say that we can't be afraid to say the names of folks who are taking real risk. We can't be afraid to follow the models of women who have showed us what risk taking actually look like. And [inaudible 00:18:04] they're our new sponsors. They're our mentors cause you've been doing it forever and you are still here.
So men you know how to take risks? Just read a book written by some women. There is some amazing queer feminist literature that you just gotta pick it up, and it's right there in front of you, and you go, "Oh my god, I know how to take risks. I know how to be courageous."
Cause it's all there for you: just read.
Trina: Read a book. Read a book.
So thank you Wade.
So if that- if it's just so simple, what gets in the way of men being their authentic selves? What are the barriers?
Ted: I think fear is a major, major obstacle for men. Fear, being vulnerable, what that means, letting go of control, all of those things really are factors in our being our authentic selves. You know, worried about how others will perceive us. I really [inaudible 00:19:10] fear- we talk about a lot at A Call to Men when we're talking to men. Really that fear is really something that paralyzes us. So afraid. Even afraid to ask for help.
You ask your average man if he needs help- you see the world falling down around him, it's crumbling around him, and you ask him, "Hey man, are you alright?"
And what does he say to me folks?
Group: I'm good.
Ted: I'm good.
World is crumbling. I've been there also where it's hard to ask for help. I can do it. I don't need help. You know? And I think that, as- certainly in my own growth, I'm past that; but still it comes up. It comes up sometimes where you don't wanna ask for help, you don't wanna be vulnerable, you don't wanna say that you need something, you don't wanna have to lean on anyone: all of those things. And I think that, for men of color also, it can be even greater.
And I think there's a lot of shame, as men, cause there is shame attached to us asking for help. That we're not man enough. That we're not living up to the expectations.
Neil: [inaudible 00:20:18]
Trina: [inaudible 00:20:18]
Ed: Well, i think- so, from my perspective- so I can- from the perspective of being a cisgendered straight white man, there's a real difference between being an authentic man and the way that we perform being men. And so one thing that I notice about my experience as a white man is that the performance of my manhood has been more open to me than it is for many folks who wouldn't be able to identify as white.
In fact, as I went through a process of learning and growing- I mean, I could take all sorts of risks, I could go outside of the box in a bunch of different ways. I didn't fear for my safety and often times I'd end up being rewarded actually. People would think it was pretty cool that I was taking those risks. And then I could choose to go back into the box when I wanted to go into the box and sort of leverage that piece of the traditional masculinity. So I sorta had that flexibility, and have that flexibility in the performance of my masculinity and my manhood.
But being an authentic man, to me, is another thing. And I think that that, when you have the dominant identities sort of piled on top of one another, it feels like the layers that have to get peeled off. You're a man, you're also a white man in a white supremacist society, you're a straight man in a society that values straight people over gay folks and LGBT community, and the fact that you're taught to be a man in that way that separates you from people so much so that you can benefit, or at least maintain the benefits of your community, and in your society, that's pretty different. So the process of figuring out and learning to take the risks-
Neil: Read the books.
Ed: Actually take those steps that feel risky, that feel vulnerable, that feel like: if I do this, everything might change. That's a different thing entirely. And I think white men are in a position where I see a lot of that playing out.
Neil: I mean, I guess with me working with young people, doing it for the while that we've done it, the obstacles are the same. The same that they've always been. I guess where I feel encouraged is that there are the opportunities, they feel- in some ways they're fixed. So the risks are known. And as we keep evolving as a community, and we keep improving how we respond, it feels like we are more proactive and more transformational than we were when I first met Ted or Tony. And we were reacting then. We were trying to earn accountability. We were trying to really be- and ourselves as men, be authentically accountable.
I think now the muscle memory for many of us continues to improve, so that we're on this journey that allows us to look at these obstacles as a part of this journey we're on. And, in terms of working with young people- you know, Juan Ramos was talking earlier working- some of the gang work that he does. And the credibility of, "Yo, I've been there before. I know exactly what you're talking about." has made our work, I think, more impactful.
And so the obstacles I think are still the same, but our response to them I think has evolved. We've gotten more sophisticated, there's men and women in this room that I don't know, and that wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago.
Trina: So we've been at it- you've been at it, y'all have been at it for 20 plus years doing this. So then what are the rewards? What have you seen in your personal life, in your professional life, what have you seen the rewards of men embracing their authentic self? What's the benefit?
Neil: If I may. Again, my colleagues and I get to work with middle schoolers, summer camp for elementary school students, [inaudible 00:24:41] club and our Women Inspiring Strength and Empowerment program. Our work is indeed not just Men Can Stop Rape, but my colleges here, and so many of you in the community. We're winning in a lot of ways. We are having the impact in communities lives that we've always wanted to have.
And thankfully that the women's movement allowed us this space to try to learn how to be accountable again, how to be authentic, how to support women's leadership so that we can role model for our boys, and for the young people that we serve, the benefits of living a healthier, nonviolent, socially emotionally connected life. I see it in urban, rural, and suburban communities across the country with young people who think some of the struggles that we dealt with, as a community and as a field, is foreign to them.
And so I think that is a product of the work that we have been doing, an outcome of the work that we've been doing, that young people are continuing to- I don't wanna say push the boundaries, in terms of confrontation. But are continuing to evolve in their wisdom and in their sophistication and we've gotten better at supporting and role modeling for them what healthy humanity looks like.
So, for me- I said this to Beth this morning. I thought her comments about love were so functional, that they are a tool [inaudible 00:26:00] I've asked her to share it with us because I think they are a tool that everyone needs to use in the communities you work with. Love as a functional- it's Home Depot. She gave us Home Depot today. You can build whatever you want out of what Beth said today. And I think that that is a product of her not only great wisdom, but all of the collaboration in this room right now for many many years. So I think there's a lot of outcomes that really speak to how hard and how committed so many of you have been in your communities.
Wade: So I spend most of my time either in locker rooms with pro athletes, college or high school athletes, and when I- I cut my teeth working at a LGBTU organization in New York City and they introduced me to what freedom looked like. They really did. And when you see a 13 year old trans girl on a New York City train smiling, you know that she's touching freedom.
And the benefits, for me in my work, is that I get to- I get men to touch freedom. Even if it's for just a moment. And then they can also, to dovetail off of what you were saying, and what Beth said this morning, they could start to learn what it's like to love themselves, and it gives them a chance to love others.
Neil: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Wade: What I do, my workshops and trainings, I talk about the inner section of sexism and homophobia; that the root of homophobia is sexism. So you can't be doing LGBT inclusion if you're not talking about sexism. And to get me to just step back and just to pause. And when you get men in a space where they can be vulnerable enough to say, "Hey, Wade, I like you but I'm really struggling with this gay shit."
And my next comment is, "Well, tell me more."
Right? To create the space for them to keep having these conversations, and to wrestle with them, and to not- as James [Ball 00:27:57] would say, "I'm in no moral space to judge anybody." Right? But what I can do is try to create spaces where I can hold men accountable and keep wrestling with them. You know, keep dancing with them. And I think that that's the reward, is that everyone starts their journey. And it may not- and I don't expect that journey to end after one or two training sessions. But if the journey starts, if I can just give them a kickstart, then they got a chance to touch freedom.
Ted: I love that, tell me more. I love that. And what resonates with me when you asked your question was freedom. That what's the reward is freedom. You know, I'm able to be free. And over the years we've developed relationships with each other where I can be free with Gale, and Anne, and Wade, and free with you all. That it's a safe place for me to be, and there can be safer places I'm sure, but I feel within myself that there's something within me.
And I remember early on- and I did this with primarily the men of color who are in the field. As Tony and I decided to do this thing, years ago, and I remember meeting Q, Byron, another guy named Don McFearson- there were a couple other men of color who were doing the work. And when I met them, one of the first things I said to them was like, "We wanna always collaborate."
I wanna be aware that the dynamics between us is to dominate each other and I don't wanna do that. Like let's name that- I don't wan- so you'll always see us in collaboration. We don't wanna do what men do, which is dominate each other. Even within the field, cause I've seen it. I've seen it. We- I've seen it. I don't need to go into detail, but I've seen it. I've seen it.
Ed: Talk about it.
Ted: And so that's been something that's always been- you know, understanding how their socialization plays itself out in the room where we are, and being able to call that out, and to name it. So I think there's a freedom that comes with it that's important to say.
Ed: And I think- I mean that sort of echoes what everybody is saying here. But this idea of talking about what the next generation of manhood looks like, is such a beautiful idea; because the man box, the way that men are socialized, with all the different combinations of how that can look, it is about separation. It's about separating us from ourselves. It's about separating us from other men. It's about separating us from other people completely. And when we're in that place, that is not- that's not the expression of my full humanity.
So throughout- when I think about my life trajectory, I started out with a community that was about this big, and we had a sort of, what I would call, kind of a delusional form of reality that we had set up for ourselves. It involved only- pretty much only white people. Only people who fit into the same categories that I do. And as I started to expand out of that, it started to create some real dissonance. So am I supposed to just disappear? Am I- can I be useful to people? How to I have to perform to be able to live up to these people that I haven't been around, that I haven't known, that I haven't understood their reality in the past?
And to continue to immerge into a process where it's your authentic self. It's everything that you bring that is valuable. And the only way out of this mess that we're in is to do it together, is a huge reward. It's the only way that I can feel whole, is by trying to continue to live into that.
Trina: Thank you. So it sounds like what's on the other end of men stepping through the door of vulnerability and into their authentic selves is being able to love themselves and love others, freedom, and collective liberation in being home.
So we only have a few minutes and I wanna invite y'all to give closing words or thoughts. Like a phrase, cause we have like five minutes. Less than five minutes.
Ted: Well I would just say that as we go- as we leave this conference and go into our communities, and we create space for me, hopefully, that really come from a position of love. Like that's so important. Beth talked about it, it's been a theme through the day: love.
Like it's hard to fight against love. You know, it really is hard to fight against love. There's not a lot to grab onto. It's hard to fight against love. And that meeting men where they are, right? Meeting men where they are is really important. That we can't- that we have to allow them to bring themselves in, and all that they bring in with them. You know, about- while holding them accountable, of course. But- and then peeling back those layers for that authentic person to come through. And we have to model that. You know, that's one thing that we do in A Call to Men is we tell a lot of stories that really expose our own transformation, our own growth, our own- and that's what men- that's what resonates. When Tony talks about touch the hearts of men, cause the longest distance- what is it 18 inches between the mind and the heart? When he talk about resonating with men, what resonates with men is honesty; because honesty is authentic.
So if I can share my struggles with my children, or my struggles with my own sexism, if I can share those things and expose those as I've grown through them, show the growth, then it allows men to have the conversation. It gives them permission to have these conversations that we've never had permission to have before, cause whenever we brought these things up, or challenged things, other men have shut us down. Right?
So creating those spaces.
Neil: I just would say those of us who are working with young people, the consistency and love that Ted and others have been talking about- really important. Put your political agendas aside, in terms of trying to meet them where they are. Your priorities are not theirs. And until you develop a relationship of trust with them, so that you can bring them and close that distance of 18 inches, you're going to be chasing your tail; because young people are- not only are they brilliant, but they are struggling. And many times, in our field, I have seen people have a desire to put the shiny bright youth in the front, and their political agenda with that shiny bright youth, and they're ignoring the other issues that may be going on in that young person's life, or in that young person's community.
But if you really meet them where they are, if you really consistently love and show up for them, then you can bring them anywhere you want them to go, and they will do it with the muscle memory of a lifetime. So that sustainability does not have to be- it's a dosage thing. The love you give them has to be a dosage thing. Every time you're there, it has to be the same example of love and consistency for it to take hold. Cause if it was just a curriculum, or a workshop, or a conference: we would do it for world peace and A Call to Men would be out of business.
Right? So I just think that consisting and that love of young people is really important.
Ed: And I would say- I just wanna express appreciation to everybody in this room and also love to everyone here for everything that you bring into my life and to each other's life. I mean, I think we take a page from A Call to Men here and their next generation of manhood idea; because it's radical love. It really is. It's gonna allow us to be in the position to anchor ourselves to a vision of what needs to be and to make that happen purposefully together.
Wade: And lastly, I would say what really moved me from being a closeted, wanting to be heterosexual, sexist homophonic, all those things man was reading books that made me look at the world though the eyes of others. It was really a transformative thing. It's really powerful to read a book that's written by a trans woman. It's really powerful to read a book that's written by someone who's differently abled. It'll change the way that you look at the world. It'll educate you in ways that you can't imagine.
And the last thing I'll leave you with is my supervisor a long time ago, her name is Lilian Rivera, told me that, "Other people's successes aren't your successes and their failures aren't your failures. So all you can do is show up as yourself."
Trina: Thank you.
Tony: [inaudible 00:36:12]
Spoken Word (pt2)
with Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, MC, Activist and Educator
“Rape culture is silence. It is being able to see the future and not doing anything about. It is believing the fairy tale platitude that there are good people and bad people, and that as long as you’re not one of the bad people, your job is done, your conscience is clear.
It is all of us swimming through the same polluted water of beer commercials policing masculinity, and stand-up comedians making rape jokes to sound edgy, or media talking heads blaming the victim, or music turning women into objects, or language encouraging us to think of sex as violence – bang, hit, smash.”
Yeah. Thank you for that.
It's almost the end of the day. I want to share one more short poem with you as a call to action. A lot of incredible conversations today. I will say, I didn't mention this earlier, but if you like any of my more work, it's all online for free on YouTube. I also have a book out in the hall. Also, I want to shout out one other resource that I'd love to sell.
I have cards that have my website and stuff on them, but part of the reason I share that ... my stuff is great, yeah, but I also curate a list of my favorite 100 plus spoken word poems by other voices, and it's organized by issue.
Here are 15 poems on the socialization of men and boys. Here are 15 poems on rape culture. Here are 15 poems on anti-blackness. Here are 15 poems on xenophobia. I really believe in art as a really really useful point into these conversations for those of us who do education work. So, please use that, and we can talk afterwards.
This piece ... one, quick content warning, it is a poem about gender violence and sexual assault, but more specifically, it's a poem about men's responsibility to talk to other men about those issues proactively and preventatively as opposed to later. I think that that's something, based on all the conversations we've had today, that's an important issue on its own, but also related to so much else, to so many other issues, to so many other, again, conversations today about critical ally-ship, about action, and about how we make our values and our principles concrete, how we make them come to life in the world.
There is a conversation that never happened. Not even a deleted scene, more like an entire storyboard lost, an idea cut from the first draft.
You are co-starring, slouched on the futon while we watch the game, telling me about your new girlfriend. Or more specifically, telling me about all the things you're going to do to your new girlfriend. Action.
And part of me still remembers my lines, even though I never said them. The conversation I just couldn't start, for fear of what, awkwardness, or damaging our friendship. Or maybe just because the commercials were over. That one tiny gesture that might not have changed anything, but might have. I remember, how I never put my drink down, never muted the TV, and never said, "Man, the way you talk about her, the way you treat her sometimes, your hands are getting too big for your heart. I can smell the future you on your breath. She isn't safe with you."
And now it's two weeks later, and we're standing in my kitchen, that same silence between us. See, she didn't want to press charges so you are a convict with sledgehammer hands and no boulders to break them on. And I am just remembering how we used to play football together. Numbers 55 and 56, both inside linebackers.
I am remembering the dozens of conversations that never happened, the words oversleeping in the bed of my lungs. I am the least important person in this story, and part of me wants to believe that you wouldn't have listened anyway, that some evil spirit whispered itself into your skull. Part of me wants to believe that we didn't grow up three blocks down from each other, that our eyes aren't the same color. Part of me is always re-shooting that scene, always repeating those lines, always reminding myself that despite this guilt, I'm not a bad guy.
You tell me that she never said no, that you're sorry, that you're not a bad guy.
Rape culture is silence. It is being able to see the future and not doing anything about. It is believing the fairy tale platitude that there are good people and bad people, and that as long as you're not one of the bad people, your job is done, your conscience is clear.
It is all of us swimming through the same polluted water of beer commercials policing masculinity, and stand-up comedians making rape jokes to sound edgy, or media talking heads blaming the victim, or music turning women into objects, or language encouraging us to think of sex as violence - bang, hit, smash.
It is telling our daughters to dress sensibly and not walk alone at night, and telling our sons ...
It is a conversation that never happened. And this is not an excuse for you. This is a reminder for me that while her silence will always mean no, my silence, this silence between us, will always mean yes.
Last Words (pt2)
with Alexis Flanagan, Resonance and Core Trainer, ACTM
“We stay in this place of choice. We can choose to numb ourselves and turn off every single thing that has been ignited and stirred up in us today, or we can step into it, and we can choose to do something different than we’ve always done. There’s another world that’s on her way, and it is rooted and grounded in connection, and in love, and in authenticity, and in taking risks to show up to be our true selves. We’ve got choices to make about what our role is going to be to help her get here.”
This day. So I'm going to ask you to check in with yourself, where's your conference self? Are you like already in the hot tub, half way home in traffic? Seriously, I want us to check in with ourselves. So I'm going to ask you guys to breathe with me.
Get your feet where you feel grounded and stable and solid. Feel yourself supported by what you're sitting on, or standing on, or leaning on. I'm just going to ask you to take a couple of deep breaths together. Inhale, and exhale. Inhale ... And exhale. One more, inhale ... And exhale.
While you're in your body, I want to ask you a couple questions. When have you felt tight today? When have you felt like "oh shit"? When have you felt like checking out today? When have you felt like, "I don't want to hear this, I can't do this, I can't go there."? What have you experienced today that felt like freedom? What has felt like that conversation you have been longing to have? What do you want more of? Who are those men, who are those boys in your life who are paying for respect and status and group inclusion with pain and shame and fear? Who's looking at you and asking you for help? Who are the men and boys who are saying, "We are dying because we are stuffing our emotions, I want to live a long life and I need your help"?
What's being asked of you in this moment? What conversation are you being asked to have? Who are you being asked to go to lunch or to coffee? What's inside of you, that if you were being your authentic self, you need to find somebody to tell? One more time, let's take a deep breath. Inhale ... And exhale. Inhale ... And exhale.
We stay in this place of choice. We can choose to numb ourselves and turn off every single thing that has been ignited and stirred up in us today, or we can step into it, and we can choose to do something different than we've always done. There's another world that's on her way, and it is rooted and grounded in connection, and in love, and in authenticity, and in taking risks to show up to be our true selves. We've got choices to make about what our role is going to be to help her get here. Thank you.