BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


masculinity from the outside
August 13, 2008, 11:43 pm
Filed under: gender violence, rants and such | Tags: , ,

today i had one of the hardest hospital calls ever. usually as an advocate i go to the hospital and meet people in the ER, where they are because someone has sexually assaulted them, or injured them physically. the usual people present are ( besides the nurses and doctors) family members, friends, and sometimes cops looking for a deposition.

other times i go directly to a person’s house but only if the violent partner is not there. it’s dangerous for the person asking for help, and for the advocates also.

today, because of some oversight from the hospital, i found myself in a room with the woman that asked for assistance, and her boyfriend, whom she was calling about. i was not aware that he was her partner, i though he might have been a family member or friend. however, as i started explaining to her the services the middle way offers, he started yelling that “this country has gone to shit, and people are just reverse sexist and racist. no one give a fuck about men anymore, the only people that can get help are women and blacks”, he also yelled at the woman i was with, demanding to know why i was even there.

he proceeded to scream that the organization i was representing was sexist because it helped women, and not men. then he stormed out the door after slamming things around the room.

in moments like these there is no rational train of thoughts, i find myself usually oddly calm, and unfazed. i was worried that my presence might have triggered a worse situation than before i got there for the woman. we were able to talk a bit, and i gave her phone numbers and resources, and talked about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

after not so long he came back, and i approached him trying to explain the services the middle way has for men, and that we try to be as gender conscious as possible, and advocate for anyone that needs help.

he broke down and started to cry, and told me about how abusive his father had been to him, and saying that he just wanted to feel loved, and being in a relationship was just too painful. i ended up talking to him for a very long time.

he expressed feeling helpless, and hopeless, and that nothing or no one had ever helped him when he needed it. feeling completely hopeless at 18 is one of the saddest things i can think of.

in the end we all came together again and talked about things that they think could help their relationship, and where to find support with them.

it was strange, and i don’t think i have even quite digested the intensity of it all. what jumps out at me is that he needed help as much as she did, and that thinking of violence as a clear cut issue won’t help anything.

it makes me crazy to think that in a way he is right. what help is there for a man wanting support in learning how to be in a healthy relationship? in bloomington at least the choices are meager. counseling works for some people, but not for everyone. where can he go to find a supporting network of people that can undo the violence he lived through? and as a woman, where do i hit my limit as an advocate and ally to men?

tonight i went to see one of my friends play music, and he talked about masculinity, and gender in a way that makes many people uncomfortable because he says it like it is. he talked about how many of his friends, including himself, grew up with shitty role models, and that gender dynamics are something people should always be conscious of within themselves. i am thankful to him for bringing it up.

as he was talking though, i couldn’t help thinking about the kid from this afternoon, and how he is on a lonely quest to find a less toxic way to be a man. i felt lucky for having friends that are thoughtful, and unafraid to pick at what is vulnerable, or unhealthy in themselves, and that they have support for that process.

in a way though, the fact that someone growing up with the worst possible role models, and in an extremely sexist environment, still recognizes the need for change gives me renewed strength.

it makes me certain that change is possible, that people have no desire to be assholes, or to be hurtful, and will transform themselves if given the tools to do it.

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