BEYOND MERE SURVIVAL


“men speak out”
September 13, 2008, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

i just devoured a book in 2 days, called “men speak out-views on gender, sex, and power”. it was hard to read at times, but filled this void in my ongoing internal gender discussion, and created a thread with so many disparate thoughts roaming through my mind.

it is a collection of essay written by men on masculinity, gender, and individual struggle with power.

when i started at the middle way i was working in the crisis line, and as an on scene advocate for people that have been sexually assaulted or hurt by their partners at the ER, most of the people i offered support to were women, and though the person hurting them was usually a men, they were absent from the picture, imaginary figures i never met.

it wasn’t until last year that i started facilitating workshops in middle and high schools where we talk about consent, healthy relationships,gender and sexual assault. in speaking with both boys and girls i had a whole different world opened to me, of kids that are trying to get out of being hurtful to the people around them, but are struggling continuously to find the appropriate tools, or even a language to talk about themselves and the pressure put on them as men and women in this society.

the essays offered an honest and direct window into the challenges tackled by men in their efforts to question and resist the narratives of masculinity most of them grew up with. it felt so rare to listen to voices of men that are not trying to justify, persuade, or defend when it comes to gender, but are willing to speak of their own difficulties with gender and power.

Hugo Schwyzer talks about his work with youth, and his experience in talking to boys about the pressure put on men to always want sex no matter what. it resonates of course, because i find myself struggling with that all the time in my work with high schools and middle schools. he approached the situation by simply asking questions, and discussing the line between being attracted to someone and objectifying them. no judgment or lecture, and it works much better.

another writer retells of the time when he first learned about sexual assault as a kid, and how his mother’s explanation was that “rape is when a men forces a women to have sex with him”. that very notion made it incredibly difficult for him to come to terms with being assaulted, because according to this description men are always the ones hurting, not vulnerable and with the power of forcing someone into sex.

there were essays about sexual harassment in the military, one about the experience of being an asian queer man, and the sexism and racism present it the gay community. one of my favorite is written by Richard Pringle, and relates different stories from men and their experience with sport, and the moments when they realized their own gendered way to do sports, and they ways they were affecting the people around them.

so, very good book, and a rare one at that.

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