Monday, June 16, 2014

Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, takes Masculinity training to Puerto Rico

Two weeks ago MCSR’s Manager of National Programs, Adrian Valdivia, traveled to Puerto Rico for his first international training. Universidad del Turabo hosted Adrian for the two-day training with the Vice Chancellor, twelve university counselors, and three students. Two of the counselors who run the University’s counseling program were inspired to bring MCSR’s training program to their institution in Puerto Rico after attending the DC Healthy Masculinity Training Institute in January thanks to a grant through Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
At first there was nervous excitement surrounding the upcoming trip. Adrian anticipated Puerto Rico would be his most challenging training thus far. To his relief he found the experience to be amazing from start to finish and the people welcoming and accessible. As a Spanish speaking Venezuelan, Adrian found an immediate connection to Puerto Rico’s language and the Caribbean way. 
“They were extremely open about sharing their personal stories around healthy and unhealthy masculinity in their lives, which I suspect has a lot to do with an already cultural expectation about sharing stories in Latino/Caribbean culture.
Many island cultures build and sustain relationships through story telling, which also happens to be a hallmark of the MCSR approach. Sharing experiences with sincerity and candor is key for building group connections and trust within a training, especially while evaluating dominant stories versus counter stories. The dominant story is the negative depiction of men saturated in media and prevalent in every day culture. The counter story helps combat the stereotypes and expectations of dominant masculinity by presenting an alternative approach. For Puerto Rican men “machismo” culture is the dominant story. Adrian noticed that sexism is very much an ingrained part of men and women’s thinking, “many stereotypes about rape are so normalized and internalized given their culture that they are facing an uphill battle.” Over the two days Adrian emphasized to trainees that the systems of oppression they are facing, such as sexism, do not define them. These systems are a product of culture and the society they were raised in, and therefore can be changed through awareness training.
            The counseling team at the Universidad del Turabo identified with the MCSR strategy and felt motivated by this approach to engage men and their university community.  In the past there has been no supportive male group for men to turn to; rape is only a topic of conversation during assault aftermath and punitive consequences. But Adrian feels that the training has sparked an up and coming shift in perspective. 

By the conclusion of the training administrators and counselors at Universidad del Turabo felt motivated to confront gender-based violence in their community through a new approach. Like many places, Puerto Rico faces a prevalence of relationship violence that often goes unreported. Turabo wants to take a stand and be the first University in Puerto Rico to tackle this issue through programing that engages men. Even after their HHS funding is over, the administration wishes to continue to build a long-standing relationship with Men Can Stop Rape, and integrate the hallmarks of healthy masculinity into their teaching and counseling programs. To kick-start this Turabo will be conducting a survey for college men to see where they stand on the issues, and what resources they feel are lacking and would benefit them and the community. The administration hopes to create the first group of its kind in Puerto Rico that engages men in solving sexual assault. The University will take pride in being the first group of allies who take a positive approach to assault prevention.
Adrian would like to thank everyone at Universidad del Turabo who welcomed him, shared stories, and made this training such a success. Men Can Stop Rape looks forward to working more with Puerto Rico in the future and seeing their commitment to positive male engagement and healthy masculinity take flight.

An English and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies double Major, Kiki Martire is a rising Senior at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

"1 is 2 Many" PSA: My Issues With It

By: Daniel Valentin-Morales

We’ve all seen the “1 is 2 Many” Public Safety Announcement released by the Obama administration earlier this year, and if you haven’t just follow this link to see it. The campaign asks men to be accountable for their actions, and the actions of their peers with regards to instances of assault and sexual assault or rape, within our society.
Celebrities like Steve Carrell and Daniel Craig stare directly at you and talk to you about something “that’s happening on college campuses; at bars; at parties; even in high schools.”  Something that’s “…happening to our sisters, and our daughters; our wives and our friends.”
Vice President Joe Biden was on the video and said, “If I saw it happening I was taught you had to do something about it… we need all of you to be a part of the solution. This is about respect; it’s about responsibility.” Even the President of the United States Barrack Obama made an appearance, showing his support by informing the American public that’, “It’s up to all of us to put an end to sexual assault, and that starts with you.”
First of all, I want to applaud the current administration for starting and releasing a PSA campaign like this one, and in some way trying to inform the People about a major humanitarian issue: the disrespect of women by a culture that objectifies them and treats them as beings meant to be dominated. Campaigns like this one are what we need to help begin the serious shift towards gender equality in this country.
That being said I have some SERIOUS issues with the campaign, I’m going to focus on the three I find are the most detrimental to the usefulness of the campaign in general.
(1) Women are independent beings with their own voice.
The PSA is fantastic in bringing to light a serious issue concerning women’s health, but it fails to recognize that women shouldn’t be respected because they are someone’s daughter, or might be someone’s sister, wife, or friend; women deserve respect because they are human beings, and all human beings deserve respect regardless of relationships formed.
By having celebrities like Daniel Craig, or Steve Carell, seriously reciting a mantra-esque set of words  (“they are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, niece, etc…”) they are reinforcing the idea that women deserve respect because they belong to someone else. It’s reinforcing the patriarchal idea that a woman can’t be something on her own; she has to be someone’s wife.
This “belongs to someone” mentality is actually a major factor in rape culture. When you view someone as less than human (essentially as someone’s property) it becomes very simple to ignore their humanity, along with their right to dignity, and dominate them.
I’m not saying the PSA is supporting this purposefully, I am saying that it subconsciously reinforces the lack of autonomy women have been subject to since what seems like forever.
(2) What about men? 
Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Men’s Rights Activist on you guys, but I’m not going to forget the other half of the population that is also affected by rape (which includes me… the writer). 
The original PSA, released by White, completely forgets that (1) not all rapists are men but more importantly (2) that not all rape victims are women.
I’m not trying to take away from the fact that 1 in every 6 women are affected by rape, or that 9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003. This isn’t a competition about who is more oppressed, or who has it worse off. It’s about not forgetting that every human being deserves respect and deserves not to be forgotten.
The worst thing about rape culture is silence, and in not reminding people that men can also be raped we continue to enforce that silence on people who deserve justice and a forum for their voices to be listed to. Personally, I felt that I was left out of the mix, and I’m not even a survivor of sexual assault. If I feel left out, how do we think a man who has been sexually assaulted feels while watching this PSA?
(3) Finally, what happened to everyday human beings?
You know, I get the whole “lets get celebrities to say things because maybe then people will listen” but I think that the underlying message this sends is dangerous. By only letting people who have money talk about these issues the ordinary every day American watching this PSA might ask themselves “what can I do about any of this?” 
I don’t know about you guys but I used to emulate celebrities for a reason. I saw something in them that I didn’t have, or something I wish I had, and while I’m sure the PSA is counting on this, I’m not too sure that people won’t take it in and say, “oh only people with money can do anything to change this”. That’s a major problem.
So while the PSA is great in that it gets the issue out there in the open, specifically with men who clearly understand they need to play a role in change, it fails to recognize a group of victims, it fails to allow women to use their voice as autonomous human beings, and it potentially dissuades everyday human beings from acting within their community.
But don’t think I’m the first one to think about these things. Here are two videos in which the creators saw the issues, and decided to do something different.

Daniel Valentin-Morales
Is an Intern at Men Can Stop Rape.
A fourth year at McDaniel College, he is dedicated to changing how men see themselves and the world around them; to make the world a safer place for all people, especially women. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where's the Dad?

By Emma Boillotat

For the past couple of Olympics, P&G has been a “proud sponsor” of the games, putting out commercials to show their support. Their most recent ad campaign is “Raising an Olympian,” and one of their commercials that came out recently is posted above. Now, I’m all for this feeling of family supporting you but that’s not the message. It states at the end of the video: “For teaching us that falling only makes us better” and then says, “Thank you, Mom” with a “#BecauseOfMom.” While watching this video, I did get a little teary-eyed for the love and appreciation these kids had for their mom, but what about the dads?

Most of the P&G products connected to the campaign are geared towards women. The end of the ad shows their different brands such as Tide, Pampers, Gillette, Duracell, and Bounty. Three of these five – Tide, Pampers, and Bounty – are typically identified with women and have commercials with only women in them. A fourth, Gillette, consists of products specifically for men and women – Gillette Venus, for example. It’s a clever advertisement ploy, and I’m sure many women viewing this commercial feel grateful because they are a mom or have a mom who they look up to, but we as a country do not need a public ad campaign giving credit only to mothers for raising kids when a child can and should consider men and women to be their support system.

A person who supports a child can be a mother, father, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, teacher or mentor of any sort who has provided the love and support that has helped a child succeed. I personally give thanks to my mom, dad, stepmom, sister, brother and extended family for believing in me and giving me opportunities to be who I am today. The love and acceptance I have received from each of these people in my life has helped me to succeed.

Emma Boillotat is an intern for the month of January 2014 at Men Can Stop Rape. She is originally from Hanover, New Hampshire and goes to Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. She will be graduating May 2014 with a major in Sociology/Anthropology and minor in Spanish. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

By Patrick McGann
Director of Strategy and Planning
Men Can Stop Rape

By now, many of you may know that the Healthy Masculinity Action Project (HMAP) has used storytelling to start conversations at the Healthy Masculinity Summit, Training Institutes, Town Halls, and Campus Conversations. This past year I’ve spent a lot of time formally and informally talking about healthy masculinity and listening to people talk about it. Someone occasionally voices the idea that healthy masculinity keeps us bound to gender instead of liberated from it and that our shared humanity can serve as a freeing agent. I’d like to share my thoughts on this subject, and in the spirit of HMAP, I’ll start with a brief personal story.

Feminism and a Genderless World
In 1983 as a Texas Tech University graduate student, I became involved with Abby, another graduate student. A year later we married, and shortly thereafter, she declared herself a feminist. Okay, maybe it wasn’t an actual declaration. She didn’t stand in our living room and announce while I was watching TV, “I am now a feminist.” It became clear by the books she read, the classes she took, the topics she brought up – and the arguments we had.

In the living room of our two-story, $150 a month, rental house in Lubbock, I told her – pretty zealously – that feminism was trapped in a tunnel vision, that it only focused on half the population and the well-being of people was lost. We’re all humans. This didn’t set well with her.

I have since come to have some understanding of why my “humanity” argument didn’t fly. A few of those reasons, I believe, apply to the idea of healthy masculinity and a genderless world.

Deconstructing Masculinity
Early in my graduate career I was heavy into reading about the ‘sixties and counterculture. One book whose title I can no longer remember focused on the creation of a commune with the intent of establishing a new society free of all harmful mainstream ideologies. After a short while, the banished ideologies started popping up here and there. It turned out that it was no easy walk to freedom. The commune residents positioned these unwelcome ideologies as outside the new environment and external to themselves. In actuality, they had internalized them as well. This mis-positioning resulted in people unintentionally replicating the very things they were trying to escape.

Based on this example, we can’t wipe away the old simply by embracing the new. Just because a man has gotten on the healthy masculinity bandwagon doesn’t mean he’s free of unhealthy masculinity. If we men are responsible about all of this, we’ll commit to deconstructing unhealthy masculinity – both internally and externally – for the rest of our lives. And we’ll teach deconstructing it to the boys in our lives.

Reconstructing Masculinity
But we need to do some reconstructing too. Otherwise, we’re left with a deconstruction void. Identity is a basic part of human life. We all have our identities shaped for us and participate in shaping them ourselves. We are more willing to deconstruct identities if more appealing identities are waiting in the wings.

In prevention work, we talk a lot about behavioral and attitudinal change in young men and boys, but if the attitudes and behaviors don’t fit with identities that young men will enthusiastically assume, we’re less effective. Men Can Stop Rape’s Men of Strength Club not only fosters young men and boys’ attitudes and behaviors connected to preventing gender-based based violence and other forms of violence. It also presents young men with a positive way to think of themselves in relation to those attitudes and behaviors. The Club reshapes social norms among peers by reconfiguring group and personal identities so that members are connected to something important that is bigger than themselves.

Moving from masculine identities to gender-free identities is a large leap, probably an impossible leap for the overwhelming majority of men and boys. I myself find it hard to grasp. And where do transgender people fit into this schema? I could more easily recognize the possibility of a gender continuum – something a number of theorists advocate. And running across this continuum would be the principle that no gender shall cause harm.

Strategy and Masculinity
So how do we create that gender continuum for men and boys? And I’m not referring to the guys in the violence prevention choir. I mean all of us. We need a strategy – a plan, a path, a process – that helps men and boys begin to break down the gender binary. We’re not Nike. We can’t tell them: Just Do It! During trainings, Men Can Stop Rape sometimes represents this binary through the two words most frequently used in ads for boys’ and girls’ toys: BATTLE and LOVE. How do we create conditions for men to move closer to love?

In another exercise we do during trainings called “Describing Healthy Masculinity,” we ask people to come up with personal examples representing healthy masculinity, and the end results are words that can be linked to love: a man who’s caring, respectful, non-violent, emotionally supportive, a good listener, questioning, empathic, and more. Someone often points out that these are words used to describe women. Healthy masculinity may not be our final resting point. Maybe it's a strategic, practical first step for men and boys to move in between the two gender poles. Maybe it’s a way for them to start considering “and/both” instead of “either/or.” Maybe it’s one way to bring all the genders closer together.

Let’s Talk
Of course, whether this is the case isn’t up to me. It’s really up to all of us. Whether healthy masculinity is a viable and valuable strategy is something everyone will have to answer and act on. So let’s keep talking about it.

Learn about the Healthy Masculinity Action Project
Patrick McGann, Ph.D. has been involved with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR) since the organization’s inception in 1997. Patrick has co-authored a sexual assault prevention strategy for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and has played key roles in conceiving, planning, and implementing the Healthy Masculinity Action Project. He regularly gives presentations across the country on engaging men in the prevention of gender-based violence. Share

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Opaque Intent: Wrestling and a Relationship Victory in the Ring?

By Hope Mookim

To say that World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE for short, does not exactly portray the healthiest forms of masculinity and femininity might be an understatement. To be fair, my encounters with the show have more to do with the sheer inescapability of it, and those encounters have not done much to change my mind. It’s either playing or recording on every TV in my house, and I dare not ask to be excused to eat in another room or make a peep until commercials are on. I am resigned to sit silently, staring at a wall or my dinner plate—desperately looking for anything to look at but the TV. But sometimes I can’t help but watch – with jaw dropped – some of the antics. Recently one such segment aired in which a Dr. Phil-esque session was attempted in the ring. The “mediation” was supposed to happen between a wrestler, Daniel Bryan, and his new ex, AJ Lee, facilitated by Roddy Piper.

Basically, in an earlier episode Daniel Bryan publicly broke up with AJ – in a more intimidating than tactful way. In this episode, Roddy Piper invites both parties to the ring for a discussion. When AJ enters the ring, she and Roddy Piper engage in conversation about Daniel Bryan, with AJ standing up for Daniel Bryan, who “really is a good person”. After a few minutes, Bryan has heard enough and orders AJ to leave the ring as a testament to her love for him. To Roddy Piper’s, and my dismay, she obeys and Bryan is left gloating this “victory” in the ring.
Our entire dinner table became very quiet and tense. My mother and I stared at each other awestruck.  My mother and I always like to have deep conversations about things in regular life, take the situation apart, play devil’s advocate, and examine it from all sides. This sparked one of those conversations. I’m known in my family as hotheaded and I was furious. I saw this segment as having promoted, if not instilled, a tolerance and acceptance of domestic and relationship violence. My little brother has been watching this show since he was a young child (I had NOTHING to do with that…), and I have seen how an impressionable age and this show can result in confusion about masculinity and the acceptance of violence in daily life. I wondered how many young children, and even impressionable older people, were watching this and as a result would incorporate that kind of behavior into their interpersonal or relationship schemas; this was dangerous stuff.
I was glad my mother agreed, but when we took the situation a little further we came to a new conclusion. What if this segment was the exact opposite of what we thought? Perhaps the writers were trying to shed light on relationship violence. The clip from the breakup could have been purposefully written in such an upsetting way that it generates sympathy for AJ, and thus grabs the emotion of all viewers, impressionable and otherwise. It then makes sense why WWE would create AJ as a timid young character who does not fit the general mold of the bolder WWE woman. For a bolder character, viewers may feel that she can protect herself and would not feel for her so readily (not to say bold women, or men for that matter, should be less felt for or sympathized with), but they may feel less tenderness and protectiveness towards the bolder character than the girlish and stereotypically feminine character AJ plays. In the Roddy Piper mediation, to see that AJ’s boldest moments are those in which she is standing up for Daniel Bryan, and to then have Bryan again demean her and gloat could be purposefully done to generate more hate for Daniel Bryan and more sympathy for AJ, and victims of domestic abuse everywhere.
Does this mean that WWE was trying to shed light on the horror of relationship violence, especially that of emotional abuse? Physical abuse has been thrust into collective consciousness through media coverage of cases such as that of Chris Brown and Rihanna, but emotional abuse has until now been a little less exposed though it is also extremely dangerous. But how clear was this message, if that was indeed the intent, and would the majority of viewers understand? Maybe it worked; I was seething with rage towards Daniel Bryan, more so than I was towards WWE for showing it (or promoting it as I initially believed). Maybe WWE’s intentions were good…or maybe my mother and I are just clinging to hope.
Take a look at the clip above and tell me what you think. Do you think this had a pure intent, or was a bad judgment call…or maybe both?

Hi everyone, my name is Hope and I am an intern here at Men Can Stop Rape! I am from Beltsville, Maryland and am currently a graduating senior at the wonderful University of Maryland, College Park. I am majoring in Criminology and Criminal Justice and plan on going to law school.