Tag Archives: racism

Long Over Due

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time.  In fact, the last post I made was back in March.  YIKES!  Well, not to make excuses, but here are my excuses.  First (and I hope you already know this about me), I don’t blog unless I am inspired to do so.  Of course there have been moments since March where I was inspired to write so that isn’t really a great excuse.  Like the “Ben Roethlisberger having sex in a bar bathroom with an underage, intoxicated co-ed that didn’t get called sexual assault even though it walks and quacks like a sexual assault” for example.  I could have written a book on that.  And…I wanted to.  Which leads me to the second reason why I have been away – the Texas PEACE Project.  Over the last year, I, along with a small team of co-workers,  have been steadily plugging away at creating all things Texas PEACE Project  for my day job at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.  We just launched the project at out annual youth summit at Trinity University in San Antonio [he said with a huge sigh of relief].

The Texas PEACE Project (formerly Students Taking Action for Respect) is our youth program. The intent of the project is to engage, encourage, educate and support youth activists and their adult allies to create social change and equality across Texas in order to end sexual and dating violence. The Texas PEACE Project employs a peer education model. We believe that youth educating their peers is the most effective means of bring about that change.  We train youth to speak out against all forms of oppression – in particular sexism, racism, homophobia and adultism as they are all root causes of sexual violence and have a profound impact on Texas youth.

This has been a tremendous undertaking that has occupied all of my time – especially since January or so.  It has been worth all of the work, but I have had no gas left in the tank to devote to Responsible Men.  I am glad to see that people still have been reading my blog even though I have not been posting anything new.  And now that I am nearly out of the proverbial woods, I can safely say that I will jump right back into the game on a regular basis, er, when I am inspired, er, you know what I mean.

Even though the topic is a bit dated, I did want to share something I did write during my hiatus.  This was a soapbox piece I wrote for the Spring 2010 TAASA Revolution newsletter that you can read in it’s entirety here if you like.  For now, take a look at my contribution below:

Making History

I grew up in a very small, southern town with not much diversity. For the most part, the people of my hometown were fairly conservative and reserved. Everyone looked alike. Everyone talked alike. Everyone even said pretty much the same things when
they spoke. As a member of a community like that, you know everyone’s business and everyone knows yours – like it or not. From what I can tell, my hometown isn’t all that different from Fulton, Miss. In fact, I remember watching, as a boy, the local community college playing against Itawamba Community College (from Fulton) in baseball and basketball every year. The similarities between my hometown and Fulton are numerous, but there is one notable exception. The people of my hometown, when faced with overcoming hatred and discrimination, did the right thing and took a stand against it.

My hometown is Pulaski, Tenn. Most people have never heard of it. Those that have most likely know it as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. As ashamed as I am of that part of my hometown’s history, I am very proud of the fact that the citizens of Pulaski found a way to step out of the shadows of the town’s past and write a new page in the history books. When I was in high school some 20 years ago, the Aryan Nation (a white nationalist neo-Nazi organization) was looking for a place to set up a training and recruitment facility. They targeted Pulaski because of its historical significance in the white supremacy movement. I guess they thought it would be a good fit. I imagine they also believed the people of Pulaski would be tolerant, if not welcoming of them. However, when whispers of this group’s intentions spread, the citizens of Pulaski decided to take a stand. On a weekend when the Aryan Nation scheduled a rally to announce their plans publicly, Pulaski citizens united and spoke out by completely shutting down the city. Gas stations closed. Hotels closed. Restaurants closed. Everything closed. So when members of the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups invaded Pulaski they were greeted with locks on every door and orange ribbons (a symbol for racial harmony) in every window and on every car. The message was clear that things like hate, discrimination and inequality were not going to be part of Pulaski’s future. It was heard loud and clear and the Aryan Nation made other plans.

So what’s that got to do with Fulton, Miss.? Well, Fulton is the hometown of Constance McMillan. You might have heard of her. She is an openly gay senior from Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton who has been thrust into the national spotlight for wanting to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend. In case you haven’t been following this, the school decided to cancel the prom rather than let Constance attend with her date. After a federal Mississippi court ruled that the school violated Constance’s First Amendment rights, the parents from the community offered to host a “private” prom on April 2 that would be open to all students. Spring 2010 It seemed like Fulton, in some ways, was following in Pulaski’s footsteps. They realized an injustice and came together to do what was right. Sadly, it appears that is not the case. Apparently the parents from Fulton secretly organized two private proms on Friday, April 2. Constance and her girlfriend were only invited to one of them. According to Constance, they arrived at a local country club expecting “the prom” and discovered that only five other students were in attendance, including two students with “learning difficulties.” The school principal and some teachers were there to chaperone, but it doesn’t sound like there was much for them to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the students attended a different prom at another “secret” location.

If I could give a message to the parents, students and school officials of Fulton, Miss., I would say “you made a HUGE mistake.” You chose to overlook that Constance, like everyone in the LGBTQ community, is above all else a human being. You had the opportunity to treat her with the dignity and respect every human deserves (even if you believe homosexuality to be morally wrong). Instead, you chose to treat her as if she were somehow less than human. You chose to degrade, humiliate and exclude her because she is presumably not like you. The way you have treated her is not that different than the examples of bigotry and racism of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Did you learn nothing from the 1962 race riots that erupted after James Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi? Is the unbelievable pain and suffering caused by a segregated and exclusionary past not enough for you to change the way you treat people in 2010? If not, then perhaps you are the ones who are not human, for it is empathy and the ability to learn from our mistakes that make us so.

While Fulton cannot tear these pages out of their history, they still have the opportunity to write new ones where they will be remembered for their ability to rise above their past rather than for drowning in it. As singer Tom Morello said, “History, from this day forward, is what you make it.” I sincerely hope that the community of Fulton will realize the devastating and far-reaching repercussions of their present actions and learn to embrace and value the diversity of all people. If they do, then perhaps 20 years from now Constance McMillan will be able to write about the time that her hometown stepped out of the shadows of its past and started making history for all the right reasons.

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The Pixel Project

Recently, Responsible Men became an Awareness-Raising Partner with the Pixel Project.  I highly encourage you to take a look around their website and support them in any way you can.  One way Responsible Men is supporting the Pixel Project is by sharing information.  So, have a look at the information below:

The Pixel Project, a global Web 2.0-driven awareness and fund raising campaign working to end Violence Against Women (VAW), is proud to launch The Pixel Project Wall of Support on 8 March 2010 in honour of International Women’s Day.

The Wall of Support is a gallery of video endorsements from people worldwide who support The Pixel Project’s mission to get men and women to work together to end VAW. Endorsements are uploaded to YouTube and displayed on the Wall of Support galleries in the Community Buzz section of The Pixel Project’s website.

By showing a human face and voice with every endorsement, The Pixel Project hopes that this global chorus of voices against VAW will ignite conversation and focus public attention on the urgency of ending gender-based violence afflicting one in three women worldwide.

Each endorsement will be counted as an “action” towards UNIFEM’s “Say NO – UNiTE” campaign’s bid to raise 1 million grassroots actions against VAW by November 2010.

Guidelines for submitting a video can be found at http://www.thepixelproject.net/community-buzz/wall-of-support/. For further inquiries, contact Chrissie Moulding at info@thepixelproject.net.

I will be submitting a video soon and  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  This would be easy to ignore, but preventing violence against women is too important.  Please take a moment to show your support.  The Pixel Project has provided very clear instructions and even some assistance in writing the script.  All you have to do is record and post to YouTube.

Today is International Women’s Day and I can’t think of a better way for everyone, especially men, to show our love and support for the women in our lives. Let your voice be heard and speak out against violence against women!

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Give What It Takes

A friend of mine named Brooke posted a quote on Twitter this morning that said “In this world of give and take, there aren’t enough people to give what it takes”. I am not sure if it is an original of hers or just one she liked, but it struck a chord with me. There aren’t enough people out there giving what it takes to create social change. With issues like Sexism, Racism, Poverty, Hate Crimes, Global Warming, Violence, etc. still dominating the social landscape, we have to take matters into our own hands to create change. So, I decided to do something about it. With almost no thought whatsoever I launched the “Give What It Takes Campaign”. It is a very simple idea. On the last day of each month pick a charity or non-profit organization or just a person that is doing some good in the world and give them a little bit of money to do what it takes to accomplish their goals. That’s it. You don’t have to give much. Give what yoiu can afford. But what you do have to do is take a moment to encourage your friends to Give What it Takes as well. If we all chip in, none of us as individuals have to bear the heavy burden of creating social change.

If you are on Twitter, tweet your donation like this:

I gave here today (URL of your charity). #givewhatittakes

You can also check out the other blog I just made. It is givewhatittakes.wordpress.com. I will try to use it to highlight some of the good work going on in the world. If you know of some and would like to see it featured, send me a URL and an explanination of why it’s important to you. I will post it on the blog.

I gave here today http://www.etcc.org/MenAgainstViolence.htm #givewhatittakes

Change just happened.

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Chivalry is Not Dead!

Tonight I was on a radio show called Down Ballot.  It is a political talk show hosted by 3 students from the University of Texas – one Republican, one Democrat and one Independent.  I was invited to come in and talk about Responsible Men and our mission to promote gender equality.  It was a fun show and I thought the hosts asked some great questions.  I am very thankful to them for giving me the opportunity to come in and talk about RM and discuss gender inequality.

There was a point in the interview when Tony, the Republican of the group, stated that he didn’t feel that there was much gender inequality in our society today.  From his perspective, he stated that he sees treating women differently as chivalry.  I had honestly never heard anyone approach the topic from this angle.  I countered by saying that chivalry is a good thing, but that there is a difference between chivalry and male privilege.  He asked for clarification, but I wasn’t able to give much because the conversation was diverted by one of the other hosts.  However, I wanted to give an answer to his question because it was a good one.

The easiest way I can explain the difference between being chivalrous and exercising one’s privilege as a man is by looking at a man’s motivations.  Is the man being chivalrous because he is kind and thoughtful or is he chivalrous because he feels women are incapable of helping themselves and, therefore, need him?  More simply put, are you holding the door for a woman because you are being polite or is it because you think she can’t or shouldn’t do it herself?

It is a fine line.  I’d like to think that I am chivalrous.  I believe I am kind and thoughtful.  I hold doors for women (and men) and such.  However. I am also aware that my chivalry can come across as sexist if I am not careful.  Honestly, it is tough to walk this line as I am surrounded by very strong women (by choice) who may not appreciate the door being held for them.  My solution???  I am an equal opportunity door holder.  I hold doors for men and women alike. Not because I feel obligated, but because it is nice thing to do for someone.  Who doesn’t like having a door held for them every once in a while?

This might seem silly to some people, but it actually takes guts for a man to hold a door for another man.  Am I right men? Our socialization as men tells us that this activity is very un-masculine and will leave us open to judgment by other men.  It is small things like this that keep men bonded to society’s strict gender roles.  I say we should stop worrying about being judged and just be kind and thoughtful whenever the mood strikes us. It is fine to do something nice for someone, even if that someone is another man.  It doesn’t make us less manly.  In fact, I would argue that it make us more complete as men to develop that part of us.  It feels really good to do nice things for people.  We don’t have to live in a world where men can only be men if we are emotionless and silent and concerned about ourselves.  We are free to be ourselves.

Chivalry is not dead by any stretch of the imagination!  However, I suggest we tweak the definition to be more inclusive.  I say we add that to be chivalrous is to be thoughtful, friendly, kind and courteous to everyone – not just women.  And fellas – if another man holds a door for you, don’t look at him like he is a freak.  Tell him that you appreciate it and do the same for someone else.

Lastly, the guys hosting the show asked what is one thing men can do to start to change male culture to create gender equality?  I answered by saying that men need to start by looking at themselves (I know this is cliche – I am sure you can hear MJ singing Man in the Mirror in the background right now). Men have to try and understand how we fit into the puzzle of oppression.  What role do we personally play in sexism, racism, heterosexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression?  It is not enough for men to just be non-violent.  All men must dig a little deeper to understand that every time we laugh at a sexist joke, buy products from companies that objectify and sexualize women in their advertising or refer to sexism and violence against women as  “woman’s issues” we are contributing to the problem. Men must be intentional about checking ourselves and making the necessary changes to create gender equality.  Without equality, violence will always exist. Men must step up and be agents of change and allies to women.  As my friend Maria says “men and women must be co-creators of  non-violent culture.” Women have been doing their part for many years.  Now it is time for men to join them.

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Observed and Reported

There has be a great deal of discussion of late regarding the movie Observe and Report starring Seth Rogen.  In particular there has been a huge debate over one particular scene in the movie where Rogen’s character has sex with a woman who is passed out from mixing pills and alcohol.  There are a couple of questions that have surfaced.  1) Is this scene portraying a rape or consensual sex? 2) Is this just  harmless fun because it is in a movie and not real life?

Honestly, I haven’t seen the film to be able to make a judgement.  However, I do know that by law a person cannot give consent while under the influence or drugs and/or alcohol.  Therefore, this scene is portraying a rape – period. While that is terrible, it is not the reason I am writing this post.  I am actually writing because of all of the reactions I have read in various “comment” sections and on message boards.  Many people are taking the “it’s just a movie, get over it” approach to people who are protesting it.  I am sad that more people don’t recognize that this scene is a reflection of our culture.  We live in a world where it has become acceptable for men to take advantage of women in this way.  Also, this film reinforces this behavior by normalizing and trivializing it.  The more sexism, sexualized violence and rape are trivialized by the media and entertainment industry, the more accepted and embedded they become in our culture. People are taking the “what’s the big deal?” approach because violence against women has become part of the fabric of our culture.  To them, it isn’t that big of a deal.  It is normal and seemingly harmless.

All of this got me thinking about a few other things as well.  First, how do all of the women who are survivors of acquaintance rape feel about this scene and about culture in general?  Second, I also wondered if this scene had been about a woman (or another man for that matter) sodomizing a man who had passed out from getting too drunk, would there be a similar reaction?  Would the public make statements like “that is what he gets for passing out” or “he should have known better that to put himself in that situation”? Would they even laugh? I don’t think so.  I think they would be too shocked to laugh.  It would be so out of the ordinary to see a man violated in that way that people would likely have very adverse reactions to it.  I would also bet that there would be a great deal of discussion about how wrong it is.  As it is, people aren’t shocked when they see a violent act against a woman.  They aren’t shocked because it has been normalized and accepted as part of culture.

I am also astonished by the amount ov victim blaming that has surfaced in response to this film.  I have heard and read a number of things that stated that any girl that drinks too much and passes out can expect bad things, like rape, to happen to her.  Others have said that “what did she expect would happen?”  To me, this implies that women are fair game and that men have permission to rape a women if she chose to over indulge.  It also implies that men do not need to be accountable for their actions and choices.  After all, rape is a choice not a foregone conclusion.  It is time for society to stop blaming victims and start holding men accountable for creating and reinforcing a sexually aggressive male culture.

Now that I have OBSERVED the public reaction to this film (and other media tidbits of a similar ilk) and REPORTED the damage they cause to you, it is up to you to use your voice to speak out against them.  It is easy to place blame on this film and its actors, writers, directors and producers.  We could boycott the film and protest theaters that show it.  We could vow to never see another Seth Rogen film.  But that would be like blaming Texas for being the sole cause of Global Warming.  What we really need to do is take a look at ourselves and the small ways in which all of us co-create a society that assigns women less value than men.  While we are at it, lets also take a look at the ways we co-create racism, homophobia and adultism.  If we ever hope to live in a peaceful world we have to address all forms of oppression.  If we expect to end domestic and sexual violence we must begin to treat them as human rights issues rather than women’s issues.  Most importantly, we must all work to change our culture. It starts with ourselves.

Anybody have any thoughts about this?

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