Things are not ok in the world of gender. In this US society, they never really have been.
Thankfully things are not stagnant, changes have been made over the decades. Looking at the world of 2021 compared to the 1950s so many things are different! From trans visibility and rights, to empowered women in positions of leadership, to current fights around parental leave and childcare being core to the infrastructure in this country. Yes, there is still so far to go. Let’s still get excited about what’s happened while we keep fighting for more and more.
One thing that has not changed very much at all in the past 70+ years is what it means to be a man. Telling a young boy today to “act like a man” means much the same thing as it did when we were growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, and for when our dads were young. Be stoic, strong and tough, independent, heterosexual, into sports, and ready to fight if someone questions your masculinity.
We’re told to put that mask on and to not let it slip, or else. For so many men and masc folks this means that we don’t have a lot of places and people to go to about the struggle to live a more fully human life, and to unlearn the ways that we have been taught to use anger and violence.
We have far too many examples of the damage that anger and violence causes and will continue to cause if we don’t unlearn those behaviors and replace them with healthier ones. An epidemic of gun violence continues to ravage our city, which certainly cannot be explained by just one factor but it’s hard to ignore that both the perpetrators and the victims of this violence are usually young men.
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Women also know the violence of men all too well — one quarter of women have experienced severe intimate partner violence, and one out of every five women has been raped in their lifetime. In March, we saw a particularly toxic mix of masculinity, misogyny and racism when a white man targeted and murdered six women of Asian descent and two others around Atlanta.
In his statement in support of Masc Ally Month, Reggie Shuford of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said, “In this moment of racial reckoning, there have been many conversations about ‘allies’ and co-conspirators’ in the fight for Black liberation. Those same concepts apply to the fight against gender-based oppression and rape culture. Men have a vital role to play in this fight.”
It is on all of us to do the internal work to address the harmful lessons we have been raised with. We do this work to end violence, to support survivors, and because these ways of being do not truly work for us either.
Now is the time to get involved in this work.
Working in partnership, the Gender Justice Fund and the Masculinity Action Project at Lutheran Settlement House have dubbed May “Masc Ally Month.” There are 10 events designed to engage and equip men and masculine-identified individuals to become allies for gender justice. The events are designed to reduce harm and build community, and they are open to everyone.
We started the month with conversations about gender and toxic masculinity, a training on bystander intervention to interrupt harm and harassment, and an apology lab to build the skills and strategies to take responsibility for mistakes, make amends for them, and change behaviors. Later in the month we’ll be cooking, hiking, and reading together. All of the event details can be found here.
Whether or not you are able to join us for any of the events, we invite everyone to Pledge to Act for Gender Justice by committing to take at least three specific actions to fight for gender justice.
And at the end of the month, after our closing event on May 31, the Masculinity Action Project and the Gender Justice Fund will both continue the fight for gender justice. Sign up here to stay connected, informed, and involved.-30-
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