Last weekend a group of us gathered around a smoldering fire at Germantown Community Farm to discuss the role/responsibility of men in ending gender oppression. The discussion went in many directions as any HUGE expansive topic such as this one will facilitate. One amazing aspect of this discussion was the balance in participation. It seemed as though everyone had a lot to say and offer to the space, and I feel like I learned a lot. So I want to say thanks y’all for putting on such an awesome weekend, a great dance, and for having so many great workshops and skillshares. And the food was amazing. I am for sure movin’ out to the countryside.
I wanted to take this space to share some of the discussion topics that came up. List style:
-How can men relate to feminism in sustainable ways? A point was made that so many men’s groups have come together and men have started working on feminist projects, but then the groups fade away or someone drops the ball. Basically, how can men be involved and stay involved. What would that look like?
– Men often take up space in music that can interrupt or make the music dysfunctional. A woman expressed that playing music in a group of all women is a completely different experience than with a group of men. This topic spun off into some talk about listening skills. Which I’ll say right now as a man that’s something I need to be constantly aware of and working on.
– Childhood development and gender roles. We see kids growing up into sexist roles and acting out on them at a very young age. How can we subvert the mainstream messages and nurture a more creative and self-empowered expression of gender for kids?
– Struggle with maintaining boundaries around radical ideas in more mainstream spaces. At a worksite for example, a group of men talking in dis-respectful and sexist ways about women. How to interact with that as “one of the guys”. How to challenge that in ways that can be heard in such spaces without compromising values. Example; like acting aggressive to be heard in a group of men. How can this be done in ways that are not validating patriarchal behavior?
– We talked Men’s experience with gender. Growing up, being molded, the peer pressure, sexuality, bullying, pornography, power, etc etc..
– How can men be active in resisting sexual assault, understanding the complexities of consent in our relationships and sexualities, and being accountable and supportive to survivors of sexual assault?
– What is the power or presence of a group of men hanging out together. What is the dynamic when a woman walks by? What about when a group of men and a woman cross paths on a sidewalk. Who steps aside? How does the attention shift in the group? How can these dynamic be handled in a way that is anti-sexist and aware of privilege?
– Positive masculinity. What’s it look like? There are many different male archetypes but how does this intersect with race and white supremacy? Who gets framed as the “bad guys” and who gets access to the “good guy” male performance.
– Queer masculinity/ Transmasculine expression. Expressing ones gender is an important and empowering part of queer and trans identity. How can a masculine expression be anti-sexist and accountable to folks who are so often silenced and oppressed by sexism.
– What makes power oppressive? Can we explore roles of power together in ways that are consensual? What about sharing power. Like contributing to eachothers self empowerment rather than competing in ways that deplete or take power away from others. How can power be shared and sustainable.
– How do women play into patriarchy? How can this be challenged on a personal level as well as a social level? What dynamics exist between women that can encourage or enable a sexist space?
– Some things that we can do immediately to challenge sexism in ourselves and community; ( I can only remember a few of the things we talked about. Our conversation spun in many ways)
- Share skills and information. Engage with people while teaching. Show someone how to do something and then let them do it themselves.
- Listen and self reflect on listening.
- Don’t play guitar when someone is talking to you.
- Be aware when your a guy in a group of guys. What kind of space you’re takin’ up.
- If you’re a guy and suddenly you find yourself walking closely behind a woman on the street, give her space. Stop to tie your shoe or cross the street or something.
- Don’t validate sexist behavior in the workplace. Don’t laugh at sexist jokes. Challenge that shit.
- Learn how to be supportive of people by listening to their needs. Never decide how to take action on behalf of a woman who’s been hurt or violated.
- Read other lists of similar stuff or add to this one.