Category: 2013 Winter

Women’s Voices

Men: Join Women to End Violence “I resent that every time I pass a woman in the street, she regards me with suspicion, like I want to drag her into an alley. She hates me just because I’m a man.” My husband said those words to me one day about 20 years ago, when the news was full of stories of females being raped—from young girls to old women. Rape was actually being used as a form of warfare from the Balkans to the Sudan, when the world began to acknowledge that the violation of women had indeed always been a bad side effect of male aggression—from grassroots revolutionary movements to wide-scale military invasions and occupations. We only need to look at the Democratic Republic of Congo to see how brutal rape as weapon of war has become. I recently read about a report pointing to a dramatic rise in rapes of women and girls in Somalia, where severe drought and famine have killed tens of thousands of people and forced countless more, especially females, into refugee camps notorious for rape and female brutality. I am particularly sensitive to this issue; I spent several years researching and writing a historical novel, Sometimes It Snows in America, based on a Somali woman I came to personally know quite well. She had suffered domestic abuse in her native land, and much...

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Men & Creativity

Men Opening to Their Creative Selves “Sad is a man who is asked for a story/and can’t come up with one,” begins Li-Young Lee’s poem, “A Story,” which describes the pain of a man who can’t respond to his five-year-old son’s request for a story. The poem evokes poignantly the emotional bind in which most of us as men find ourselves. The world has changed enough to demand a different masculine involvement. And yet, a great majority of men fall silent in the face of this demand, unable to recognize the tools we have at our disposal to respond. In the course of participating in a weekly men’s group for more than 17 years, I’ve come to believe that creativity is the critical missing tool necessary for developing a personal, workable way of being a man in the world. It’s not that men are not creative. Most of us just don’t recognize our own creative skills and do not use them to shape our understanding of who we are. Ask a man to sing, to draw, to dance, or to tell a story, and chances are he’ll say something like, “I can’t. I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” “For most men,” says Voice Male contributing editor Michael Kimmel, Ph.D., one of the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity, “creativity is antithetical to masculinity. And...

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Overcoming Violence

Challenging Misogyny in India Misogyny is so deeply rooted in India’s collective psychology that even the president’s son—Parliament member Abhijit Mukherjee—could entangle himself with a remark against women protesting gang rape. He called the women protesters of the medical student gang-raped on a bus in December “dented and painted women” who go to discos, have little connection with ground realities, and are making candlelight vigils fashionable. After an enormous backlash, he apologized and retracted his comments, but many are not satisfied and want his resignation. Misogyny has long permeated Indian textbooks, pedagogy, and parenting. In fact, it runs so deep that it reflects itself even in our linguistics. The Hindi phrase most commonly used to describe sexual violence—or rape against women—is izzat lootna, which means “to steal the honor of.” Another Hindi word used for rape, balatkar—bad act—is considered so erudite and technical that it’s barely ever used. (Its English equivalent would be “coitus” instead of “sex.”) So, for the most part, we’re stuck with “izzat lootna” and the necessary question: Why should a rapist be given so much credit? Rape is a criminal act of force and perverse subjugation. When a woman is raped, her most fundamental rights as a human being are violated. Yet she is just as honorable as she ever was. Honor cannot be stolen. It can only be surrendered. Surely in the act of...

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Overcoming Violence

Men: Which Side Are You On? The last two weeks have provided an opportunity of re-narrating the sordid history of rape and rape trials in India. To me personally the only way to understand this sexual violence is that this is a war declared on women to achieve a range of effects that include masculine supremacy, communal revenge, caste subjugation, and even which territories are deemed part of India. As feminist scholars and activists have argued, rape is not just about sex, but an assault with the intention of marking bodies with a set of messages that can speak not just through the personal trauma of what the woman will endure, but through what will be visible to others. Rape is the memorializing of what can be achieved through the practice of our dominant forms of masculinity. The inability of the phallus to live up to all its myth-making capabilities sometimes requires the use of phallic replacements, harder metallic instruments (such as in this most recent assault and murder) that are more capable of performing feats that masculinities push men to achieve through their phallus. The use of metal rods, guns shoved inside mouths, stones inserted into the rectum, or knives used to carve the skin are all expressions that have erroneously been analyzed as emanating from a crisis of masculinity. Rather, it is in the nature of our...

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Boys to Men

The Feminine Gaze of Adolescent Boys Teaching at an all-boys high school provides a unique window into the lives of adolescents. You are invited to participate in a culture with a language and moral code all its own. I was reminded of this recently when one of my seniors jokingly accused me of “swagger jacking,” the urban term for the act of trying to steal someone else’s popularity. It speaks to how young men constantly work to ensure that they are acting in the “right” way, following the bro code. In a school setting, this proves especially true when young men find themselves competing for the attention of female adults who serve as a pseudo-psychological experiment of sorts. They can gaze upon women in a school setting as a limited substitute for their own mother or as an ideal image of what they desire in an intimate relationship. A woman who is physically attractive and more intelligent than a student is simultaneously a threat and an object of desire to young men. In short, there is a fine line drawn in the sand between “being a babe” and “acting like a bitch.” Through the (broken) looking glass The increased presence of technology in the classroom has created a new dynamic in education for how one is seen. The new arena of adolescent competition is now through a screen where...

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From the Editor

Only after we had huddled under the canopy over Sherry’s and Cedric’s grave did the rain begin to fall. It was a dark Friday night. Sixty of us, holding candles in our gloved hands, stood silently in the cemetery as Yoko Kato, a woman in her sixties with silver bangs framing a kind face, thanked us for coming. It was the 20th anniversary of her daughter, and grandson’s murders. Sherry, a 23-year-old mother, and Cedric, her 18-month-old son, had been stabbed multiple times by the toddler’s father, on January 11, 1993. Before the police woke her before dawn to break the news, Yoko had not considered becoming an activist against domestic violence. True, she had survived abuse herself many years before; still, she saw herself as a wife and mother of two daughters. She had come to the U.S. from her native Japan in the mid-1960s and made a living as a dressmaker; her specialty was wedding gowns. Twenty-four hours after learning of the murders, the district attorney for northwestern Massachusetts visited Yoko at her home. The D.A.’s office would prosecute Sean Seabrooks for the murder of his own son and his former girlfriend. Over the ensuing years, now retired D.A. Elizabeth Scheibel would tell a story emblematic of who Yoko is. “It was only one day after the murders,” she recounted at the 10th anniversary memorial in 2003....

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Frederick Marx

Yearning for Rites of Passage in a World with Too Few Mentors As adolescence ends — if there is no effective initiation or mentorship — a sad thing happens. The fire of thinking, the flaring up of creativity, the bonfires of tenderness, all begin to go out. —Robert Bly What would you do if someone told you your son would never become a man? That your nephew would never experience maturity? That your cousin or grandson would never feel from the inside the beating heart of what it really means to be an adult male? Well, it’s happening right now, in our country, today. Millions of boys—black, white, Asian, Latino, rich and poor boys, good boys—smart, sensitive, and loving boys, vulnerable and open boys, are not fully growing up, are not accomplishing the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Without initiation and mentorship, these boys will never know what is sacred about their own masculinity. They’ll never know their own unique mission in life, they’ll never know what it is to serve family and community rather than self, they’ll never know their place in the order of things, the depths of their own greatness or the true limits of their own reach, and they’ll never know what an empowering gift their own feelings can be – how they can learn to master them through acceptance; how their tears, their shame,...

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Robin Morgan

Darkest Night of the Year The day before the Sandy Hook mass murders, a man in China attacked 28 kindergarten students and three adults, stabbing them with a knife. Though wounded and traumatized, none died. In Newtown, Connecticut, the gunshot murders totaled 27 people—20 of them children, most as young as age six. (And the murderer then committed suicide.) These mass killings happen regularly now. And still getting gun control laws passed is a struggle. But there’s an overlooked, inseparable reason for that.We haven’t faced the fact that armed violence is a heavily gendered phenomenon. Men make up  almost 100 percent of the buyers, sellers, and users. Yet women are disproportionately affected by gun use, through domestic violence, sexual violence at gunpoint, threats, and other trauma. All six adults killed at Sandy Hook School were women. In fact, men perpetrate sufficient gun violence to give civilian women a higher death rate from guns than soldiers in war. Studies show women experience the presence of small arms in the household as threatening, while many men feel more secure around a weapon. One journalist reporting the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut referred to the 20-year-old shooter as a “youth,” and I thought, there it is again. Throughout the 1990s and the first years of the new century, school slaughters, mostly by gun or automatic weapon, have been on the rise. The...

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Jackson Katz

Media: It’s About Manhood More Than Guns or Mental Illness Many of us whose work touches on the subject of masculinity and violence have long been frustrated by the failure of mainstream media—and much of progressive media and the blogosphere as well—to confront the gender issues at the heart of so many violent rampages like the one that occurred on December 14 last year in Newtown, Connecticut. My colleagues and I who do this type of work experience an unsettling dichotomy. In one part of our lives, we routinely have intense, in-depth discussions about men’s emotional and relational struggles, and how the bravado about “rugged individualism” in American culture masks the deep yearning for connection that so many men feel, and how the absence or loss of that can quickly turn to pain, despair, and anger. In these discussions, we talk about violence as a gendered phenomenon: how, for example, men who batter their wives or girlfriends typically do so not because they have trigger tempers, but rather as a means to gain or maintain power and control over her, in a (misguided) attempt to get their needs met. We talk among ourselves about how so many boys and men in our society are conditioned to see violence as a solution to their problems, a resolution of their anxieties, or a means of exacting revenge against those they perceive...

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Rob Okun

Moving Beyond Men’s Killing Fields There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down “For What It’s Worth,” by Stephen Stills In the wake of Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage, men in particular must not stay silent. There’s an epidemic in “man culture” we can ill afford to neglect, ceding center stage to the narrow gun control debate. It’s encouraging there’s momentum in Congress to enact new gun laws. Let’s not miss the opportunity, though, to enlarge the national conversation about better regulating guns—including ammunition—to emphasize both how we raise boys and how we address the mental health crisis facing many men. And we must pull back the curtain of denial about mainstream culture’s “patriarchal masculine obsession with control,” as sociologist-novelist Allan Johnson puts it, control “that defines ‘real’ manhood in this culture, with violence being merely its most extreme instrument. It is that control that links all men with the violence that only some men do.” As Johnson, author of?the acclaimed?Gender Knot:?Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, notes, “When U.S. drones kill children, the act springs from the same patriarchal roots as the mass murder in Newtown.” An inconvenient truth we cannot ignore. How many more lonely, alienated, disconnected, (usually) white...

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Paul Campos

What Gender Commits Mass Murder? A common demand made of socially marginalized groups is that they take responsibility for the bad acts of their members.??These demands come both from socially privileged people who marginalize social outsiders and from the socially marginalized themselves. For instance, if you Google “black on black crime,” the very first link that comes up?is to a blog post by an African-American writer, discussing the relative lack of attention the writer claims the African-American community pays to crimes committed by black people against other black people. This is an example of how, in America, a white person who commits a crime is merely a criminal, while a black person who commits a crime is a?black?criminal.??In other words, being black in America tends to make one a member of what sociologists call a “marked category.” The easiest way to explain what that means is to contrast it with its opposite: If I ask you to picture a police officer, what does this person look like???I’m pretty confident that, whatever other characteristics the person may have, he is a man —just as if I ask you to picture a kindergarten teacher, you almost certainly will conjure up an image of a woman. We don’t usually notice the gender of male police officers because we expect police officers to be men: in this context, maleness is an unmarked category....

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Phap Luu

Letter to Adam Lanza   Let me start by saying that I wish for you to find peace. It would be easy just to call you a monster and condemn you for evermore, but I don’t think that would help either of us. Given what you have done, I realize that peace may not be easy to find. In a fit of rage, delusion, and fear—yes, above all else, I think, fear—you thought that killing was a way out. It was clearly a powerful emotion that drove you from your mother’s dead body to massacre children and staff of Sandy Hook School and to turn the gun in the end on yourself. You decided that the game was over. But the game is not over, though you are dead. You didn’t find a way out of your anger and loneliness. You live on in other forms, in the torn families and their despair, in the violation of their trust, in the gaping wound in a community, and in the countless articles and news reports spilling across the country and the world—yes, you live on even in me. I was also a young boy who grew up in Newtown. Now I am a Zen Buddhist monk. I see you quite clearly in me now, continued in the legacy of your actions, and I see that in death you have not...

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Cliff Leek and Michael Kimmel

Suicide-by-Mass-Murder If your only sources were Facebook and Fox, tabloids and TV, you’d likely think that guns, mental illness, and violent media were the only things worth talking about to explain the horrific massacre at Sandy Creek Elementary School. Of course, any rational approach to this problem would indicate that these three factors are important. Surely, guns played some role in this. Although guns, by themselves, are not the cause of the rampage, they can help explain its horrific scale, its terrible scope. Consider two of our closest allies. In 1996, in Dunblane, Scotland, a single gunman killed 16 children and one adult in an affluent suburb before taking his own life. That same year, a gunman killed 35 people and wounded 23 more in a Tazmanian resort town; it was Australia’s worst mass shooting ever. Both countries immediately passed tough gun controls, making it effectively illegal to own a handgun in the U.K. And there hasn’t been another school shooting since in Britain; in Australia, homicides by firearms have declined by about 60 percent over the past 15 years. And yes, we believe Adam Lanza was mentally ill. Perhaps he was on the autism spectrum; he was perhaps manic-depressive. Pop psychologists will never have the opportunity to properly diagnose him (but that won’t stop them from trying). We do not know enough and he left few clues, but...

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Allan Johnson

Fatal Distraction: Manhood, Guns, and Violence As I write this, it’s been only a few weeks since the mass murder of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, less than 50 miles from my home. I have grandchildren of the same age as the children who were killed. So, I’m finding it especially difficult to listen to the latest national conversation about gun violence, because, like all the others, it’s being conducted in a way that guarantees that such violence will continue. The problem is not what we talk about—guns and the media in particular. Both are important. The problem...

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Winter 2013 Edition

The Winter 2013 edition includes a special 16 page section that argues it’s masculinity, more than guns, videos, or mental illness that should be at the center of the national conversation about violence. Fatal Distraction Suicide by Mass Murder Beyond Men’s Killing Fields Letter to Adam Lanza A FAREWELL TO ARMS: A SPECIAL SECTION ON MEN AND VIOLENCE AFTER SANDY HOOK  Allan Johnson Fatal Distraction: Manhood, Guns, and Violence As I write this, it’s been only a few weeks since the mass murder of children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, less than 50 miles from my home. I have...

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