On Tuesday, November 18th, the EFLI team had the incredible opportunity of attending “Men & Women As Allies,” a salon hosted in partnership by Feminist.com and the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. The event launched the host organizations’ Men and Women as Allies Initiative and served as “a conversation about working together to support the changing paradigm of men and women’s roles.” As EFLI is piloting boys leadership programming in summer 2015, the EFLI team was excited to explore complex and critical questions of masculinity, allyship and more, engage with leaders in the field and use this experience to inform our program development process.
The event featured a panel discussion with a diverse group of speakers: Don McPherson, an NFL veteran and activist for violence prevention, Niobe Way, a New York University professor focusing on the intersections of culture, context, and human development, Chloe Angyal, Senior Editor of Feministing.com who specializes in media studies, Carlos Andres Gomez, the author of Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood, Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence and Abigail Disney, filmmaker of Pray the Devil Back to Hell and producer of Women, War & Peace mini-series.
The panel was moderated by Feminist.com founder and Executive Director, Marianne Schnall, and Michael Kimmel, a prominent thought leader and activist on topics of men and masculinity. They guided the discussion with questions including what it means for women and men to be allies and challenging moments “from the field” in nurturing this alliance.
The panelists offered extremely compelling insights into the role of men within the feminist movement. Marianne framed the conversation encouraging a shift from talking about “women’s issues” to “human issues.” She said that just as men and boys need to support women and girls, women and girls need to support men and boys, and the movement for gender equality is all about us embracing our human qualities and fulfilling our human potential. Michael added that regarding men coming out as feminists, it has to be done and it has to be done in the right way.
Carlos told an interesting anecdote about small versus heroic moments with the message that men (and other people of privilege) can risk so little while contributing to a paradigm shift. Niobe expressed a poignant sentiment that recognizing women’s humanity cannot come without first recognizing our own. Panelists spoke to the “sterility” of conversation surrounding the movement and how it is not representative of the messy world we live in. Chloe leaned into this “messiness” and voiced an opinion that feminism is the one space where women shouldn’t have to make men feel comfortable. She said “men can have a seat, but it’s going to be hot seat.” Rather than “giving men a medal for being a feminist,” she had a different message: “welcome to the party, you’re really late, now get to work.”
An important question of the night was how to get men to view themselves as stakeholders in this conversation when many men “don’t have gender like white people don’t have race” (Carlos). Some panelists suggested framing the conversation through the lens of family and children; if a man understood how these issues affected his daughter or son, he might feel a more personal connection to them. Other panelists pointed out that some people will never be parents, but all people are human beings, so why can’t we see this as an issue that affects not only daughters and sons but you and me?
I have a lingering question within this realm: how do we engage our loved ones (boys and men) in this conversation? I’m not talking about egregiously misogynistic people, but rather the people in our lives who we believe and know are “good” but may subtly perpetuate patriarchy through their language or other actions. Taking it one step further, when this conversation of redefining masculinity could turn a man or boy’s identity on its head or potentially put them on the defense, where do we begin?
What do you think? Comment below!