Source: A Call to Men
Anyone researching the internet about organizations and individuals that are working towards breaking gender stereotypes and creating equal spaces for men and women will surely come across many organizations that are focused on women’s lives and experiences in the modern world. Reams have been written about the effects of cultural and social conditioning on the way women are perceived and treated but it’s hard to find any such material on the way such conditioning affects men in terms of their internal and external lives. We chanced upon one such organization based in America and we’re delighted to share their meaningful work with you.
Based in New York, A CALL TO MEN is a violence prevention organization that explores issues of manhood, male socialization and its intersection with violence, and preventing violence against all women and girls. The most insightful thing about this organization is the way it explores violence against women as a result of male socialization and the practise of unhealthy notions of manhood that are prevalent in societies across cultures. A CALL TO MEN conducts training programmes for men in schools, universities, basket ball and baseball leagues as well as the US Army and all their programmes are based on embracing and promoting a healthy and respectful manhood. These programmes provide training about corrective measures that can be incorporated to change thought processes and behaviour. But A CALL TO MEN doesn’t just stop at that.
We were fascinated by the way the organization explores the underlying reasons for the growing violence against women and girls globally and in America, and the foremost of those reasons is the collective socialization of men-the way boys are raised to be men- that provides the foundation for violence and discrimination against women and girls. In the words of Tony Porter, co-founder and CEO of A CALL TO MEN, ‘We men and boys define ourselves by devaluing women and girls. We have been taught- and we teach our boys- to be tough, to be strong, to be courageous. We have been taught- and we teach our boys- no fear, no pain, and to only express anger. We do this through colloquial sayings and phrases so ingrained in our culture we don’t give them a second thought: “You throw like a girl,” ”Only little girls cry,” and “Man up.”’ These colloquial sayings are present in varied forms in every culture and society and we’re sure our Indian readers will find them familiar.
A CALL TO MEN uses a very interesting tool called The Man Box to illustrate the collective socialization of men. According to their website, ‘The Man Box identifies the limitations on what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. These expectations are taught to men – sometimes unconsciously – and reinforced by society. In the man box, men are supposed to be:
- Powerful and dominating
- Fearless and in control
- Strong and emotionless
- Successful – in the boardroom, the bedroom and on the ball field
In the Man Box, women are objects, the property of men, and of less value than men. The teachings of the Man Box allow violence against women, girls and other marginalized groups to persist.’ The concept of The Man Box is further explored through this engaging video-
It’s easy to argue that the collective socialization of men harms women more than it hurts men. Signs of physical violence and bodily harm are more easily recognizable but the emotional cost that most men pay for consciously or unconsciously constricting themselves in The Man Box cannot be ignored. Rigid notions of masculinity hurt women but they also imprison and limit men, impacting their emotional and mental well-being. According to Tony Porter, “Research by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who suppress their emotions are one-third more likely to die prematurely than people who regularly express what they are feeling. Issues of rage, anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms can manifest. The Man Box, to mix metaphors, cuts both ways: psychologically wounding men, and physically hurting women.” Understanding this can help men lead more authentic, emotionally balanced and healthier lives while decreasing their chances of being violent towards women.
A Call To Men’s work with middle and high school boys in America validates these outcomes. A Call To Men piloted its LIVERESPECT Coaching Healthy, Respectful Manhood Curriculum in 12 schools across the country, reaching over 500 high school students. The results were very exciting.
- Pre-curriculum, 68% of boys saw that the Man Box exists and dictates how they should act and feel. Post-curriculum, that number increased to 99%.
- Pre-curriculum, only 16% of boys agreed that boys are taught to view women as having less value. Post-curriculum, that number increased to 74%.
- Pre-curriculum, only 21% of boys agreed that boys are taught to view women and girls as the property of men. Post-curriculum, that number increased to 90%.
- Pre-curriculum, only 19% of boys agreed that they knew what consent means. Post-curriculum, that number increased to 75%.
These results suggest that A Call To Men’s LIVERESPECT Curriculum shifts attitudes and behaviours that prevent violence and discrimination against all women by enabling young men and boys to critically evaluate their notions of what ‘being a man’ really means.
A Call to Men has been supported and endorsed by the feminist icon, Gloria Steinem and other influential American people like Christopher Meloni, James Brown and Joe Torre. Tony Porter’s TED Talk, A Call To Men, has been named one of the 10 most important TED Talks a man should see. You can see it here:
It’s been a heartening experience for the Candidly team to learn about A Call To Men and it cannot but make one wistful about such organizations coming up in India to help change the way Indian men have been taught to view themselves and women. You can learn more about this insightful, courageous initiative at http://www.acalltomen.org/.