The Sexist

Come for the Pizza, Stay for the Deconstruction of Masculinity

Kedrick Griffin

One Thursday last month, during the lunch hour at H.D. Woodson Senior High School, half a dozen teenage boys have gathered to eat pizza and talk about hollering at women. “From where I come from, you holler at a girl,” one student tells the group. “A girl can’t be too upset when a guy is paying attention to her.” “It depends on the type of girl and whether she has respect for herself,” another says. “Some girls will say, stop. But they like it, for real.” “If she’s wearing short shorts, booty shorts, short skirt, with the thong showing, she wants it,” another guy says. “Can’t blame it on the boy. She knows what she’s doing.”

“But what if it’s hot out?” This is Kedrick Griffin. He’s here to play the 37-year-old devil’s advocate on a subject that’s generally considered normal behavior for a teenage boy in the District of Columbia.

“What if all her other shorts are dirty? What if it’s 2 a.m. in a dark alley? What if it’s your girlfriend who’s wearing the short shorts?” Along with the targeted line of questioning, Griffin has also brought three boxes of Pizza Boli’s and an 18-pack of Sierra Mist. These Woodson students have been eating Griffin’s pizza since September. By now, they know full well that it’s wrong to blame a woman for rape based on what she’s wearing—now, they’re just struggling through the street harassment piece. This exercise has come almost at the end of a year-long District program called the “Men of Strength” club—MOST Club, for short. The same pattern is repeated with groups of boys in public middle and high schools across the District: Come for the pizza, stay for the deconstructions of masculinity.

Getting teenage boys to engage in gender theory can require a soft approach. The vague title of the clubs—“Men of Strength”—dodges the activist implications of the D.C.-based organization that runs them: Men Can Stop Rape. At the beginning of each school year, MOST facilitators arrive on campus and lure in participants. “Last year, we were hanging out outside school, and some people were like, ‘we need some males over here to eat some free pizza,’” says Eugene, a 16-year-old junior at Foggy Bottom’s School Without Walls. At that first MOST meeting, Eugene and a dozen other guys were fed pizza and offered free movie tickets; over the next school year, they came back each Tuesday for the pizza, and gradually advancing conversations on gender. Now, “I kind of like to keep the MOST club secret from other dudes,” says Eugene. “We all have this strong connection with each other . . . But also, if you bring more people in, then there are fewer slices.”

Griffin facilitates two MOST club meetings a day at nine different DCPS schools. Every week, he spends less than an hour with each group. But that’s enough time, he hopes, to challenge traditional masculinity and push his young charges to respect their female peers.

Thus Griffin has become accustomed to addressing thorny concepts in abbreviated time frames. At one middle school MOST club, he says he knocked out a discussion on prison rape in the time it takes to travel between classes. “One of the guys said, ‘When you go to jail . . . you get raped and when you come out you’re gay,’” Griffin says. “I said, ‘Oh really? Well, I’ve got ten minutes. That’s enough time for me.’” So he moderated a discussion with seventh and eighth grade boys about why a man’s sexual orientation and history with sexual assault make society see him as less of a man. “I wasn’t prepared for that discussion. It wasn’t even on my radar,” says Griffin. “But if a young person brings up a topic for discussion, I can’t just ignore it.”

Griffin doesn’t just stroll into D.C. public schools with a pizza and start engaging boys on topics like rape. Each MOST meeting begins with a slow wind-up: a weekly “check-in” in which each student updates the group on his recent life developments. Stuff like how he can’t find a ride to football practice, or how he only slept in one class today, or how he’s starting to look at colleges, or how he put his rap video on YouTube but then he took it down. These personal conversations are meant to transition into headier discussion topics like understanding rape culture and questioning the patriarchy. As a short-cut, MOST has chosen a phrase that Griffin employs more than once in each meeting: “The Dominant Story of Masculinity.”

In order to illustrate what that means, Griffin performs an exercise he calls “The Real Man.” Griffin shows students photographs of male celebrities—from Lebron James to Barack Obama to 50 Cent to Johnny Depp—and asks students to comment on “who they think society says is a real man and why.” The exercise is meant to reveal how society’s idea of ‘manhood’ is threaded with negative attributes. While it’s reasonable to want to be president and dunk a basketball, do you really want to get shot nine times in order to prove you’re a man? “When we talk about what a ‘real man’ is, we think of stuff like: Strong. Lifts weights. Spike TV. Prison. Explosions,” explains Eugene. “When we start talking about men in our lives and what we want from them, we think: Nice. Fun. Cares about us. Respects his family.”

By the time the exercise is finished, a few students at each D.C. public school have at least a taste of looking at gender expectations from a different perspective. When they leave the club, the theory goes, the students will tell their friends, and gender relations in the District will slowly begin shifting. Woodrow Wilson Senior High’s MOST club, facilitator Nate Cole says, averages from between two to eight students every meeting—but five are members of the school’s basketball team. In “the hierarchy or food chain of high school, they’re at the top,” says Cole, 23. “When they start challenging their friends and the people they come in contact with, that has a huge effect on the school.” But even with these high-status students, an hour is not always enough time to tease out all the complexities of gender relations.

At a recent Woodson MOST meeting, Griffin starts off the discussion by raising the murder of University of Virginia lacrosse student Yeardley Love. “She got killed, she was on the lacrosse team. I think they said her boyfriend did it,” one student says. Griffin explains that the man charged with her murder is George Huguely, a male lacrosse player who allegedly sent Love death threats—and then violently beat her head against the wall—when she tried to break up with him. “Remember, in the dominant story of masculinity, the only emotions we are taught to show are anger and rage,” says Griffin. They nod. “If a girl broke up with me, I’m like alright. Oh well,” says one student. “You can be mad but you don’t have to kill somebody.”

Time to move on: In the last ten minutes, Griffin mounts a quick discussion of the murder of D.C. principal Brian Betts, who was allegedly targeted on a gay chat line. In order to illustrate the social dynamics behind the killing, Griffin constructs a social ladder with his hands. “If a heterosexual man is on this level,” he says, raising his hand to his nose —“and a woman is at this level”—his hand descends to his chin—“then a homosexual man is on this level”—his hand drops down to his chest. “No, no, women are at the top,” one student says. “Fags. They got the most money,” another suggests. As time runs out, Griffin discards the gender discussion and tries a more accessible approach: Don’t kill a guy, steal his credit card, and get locked up. Stay in school.

Photo via Darrow Montgomery

Comments

  1. #1

    That programs a good idea. Where else are kids supposed to learn this shit?

  2. #2

    Thanks for sharing this. I find efforts of men reaching out to other men to be incredibly interesting and more effective on topics like this.

  3. #3

    Sorry for the double post...

    kza - Exactly! I feel like media is teaching plenty to children and adolescents but it's not necessarily the message parents and other adults want. Adults need to start taking the lead on these discussions.

  4. #4

    People like Kedrick Griffin make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

  5. #5

    I love the idea of this program. Maybe they aren't always able to have in-depth discussions on everything, but at least being able to challenge common misconceptions and help teens think about these issues under the guidance of a caring adult is an improvement. And having a thoughtful, dedicated man help these boys think about what it means to be a man, and to sort out the messages that come from popular culture and the media, is essential. Bravo.

  6. #6

    Wow, this is terrific.

    Obviously I have mixed feelings about the fact that when women say men need to stop rape and misogyny, men get angry, but when men say it, men listen. But it's not like we can change that dynamic without making use of it first. It sounds like Griffin is making huge strides towards a more equal, respectful culture, without even having to bring in things that make some men bristle, like "feminism" and "ladies talking."

    I'm being a little snarky, but really, I think this program sounds great and I plan to donate to make sure there's enough pizza even if Eugene brings his friends.

  7. #7

    Thank you so much for featuring this group, Amanda. It's great to see the positive work men are doing in our own community. I am making a donation to Men Can Stop Rape. Here is the link if anyone is interested: https://www.givedirect.org/give/givefrm.asp?Action=GC&CID=2017

  8. #8

    Interesting! As a male I think the 'unexpected' question regarding male/male rape is fascinating. Male/male rape is one of those concepts that is utterly verboten where I come from, it happens of course but would never be spoken of in even the foulest company. I distinctly remember years ago while on a DC bus and I heard three 8-10 year old boys laughing and joking about who would be who's bitch in prison, getting into specific details and not the strictly metaphorical. Then, when assaulted / mugged once, the guy says he'd fuck me like a bitch if I didn't give my stuff up, which made me sort of laugh at him. Methinks there is a rather big cultural gap between where I'm from and here...

  9. #9

    I second Katie (which ever Katie it is....) on the warm and fuzzies.

  10. #10

    @Lizrd: It's me! The one who usually comments more often and said she she's a curse connoisseur like you! ACK see I DO have to change my name

  11. #11

    @Katie I should have known since we were on the same wavelength yet again!

  12. Native JD in DC
    #12

    There's also the "Slap the shit out of them until they learn some respect" approach.

    Or the "Send them to jail for intimidation, assault and sexual terrorism" approach.

    Or the very effective "Kick them in deez nutz" approach.

    All equally effective.

  13. #13

    @Native JD in DC s
    shutup.

  14. Native JD in DC
    #14

    @drsnacks - After you get a sense of humor.

  15. #15

    Yeah, sounds like a great programme. One question, though.

    Why does talking about gender and gender relations, particularly with younger/teenage boys, always, always seem to have to revolve around the notion of toxic masculinity?

    I suppose this cuts back to the chivalry discussion from last week, but where's the positive element of the concept here? What is positive masculinity today?

    I mean, really, masculinity seems to be less defined these days by what it is, than what it is not supposed to be - not much of "do"s, but a whole lot of "don't"s.

    I want to talk about the dos, not just the don'ts.

  16. #16

    @Sam: Our view of men in this culture right now seems to be so narrow: men are defined by being not-women. To be manly, they must avoid anything that smacks of femininity. It's so crippling, this warrior-view of manhood. I would love it if men were given more space to be themselves, if the arts and fashion and academics and the color pink and emotions other than anger were not seen to be the purview of women and gays.

    Part of the problem in talking about positive masculinity is that there are a lot of traits that we might associate with being a good man, but they aren't necessarily gender-specific. For example, if I had a son, I would want him to be honest and courageous. I would want him to stand up against injustice and look out for those who are not as strong as him. I would want him to have integrity, and to be willing to sacrifice himself for those he loved. I would want him to treat his romantic partners with respect and care for his children. But of course, I would want any daughter of mine to be the same. If he was interested in athletics or cars or whatever other stereotypical male interest, that's fine, but not an essential part of being a man.

    Maybe it would make sense to say that the problem with chivalry is not any specific behavior associated with it, but that it is predicated on the idea that one must treat women well because men are strong and women are weak. What if we had something like chivalry, a code of conduct towards others, but that was predicated on the idea that one must treat other people well because they are human? That honor is not about controlling others, but about standing up for what is right and sticking to one's word? I think that might be a good start for talking about masculinity.

  17. #17

    Why does talking about gender and gender relations, particularly with younger/teenage boys, always, always seem to have to revolve around the notion of toxic masculinity?

    It does not. Only feminist discussions revolve around the motion of toxic masculinity. That occurs because feminists regard all positive aspects of masculinity (but not femininity) as gender neutral, leaving only the negatives (which only apply to males). Many other discussions about "deconstructing" people's identities do the same thing, such as Christians discussions about homosexuality and WASP discussions about other racial and ethnic groups. The discussions are about a politics, and are not concerned about the people being discussed or the issues they face.

    What I find interesting is how feminist discussions about masculinity mirror some non-feminist discussions about femininity in that they focus on what masculinity is not supposed to be rather than what it is. Those discussions generally do not work as well as discussions focused on raising people's dignity and self-images rather than tearing them down.

    On a side note, chivalry was a code of behavior that required knights to treat all people (well, their fellow countrymen and Christians) respectfully.

  18. #18

    Kit-Kat,

    but isn't what you're saying exactly the problem with masculinity these days? That there's really nothing a good man should be/do that a good woman should not be/do?

    Of course (most) men define themselves by being not women, because, well, that's what most women want - not women. So whenever one concept changes, the other one necessarily will, too. And if one concept's range gets larger, the other one will necessarily get smaller if overlap is something to be avoided.

    Of course, there's the question of why men aren't simply content with being good human beings and want to also be good "men". Why we need something that only we can do, why we need to be needed. I think it's because we don't believe that we will be wanted, because I suppose there is a deeper level understanding that we have always been the expendable sex, and culturally, we really don't understand why anyone would want men if they're really as bad as they are said to be in this dialogue - and also, there's human mating dynamics which almost necessarily involves so much more rejection for the average man than for the average woman.

    Because articles like this do ask some good questions -

    http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/20/is-there-anything-good-about-men-and-other-tricky-questions

    I think men need a positive discourse about masculinity, and I think feminism needs a positive discourse about masculinity, and - also - a positive discourse about male (heterosexual) sexuality.

    If you check the Chivalry thread, there's a link to a post on another blog that I find extraordinary in this regard, but I won't post the link again.

  19. #19

    Masculinity can't really be defined everyone has a different opinion. Anyone trying to conform to society's opinion of what masculinity is supposed to be are idiots.

  20. #20

    Kudos to you Amanda for bringing us this story. Kudos to Mr. Griffin for making this story happen.

  21. #21

    I wish fags had all the money. I'm broke as hell right now :c

    Thanks for posting this, Amanda. Count me in with all the people that said it gave them the warm fuzzies.

  22. #22

    I think it’s because we don’t believe that we will be wanted, because I suppose there is a deeper level understanding that we have always been the expendable sex,

    I just can't understand where this "men only act macho because inside they are scared little boys" narrative came from. You know, dude, a lot of people have low self-esteem -- some of them because they are trained from birth to believe that they exist only for the sexual gratification of others (but not too gratifying, mind you! http://bit.ly/9dQtgC) -- but we manage not to deal with it via rape and violence. If the performance of masculinity is just a manifestation of male neurosis, maybe men should try, at the very least, a different neurosis for a while. (Try attempting to model your body after an ideal of beauty that is actually not humanly achievable! I hear that keeps you very busy.)

    I think you're actually confusing the problem with the cure. If men engage in male posturing because they are afraid of seeming weak and effeminate (that's the only interpretation of "expendable" I can force to make any sense), that is because the Dominant Story of Masculinity, as Griffin excellently puts it, tells them that anyone who doesn't engage in male posturing is weak and effeminate. We don't address that by taking performed masculinity more seriously.

    I'll have as much positive discourse about men as you want -- many men are great, I am even married to some of them (okay, only one). But I'll pass on the positive discourse about masculinity. I think men deserve better.

  23. #23

    @ Jess

    I’ll have as much positive discourse about men as you want — many men are great, I am even married to some of them (okay, only one). But I’ll pass on the positive discourse about masculinity. I think men deserve better.

    Yes, this.

    @ Sam

    Further to Jess's point:

    Like it or not, hegemonic masculinity (the phrase my profs used to refer to the Dominant Story of Masculinity) is one of the key conceptual devices used to enforce oppression and repression along gender lines. Hegemonic masculinity is what tells men that they are never good enough unless they are "alpha", beating everybody else at the game of life. It shortens men's lives by associating manliness with danger, perpetuating the notion that the disproportionate rate of men killed in service, at work, or through crime is to be expected, and not a reason for concern. Not to mention through suicide; because men must be better, they cannot show weakness, they cannot ask for help. And it requires the domination and devaluation of everyone who does not adhere to hegemonic masculinity.

    A "positive discourse about masculinity" is like a positive discourse about white supremacy - it does not exist, because it is premised on the domination one group of people by another. Masculinity does not need to be "redefined" as something positive - for much of our history masculinity has had a monopoly on positive traits - it needs to be exploded (as does femininity).

  24. #24

    Why does overlap have to be avoided? Why can't the positive traits to which men and women should aspire be the same? If women are supposed to be kind and nurturing, why can't men also be kind and nurturing? If men are supposed to protect the weak and stand up against injustice, why can't women also do those things? I don't buy the mutual exclusivity. I don't need my husband because he has some special man-only power that I lack, but because I love him. He has many wonderful qualities--some are stereotypically masculine, but some are stereotypically feminine, and some are stereotypically neutral. Some are qualities I share, and some are qualities I lack.

    Let me put it this way--I agree that straight women like men to not be women, because we are not sexually attracted to women. But that does not mean that being a man = not being like a woman in any way. Because that's both devaluing to women and really limiting to men.

  25. #25

    Jess,

    "We don’t address that by taking performed masculinity more seriously."

    I don't know. I think *this* notion is actually why I'm thinking that redefining masculinity *in a positive way* is so necessary. Not just by adding "don't"s to the old script, but by developing new "do"s.

    Missa,

    "Like it or not, hegemonic masculinity (the phrase my profs used to refer to the Dominant Story of Masculinity) is one of the key conceptual devices used to enforce oppression and repression along gender lines."

    well, I think the concept doesn't really cut it with respect to most men's actual experiences. There certainly is something like what is described as "hegemonic" masculinity, but it's not the masculinity experienced and even aspired to by most guys. It is, however, a very convenient concept for feminist theory.

    Kit-Kat (and everyone),

    I don't seem to have made myself sufficiently clear.

    "Let me put it this way–I agree that straight women like men to not be women, because we are not sexually attracted to women. But that does not mean that being a man = not being like a woman in any way. Because that’s both devaluing to women and really limiting to men."

    I don't understand why that would be devaluing to women, but my point was not to say that overlap should be necessarily avoided, just that being "not women" is an integral part of sexual attraction. Masculinity is an integral part of sexual attraction, femininity is an integral part of sexual attraction. Whatever either concept means has changed significantly over time and across cultures. But there was always a distinction that allowed tension. Now what I'm asking for is exactly that - how to allow an overlap in human quality while still retaining a notion of masculinity and femininity. This is exactly what I was asking for in the question about a "do"s-discourse.

  26. #26

    If men engage in male posturing because they are afraid of seeming weak and effeminate (that’s the only interpretation of “expendable” I can force to make any sense), that is because the Dominant Story of Masculinity, as Griffin excellently puts it, tells them that anyone who doesn’t engage in male posturing is weak and effeminate.

    Most men engage in male posturing in order to fit in and be accepted by other males and especially by females. That results from modern masculinity lacking any personal incentive. Modern masculinity does not seek to make men better for their own sakes, but making them better for others. A positive discourse about masculinity would address the stupidity of defining oneself based on the ever-changing wants of other people. Oddly enough, modern masculinity keeps the older notions about men providing for others while stripping away (and now vilifying) anything that would foster men's internal sense of dignity and self-worth. Instead, a man's worth is strictly tied to his ability to do for others, a situation that only leads to posturing. And it is not just limited to non-feminist men. Even male feminists play the posturing game because their worth is strictly tied to their ability to appeal to feminists.

    Men deserve do better than that, and they deserve better than a negative discourse comparing masculinity to white supremacy.

  27. #27

    @ Sam

    That hegemonic masculinity does not reflect the lived experiences of men is one of the things that makes it oppressive, by creating unrealistic expectations and pressures. And I'd like to point out that the recognition that there are other, non-hegemonic masculinities is implicit in the term itself.

    You deny the relevance of the concept to most men, yet you write about men "aspiring" to masculinity. That it is aspirational is one of the key features of oppressive masculinity - men can't just be men by being themselves, validation as a man is something that must be achieved, and once achieved constantly proven and reinforced.

    I'm interested in the "masculinity" that you say most men experience and aspire to. I would suggest that "masculinity" as a bundle of values should not be conflated with identification as a male, which I think you might be doing.

    The entire problem with masculinity, hegemonic or not, is that it is one side of a binary, and is hence inherently limiting to individuals.

    I don’t understand why that would be devaluing to women,

    Well, that explains a lot.

    There is a long history of masculinity being defined in terms of positive, desirable traits, and femininity being defined in terms of undesirable traits. When you construct certain traits as masculine, and certain traits as feminine, you are implying that there are certain valuable traits that women cannot embody, and that the traits that women do embody are not admirable enough for men to aspire to.

    but my point was not to say that overlap should be necessarily avoided, just that being “not women” is an integral part of sexual attraction.

    One can be "not a woman" without being masculine, though.

    But there was always a distinction that allowed tension. Now what I’m asking for is exactly that – how to allow an overlap in human quality while still retaining a notion of masculinity and femininity.

    How about just letting people be who they want to be and letting people be attracted to whoever they're attracted to? The existence of gay men and lesbians clearly indicates that the "tension" you write about is not necessary for romantic relationships to be successful.Not to mention, heterosexual women are capable of being attracted to femme men as well as butch men, sexual preference varies by individual. I would assume that the same is true for hetero guys.

    I had assumed that you were arguing for a positive masculinity because you identify as masculine and felt that your identity as an individual was being devalued. That is a reaction that I see fairly often, and one that I can sympathize with, even though I think it's based on an inaccurate perception of what feminists are trying to achieve. I obviously did not read your posts closely enough. I find your actual concern - maintaining the gender binary - to be far less defensible. IMO.

    I do not see why the maintenance of a gender binary is in any way desirable, or necessary. "Exploding" the gender binary will not result in a mass of androgynous sameness, which seems to be your underlying assumption. It will allow more difference in gender identification and self-expression. I think that's a good thing.

  28. #28

    @ Toysoldier

    Modern masculinity does not seek to make men better for their own sakes, but making them better for others.

    And. what, femininity requires women to sink time and money into their appearance, stifle their own opinions, deny their right to physical autonomy, and prioritize being pleasant for men to be around, for their personal edification?

    Being a provider is not the only aspect of modern masculinity. The notion of the "self-made man" is very important to American masculinity, or at least career success. A man can assume the role of a protector without having a family by joining the police or armed forces. Or he can prove his masculinity with sexual conquest (not relatioships) Or with violence aimed at other men. Not to mention the way masculinity regulates emotional responses and displays.

    Point being, a man does not need a woman to be present in his life to prove his masculinity.

  29. #29

    MissA,

    it's difficult to explain every nuance of my position on this in a short comment, not least because my position isn't cast in stone but developing. And in this kind of debate it does take a long time to develop a feeling for how to talk to each other.

    You seem to have a very clear cut idea of what masculinity is, or is supposed to be, you have a clear-cut idea that you want to explode. I don't.

    Of course, feminists have an advantage in talking about gender relations, but they don't have an advantage when it comes to knowing what being a man means, if and what masculinity means for men ("Point being, a man does not need a woman to be present in his life to prove his masculinity.") Thanks for letting me know. Problem solved... ;) I'm saying this because this kind of approach is a problem for an honest discourse I think you're interested in.

    So, that said, I invite to to have a look at the subthread starting around comment 810 (http://clarissethorn.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/manliness-and-feminism-the-followup/#comment-1750), including especially the comments 810/819/820/823 - particularly 827 (which addresses what you say in your reply to toysoldier ) -, also the end of 896, where DanceDreaming and I are discussing precisely what we're getting at here, based on this (http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2006/05/07/the-origin-of-male-dominance) excellent post by a radical feminist who's also an evolutionary biologist, apparently. The comments are also fascinating - look for "luxury good".

    So let me just address this specifically -

    "I had assumed that you were arguing for a positive masculinity because you identify as masculine and felt that your identity as an individual was being devalued."

    I think that is one motivation. But it's also a lot more complicated than that.

  30. #30

    Now if someone can just teach them not to throw their empty 40s and chicken bones onto the sidewalk, we might make some progress toward civilization. That and a total ban on spray paint. U know what I'm sayin?

  31. #31

    To echo others' sentiments, thank you, Kedrick Griffin. Please continue your great work. We will be supporting you and however many other educators you recruit in the future.

  32. #32

    Keep the monkeys from our women.

  33. #33

    This a very proactive organization (Men Can Stop Rape.) I have them on my CFC every year. Kudos to Kedrick Griffin and others of his ilk. Some of the comments here seem to come from people who regularly sit on their a$$ and wax poetic and offer nothing but polemic. And the generally angry men who post here are just sad at this point. (I have noticed that the angriest men are the most physically unattractive on this side of the pond. Is there a correlation there??) How is that a woman's fault? But then again this is America. Home of the free and hopelessly anti-intellectual. SIGH....

    Kudos again to Kedrick Griffin. One man at a time...

  34. #34

    i have never seen a guy wear short shorts, even on the hottest days. Why? because wearing short shorts isnt about cooling its about showing of her ass. Which is ok, guys wear tight t-shirts to show their abs.

    we all like being looked at, but you need to learn to deal with compliments, if a guy looks at you walking and shouts damn nice ass. its a fucking compliment just take it and move on.

    i wouldn't mind any girl or guy doing that to me.

    and stop portraying it like all men are ravage rape machines that jump on any atractive girl that moves.

  35. #35

    @xman-
    The difference is that almost all women (certainly all the ones I know) have received "compliments" from random men on the street in a scary or threatening situation. I've been cornered in metro cars by men twice my size who won't let me out several times (metro cars with other people on them who did not help), had people follow me at night and talk dirty behind me the whole time, had a guy on the bus go on loudly for the whole 20 minutes I was on it about the various horrible things he wanted to do to me while the whole crowded bus listened and did nothing (he then lunged at me when he got off and pretended to hit me in the face). These experiences, though not as dramatic as rape, all these little instances lead you to believe your body is a potential instigator to violence and that no one is going to help you.

    So given all that, yeah. It's hard to just "learn to take a compliment" on the street. You don't know what kind of psycho is "complimenting" you today or if they are going to turn up a block later when no one else is around.

    I don't know many men who have been violently threatened by women much larger than themselves. I'm sure that makes it easier to assume random comments from strangers are well-intentioned.

  36. #36

    we all like being looked at, but you need to learn to deal with compliments, if a guy looks at you walking and shouts damn nice ass. its a fucking compliment just take it and move on.

    i wouldn’t mind any girl or guy doing that to me.

    Shouting at anybody while they're walking down the street is a compliment? Really? Do you shout random compliments at guys who are walking down the street? I ask that in order to make it obvious that a guy who is shouting at somebody he doesn't know is highly likely to be perceived as kinda wierd, and the only reason a guy would be shouting at a girl he doesn't know is because he's probably thinking about sex. Why are you entitled to expect a specific reaction from someone you don't even know?

    Too often, objectification is conflated with admiration. Nobody minds being admired in a respectful way (maybe) but it's only women who are reduced to an object which is assumed to exist for the express purpose of pleasing men. That's where the entitlement comes into play -- remember how some/many men will not quietly accept "no" as an answer but get angry and aggressive instead? If they thought women were entitled to humanity, then men wouldn't continually inflict themselves on clearly unwilling females.

    Women are not reducing men into objects that are created for women's pleasure when they mention how cute some guy is, but that is exactly what many men do to women when professing an interest. Making someone feel UNSAFE by engaging in threatening behavior is not "expressing an interest", it's intimidation. Guys who clearly cannot take "no thanks" for an answer in one instance are far more likely to exceed boundaries in another instance such as rape. And if they can't tell the difference between admiration and intimidation? They are probably creating an environment which is hostile to women without realizing it.

  37. #37

    If you want to talk a female and she likes you then it's fine. If you want to talk to a female and she isn't interested it's harassment. You can tell me your not interested without acting like a victim.

  38. #38

    If a woman says No, a real man should just accept it and move on. I know that rejection is hard,but acting aggressive or angry is a sign of your insecurity.

    This program sounds awesome, and hope it expands nation wide. I hate to say it,but, men are taught to ignore women,and see agreeing with women as being "pussy whipped". The only way to speak to alot of boys to get rid of their sexist and misogynistic thinking is to have men that they look up too talk to them, and make them see the world beyond a masculinist point of view.

  39. #39

    so so so so awesome. this actually made my day! amazing.

    a really minor gripe though is the social ladder he constructs - saying gay men are seen as being below women ... I think the prejudices are different and should not be compared... like the 'gay is the new black' theory, i find that extremely problematic. But then again, i guess i'm not really savvy with male, american, teens or what they think.

  40. #40

    I'm glad to see there is someone out there talking and doing the right things. It sparks me to want to work harder on programs in order to open up much needed dialogues in my community.

  41. #41

    The vast majority of women I know don't talk sexualized comments from strangers as "compliments" - being catcalled makes most of us feel bad, not good. A compliment should make someone feel good. Being catcalled at age 13 by men who were my dad's age never made me felt good, it made me feel embarrassed and intimidated.

    Because most women don't like being catcalled, catcalling should not be seen as a "compliment". Most girls & women don't like it, it makes them feel bad (and sometimes scared) - so guys shouldn't do it.

    I want guys who think that catcalling is harmless (or a compliment)to imagine themselves in a woman/girl's shoes and imagine being stared at & leered at by random strangers whenever they step outside of their front door to walk to the dairy, or to school etc.

  42. #42

    @YR
    "You can tell me your not interested without acting like a victim."

    Why? can't you handle how a woman acts. Toughen up boy and take how & what a woman says without complaint.

    Just be grateful they talk to you at all.

  43. #43

    @ktc

    It goes both ways because if a female isn't approached then it's a crisis and something is wrong with the world. Women should be grateful we spoke as well as long as were respectful of course. I think it also wrong from a guy to flip out when he is rejected. I don't have a problem with rejection. I know there are plenty of women that are attracted to me and maybe more or less that aren't. I can live with that.

  44. #44

    It's not about masculinity, it's about immaturity. What this is really about is giving these boys some much needed guidance from mature men. Masculinity, contrary to feminist teaching, isn't about "hooting and hollering" at women. Anything but.

  45. #45

    Looks like all the usual bs that boys will not listen to because it does not represent most of them. Boys are tired of this hypocritical stuff about masculinity. Most of them know by the time they are teenager that you are not allowed to attribute any positive traits to male. If you tried, the response will be automatic, women can do it to, women are just as good, bla,bla, bla. Only negative trait can be specifically attributed to male in public. Most boys understand this BS which is one of the reason why the intelligent ones are often so cynical of the world. One of the commenter said masculinity these days is defined as not being a women, he kind of have a point. Now that only women can be singled out for the positive traits, and men only negative traits, masculinity is basically defined as everything that is negative.

  46. #46

    Since when was somebody doing something wrong just because we feel intimidated? A girl can feel intimidated just by being in a room full of men. She could be intimidated if she does not understand them very well. A girl could feel intimidated by another girl for what she has. A girl could feel intimidated by competition, in all forms.

    I hope that Feminism is not about raising weak girls who can't regulate their feelings.

  47. #47

    sharing from personal experience I have left my phone home a few times when I really needed it. I therefore had to borrow a strangers phone. What I noticed was that the men were more receptive when I asked to borrow their phone. The women were more likely get scarred and make some excuse. Also this was during mid day, in public place, and in a safe area. It got me thinking of the direct conflict between acts of generosity and fear. Giving into fear and suspicion leaves you less likely to help others, especially strangers. Fear and suspicion itself are forms of inward thinking, empathy for yourself and not your neighbor. Really, I was just asking to use a phone...

    In relation to this topic I would just ask that to some of the more easily intimidated girls put themselves in guys shoes. From now on try to be the one making the first moves. You might have to deal with rejections (for dates, intercourse, looks might not be returned, and even approaches to conversation)... and you might find that intimidating too.

  48. #48

    When a man complains about some of the harmful aspects of feminism, the usual rebuttal is "good men don't fear strong women".

    My reply to that is: if feminism is about *equality* then why do feminists fear men's voices?

    Rape and sexual harassment are no more negative aspects of masculinity than are mothers drowning their kids in bathtubs or women slicing pregnant women open to take their unborn child negative aspects of femininity.

    Both are aspects of dysfunctionality. To pretend otherwise is just misguided.

    In fact, there happen to be quite few strong positive points for traditional masculine behavior.

    Told much better in this story:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/536534/posts

    Teenage boys daring each other into risk-taking behavior (on the surface) may seem stupid.
    But, in spite of 35 years of trying to make it *not so* fire fighter departments are still 98% male. Could the early conditioning to take abnormal risks for attention be a pre-cursor to conditioning grown men to rush into burning buildings to save total strangers?

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