By David Michael Newstead.
Last month, I attended an interesting event focused on the role men can play in the #MeToo movement. And although all the panelists offered good insights, one part stuck out to me in particular and those were comments made by the activist and educator Jackson Katz.
Jackson Katz: Guys do come these conversations often defensive and they think they’re going to be lectured and they think they’re going to be told what NOT to do. None of us who have been doing this work, I can speak for those of us that I know, we never do that. That’s not how good education works. You engage people where they’re at. You engage young men. You talk to them about how cultural ideas about manhood have impacted them negatively as well as contributed to them harming other people.
Michael Kaufman, one of our colleagues, wrote an article 31 years ago. It’s called “The Triad of Men’s Violence”. The triad is: men’s violence against women, men’s violence against other men, men’s violence against themselves. And all three are connected. I mean, for example, people don’t make these connections normally, but you have rape on college campuses where young men are raping their fellow students – women and men and others. But you also have men over 50 committing suicide by gun. Gun violence is a huge problem in this country. Some people don’t even realize that the majority of gun violence is suicide. And older white men are the primary category of men committing suicide by gun. In other words, violence turned inward.
The same system that produces young men who rape women on college campuses is the same system that produces older men that take a gun to their head. And when you talk to men about these kind of things, you make these kind of connections and a lot of men realize this isn’t just about altruism although that’s important. It’s not just about social justice although that’s important. It’s also about self-interest. It’s also about taking care of themselves and their buddies. When you broaden the conversation in that way, a lot of men relax. It’s like “Oh my god. I’m not being bashed in this moment. I’m actually being challenged in a way to look inward, to be introspective.” And then, to take that introspection and that new self-awareness and go out and do something about it. Because that’s, by the way, the other piece. It’s important that men have personal self-reflection and critical self-awareness and personal growth, but it can’t end there because with privilege comes responsibility. So, you have to have growth personally and then take whatever you’ve learned about yourself and others and then go out and change the world and change the spheres of influence that you have in your life whether it’s young boys in their peer cultures or men at the highest pinnacles of cultural and political power and authority.