Ted Bunch is the co-founder of A Call To Men, which
Works to create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.
Here’s their newest PSA so you can catch a feel for their work. It’s called “The Next Generation of Manhood.”
I was lucky to catch a one-hour presentation this week. He gears them towards men, but welcomes women because they are at the forefront of fighting these abuses, and he says it’s time for men to respectfully listen to the voices of women on these issues.
10 Things about Men and Violence
1. Men grow up in a man box. The cultural socialization of the American male includes these gems:
-don’t ask for help
-better to be strong than kind
-safest emotion to express is anger (which is the secondary emotion, the real emotion is usually hurt, sad, disappointed)
-don’t show fear
-show aggression, be the protector
-be the provider
-don’t be like a woman
-don’t be too committed (whipped)
-don’t be too loving
-don’t be too caring
2. The quickest way to motivate a boy or man is to compare him to a woman or a gay man. Bunch called out to us: “You throw like a ____” and we all answered “girl” without having to think. This is a bad way to socialize our children, because it says girls have no value.
3. The current generation of adult men are the first to deal with this cultural shift. It has previously been the norm to be the king of the castle and own everything in it, including your wife. Remember, women weren’t allowed to have their own credit cards until the 1970s.
4. You, a man, see a man at the mall hit his wife. You go and tell him not to do that. Response? “Mind your own business.” Socialization. If you press further, “this is between me and my wife.” As in, she is my property. His violence is selective and exclusive. He is not violent to his boss when the paycheck is late or to the police at his door. He saves it for his wife. It’s our belief system that men are supposed to have the final say, and for some men it is physical. Domestic violence is seen as a private, not public issue, at least for the man.
5. Only 20% of men are violent. The other 80% are silent. The 20% rely on that silence to get away with their crimes. One of my college boyfriends intervened in a potential rape when he was in high school. He stopped the boy before it could go too far. The girl was highly intoxicated and could only remember my future boyfriend was there, not what his purpose was. The story was sorted out and only the perpetrator got in trouble, but there was a cloud over my future boyfriend’s head, and it was several years before girls trusted him enough to date him. That’s no incentive for a boy/man to step in and help.
6. Bunch interacted with a 16-year-old male in the audience. He set up a scenario where they had argued the night before. Bunch said now it was the next day and he wanted to talk to him. He said, “I am hurt and disappointed about what happened yesterday.” The boy was like a deer in headlights. He said, “I don’t know how to…what to do with that.” Bunch said, “What if I tell you I am pissed at you?” Sixteen-year-old said, “That I can work with.” Anger is the only acceptable emotion in the man box. All feelings are filtered into aggression.
7. Even if you are the best parents and you are teaching your sons to be kind and gentle people, they are not immune to the cultural socialization at school and from the media. What they see: pictures of sports, muscles, action movie stills, dads yelling at boys to “man up.” Even the movie “Wreck-It Ralph,” with its many fine qualities, features the second female lead calling the male soldiers underneath her “ladies.”
8. The male-dominated culture occupations are law enforcement and military. Women catch hell in these jobs. Anyone there is squarely in the man box because you’re not allowed to show fear in these occupations.
9. The media also connects masculinity with sexual conquest and demonstrates women are sexual objects. Pictures of famous men surrounded by scantily clad trophy women (Stern, Hefner, Eminem, Snoop Dog). Boys and men are shown it’s normal, even admirable, to use a girl or woman to gratify their physical needs, and that women are to serve men, bring pleasure to men, meet the needs of men.
A woman connected to (partnered with) a man has value because of his value, so no catcalls. If not partnered? Free game.
When I was a young adult, this is what guys would say about a hot girl: “I’d hit that, I’d tear that up.” Now it’s “I’d smash that.” Hit, tear, smash = violence. That = object. If a boy/man refuses to catcall a woman when his friends do? He’s out of line, out of the man box, called gay.
10. Ten men, of all ages and from all backgrounds, when asked if they would get involved in a physical altercation between husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend, say they would mind their own business. Some say she may have deserved it or had it coming. If it is a man assaulting a woman with whom he has no relationship, they say they would get involved, because that’s illegal. IF THERE IS A RELATIONSHIP, MEN FEEL IT IMPLIES OWNERSHIP OF THE WOMAN, THE RIGHT TO ABUSE HER.
We technically know a woman does not belong to a man, but it is entrenched in our socialization.
10 Ideas, Solutions, Stories to Promote the Massive Cultural Shift Needed
1. Immediately (and this was my favorite thing) change the wording when we discuss these issues. We use passive voice:
1 in 5 women will be raped.
We need to change to active voice:
Men will rape 1 in 5 women.
This is not only a more powerful way to speak, it clearly states what happens: a man perpetrates a sexual crime against a woman.
Also, consider the power of these clauses: “Joyce was battered” v. “Mark battered Joyce” and “Joyce was beaten” v. “Mark beat Joyce.”
2. A Call To Men seeks to invite, not indict. In talking about these issues, Bunch found that if he went in, metaphorical guns blazing, calling men violent and saying they had to stop this, every male in the room was on the defensive and felt picked on or indicted, even though only 20% of men are violent. So they invite men to better themselves, with the side effect being violence against women will decrease.
3. How are they to better themselves? Learn and teach that it is okay to share feelings, to ask for help, to be vulnerable; that fear is normal and healthy; that men can and should be loving, gentle, and kind. That the measure of a man not about how hard you hit, or how much money you make. Learn to turn aggression off and turn compassion on; to seek kindness over control.
4. Women have been at the forefront of this fight, right in the trenches. Men need to listen respectfully to them, because they know what they are talking about. Women need only keep on doing all the good they already do. It’s time for the men to take control of themselves.
5. Speak up for women. Break out of that man box and let your friends know their jokes, their catcalls, their putdowns, their misogynistic language are not all right, not funny, not manly. Interrupt and prevent this current culture of manhood.
6. Rape discussion is women-centered, so again, we need to change the language. 80% of women who are raped know the rapist, which means at least 80% of rapists know the women they raped, usually more, because they often stalk their victims first. When women know their perpetrators, some blame is assigned to her: “Why did she open the door? Didn’t she realize something was off about him?” Batterers and rapists don’t come with horns and a tail, nor do they tell the parents “I may beat her from time to time, stalk her if she doesn’t answer my texts, etc…”
7. Own your emotions, figure out and vocalize what you are really feeling, don’t immediately channel it into the emotions of aggression and thus act out. There are many nuances to your feelings: frustration, disappointment, annoyance, sadness, and yes, sometimes anger.
8. It is part of our cultural socialization to say or imply to sons, when dad heads out of town, gets deployed, etc.,: “You’re the man of the house now.” This undermines the authority of the mother and puts the boy in charge. Like many phrases, it is totally well-meaning, but sending the wrong message. Part of the Man Prayer, written by Eve Ensler and filmed by Tony Stroebel in connection with One Billion Rising, is “May I cherish, respect, and love my mother.” Watch it here, it’s incredible.
9. Social change is a community effort. (Examples: Recycling, no smoking in buildings.) Things that are a priority (deaths from 2nd hand smoke, DWI deaths) create fast social change. Women are not valued like the suburban, middle-class white kids who were dying in DWIs, which resulted in the formation of MADD.
10. Bunch ended with this story: “Daddy Will You Dye My Socks Pink?” Bunch’s son Joshua is a man box kid in spite of his rearing, because again, it is not only parents socializing children. Bunch was happy-dance excited when his son asked for his socks to be dyed pink. It was to emulate the NBA, NFL players who wore pink socks for breast cancer. Suddenly, the whole high school football and basketball teams were wearing pink. Pink is an accepted color for men now because influential men (NFL, NBA players) are wearing it. If that tiny cultural change happened SO EASILY, who can say we can’t change how women are treated in our culture? Raise awareness. Don’t go in storming about ending violence for women, that makes men feel indicted. Invite them to promote healthy, respectful manhood. Then they come along. Then the violence will end.
My impressions? I enjoyed the presentation. I was able to participate. I think Bunch’s presentation style could use some work, but his bona fides feel legitimate and I sense he will accomplish a lot. He works with many NFL players, which hopefully will expand the sphere of influence, because he is teaching them to keep the aggression on the field. If that translates to their own sons and all their fans, all the better.
I feel I have good ideas to keep teaching my sons, because so far their inclination is to be kind and protective of everyone, but I can see that past a certain age (six or so), they start translating their emotions to anger. My oldest had cause to look up the word rape after reading it in a book, and his nearly 13-year-old heart BROKE that such a thing existed.