I've been having conversations with my Black/African-American and Latino brothers in the movement to end violence against women and girls. These conversations have been about the experiences of women and girls from our communities. We who identify as men – heterosexual, cis, gay, queer, transgender or gender non-conforming – are well aware that there is an epidemic of violence against women and girls across America. And while I’m invested in ending it all – and promoting value and safety for all women – I know that can’t happen if we don’t focus our attention to the experiences of those women and girls living in the margins of the margins.
My recent conversations with my brothers have been about our responsibility to challenge the limited attention to and lack of outrage about the experiences of women and girls from our communities. We live in a country that has many forms of group oppression. When you couple sexism with any of the others – racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism – violence increases. Phobias like xenophobia or islamophobia also heighten the impact.
The conversations that my brothers and I are having require us to do some real soul searching around our limited collective outrage about the experience of our sisters at the hands of men in and outside our communities. While there are many of my brothers taking a stand and speaking out, they don’t make up the critical mass needed to bring about change. Don’t think for a moment that I’m not well aware of the role and responsibility of white men and women to focus their collective efforts on those in the margins of the margins, but today, I’m just speaking about the work of my brothers – the work of men of color.
As we’ve deepened the conversations, we have had to acknowledge that in our quest to define manhood we’ve distanced ourselves from the experiences of our sisters, and consciously or sub-consciously bought into the aspects of male socialization that support the violence they are experiencing – the very same violence that we speak out against.
In our quest “not to be soft,” we see how damaging the desire of “being hard” can be, particularly in younger men. We have acknowledged that “being hard" requires us to promote extreme denigration and dehumanization of the women of our communities. Destruction – all in an attempt to define our manhood. Older men of color don’t get a pass – we are responsible for how younger men define manhood through what we teach and what we don’t teach them. Let’s be real, young men didn’t get this way all by themselves.
Our conversations have examined how our support of sisters is far too often coupled with conditions that benefit us and the norms associated with a male dominating society. We have acknowledged the same is not true of our sisters. More often than not, they show up with unconditional love for our welfare. A perfect example: sisters Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors initially started the Black Lives Matter Movement to protest the dehumanization of black men.
In our conversations, my brothers have acknowledged that we can’t embrace our sister’s full humanity until we dare to be our authentic selves. When we embrace our authentic selves we shrink the distance that male socialization dictates we maintain from our sisters. Once we shrink that distance, we become close enough to collectively embrace humanity.
So now that we have acknowledged all this – it’s time to take action.
Men, share with the good men who work with our boys – coaches, fraternity leaders, mentors, faith leaders, fathers and others – that it’s time to make use of their captive audience and promote healthy, respectful manhood and teach a gender analysis.
As brothers in this movement, we know that a gender analysis means so much more than teaching boys to “treat women with respect.” A gender analysis creates the space for men to embrace their authentic selves and support others in doing so. A gender analysis teaches our young men to share in the humanity of women and girls of their community. A gender analysis encourages value, safety, unconditional love, equality, equity and so much more.
Brothers, this information is not for us to keep – it’s to share. Let’s get into the heart of our communities. We know the places. Let’s be with our brothers, meet them where they’re at, and help guide them to a place of higher consciousness. It’s vital to our collective liberation as a people.
Tony Porter, CEO, A CALL TO MEN