Monday, February 28, 2011

Tony Porter on "The Man Box" (short video): on oppressive masculinity and het men's choice to be humane instead

This is only eleven minutes long and any man you know who is misogynistic, sexist, or just plain callous about women or girls, must see it. He's very good. I think many men will be able to "hear him". Honestly. Part of the story was intense for me to listen to, but he took it to exactly the right moral place. TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains the story of the gross sexual assault of a girl by many males.



http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

or

http://www.wimp.com/mencall/

Please share liberally with all men.That's about all that can be done with this perspective on patriarchal masculinity. There's nothing too radical about it. Or overtly pro-feminist, either.

(Here's the transcript, which I found *here*, on 16 April 2011.)


Transcript after the jump (thanks to DECIUS for posting it in the comments):

I grew up in New York City, between Harlem and the Bronx. Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating — no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger — and definitely no fear — that men are in charge, which means women are not; that men lead, and you should just follow and do what we say; that men are superior, women are inferior; that men are strong, women are weak; that women are of less value — property of men — and objects, particularly sexual objects. I’ve later come to know that to be the collective socialization of men, better known as the “man box.” See this man box has in it all the ingredients of how we define what it means to be a man. Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man. But at the same time, there’s some stuff that’s just straight up twisted. And we really need to begin to challenge, look at it and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood.
This is my two at home, Kendall and Jay. They’re 11 and 12. Kendall’s 15 months older than Jay. There was a period of time when my wife, her name is Tammie, and I, we just got real busy and whip, bam, boom: Kendall and Jay. (Laughter) And when they were about five and six, four and five, Jay could come to me, come to me crying. It didn’t matter what she was crying about, she could get on my knee, she could snot my sleeve up, just cry, cry it out. Daddy’s got you. That’s all that’s important.
Now Kendall on the other hand — and like I said, he’s only 15 months older than her — he came to me crying, it’s like as soon as I would hear him cry, a clock would go off. I would give the boy probably about 30 seconds, which means, by the time he got to me, I was already saying things like, “Why are you crying? Hold your head up. Look at me. Explain to me what’s wrong. Tell me what’s wrong. I can’t understand you. Why are you crying?” And out of my own frustration of my role and responsibility of building him up as a man to fit into these guidelines and these structures that are defining this man box, I would find myself saying things like, “Just go in your room. Just go on, go on in your room. Sit down, get yourself together and come back and talk to me when you can talk to me like a –” What? (Audience: Man.) “like a man.” And he’s five years old. And as I grow in life, I would say to myself, “My God, what’s wrong with me? What am I doing? Why would I this?” And I think back. I think back to my father.
There was a time in my life where we had a very troubled experience in our family. My brother, Henry, he died tragically when we were teenagers. We lived in New York City, as I said. We lived in the Bronx at the time. And the burial was in a place called Long Island, it was about two hours outside of the city. And as we were preparing to come back from the burial, the cars stopped at the bathroom to let folks take care of themselves before the long ride back to the city. And the limousine empties out. My mother, my sister, my auntie, they all get out, but my father and I stayed in the limousine. And no sooner than the women got out, he burst out crying.
He didn’t want cry in front of me. But he knew he wasn’t going to make it back to the city, and it was better me than to allow himself to express these feelings and emotions in front of the women. And this is a man who, 10 minutes ago, had just put his teenage son in the ground — something I just can’t even imagine. The thing that sticks with me the most is that he was apologizing to me for crying in front of me. And at the same time, he was also giving me props, lifting me up, for not crying.
I come to also look at this as this fear that we have as men, this fear that just has us paralyzed, holding us hostage to this man box. I can remember speaking to a 12 year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you you were playing like a girl?” Now I expected him to say something like, I’d be sad, I’d be mad, I’d be angry, or something like that. No, the boy said to me — the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.” And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?”
(Applause)
It took me back to a time when I was about 12 years old. I grew up in tenement buildings in the inner-city. At this time we’re living in the Bronx. And in the building next to where I lived there was a guy named Johnny. He was about 16 years old, and we were all about 12 years old — younger guys. And he was hanging out with all us younger guys. And this guy, he was up to a lot of no good. He was the kind of kid who parents would have to wonder, “What is this 16 year-old boy doing with these 12 year-old boys?” And he did spend a lot of time up to no good. He was a troubled kid. His mother had died from a heroin overdose. He was being raised by his grandmother. His father wasn’t on the set. His grandmother had two jobs. He was home alone a lot. But I’ve got to tell you, we young guys, we looked up to this dude. He was cool. He was fine. That’s what the sisters said, “He was fine.” He was having sex. We all looked up to him.
So one day, I’m out in front of the house doing something — just playing around, doing something — I don’t know what. He looks out his window, he calls me upstairs, he said, “Hey Anthony.” They called my Anthony growing up as a kid. “Hey Anthony, come on upstairs.”
Johnny call, you go. So I run right upstairs. As he opens the door, he says to me, “Do you want some?” Now I immediately knew what he meant. Because for me growing up at that time, and our relationship with this man box, do you want some meant one of two things, sex or drugs — and we weren’t doing drugs. Now my box, card, man box card, was immediately in jeopardy. Two things: One, I never had sex. We don’t talk about that as men. You only tell your dearest, closest friend, sworn to secrecy for life, the first time you had sex. For everybody else, we go around like we’ve been having sex since we were two. There ain’t no first time. (Laughter) The other thing I couldn’t tell him is that I didn’t want any. That’s even worse. We’re supposed to always be on the prowl. Women are objects, especially sexual objects.
Anyway, so I couldn’t tell him any of that. So, like my mother would say, make a long story short. I just simply said to Johnny, “Yes.” He told me to go in his room. I go in his room. On his bed is a girl from the neighborhood named Sheila. She’s 16 years old. She’s nude. She’s what I know today to be mentally ill, higher functioning at times than others. We had a whole choice’s-worth of inappropriate names for her. Anyway, Johnny had just gotten through having sex with her. Well actually, he raped her, but he would say he had sex with her. Because, while Sheila never said no, she also never said yes.
So he was offering me the opportunity to do the same. So when I go in the room, I close the door. Folks, I’m petrified. I stand with my back to the door so Johnny can’t bust in the room and see that I’m not doing anything. And I stand there long enough that I could have actually done something. So now I’m no longer trying to figure out what I’m going to do, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get out of this room. So in my 12 years of wisdom, I zip my pants down, I walk out into the room. And lo and behold to me, while I was in the room with Sheila, Johnny was back at the window calling guys up. So now there’s a living room full of guys. It was like the waiting room in the doctor’s office. And they asked me how was it. And I say to them, “It was good.” And I zip my pants up in front of them, and I head for the door.
Now I say this all with remorse, and I was feeling a tremendous amount of remorse at that time, but I was conflicted, because, while I was feeling remorse, I was excited, because I didn’t get caught, but I knew I felt bad about what was happening. This fear getting outside the man box totally enveloped me. It was way more important to me, about me and my man box card than about Sheila and what was happening to her.
See collectively, we as men are taught to have less value in women, to view them as property and the objects of men. We see that as an equation that equals violence against women. We as men, good men, the large majority of men, we operate on the foundation of this whole collective socialization. We kind of see ourselves separate, but we’re very much a part of it. You see, we have to come to understand that less value, property and objectification is the foundation and the violence can’t happen without it. So we’re very much a part of the solution as well as the problem. The center for disease control says that men’s violence against women is at epidemic proportions, is the number one health concern for women in this country and abroad.
So quickly, I’d like to just say, this is the love of my life, my daughter Jay. The world I envision for her, how do I want men to be acting and behaving? I need you on board. I need you with me. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men — that it’s okay to not be dominating, that it’s okay to have feelings and emotions, that it’s okay to promote equality, that it’s okay to have women who are just friends and that’s it, that it’s okay to be whole, that my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.
I remember asking a nine year-old boy. I asked a nine year-old boy, “What would life be like for you, if you didn’t have to adhere to this man box?” He said to me, “I would be free.”
Thank you folks.
(Applause)


7 comments:

Dark Daughta said...

i saw it recently, too and really liked it. the thing that i found difficult about it was that he basically described patriarchy and male dominance without ever naming them as such. he didn't name feminism and definitely did not situate what he said as coming directly out of wimmin's critiques of patriarchy. in short - he invented consciousness of the man box. he is the originator of this piece of knowing. that looked to me like he was taking credit for the work of feminists who have been saying these things long before he ever came along. it reminds me in some ways of tim wise, in that his man box will most likely get much more attention than any woman speaking the truth about patriarchy and patriarchal privilege. sigh...

Julian Real said...

More than sigh for me, Dark Daughta.

When a white bi woman who is with a man, married, sent me this, I wrote back to her my frustrations with it. I felt that I wouldn't likely publish it because it didn't credit wimmin. And I watched it again and saw enough of value in it that I thought it could be one post among a thousand or more on my blog.

And I felt this way because a woman I have known who has been battered, who is with him, might be able to have him watch this video, and only this one (I know of no others quite like it). Maybe something in him would click and he'd get that he needn't be so brutal and controlling of her. And maybe many women and men around the world, who speak or can understand English will hear it and it will make women a bit safer in their own worlds.

Would you agree that if this video has that effect for a few dozen women or a few hundred, that it would be good for me to post it here without, in the same post, calling out what I think is wrong with it?

Dark Daughta said...

Completely in agreement. My issue is purely theoretical. What you're describing of the potential real life impact on the ground for everyday heterosexual wimmin who do not define as feminist with men who do not understand or love feminism will be no less powerful, definitely insidious in a good way.

Dark Daughta said...

Did she respond to your observations about the video's shortcomings?

Did she understand what you were saying?

The reason I ask is precisely because she is married and with a man.

I wondered if she makes concessions in terms of what she will allow herself to see or understand or in terms of what she will demand he understand?

Completely related to the personal for me in that as someone who is paper married to a man but in relationships with two men who both live with me, there are numerous invitations offered to just let things slide when it comes to male privilege and patriarchal power...that I don't accept.

But I could see how something like this might seem of use to a woman in a relationship with a man except for the fact that alliance with wimmin and not taking credit for their work, ideas, theories inadvertently figures so prominently.

But yah...for men who are just at the place where they don't even understand what's been done to them, it's a funny idea to think of a bunch of feminists coaching him saying:

"Okay...so...like tell them that there's this thing called patria- no...this thing called privi-... nah. None of the usual stuff is gonna work in this context. These are hardbacks, the unconverted, non-choir members. The moment you mention any intelligent feminist theory, you're gonna be in hot water. If they hear anything that sounds even remotely linked to feminism, they're gonna get their backs up and start freaking out about scorched bras and intimidating armpit hair. From there it'll be all foaming at the mouth and convulsions. Not a good scene. Okay! How about this? Tell them that there's this thing called...someone help me...anglo-saxon (heavy on the saxon), stereotypical brute-ism they'll completely go for and the answer is.....wait for it...wait for...it...THE MAN BOX! Bingo! Perfect! They'll never suspect."

That's what I'd do. My men folk know that's exactly what I'd do. :)

Find a nice seeming, engaging, articulate loyal pro-feminist male who is photogenic. Coach him, dress him and put him up on stage with a seemingly simplistic, "unh...i just figured this thing out and i wanted to share" manipulative speech about something his audience could connect with that didn't at all set off their perimeter alerts.

His words would be carefully crafted to subtly move all who hear them in the direction I needed them willingly walking in, happily, without fully realizing what was happening.

hmmmm...
I wonder who he knows, who his allies are. He didn't come out of nowhere. He's got people, I'm thinking.

Yup. He may very well have some handlers. ;)

Julian Real said...

Did she respond to your observations about the video's shortcomings?

She tends to see things in terms of what good they can do, rather than on what they are lacking.

Did she understand what you were saying?

She understands it, but we see the world differently. To me invisibilising women's activism and feminist work is one sure sign of patriarchy winning. To her, this video would be a sign it might get weakened. So, we disagree, she and I. And, I do love her. But I'm militant about such things and she isn't. I think she'd agree with that, put that way.

The reason I ask is precisely because she is married and with a man.

I wondered if she makes concessions in terms of what she will allow herself to see or understand or in terms of what she will demand he understand?


I'd say that because he will not get something called "male privilege" and basically refuses to speak his own behavior in those terms, your hunch is RIGHT ON TARGET. She also is a practitioner of NVC (non-violent communication), which this video kind of does well. But, Dark Daughta, as you and I well know, it is always the Master who defines what non-violent means. I see it as violent to come up with a system of communication (NVC) that makes it seem unwise or inappropriate or "violent" for a woman to call a man out for being male supremacist. In NVC lingo, a woman would be encouraged to say, "My needs for being seen and respected are not being met." And that's true enough, but again, NVC in the context of a system that is already destroying girls and women is really going to serve men more than anyone else. It means, for example, women ought not yell at men for being pricks. I think a woman ought to be able to express herself however she wants to when being oppressed, and, generally.

And, honestly, Dark Daughta, this video DOES piss me off. It really does. Were it not for some women I know who might--maybe--possibly--be a tiny bit safer if their abuser-boyfriends saw this, I wouldn't have posted it at all. I'd rather support women taking firearms lessons, if men are threatening them or putting their lives in danger.

Completely related to the personal for me in that as someone who is paper married to a man but in relationships with two men who both live with me, there are numerous invitations offered to just let things slide when it comes to male privilege and patriarchal power...that I don't accept.

I would hope not!! I get that you're not going to take CRAP. I just "get it" from what I sense from you, from your photos, from your writing. Your self-possession comes across and is really wonderful to witness. So I'd imagine those two guys have been learning to "be in a posture of listening, not a posture of defense"! Her husband does listen well, if she practices NVC communication. Honestly--and I'm not sure this is saying much--it's one of the better het relationships I know of. He is deeply loving, is caring, values intimacy, does see her, does validate her, etc.

But, you know, he'd piss me off in three hours! Because he won't see himself as someone who, necessarily, has more power than she does, due to gender. And so he can exploit that, knowing it will never really be named in their relationship. And of course that poses all kinds of red flags for me, but it's her relationship to do with as she pleases.

And I don't think of you in anything resembling "a het relationship" not because there are two men, but because I don't imagine ANY relationship you're in is, politically, "heterosexual". Correct me if I'm wrong.

Julian Real said...

But I could see how something like this might seem of use to a woman in a relationship with a man except for the fact that alliance with wimmin and not taking credit for their work, ideas, theories inadvertently figures so prominently.

He knows little to nothing at all about wimmin's activist, feminism, womanism, or anything else that is politically woman-centered. And, it seems to me she's given up a lot of that--which she used to have. I don't think that's how she'd describe her journey, however, and my narrative of her life ought not trump hers, imo. And, she doesn't need this video. Her husband is not in that box. Only in some ways was he. But he's not a typical guy. But, like you say, there are wimmin who might find this video useful, even without crediting wimmin.

But yah...for men who are just at the place where they don't even understand what's been done to them, it's a funny idea to think of a bunch of feminists coaching him saying:

"Okay...so...like tell them that there's this thing called patria- no...this thing called privi-... nah. None of the usual stuff is gonna work in this context. These are hardbacks, the unconverted, non-choir members. The moment you mention any intelligent feminist theory, you're gonna be in hot water. If they hear anything that sounds even remotely linked to feminism, they're gonna get their backs up and start freaking out about scorched bras and intimidating armpit hair. From there it'll be all foaming at the mouth and convulsions. Not a good scene. Okay! How about this? Tell them that there's this thing called...someone help me...anglo-saxon (heavy on the saxon), stereotypical brute-ism they'll completely go for and the answer is.....wait for it...wait for...it...THE MAN BOX! Bingo! Perfect! They'll never suspect."


ROLF!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE do this as a video on YouTube! As a response to the "man box" video! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!!!!! That's priceless.

Yes, Dark Daughta. If that exact thing wasn't said to him, it's only because he already knew it, or it never occurred to him to credit wimmin and mention feminism to begin with.

Julian Real said...

And, where I have trouble negotiating is how to respond to situations that are terribly, awfully dire. Not when men are mere "jerks". No. With men who batter where the problem isn't that he'll start foaming at the mouth; it's that he might beat the shit out of her and possibly kill her too. And if those batterer-rapist-boyfriends are still at all humane--and some are sometimes--for moments, at least, this video might get him to get something that might get him to start thinking about and feeling through his own C.R.A.P. (well, without that "p" word ever being said out loud), rather than putting everything on her. Again, it's worth a try. The routes to relative levels of freedom for many wimmin won't look at all feminist, right?

And: for any woman who might be able to make use of this, who is in danger, the video exists online without our discussion here about its limitations.

That's what I'd do. My men folk know that's exactly what I'd do. :)

Find a nice seeming, engaging, articulate loyal pro-feminist male who is photogenic. Coach him, dress him and put him up on stage with a seemingly simplistic, "unh...i just figured this thing out and i wanted to share" manipulative speech about something his audience could connect with that didn't at all set off their perimeter alerts.

His words would be carefully crafted to subtly move all who hear them in the direction I needed them willingly walking in, happily, without fully realizing what was happening.

hmmmm...
I wonder who he knows, who his allies are. He didn't come out of nowhere. He's got people, I'm thinking.

Yup. He may very well have some handlers. ;)


I don't know him aside from this video. I do wonder, Dark Daughta. I wonder what his own consciousness is, who worked with him on this video, etc. Because of some knowledge of something that I can't say out loud without puking a bit in my mouth called (gag) "The Men's Movement" (double gag), I know a lot of men's understanding can come from men who have read the feminist stuff, but who have never read it themselves. I steer clear of that men's movement stuff because it's just too boys-clubbish for me, including feeling sorry for the men who use clubs on women's heads.

So, given those communities, the men can then coach each other, with no wimmin in sight. So he could be working within that social sphere too.

I'd like to think some wimmin actually did coach him to say it the way he does. At least then he'd have been accountable in the process to some wimmin, and not just, say, a father who gets it that his own daughter shouldn't be assaulted by men.

I have to wonder how many men will reject the video because they don't want to use the term "box" as if it's something they are inside of. Too porno-Freudian and all.