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As We Grieve The Continuing Racial Divide And Violence, Let Us Not Forget To Talk About Men And Violence!
As we reflect on the past few days of seemingly unending tragedy -- the killing of Black men by police, the killing of police by a sniper -- we notice that these days follow other days, weeks and years of seemingly unending violence: homicide, terrorism, war and other forms of brutality. And while we're finally awakening to the pain of racism and bigotry of all kinds, and we're also awakening to the prevalence of gun violence in America, we may be missing one other outstanding point: most of this violence is being committed by men. What is happening to our men -- our sons, brothers, fathers, friends -- what is the source of male violence in our world today, whether it dresses itself up in a ISIL flag or a gang identity, whether it hides behind a badge or behind religious rationalization, whether it's stoked by mental illness or a simple grudge, whether it happens in the open or behind the walls of a prison?
Why are men so violent? And why aren't we asking that question? How many men have used violence against women, children and one another? Why? How are men conditioned, what are the circumstances that lead men to choose violence as a way of responding to life's stressors? How many men have been brutalized, abused, bullied, taunted or neglected by their fathers, their siblings, their fellows?
While we're finally awakening to the pain of racism and bigotry of all kinds, and we're also awakening to the prevalence of gun violence in America, we may be missing one other outstanding point: most of this violence is being committed by men.
We can bemoan the killings, and we can talk about racism, misogyny and the availability of weapons, and we must do all that. But we must add to this conversation a discussion of men and violence, and we can no longer sweep that issue under the rug.
Men are still raised around the world to pretend to be powerful, to act like protectors and providers, no matter the reality of their abilities and circumstances. Men are still raised to hide their feelings and their fears. Men are still conditioned to suppress most of their other emotions and to rely on anger as a means of self-expression. Men are afraid of one another, whether it's in the office, the barroom, the sports arena or the streets, and men have developed coping mechanisms to deal with that fear: either to hide and cringe, and feel the shame of that, or strut around acting like they are tough, or together, or powerful, which is complete deception, if not also self-deception.
Most sexual crimes are committed by men. Most rapes. Most assaults, most violent crimes and most murders. Men are still the primary fodder for our war machine, whether it's in international conflict or gang violence, and men are still fodder for our social unrest.
This must stop. Every one of us needs to see that our social and collective violence is not only racial, is not only gender based, is not only fed by ideology, it's also about the ways that men are trained and conditioned to cope. My heart cries for all the mayhem of our world -- the wars that create millions of refugees, the crimes that create battered bodies, the abuse of women and children and the assaults on the bodies and souls of men around the world who still believe that the illusion of power and violence are signs of manhood, that the worst thing that can happen to a man is to look like a woman and that competition is natural and the only normal way people can relate to one another, especially men.
Let us not overlook this glaring pain in our world. Whether it's ISIL, a police officer who cannot control his fear or rage, a kid in the hood trying to assert himself by acting bigger than he is, or a guy in the executive suite who is pumping himself up to produce profits for "the man," men need permission to become real to themselves and others and it is time for ALL of us to support that. As a woman, I cannot decry the violence of men if I still expect men to act like heroes whenever I have a need. As a woman, I have to confront men and women on the socialization of men. As a woman, I have to look at my own violence and competitiveness. And as a woman, I want to wrap my arms around all those angry, frustrated men who don't know how to deal with their feelings of powerlessness except to beat someone up, including me.
And I applaud the men who have the guts to say no to their conditioning and who are trying to create a healthier paradigm of what it is to be a man. I applaud the men who are willing to admit to traits that are considered female. And I applaud the men who are trying to raise their sons and daughters differently, even though they carry the scars of their own upbringings within them.
We have a culture of violence not only here, but in so many places in the world, and that must be confronted. Whether they are large or small, gay, straight or transgender, Black, White or any other color, whatever the language, let's make the world safe for men to be real. Let us support men to hug one another and find love and comfort with one another. Let us support men to support us all to help bring about a world that actually believes that all people are not only equal, but One.