Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yes, You're a Homophobe

This post is dedicated to my fearless friend Michelle - an individual who stands up for what she believes in and those she loves no matter what.  Special thanks to Feminism and Religion for always being a space where my voice and the voices of others are welcome!
A line has been drawn in the sand between those who support gay rights and those who do not.  While some call it being on the “right side of history,” I simply now refer to it as not sounding and looking like a bigot in the halls of history and in the various books, Facebook posts, and Tweets that our children will one day read.
I’ve spent a lot of my activist life attempting to educate or save for lack of a better term, individuals who say hateful things similar to Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson.In a recent GQ profile, the patriarch of the A&E series called being gay a “sin” and compared the sexual action between same sex individuals to bestiality.  Robertson said:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man –would be more desirable than a man’s anus.  That’s just me.  I’m just thinking: There’s more there!  She’s got more to offer…But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man.  It’s just not logical…Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.  Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
 (Note: The rainbow colors were added by me)
While this may seem like a run of the mill statement coming from someone with this man’s views and beliefs, his statement has created quite the controversy as he has been placed on permanent suspension from the show, his family refuses to film without him (something that is economically harmful to A&E since the show has broken many broadcast ratings records pertaining to reality shows and is a proverbial cash cow for the network and their investors) and, the craziest point of all, the people defending him are stating that his statement isn’t homophobic but rather an expression of his deeply held religious beliefs.
While I would usually just brush off the man’s statements as the actions of another delusional homophobe, I can no longer sit idly by when statements like his not only influence my personal life but also the way in which my human rights are restricted by a man who influences millions of people who tune into watch him on a weekly basis and buy his family’s countless products.
Does being against gay people make you a homophobe?  Yes.  Does being against gay marriage make someone anti-gay? Yes.  It is that simple.  We live in a country and exist in an academy where we can’t make value statements against those individuals standing on the wrong side of history and totally taking advantage and profiting from the homophobia they produce and I have a problem with that.
People are forming a metaphorical human shield around Robertson and the rest of his Duck Dynasty clan and I’m here to say that those individuals, defending him and toting the declaration that homosexuality is a sin are on the wrong side of history and people will not forget who stood on what side of that proverbial line in the sand when this is all over.
I no longer feel the need to save people who feel the same way as Robertson.  I no longer feel the need to educate them about how I am just like them but I just happen to like boys.  I no longer feel the need to explain, over and over again, that although Pope Francis stated: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” it doesn’t make the Catholic church or any other similar fundamentalist or conservative faith-based tradition any less homophobic than they have been or erase the violent and hateful history to those groups who didn't fit their definition of normal.  
Is Pope Francis’ statement groundbreaking?  Yes.  Has Pope Francis, being the leader of the Catholic church and major social, political, and cultural influencer changed any type of church dogma pertaining to homosexuality?  No – and that’s the problem.  People and groups in power need to create the change that we all need to see in the world and until they and their cohorts are willing to do that, I will not sit idly by and feel bad for calling someone or something a homophobe and leaving it at that.  The time has come for activists from all walks of life, who no longer are willing to sit by and watch as their rights are taken away from them, to take up the reins and finish the hard work that our brother and sisters and not only fought but also died for. 
Lately, this problem has become all too personal.  From Facebook status’ that declare Robertson and his clan have the right to say whatever they want because the Bible told them so, to individuals who are openly upset (as they should be) about his statements, I know now that we no longer can live in a society where people can walk the line of the homosexuality argument, examine both sides, and come to the conclusion that it is wrong based on scripture – when you’re against homosexuality and you base your reasoning on your faith that God condemns it or that you’re simply following the teaching of Jesus, you’re wrong.  Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and Jesus, a man who hung out with the poor and downtrodden, wouldn’t be hanging out with Robertson and his homophobic brood who openly preach hate.  Jesus loved sinners and Jesus would rather be dancing with me in West Hollywood on a Friday night than lugging through a swamp luring ducks into a trap with a duck caller made by a clan who think that my sexual actions are similar to that of an individual having sex with an animal.
Call me simplistic or call me a reductionist, but whether or not you call someone a faggot to their face or behind their back doesn't make you any less homophobic.  Using hegemonic biblical texts that no longer define or reflect the views of many individuals from all walks of life fighting for gay and lesbian rights and emphasizing the correct usage of genitalia that deduce a minority class of citizens down to nothing more than whom they decide to love is homophobia plain and simple.  

Just like radical feminists in the 1970s who no longer stood by as patriarchal forces took away their personal, political, bodily, and social autonomy to the ways that African American refused to be silent about how they had (and have continued to be treated) by racists, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual men and women can no longer remain still in the face of targeted hateful attacks upon our communities. Until religion, politics, and society treat LGBTQIA people as equals no one is safe and until people are held accountable, both publicly and privately, for their actions and statements, this world will never change.
I recently tweeted that: “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck; and in this case, its most likely a family full of homophobes hiding behind a statement that lies near the condemnation of shellfish.”  I stand behind this statement and I stand behind the millions of LGBTQIA people who know more about G-d’s love than a man and family who claim to be deeply religious.
Although I find it difficult to understand at times, I respect the position of those individuals and groups that frequently contribute to this blog who choose to remain in these types of traditions and fix the various problems equal rights activists must overcome from the inside.  I am clearly not from this camp and although I claim no religious identity, I do respect their call to action to make a difference in many of the conservative religious and faith-based communities I may and may not have mentioned above.  From the fight for women’s rights to the inclusion of LGBTQIA people in religious communities, the fight for equality, in my opinion, needs a flare of the radical.  Historically, I would call this the Alice Paul vs. Carrie Chapman Catt debacle – while some individuals choose to cozy up to those individuals in power and work for change from the inside out there are those who will literally starve themselves to death just for the ability to taste freedom.  Both are valid and worthy of respect but what one, at the end of the day, will achieve the equality we all so crave? 

If the Duck Dynasty debacle has taught us anything, it isn’t that we live in a country where people like Phil Robertson (and many others) have the ability to say whatever they want by hiding behind the Bible but rather the fact that there are millions of people who only wish to have the same inalienable rights as he does and solely takes for granted.  To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren't able to perform without fear.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Truths My Mother Taught Me

Today is my mother's birthday and I'm so lucky that I have a space like Feminism and Religion to talk about not only her but also my journey.

Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you!

Graduation Photo
The first question I always get asked when I’m in feminist spaces is: “What inspired you to become a feminist?”  Although I could go into the various histories revolving around men’s involvement in the early stages of the women’s movement to the similarities between the LGBTQ and women’s movements, my simple answer has always relied on one person: my mother. 

I’ll be the first to admit (as well as many other people who will join me in the same chorus) that my mother deserves Sainthood for having put up with all the shenanigans I put [and still continue to put] her through.  From running away from our local Catholic church the moment she dropped me off at Sunday School, to swearing like a sailor on leave at a very early age in front of Father Schmidt (who still fondly remembers me and the list I brought in with me to the confessional booth), I taught my mother a few things I do not believe she would had ever thought she'd know during her lifetime. 

Although I pride myself on my rejection of religion, the best lessons that I’ve learned ultimately deal with and relate to the thing I thought I swore off long ago.  I am a feminist because of a Catholic woman who refused to take no for an answer on Sunday mornings because going to church wasn’t about listening to the Priest but rather listening to and learning from the woman who brought me there.  I may have hated sitting in the pews every Sunday but it was there, in that space, where I began to learn what I now love so much.  Though some people may refer to this as lived religion, I suggest that it is more relatable when we refer to it as experiencing religion.  Lived religion, for me, implies past tense, something we’ve studied or done years, days, or even minutes ago.  Experiencing religion is an on-going process, one that happens in the now rather than in the future.  My mother left me when two other truths I’ll never forget:
1.)  Love is love, whether divine or earthly, love does conquer all.
2.)  Trust G-d by trusting in yourself. 

Mom and I
I still remember the day my mother drove away, leaving her baby and only son behind to pursue his dreams of getting a graduate degree in Women’s Studies.  I was scared and I didn’t know whether or not I’d come running home to Wisconsin a week later.  

As the white P.T. Cruiser we rented pulled out of the graduate housing complex I lived in, her words: “I’m so lucky to have a son like you,” resonated in my head.  For the first time, I felt some semblance of divinity watching over me because I trusted my choice and myself.  Trusting in myself led me to find G-d in whatever form he or she chooses to greet me in, I just have to be willing to open the door.

I’m still reminded of my mother’s parting words and the feeling I got each time I board a plane to go wherever those dreams and choices take me.  However, this time, instead of hearing her say that she is the lucky one, I just chuckle, and smile as the plane lifts off the ground, and realize that it is I who is the lucky one. 

I never gave much credence to religion but through my mother, I met G-d, and through her I understood that I’m not a feminist because of the books I’ve read or the degrees I acquire but rather because of the woman I call mom. 

Happy Birthday Mom!  I wish I was there to celebrate with you in Wisconsin.
Mom and Brady

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Hot Seat

I've kept quiet during the whole #Hugogate that has taken the feminist blogosphere by storm.  Although I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, I took a moment to step back, examine the situation, and think about the next step not only for myself but also for all of those who identify as feminists and happen to be men just like me.  Men are here, doing good work, and making strides towards equality alongside women and yes, we can be angry over what happened, but lets use that as a force for good and overcome this pain and anger and continue to create a world that we all want to live and work in together, rather than further apart.  As always, thanks to Feminism and Religion for not only having faith in me since the start of the project but also for continuing to have faith in me and the work I do. 

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a male feminist lately.  As the only man to be a permanent blogger on this very site until my colleague and friend Kile Jones came on board, I took my role, as a man in a traditional feminist (online) space very seriously.  Although the ongoing struggle to be a male feminist is one continually wrought with dialogues about power and positionality (amongst a host of many other topics), I am often conflicted when I see male feminists take advantage and destroy the hard work that many, specifically on this site and beyond, worked hard to build and defend.

Not wanting to reopen old wounds or start new online battles, men have been involved in feminism for quite some time.  From James Mott chairing the first women’s rights convention, to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin’s life partner John Stoltenberg, to Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman’s life long work to legitimizing not only men in feminism but also what it means to be a man who works for gender equality, being a man in feminism isn't easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.

I’ve wrote on this blog that men often have to deal with an internalized misogyny that is a born characteristic trait that imparts that idea that men are not only dominant but also more powerful than women so they should, naturally, be atop of the proverbial pecking order.  This internalized misogyny leads many men, who already or want to exist in feminist spaces, to speak up more than the women in the room when they should really be listening.   However, what is more important than this internalized misogyny is how men, specifically, male feminists, fall victim to their ego by wanting to be the sole male feminist.

While I still believe that men are endowed with these characteristics as a result of purposeful and subconscious cultural, societal and religious imagery that shows men as Gods, it is important to realize that while there the image of the one God may be something that many men idealize and aspire to, the idea of the one male feminist doesn't exist and it is not supposed to.  Those who strive to be the male feminist are doomed to fail and they hurt those who came along for their ego driven ride and the feminist cause they sought to be a part of.

When it comes to leading, men are told to get to the front of the line no matter what the cost or who they hurt and women are told to take a backseat  However, when it comes to feminism, especially men in feminism, men must to go to the back of the bus first and work their way up to the front fully knowing that although they may never reach that coveted front seat, the work they did to help the cause was just as important because equality doesn't mean anything when there is only one voice screaming from the rafters.

Hopefully the hurt that has been caused as of late can be healed and as a result more men join the cause to stop all forms of injustice that threaten not only women’s equality but also equality for all, no matter what.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question

I feel especially honored to have worked for a City that not only prides itself on human rights but also is a constant beacon to the community and the world, specifically during this critical moment in LGBT history.  If one boy, from Ripon, WI can hear the equality ringing from the streets of West Hollywood when he was younger, then I can only imagine what's next and how the City will continue to change the world for the better.  

This blog dedicated to both the City that I now call home but also the Feminism and Religion community that I am constantly honored to write for.  

gay_marriage_81102178_620x350Outrage. Anger. Fear. Hatred. These are just a few of the words that flashed across my Twitter feed as I woke up on that fateful Wednesday, June 26 morning when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional and that supporters of Proposition 8, the hotly contested voter initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, had no standing. People were mad. However, it wasn’t just the typical kind of mad that is associated with hatred, it was a type of mad that was met with impossible anguish because what I was reading and feeling was a result of one thing: there was nothing more they could do.

What does all this mean? Questions from friends and family were filling up my inbox and although I wanted to take a moment to just hit “Reply All,” and input the words: Equality, I had to hold back and start to examine the notion that although equality may now be firmly on the proverbial table, there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically for gay marriage and those wanting to marrying inside the traditional church spaces they grew up in and not just the ones that have come out as open and affirming in recent years towards LGBT individuals.
The ongoing shift of public opinion in support of gay marriage and LGBT rights in recent years is encouraging but it still is only one piece of the puzzle. Working for the City of West Hollywood has granted me the opportunity to see first hand the beauty and the work still left to be done. Although organizations such as California Faith for Equality or Equality California are doing an excellent job in recruiting faith-based communities and other religious organizations to join the fight for LGBT equality within religious communities the work and conversations that need to still occur outside of open and affirming churches is becoming a daunting and often overwhelming force of opposition. The amount of individuals who still do not support gay marriage or LGBT rights in general in conservative and oftentimes hyper patriarchal religious traditions such as Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Judaism and other conservative Evangelical traditions still remains a daunting number and it only appears to be growing now that there has been such a public declaration from public policy and legality standpoints that echo Hilary Clinton’s famous words that: “gay rights are human rights.”

The question that remains is not why do these religious groups not support gay marriage or LGBT rights in general but how are individuals, typically on the outside, supposed to convince members of these faith-based traditions to leave or possibly change their opinions if they still remain steadfast and stubborn on other progressive causes that are often discussed on this very blog. Women’s ordination, sexual ethics, women’s rights, and theological and religious equality in general are just a few causes that individuals on the outside believe would be no brainers when compared to tackling the issues of gay marriage and LGBT rights but still we have on-going and often exhaustive conversations about ensuring the full rights of women in faith-based traditions and communities.

The other question that remains may seem to be the icing on the cake but it is really the tip of the iceberg when we discuss issues like equality within religion: if people refuse to leave their religious traditions and communities when women, who are oftentimes the reason for the very success of not only religion but also faith-based communities in general, then do we really think or expect that they’ll leave when their LGBT brothers and sisters are also denied that same type of recognition but on top of it constantly told they are sinners and are going to hell? If a conservative religious traditions can’t give their mothers or sisters full equality, how can we expect them to give LGBT individuals the time of day?

Gay-MarriageThe issue of equality doesn’t just stop at gay marriage and LGBT rights but only begins there. Women’s rights, women’s ordination, and even the idea of a woman President are the only a few of the other pieces of the equality puzzle anxiously awaiting to be put together. As we have seen with the fight for equality, groups are banding together now more than ever before and although gay marriage may be on the front page of newspapers today, who knows what tomorrow could bring.




Tuesday, June 11, 2013

God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality

I'm always honored to be able to mix the various lives I lead together during my monthly contribution to the Feminism and Religion Project.  I hope you enjoy this month's post and continue to check out the project! 

My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space.  Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality.  An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar

The Palms, the last local and only lesbian bar to be found in city of West Hollywood, CA is closing its doors and I can’t help but wonder where its patrons or parishioners will now go?

With its closing, specifically at the end of L.A. Pride weekend, where thousands of LGBTQ individuals flock to West Hollywood to celebrate what makes our community truly unique, one has to begin to wonder where, if Professor Cartier’s thesis holds true, God has gone? 

The Palms
Does God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity?  Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions.  After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?

The overarching question at hand in regards to the closing of the Palms is not whether or not there is a space for God in the LGBTQ community anymore but rather what role does misogyny play within the very community sworn to respect and take pride in the very differences that makes itself truly unique?  Scholar Ann D. Braude credits the success of religion to the active and oftentimes overwhelming support of women.  With 40% of West Hollywood’s 35,000 residents identifying as gay but only 3% identifying as lesbians one can deduce that the closing of the Palms signifies the growing divide between the LGBTQ community and spirituality as more women leave the proverbial "church spaces" that they have created.  

The success of the LGBTQ community cannot be tied exclusively to gay men but also the struggles and successes of the lesbian community.  Similar to the various ways in which women helped religious communities boom throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in America, the lesbian community, as a whole, is integral to not only the successes of the LGBTQ community and the very cities and spaces they have helped to found.  

With the exodus of women, so comes the migration of spirituality itself and one can only wonder, whether or not, there will ever be any room or spaces left for women where more individual are becoming continually transfixed by Adonises and abdominal muscles. 
If Professor Cartier’s thesis does hold true, we have to begin to wonder if women are fleeing and God is following them, where might they be looking for a new lease?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thanks for Coming (Out): Sexuality, Sports, and Spirituality

Qualifying exams, disseration proposal, full time job, a boyfriend, friends, advocacy work, and maintaining a social life are all things that take up most of my time.  However, I am always grateful to the individuals over at Feminism and Religion who continually give me the opportunity to talk about items that interest me with a community of both activists and scholars dedicated to changing the world. 
Like marking off items on a proverbial checklist, closeted LGBTQ individuals who exist within and outside of the world of professional sports, can recount the numerous things they struggle with in terms of their sexuality. From fearing the actual coming out process, dressing in their car or at home to avoid the subtle glances and whispers of individuals in the locker room, to wondering what coming out would mean not only for their game but also for their social and if they choose, spiritual lives, closeted and out LGBTQ individuals within the multi-billion dollar professional sports industry must grapple with that age old question: what does it mean to be gay and open about it?
The Locker Room
I have to be honest, Jason Collins’ admission that he is a homosexual, albeit brave, upset me. While I understand that coming out is an completely unique experience to every individual who does it, for me Jason Collins’ story was also an example of the rampant sexist and heteropatriarachal world that privileges male bodies and sexualities over those of women. While I applaud Jason’s story and the timing, the first thing I asked to my colleagues was: where was the same hubbub over Sheryl Swoopes or Martina Navratilova?
Martina Cover
As scholars, we have to be critical of the ways in which sexuality and identity politics are both utilized and taken advantage of in the public and private sector. As activists, specifically feminist and/or LGBTQ activists, we have to be diligent in maintaining a strict scrutiny of continual subjugation and objectification of women, regardless of the context.

Sheryl SwoopesPrivilege plays a major factor in discussing sexuality and sports as well as in determining the ideology that separates the gender spectrum. Men can, as Collins has shown us, “toy with the idea [of coming out],” while women who are often considered to be masculine based off of their performance and/or embodiment are therefore suspected of being lesbian for simply for playing sports as good as men.
The Gay Athlete
Jason Collins will now, and forever more--and not only as a result of tokenization and identity colonization--be known as The Gay Athlete (go ahead, google the term, let me know what images come up first). One again, the voices of the women (and men) who have clearly come before him are silenced and pushed to the back of the proverbial historical line.

While Collins’ coming out is intricately tied to feminism, his spirituality and sexuality appear to be at war with each other, specifically in his understanding of the black community and more importantly the black church. 

Growing up in a religious family active in church, Collins understood that there was another dimension to his coming out: “the stigma that being gay [in the black community] is even worse than it is in the general population.”

Not wanting to be labeled the old grumpy codger that I will most likely become down the line, I want to end this exploration of sexuality and sports by commending Jason Collins’ coming out and the conversation it is sparking not only within the professional sports world but also in both the black community and the black church.

Jason Collins wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last, but he is a catalyst for change that is getting global attention. He is an open Christian, a proud gay Black man, and a role model for younger generations of LGBTQ individuals who will most certainly look up to him for years to come.
However, what he is not is the face of homosexuality within the world of professional sports. That role belongs to all members of LGBTQ community, male, female, and trans who have feared coming out and forced themselves to live a life filled with anxiety because they think they do not have a choice in the matter.

Thanks for coming (out) Jason Collins, now take a seat at the axiomatic table full of your brothers and sisters who have come before you and the ones who will most certainly come after.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict

While most of my life has been dedicated to studying for my qualifying exams, finishing up a few book chapters, and working for the City of West Hollywood, I am constantly thrilled for the opportunity to step away from it all and engage in these thought provoking conversations.  I hope you enjoy this blog and visit the Feminism and Religion Project to view the new conversation occurring in the field.  

The most disturbing part of the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil isn’t that fact that Father Oliver O’Grady is rewarded by the Catholic church with a new congregation in Ireland after his short stint in prison for the rape of dozens of children in the 1970s but rather the hierarchy of gendered victimization which is often created throughout the various rape cases that both are reported and unreported throughout history.  

Deliver us from Evil
Deliver us from Evil
I am often troubled by the ways in which rape cases are discussed and even deconstructed via the mediums such as blogs, online communities, social media networks, the news, and popular culture.  No series of events troubled me more than the Jerry Sandusky trial but more importantly, the ways in which the young boys and adult men who were subjected to Sandusky’s abuse quickly overshadowed the other rape cases that are reported on a daily basis, specifically those involving young girls and women. 

Our country needs to have a serious conversation about the ways in which masculinity is not only constructed but also deconstructed through the acts of rape, incest, sexual assault, domestic violence, and virility.  How do these horrific actions pinpoint and break apart the depiction of the hegemonic and virile man who is impenetrable.  How do these acts, which have historically occurred throughout time, gain greater significance in our 24hr news cycle, tech obsessed culture? 

Although the rape of a women on a bus in India by six men didn’t go unnoticed by the world, I have to wonder what would have happened if her story would have occurred on November 4th, 2011, the date when a grand jury, who had convened in 2008, indicted him on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys.  Would it have gotten the same amount of attention it did when it came across U.S. news screens on December 16th, 2012?  Would the outcry from women across the world silence those of both Penn State as well as various other sports fans and individuals from across the United States? 

What these events and society’s obsession with them for the weeks and months and even year after signify isn’t that more attention is being given to violent sexual crimes against all types of bodies but rather a resignification of the hierarchy that is already all too present within our culture today: stories about men in all forms get top billing. 
Upon asking a small groups of friends whether or not they have heard about the rape case involving the Indian woman on December 16th, 2012 or even the rape of an elderly bird-watching woman in Central Park in September 2012 the resounding silence pinpointed the reasons why, when asked whether or not they had heard about Jerry Sandusky, their answers were an unequivocal yes.

While the activist in me wanted to cry out and scream “Are you serious!” the scholar in me knew to take a step back and examine the situation from various angles.   

Why are violent crimes against women cast aside in light of new stories that involve men sexually or violently abusing young boys or other men?  What about masculinity makes it seem both impenetrable and innately hegemonic? 

While we could reduce the actions down to the violent response men have when any form of their power and social/sexual status is threatened, we have to step back and examine the issue about the innate power that men are endowed with not only through social institutions but also religious ones as well.

Men are seen as “on top” both figuratively and literally throughout the various images that bombard both young girls and boys immediately from the expulsion of their mother’s womb (and some would argue even before their expulsion).  From early on, young boys are taught that they are #1 and that “the other,” i.e., the young girl, is not only below them but also an object that they must possess, whether through violent action or the eternal dance of courting.   However, when there is a disruption to this innate system of power structures, the response that we often see is one of violence.  While men are taught that they should not show emotion or deviate from the heteronormative society acted out in front of them on a daily basis, their crisis of masculinity often comes with the inability to negotiate what their identities as men actually mean to themselves personally.  Giving men the ability and space to discuss what their masculinity means to them creates the opportunity to change the narrative of “men on top.”  From small ripples of change that eventually overtake the mainstream current, deconstructing masculinity during times when violent actions are inflicted upon male bodies creates a new chance for scholars and activists to draw attention to not away from the victims at hand but rather into the larger narrative of social, sexual, and domestic violence that occurs all around the world every day to all types of bodies. 

Deconstructing masculinity isn’t the key to solving social, sexual, and domestic violence across the world but it is a step worth taking when attempting to engage men in affecting change to stop these violent actions since men, statistically are the perpetrators of such crimes that both cause such outcry as well as perpetual silence. 


(I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time this month talking with Dr. Gina Messina-Dysert at lengths about our lives, our careers, and like with most scholar/activists eventually about the topics we are passionate about.  Always a source of inspiration, Gina frequently helps me hash out the many topics I’m interested in writing about and pointing me in the right direction. This post (and the blog it is housed on) would not be possible without her continual presence as a force for change and progress within Feminist and Religious communities.)