International Women’s Day is right around the corner. And so in this edition of Press Play, we’re highlighting A CALL TO MEN, an organization that encourages educating men and boys with the goal of teaching respect towards and eradicating violence against women.
From schools to the workplace to the government, A Call To Men examines ideas of toxic masculinity and works with young boys to harness negative energies into positive ones. We chatted with Tony Porter, the organization’s CEO. They train communities all over the world, and you can watch their videos on nyxt.nyc/a-call-to-men.
“We know that understanding, practicing, and promoting healthy manhood is the solution to prevent violence in our communities — from bullying and male suicide to mass shootings.”
Tony Porter - CEO, A CALL TO MEN
NYXT: What have been the main changes throughout the history of A CALL TO MEN?
Tony Porter: At the time the organization was founded, Ted Bunch and I wanted to raise awareness of what men who do not batter or sexually assault women have in common with those who do. They recognized that in our society, men are socialized to devalue women, treat women as objects and as the property of men. While offending individuals must be held accountable for their abusive and violent behavior, men have the power to address the larger social ill. We have spent the past 20 years offering an invitation to men, not an indictment of manhood. We let men and boys know that their ideas about manhood, women and girls have been shaped by their collective socialization. The messages that the media and culture bombard us with tell us that women are objects, property and have less value than men. Our job is to raise men’s and boys’ consciousness about their collective socialization so that they can think critically about how they might be reinforcing or passing on these harmful beliefs and so they can challenge those beliefs in other men.
NYXT: Which communities do you support? What are the main age groups that the organization works with?
Tony Porter: A CALL TO MEN works from the barbershop to the boardroom. We have training for middle and high schools, colleges and universities, athletic programs, professional sports leagues, the military, corporations and grassroots organizations. We are working virtually anywhere and everywhere you find men and boys, including the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National Hockey League, the United States Military, the Department of Justice, the United Nations, corporations, organizations, and educational institutions across the United States and abroad.
NYXT: What is the organization’s contribution to social justice and education causes?
Tony Porter: Violence prevention is the primary outcome of A CALL TO MEN’s work. A CALL TO MEN educates men all over the world on healthy, respectful manhood. Research by the World Health Organization shows that men and boys who adhere to rigid, traditional notions of gender roles and masculinity are more likely to report having used violence against a partner. In 2019, the American Psychological Association released first-ever guidelines for addressing toxic masculinity. The guidelines were based on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly. Embracing and promoting a healthy, respectful manhood prevents all forms of gender-based violence. Healthy, respectful manhood is also linked to improved physical health and emotional well-being for men. When boys are told not to cry or feel, there are lasting negative effects on their health and relationships. Research by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who suppress their emotions are one-third more likely to die prematurely than people who regularly express what they are feeling. Issue of rage, anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms can manifest. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate is four times higher in men than in women.
NYXT: What are A CALL TO MEN’s main goals and challenges for 2020?
Tony Porter: One of our main goals is to expand our work with youth. Our LIVERESPECT Curriculum prevents bullying, dating violence and sexual assault in schools and sports. It empowers boys to better understand healthy relationships, more effectively negotiate relationships with their peers, and make better decisions for themselves and those around them. When we launched the curriculum, we found that only 19 percent of boys understood what consent means. But they were eager for information on how to have conversations about it. After a single 45-minute lesson, 75 percent of boys reported understanding what consent means, which we believe will lead to increased communications and decrease rates of dating violence and sexual assault. It's actually free - we encourage your readers to check it out.
Our biggest challenge is funding. In 2019, we reached 100,000 men and boys with in person training, and we want to reach even more in 2020. Our only limitation is resources.
NYXT: What changes would you like to see regarding gender equality in the next few years?
Tony Porter: We are in an exciting time - a time where men have an opportunity to thoughtfully consider the ways they currently impact the world around them, and how they want to move forward. We see more and more men practicing and promoting healthy manhood, which we know is the solution to ending all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.
NYXT: What do you ultimately want to see the organization become in the future?
Tony Porter: Culture change doesn't happen overnight. We would like to get to a time where the Man Box no longer dominates. We coined that term to illustrate the collective socialization of men. It identifies the limitations on what a man is supposed to be and what he believes. These expectations are taught to men – sometimes unconsciously – and reinforced by society. In the Man Box, men are supposed to be powerful and dominating, fearless and in control, strong and emotionless, and successful.
In the Man Box, women are objects, the property of men and of less value than men. The teachings of the Man Box allow gender-based violence to persist and perpetuate a heterosexist norm that devalues all those who don’t conform to a gender binary.
We need to let our boys be who they are and relieve them of the pressure to conform to the limited teachings of the Man Box. Boys are discouraged from showing emotion by the time they are of school age. We push our boys beyond their feelings to aggression and they see it reflected back to them in video games, music, movies, and pornography. The teachings of the Man Box create a damaging cycle of harm — from insecurity and pain and shame to detachment and — too often — violence. We know that understanding, practicing, and promoting healthy manhood is the solution to prevent violence in our communities — from bullying and male suicide to mass shootings. Healthy manhood relieves men and boys of a lifetime of trying to measure up, of trying to be man enough, of endless performance and constant suppression of emotion — all at the expense of the women, girls, LGBQ, trans, and gender-nonconforming people, as well as other men and boys.
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