Men, think about the women you care about

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Men, think about the women you care about.

Not only is advancing equality the "right" thing to do but I have a daughter and wife that I want to see continue to flourish in the world....this only flames the passion of advancing gender equality even more. In Part 5 of this series entitled, Gender Equality Has Something In It For Everyone-Including Men, Dr. Kimmel shares that it is through personal relationships with the women in our lives that we care about that we as men become stakeholders and gender equality allies in the gender equality movement.

DR. MICHAEL KIMMEL:

So I believe that I think I've made the case right now that gender equality is in our interests as men. That it enables us to live the lives with our children, our partners, our families, ourselves, that we say we want to live.  But I want to add one more piece to it because I think it's a very important piece for our meeting here today.

And that is I want to talk a little bit about what we think it means, for what ways we enter this conversation.  Because here's what I heard in that exercise earlier that I found so profound.  I think we very often don't get as far when we talk as men, but rather when we talk in our relationships that we already have, to women and to children.

I'm going to tell you one more story.  I was recently at an Ivy League college, which is for those of you who know your Ivy League colleges, this is probably the most unreconstructed frat boy guy land Ivy League school.  So you probably know where I'm talking about, and I was talking with with eight guys from a fraternity.  Now the president of the University had asked me to go talk to this fraternity because he believed they were at elevated risk for sexual assault.  

So I was sitting there talking to about eight guys and I was just asking them questions, as I typically do in my interviews, things like you know like , “Tell me what it's like to be a student here.” and they replied, “Oh my god, it’s so fantastic!  And the parties, they are so awesome! Everybody gets so completely drunk and then we all hook up!  It's fantastic!”  Now there's a part of me, I have to say, the parent part of me, that is saying, “So you get so drunk that you can barely stand up and then you like hook up? Like how good could the sex be?”  I mean I don't want my kid to just have sex, I want him to have good sex.  This is not a good recipe for that. But the other part, so they're all talking about this and then in a moment of silence one guy utterly unsolicited by me said, “You know, I wouldn't let my daughter go here.”  And I thought what an interesting thing, you know..we heard that in the exercise, “I wouldn't let my daughter go here.”  So I said “Basically what you're saying is you wouldn't let your daughter date you...”  But what he was doing at that moment was he wasn't thinking like a guy, he was thinking like a dad. And I think we need to do that more publicly.

HE WASN'T THINKING LIKE A "GUY

HE WAS THINKING LIKE A "DAD" 

WE NEED TO DO THAT MORE PUBLICLY

Every man in this room knows what it's like to love a woman and want her to thrive.  Every one of us does because we are not only men, but we're sons, we're husband's, we're lovers, we're partners, we're fathers, were grandfather's, we're friends, we're aunts, and uncles.  It is in our personal relationships that we know already what that feels like.  You want to meet an instant feminist?  Talk to a man whose daughter just hit puberty and he will tell you, “Oh my god! There are boys out there who are looking at my daughter the way I was taught to look at women….This has gotta stop!  Actually, it's gotta stop now.”  You want to meet an instant feminist talk to an older man who's grown daughter is experiencing harassment or discrimination in the workplace.  (He’ll say,) “We've got to change these workplaces.”  It is in our personal relationships that we become stakeholders first.  

IT IS IN OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS THAT WE BECOME GENDER EQUALITY STAKEHOLDERS FIRST

Right?  I don't know if any of you read, The Onion, but there was a fantastic headline there not long ago that illustrates this it said, Eminem Furious That His Daughter Is Dating Someone Raised On Eminem's Music right?  It's like, “Oh now he's decided to read his own lyrics,” right?  

It's a change of perspective.  I think we as men must not only be thinking as men, but I invite us to think in terms of our personal relationship because we already know the answer.  See this is the thing that I constantly get, the resistance that you sometimes get, when you're trying to begin this conversation with guys is they fear, their defensive fear is, “you're going to tell me that I'm doing it all wrong, that I'm the problem and that I have to change.”  And I think that that's entirely wrong that is not what we're saying at all.  

I want men to be more authentically themselves, not different, but we already know this.  We already know the answer.  And so part of what I do and what when I work with organizations, is I basically pose the following and I'm just going to leave you with this as a last thought.  So I pose this dilemma because I think this is what we're wrestling with.  Typically I ask men, “What does it mean to be a good man?”  I like the “better man”(referring to the Better Man Conference) but,  “What does it mean to be a good man?”  And here's what men will say, “You know, you look up, you look at yourself in the morning and you say you're a good man.”  You think about what will be said of you at your funeral and you want people to say, “He was a good man!”  What does that mean?  And I'll tell you what men say, they say, “Being responsible, being reliable, being ethical, doing the right thing, having integrity.”   If I ask it in the south, they'll use the word honor.  They will use all kinds of (adjectives) “being a provider, a protector” right?  “Sacrificing for others.”  I think pretty much, that pretty much sums it up right?  That's what being a good man means.  And I asked them, “Where did you learn that?”  And they say, “It's everywhere, it's our you know, it's Homeric, it's Shakespearian, it's the judeo-christian heritage.”  I mean really seriously what's the Bible but a really big fat book that says this is how you be a good man?  The Old Testament says, “You do this you, don't do that.” and the New Testament says, “and will forgive you” that's basically it!  

WE KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A GOOD MAN

So we know what it means to be a good man, it's in the air, it's in the water, except in Flint.  So we know what it means to be a good man. Now I say, “Okay you know what it means to be a good man, you tell me if those qualities, if those traits show up when I say, “Man the F up, be a real man.” completely different right? (Those are) completely different things.  Now it's about being hard, and tough, and strong, and powerful.  You know.. getting rich, getting laid, all of those sorts of things…..never showing your feelings, never showing weakness….and then I say, “Where did you learn that?”  And here's what men say in order; dad, coach, my guy friends, my older brother, women….way down that list.  So what I hear then is, it is other men who are policing your performance of being a “real man”.   

And so here's what I want to say, this is the message I want to give my own 17 year old.  I would love to tell him how awesome I am but what I really feel is the more honest thing is, I want him to know that there will be times in his life, as there have been times in every one of the men in this room's lives, when we have been asked to betray our own ethics, our own idea about what it means to be a good man, in order to prove that we are real men in the eyes of other men.  And what I want my son to know, it will cost you.  

IT WILL COST YOU TO BETRAY YOUR OWN ETHICS  

I still remember when I was in eighth grade and the boy next to me in the locker room was being bullied and I knew I was supposed to do something.  What are you supposed to do when a guys next to you is being bullied?  Stand up for them.  Suddenly my shoes got so interesting. I didn't. I did the wrong thing. I did not stand up for him. I looked away, I was scared.  I thought that if I did stand up for him they'd come after me.  In other words I did the wrong thing.  This is 40 something years ago, I'm still ashamed of myself.   It will cost you when you betray your own ideas.  

WE ARE NOT PROPOSING MEN CHANGE INTO SOMETHING ELSE

WE ARE ASKING MEN TO BE MORE AUTHENTICALLY THEMSELVES 

So we are not proposing, and this is the important thing about the kind of work that Ray and I are doing together.  We are not proposing that men change into something else, we are asking men to be more authentically themselves.  To be able to look in the mirror more often to say, “You did the right thing.  You know you stood up for the little guy.”  So for me, our support of gender equality is not only because it is right and fair and just, which it is, and which should be enough but also because it's in our interest as men because we are stakeholders in this conversation and it will enable us to have the kind of relationships with our partners, our friends, or lovers, our wives, our children, and ultimately with ourselves. Thank you very much.

(END OF Dr. KIMMEL'S TALK)

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