Emotional Activism as a construct for societal transformation

I am re-posting an older article that still resonates with me.

In June of 2007, I was in Northampton, MA at a public screening of Byron Hurt’s HIP HOP Beyond Beats and Rhymes. If you haven’t seen this movie – I recomend it highly. Hurt has done a fantastic job of really opening the connections between rap, hyper-masculinity, violence, misogyny, sexism, homophobia and corrupt capitalism. The film is powerfully edited, smart, compelling. There were about 160 people in attendance at this Sunday night screening. Some very well recognized heavy-weights in the pro-feminist, anti-violence men’s movement were in attendance.  On the way home with the LadyK I tried to verbalize the deep sadness and frustration that I feel about the disconnection between what I do in my work with the ManKind Project and the work that is being done by powerful scholars “intellectual Heavyweights” (as Hurt said) on the front lines of the anti-violence men’s movement.

Continue reading “Emotional Activism as a construct for societal transformation”

What in the world is biological essentialism?

Biological Essentialism refers to a way of thinking that says, in essence, “biology is destiny”. In the past this kind of view has been used to create different classes of human beings, like saying that Native Americans are ‘savages’, black people are somehow ‘less’ than human or women are not ‘capable’ of being scientists. These more blatant examples have given way in our era to much more subtle ways of perpetuating power based gender differences. “Boys being Boys” is one very routine example. The idea that men are somehow entitled to behaving immaturely because of biological differences is a way that men hold on to dated understandings of the roles of men and women. And I am not an exception here – I still try to get away with some ‘typical male’ behaviors when I don’t want to accept responsibility for my actions and motivations. And don’t get me wrong – I think that these distinctions are reinforced by the WHOLE culture, not just by men. Continue reading “What in the world is biological essentialism?”

The Heart of E.Q. – why Emotions Matter

My belief these days is that we need all kinds of people working to bring sane solutions to the problems we face in the world. And one of the things that I see as missing from the dialog about current events is an acknowledgment of the well documented reality that our bodies, and the sensations and feelings that arise in our bodies, have a huge impact on the thoughts and motivations and actions that we all take. Our bodies process information faster than we can formulate thoughts. We are, in large portion, often unknown to ourselves. Our motivations, the foundation for what we believe and how we act on those beliefs, is not being looked at in our intellectualized discourse.

So bringing awareness to the body, to the emotional and chemical information stream that is often overwhelmed in today’s world, can help all of us bring some added information to any decision, reaction or response. I see this as valuable. Continue reading “The Heart of E.Q. – why Emotions Matter”

Getting real with men …

is not easy. Men are programmed heavily in our culture to keep things within pretty well-defined limits. Business relationships are set in very clear terms. Safe topics of conversation are somewhat limited; sports, the wife, the kids, the weather, home repair, and work. That doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground. In more established relationships it may become safe to actually share what is not going so well along with what is going well. But for most male relationships – it is best, and safest, to stick to the surface.

Until a few years ago – I was scared to death to move any deeper than that.

Now – that is what I am looking for in my relationships, because I truly believe it is needed in our society in order to make the changes that need to be made. Acquaintances are fine when you have similar goals and strategies, but many of the problems we are facing in our cities, towns and states require that people with  different world-views  and different strategies need to be able to work side by side to get the job done. I look around and see a lack in ability to manage the really important side of human relationship, personal psychology.

Debates and discussions will often deadlock; that is the nature of debate. So how do we move through that? I believe the answer lies in our own internal conflicts. We need to be able to handle the “triggers” that set us off in our minds before we will be able to effectively create NEW and out of the box strategies for problem solving between people and cultures. I see the struggle to achieve racial and gender equality in the US as an extension of the struggle to find INTERNAL peace with the issues that these topics bring up – and these issues cannot be addressed in an open debate. They have to be addressed in trusting, open and SAFE relationships.

Only when he knows he is safe will a man risk showing you his soul. I think this is certainly true of women as well – but I believe that our culture provides more support for women to work through emotionally charged subjects. Men are expected to “tough it out”.

So WHY NOW? Because 40% of the children in Springfield live below the poverty line.  Because  women and men of all backgrounds need to [FINALLY] stand together to solve the economic, political and ecological problems of our age – and we will not be able to do so effectively until we look into our own souls. Because we live in a society that is too complicated for one individual to understand – and it takes a deep level of trust to allow others to “know” what we do not – and to FOLLOW them to new ways of being. Because the scandals and corruption of government and corporations have their roots in the personal conflicts of individuals. Look at male youth violence, Virginia Tech. Look at the Senators from Iowa or Florida. Look at the Catholic church scandals. Look at the wars over there and the wars over here. Read the paper, watch the news.

We need good men. We need good women. And make no mistake, I do not mean PURE. I do not mean men and women who have “fixed” themselves. I mean men and women who are prepared to look you in the eye and take responsibility for their failures, their shadows and their triggers. A trustworthy person is not someone who “has it all together”, but a person who is willing to be honest about who they are and make good choices for themselves and those around them, even perfect strangers.

An academic understanding of our problems is not enough.

It’s time to go further and LIVE the complexity that we are. Through THAT door, there is compassion enough to do what needs to be done.

– Boysen