Oct 212007
Authors: Christopher Leck

I’m pretty sure someone else should have written this thing.

As a self-identifying heterosexual white male, I get tons of space to express my opinions to the world. My voice is usually the loudest, the most often heard and carries the most weight.

Put this guy in the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies and suddenly my voice gets even louder. I get requests all the time to show up at an event or a classroom because it’s such a novelty for a MAN to talk about gender and violence prevention.

“How wonderful.” “What an inspiration!” “This is a guy who gets it, let’s all listen to him.”

Men doing this work get too much credit for doing the same stuff others have been trying to do for years. Others just happened to be the “wrong” sex, sexual identity or cultural background to get heard.

So, if I have no shortage of people listening to me then why am I not deferring the opportunity to write an op-ed to someone whose voice has been silenced for way too long? I asked this question at our staff meeting. They didn’t give me an answer. They just told me, “write about that.”

Every once in a while somebody (typically male) gets the bright idea to put up a stink about how there is no Advocacy Office for men. This can elicit a pretty strong reaction (to put it mildly) that the whole University is an Advocacy Office for men.

Let’s be honest, society, our culture, it’s all an Advocacy Office for men.

For men that employ the version of masculinity being sold to us all – powerful, in control, emotionless, independent, dominating, wealthy, always right, tons of sex, never backs down, does everything to excess because no one is going to tell me what to do – the world is a very safe and comfortable place. Men make more money, feel safe at night, can be president and have no trouble getting heard.

What a wonderful job the Men’s Advocacy Office of the World is doing.

It’s easy to feel comfortable with these benefits as a manly man especially if you ignore the consequences.

Men are more likely to commit suicide. Men are 90 percent of both victims and perpetrators in homicides. 99.8 percent of people in prison for rape are men. We could go on and on.

This version of masculinity definitely isn’t working out for women, and it’s not working out well for men either.

So where do you go if you’re a male who is not buying the dominant version of manhood? What if degrading women makes you uncomfortable? What if you don’t look or act like the men on TV? Where do you go for support?

Everywhere is a safe space for a white male because even if we don’t agree with what is going on around us, we can at least fake like we do. Most of us can pass pretty easily as a “manly man” when we have to.

The Men’s Project is a 10-week bystander intervention training designed to ultimately decrease instances of sexual assault and rape on campus. Our hope is to change culture and make CSU a safer place to be a woman, homosexual and transgendered.

Men’s Project men aren’t out there just working for other people. It doesn’t work to train “heroes.” It only works when men understand that we are in pain, too. We need to rewrite masculinity (or throw it out altogether) in a way that is healthy for men.

Everyone’s freedom (and safety and health) are all rolled up in the same struggle. For three years now, men looking for a home outside the restrictive boundaries of masculinity have found a place in The Men’s Project.

I would never cry “boo-hoo” for men. It’s hard to get away with whining when you’re sitting on the top of the pile, but being on top comes with a pretty painful price. The solution is the same for oppressors and the oppressed stuck in this pile. Until it’s worth it for men – until we recognize just how much we really are losing and sacrificing – no one gets out of the pile.

I have been given more as a man (credit, space and time) than I have earned, but people listen to me because I’m a man. Research shows that people are more likely to be influenced by people who share their identities.

Women have been working on ending gender-based oppression for a long time. They’re pretty clear on the issues. Men need the catching up. Maybe we’ll hear it if enough men use the extra influence we’ve been given to work on each other.

Are you listening?

Christopher Leck is the program coordinator for the Men’s Project within the Office of Women’s Programs and Studies at CSU. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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