Anthony Porter has an organization called "A Call to Men" in which he states:
What is a good man?
A good man is a man who believes a woman should be respected. A good man would not assault a woman. A good man believe in equality for women? A good man honors the women in his life. A good man, for all practical purposes, is a nice guy, We believe this to be the majority of men.
So for Mr. Porter a "good man" is defined entirely by his "niceness" particularly in respect to women? Really? Can you imagine a Feminist/womanist accepting a definition of "good womanhood" that was so focused on her actions and behaviors towards men? I can't. Matter of fact, most of the "highly independent" women I know both in person and on various social sites, define themselves as good women regardless of or in spite of men. But keep this in mind because the next major issue is what Mr. Porter calls "The Man Box".
The Man Box is a set of rules that according to Mr. Porter, all men, good and bad ascribe to which allows for violence against women.
"The Man Box" consists of the following:
*Don't cry or openly express emotions with the exception of anger
*Do not show weakness or fear
*Demonstrate power/control especially over women
*Do not be "like a woman"
*Do not be "like a gay man"
*Makes decisions-Does not need help
*Views women as property/objects
Lets tackle this "box"
On item one we see a great falsehood. First of all there are many emotions: sadness, fear, happiness, satisfaction, calm, anger, amusement. Men express these emotions many times, sometimes all in the same day and sometimes multiple times in a single day. Even within a relationship it is simply untrue that men do not show any emotion other than anger. Anyone who says they have not seen a man express any emotion other than anger is straight lying. Anger gets peoples attention because of it's proximity to violent behavior.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry
What men do not show [frequently] is weakness and fear (collectively vulnerability). Why? Well guess what? Human males are mammals. Across the mammalian world, males compete with each other for status. Often with bouts of violence. Males also have to fight off predators to protect his territory. Therefore it is to the advantage of the male to project dominance even when fearful in order to survive. Why exactly are we having a discussion on stuff that is long known biological behavior for most if not all mammalian males? Secondly, why are we attempting to change it?
The next three items should also be grouped together with item one. Power is simply the ability to determine outcome(s). In order to determine outcome then one must be aggressive, one must protect what one has and most importantly one must be in control of oneself, including one's emotions. Hence we see the reason why the expression of "negative" emotions, those that relinquishes power or makes ones power vulnerable, are made to be under control by a "real" man. Again across the mammalian species the male is the aggressor. You want to see a passive male, see a male that is lacking in testosterone or has low status. Again I must ask why this is supposed to be a negative? There is a phenomenon called "sublimation" usually used in reference to the redirection of sexual urges, usually by men, into other endeavors. "negative" emotions in many well socialized males is sublimated into "positive" actions such as redoubling efforts to succeed at what they failed at. etc. Therefore a blanket statement about not wanting to seem weak or afraid as a negative thing is very problematic.
The sixth item, "Do not be "like a woman" is self explanatory. Why should a man want to "be like a woman"? Why is this negative? Why would any man who respects manhood and womanhood even suggest that "do not be like a woman" is negative? And why would he imply that such a statement devalues womanhood when it does not?
Item seven, 'Heterosexual"? And? As with the above, If a male wants to behave as a woman, which he should be free to do, why should heterosexual males accept him as a "man" that they are? Notice I break out "male" from "man". Male is a genetic construct. It merely indicates that an individual has a x-y chromosome pair. a "man" is a socialized, mature male. Even in societies that accepted homosexuals, those males were not considered men.
Item eight "Tough-Athletic-Courage": Is this fellow saying that boys ought to be told it's OK to be shook? Really? It's one thing to acknowledge that one gets scared. It's an entirely different thing to imply that stressing courage in a maturing male is somehow negative and problematic. In my opinion it's even worse coming from a descendant of Africans, many of whom have infamous initiation rites in which bravery and courage is specifically trained for. How does Mr. Porter think our ancestors survived the middle passage, if they did not face their fear? How does Mr. Porter think our African Ancestors in various countries got the guts to stand up to well armed militaries and other uprisings?
In non-racial terms, if we go back to the biology of it all, males of the species are generally the bigger (muscular), faster, etc. than the female. We can thank Testosterone for that as well. So again I have to ask, like a broken record, why is this fellow implying that such a thing is bad?
The ninth item is probably one that many women have talked with their girlfriends about.
Girl, we were going around in circles and he refused to stop and ask for directions...
Shoot, I've done it. You know what? Deal with it. Really. That's that independent spirit and there's nothing wrong with it. While there are those who will take such things to extremes, generally speaking women need to let this one go. One of the things men generally get great satisfaction from is figuring something out. It goes back to the disassembled toys, radios, etc. that we left in our wakes as children.
And we come to item 10: "Views women as objects/property" Really? Of course what Mr. Porter means, and indeed what he says in the video, is "Sex object". Again this is common currency of the "thought police" wing of the feminist movement. How dare a straight man see a woman and think "I'd hit that." Forget the whole known biology thing. No, lets forget the fact that human males are in fact "always ready to go" in the strict biological sense in that we produce millions of sperm a day and barring psychological or biological issues can "get it up" at any time. Never mind that for roughly 28 days out of the month a female can have intercourse (and some do manage many of those days). No never mind all of that biology. Never mind that upon sexual maturity, males will involuntarily (as in not trained) think about sex multiple times a day.
In terms of viewing women as property let's keep it real. This society treats boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives as property of the involved parties. Is not the term "That's my man" or "That's my girl" (And it is usually girl regardless of age) a statement of ownership? Isn't monogamy based in the objectification and propertization of another human? He or she cannot have sex with another person because that person's genetalia are "mine" and for "my use only". If we really wanted to get at the point of "property/objectification" we would encourage people to say things such as "I'm married to so and so" or "I am with so and so" which would connote our voluntary and revokable attachment to another person rather than ownership with is implied by the "My man", "My wife", kinds of statements. I suppose that doesn't fit into the present line of thinking present in this video.
In summary we see that this presentation purports that everything masculine about men, that which generally differentiates sexually mature males from sexually mature females is "bad". If males would act less male then everything would be "OK". Mind you, after giving this list of negatives, Mr Porter claims that "There are many wonderful things about being a man." failing to mention any of them. Not even the "can pee standing up." I dunno, I would have liked to hear what is so wonderful about being a man. Seeing as there are so many thing Perhaps Ted Talks will invite the brother back to give that presentation.
And this is really a part of the deeper problem. In almost every case in which I have had these discussions I have asked the people involved to define a "man" and most often the question cannot be answered. If people cannot even agree on what a "man" is. How can a "good" or "bad" man be determined?
Mr. Porter continues his presentation with a discussion of his two children. His daughter, he says, could come to him crying and looking for comfort and he would comfort her (like a man should) and let her know that "Daddy's got you." You'll note that his statement has the implication that he is "tough" and "strong" and therefore can "protect" his daughter from harm. Indeed he invokes some of the "Man Box" items which he has just told us were "bad".
When his son comes to him crying he gets on him and gets him to "suck it up." Asking him "Why you cryin'? Hold your head up". "explain to me what's wrong" etc. It is Mr. Porter's contention that his treatment of his son was unfair. I disagree. Mr. Porter was in fact imparting to his son what men are expected to do (as discussed above). What we should ask Mr. Porter is this: Why did you not treat your daughter as you did your son? Is Mr. Porter of the opinion that girls (and women) cannot be expected to master their emotions? to "suck it up"?
You'll note that he says:
"Out of my own frustration with my role and responsibility of building him up as a man, to fit into these guidelines and these structures that are defining this man box..."
Excuse me? Frustration? Frustration with your role and responsibility as a father? I dare say that if a man is unprepared and not enthusiastic about his role and responsibility of socializing a boy into a man, then he ought not embark on the endeavor.
He says he said to his son:
Go to your room. Sit down. Get yourself together. And come back and talk to me when you can talk to me...like a man
Mr. Porter wants us to think that this is bad. Shame on him. Whenever any of us are faced with obstacles that cause us to feel fear, frustration and pain, The steps he described are EXACTLY what we should be doing. We should go to "our own space" and "collect ourselves" which means that we are activating the logical and impulse control areas of the brain to overcome the emotive and instinctive parts of our brains and once we do that tackle the problem from a logical point of view. This, my friends, is parenting. In other words Mr. Porter wants to extend the concept of external dependency to his son. That is sad.
Another example he gives is the 12 year old football player:
I asked him: "How would you feel, if in front of all the players the coach told you you were playing like a girl?"...The boy said to me 'it would destroy me' and I said to myself: God! If it would destroy him to be called a girl what are we then teaching him about girls?"
Well aside from teenage exaggerations, lets take this at face value. Firstly the question was if the coach said he played like a girl not that he was a girl. Important difference. If you take a look at your average 12 year old girl in gym class, you could easily picture what such a statement looks like and how devastating a critique of a player, particularly for a football player that would be. The reflection is not on girls as entities but rather girls as in average behavior. He doesn't have to be "taught" anything about "girls". For the example given all he has to do is observe them in his daily life. Does that mean that there are no girls who can play football well? Of course not. But on average? Let's be real. We know exactly what it meant
In Mr. Porter's next example he discusses "Big Johnny" the older boy in his neighborhood who he looked up to. Johnny took to raping the neighborhood mentally challenged girl (she was legally incapable of consent) and invited Mr. Porter and his other friends to "have a go". Porter relates his anxiety of having to face an offer of sex (which he felt he could not refuse) the possibility of rape (which he did not commit) and knowing that his friends were going to rape this girl. He posits this as a part of the "man box" issue. The problem with this example is that it was not a "man box" issue as much as it was a parenting issue. Mr. Porter was in a situation not unlike what I discussed in my post entitled "A Perfect Storm of Pathologies" Where I wrote:
Firstly we have the group of males involved. By the reports there were adult males of undetermined age and boys of various age. So the first thing we have to ask is why are "grown men" leading "immature" males to have sex with a person known to be mentally disabled? If I were the 'hood type I would ask "where they do that at?"
Same question applies here. Not only that but where were the parental rules about entering the homes of other people without permission? Had that rule been in effect Mr. Porter would not have found himself in the situation because parental rules, which exist to compensate for the lack of judgment of children, would have been a deterrent to getting in the situation. Lastly on this point, I do not accept putting criminal behavior in the so-called "man box". criminal behavior, such as rape, ought to be clearly marked in some other box.
In any case the presentation gets even worse. Mr. Porter then engages in group blame of the type that if the topic was, say, race, he would have been booed off stage. That assumes that he would have even made it on stage. Mr. Porter present a slide that purports to show the following:
=violence against women
So he flat out states that all men are socialized to believe that women are of lesser value then them though he has no provable examples of it. All men see women as property. A claim that cannot be founded at all. And all men objectify women another unprovable assertion the error of which is compounded by the biological issues of heterosexuality and how males are wired "from the factory". Just because it is likely that a man will view a woman as a potential sex partner it does not mean that he only sees her in that manner. While this chart may be accurate for criminal males who rape, kill, verbally and physically harass women, this entire slide is false on it's face. To compound the error Mr. Porter closes with the following:
We as men, Good men, the large majority of men, we operate in the foundation of this whole collective socialization. We kinda see ourselves as separate, but we're very much a part of it.
Woah there. We so called "good men" (still undefined without dependencies on how we relate to women) see all women as less than us and as our property. Sure. Mind you this is quite different than the male privilege issue where males get benefits by simply being males, regardless of intent. This fellow purports to tell us what all men are thinking and how we all see and relate to women. Can you imaging Ted Talks allowing a person to stand up and say that every single white person is racist, sees black people as inherently less than them? Would the TED audience give such a speaker a standing ovation? If such a presentation has been given, please do point it out to me.
In closing I suggest that the viewer of this video or any other presentation in which men or women make wildly generalized statements about straight masculine males be taken with many grains of salt. Many of these people are motivated by their own discomfort with being a man or woman. Their own relatively low social status. Their guilt over behavior they engaged in that harmed another woman or simply as a means of getting in good with women. It is not unlike many people who engage in race talk.