Monday, December 27, 2010

Think Outside the Box: A Team Effort

I'm a huge fan of TED talks and I encourage everyone to check them out ( As I was browsing through some of these talks, I found one that really opened my eyes to a topic that I never felt like I could relate to... until very recently. The fact of the matter is, women have to deal with a lot more shit than most men are willing to acknowledge and as a sociology professor of mine so eloquently said, "We live in a man's world".

Why Bring This Up?

Throughout my time in college, I've absorbed a lot of information on the issue of justice and equality for women and it's been quite an interesting journey. Now I've always been a huge proponent of diversity, not only in the workforce, but in all aspects of the world. Let me just say that people often confuse "diversity" with the ratio of black people to white people, which is quite an ignorant misconception because the definition of diversity is "showing a great deal of variety" which includes every race, ethnicity, gender, religion... etc. That being said, diversity is necessary for us to progress in every facet of this world because we each have something different and unique to bring to the table. The more we connect with everyone, learning and teaching one another, the more we can accomplish as a world... the better chance we have of curing diseases, creating new technologies, ending violence and murder... etc. When we work together the possibilities really are endless! Our rides are interconnected and every time we make it a better ride for others, our own ride gets better as a direct result.

My Eye Openers

1) For quite some time I've been involved with an office which promotes the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities in my field. It's been an amazing time that has opened my eyes to so many things and some wonderful people. However, I have always had one internal struggle for as long as I've worked there. This is the fact that I (as well as all the other males who work in the office) really don't have a hand in the "women" aspect of the job. With the exception of a few individuals, this is accepted and sometimes even encouraged. The men are not exactly dying to get involved and the women are happy doing what they do. Now I do understand that in order to promote such a thing, everyone wants to find someone that they can relate to: minorities want to talk to minorities and women want to hear from women. I'm not saying that the men should be in charge of all the programs directed towards women, I'm not saying that even I should be in charge of anything... what I'm trying to say is that it's a team effort... just like everything else in this world. Why can't we work with each other side by side? I want to hear about your struggles so that I can help prevent them from happening to you and to others. I certainly know that I'm not perfect and if I'm doing something to perpetuate a problem, I want to fix that! I want to be a part of the change and I think most men do too. If men are part of a problem or issue... why not help us to stop being a problem and start being a solution? This was the beginning of my yearning to learn more and be a bigger part of this issue.

2) One semester I took two classes that happened to discuss some things relating to all of this. One of the classes had a professor who's only goal is really "to challenge you and to get you to think"... and he most definitely does. In one unsuspecting class, he brought up a topic which quite honestly outraged a huge amount of the over 700 people in attendance but he brought up some great points and I can only hope that everyone else learned what I did. He started talking about his wife and her period... now what did you think when you just read that?... Did say to yourself anything along the lines of gross.... disgusting... inappropriate... then he would LOVE to talk to you face to face... these were the people he was talking to in the class. He started to ask the class why they reacted that way? Why can't we talk about it like any other bodily function? Why is it any different than sweating?... because that's a natural bodily function too. After much debate between the students and the professor, he stated his opinion. He said "maybe it's because we live in a man's world and after so many years, men have made women feel some sort of way about it... like they have to hide it." This really made me think about how women and men are connected in this world, about how everything we say and do with those around us really influences others. It made me think about my childhood and the things boys say to girls... and the things boys say about girls. It made me think about why an ambitious man is just called ambitious but an ambitious woman is often called a bitch. It really made me think about how important and precious women are to our society, and how important it is for men to recognize that, because too often they don't. Maybe I thought way too hard about it, but I certainly think we do "live in a man's world" and I think that men need to work with women to change that, because this is everybody's world.

3) My most recent eye opener is the TED talk that I mentioned earlier. Tony Porter (the speaker) talks about his life growing up in the projects and what he calls "The Man Box". The man box is a box that contains all the standards that society has for men. He says that men are so worried about staying in this man box, that women suffer because of it. Now this video REALLY made me think about my childhood because as he talks about being a kid, I can remember very similar experiences as a child. My childhood was interesting in this manner because I always felt like me and the boys I knew really respected women. We took pride in protecting women and if we heard about another guy disrespecting a girl, we would get in his face about it and even threaten him. We took so much pride in that. We thought we were the good guys... and that this was how we were supposed to act. But on the flip-side, we acted exactly the way Tony describes in the video. We talked about girls as if they were objects, we thought other guys were cooler if they were with the "hot" girl, or if they hooked up with girls (sexually in one way or another) and not only that, if you didn't hook up with girls, then you were stupid, you were a loser, or you were "gay". We said some pretty terrible things and I know without a doubt that my friends and I were all just scared to be anything different than society's standard "man". What's even crazier about this is that I certainly didn't step outside this mindset until I came to college... not until I was around 18 years old! I lived the majority of my life stuck inside this man-box and I'm someone who was raised by a single mother so my father was almost never around. How could I be so influenced without even having a male father figure? I think that's one way to illustrate how strongly influenced our society of males is influenced by these standards. It's this type of mindset that allows us to live in a man's world... that allows things like rape, violence, and social injustice to exist... why it took so long to grant women so many rights... and why it's up to men and women equally to be a part of the solution.

So this is my call to men to think outside the box, be yourself, and don't be afraid of that. Don't feel like you have to be the typical "man" that society defines because you're oppressing yourself internally, and in turn, you end up perpetuating problems without even recognizing it. This is also my call to women to recognize that this is a team effort and that we all have to be a part of the solution equally. If men are a part of the problem, teach us how not to be. Show us how to help you and how to stop these issues in their path. Let's work together and make it a better ride for everyone!

Here's the video that motivated me to write the blog post:

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