Mind and Body

Who controls the toxic in toxic masculinity?

Ten Men holds in sixth annual men’s summit to address how to end men’s violence against women

Photo by Brittany Ballantyne, RICADV

The group photo of those attending the Ten Men Summit on Nov. 7 at Johnson & Wales University.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 11/11/19
The sixth annual men’s summit by Ten Men, with its call to end men’s violence – and men’s silence about violence – against women, was held on Nov. 7.
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PROVIDENCE – For the third year in a row, ConvergenceRI attended the annual men’s summit hosted by Ten Men, a division of the R.I. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, held on Thursday, Nov. 7, at Johnson & Wales University.

The event, titled “Time To Step Up: Calling each other to end men’s violence against women,” drew some 100 participants. The evening followed the exact same format from previous years, with group discussions around tables prompted after viewing two provocative videos, with the discussion moderated by a Ten Men veteran at the table.

Many of the participants that ConvergenceRI had met in previous years did not seem to be in attendance this year. The most interesting conversation during dinner, before the event, was with a man who had recently come back to Rhode Island, who conducted trainings in racial equity around the country, and whose wife was a teacher in the Providence public schools at one of the high schools. He offered some insightful criticisms of the state takeover of the Providence schools.

Stepping up

The messaging, expressed in advance by speakers before discussions began, was clear: most men are not violent, but most men are silent, with the goal of the group discussions to find common ground about how men could step up in their own lives to prevent men’s violence against women.

Many of the participants were students from Johnson & Wales University, along with a mix of men from diverse ages and backgrounds. The students appeared to be taking classes that were being offered by the school’s Gender and Equity Institute.

The first video shown as the Gillette ad, “We believe: the best men can be,” which generated plenty of controversy when it was initially aired.

What seemed to resonate most at the table where ConvergenceRI was sitting was the refrain by men cooking on outdoor grills, “Boys will be boys,” as if that could be used to explain away bad behavior. Many at the table spoke about similar scenes in their own lives that they had encountered, and how they might change their behavior today.

Jive talking
The second video was a monologue by a fast-talking comedian, engaging in a kind of double talk about what his real meaning was.

One man shared his own experience, having an older sister who was in abusive relationship, but no one intervened, until the sister set her own hair on fire. He said he was unsure what he would do today if he were confronting a similar situation.

Closing remarks
“We are here because there is an epidemic of violence against women, mostly perpetrated by men,” said Noah, one of the participants in the 2018 Ten Men cohort. “Everyone has the opportunity to be an example. Be the change. I challenge you to step up and change the culture.”

At the end of the event, the men were encouraged to sign a card to serve as a call to action, saying what they would commit to today. Then everyone posed for a group photo.

Missing from the conversation
Perhaps because it was his third time covering the event, but ConvergenceRI found the conversations remarkably predictable, even around the table.

One topic, not addressed, was gun violence, particularly in the wake of the increase in domestic violence cases in the past year that were murder/suicides.

Another topic, not addressed, was the issue around domestic violence in professional sports – the most recent being the member of the Houston Astros management who verbally attacked women reporters in the locker room following the Astro’s victory over the New York Yankees.

A third topic, not addressed, was the way that powerful men within media organizations, as detailed by Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker, attempted to squelch the stories about sexual misconduct in the news media.

A fourth topic, not addressed, was a response to pushback from those who said that they were offended by the Gillette ad and the entire concept of toxic masculinity.

Who, if not Ten Men, is the appropriate group to speak out on these issues in Rhode Island?

Comments

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Greg Gerritt

What is also never addressed is who creates the toxins we are exposed to. And while we are talkinga bout gun violence, how about addressing militarism and nationalism as sources of toxic violence. Governments want violent young men so they can be trained to kill.

Monday, November 11

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