Thoughts From a Fellow Traveler: The Boston Marathon and The Long Journey Ahead

By Paul Ang, MasculinityU Guest Blogger


It is with a heavy heart that I feel the need to write this piece, if not out of a need for a constructive outlet at this moment. As many have become aware, there were a series of explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which resulted in the injuries of at least 140 people and the unfortunate loss of 3 lives, at the time I write this. The perpetrator(s) and the motives of these events are still unknown at this time. It is important to become as informed as possible and to not jump to any conclusions rashly. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured and their families; for a speedy recovery and a swift reunion with loved ones.

Among many thoughts, a common thread keeps returning to my mind: How real, how personal, how close to home; does violence have to become, before the overwhelming majority of people stop reacting and start being proactive and become willing participants in efforts to end violence?

No matter the motivation; race, gender, class, political or religious ideals; violence leads to the same result. The same unfortunate and unnecessary conclusion has been seen with ever increasing frequency, and there seems to be no indications of any change in this trend.

It troubles me, that, only in the immediate time following such blatant acts of violence, people find the willingness to engage in any conversation, positive or not, about violence. To me, an unwillingness to engage in an open discussion is the first step towards violence. Even with the best efforts of those already committed to ending violence; the individual responsibility and ownership of preventing further violence becomes so diffused, it becomes hard to recognize. How can we put out a fire by continually turning our back and stepping away until it burns us again?

If we, as a society, aren’t willing to engage in a dialogue, outside of time of crisis or grieving, are we inherently condoning violence? I can’t help but believe this to be true. The prevention of violence isn’t a bracelet to be worn, or a Facebook or Twitter photo to change for a week; it is a year round, lifetime struggle. We all need to buy stock in “Violence Prevention, Inc,” because we are in a buyer’s market. It is not sustainable to have tragedies like the Boston Marathon, like Stuebenville, like Sandy Hook, like Aurora be the fuel source for a movement towards ending violence.

I can only hope, that a result of growing up in a world where horrific images and acts flood the news; that the young people and children of this nation, and the world can begin to rapidly develop the ability to empathize and be compassionate more frequently than reacting with anger and more violence.  There is a power in numbers, and bystanders overwhelmingly outnumber any other group. It is unacceptable to remain complacent, silent, and unengaged. I challenge myself, I challenge you, your friends, your family, strangers; to become proactive; to become an investor in the preciousness of life and the ability to live free of a threat of violence in all its forms.

Regardless of your background, regardless of your level of understanding and involvement; each of you has the opportunity to make a difference. The contributions every one of you is capable of making, no matter how small they seem, are so valuable. If each one of us can just take one step forward today, towards the goal of creating a violence free community, just think of the collective distance we will have covered together.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” If we challenge each of ourselves to carry even the smallest ember, the faintest flame; so that together our love, our warmth and our light will be so brilliant, no darkness can prevail.



Heteronormativity of Valentine’s Day (From the Archive)

Sacchi Patel

Co-Founder MasculinityU

February 14, 2011

Today marks an important holiday for Americans as we spend close to $18,000,000,000 to make up for not showing others we love them the other 364 days out of the year. A simple Google search for “Valentine’s Day Gifts” promises to yield more red heart-shaped merchandise than even Cupid intended for. All this isn’t my issue as I no longer contribute to this substantial one-day consumer financial deficit due to low wages and no partner; aka I’m a broke and single grad student. What troubles me much more than spending my textbook money on a sterling silver necklace is the fact that one of our nation’s largest holidays (and one that most Americans seem to observe indiscriminately of religious affiliation) is only intended for part of our population. You see, Valentine’s Day only actually exists in a heterosexist and patriarchal framework also known as “everyday American life”. Valentine’s Day is one of the most Heteronormative displays of our country’s message: members of the LGBTIQ community are not welcome here. This of course is hidden behind chocolate, roses, hearts, and more chocolate.

Capitalism encourages websites and stores to neatly categorizes their items “Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her”. This makes life easier for many of us, however it does not make it easier for all of us. In fact, it can actually lead to people feeling out-casted and worthless. Today, I saw a “His & Her” matching pajama set for sale online. Though accommodating for heterosexual couples, imagine how some people of the LGBTIQ community would feel if they saw this at every store or every website that they visited to find something for their partner. Some relationships may have no one who identifies as either a man or a woman. What options would they have? Should this just be their problem since they are gay? Should they have to feel the constant disapproval of their relationship from all of our society with every offer of a blue and pink pajama set? In short, the answer is no.

The fact of the matter is that heterosexuality is a privileged identity, which by virtue of its definition encourages us never to think about anyone who isn’t heterosexual. Heteronormativity encourages us to live life with its advantages and never stop to think how those advantages come to us so easily nor does it allow us to think about who is systemically suffering when we accept those privileges.

Further, Valentine’s Day allows our society to harbor dangerous beliefs that contribute to a system of hegemonic masculinity. The holiday not only teaches us that boys must like girls and vice versa, but it teaches our youth that boys must be the providers for needy girls who must remain submissive. With this thought it is no wonder that these simple ideas can manifest themselves into adulthood that at times can be filled with violence. Additionally, we must challenge all the ways that Valentine’s Day forces us to conform to a binary system as it pertains to gender. We are declaring that only men/boys and women/girls exist or should exist, when in actuality we know that we are leaving many people out

Though it may seem that I am a bitter person who hates love, I assure you that my intent is to spread love. A love to be spread every single day of the year, to every one of us (without leaving anyone out).

Weeping for Sandy Hook Elementary

As we all know, yesterday an unspeakable tragedy occurred. Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and proceeded to unload round after round of gunfire. Ultimately, 20 children, six adults and Adam himself were the victims of yet another thoughtless act of gun violence. 

Now, I’m an outspoken proponent for sensible gun control. There is no reason to have assault weapons in the streets and no reason that we should forgo background checks for anyone. That being said, there will be another day for debate on policy. Today is a day for mourning and reflection. 

I cannot help but to reflect on the nature of culture that has romanticized violence. We live in a society where violence is often seen as the only response to conflict, personal or otherwise. Turn on the radio and hear tales of shoot em ups and gun smoke. We often point a finger at hip-hop music, but pop music and country music have their fare share of violence masquerading as manliness. Stroll into any video game store and you will find violent games everywhere you turn. Turn on the TV, check out a movie, it is all the same. Violence is totally normalized in our society. Now, I’m not blaming pop culture for violence. It is a merely a reflection of our values and simply put, as men, we tend to value the macho. We tend to associate strength with violence instead of character.

Yesterday’s tragedy struck me as particularly awful because of the loss of young life. As President Obama said, “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” We have to do better in their memory. We have to stop turning to violence and anger as our first response. We have to counsel the value of compassion and understanding.

Adam Lanza was not born wanting to kill. He was not born set on robbing children of a future and others of their innocence. When his mother had him, he was a precious gift of life. She never imagined that he would grow up to take her’s and his own.

If children are not safe in our schools, if youth are not safe on the streets, if our malls are turned into shooting galleries and our movie theaters turned into death traps, it is time for us to take a harsh look in the mirror. 

Not In Our Name – A Sobering Realization

Right now, as non-Native men, either of us could physically or sexually assault a Native woman on a Native American reservation and not be subjected to local jurisdiction. And many of us do. And get away with it.

“Native women are assaulted at higher rates than any other group in America. Non-Native people are the ones who are committing the (overwhelming) majority of crimes on tribal land. We should be able to have protections against this.”[1]

ImageFor this one moment, right now, this hateful, racist, and deadly legal loophole is being held up to the light for all to see. It is being addressed by the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This, then, is our moment to act. To support those Native women and men who have been working so hard to save lives.

VAWA is set to expire. Soon. And yet, in our name as white and non-native men, Eric Cantor, the GOP, and those that support them are sabotaging efforts to reform and reauthorize this law. They are boldly saying that continuing to hold white and non-native men NOT ACCOUNTABLE for the violence we commit IS PARAMOUNT to the protection, safety, and very lives of native and indigenous women.

Not in our name.

Hold us accountable. Hold all those who commit violence accountable regardless of who they are, and regardless of who their victims are.

How many of us white and/or non-native men are aware that this is even happening? These levels of violence with no mechanism for accountability?

This legal loophole has sustained the epidemic levels of primarily non-native men’s violence against Native women – domestic violence and sexual violence, and often both. And many white and/or non-native men INTENTIONALLY exploit it.

“According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, 1 out of 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime and 3 out of 5 will be physically assaulted, while their offenders escape prosecution under the color of discriminatory United States law. In this human rights crisis, Native women are murdered at rates 10 times the national average, and subjected to domestic violence and assault at staggering rates — rates 2½ times higher than any other group in the United States.”[2]

Every man falls into one of two main camps on this issue:

We are either committing this violence ourselves, or allowing it to occur in our names.

And neither is okay.

Not in our names.


If you agree but are wondering, “I don’t know anything about this stuff. Where would I even start?”

Well, great question, and so glad you asked! It can be daunting, and time is of the essence. So let’s start here. We must support the Senate version of VAWA re-authorization.

Sincerely and in brotherhood,

Joe Samalin, Sacchi Patel

The real credit and great appreciation goes to: Lauren Chief Elk (Project Wiyabi), Bix Gabriel (TakeTwo Services), Ben Atherton-Zeman (Voices of Men), and others who have educated us about this issue, and many other things.

Corrective Spray?



Lynx, the Unilever body spray known for its over-the-top, mook-centered marketing, has outdone itself with a Facebook post in Hong Kong.

The brand is claiming — in a tongue-in-cheek way — that those who use the body spray have a shot at claiming the $65 million bounty (500 million in Hong Kong dollars) that Hong Kong real estate tycoon Cecil Chao Sze-tsun is offering to the man who can “convert” his daughter Gigi, an avowed lesbian. Chao made the offer in September and men are “queuing up” for the challenge, according to The Daily Mail.

Gigi, 33, has so far laughed off the attempts. Meanwhile, Sacha Baron Cohen is working on a film called The Lesbian based on the situation.

For Lynx (which is marketed as Axe in the U.S.), the post is the latest play on the “Lynx Effect,” which is purported to turn women into wild-eyed nymphettes upon exposure.

Just Tattoo Her Face on Your Body…

Part of me wants to scream — the other part wants me to thank Chris Brown for ensuring that I have a long career ahead of me (thanks for the job security bro).
If you haven’t yet heard Chris Brown is sporting some new ink. (Makes you think of Ochocino doesn’t it?)

Okay, so there are LOTS of folks exclaiming that it in no way is Rhianna, and that in fact “it’s a MAC cosmetics design of a skull associated with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. (see below)”. For me, this puts into question: Does he deserve “the benefit of the doubt”? Have we not put up with his abusive antics long enough? Some of us (cough cough #TeamBreezy) have defended Brown as if he were our hero. Let’s be completely straightforward here: He’s had far too many “chances”. He proved that he didn’t learn a damn thing after viciously beating Rhianna, the partner he supposedly loved; then begging for forgiveness, and getting a light punishment; smashing windows at an interview during an explosion of anger; physically fighting with Drake; continually regards women as bitches and glorifies his beating of Rhianna in his songs:

“Don’t f—k with my old bitch, it’s like a bad fur/ Every industry n—— done had her/ Shook the tree like a pumpkin just to smash her/ B*tch is breaking codes, but I’m the password.”

So none of these behaviors involve any tattoos on his neck. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure he’s still an abuser who doesn’t see anything wrong with his behaviors even without this new ink of his.

The time to hold him accountable is now. Speak out against his actions, abuse in general, and don’t encourage or give your money to him. Delete his songs from your Ipod and change the station when he comes up on your radio. In other words… #TurnDownChrisBrown











Sacchi Patel, M.S.

Co-Founder MasculinityU

A True National Tragedy

By Marc Peters

National tragedies are always harrowing experiences for our country. The grief is amplified when we can truly relate to those who lost their lives. In the case of the murders in Aurora, Colorado, many of the victims were just entering adulthood and only beginning to chase dreams that will now go unrealized. After shootings such as this one, our country’s politicians can’t help but launch directly into a debate about gun control (and I have pretty strong feelings in that debate). However, there is a debate that we glaze over or ignore and that is the violence that is embedded in our culture particularly when it comes to men.

From a very young age men are conditioned to think that when you are hit your only recourse is to hit back, lest you be called a fag or a pussy or have your manhood questioned in some other way, shape or form. We are taught that aggression is a perfectly reasonable and manly response to emotion. Crying is something for girls as is talking through conflict. I’m not saying that this man wouldn’t have shot up the movie theater had he been more emotionally mature, lord knows what had to snap for someone to commit such an egregious crime and affront to humanity. What I am saying is that we need to move away from the violent culture that has so long dominated our lives and been the undercurrent that has led to countless fights, rapes, shootings, and lives forever altered or lost.

Dr. King was not lying when he preached non-violence and warned that violence begets violence and hate begets hate. Yet, we hate blindly hate each other based on political beliefs. We blindly hate each other based on sexual orientation. We blindly hate each other based on race. We exert domination on the basis of gender. It truly has to stop. My political hero is Robert F. Kennedy and when Dr. King was assassinated, he said:

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country…”

We have a severe lack of compassion in our country today. While technology has erased the physical distance between us, it has only served to expand the chasm that exists when it comes to emotional distance. Knowing about your trip to the mall or what song you are listening to on Spotify is no substitute for coming to know each other’s humanity. For if we truly see ourselves in the other, then how could we kill? If we truly see ourselves in the other than how could we rape? If we truly see ourselves in the other, how could we inflict the emotional trauma of bullying or the physical trauma of domestic violence.

We can debate all we want about when is the right time to talk about guns. We can debate all we want about personal freedom. But NOW is the time to begin a thoughtful conversation about the epidemic of violence in our culture. In fact the time to begin has long passed, but it is never too late to do better. Let us start anew today and move forward together, more connected, more whole, and more open to inspecting the problems we face as individuals and as a national community. That is how we can honor the memory of those lost in Aurora.

Marc Peters is a co-founder of MasculinityU. You can connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter to continue this conversation.



Surviving Rape: What I Want Other College Students to Know About Title IX

Originally Posted on June 21, 2012 | NWLC.ORG
Posted by:  Dana Bolger, Outreach Intern

After-rape is to be consumed by emptiness, isolation, fear, shame, and anger.

And after-rape at college is to be confronted by my rapist every day—on the quad, in the library, at breakfast. It is to be ceaselessly reminded of the moments in which power and control were stripped from me, in which I had no option but to let go and resign myself to the fact that this was really happening.

I was raped my sophomore year of college by a male student at my school. In the weeks after the assault, he followed me around campus, physically blocked me from going up the steps into my dorm, and threatened my friends. One Friday at three in the morning, he tried to break into my room while I sat terrified inside.

The rape and harassment changed everything for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I stopped studying. School was no longer on my radar screen. I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. I considered dropping out.

I found out about Title IX by chance, through a lawyer friend. She told me, “Title IX is not just about sports. It says your college can’t make you leave school because you were raped and feel unsafe. They’re supposed to make sure the campus is not a sexually hostile environment.”

It seemed so sensible once she’d said it, but I’d never heard anything about my supposed right to a safe educational environment ever before.

Turns out, Title IX grants survivors of sexual assault a number of rights, by requiring schools to: