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Jackson Katz and His Anti-Sexism Crusade

Scrutiny

By June Shih

I thought I knew how to get to IHOP. "Get on Soldier's Field Road and drive, drive," a colleague said. Well the damn road forks. And I took the wrong tine. "I'm sorry I'm late. Stupid woman driver, you know?" I told my interviewee, apologizing for being 40minutes late. "I didn't say that," he said, giving me a puzzled look. Okay. Maybe he passes. It was a test of sorts for the subject of my interview: self-described anti-sexist man Jackson Katz, a former all-state football player who makes his living on the college lecture circuit speaking against the patriarchy and the American "jockocracy" that has led to growing levels of violence against women. Katz, it seems, dedicates his life to combatting sexism. Working from his three-room basement apartment in Brighton--the headquarters of "Real Men," a group he founded in 1988, Katz coordinates the group's demonstrations while preparing the slide shows and speeches on sexism and violence against women that he delivers both to male sports teams and coed groups on college campuses across the nation. The stocky, red-headed former MVP of the Swampscott High School football team is often seen with other members of Real Men at Red Sox and Patriots games, handing out leaflets titled "Ten Things Men Can Do to End Sexism and Male Violence Against Women" at Red Sox and Patriots Games and protesting offensive comedians such as Andrew Dice Clay. Enduring angry slurs such as "fucking fags" from men who refuse to take the leaflet at these sports events, he and his group seek to appeal to men's better instincts, to make them understand the difficulties of being a woman in a violent, male-dominated society. He is impatient with some of the ignorance and homophobia he encounters at the games. "They think that just because we care about women we want to start having sex with men? Are they saying that real men wouldn't protect women from violence?" he asks.

If men only realized how many more precautionswomen have to take simply to avoid being sexuallyassaulted, then they, too would understand thenecessity of combatting sexism, Katz says.

Last spring, Katz, who founded HarvardAnti-Sexist Men while attending the EducationSchool, began a lecture to former Professor LenoreWeitzman's "Women and the Law" class with a game.Drawing a line down the middle of a chalkboard,Katz asked the men in the class to list anyspecial measures they took to avoid beingassaulted. They said nothing. When he asked thewomen, the list filled their half of the board andspilled over into the men's half.

"You'd be pissed off if you couldn't walk homealone," Katz often tells male audiences.

Katz likes to emphasize that he is not afeminist. A pro-feminist, anti-sexist man is abetter description. His movement is clearly amen's movement to inspire men to help improvewomen's lives, he says.

"I'm not a man into women's issues. [They are]gender issues," he says. "Calling them women'sissues is inaccurate. It gives men an excuse notto pay attention."

His goal is to get men to believe that "a realman is not a sexist, homophobic right wing machoguy, but secure of himself and is not going to bethreatened by women, gays and lesbians."

For the most part, Katz has been well receivedon the college circuit.

"Men need to address how they perceive women. Ithink his movement is past due," says James W.Croom '94, who heard Katz speak in "Women and theLaw" last Spring.

Targeting men who attend professional baseballand football games with leaflets is central toKatz's strategy of reaching men who are helping toperpetuate the "jockocracy," a value system thatidolizes male sports such as football andmarginalizes all other activities. These men,often little league coaches, are in positions toinfluence young boys, and thus should be taught tobe more vigilant about passing on sexistattitudes, Katz says.

Miniature jockocracies that marginalize womenand non-athletes are everywhere in America. Katzsays his hometown, Swampscott, is the epitome ofjockocracy.

"The social life of the town and the schoolit-self revolves around the sports culture," Katzsays. He and his teammates got special privilegeslike early morning detention so they wouldn't misspractice and benefitted from the school's massivebudget athletic programs.

But it's not just sexist football fans who irkB-10Males doing male things.

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