Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men, told a mostly male audience that the dominant perceptions of manhood must change before real progress can be made in the fight against violence towards women, during a presentation at the CGIS Tsai Auditorium last night.
Porter—whose organization raises awareness of domestic violence and promotes “healthy manhood”—led an interactive, hour-long lecture. At times Porter asked the members of the audience to respond to questions about their perception of manhood and the roles of men and women in society.
“Envision the world you want to see for your daughters as we have this talk,” he instructed the young men in the crowd at the beginning of his presentation. “Also think about the kind of man you want your son to be.”
Many members of groups sponsoring the event—including various fraternities, men’s sports teams, and final clubs—attended the talk, which was part of Take Back the Night 2011, a month at Harvard dedicated to creating awareness of sexual violence, empowering assault survivors, and building community.
Porter and the other members of A Call to Men have worked with the NBA, NFL, U.S. military, and various colleges and universities across the country to stress the importance of treating women equally and with respect.
Last night, he outlined a stereotypical “Male Box” and asked the audience what types of characteristics and actions are expected to be inside of it. Audience members suggested adjectives such as “strong,” “tough,” “successful” to fill in the box. Porter added anecdotes from his own past as well as examples from sports and movies to illustrate the discrepancies between men and women that exist inside men’s heads.
“It’s very important for us as men to be in control,” Porter said. “Being out of control is reserved for who? Women. We, as men, put a tremendous amount of effort into not being connected to women in that way.”
Seth Avakian, a prevention specialist at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response who helped to organize the event, said he was impressed by the turnout.
“I’m excited to see so many guys participate,” he said. “Not just come and listen, but to actually participate in the presentation and to talk about masculinity and the ways in which it has shaped our roles in society.”
During the talk, Porter stressed that the young men surrounding him were probably not “bad guys,” gesturing with his arms to show the small percentage of men in the world who can be thrown into that category and a much larger percentage of men who treat women well.
“How is it that this many men do what they do to women in the presence of all of us good men?” he asked.
After receiving blank stares, he made clear that the men in front of him had an obligation to use their power to prevent the mistreatment of women on a larger scale.
“If women could end the violence by themselves, they would have,” he said.
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