Change His Attitude 3/29/17

Men’s Letter to the President: Support Gender Equality – by Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Will Donald Trump change his attitude toward women?

After the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video caught him admitting to sexually assaulting women, many citizens couldn’t believe he could receive enough Electoral College votes to become president. I was one of them.

On January 31, I was a signatory to an open letter to Mr. Trump in POLITICO calling on him “to support this country’s, and the world’s, women.” (An accompanying petition is gaining names). My co-letter writers and I challenged the president to set a high standard, to show that he is a man who believes in women’s equality and who opposes discrimination and violence of all kinds by men against women and girls.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump often repeated, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” even as he said and did things women and men consider disgraceful. (No need to reiterate here his many vulgar, offensive characterizations of women.) We reminded Mr. Trump that there is nothing manly about disrespecting women, and called on him “to make amends and to set a new tone.” Will he? The White House plan to gut funding for Office of Violence Against Women Act grants, and his executive action barring from receiving US government funding any international NGOs that perform or promote abortions, suggest it’s unlikely.

Because the U.S. has long been a leader in promoting women’s empowerment around the globe, we urged Mr. Trump to insure the U.S. strengthen that role. Women deserve equal pay, affordable, high quality childcare and reproductive health services, we wrote, as well as paid family and medical leave for mothers—and fathers—so we can all care for our children. (In a glaring omission, Ivanka Trump’s family leave proposal omits fathers.) We also called for the U.S. to expand efforts at home and abroad to ensure women and girls are not harassed, beaten, or raped.

We reminded Mr. Trump why millions of women marched in this country and around the world the day after his inauguration: because women are apprehensive and fearful that their rights will no longer be seen as human rights; because they fear for their own, and for their families’ futures; because they’re disturbed his administration will roll back basic protections. We shared that as men who unequivocally believe in gender equality, that we—and tens of thousands of other men—marched with them. (His discriminatory executive order barring from the U.S. citizens from seven targeted countries only underscores our shared concerns.)

Mr. Trump, use the presidency to explicitly demonstrate that “you will champion the rights of all women”—including immigrant women, women of diverse religious faiths, and diverse sexual orientations and identities, indigenous women, racial minority women, women with disabilities, women who are economically impoverished, and women who are survivors of violence.

We wrote: Show us you will elevate women’s voices and women’s leadership by supporting the International Violence Against Women Act, and programs and campaigns against sexual assault on campus that support initiatives that prevent men’s violence against women; that you will hold accountable men who disrespect women.

Show us by supporting pay transparency and the Paycheck Fairness Act that you believe in giving women the platform to fight discrimination in the workforce.

Show us by supporting paid family leave and affordable childcare for all parents.

As men who deeply believe in women’s rights, we wanted Mr. Trump to know that every day we stand up for women in our personal and professional lives. We dared him to show the world that he’s a man who abhors all violence against women and girls, and who champions equality.

A president’s words and actions reverberate not just around the country but around the word. If “nobody has more respect for women and girls than me,” than show us, we challenged Mr. Trump. “Show us that you agree that men need to speak out and stand up against inequality and violence against women. Show us that you will #BeAModelMan.”

The Violence and Discrimination Women Face

Too many women and girls in the U.S. face violence and discrimination that we perpetuate in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and policies.

· One in four women in the U.S. will experience violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life, and underreporting persists due to stigma, as well as policies which don’t hold perpetrators accountable.

· Women in the U.S. are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, for the same work.

· 3 out of 10 women under 45 will need to access safe and legal abortion in the U.S., a right which is now under threat.

· Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been raped in her lifetime, including in her own home, in the military, on college campuses and schools.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male. A new edition of his book, Voice Male – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement will be published this year.

Has More Respect 2/1/17

Rob Okun

Men’s Letter to the President: Support Gender Equality – by Rob Okun

Will Donald Trump change his attitude toward women?

After the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video caught him admitting to sexually assaulting women, many citizens couldn’t believe he could receive enough Electoral College votes to become president. I was one of them.

On January 31, I was a signatory to an open letter to Mr. Trump in POLITICO calling on him “to support this country’s, and the world’s, women.” (An accompanying petition is gaining names). My co-letter writers and I challenged the president to set a high standard, to show that he is a man who believes in women’s equality and who opposes discrimination and violence of all kinds by men against women and girls.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump often repeated, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” even as he said and did things women and men consider disgraceful. (No need to reiterate here his many vulgar, offensive characterizations of women.) We reminded Mr. Trump that there is nothing manly about disrespecting women, and called on him “to make amends and to set a new tone.” Will he? The White House plan to gut funding for Office of Violence Against Women Act grants, and his executive action barring from receiving US government funding any international NGOs that perform or promote abortions, suggest it’s unlikely.

Because the U.S. has long been a leader in promoting women’s empowerment around the globe, we urged Mr. Trump to insure the U.S. strengthen that role. Women deserve equal pay, affordable, high quality childcare and reproductive health services, we wrote, as well as paid family and medical leave for mothers—and fathers—so we can all care for our children. (In a glaring omission, Ivanka Trump’s family leave proposal omits fathers.) We also called for the U.S. to expand efforts at home and abroad to ensure women and girls are not harassed, beaten, or raped.

We reminded Mr. Trump why millions of women marched in this country and around the world the day after his inauguration: because women are apprehensive and fearful that their rights will no longer be seen as human rights; because they fear for their own, and for their families’ futures; because they’re disturbed his administration will roll back basic protections. We shared that as men who unequivocally believe in gender equality, that we—and tens of thousands of other men—marched with them. (His discriminatory executive order barring from the U.S. citizens from seven targeted countries only underscores our shared concerns.)

Mr. Trump, use the presidency to explicitly demonstrate that “you will champion the rights of all women”—including immigrant women, women of diverse religious faiths, and diverse sexual orientations and identities, indigenous women, racial minority women, women with disabilities, women who are economically impoverished, and women who are survivors of violence.

We wrote: Show us you will elevate women’s voices and women’s leadership by supporting the International Violence Against Women Act, and programs and campaigns against sexual assault on campus that support initiatives that prevent men’s violence against women; that you will hold accountable men who disrespect women.

Show us by supporting pay transparency and the Paycheck Fairness Act that you believe in giving women the platform to fight discrimination in the workforce.

Show us by supporting paid family leave and affordable childcare for all parents.

As men who deeply believe in women’s rights, we wanted Mr. Trump to know that every day we stand up for women in our personal and professional lives. We dared him to show the world that he’s a man who abhors all violence against women and girls, and who champions equality.

A president’s words and actions reverberate not just around the country but around the word. If “nobody has more respect for women and girls than me,” than show us, we challenged Mr. Trump. “Show us that you agree that men need to speak out and stand up against inequality and violence against women. Show us that you will #BeAModelMan.”

SIDEBAR

The Violence and Discrimination Women Face

Too many women and girls in the U.S. face violence and discrimination that we perpetuate in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and policies.

· One in four women in the U.S. will experience violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life, and underreporting persists due to stigma, as well as policies which don’t hold perpetrators accountable.

· Women in the U.S. are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, for the same work.

· 3 out of 10 women under 45 will need to access safe and legal abortion in the U.S., a right which is now under threat.

· Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been raped in her lifetime, including in her own home, in the military, on college campuses and schools.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male. A new edition of his book, Voice Male – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement will be published this year.

Not To Be 11/16/16

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Patriarchy’s Last Stand  – by Rob Okun

The future is (still) female. The bumper sticker and T-shirt that have long energized women and girls, and many male allies, is still alive and well. Let’s not forget who won the popular vote in the US presidential election on November 8, even as Donald Trump won the presidency. (Mr. Trump is right about one of his refrains; his election can absolutely be attributed to a rigged system: the Electoral College.)

What would have been an electrifying moment—US voters electing Hillary Clinton as the country’s first female president—became for more than half the country one long Edvard Munch-like scream as the reality sunk in that Mr. Trump had won. An army of angry, hurting white male voters had been conned. And many of us, like the Clinton campaign, had overlooked the signs of their suffering.

For many of those white men, Donald Trump is seen as the great white hope, the last best chance to restore some of the luster to their badly tarnished brand of masculinity. Men in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, for example, projected onto the brash New York businessman the image of a rough and tumble “man’s man.” Mr. Trump, meanwhile, managed to project a caring Big Daddy image, appealing to vulnerable white men concerned not only about their own perilous economic position but also by women’s social and economic gains—by feminism’s success at accelerating women’s ascent to equality.

He seduced them into believing they’d be able to return to the glory days when men were a family’s sole breadwinner, making good middle class money working in plants and factories. He suggested to them that they could once again be king of the castle. Mr. Trump fanned the dying embers of days gone by; he sang “Happy Days [Could be] Here Again” because he knew that “The Times They Are a-Changing” would have fallen on deaf ears.

Truth is, those happy days have been over for years. But men saw in Mr. Trump a chance to reverse history; he represented a fantasy of re-empowered manhood they desperately wanted to believe in. They love Mr. Trump for feigning paying attention to them, for temporarily accomplishing the impossible: breathing life into an extinct creature.

In his heartfelt, politically astute movie, Michael Moore in Trumpland, the Academy Award-winner took to a classic old theater’s stage in October in (of all places) Clinton County, Ohio. At one point he offered the audience an imitation of the howling and screeching of white male supporters at Mr. Trump’s rallies. “Ah-awwghhhh! Ar-urrrrghhh! Ya-awrrrrghhh,” Mr. Moore bellowed. “You know what they sounded like?” he asked. “Dying dinosaurs,” he answered, a sadly apt definition of many white men today. “We had a good run at being in charge guys—10,000 years,” Mr. Moore remarked. It was, he said, women’s turn. But Mr. Moore was wrong—for now.

For a range of activists—from Millennials who worked their hearts out for Bernie Sanders, to veterans of the sixties civil rights and antiwar movements—it’s a time of delayed gratification. We were poised to step into a new era, one where the United States would be led for the first time by a woman president. It was not to be.

So now, in the aftermath of a dream deferred, what are white men who support gender equality going to do? How are we going to respond? The men who voted for Mr. Trump will come down from their high soon enough when they discover they won’t be returning to the coal mines or the auto assembly plants. What about the rest of us?

Beginning several decades ago women learned to cross-train, to add law, science, medicine, computer programming, and engineering to their old standbys—teaching and nursing. Men have been reluctant to learn new skills. What are we waiting for? We’ve tried being angry, sullen, shut down, uncommunicative. We’ve perfected stubbornness and denial. Men have so much to gain from letting go of our old ways.

Four decades ago a small—but growing—movement of men began working to redefine manhood. Our voices are still largely unknown, our support of gender equality still beneath the radar. The election of Donald Trump is an opportunity to recruit new men to the cause—and to reach out to our struggling brothers.

Sometimes, before a species goes extinct, it has a last gasp, a final burst of energy. That’s how I am choosing to think about what happened in the U.S. on November 8. When history looks back at the election of Donald Trump it will, I believe, be recorded as patriarchy’s last stand.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor of Voice Male. A new edition of his book, Voice Male – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement will be published in 2017.

Ideas About Manhood 10/12/16

Rob A. Okun

Rob A. Okun

Donald Trump and the Crisis in Masculinity  – by Rob Okun

The crisis in masculinity and the presidential election got hitched this weekend, thanks to Donald Trump. While a vast majority of men—this election season’s silent majority—reject Mr. Trump’s “locker room” ideas about manhood, many are reluctant to publicly say so. That may be changing.

Mr. Trump’s vile description of how he treats women, and his subsequent disingenuous “apologies” may encourage men to speak out as the question of American masculinity takes center stage in the campaign. Ironically, the Republican candidate’s attempt to downplay his behavior as locker room banter is having the opposite effect, highlighting a culture of sexual assault that men need to play a greater role in uprooting.

I have been part of a movement committed to transforming masculinity for three decades. The kind of manhood I want to pass on to my son and grandsons, and the hopes and dreams I have for my daughters and granddaughter, could not be more different from Mr. Trump’s, a man who is on tape admitting to sexually assaulting women. Ironically, through his vulgar remarks, he may have helped to advance the cause of gender equality.
Mr. Trump exhibits virtually every negative trait about manhood the gender justice movement is challenging. Antagonistic. Boastful. Bullying. Conceited. Condescending. Crude. Defensive. Dishonest. Entitled. Inflexible. Juvenile. Lacking in self-awareness. Merciless. Obstinate. Predatory. Privileged. Rapacious. Sexist. Vindictive. All ingredients in a toxic masculinity sludge that men and women in scores of countries around the world are working to eradicate.

One organization, the global MenEngage Alliance and its 650-members in 66 countries, is committed to inoculating future generations of boys from the virulent strain of hate and misogyny Mr. Trump is spreading. For decades, activist women have led the way in advancing gender justice; now men interested in equality for their mothers, wives, and daughters must help develop a social vaccine to protect against poisonous masculinity—as well as continuing to develop positive programs to raise healthy boys.

When men hear a man degrade women the way Mr. Trump did on the NBC tape, too often we walk away rather than confront the misogynist head on. Mr. Trump does not represent what most men think manhood is—or, more accurately—what humanness is. All of us were born of mothers; none of us would want them, our daughters, our sisters to ever hear such revolting language, let alone be groped, or worse. I am ashamed to share the same gender with Mr. Trump. And as a father, it is unfathomable to me how he spoke about his daughter. How can any other father or grandfather stand silently by when a presidential candidate describes his daughter as “hot”, saying he’d consider dating her if she weren’t of his own flesh and blood?

I am four years younger than Mr. Trump; like him I am a husband, father, and grandfather. A lot of men believe that if they speak out against Mr. Trump and his ilk—men who contend they can sexually assault women with impunity—that they’ll be bullied, ostracized, labeled “weak.” Is Mr. Trump unwittingly inviting them to speak up?

When it comes to sexual assault, political affiliations are irrelevant. As men we must challenge each other about what we expect of one another—beginning with ourselves. We have to declare unambiguously that denigrating and assaulting women as just “guy talk” or “boys being boys,” is indefensible, inexcusable, unforgivable. Mr. Trump was 59 years old, newly married, and a father of three when he spoke so crudely; not some college frat boy.

By running for president, Mr. Trump has given citizens an unexpected opportunity to begin a debate about contemporary masculinity. Imagine a coordinated conversation in classrooms in all 50 states; on our sports fields; among faith communities—a nationwide, multigenerational conversation about manhood, about boys becoming men. Donald Trump’s ultimate contribution to the 2016 election may turn out to be the teachable moment before us. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we can ill afford not to begin the dialogue. We don’t have to wait until November. We can start now.

Rob Okun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity.

Mental Health & Trauma 6/15/16

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Why is the Orlando Murderer’s Gender Not Central to the Story?
By Rob Okun

The massacre in Orlando was carried out as an act of rage. By a man. Who had access to military-grade weapons. And had unmet mental health and trauma needs.
Until or unless we make the murderer’s gender a central part of not just this story, but of the larger effort to prevent mass shootings (that have traditionally solely focused on gun control and mental health), we won’t succeed in preventing such horrors in the future. We have talked about nearly all those other factors: access to guns, his mental health, his homophobic views. What about the manhood part?
Make no mistake; there is much to unpack in the Orlando tragedy, beginning with questions about Omar Mateen’s sexual orientation. Was he as confused about his possible gay identity as he was about supporting three competing terrorist organizations? Despite the complexity of this story—the achingly painful attack on both the LGBTQ and the Latin@s and Latinx communities—we must not allow Mateen’s male identity to be obscured. Well before the Columbine murders in Colorado in 1999, like-minded colleagues and I penned dozens of columns underscoring the centrality of gender in mass shootings.
It’s no secret that similarities abound among male shooters: lonely and isolated, disaffected and alienated; often failing to forge strong ties with their families and communities. Whether Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, or James Holmes in Aurora, disturbed young men were the murderers. No one questions that fact. But not questioning doesn’t mean ignoring the implications. Imagine if the shooter had been a woman; wouldn’t that have been the headline in The New York Times; the lead on CNN?
Prevention strategies must continue to include a vigorous pursuit of stringent gun control measures and a call for increasing mental health services—as well as sanding up to the NRA. Still, to ignore gender in mass shootings is like expecting a three-legged stool to stand on two legs.
In April I shared with an aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) my proposal that Congress appropriate funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake a multi-year inquiry of a diverse cohort of preschool boys across the U.S. The goal? To cultivate boys’ emotional intelligence and to oversee a comprehensive effort that A) addresses the pressure boys feel to perform conventional masculinity; and B) articulates a new expression of maleness that emphasizes compassion and vulnerability, and collaboration and cooperation, over competitiveness and emotional stoicism. It’s high time we teach boys a language most males have only a rudimentary awareness of: Emotionalese.
Now is the time for a PBS Frontlines investigation on a society regularly producing crops of psychologically damaged, angry, isolated men. Now is the time for clergy to deliver sermons about emotionally arid men, thirsting for waters of connection and the sunlight of compassion. Now is the time for school nurses to work with educators in tracking moody eight and nine year-old boys. Now is the time to train homeroom teachers to identify alienated middle-school boys. Now is the time for guidance counselors to reach out to shut down, high school-age young men. Now is the time for university health center staff to learn how to counsel loner male college students. Now is the time for community social workers and human resources staff to learn how to work with unemployed and underemployed 20-something at-risk men.
Imagine all of these groups working with doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals in a coordinated campaign overseen by the CDC. Isn’t this strain of men’s violence a public health crisis the CDC should confront as seriously as it’s addressing the Zika virus?
Even if we had taken all these steps years ago, we might not have been able to prevent Omar Mateen’s murderous rampage. But if we don’t begin employing strategies like these, rest assured another mass shooting will happen again. And again. And soon.

Rob Okun is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity. He writes for PeaceVoice.

Dearest Donald 2/24/16

God Responds to Donald Trump  by  Rob Okun

Donald, my son,

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

I have been troubled for some time knowing you don’t feel a need to ask Me for forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong. And now, with your strong remarks to one of my staff, Pope Francis, I felt even more urgency to write.

“I love God and I love my church,” you said last July. That’s good. Yet, in practically the same breath you said you don’t ask Me for forgiveness for any of your transgressions. You told a CNN reporter, “If I do something wrong… I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture; I don’t.”

Don’t bring Me into the picture? Really? And then you said—talking about Communion—that “When I drink my little wine (which is about the only wine I drink) and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”

“Drink your little wine. Have your little cracker?” That’s how you “feel cleansed?”

Why do you need to ask Me for forgiveness? Pope Francis told a reporter that, “A person who thinks only about building walls—wherever they may be—and not building bridges is not Christian. This is not in the gospel.” Donald, that was an opportunity to stop, to think, to pray—to take some time in deep contemplation. At the very least, it was an opportunity to request an audience with the Pope. Instead, you said, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful… When the Vatican is attacked by ISIS—which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy—I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President…”

The Pope pray for you, Donald?

Inciting people’s fallen angels is not the road to a principled life. Calling for a ban on Muslims entering your country? Advocating spying on mosques? Considering establishing a database of all Muslims living in the U.S.? That’s your idea of how to “Make America Great Again”?
You want people of faith to support you, yet you keep making divisive, mean-spirited remarks. A couple of my senior people— archangels Michael and Gabriel—think I’m being too soft on you. I disagree; I believe you understand where I’m coming from without My having to lash out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; with great terror and with signs and wonders.

Sexist comments about women? Racist remarks about people of color? Humiliating and denigrating Muslims, immigrants, and minorities? Saying, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters?” Oy.

Donald, one of my angels showed up for a staff meeting on Friday sporting a T-shirt with the words, “Love” and “Fear” printed chest high, and spaced far apart. The arrows beneath each of the words pointed to the same phrase: “You Choose.” A real WWJD moment, don’t you think?

A few months ago I wrote to Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who was refusing to issue marriage licenses. I told her the essence of all I do can be boiled down to two words: “Love wins.” Today, thinking about you, Donald, I’m adding two more: “Forgiveness counts.”

If you want to feel cleansed, it’s going to take more than having a little wine…and a little cracker. It’s going to take actually asking for forgiveness.
Be in touch, Don, when you’re ready.
G

Rob Okun is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity. He writes for PeaceVoice.

Boys & Men 10/7/15

Time to Start Campaign to Build Sound Boys and Men
By Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Again. This time, the scene was a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, 175 miles south of Portland. This time, nine people were murdered and the shooter committed suicide. This time, President Obama spoke out more forcefully than he did after Sandy Hook. This time, stronger alliances are forming to lobby Congress to pass stringent new gun laws. This time, there are louder calls to improve services for the mentally ill.
Here is one thing not happening this time: the shooter’s gender is not central to the story; is not the big news. This time, few are demanding we start taking seriously the fact that the shooters are always men. That has to change.
In the days after the shootings at Umpqua Community College, if you watched television, listened to the radio, or read news online or in a newspaper, you heard nothing about 26-year-old shooter Chris Harper-Mercer’s gender being the single most important aspect of the story. Why? Like fish not recognizing the water in which they swim, the media, the politicians, and most of the rest of society takes for granted that, of course, mass shooters are always male. This has to stop. (Imagine if a woman were the mass murderer. Wouldn’t her gender-frame the ensuing conversation?)
Activist-colleagues and I have written tens of thousands of words in scores of op-eds and blog posts going back to before Columbine. And those killings happened in 1999. Our message could be boiled down to a single phrase: “It’s the masculinity, stupid.” We cannot afford to wait another minute to move the gendered aspect of mass killings to the center of the national debate.
In recent years, the media has occasionally made note of the killers being male, and the topic of how boys are raised in this society made the news for a cycle or two. Then it has been back to gun control and mental health. Where is the sustained inquiry into how boys are socialized in deserts of emotional constriction? Where is the Frontline report on a society regularly producing crops of psychologically stunted, angry, isolated men? Where are the clergy sermonizing about men growing up in emotionally arid soil without exposure to the sunlight of compassion or the waters of connection?
Imagine if things were different. Imagine if right now school nurses were charged with tracking moody eight- and nine-year-old boys; if homeroom teachers were trained to spot them as alienated middle schoolers; if guidance counselors identified shut-down high school age young men; if university health center staff counseled loner male college students; and if community social workers and human resources staff helped unemployed and underemployed 20-something at-risk men. Imagine all of those groups working with nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals in a coordinated campaign at the Centers for Disease Control. Isn’t this particular strain of men’s violence a public health crisis the CDC should confront as seriously as it did the Ebola outbreak?
If we take all these steps, our hazy, confused picture of sad, angry, lonely young men will come into sharp relief and we will recognize we have to begin cultivating boys’ emotional intelligence beginning in preschool—and we have to make doing so as high a priority as we make teaching reading and math.
Our vision will be so clear we will be able to see inside troubled men’s souls before their time bombs of discontent explode.

From Analysis to Action

Here is the hard part. Even if a critical mass agrees with this analysis, how are we going to effect change? As important as curbing access to guns is, lobbying Congress for stricter gun laws will never be enough. Nor will securing additional funds for mental health services, as vital as those services may be. President Obama is right: it’s up to individual citizens to band together to put pressure on Congress. But he hasn’t gone far enough: he hasn’t uttered the “M” word. That’s okay; that’s our job. As Gandhi taught us: when the people lead, the leaders will follow.
Since men are perpetrating these mass killings, it’s only right that we men are our brothers’ keepers, working to prevent our brothers’ violence, beginning with promoting efforts to raise sound boys and men. Our experiences learning from and collaborating with women and women’s organizations will be invaluable in all we do.
Imagine if men across the spectrum band together in a Let’s Build Sound Boys and Men campaign working with early childhood educators, nurses and doctors, school administrators and counselors, PTOs, and, especially, sports coaches—from those in weekend soccer leagues to Division I football.
Who could fund such an effort? Who could underwrite a national media campaign? Who could cover the costs of field offices in all 50 states? The largest men’s organization in the U.S.—the National Football League. If the NFL wants to restore its sullied reputation—albeit late in the game, and after a series of fumbles involving domestic violence—let’s see the NFL put its money where its mouth is. (To be fair, the NFL has of late begun funding domestic violence and sexual assault prevention trainings league-wide.)
Former NFL defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann has been a driving force nationally, mentoring coaches by the thousands to guide boys to grow to become good men. Recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by representatives of several national men’s antiviolence organizations, and the NFL, Ehrmann believes what makes a good man is 1) his capacity to love and accept love and 2) being of service to his community. What better description could we ask men to consider at the outset of a new campaign to raise healthy boys? Mothers Against Drunk Drivers showed us what a force women banding together could be. Now it’s up to men—fathers, grandfathers, mentors, all males—to step up. What are we waiting for?

Rob Okun, rob@voicemalemagazine.org, is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity. He writes for PeaceVoice.

The Heavens Shook 9/23/15

From the Dept of Sacred Satire: God Responds to Kim Davis

By Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Rob Okun

Voice Male magazine, a publication chronicling the profeminist men’s movement, reports that it has come into possession of a memo from God to Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the Supreme Court ruling affirming gay marriage more than two months ago. She was jailed for her refusal, claiming she was acting on God’s authority. What follows is God’s memo to Ms. Davis, made available by the magazine’s editor, Rob Okun.

To: Kim Davis

From: God

Re: My Authority

I’m writing to clarify my position on your citing Me as the reason you refused to issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

From my perch on high, I watched you refusing to issue any marriage licenses as a way to thwart same-sex couples. There’s no way I can sugarcoat this, Ms. Davis: your argument is flawed. For one thing, in addition to the gay couples you denied, you trampled on the rights of all the heterosexual couples who wish to wed—most, no doubt, brother and sister Christians like you. Invoking My name as the reason for your actions didn’t keep you out of jail, and now all of your deputy clerks are issuing the licenses, anyway (except, of course, for one, your son).

When that prospective gay groom shouted at you, “By whose authority…” were you denying issuing the licenses and you said, “God’s”—I woke up. (Sometimes I take a Sabbath on a weekday; I think it’s good to spice things up once in a while.) I checked my inbox and Twitter feed and saw there was absolutely nothing from you—nada. (Note to Mr. Trump: I’m taking a point of personal privilege here throwing in a little Spanish). When I heard you were using Me to justify your actions, I have to admit the first words that came out of my mouth were, “WTF!” (Some of the more prudish angels around here shot me dirty looks.)

I have been following the gay marriage debate since, well, forever (actually, I’ve been following everything since forever), and would like to enlighten you about a few things to you, including—but not now—my thoughts on biblical David’s and Jonathan’s “friendship.”

In the United States, clerks like you started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on May 17, 2004. A lot of people who share your convictions said, “The sky will fall” and, “Marriage will be irreparably harmed.” Didn’t happen. Just to be sure, over the next several weeks I frequently circled over Boston—(Fenway Park, actually; you may remember that 2004 was a heavenly year for the Red Sox). If the sky did fall, I wanted to be there to protect the Prudential Center. Again, nada. And, last I checked—a millisecond ago—there’s been zero impact on heterosexual marriage one way or the other. Some marriages are going strong; some are troubled; some are just bumping along. (I did hear from some straight couples who opined, “Gay marriage? Haven’t they suffered enough?” I chuckled so loudly the heavens shook.)

Not to pull rank on you with the old parental “Because I say so,” I did a little research for your benefit. Consider: Denmark gave equal rights to same-sex partners in 1989 (if not the right to marry per se), the first country in the world to do so. Norway was second, in 1993; Sweden followed in 1994; and Greenland in 1996; the Netherlands in 1997, Catalonia in 1998, Belgium in 1999, and, Germany in 2001. Holland’s Queen Beatrix signed the first same-sex marriage bill on December 21, 2000. So, depending how you count, it’s been 26 years or 15 years and, although climate change has significantly made the planet’s future more precarious, the sky is still up there, fragile ozone layer and all.

I know you’ve been putting up a good fight, Ms. Davis, but it’s time to face the music—to listen to the heavenly choir, so to speak. When you said you were denying couples’ marriage licenses on My authority—without actually talking to me—I had to intervene.

From inside your jail cell you probably couldn’t hear the happy supporters of the gay couples outside the courthouse when your deputy clerks began issuing licenses. I could hear them, though, loud and clear. They boiled this whole sorry affair down to two words—two words that guide all I do: “Love wins.”

Let me know if you’d like to meet. My door’s always open.

G

Rob Okun, rob@voicemalemagazine.org, is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and of editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity. He writes for PeaceVoice.