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The Top 10 of 2013: Change From Within’s Year in Review

Happy New Year!

2013 was a transformative year for me and my writing.  My business and my blogging have changed and grown a lot in the last 12 months.  In a lot of ways, my writing here at Change From Within has taken a back seat to my writing for larger platforms, namely Everyday Feminism and The Good Men Project, which has been cool to see. As is my yearly tradition, it’s time to reflect on my writing of the past year and highlight those pieces that were most widely-read.

Over at Everyday Feminism, three of my pieces really stood out in terms of reception and hits:

‘That’s Racist Against White People’ A Discussion on Power and Privilege was by far my most popular piece of 2013 at EF with more than 80,000 hits.

Also worthy of mention from my Everyday Feminism writing in 2013 are Intent vs Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter and So You Call Yourself an Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know.

At The Good Men Project, I had a few different pieces go bananas in 2013.

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21“, a piece I co-wrote with Alyssa Royse, Julie Gillis, and Joanna Schroeder, was by far my most-read contribution of 2013 with more than 1 million hits on numerous platforms.

My Open Letter to the Rapey Frat Brother and the ‘How to Get Laid’ Generation also was widely read, getting picked up by the Huffington Post.

Change From Within’s Top 10 Articles of 2013

Over here at Change From Within, the posts that were most read speak to the changes in my own work.  More and more, I have tried to highlight the writing and perspectives of the amazing people in my community, and that’s reflected in the most-read articles of the year.  4 of the top 10 articles of 2013 were composed by friends and mentors!

Without further ado, here are the top posts from Change From Within in 2013:

10. Shaking Off the “Harlem Shake” Meme – Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation

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After “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake” (coming in at #2 below), lots of readers were asking questions like, “So what are we supposed to do?  How do we actually resist cultural appropriation?”  In response, I wrote out a list of simple actions that we can all take to resist cultural appropriation around us.

9.  Standing Up to Racial and Religious Profiling

Kadra Abdi

After being racially and religiously profiled by the TSA in June of 2013, my dear friend Kadra Abdi wrote this powerful call to action with ways that we all can stand up to racial and religious profiling.  Her compelling story challenges us to think critically about our own judgments and how we can be part of the solution to this pressing problem.

8.  Rethinking Lisak & Miller: Checking the Math

After much criticism for my piece entitled “Preventing Sexual Violence – Rethinking Lisak & Miller,” I wrote a piece that tackled some of the math being used in criticizing my reconsideration of the groundbreaking Lisak & Miller research.  My friend Rida helped me run some mathematical scenarios that rethink the “predator theory” for who exactly we should be focusing on in our work to prevent sexual violence.

7.  Coming Out of the Woods: On Hugo Schwyzer and Accountability

In August, Hugo Schwyzer, a man who I have defended in the past, showed everyone who he truly is: a misogynistic, racist fraud.  In turn, I owed a lot of people apologies for my defense of this indefensible man.  Here is the public version of that apology.

6. 33+ Suggestions for Action After the Zimmerman Verdict

Justice for Trayvon MartinFor me, like many people, the “not-guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was devastating.  It wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was devastating emotionally and in its wider implications.  Thus, I was incredibly thankful when my friend and mentor Daniel Escalante emailed me with a list of suggestions for action that he (and others) put together. Now, a few months after the verdict, it is good for me to revisit these suggestions and recommit to action in 2014.  I encourage you to do the same.

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Please Be That Guy! 7 Men Who Are Transforming Masculinity

Lately I’ve been seeing a pattern.  More and more men are standing up to misogyny, to sexual violence, to street harassment, to victim blaming, to rape apologia, to sexism.

Despite the noise created by the idiocy in the Men’s Rights Movement, a tide is shifting.

On every college campus and in every high school where I work, I meet young men who are passionate about creating a different masculinity.

In short, there are men who are acting like this:

So I wanted to take just a minute here at Change From Within to highlight some of those amazing men who are leading this transformation of masculinity, men who I admire tremendously and who inspire me to be a better man on the daily.

Darnell Moore

Darnell MooreAs I sit here trying to write about Darnell, I find myself erasing and rewriting my introductory sentence over and over.  It’s impossible to describe this man.

I’ve long been a fan of his writing and speaking, and I had the opportunity to meet with him recently, and I cannot describe the humble power this man possesses in words.  His kindness and generosity are only surpassed by his brilliance.

As a public intellectual on issues of race, sexuality, and gender, Darnell is leading men to imagine their positionality in the world differently, moving toward an ethic of love and brotherhood rather than dominance and control, and his work with youth is truly groundbreaking.

Check out his recent Ted Talk:

Fivel Rothberg

Fivel RothbergFivel is a father, filmmaker, and activist who uses his own powerful stories to help men understand the work we must do to transform ourselves as part of transforming masculinity.

His film House Devil, Street Angel is an autobiographical documentary that tells Fivel’s story of his struggle to raise his son to know a different, nonviolent, positive masculinity.

On a personal level, Fivel is a caring soul, a man who is passionate about making this world a better place and who makes you feel like a family member in that work from the moment he meets you.

Fivel is currently working on a documentary about consent and positive, healthy sexuality, so keep an eye out for that.

In the mean time, check out the first of Fivel’s film that I ever saw:

Kai M. Green

Kai M GreenKai is a filmmaker, poet, and Ph.D. candidate who strives to build a more inclusive understanding of gender and masculinity through his art and scholarship.

Though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Kai in person, I am proud to boast that I get to write alongside Kai at Everyday Feminism where his writing inspires me to think differently about race, gender, and healing.

Check out the trailer for his documentary “It Gets Messy in Here” here, and watch his interview with Me and My Bois below.

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Your First Time: A Sexual Guide for Boys and Men

Let’s face it: Most sexuality education is terrible.

If you’ve received a formal sex education, it likely went a little like this:

Don't have sex because you will get pregnant and die.

Mean Girls

Sex is a special covenant between a man and a woman. Here’s a little information about the biology of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. And here are a bunch of horrifying pictures of STI’s that will scare you into remaining abstinent until marriage.”

And we think that it’s time we change that.

Sex ed has to change.

Because if we don’t do a better job of teaching healthy sexuality, we leave it up to pornography, television, music, and movies to do our job – and none of those are accurate, comprehensive sources of sexuality education.

It’s time we teach our young people about more than just biology, STI’s, and abstinence.

It’s time we teach about how to have amazing, fulfilling, consensual, and healthy sex.

Cynthia Kane already wrote a fantastic guide for having great sex on the first time, but since some of the most effective sexual education is split up by gender, the brilliant Melissa A. Fabello and I are here with a two-part article to amplify Cynthia’s message.

And since I identify as a man, I will start things off by talking to the boys and men out there.

That said, let me be clear that I am a cisgender man, and as such, many of these lessons come from a cisgender perspective and should be treated as limited in that way.

So what are some steps to take before diving into sex for the first time? What are some important facts to know? And why are they important?

Let’s take a look.

1. Get to Know Your Body

Amazing sex starts with you knowing a bit about your body and what you want and need from your partner. So before you head into the bedroom with another person, you need to spend some time by yourself.

Yup. I’m telling you to masturbate.

But I don’t mean the “jerk off quickly in the bathroom before someone catches me” kind of masturbation.

I mean taking your time, exploring your whole body, figuring out what does (and doesn’t!) feel good.

How do you like to be touched, where do you like to be touched, and in what ways do you like to be touched?

More and more, young women are being told to familiarize themselves with their bodies (which they should!), but young men aren’t being told the same thing.

The idea that a man would take the time to light some candles, draw a bath, and explore his body for maximum masturbatory pleasure is considered laughable. Let’s change that!

Too often, we just treat male pleasure and orgasm as being easy. Having fulfilling sex, though, means having a much more comprehensive knowledge about your own pleasure.

Did you know that one of the most powerful orgasms a man can have has virtuallynothing to do with his penis?

It’s called a prostate orgasm, and most men never experience this tremendous joy because of the taboo around anal play being “gay” and thus “terrible and disgusting and eww.”

Whether it’s a prostate orgasm or neck kissing, you won’t know what works best for you, though, if you never take the time to explore.

2. Interrogate Your Media Consumption and Expectations

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.

Guest Post: Undermining the Social Order? Yes Please!!

This week’s post comes from a powerful poet and teacher that I met while speaking on the “Harlem Shake as Blackface” panel at Hamline University.

Ryan Williams-Virden

Ryan Williams-Virden is an artist and educator from Northeast Minneapolis.  He began writing after graduating from Hamline University in 2005 when he  joined The Poetic Assassins and Sai Werd Ink as BUGS (Better Under Gods Supervision). As a member of Poetic Assassins, he toured the country performing, lecturing, and facilitating workshops on social justice issues at colleges, universities, high schools, and community organizations. Poetic Assassins won the VERVE Grant in 2009.  Also in 2009, Poetic Assassins won the Best Spoken Word Production and were nominated for Best Collective at the Minnesota Spoken Word Awards. In 2011 Poetic Assassins was featured at the legendary NuYorican Poets Cafe as well as won the Morrill Hall Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Grant from the University of Minnesota.

Ryan believes in the power of art and education. Since Poetic Assassins, Ryan completed his Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies culminating in his thesis “Keeping it Real: discourses on privilege in mainstream hip hop.”  He has dedicated his academic energies and career to understanding the intersections of race, class, and gender in order to effect change and help foster a different reality for his community.

He bases all of his work, academic and artistic, in his personal experience. Growing up in the densely immigrant working class neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis Ryan has intimately experienced  these systems of domination at work on a daily basis.

You can keep up with him and contact Ryan at www.ryanwilliamsvirden.com.

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Undermining the Social Order? Yes Please!!

Recently Lou Dobbs and an all-male conservative panel freaked out.

Normally this wouldn’t inspire me to dedicate any more time or effort than it took to laugh. Today, though, it did.

Lou and his panel were up in arms about the new Pew study that shows 4 out of 10 households have women as the primary moneymakers. They pontificated about the erosion of society and how this country’s families are being torn apart. Juan Williams even declared it was “devastating Minority families” worse.  Erik Erickson claimed the natural world and science support the dominance of males, and Doug Schoen ended the segment by claiming “bottom line it could undermine our social order.”

To that I say, Good!

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Guest Post – What is Normal? Addressing Violence with Young People

This week’s post comes from a man that I admire tremendously, a friend and ally from college.

Benjamin SmithBenjamin Smith is in his first year of law school at the University of Oregon where he is looking to focus on Child Advocacy and Domestic Violence Law. Previously he was the Male Involvement Coordinator at the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work there was facilitating primary prevention of sexual violence with youth of color and young men in central New Mexico. He graduated from Earlham College in 2010 with a degree in Economics. He can be reached at: bsmith13 |at| uoregon.edu

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What do you consider normal?

I work in the field of primary prevention of sexual violence, and in doing so, I work with many diverse populations.  My focus, though, is with youth of Color, ages 12-18. This is one of the first things I ask them.  I say, “If you see your neighbor reading his newspaper on his porch in his underwear, would that be weird for you?”  They giggle and cringe thinking about the perceived awkwardness. Then I ask , “What if you saw it every day for years, he always does the same thing. Would it be weird then?” They shake their heads, many times even responding that it would be “normal,” and I explain that this is called “normalization.”

But when we get into discussions of what normalized violence they see or feel, the conversation is divergent from how normalization is many times approached. The conversation doesn’t usually, as I first expected, focus on the media and the messages that the youth were constantly being bombarded with but instead often focuses on real violence they were experiencing.

This was jarring for me. Having the privilege of never experiencing domestic and sexual violence, I was confident in dealing in the abstracts of the media and language we use, only to be confronted with a male student, 13, who was almost in tears after a session where we discussed sexual harassment. He came up to me after the program.

“You’re saying it’s wrong to holla at women on the street?”

I sat with him, discussing consent and how the person being called at might feel. He nodded, understanding and agreed with me that being called at could make someone scarred or feel violated, and then looked at me and asked why his father told him to do it whenever they were in the car.

It took me a while to answer, but I responded by telling him that he could make choices about whether to participate in the action or not, to which he responded that he didn’t want to, and would not do it anymore. I felt that this was the best outcome I could hope for, but it brought to my attention the fact that as anti-violence presenters, many times when we identify violence that others many not see, we challenge social norms.  But with that we also have to realize that these norms are a fundamental basis for many youth.

Pushing Back Against Normalization

Generational violence is a huge normalizing factor, and challenging a youth’s parents, or at least their teachings, can be very difficult for some kids. Do I think we need to back off? No. Do I think we need to dumb it down? No. Do we need to acknowledge that violence is a foundational part of many youths live? Absolutely.

Many of my students have seen more in their middle of high school lives than I have in 24 years. These students understand violence more than I do, my academic background, ability to quote theorists and call upon citable data may make me feel like I understand violence. But when a student asks me why they feel weird when their boyfriend grabs them or that they cry at night because of bullying at school, I am overwhelmed with my own hubris.

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