What is “Creating Healthy Masculinities”?
“Creating Healthy Masculinities” is an outreach program specifically interested in providing spaces for Black men to directly confront the ways in which Black men fail to show up for Black women and in many cases perpetuate harm that leads to acts of violence against Black women (E.G. Tiarah Poyau, Jessica Hampton, Joyce Quaweay, Mary Spears, Marissa Alexander, & many others).
As an outreach program for Black men, we are focused on creating ‘healthier masculinities’ to help reduce gendered violence against Black women. This means actively discussing and strategizing ways to be ‘masculine’ and a ‘man’ that do not involve enacting harm against Black women and girls in a collective setting. This provides ways for Black men to work to confront gender essentialist attitudes in their homes, families, and in communal spaces with other men.
What do we mean when we say “anti-colonial gender politics” and “anti-colonial gender relations”?
By stating that what we need are anti-colonial gender relations, we are directly calling attention to the ways in which the Transatlantic Slave Trade, chattel enslavement, and other colonial mechanisms have impacted the ways that Black men view and interact with Black women. This means we want to pay close attention to the ways that European settlers came to define what a ‘man’ is and what a ‘woman’ is and how this perpetuates violence in our communities. The problem then amongst Black men is NOT masculinity, it’s that the rules that define what it means to be a man & how we go about achieving it rely on harming Black women and girls. Such harmful behavior is central to the same racial order that shapes the lived experience of Black people in the United States.
An anti-colonial gender politic then works on thinking about what it means to be a man & how we go about achieving it as well as how we can change these meanings as well as actions in ways that do not cause harm to women and girls. Ultimately such work not only benefits Black women and girls but also directly benefits Black men and boys. Changing these practices helps open up the possibilities for building community as well as helping us better understand how race (“Blackness”) differently but similarly shapes all of our lives and thus better preparing us for organizing against it.
Why is there a call specifically for Black men to decolonize gender & gender relations?
What we see of as gender is as much of a trace of colonialism (chattel enslavement) as race is. Meaning that when we discuss racial justice, we fail to confront it accurately by ignoring the ways that race is shaped by gender and vice versa.
The pressing issues surrounding racism in America are not faced by Black men alone. Black women and girls are also victims of state violence. And unfortunately, Black women and girls are additionally victims of Black men. Everyday 3 women are killed in the United States by a current or former male partner. The rate of domestic violence against Black women is 35% higher than white women, making Black women 2.5 times more likely to be victims of murder than white women.
Black men are killing Black women for saying “no”. Such actions connect to more everyday life interactions that Black men and women have within our communities. How we understand our masculinity and manhood is directly connected to life threatening violence against Black women who we ‘claim’ to protect.
Why are we first explicitly focusing on the violence Black men commit against Black women?
There is a direct connection between police violence and domestic violence. The police justify violence against Black people (men, women, nonbinary, children, etc.) through seeing Black people as threats, not human, and refusing to allow us to act as humans who can make choices that are not seen as a direct threat to their ‘authority’ &/or ‘safety’. This violence is also one that men utilize against women. By seeing women and girls as property, Black men react violently when women and girls reject their ‘authority’, seeing it as a form of disrespect and hence a ‘threat’ to their masculinity and manhood. If we see our masculinity as only valid through exercising control over the bodies of Black women and children we are then opening up room for violent reactions required to maintain masculinity and authority.
The critique of state violence and racial oppression then goes hand in hand with critiques of gendered violence against women. Black women have been and are important members of our communities who are being harassed, sexually assaulted, domestically abused, as well as murdered for resisting Black men’s sense of entitlement to their bodies and control over their lives. The violence that Black men commit against Black women then reveals a stark similarity to racialized state violence. Hence, in our calls for justice we must not be hypocritical by solely believing that justice is only the police not killing Black men, while domestic violence and abuse plagues our society as well.
How you can participate:
Currently I’m expanding the Creating Healthy Masculinities workshop into a larger outreach program to build/organize anti-colonial gender politics specifically for Black men as a preventative project and means through which Black men have the space to address gendered racial violence in our communities. Feel free to contact me to participate in the project as well as the larger discussion board for Creating Healthy Masculinities on the Rebel Researchers Collectives Discussion Board (Slack Channel) ran by myself and William Jamal Richardson over at rebelresearchers.com.
For those interested, below you will find a list of some of the anti-colonial gender & sexuality learning tools I have designed and developed here on DATT along with some other resource lists: