Messner professes his male feminism

By Kyla Cook |Asst. News Editor|

Feminism has taken on men as discussed in Dr. Michael A. Messner’s lecture addressing the contrasts between male activists for female empowerment over generations.

Messner, professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California was the keynote speaker of the “Conversations on Diversity” lecture at CSUSB on May 19.

Messner discussed his interest and current research study on stopping gender-based violence via male activists.

Messner’s research and lecture focuses on two generations of male activists: those that sprang into action from the feminist movement during the 1970s-80s and those who are currently promoting anti-violence across college campuses in the United States and through national media campaigns.

Messner said this area of research struck him as a college student because he wanted to be involved in positive social change, more specifically gender-based violence.
Messner’s goal is to inspire and help people understand how men, past and present, are working to stop gender violence.

During the 1950s and 1960s, violence towards women was viewed as a joke, as a punch line, Messner said. Comedians ended with, “So I went home and beat up my wife.”
When it was taken seriously, violence was seen as an individual form act of pathology, a deviance from the norm.

The 1960s and 70s women’s movement shaped it differently saying that violence was created due to over conformity to masculinity, that boys are taught to be dominant and use their bodies to overcome other.

“It’s not deviating from the norm, it’s over conformity,” Messner said. Messner focused on the transitional period of the 80s through the 90s where feminism shifted from movements to being institutionalized.

He gave an example of his sister who was once married to a man that would hit her. Upon calling the cops, she had no physical proof of the abuse. The cops took her husband outside to talk to him and she could hear them all laughing. The next time it happened, his sister left her husband.
Messner stressed that policemen now have protocols for domestic violence that they follow, thanks to feminist formation.

To prevent gender-based violence, there are multiple organizations that Messner mentioned that work to teach and converse with other boys and men to express diversity, respect and understanding for all people.

One of those organizations that Messner was personally involved in was Men Against Sexual Violence (MASV).

This group put together slide shows with porn and ads that objectify women and showed them to colleges. MASV talked to the men and boys about how porn shapes, in awful ways, their feelings of sexuality, feelings toward women and how it fits in with possible violence towards women.

Today organizations have been increasing all over college campuses that are focused on stopping gender-based biases.

USC MenCARE is one organization that is close to Messner because it is on the campus he currently teaches at.
This particular organization fosters men’s empathy for women and teaches bystander behavior.

“The vast majority of men do not harm.” Messner said, “But too often are we complacent.”

Messner’s research has established that feminist male activist groups have moved from viewing dominant masculinity as the cause of violence to using dominant masculinity to stop violence.


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