Last Wednesday, I led a symposium event, featuring speaker Tim Goldich and several others joining us by video conference.
Titled “Gender Transition: Perspectives of the Men’s Gender Liberation Movement,” the purpose of this event was to present some unique perspectives on the subject of gender. This event was the culmination of much planning and coordinating I did to bring in these speakers. Though sponsored in name by the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), the speakers and topics were my own selection. Each speaker volunteered his or her time and the event was paid for privately, out of pocket.
In the lead-up to this event, I was frequently questioned as to whether this event was about transgender men. For clarification, the term “gender transition” was created by the political scientist Dr. Warren Farrell, who envisioned a societal shift from the mindset of separate and competing women’s and men’s issues towards a mindset of understanding that these are everyone’s issues. The goal is egalitarian common ground and the hope is that such common ground can expand awareness and sympathy towards gender issues of all people. In the vision of Farrell, “when either sex wins unilaterally both sexes lose.”
After some arm-wrestling with technology, I got the show on the road, joined by my author friend, Goldich. Twelve students, along with professor John Roth, joined us to hear these speakers and eat pizza. Here are some highlights:
Goldich spoke about his model of a gender theory called “equalism,” found in his book, Loving Men, Respecting Women. One aspect of his theory is the belief that “both sexes have tended to respect men more than women” and “love women more than men.” This leads society to respect men in a way that is paired with limited empathy, which is callous. It leads also to a love for women with limited accountability and thus respect, which is infantilizing.
Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality and nationally syndicated columnist, presented ideas about gender harmony. She responded to a recent article of the blogger Jessica Valenti who suggested it is not possible for women to harm men by ideological male-bashing. On the contrary, such settings as family courts have proven toxic for men. Men are vulnerable to the influence of public perception in such cases. Given that women and men both have areas of vulnerability, blaming either sex singlehandly for the problems of society solves nothing.
Jeanne Falla, longtime NCFM member, offered a history of gender roles in the family. In old times, mothers were considered to be the moral authorities of the home. Today men do twice as much housework as they did in 1965. Falla highlighted the importance of fathers in the well-being of children and argued that joint custody between divorced mothers and fathers should be the legal standard when both parents are capable and responsible.
Harry Crouch, president of NCFM, offered us some insight on the subject of domestic violence. Crouch cited some research on the similar perpetration rates of domestic violence between men and women. He claimed that while men, on average, injure women more severely, the rates of instigation are comparable, and that most domestic violence is reciprocal and is perpetrated by both parties. For more information about domestic violence see the website saveservices.org.
Our last speaker of the night, Carl Augustsson, joined us by video from the Republic of Georgia. Carl outlined his initiative “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Men” that he has translated into numerous languages and sent a document of to each delegate of the United Nations. This initiative would complement an existing convention which many UN nations have already signed, addressing the wellbeing of women.
After each speaker and again at the end, the speakers took audience questions. I had prepared a speech about my leadership of college men’s groups and my writing project about such groups, but did not give the speech due to a dwindling number of audience members. A downside to the event was that the technology for a YouTube live feed video was beyond my level of comprehension.
Overall, this event provided a model for how prominent speakers can be brought into campus conversations in a cost effective manner. Exciting things happen when we open up our minds to diverse perspectives. To hear diverse perspectives and to seek to discern truth is a crucial piece, I believe, to self-learning. I firmly believe that to find solutions to yet-solved problems will take bringing together multiple, sometimes seemingly contradictory, perspectives. We each hold pieces of the truth.