East Texas men discuss the culture of masculinity

Published on Thursday, 2 November 2017 19:58 - Written by CHELSEA PURGAHN, cpurgahn@tylerpaper.com

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How do you change views about masculinity that seem to be set in our culture? That’s a question that was asked among a group of about a dozen men Thursday in a roundtable discussion at Christus Trinity Mother Frances – Tyler.

“What does Healthy Masculinity Mean to You” town hall conversation and training was hosted in partnership with the 1 in 3 Foundation and Men Can Stop Rape.

The first half of the event included stories from Tyler community members and an open dialogue about how to address issues regarding the culture of masculinity.

The second half involved training conducted by Men Can Stop Rape about social and emotional learning.

Meteorologist Mark Scirto, John Tyler High School head football coach Ricklan Holmes and attorney James Carter shared some of their personal stories with the group.

Scirto talked about being emotionally vulnerable on air when he was covering a storm near Lindale in 2016, where a tornado touched down a mere 400 yards from his son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren’s house. He ended up calling his son while on air and was tearing up.

With the Canton tornadoes, there were times he had to just stop talking on air as he struggled to keep going, knowing the human impact.

Being emotionally vulnerable is not a way men are often presented in media, but for Scirto, it was important for him to take those moments to be human.

Holmes recognizes the role men have in influencing and affecting others, so he does his best to teach the players on his team about how to be a better man to those around them.

“It’s not about how you look, it’s about what you do …” he said. “I think for years we have been teaching young men … to not be the problem, but to be the solution.”

Carter spoke about the feeling of power and control men had as he was growing up in a family of independent Baptists, saying that women were brought up to accept what they were told to do and men experienced an environment where they thought it was OK to hold a certain power over women.

“What I see in my practice is that men want to still exert that control, and that need to exert that control always comes from a place of fear and insecurity,” he said, noting that these men will control women in their lives emotionally, physically and financially.

Jesus Flores, 1 in 3 Foundation board member, opened the discussion by talking about the relevance of the topic.

“I think it’s the right time - because of what we are hearing everywhere in media, in Hollywood and in politics - for men to step up and talk about healthy ways to live as men,” he said.

Attendee Jeremy Flowers said there is an “internalized fear of not living up to a masculine ideal,” an ideal Flores said has largely been shaped by the previously-mentioned institutions of media, Hollywood and politics.

This ideal can only see change if people step up to change the culture, the speakers said.

“If you don’t have leaders buying into the approach, you won’t have people following,” Carter said. “Societal changes don’t happen overnight - they are gradual - so you have to start young.”

Maya Bethany, founder of the 1 in 3 Foundation, said this type of dialogue is healthy and needed in the community.

“Your viewpoints as a man shape your relationships,” she said in a news release. “Those viewpoints are formed by your upbringing, religion, ethnicity and employment. Healthy masculinity raises the bar.”

The 1 in 3 Foundation is a Smith County-based nonprofit organization that provides healing, recovery resources and support for adult women survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Men Can Stop Rape, based in Washington, D.C., aims to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.