Last month folks from the Men’s Story Project (MSP) came to CXC to introduce folks to their organization. Begun by Josie Lehrer, MSP gives space for men to tell their stories in the interest of changing social ideas about masculinity. Part of their mission is “to strengthen social norms that support healthy masculinities and gender equality.”
As is true with a lot of work that focuses on a particular demographic, supporting men through the stories that they tell also supports issues that seem outside of their demographic. For instance, giving space for men to tell their stories changes the experiences of women and children and breaks down gender norms, which affect health and justice, drug use, violence, healthcare, homo/transphobia, and gender inequality.
In an interview with Dowser last year, Lehrer explains why her project is important to all of us: “Traditional ideas about manhood are often entwined with other oppressions. Men who buy into traditional ideas about manhood are more likely to engage in harmful behaviors. And when men who buy into hazardous gender norms hold positions of power in male-dominated institutions, gender inequality and patriarchy become entrenched through policy — affecting the ability of all people to live to their fullest potential.” (from Retelling & Rethinking Masculinity by Leora Fridman)
MSP also aims to shift the norms around how men are seen and how they see themselves. “[The project] highlights men’s stories that are less often heard; breaks silences on issues including sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism and violence – and ways in which these are often intertwined with masculinities; celebrates men’s beauty and humanness; and stimulates active dialogue on what contemporary masculinities can be all about. The ultimate goal of this replicable project is to help expand the presence of genuine self-expression, peace, health and justice in communities.”
Believing that dialogue is the method for bringing about true social change, MSP has initiated dialogues around the world (including a new group in Uganda). Their goal is to bring the dialogue about masculinity fully into the mainstream.