“Male Empowerment Week” – Wait, REALLY?

Yes, really. Apparently, we here at Georgetown University are host to “Male Empowerment Week” and “Life Week” (thanks, GU RTL, for the blue and pink gendered flags on Copley Lawn) at the same time. But WAIT! It’s not as bad as my bleeding-heart-feminist-liberal self thought it was.

I’ve heard at plenty of other schools hosting “Male Empowerment Something-or-Others,” but I’d never been particularly impressed with the idea. Do MEN really need to be empowered as MEN? I mean, COME ON. Men have controlled the production of history since the beginning of time. I can see needing empowerment in other aspects of identity – culture, race, ethnicity. If you identify as “male,” though, I’m not going to pretend I understand why you feel like that part of your identity is being trodden on by society. We wouldn’t have “White Empowerment Week” – I’d be far more okay with “African American Empowerment Week.” The part of me that identifies as a white American doesn’t need empowerment. I mean, come on – this country’s been around for hundreds of years and we only just now have put an African American into the presidency. Whites don’t need help as white people.

But back to the potential misnomer of Georgetown’s “Male Empowerment Week.” Theres a piece in today’s Hoya called “Male Empowerment Week Unites Black, Latino Students,” which explains that even though events that occurred this week were referenced by “male empowerment,” they actually “entailed discussions about how blacks and Latinos are portrayed in the media and about the difficulties that men of color face in relating to the greater Georgetown community.”

Okay, so now we’re not talking about male empowerment. We’re not saying “men can run for office too!” and “men are as good at math as women are” – which, just, like, duh. Instead, event organizers¬†Men of Color with Vision & Purpose (THAT’S a loaded group name) and the Student Commission For Unity are discussing images surrounded their identities as minority men.

Maybe I’m just creating several false dichotomies, but I see “empowerment” and “confirming and discussing identity” as two different things. I do think a discussion of when it means to be a “man” or “male” in our society is long overdue. Similarly, I’m not at all offended by discussion about men who don’t identify as white in the same way I’m not bothered by discussions about women who don’t identify as white.

I am bothered by the idea that biological men who identify as men need to be “empowered” as a group – history and statistics would suggest otherwise. But now, it’s obvious to me that that wasn’t the purpose of this week’s events. Maybe in the future, when these groups advertise “Male Empowerment Week” (I didn’t see any advertising this year at all), they will consider giving the week a name that doesn’t make them sound like they are trying to convince men to continue to control the shit they’ve controlled for thousands of years.

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    • Brian Kesten
    • April 16th, 2010

    Male Empowerment Week is a really great set of programs… i understand how it could be perceived as a bit of a misnomer but i’m surprised you still wrote this piece after discovering what its about. i would encourage you to attend sometime, the meetings are open to white people and women, too!

    sure, white men don’t lack for power or empowerment, but that is far from true for minority men. look at the incarceration rate, or the HS dropout rate, or college graduation rate… there are serious issues that men in those communities should confront seriously, and should be able to do so without getting sniped on a blog.

      • maraalyse
      • April 16th, 2010

      Brian-

      I think it should be pretty clear that I’m saying that this sounds like it was a good program. I was frustrated at first, which is what I talk about for most of the piece, because I didn’t actually understand what it was. I’m sorry you felt like I was “sniping” minority men, but I think when we talk about high school drop out rates – stay in school! – the “empowerment” we should focus on is minorities, not men. Frankly, we shouldn’t be focusing on women in that case, either.

      Please reread and consider that talk about male empowerment ONLY. There’s a reason I focus on that as an issue. I think empowering minority students to stay in school is great, but is the focus on specifically men necessary in that case? I don’t really think so.

      Also, I had never heard about this until The Hoya article…there has been little to no advertising on campus – at least, none that I’ve seen.

      • maraalyse
      • May 5th, 2010

      Brian-

      Given some more time and another comment, I’ve sort of refined (…er, clarified and fixed) my response to your concerns. I apologize for not being as clear as necessary before. I do see why you were upset, and I’ve tried to fix that in my most recent comment on this post.

      -Mara

    • Rocio
    • May 5th, 2010

    Hey I’m a Gtown junior and read your article. I’m a woman of color and agree with Bryan here, I understand why the name is a misnomer but there *is* a reason that they are specifically reaching out to men of color.

    Latino males are the most likely dropouts at Georgetown for example.

    In economic terms, women of color are still at a disadvantage. But there are specific areas where men of color have unique problems. Particularly in education. I grew up in a poor neighborhood and went to a magnet public school for middle school. The general experience was that girls of color fared much better and dominated these magnet and gifted programs and this has has been born out by statistics.

    Also in college environments, while being a woman of color has its downsides at times, one area where woman of color and men of color are treated differently, is that I can go to a party and white Gtown kids probably won’t see me as threatening but they are way more likely to see a male of color as threatening.

      • maraalyse
      • May 5th, 2010

      Thanks so much for reading and responding!

      I think, ultimately, you, Brian and I actually agree. I agree with you: there are issues that are specific to men of color. Being both female and white, I probably won’t have very many constructive things about that, but I’ll try.

      Perhaps my response to Brian was a little rushed, for which I apologize to both of you – I read my post again, and I think I could have made my support of the events themselves clearer. What I was more trying to focus on was the concept of a “male empowerment” in general, and how damn unnecessary it is.

      I don’t oppose to reaching out to men of color, because I think the second half of that statement – “of color” – changes the scenario greatly. I’m glad a group is reaching out, and I should have made that more clear in my post. Again, I apologize for not clarifying better.

      Calling it “male empowerment week” can just get offensive really fast, though. When I read that, I was immediately freaked out – like, someone at Georgetown actually thinks we need it? I think the title is an *extreme* misnomer, and my response was meant to be a response to “male empowerment” as a concept, and my concern with using the name for something that isn’t about “male empowerment” – rather the empowerment of men of color, which is something entirely different.

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