Resources / Miscellaneous
Manly Men: Sports and Patriarchy, Feminists and Gays
Thoughts inspired by and quotations from The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football, by Mariah Burton Nelson, and from Cindy LeFevre's 1993 Affirmation Conference talk.
Compiled by Henry Miller
We don't just say, boys shouldn't play with dolls and girls shouldn't play with
pistols. Through our economic structure and through the media, we say that
taking care of children—"women's work"—is less important than
war—"men's work." We don't just say that football is for boys
and cheerleading is for girls. We say that playing football is more valuable
than cheerleading or field hockey or volleyball or Double Dutch jump rope
or anything girls do—more important, more interesting, more newsworthy;
"The overwhelming evidence created by the past decade of research on gender supports the theory that gender differentiation—as distinct of course from sexual differentiation—is best explained as a social construction rooted in hierarchy."
— Cinthia Fuchs Epstein, author of Deceptive Distinctions
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), come Mother's Day, we yearly elevate women on pedestals, in an effort to point out the "lofty position" they occupy as mothers in Zion, while simultaneously keeping them in their place as subservient to men. Nowhere in the church can you find an organization run by women. This was not always so. As more and more women sought self-determination in the early days of this century, their male counterparts in church leadership reacted by taking over leadership of all women's organizations. At present there are no organizations or publications left that are run by women. Today male supremacy and unquestioned obedience to male authority is ever present. To question male authority is to "turn one's back on God." To propose that women be treated as equals and be given the same opportunities to "power" as men is seen as an attack on a system created by God. The role of women has, it would seem, been forever written in the Book of Life, as a position "different," and many would say, "less valuable" than the role of men.
Thus boys have an incentive to cling religiously to "boy behaviors," and they do. Boys also have an incentive to keep girls out of their tree forts and clubhouses and sports associations and military elite: like "undesirables" moving into a pricey neighborhood, females lower the property value. Women's participation challenges the entire concept of relevant differences between women and men. "To allow women into sports [or church leadership] would be an ultimate threat to one of the last strongholds of male security and supremacy," writes Mary A. Boutilier and Lucinda SanGiovanni in The Sporting Woman. To put it another way, if women can play sports [or serve as church leaders] or relate to men as equals then "men aren't really men."2
What seems important to the male-dominated sports authorities [and to many of our church leaders], is not protecting women, or protecting men, but protecting male privilege. By keeping females out of so-called male events [and positions of church leadership], and by questioning the gender identity of girls and women who excel at sports, and by propagating the myth of female frailty, men cling to an antiquated dividing line between men and women.3
"Manly Sports” as a Tool for Reinforcing Male Dominance
In the sports world, recognizing this dynamic is easy. The examples are too numerous to list in one place. Perhaps a few examples and statistics will help illustrate for those who have never questioned the purpose of "manly sports."
- If you hit someone on the football field, everyone cheers. If you
hear a sexist joke, and you say that's not funny, you'll be ridiculed.
Which takes more inner courage?
- Most private golf courses allow women to play only during restricted
hours, forbid women full voting privileges, forbid single women to join,
and revert membership to the husband in the case of divorce. What are
men trying to protect themselves from with the unequal treatment? Why
are men threatened when a woman becomes an athlete?
- Millions of men affirm their manliness and manly ties by betting on
sports, discussing sports, arguing over sports, agonizing over decisions
such as, should I root for Baltimore, where I grew up, or Cleveland,
where I now live? They can become irritable or violent if "their"
team loses. What's wrong with this picture?
- Men argue that women can't play "men's sports" due to their
major biological disadvantage because women are not as strong as men.
Why do these same people not speak of the "major biological disadvantages"
of the smaller, weaker boys and men who are injured on football fields
every day? Or the male celebrities, groupies, "wannabes,"
and church and political leaders who could never survive a football
game and who make up the majority of men on this planet?
- Hospital emergency rooms handle 300,000 football-related injuries
each year. Approximately one-fifth of NFL players miss at least one
game per year due to severe injuries. The average career of a pro football
player is 3 ˝ years; the average life expectancy is 56 years.4
Knowing this, If you really loved someone, why would you encourage them
to become involved in football?
- The public dialogue over female reporters has focused not on their
opportunity to tell their truths but on the propriety of their presence
in the men's locker room. Why has there not been any discussion or outcry
on male reporters who interview female athletes in women's locker rooms?
- In a League of Their Own, the baseball coach played by Tom
Hanks stumbles into the women's locker room drunk, pulls out his penis,
and urinates, as if to mark the territory as his. What if a female coach
barged into a men's locker room, drunk and urinated? Could that be amusing?
Or would we fear for her safety?
- "I'm going to go home and beat up my wife," Penn State football
coach Joe Paterno once said at a press conference after his team lost
a game. Later he defended the statement as "just part of the sports
culture, locker room talk, harmless, a joke that did not mean anything."5
Why would he, or anyone else, accept this as an excuse?
- Boston Celtics fans have hung banners in the arena claming they like
to beat rival teams almost as much as "we like to beat our wives."
More women are beaten on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of
the year. Why is there a strong relationship between men who watch football
and men who beat women?
- In a recent survey of 114 undergraduate men, more that 91 percent
agreed with the statement, "I like to dominate a woman." Why
are most men trained to act manly, were raised to develop a disdain
for women, to dissociate love from sex, and to engage in various self-destructive
and other destructive behaviors that somehow, to themselves and other
men, "prove" masculinity?
In the manly sporting arena, misogyny and homophobia allow team members to feel close. How does this make them more "manly?" Why would males want to associate these negative things with what it means to be a male?
Coaches who would be fired for calling athletes "nigger" employ with impunity such terms as "faggot." It refers not so much to sex between men as to weakness, timidity, cowardice—and femininity. In response to "wimpy" performances, male coaches have been known to deposit tampons, sanitary napkins, and bras in young men's lockers. "You have debased yourself to the level of a woman," is the message.
Manly sports are more than a refuge from the reality of women's liberation. By creating a world where masculinity is equated with violence, where male bonding is based on the illusion of male supremacy, and where all of the visible women are cheerleaders, manly sports set the stage for violence against women and homosexuals. When we begin to understand how male coaches and players speak and think about women and masculinity, it ceases to be surprising that college football and basketball players gang-rape women in numbers equaled only by fraternity brothers. Or that male basketball and football players are reported to police for sexual assault 38 percent more often than their male college peers. Or that football and basketball players are more likely to engage in sexually aggressive behaviors (including everything from whistling and unwanted touching to attempted rape) than their peers, including those who play other sports. [Or that a "fun night out" includes, for many manly males, a visit to a local gay hangout for some gay bashing.]
"It's just a game," former commissioner Fay Vincent used to say about baseball. But baseball and other manly sports are more than games. They constitute a culture—the dominate culture in America today. Manly sports comprise a world where men are in charge and women are irrelevant at best. Where assaults that would be illegal off the field become an accepted, even celebrated part of "play" and replay. Where big men wearing tight pants embrace each other, openly loving men and male power.
Sports offers a pre-civil rights world where white men, as owners, coaches, and umpires, still rule. Within a sports arena, a man can express racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes not tolerated in many other parts of society.6
Sexual and aggressive references in men's sports language point to a confluence, in many men's minds, between violence and sex, between dominance and sexual performance. They also point to men's erotic attraction for other men.
On the cover of Friday Night Lights, a book about Texas high school football, is a photo of three young men walking together. Backs to the camera, they stride onto a football field. Their taut bodies display full football regalia: helmets, neck guards, shoulder pads, black shirts and pants with white lettering. They are holding hands.
Where these same young men to hold hands in a different setting—on a city street, say or on a beach, without their football uniforms—they would be thought to be gay. They might be taunted by other men—football players, perhaps. Yet in this picture, their handholding projects a solemn, unified sort of group power that conveys both threat and affection. It illustrates the fact that male power is based on male bonding. Together, they feel powerful. Together, they act powerful. Together, they fall in love—with power, with masculinity. They also fall in love with each other.7
Football is narcissism: a male love affair with the male gender. Men who watch football—and other manly sports—are watching male bodies in action. Men who readily admit to objectifying women—brag about it, even—are unlikely to admit to objectifying men. Yet this is what happens. The sports spectator is riveted to the sight of male bodies. He watches them move, collide, crash, caress. The players touch. They pat each other's bottoms. The players hug each other, jump on each other, leap into each other's arms. Through their tight white pants, one can see their jockstraps.
Sports watching is voyeurism, a by-men and for-men burlesque show. The bodies being admired are not primarily those of the cheerleaders; they're the male bodies: bulky, brawny, shimmering with sweat. Fans follow with fascination every stretching, strengthening, straining action of these bodies, from weight lifting to ankle taping to the snapping of a pass with sure hands. For fifty-one weeks each year, readers of Sports Illustrated enthusiastically examine photographs of scantily clad, muscular men. Television watchers do the same: admire attractive images of male beauties.8
With the exception of gay or bisexual men, today's sports fan generally does not accept homosexuality as a natural part of his own erotic fantasies. But voyeurism is voyeurism, acknowledged or not.
The occasional presence of women legitimizes the turn-on of sports, distracting fans from the uncomfortable fact of male athletes' erotic appeal. Female cheerleaders, topless dancers, and swimsuit models reassure men that their true lustful feelings are properly channeled not toward the men whose heroic actions and sculpted bodies so excite them, but toward women, or caricatures of women.9
Just as ballet, opera, and pairs ice skating offer ritualized celebrations of heterosexual love, manly sports offer ritualized celebrations of homosexual love. But because homosexuality is forbidden, great pains are taken to disguise the men-worshipping-men nature of the event. Sexism, homophobia, and violence do the trick. The dancing "girls" validate spectators' heterosexual credentials. Frequent "fag" jokes—clear indications that homosexuality is on men's minds—reestablish the supposed heterosexual status of the speaker. And the blood and brutality, as Michael Messner has noted, draw attention away from the display of affection between men.
Heterosexual love—as opposed to the desire to have sex with women—would be evidenced by true enthusiasm about women as people. Yet signs of such enthusiasm or love are oddly absent in manly sports. Instead, men only allow into the sporting arena women or images of women that represent sex or domination.
Which raises the question: What causes heterosexuality? Why—when so many men enjoy jumping on each other and fondling each other, or watching other men jump on and fondle each other in the name of rugby, or wresting, or football, or boxing, or baseball, or a celebratory pile-up—do they allegedly only have sex with women?
Well, they don't, of course. Gay male athletes are common. Thousands of athletes attend the Gay Games, including former college and Olympic champions.
Notably absent from the gay male sports culture is football. Gay men's bars rarely become sports bars, and few gay men seem to join the American male obsession with football spectatorship. Gay men don't need football to celebrate masculinity, male bodies, and male sexuality.
Manly athletes represent everything the U.S. is supposed to stand for: strength, determination, everything to be admired. Part of what's admired—by men—is male bodies. Manly sports men find an avenue to express their affection for men—and their anger at women—in a socially acceptable form. If these men were to openly display their love and attraction for men, they wouldn't have to camouflage these feelings with intramale violence and sexual assaults on women. Nor would they have to defend football so fiercely: they'd have other outlets in which to love men.10
By defining certain sports as male, and by linking maleness to muscular might, men attempt to erect a seemingly biological determined supremacy. Women counter by sprinting past, spraying unladylike sweat in their wake. They sue, demanding equal opportunities in high school and college sports programs. And they somehow find ways to take the war out of sports, hugging their opponents as if they were friends.
The female challenge to men's sports is not just, "We want to play too." They want men to relinquish their treehouse mentality—No Girls Allowed—but they also want them to stop using sports to justify brutish behavior. To stop using sports to define maleness and thus femaleness.
Who will win, Team Macho or Team Feminism? Force or finesse? Archaic masculine - feminine straightjackets or more enlightened views of human possibility? This is the coming game. For women, it's a fun game when they're wining— which can mean something as simple as joining a previously all-men's team without ridicule. For women, it's a deadly game when they're losing—which can mean being beaten, sometimes literally, or having men "score" on them against their will. It's a game that began during the first wave of feminism, and the first wave of athletic backlash, one hundred years ago.11
Patriarchy—a Tradition of Male Dominance
Cindy LeFevre, in her 1993 Affirmation conference talk, addressed male domination over women in the church. We call it Patriarchy. It's an ancient relationship between the sexes, handed down thorough the centuries. We unquestionably accept it as God's will today, but is it? Cindy's thoughts are familiar to those who have wondered if there might be a healthier way of relating:
In the church, Patriarchy is consummately misogynist. There are many, many unspoken rules in this system, but the primary, main tenet of patriarchy is this: all men must dominate all women. This is not accidental or incidental. It is absolutely essential for patriarchy's survival. It encourages blind obedience. In this system of dominance and hierarchy, obedience to authority, authority being defined as the person in the dominating position over you, is the highest law, but it allows for no responsibility or accountability. The person in the dominant position is only obeying the person in authority over him or her, who is also only obeying the orders from his or her boss, and so on up the line. It makes ultimate responsibility for one's own actions avoidable. "I was only doing my job," "I was just obeying orders," "I'm not the one in charge." This Nazi mentality flourishes everywhere. We have all had the experience of trying to deal with an insurance company or the civil service bureaucracy. In the church we have gone from the emphasis of "do what is right, let the consequence follow" and "find out for yourself" to "follow the brethren."
Women are trained to take care of everyone, serve the refreshments and clean up the mess, literally as well as allegorically. If women will take care of the men, the men don't have to. Just as men dominating women halves the number of people those in power must control, women taking care of everyone means that they don't have to. And taking care of everyone, serving the refreshments and cleaning up the mess is a full-time job for women. They don't have the strength or energy or time to question or change the system. Women, especially in the church, but also everywhere else in society, are brainwashed into believing that providing slave labor for men is their God-given duty and special responsibility, and that if they neglect this work the entire world will fall apart. Of course, patriarchy is right. If women stop providing slave labor for men the patriarchal world will fall apart, which is exactly what these men are trying to prevent.
So where do homosexuals fit into all this? From a patriarchal viewpoint, obviously, homosexuals cannot be allowed to exist. Why? Because homosexuals break ranks. Homosexuals are not playing by the rules. Gay men cannot be trusted to dominate and control women. Lesbian women cannot be trusted to provide slave labor for men and stay in their "special" place. For this breaking of the ranks, not necessarily their sexual behavior, they are feared and hated.
Generally, gay men see women as people, not sex objects. All women like that, both straight and lesbian women. Now why do women like being viewed as people? Pretty obvious! You know, there's such a thing as personal worth here. But there's also another equally valid answer that I want to make a point about. Women repeatedly say to me: I don't feel threatened by a gay man. The implications are enormous. It seems that at some level all women feel threatened by straight men. This is considered the normal state of affairs in our society. Let me repeat that. Women feel threatened by straight men. Why? Because violent male behavior and male abuse of women is normal in our society. In fact, any straight man who is nonviolent and treats women as people is accused of being gay because of the definition of "normal" man is that he is violent and dominant over women. So gay men, in their personal lives, aren't perpetuating the patriarchal system by making women feel threatened. For this they are hated and vilified. They are breaking the primary rule of the system.
So why all the excitement over the increase of feminists, gays and lesbians both in and outside the church who are no longer willing to remain in the closet or as subservient to men, and are at long last, demanding to be treated equally in the church, at home and in our society? Why all the efforts in Hawaii, Alaska, California and others, to keep gays from enjoying the same civil rights straight people take for granted? The answer seems pretty obvious when you step back and look at the efforts men take to ensure their place as the dominate sex. Anything that threatens their "patriarchal power" receives a quick and sometimes violent response. Reason is ignored, civil rights violated, true Christian values forgotten in the frenzied attempt to stay on the top of the pile.
Their efforts include backdoor deals with politicians and illegal political activities (as they did in Hawaii in their anti-gay marriage efforts), and slick media campaigns to ensure they keep things the way they are. Millions in church funds have been and continue to be funneled to anti-gay groups and political campaigns. Lies and cover-ups are common, an acceptable activity since "God's will" is being accomplished. Of course, any child that has attended Primary can tell you that God doesn't use lies or violate laws to achieve his goals. Therefore, a typical believing Mormon has to respond to any rallying cry with, "I will be obedient to church authority, since I believe they are being led by God." They never examine or question, nor do they take the effort to "study it out in their own mind" since all the "thinking has been done." This form of blind obedience is perhaps the most dangerous thing facing the church today. Ignorant men, self-serving men, men who lust for power, men who love to dominate, can and do achieve positions of leadership in the church. No one is allowed to question. No one will suspect. And if this weren't enough, blind obedience is also dangerous because it defeats one of the main purposes for coming to earth: spiritual growth and maturity through self-determined living. No need to listen to the Spirit when all you have to do is whatever you are told by the person in authority over you.
Men such as Boyd Packer, who has justified violence against
gay people, can become Prophet. A man like him who curses the existence of
"gays, feminists and intellectuals" in his "Three Great
Enemies of the Church" talk can be put in the position of deciding
the fate of our church. We have much to fear from men like him. Men
like him, who take Patriarchy, hate and male domination to a new level.
Of course, Packer is right. These three elements he warns against are in fact a very real threat to the system he espouses, since these people choose not to blindly follow, but choose rather to treat women and minorities, including sexual minorities, as equals. If he does not vilify them, who knows, they may have an influence on the other members of the church, and the day might come where everyone is treated fairly. Better to hurt a few families with gay children by breaking them apart, than risk losing his position of male dominance. Better that all feminists be asked to leave the church, than have women some day refuse to serve as slaves for men. Better that intellectuals be excommunicated than have truth spoken, reason employed and questions asked.
One has to wonder where all the "inspiration" for these attitudes in the church comes from. Can they be excused with a recognition of the profound ignorance of our church leaders and membership when it comes to historical and scientific accuracy and inquiry? Could it be simply arrogance—a belief that we are the "only true church" with "all the answers," never mind the possibility of continuing revelation, newly discovered or contradictory facts, or simple logic? Can it be outright corruption—men who lust for power and admiration? Is it possible that evil influences are involved? Why do our "leaders" work so hard to enact homophobic policies that a significant percentage of the church membership (both straight and gay) already know to be based on fear, ignorance and lies?
To those not caught up in the religious furor, even those who have at one time been sympathetic, the church is very much beginning to resemble a fanatical organization run by "religious" zealots. The scripture that speaks of a day when the Son of man would separate the wheat from the tares has surely begun.12 But it may not be the "us vs. them" view taken by the church. Indeed, the separation may be all the good people both in and outside the church, from the self-serving people who preach their own gospel—the gospel of "me."
This gospel does not recognize others as equals. This gospel does not allow for other points of view. This gospel insists that everyone looks, acts, eats, thinks, speaks, has sex, and lives the same. Everything is under complete control. No aspect of a person's abilities is left to chance. The more you think about it, the more it begins to resemble the plan proposed by Lucifer in the preexistence where he proposed that everyone born would be saved by sacrificing free agency and forcing everyone to do "what is right." His plan was rejected—at the time. He may be making a comeback with his new and improved proposal carried out by "wolves in sheep's clothing."
If this alternative gospel describes the church of today, then all fair-minded people—men, women, straight or gay—have a big problem. If these kinds of viewpoints have co-opted the true gospel principles taught by Christ, then all true followers of Christ are potentially facing a very large and powerful enemy. One that has at its command a large, blindly obedient army that will do whatever they are told. One that holds vast resources that can affect an even larger audience outside the church through the media, political activities, and outreach campaigns. How ironic and appropriate that Lucifer would take this kind of approach. How ironic that patriarchy, a system used by "religious men" throughout most of recorded history, has in these last days become the vehicle for inflicting great harm on God's children.
The patriarchal world is in a war. A war where anything goes, any looses permissible, in the attempt to keep men "manly." Sports is the battle field for our society at large. Anti-gay sermons, scare-tactics, homophobic literature and unethical political activities are some of the ways used in the church.
We have the ability to win this war, if we simply exercise our right to think and choose; by doing, in part, what we came here to do. By simply saying no to church leaders who demand obedience to policies based on hate and fear, we can make all the differencewe can win the war.
Cindy LeFevre's comments on an alternative approach are helpful:
What is the antithesis of homophobic patriarchy? True Christianity. In the records that we have, Christ never once said one word about homosexuality, or about sexuality in general, except to say to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn thee." Did Christ preach vehement and violent homophobia? No. Did Christ preach dominance over others? No. In fact, Christ specifically condemned religious hierarchy. He preached about kindness and meekness and loving one's neighbor and all of those wonderful things. In contrast, the church leaders' position on homosexuality indicates that they believe that God wants us to be very particular and choosy about who we love . . . and very broad and general about the people we hate and reject. Every indication is that God wants just the opposite. Christ taught that we should be very broad and general about the people we love, [and be a welcoming people]. There is ample evidence that those few men in power within the hierarchy of the church understand virtually nothing about homosexuality and have no desire to learn. In his now infamous remarks last May, [Boyd] Packer referred to a gay man as someone who has a "gender disorientation." He doesn't have a clue. He referred to a very sincere and intelligent letter received from a gay man offering to help bridge the impasse between the church and its homosexuals with some understanding and common sense. The offer was summarily rejected. Additionally, Packer stated that gender identity and heterosexuality are omnipresent in the preexistence, an idea that has no scriptural basis and is clearly apocryphal speculation.
Homosexuals ought to be as loved and accepted as all others in the church of Jesus Christ. I believe that this is possible by appealing to the core Christianity within the hearts of the members of the church. I'd like to use a personal example here. My in-laws are the epitome of narrow-minded Utah Mormons—the kind of Mormons that constantly nag us to move back to the land of Zion, who accept as gospel truth any utterance by a church leader in any position, who sent us a framed leaf from a tree in the Sacred Grove as a holy relic, and who are vehemently Republican and viciously homophobic. Several weeks ago during my Sunstone Symposium stay in Salt Lake, I was having my annual perm done by my sister-in-law. The conversation got around to this presentation, and the issues that were involved. She claimed to be righteously anti-homosexual and in complete agreement with her parents' and the church's vicious anti-homosexual position. And I said something like this, and I want you to bear in mind who my audience here is: "I have to take a different viewpoint."
"How so?" she said.
"Well," I said, "there is a growing body of evidence indicating that homosexuality may be genetic and biological. Certainly every homosexual person I know has told me that his or her homosexuality was not a matter of choice, it is just the way they are. If this is true, then we as a church have to seriously reconsider our position on free agency and homosexuality. I really don't know the answer to these questions. I'm only certain of one thing."
"What's that?" she asked.
I replied, "I am absolutely certain that I am totally unqualified to make a judgment about this issue. In the meantime, Christ has explicitly stated what is required of me. If there is anything to forgive, and I am not convinced this is the case, since no homosexual has ever harmed me or mine, but if it's a forgiveness issue, the Lord has said he will forgive whom he will forgive, but of me, it's required to forgive everyone. I'm willing to let the Lord be the judge."
"Oh, " she said.
Ten days later, we're talking on the telephone. She thanked me for expressing my views, and said that it had completely changed the way she thought about the issue.
I firmly believe that there are a good many, maybe even a majority, of good sisters and brothers in the church who would and could easily see the problem with their homophobia if only this simple message could be repeated throughout the church. Unfortunately, this would have to happen at the grass roots level, since correlation would never allow such a message in the lesson manuals or the Ensign. I am praying for the day when patriarchy will be replaced by the gospel of Jesus Christ in the church.
Real Men Don't Need to Dominate
Of all this there are at least two things I am sure of:
- God is not happy when men dominate women. I cannot believe in this kind of a God. He is not the creator I was taught about as a child. It is my belief and hope that he does not require this of his eternal companion.
- Men are not better off pretending that they are better than women. It's an illusory and unnecessary position. It's a sure sign of their insecurities about themselves, and of their fear that their true selves might be discovered.
Some of these men who are the most homophobic ironically are often self-hating homosexuals themselves. How loud they scream, is an indication of how vulnerable they feel. The projection of their self-hate onto others is the only avenue they know of to relieve some of the anxiety and fear they feel about their own sexual inadequacies.
In a American Psychological Association Position Paper we learn more about aggression and of some suggestions on how things can be improved:
The process by which violence is taught is circular: It begins in the family, expanding through the culture of the larger society in which a child grows and matures and then again is reinforced or discouraged in the family.
The search for ways to help children learn more appropriate behaviors (i.e., nonviolent responses to life stressors) requires a close look at institutional practices, public policies, and media programming that perpetuate violent attitudes, images, and behaviors.
When parents demean and strike each other or their children, when children are encouraged to be bullies or fight back on the playground, and when they have easy access to real or toy guns and other weapons, violence is being taught.
When stereotypes and prejudice frame interactions with people who are different from ourselves, the scene is being set for violence. Glorifying war and relishing violence in competitive sports may reinforce violent behavior.
When violence and sexual aggression are combined in the media, in song lyrics, in multimedia computer games, and in the vernacular, the message of violence (including sexual assault) is reinforced.
"Rather than waiting until violence has been learned and practiced
and then devoting increased resources to hiring policemen, building more prisons,
and sentencing three-time offenders to life imprisonment, it would be more effective
to redirect the resources to early violence prevention programs, particularly for
young children and preadolescents."|
--APA Commission on Violence and Youth
By contrast, we reduce the chance of violence in our youth when we give them the ability to arrive at nonviolent solutions to problems by teaching them skills such as:
Parent training and support, Head Start and school-based programs, peer mentoring and support programs, individual and family counseling and therapy, and community-based programs appear to work best.
- Stress management
- Anger control
- Impulse control
In summary, to be effective, youth violence prevention and intervention programs must:
A generation of Americans is at risk. We must make a legislative and social commitment to the reduction of aggression and violence in society. Everyone who comes into contact with a youth--parents, educators, child care providers, health care providers--has the potential, one way or another, to mitigate a child's involvement with violent behavior. Every institution that touches that child can contribute positively to a child's sense of safety by teaching and demonstrating peaceful, effective coping alternatives to violence.
- Start as early as possible.
- Educate parents and other caregivers in prevention strategies. Teaching parents effective, nonviolent coping skills is critical in any intervention program.
- Address aggression as part of a constellation of antisocial behavior in a child.
- Include numerous components of the child's environment.
Resources spent on positive learning and social opportunities in the lives of young children add up to dollars that we don't have to spend, sooner or later, on public safety and punishment programs. Public policy makers should be guided by this information.
In Disney's animated film Pocahontas the song "Colors of the Wind" speaks of seeking greater understanding about each other. In it, Pocahontas observes: "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew, you never knew." Unlike this Disney vision, overcoming homophobia is complicated by the fact that for straights who are suffering from it, gaining an understanding of our position may be impossible. They cannot, no matter how hard they try, walk in our shoes. They are incapable of understanding what it is like to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. You have to be "born that way" to really know. It will take a bit of faith on their part supported by their observations of us, in our witness of what it's like to be a sexual minority, and in personal spiritual confirmations of the truths we speak.
We're all capable of the same triumphs and sins. Gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor, black or white, prophet or ward member, it makes absolutely no difference. God created us all. He blessed each of us with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. A sign of a successful life is not in how well you dominated another, or forced someone to follow your set of values, but in how well you lived your life, your own life, given your own set of circumstances.
Straight "manly men" would realize all of this if only they could be gay for a day. In another twist of irony, the very thing they put down is the one thing that could save them from their greatest weakness.
It is my wish that all men will one day act more in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ and see and treat everyone equally as brothers and sisters in our family of God.
1 Mariah Burton Nelson, "The Stronger Women Get, The More Men Love Football." Avon Books, 1994, pp. 62-63.
2 Ibid., p. 63.
3 Ibid., p. 78.
4 Ibid., p. 77.
5 Ibid., p. 134.
6 Ibid., p. 7.
7 Ibid., p. 116.
8 Ibid., p. 117.
9 Ibid., p. 118.
10 Ibid., pp. 119-120.
11 Ibid., pp. 12-13.
12 St. Matt. 13:24-30.