Dowser is welcoming new writers/contributors; please send us a note at with a writing sample.

Retelling and rethinking masculinity

   /   Mar 17th, 2011California, Chile, Education, Interviews
Men's Story Project

Image: Men's Story Project

Why are gender-based issues primarily considered “women’s” issues? Josie Lehrer founded the Men’s Story Project (MSP) to rethink this faulty truism. Intended for local replication, the MSP uses performance and dialogue to create public spaces for men to share their experience of male gender norms and masculinity. Below, Dowser talks with Lehrer about creating platforms for men’s less-often-heard stories and how sharing more of these stories can contribute to broader health and justice.

Dowser: Why look at social change through the lens of masculinity?
Lehrer: I believe that dominant-culture prescriptions for ‘manhood’ and gender relations are a key part of the system shaping many local and global preventable challenges to well-being, health and social justice. 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.

There are few public forums where traditional masculinity norms are critically examined, and where more healthy and human approaches are highlighted. The MSP helps fill this gap through educational films, public story-sharing, and a growing Youtube library. We want to create a counterpoint to the limited and often oppressive messages of the mainstream media, and to highlight more sustainable forms of male gender expression.

How did the idea for MSP emerge and how has it evolved?
I was working as a community educator at San Francisco Women Against Rape in 2008, and sent out an email inviting people to a benefit presentation of the Vagina Monologues. At the end of the email, I added: ‘…and if you’d like to help me put together something similar for men, let me know!’ People responded with enthusiasm, so I put out a formal Call for Submissions. As the submissions came in, I quickly saw that this could be a great, replicable way to bring men’s less-often-heard stories and critical reflection on male roles into public forums.

The first MSP event had a hugely positive response. We were invited to present universities soon thereafter. Our first film was in the San Francisco IndieFest, and I was invited to speak about the MSP on CNN. It’s been gaining momentum ever since. Our first film is being used around the country for teaching purposes. Our second film is almost finished – it is of an MSP production I directed in Chile, sponsored by Amnesty International. Several groups are currently developing MSP productions.

Men's Story Project

Image: Men's Story Project

How do MSP’s performances and community dialogues work?
In each presentation, a diverse group of local opinion leaders, artists, activists and first-time presenters share personal stories with an audience, followed by discussion. They discuss things men don’t often publicly talk about, and challenge stereotypical notions of manhood. We recruit participants through a combination of open calls and targeted recruitment. In Chile and California, participants’ stories have addressed topics including fatherhood, violence, homophobia, HIV/AIDS, bullying, aging, disability and sexuality, and the healing power of self-acceptance, community and love. Mediums have included slam poetry, prose, music and dance.

What do you think is most innovative about your work?
The MSP helps meet a widespread need to collectively examine and transform male gender norms, by fostering men’s public reflection on masculinities and gender relations. Few public projects have overtly addressed this area. The structure of the MSP model is innovative — it’s replicable and adaptable, is grounded in research and social change theory, bridges public health and the arts, and views people as having a fundamental orientation towards goodness. It brings real men of different walks of life together, in public acts of self-revelation and solidarity.

Why did this project have to emerge at this place and point in time?
There is a steadily-emerging global movement of work to foster healthier gender-equitable masculinities. This movement stems from and stands in solidarity with women’s movements for empowerment and rights. There’s an increasing awareness that issues often referred to as ‘women’s issues’ are at least as much, if not more so, men’s issues.

What is key to a presentation of the MSP being useful or successful?
It needs to be real and presenters themselves need to give it gravitas. It needs to be locally and culturally relevant, and involve respected opinion leaders so that it can’t just be written off as marginal. If presenters discuss changes they made it’s important they describe what led them to change and how they did it. It’s also important to include genuine humor and celebration, so people can laugh and breathe and not be overwhelmed.

Paint a picture of where you envision your work in five to ten years’ time. What is your strategy for getting there?
I envision the MSP as a live discussion and film initiative created and evaluated in thousands of places around the world. Regularly-occurring MSP events, such as yearly productions on college campuses, will contribute to normalizing critical dialogue about masculinities as part of the mainstream social landscape. Over time, MSP films in different countries will yield a global-view film series on masculinities, health and social justice. Funds raised from live productions will support aligned causes. (You can support us now at our Kickstarter campaign!) Evaluation of local projects will help ensure that we are always a learning enterprise, creating relevant and effective initiatives.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

10 Responses

  1. Manuel R says:

    Wonderful story! What a powerful approach to using art and public dialogue to effect change. I love what Lehrer says about “Issues often referred to as ‘women’s issues’ are at least as much, if not more so, men’s issues.” The same principle should be applied in other areas as well: racism is not just a “people of color’s issue”, homophobia is not just a “queer people’s issue”, poverty is not just a “poor people’s issue”, etc.

  2. Alison says:

    Thank you for this! It is a great reminder of the fact that any attempt to essentialize gender is harmful to everyone.

    I do think that because of the way that women have historically experienced discrimination differently than men, it was crucial to the gender equality movement to label certain things “women’s issues.” But I firmly believe that we are moving away from that now, and that we are ready for a more nuanced analysis of the ways that gender socialization affects everyone.

  3. TheStyleGent says:

    Thank you for that inspiring article. I am one of a group of men on Facebook who were opposed to the misogynistic stereotyping of manhood. We put together a group called “The Gentleman’s Movement” to stress the need to develop qualities that help one become better fathers, husbands and overall better men. It’s refresing to see the mentality change and the discussions that need to be had on not changing masculinity, but more importantly changing what it means to be a person that exudes qualities that are worth our son’s & brothers emulating.

  4. You are what needs now. Working with men in realizing gender parity and eliminating gender based violence is what works. You make me so proud as a pro-feminist

  5. [...] 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) [...]

  6. Most said along with carried out, Miracle Mind
    Method absolutely performs which is an extremely advised program for those who want to increase
    their total well being. In addition, the bucks rear assure will keep an individual safe along with nothing to lose.
    If you do not just like the software, it’s possible to obtain a total return.

    So, should you be willing to put in several minimal quantity of initiatives daily, Miracle Mind Method will work miracles for you personally. Make the purchase nowadays and start your journey in direction of a quality living.

    my web site: improve brain power games

  7. This product Aquaponics 4 You is actually surprisingly easy to setup and will, quite
    possibly, open an absolutely new world for your requirements
    in terms of organic farming. Your guidebook was
    simple to obtain and also obtainable quickly on transaction, which you can perform by
    simply going through Clickbank . com that will allow you to make
    use of your bank card or even PayPal.

    As for what you’ll get for your money, you can find Thirty-three very illustrative web pages, full of blueprints showing you a variety of aquaponic garden strategies. There’s absolutely nothing still left to figure out by yourself since the manual is incredibly thorough. The playback quality is actually of excellent good quality along with quite attractive demonstrating how to make developing your backyard.

    There’s even customer support when you have something. Anyone can’t ignore people appreciated little reward books, either. They simply may be valued at the full cost for your manual, so you obtain individuals for FREE!

    When you’re in to gardening and have always wanted to try aquaponic garden, you should definitely supply this specific publication an attempt.

    Even if, for reasons uknown, you choose reading the guide book that will aquaponics isn’t for you personally, it is possible to multitudes associated with gardening ideas that will you’ll be capable of utilization in typical garden. Overall, Aquaponics 4 You can never be a squander of your income or perhaps period.

    Look at my web site –

  8. Brian says:

    Home Made Energy is often a plan consisting of
    guides and films that permit you to produce your individual Solar cells
    or vertical wind turbines (in a fraction of your usual pre-made shop bought price).
    Put simply, this merchandise is focused on Do-it-yourself photo voltaic.
    This tutorial was established to provide you with greater choices
    on less costly components to be used to create your very own individual significant superior solar panel devices and wind turbines.
    Step-by-step guidelines permit you to easily understand the suggestions
    and processes that you undergo though constructing and setting up
    your very own Home Made Energy remedy all of the while relocating towards residing off the grid.

    The Home Made Energy products consists of a forty four site e book with
    pics and diagrams that aid you in setting up functioning solar power panels
    (in less than 2.five hrs). Windmill initiatives are
    also included (with very similar completion timelines).

    What is Integrated?

    - Diagrams, pictures and step-by-step guidance that guideline you thru
    the process of setting up a photo voltaic panel.
    - Program sizing worksheet that could be applied to compute the ability specifications of one’s appliances and lights. From these calculations you’ll use a far better knowledge of what you must power your home.
    - In depth facts on working with batteries to keep extra energy supplied because of the solar power systems.
    - Components and power lists for all of the tasks.
    - seven piece online video guidebook which indicates you the way to place alongside one another your photo voltaic panel.

    Home Made Energy method contains six hrs of movie articles which deal with system components, wiring, layout and measurements and instruments required. The films demonstrate what precisely you should do to generate your solar cells and windmills. The approaches to reside from the grid are only a few projects absent.

    My webpage Brian

  9. Terra says:

    Home Made Energy is usually a course consisting of guides and videos that help you to produce your own private Solar cells
    or vertical wind turbines (in a fraction of your usual pre-made retail store purchased expense).
    To paraphrase, this merchandise is all about Diy photo voltaic.
    This guide was created to provide you with greater solutions
    on less costly materials to be used to make your very own particular significant top quality solar panel units
    and wind turbines. Step-by-step directions enable you to simply understand the
    recommendations and processes that you just endure when building and installing your personal Home Made Energy option each of
    the while shifting in the direction of living off the grid.

    The Home Made Energy solution consists of the forty four webpage e book with images
    and diagrams that help you in developing doing work
    solar energy panels (in much less than two.5 hrs). Windmill jobs will also be incorporated (with comparable
    completion timelines).

    What’s Bundled?

    - Diagrams, photographs and step-by-step directions that manual you through the process of setting up a
    photo voltaic panel.
    - Process sizing worksheet that can be made use of to calculate the
    ability needs of one’s appliances and lights. From these calculations you will have a very improved understanding of what you need to power your home.
    - In depth information on making use of batteries to retail store surplus electrical power provided because of the solar panel systems.
    - Components and tool lists for each of the jobs.
    - seven component online video information which indicates you the way to place jointly your solar panel.

    Home Made Energy process features six hrs of online video subject material which deal with program factors, wiring, format and measurements and tools needed. The videos provide you with just what exactly you should do to create your photo voltaic cells and windmills. The ways to live off the grid are just a handful of jobs absent.

    my blog post Terra

  10. We ;ll see.Tagged with restaurants I have nothing but good things to say about Panera Bread. I have known of them for several years, but never took the opportunity to hermes wallet replica