Flash Lecture Reflection

Last month I participated in George Mason University’s Turn Off the Violence week by giving a flash lecture about masculinity and men’s role in ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and the patriarchal influence that’s found throughout our society. I spent a lot of time framing the lecture (which lasted about 10 minutes) and making sure that the flow made sense from introducing the subject to concluding by outlining what actions we can take. I used a lot of the basis from my workshop, Man in a Box, to frame the lecture which borrows heavily (and credits!) some thoughtful activists, educators, and authors such as bell hooks, Allan Johnson, and Keith Edwards. During the conversation I made some sweeping statement in what patriarchy teaches men about behavior and referred to the implicit and underlying violence that men often mix with affection and talked about we need to revisit those concepts from early on in life and go through challenging self-critique (as I learned from bell hooks in The Will to Change).

Overall the lecture went well and one of the students who had come out to the lecture stayed after to ask me a few questions. While I was excited to engage with a student directly, I was taken aback by his question which was “who taught you to be violent to your loved ones?” I was not sure how to respond as I had been confident that I was clear in stating that was a condition and expectation brought to me through patriarchal concepts and society. I said everyone had taught me that without thinking about where he had been coming from with his question. He did not understand, due to a fault in my lecture, that it wasn’t that someone sat me down and told me how to be a man in a certain way, but that it was thousands of little messages consistently received throughout my life through family, friends, teachers, tv shows, movies, etc. The student and I continued our conversation and I feel as though it ended with him no less confused than when we started the conversation and that really made me think…

I reflected on the content of the lecture and realized that I had not written it for people who were just being introduced to the concepts of patriarchy. I wrote it for an audience whom I assumed would have a basic understanding of what I was saying before even attending the lecture. This assumption failed me and it failed the student who asked me questions afterward. He wasn’t able to gain more clarity around the issue because I was not able to grasp his perspective and understanding in that moment. I did him a disservice and did not fully achieve my goal. I’ll carry that lesson with me as I continue to engage and facilitate social justice education. We can’t create change without knowing our audience and where they may be in their understanding of their own place within privilege and oppression. If we know our audience we can engage with them and walk with them through their new learning and that’s the kind of support that social justice education needs to be effective.

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