A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the annual Women’s Power Conference at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. The theme of this year’s conference was “Women/Men: The Next Conversation.” Combing through the roster of speakers prior to attending, I found a handful of familiar names—Carlos Andrés Gómez, Tony Porter, Michael Kimmel, Ted Turner—but the conference’s title still left me intrigued. What exactly would we be talking about? This was a women’s leadership event, yet men were being introduced to the conversation. “Sure,” I told Masculinities 101, “I’ll write about it.”
Jeff Perera is one guy who’s comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics. Sexual assault, gender constrictions, campus shootings, rape: just a small sample of the few subjects we discussed during our Skype conversation last week. As the Community Engagement Manager for the White Ribbon Campaign in Canada, Perera created a blog called Higher Unlearning just for that purpose. It’s an online space that generates conversations about femininity and masculinity, to unravel the strict constructions of gender we learn along with shapes and colors.
“It’s okay to take that moment to be uncomfortable and talk about heavy topics,” he said. “What was inspiring about #yesallwomen was that yes, there were men who typically went with a defensive reaction, but I think there were more men who listened to women who could tell them to go check out this hashtag.” Then came the shock, Perera said. Harassment happens all the time, these men realized. Continue reading