All posts by Carl Adair

What is a MAVRIC conversation? What do we talk about over lunch every other week?

MAVRIC has a two-pronged approach: we’re committed to working on ourselves and committed to working in the world. These two aspects of MAVRIC feed into one another: the one demands the other.

We can’t dismantle the institutional privilege that men enjoy if we’re not willing to ask hard questions of ourselves about the privilege we’ve been granted in our own lives. Likewise, we can’t rest satisfied that we’ve done good work on ourselves, knowing that unhealthy masculinity is doing damage in our communities.

Action leads to and demands reflection and internal work; the fruit of reflection is action.

In a future post we’ll write more about the action we’ve got planned for this coming semester and how we’re working as allies with other campus groups to address gender inequity at Princeton and beyond. Here we want to focus a bit on the more personal and reflective work we’re doing to free ourselves of the “man-box.”

One foundational site of this work is our bi-weekly lunch conversations. These conversations are open to any member of the Princeton community that identifies as a man. As those who have participated can attest, they are not places where we debate the “one true way” to be a man. There’s no such thing. Rather, these conversations have proven to be a place where we as men can unpack our own internalized ideas about what it is to be a man. It’s a place to begin to let go of the stereotypes that have constrained us and often led us to feel lonely and ashamed when we don’t measure up.

We usually begin with a concrete topic—something happening in the news or the broader cultural conversation. In the past, we’ve talked about Eminem calling out President Trump, Colin Kaepernick and the #takeaknee protest, the movie “Moonlight,” and some of the men we’ve looked up to in our lives. We ask critical questions of ourselves and one another: we try to see all sides of the issue. But we also look for the tender spots where some emotion comes to the surface: we try to name those feelings and support each other as we connect not just with our minds but with our hearts.

Over the past few months, we’ve had a rich and important discussion about how MAVRIC conversations fit into our larger mission as an organization, and specifically if these conversations should be open to anyone, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum.

Without a doubt, the work of building a truly inclusive community for everyone is work that involves everyone. It would be foolish—and ironically in line with the fantasy of male autonomy we’re trying to deconstruct—to imagine that men could or should do this work alone. Those of us who identify as men need to be always listening to the voices of those who don’t.

Why, then, are many MAVRIC conversations reserved for those who identify as men? One reason is that we want these conversations to be a place for real personal reflection and for collective processing on our stories and struggles as men. We’re asking ourselves to be tremendously vulnerable—which runs against the grain of everything men are taught. We’ve found that having women in those spaces can be a temptation to perform an ideal version of ourselves, rather than grapple courageously with the more messy selves we actually are.

Secondly, we also want to model what it’s like for men to challenge and support one another in this work. Men of good will have often turned to women to learn and talk more about issues of gender injustice. That’s wonderful. We absolutely must listen to women, center their perspective, and amplify their voices. But when men turn only to women to process their feelings about their own socialization and to ask how they can be better allies to women—as many have since the rise of #MeToo—we also need to recognize that that’s an example of male privilege. We cannot make it the responsibility of women to educate us about of the toxic manifestations of masculinity. That’s work for us to do—and to support and hold one another accountable in it.

Again, these conversations are just one of the things that MAVRIC does: they represent just one of the prongs in our two-pronged approach. The fruit this vulnerable reflection is action: action that aims to reshape our community to be always more just and inclusive. In that, we work alongside so many others who share that goal.

Action, in turn, leads to and demands further reflection and internal work, and the give-and-take continues. Acknowledging that we as men need time and space to reflect, challenge ourselves, and train for that work, we’ve set up MAVRIC conversations as part of our mission to help men work as full partners with people across the gender spectrum who hunger for justice.

Ryan Leaf’s Letter to his Younger Self

In light of the NFL Draft, check out this moving piece from the no. 2 pick from 1998–Ryan Leaf. It’s a letter he wrote this week to his younger self: the 21-year-old kid who was just drafted by the Chargers, who doesn’t know that he’s about to become one of the biggest draft busts in history, about to flee from his shame into a prescription drug addiction, about to spend 32 months in prison for breaking and entering a neighbor’s home to score pills.

The part that moved me the most was his reflection on how the media narrative around who would be the no. 1 pick pushed him to become someone he wasn’t:

“Peyton is clean-cut. His dad played in the NFL. He comes from a well-respected football family. And with everybody talking about you vs. Peyton, you started to feel like people wanted you to be something different. That they wanted you to be a little more brash. Maybe a little cocky. So between the time you left Washington State and draft day, something shifted inside you. You became what you thought people wanted you to be instead of being who you really are.

The Ryan Leaf the world has seen throughout the NFL draft process and the one they’re about to see treating reporters and teammates like shit as a professional is not the real Ryan Leaf. The real Ryan Leaf is not a narcissist, or a criminal, or a drug addict.

The real Ryan Leaf is strong, empathetic and self-aware. He understands that there’s more to life than money, power and prestige. The real Ryan Leaf is comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him, as long as he feels good about himself.

That Ryan Leaf is somewhere inside you. But you’ve buried him so far down that this other persona you’re building up is going to have to get so far out of control that it will take something drastic for you to dig deep and bring out the real you.”

Read the whole piece here.

Social Media Battles: What do we want, more than winning?

At one of our recent bi-weekly MAVRIC Conversations, the discussion turned toward the moment in a social media exchange where we stop being magnanimous in a disagreement and start looking for blood. Even when we’re arguing for something right and true—say, that all people are inherently worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of their gender, sexuality, race, creed, class, ability—there’s an undeniable temptation, as one man put it, “to go for the win.” It’s easy to get swept up in the contest and look for ways to cast your adversary beyond the pale, to seek their humiliation, to get that sweet, satisfying taste of victory.

It’s easy to begin to believe that your adversary is unworthy of dignity and respect because their ideas are sexist, racist, homophobic, or exclusionary in some other way.

We shared stories of conversations that turned sour or nasty, or times when we didn’t engage at all. I shared a story of a difficult engagement on Facebook with an old acquaintance from high school that got a bit heated, but ended well because I decided halfway through that I wanted to end the conversation by telling to greet his father, who was a teacher at our high school, that I remember fondly and with admiration. At every step of the exchange, I had to ask if my comment would make it impossible for me to earnestly affirm to this guy that I really cared about him and his family. It was a totally ad hoc principle, but it meant that I had to find a way to articulate my principles within the context of a relationship that had history and even a lot of warm feelings.

The conversation ended with this question: when we get into it with someone—whether on social media or around the Thanksgiving table—what goals could we seek in conversation, beyond victory? What could we want more than the win?

I was reminded of this conversation the other day when I came across a document drafted in 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King and the other leaders of the Civil Rights struggle. It was “Commitment Card” that everyone in Birmingham, Alabama had to sign before they joined in the public demonstrations against the racist segregation in that city. The complete list is worth careful consideration, but the second commandment of this movement caught my eye.

Remember always that the non—violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation — not victory.

What might we we want more than victory? Justice and reconciliation. The Civil Rights Movement under Dr. King sought to affirm the ineradicable human dignity in every person and to seek our collective liberation from systems of domination that diminish that dignity. The radical charge of this commitment, it must be stressed, was its extension to the liberation of oppressors from these systems, too. For though they did not suffer the violence and indignity of racism, Dr. King understood that their racism linked their own self-worth to their domination of others; and Dr. King refused to meet them on those terms.

In the words of Alycee Lane, the 1963 pledge of nonviolence wasn’t limited to public protest or other forms of direct action—nor, of course, is it limited for us to tough conversations on social media. The pledge was about “speaking, thinking, acting and engaging the world — even at the most mundane level — from an ethic of nonviolence, so that we actually become nonviolence.”

Becoming nonviolence in our thought and action. Acting out of an unshakeable sense of the dignity of all human beings: sounds like the work to which we are called.


Are you a member of the Princeton community who would want to come to a MAVRIC Conversation, or learn more about what the MAVRIC Project is doing? Check out our Facebook page, or email Carl Adair, Steering Committee Chair, at carlca [at] 

#BeAModelMan – Petition @POTUS to Respect and Protect Women’s Rights

If you identify as a man, and you think that all human beings deserve dignity and respect, equal rights and equal protection under the law, the men of the MAVRIC Project hope you’ll sign this petition with us, asking President Trump to #BeAModelMan.

“We come to you as a group of citizens – activists and legislators, artists and writers, fathers, sons, and husbands. We happen to be men – men who believe in gender equality. We don’t speak for women. We raise our voices with them. We’re calling on you to show us all that you are a man who believes in women’s equality and opposes discrimination and violence of all kinds by men against women and girls.

During the campaign, you said, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Yet, you have said and done things that many people consider to be disrespectful. As men who believe manhood is not about disrespecting women, we call on you to make amends and to set a new tone. […]”

The work of justice and equality continues, and MAVRIC men are proud to be a part of it.