Category Archives: Allyship

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.

Responding to the Election

On Wednesday, the day after the election, about a dozen Princeton men met over lunch to discuss the results. We spoke of our anger and our sadness. We grieved: a man who personifies rape culture, who brags about committing sexual assault, will become our president. A man who props up his own fragile ego by objectifying and dominating those he deems beneath him. A man who rejects diversity and change as a threat to his power and privilege, responding with violent rhetoric and exclusionary action.

American voters have asked for sweeping changes in Washington, yet our work as an organization will remain the same.  We will be steadfast in our devotion to respect and inclusion within the Princeton community and beyond: we believe that diversity enriches our lives in countless ways; we believe that all persons are worthy of respect; we pledge to look for ways to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable and the excluded; we pledge to listen to the hard truths spoken by those different from us, and to use our privilege to amplify their voices.

The model of masculinity President-Elect Trump projects is organized around threats and acts of violence, shame, and exclusion. Our first thoughts are with those who do not enjoy our privilege as Princeton men, those who have already been victimized by people encouraged by the President-Elect’s example. We denounce these acts and we stand with those who are hurting and fearful.

We also acknowledge that this toxic masculinity is pervasive and a part of us. Men in our culture are taught never to appear vulnerable, or wrong, or even simply caught off guard. The resulting image of what it means to be “a real man” is extraordinarily narrow, painful, limiting, and sad.  Without the capacity to be vulnerable, we can’t enter into real relationships of intimacy and care. Without admitting we’re wrong, there’s no way to learn, to become better for the people who love us and for the communities that need us to be a part of solutions to our pressing problems. Without an openness to being caught off guard, our desire for power and control will slowly choke out any possibility of surprise or joy in our lives.

On Wednesday, the men of the MAVRIC Project recommitted to the work of expanding our personal and collective image of masculinity. We see strength in openness and connection; we see courage in vulnerability and solidarity amidst difference; we see integrity in the willingness to transform in the pursuit of richer, fuller lives for ourselves, for those we love, for those we disagree with, and even for those we do not know. We hope you will join us in living out these values during our troubled times.

Why dudes let dudes say sexist stuff

Oh, Billy. Oh, Billy Bush.


Who would have thought that Billy Bush would play such an important role in this election cycle? Or that one role he would play would be to inspire men to ask how they can intervene when they hear other men make sexist comments?

Billy dropped the ball big time. He had a chance to speak up when Trump went beyond misogynistic comments and advertised his past acts of sexual assault. Instead, Billy egged the Donald on.

That terrible tape has led many men to ask how they can respond differently, disrupting rape culture when and where they can.

Aliya Khan offers six clear options over at Everyday Feminism; if you’re full of confidence and ready to go, stop reading this now and go there. But if you’re uneasy about the prospect of speaking up when someone in your crew says something that doesn’t sit right, read on.

It seems like we as men feel that there are three major hurdles to intervention. Let’s put them each into context.

  1. It won’t make any difference. Wrong. Even as many of us feel ham-fisted speaking up, research shows that even the most gentle push-back can have an instant effect. Despite the traditional image of men as cowboys who don’t give a damn about what others think…we do. We’re sensitive to social status, and adapt quickly when our jokes don’t get a laugh.
  2. I’m the only one who feels this way. Very probably wrong. In his talk last year at Princeton, Chris Kilmartin cited studies that show that upwards of 75% of men are uncomfortable when they hear sexist language. We don’t speak up because we think that we’re the only one, when in fact, we represent the overwhelming majority.
  3. I have to have a speech preparedNope. There are many different strategies–again, Aliya Khan offers productive ways to have a direct confrontation and ways to indirectly signal that you’re not cool with this kind of talk. But the number one principle is just to speak for yourself, about how you feel in this moment: rather than jumping right to judgment on the other person, use “I-statements,” i.e. “Dude, I don’t think that’s funny” or “Dude, I’m not comfortable with that kind of talk.” No dude can argue with that.

The stakes for speaking up can feel high, but in fact, they’re really low. At the very least, you’re signaling to the other men around you who are uncomfortable, too, that they’re not alone, and that empowers everyone to speak up next time. But again, studies show that small gestures make waves. Dudes will get the message.

Men being allies aka #checkyourboys

Men tend to listen to other men. Research illustrates that men care about and are influenced by what other men think, do and say. One aspect of #healthymasculinity that can be really hard is calling out other men who engage in behaviors that are disrespectful or aggressive. The video below shows how.

Conversation starter: The video illustrates a simple way men can be allies just by speaking up when something sexist or misoygnistic is being said. What is  an example of when you witnessed or have been a part of a situation when a group of guys checked their friends?