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.

Let’s set the bar higher

Irin Carmon wrote a fascinating op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, called “What Women Really Think of Men.” The piece was a heart-breaking account of how little is expected from men in our society. We’ve all heard the refrains: “all men are pigs.” “Oh, you know how men talk.” “Boys will be boys.”


Carmon points out that Donald Trump has embraced this idea (although he’s hardly the first man to do so): “Hate to tell you,” he told the crowd at his rally in Cincinnati a few weeks ago, but women, “generally speaking, they’re better than you are.” Carmon writes:

As a feminist, I disagree. It does women, and society, no favors to grouse about female superiority as a way to let men off the hook. When society writes off men as irredeemable, we all lose.

The MAVRIC Project is a community committed to keeping men ON the hook, for the simple reason that we, as men, know our words and actions matter.  We know that integrity is about facing up to the ways we can be better and becoming better.

We reject the low bar our culture sets for men: we’re setting it higher.

Thanks to Chris Shin for sharing this article, and for starting the conversation on how we can honor men who clear a higher bar.

The Drought is Over! (but domestic violence is still an issue)

A few weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in the tenth inning of Game 7. The game, which has already been called the “greatest World Series Game 7 ever”, ended the Cubs’ 108 year drought and brought pure, unadulterated joy to thousands of Chicagoans and Cubs fans all over the country.

This game was a huge deal… obviously. But it’s not just this game, or this Series, or even baseball – sports make up a huge cultural phenomenon that goes way beyond the game itself. Michael Kimmel, in his book Guyland, writes about how sports allow us to “defy the cardinal rule of masculinity – Don’t Cry.” In fact, you can find a whole lot of guys crying about the Cubs. A video of a man crying when the Cubs won the National League went viral a few weeks ago, and Jimmy Kimmel invited him onto his show, saying “that’s a man, right there.” I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of institutions that encourage men to feel and express a fuller range of emotions.

Despite all these tears of joy from the men of the Windy City, not all is well in Wrigleyville. On July 25, the Cubs traded for Yankees’ pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the world record holder for fastest pitch who went on to keep the Cubs alive in Game 5 of the Series. A short while before that trade, though, Chapman served a 30-game suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy after shooting eight rounds from a handgun into his garage wall and allegedly choking his girlfriend.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that this isn’t that shocking; domestic violence is all too common in professional sports. Not only that, but the justice system often fails to punish athletes who allegedly perpetrate these crimes, as Bethany Withers writes in the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law.

In August 2015, the MLB adopted a sweeping new Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Policy, which many within the MLB and outside it have praised as a step (or maybe a leap) in the right direction. As it turns out, Aroldis Chapman was the first player to be punished under this policy.

Chapman’s presence on the team, with his history of domestic violence, makes a lot of fans uncomfortable – including me. It’s easy to feel conflicted about a player that does a lot for your team but has a really problematic past (or present). But what can we do?

Caitlin Swieca, a diehard Cubs fan facing this exact question, gives us one option – start a viral hashtag and raise $31,000 for domestic violence agencies. (Or, you know, make donations to and volunteer for charities on your own – every little bit helps.)

There are other options, too. We can support comprehensive domestic violence policies like the MLB’s, encourage other leagues to adopt similar policies, and make sure to keep commissioners, owners, and executives accountable. The easiest, and possibly most important, thing we can do is to continue talking about it.

Remember that talent doesn’t negate character and choices, so avoid saying things like, “sure, he’s not a good guy… but did you see that 105mph pitch?” We have to find a balance between respecting the work and success of a team and refusing to ignore discussions about players’ actions off the field. Resist the thinking that there’s some sort of acceptability equation, where as long as a player is more than this talented and less than that problematic, it’s acceptable to support them. It’s not about holding athletes to some “higher standard” – it’s about actually holding them to our standards, regardless of their skills on the field.

Professional athletes, with their sponsorships and corporate contracts, sink or swim based on public opinion, so express yours! Keep these conversations going – in front of the TV or on Twitter, on the field or on Facebook.