MURFREESBORO — A leading anti-domestic violence activist donned a wireless microphone and took his message directly to men in an appearance at MTSU.
Stepping out from behind the podium and walking in the audience, Tony Porter issued “A Call to Men: The Next Generation of Manhood” Oct. 21 in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building.
Porter, whose presentation bore the name of the national violence prevention organization he co-founded, is a life skills trainer and consultant for the National Football League. His other clients include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the National Basketball Association.
Porter said he wanted to deconstruct the nature of violence by men against women, nonjudgmentally dissecting the behavior of even well-meaning men to reveal disregard for the women in their lives.
The event, which was sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Fund and the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, was part of MTSU’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence and create a safer environment for all members of the campus and surrounding communities.
But rather than holding an event with the traditional focus on women, who are usually the victims of such violence, the June Anderson Center brought in Porter to specifically address the role that men play in creating this problem and offer ways to combat it.
Open to the public, the event drew a sizable number of men that included students, MTSU staff and community members from whom Porter solicited feedback throughout his remarks. Some 140 fraternity members attended a second session tailored to that audience, according to Barbara Scales, director of the June Anderson Center.
Referring to peer pressure to adhere to traditional notions of masculinity, he explained, “When we as men begin to develop an interest in the experiences of women outside of sexual conquest, our manhood is called into question.”
Porter used video sketches, PowerPoint slides and audience interaction to drive home his points. He described in detail what he called “the man box,” a collection of destructive behaviors men are socialized to treasure as manly. They include suppressing emotions, making decisions without asking for help and viewing women as property.
“These rigid notions of manhood are killing us as men,” said Porter.
He also noted that even men who never would hurt women physically “help create a fertile ground” for men who are violent by devaluing women, regarding them as property and objectifying them.
In pointing out men’s lack of awareness of women’s safety issues, Porter asked how many men check the back seat for intruders when they get into their cars. Only four men raised their hands, but numerous women raised their hands.
“They’re thinking about how to survive while we’re simply thinking about what’s next,” Porter explained.
Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, director of the MTSU Women’s and Gender Studies Program, suggested during the question-and-answer period that men who wish to explore the subject more deeply should take the program’s classes.
Kim Reynolds, a counselor for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program in Murfreesboro, stated that nearly 500 orders of protection for domestic violence victims have been issued so far this year.