Jason Collins made history on Sunday when he signed with the Brooklyn Nets and played in a game as the first openly gay player in the major professional sports. Several weeks ago, Mizzou football player and NFL draft pick Michael Sam came out as gay as well. While there has been plenty of ignorant backlash and existing discrimination, we are heartened to see several hugely respected and popular star athletes speak out in solidarity and acceptance. Former Celtics teammate Paul Pierce was quick to voice his support for Collins, and star quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton come out and say that as far as they're concerned, Michael Sam is welcome in their locker rooms and on their playing fields. Huh. Seems these professional athletes seem to think that what matters in the arena is athleticism, not sexual orientation? Imagine that, and kudos to these influential players for supporting tolerance and progress in the highest echelons of our hallowed sporting pastimes.
Tony Porter is an educator and activist speaking out to end violence against women. He talks about the collective socialization of men, starting often (and in his shared experience) between fathers and sons, explaining how the way we have constructed masculinity not only becomes the basis for encouraging and justifying gender-based violence, but in turn hurts men by limiting the ways in which males are allowed to behave. In his Ted Talk he shares his own journey away from the discourse and behavior behind 'being a man', and explains how that affected his life and how we can move beyond a system that creates cycles of violence that affect all of us. His work is inspirational, and we are huge fans! Follow this link and prepare to be impressed!
The overlap between rape culture and jock culture has been identified and explored most often within the context of football programs, and certainly most recently in light of the Super Bowl and the sex work it provides a demand for. While we don't have enough research to prove causal or direct relationships between athletes and rape and sexual assault, we do have a dearth of instances of rape committed by football players and often abetted by their athletic community members. This is a particularly bitter pill to swallow for some of us at PARC who love sports in general and football in particular. So for this installment of good news, we'd like to spotlight the work of an NFL player who's using his power and status for good. Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty has partnered with organization A Call to Men to educate and model healthy masculinity. Aiming to reduce domestic violence and endow young men with tools to manage their emotions and behavior in healthy and productive ways, Chris Canty and A Call to Men recently partnered with Verizon to host an interactive seminar called A Call To Coaches, aimed at educating coaches and mentors about the ways in which they can support their young athletes to develop as healthy and emotionally developed and balanced young men. In speaking out against masculinity wielded violently and for dominance, Chris Canty not only advocates for healthy relationships but models to his NFL teammates and peers a healthy and compassionate way of enacting his power as a man. For those of us that love football, we'd love to see more models of healthy masculinity speak out and step up to change the patterns of domination and violence that have become deeply ingrained in this culture. Bravo to Chris Canty and his voice against violence!
This is where we'll share positive stories about forward progress in changing rape culture.