In 2016, when Stacey Craig composed an angry rant on her cell phone titled “An Open Letter to Men in Power,” she could not have guessed that it would result in an educational experiment at Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church that two years later is still going strong.
Stacey wrote the letter and posted it on Facebook after seeing a video clip of then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump riding up the escalator in Trump Tower. An elementary schoolgirl, later said to be 10 years old, was riding down. When their trajectories intersected, Trump asked the girl a question and she responded with a simple “Yes.” Then Trump voiced the words that set off a bomb in Stacey’s head.
“You’d better be nice to me. I could be dating you in 10 years,” the candidate said.
Stacey said she thought that it was horrible enough that Trump objectifies women. “But for a grown man to be looking at a girl and seeing her as an object to be dated, not as a child to be celebrated for being a child, that made my skin crawl,” Stacey said. “It was the last straw for me.”
Even before the revelations of #metoo, 2016 had been a year full of media stories about men’s violence against women. Sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, ongoing allegations against Catholic priests sexually abusing children, and the story of a judge who gave Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, a light sentence after he was convicted of raping an unconscious college woman; it had been a horrendous year.
As Stacey wrote what she called her “righteous rant” the image of her own twin daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth, then 15 years old, never left her mind. “This is not the culture that I want them to grow up in. I don’t want them to come of age around men who are misogynistic, who will not look at them as individuals who are competent and worthy,” Stacey said.
Redefining Masculinity and Good Timing
One of her Facebook friends who responded positively to Stacey’s open letter was Brian Turner, a 74 year old who was active in the leadership of the Men of All Souls group. After reading it on Facebook, Brian wrote that the men’s group was looking for a project and maybe they could help teach men to not be misogynistic.
Stacey said that it was humbling to her that Brian took her rant to heart and did something with it. “He saw it as a call to action. That was incredible,” she said.
Stacey’s letter and Brian’s response were posted to the closed Facebook page “Tulsa Feminists Unite!” where the education coordinator for DVIS, Samantha Wade-Jenkins, saw them. (DVIS is the Domestic Violence Intervention Services.) Samantha wrote to Brian that she’d like to help facilitate a class. “When I saw the exchange on Facebook, I was struck by Brian’s willingness to tackle a difficult subject and redirect the usual focus on how women should behave to focusing on how men can help,” Samantha recalled.
Misogyny: Elevator Music in Men’s Heads
Brian said he was relieved when Samantha volunteered her services because the men didn’t have to create curriculum from scratch. Samantha also brought in Shawn Jackson, another DVIS coordinator. Brian and a few leaders from the men’s group changed the course’s name from “Misogyny for Men,” a title Brian jokes about now, to “Redefining Masculinity.” As the course enters its third semester, the emphasis has changed from preventing violence against women to prevention of the emotional, financial, and verbal abuse of women.
Stacey, Samantha, and Brian are all gratified with the long-term results of Stacey’s rant. Brian said he has realized the “depth and perniciousness of the acculturation that we men, especially men my age, have been through.”
“Although I’ve been with the course for two years, I’m still always just one sentence away from expressing my white-male privilege. It’s the elevator music of my life, I don’t really notice it, but it’s happening in my head all the time. Redefining Masculinity has given me the awareness that I needed and I hope it will do the same for others, ” Brian said.
This post can also be found on beyondbelief.online, the online magazine of All Souls Unitarian Church.