January 23, 2006
King Week events geared to both Mars and Venus
baust lukens & michael terrazas
For 11 years now, the Center for Women has held its “Women Talking With Women” event as part of Emory’s King Week celebration. This year, organizers decided to give some love to the Y chromosome.
As a result, last Wednes-day, Jan. 18, witnessed the first “Men in Dialogue: Reflecting on Race, Ethnicity, Culture and Spirituality,” held in the Woodruff Library’s Jones Room. Moderated by Tariq Shakoor, director of Emory’s Career Center, the event featured a panel of (male) speakers who spoke frankly about (male) cultural issues to a (younger male) audience of about 30.
“It was designed,” Shakoor said, “to offer an opportunity for men to come together and engage in some dialogue about how our socialization has driven certain behaviors and characteristics in men, particularly the violence and destructive behaviors that men often portray in our society.”
Joining Shakoor up front were two professors (Eugene Emory from psychology and Robert Agnew from sociology), one physician (Michael Huey from Student Health Services) and a theology graduate student (Christopher Wallace). Though much of the discussion focused on problems facing young African American men, over 90 minutes the speakers and audience members also talked about all men’s reluctance to visit health care providers, their attitudes toward child rearing, how to disrupt the cycles of violence that pull in so many young men today, and other issues.
Emory, for example, talked about how men who engaged in child-rearing activities often stereotyped as motherly responsibilities—such as learning to braid a young daughter’s hair—without exception reported very favorably on the experience.
“It makes them no less ‘male’ to do these things,” Emory said. “In fact, there are some suggestions that it raises their sense of manhood or manliness.”
Meanwhile at the Center for Women’s event in the center’s Cox Hall lounge, women of different cultural backgrounds and University affiliations filled the room, sitting comfortably in circle of chairs and sharing their personal experiences of growing up in cultures with which they could or could not identify, and the struggles that resulted from those experiences.
Moderator Pamela Epps of the Counseling Center opened the dialogue by asking everyone in the room to introduce themselves and identify what culture they aligned themselves with. The discussion that followed was centered on what the women admired about other cultures, and a surprising realization evolved: Sometimes the characteristics one admired about another culture are actually viewed as burdensome by a member of that culture. For example, if one participant admired Latin American culture for its tendency to preserve very strong family ties, another envied U.S. families for often allowing members more independence.
After a lively (and laughter-filled) discussion, Epps turned to the next exercise of reading anonymous questions the participants posed for their peers from other cultures. The open format gave women the opportunity to share their experiences, learn from one another, and get to know their colleagues—and, perhaps, themselves—a little better.