[EDEQUITY Dialogue] Opening Statement

From: Craig.P.Flood
Date: Fri Dec 08 2000 - 17:23:37 EST

First, I want to thank the WEEA Center for the invitation and opportunity
to be a part of this EDEQUITY panel discussion, "Gender Equityis a Male
Issue."  As some of you may know, I have often participated in the ongoing
EDEQUITY dialogue.  So, it is now a particular honor to play a role in
helping to frame the discussion of this critical aspect of gender equity in
education.  I also welcome and look forward to the contributions of the
other panelists.

For the past 18 years I have conducted research, written and developed
programs in the areas of career development, gender and mathematics, male
gender issues, sexual harassment in schools and school violence prevention.
I come to this work having been director of a statewide gender equity
project and recently completing a two-year term as Chair of the National
Coalition for Sex Equity in Education. I have also chaired the NCSEE Task
Force on Male Issues.

Most specific to our discussion topic, I have been involvedin a range of
initiatives that acknowledge gender equity as a male issue.  From 1995-99 I
collaborated in the development of two innovative projects, "Men Helping
Boys with Choices"and "Enlisting Men and Boys in Developing Strategies to
Prevent Violence." These middle and high school programs were aimed at
providing boys positive adult male role models, developing leadership
potential, and interrupting the negative effects of some male stereotypes
in boys lives. I have also written a text chapter, "Schools Fail Boys, Too:
Exposing the "Con" of Traditional Masculinity," will be published in Double
Addressing Gender Equity in Special Education (Rousso& Wehmeyer, SUNY
Press, 2000). Finally, I recently co-wrote an article with Susan Shaffer,
"Safe Boys, Safe Schools," that will be featured in the newest issue of the
WEEA Digest.

As an independent equity consultant and Fellow at the Gender and
Diversities Institute at EDC, I am currently focused on both addressing the
developmental and educational needs of boys, as well as expanding our
understanding of masculinities in a diverse society.  Within the context of
gender equity it is most critical that we address those issues without
sacrificing the ground we have gained in our work with girls and women.
Contrary to current critiques of gender equity, our critical work with
girls has not created the issues that boys are presenting us in schools.
More to the point, gender equity is not a"zero sum" endeavor with two sides
battling for a limited pool of resources.  That is simply a divisive
argument designed to perpetuate a status quo that has neither the best
interests of all girls and all boys in mind.  As Peggy McIntosh has
the so-called "War Against Boys" is sadly using boys as "human shields" in
effort to dismantle equity efforts.

Before closing, I want to directly address one of the criticisms of gender
equity that I feel is at the center of this discussion.  It has been said
that gender equity for boys is about trying to "change boys nature" and,
most specifically, it is an attempt to "feminize" boys.  That argument, in
and of itself, is grounded in the broadest form of homophobia; one that
persistently discourages boys from developing healthy emotional and
connected lives.  It keeps boys "boxed" into a rigid set of mythic ideals
of masculinity that hold little room for real connection in boys' lives. To
understand this more deeply, I would encourage you to look at Terry Real's
book, "I Don't Want to Talk About It" and Susan Shaffer and Linda Gordon's
wonderful book, "Why Boys Don't Talk and Why We Care: A Mother's Guide
toConnection."  The titles speak volumes about how real this issue is for
boys and men and the girls and women in their lives.

Feminizing boys?  I think not.  That notion would be laughable if we
weren't so aware of the profound impact of such homophobic attitudes on
boys' lives. But, to see the absurdity of that view, we needn't look any
further than the substantial body of research examining factors that foster
resilience in individuals. Growing out of the work of Emmy Werner, Bonnie
Benard and others, it has been shown that healthy human development and
resiliency are highly dependent on the ability to draw on an "androgynous
model of competence"?one that balances nurturance, caring and emotional
intelligence, with autonomy, risk-taking and problem-solving; all strongly
stereotyped qualities as we know.  For girls, we have focused on fostering
the latter in many of our gender equity efforts.  In part, I suggest that
our consideration of boys examine how well we are fostering the former
for boys in our schools.

What are some of the other issues that resonate with respect to gender
equity as a male issue? There are admittedly many and some have already
been explored in this forum.  While this is an opportunity to share my
views, I am most particularly looking forward to the perspectives and
questions you bring to this important discussion. We rarely have the
opportunity to engage in a
collective consciousness of this specific topic.  I invite you all to
participate this week in the dialogue.

Thank you.
Craig P. Flood

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