Not that we needed (yet another) a reminder, but the reaction to Seattle Seahawks All-Pro Cornerback Richard Sherman sure gave us one over the past few weeks; black masculinity is seen as dangerous and threatening. Doesn’t matter how educated, doesn’t matter how prestigious the school attended, doesn’t matter what the GPA achieved, and it certainly doesn’t matter if there is an utter lack of any criminal history. Regardless of context; yell a little, be aggressive and talk trash while black and you’re instantly labeled a thug. All the while, young white boys like Justin Bieber get to piss in public, egg houses and drive recklessly only to be considered “misguided.” I give up… Let me just leave this visual aid here and move on before someone mislabels my anger and irritation as thuggery:
It’s against this backdrop of racist absurdity that a great short film titled My Masculinity Helps, was recently released. The film sits in direct opposition to the coded American discourse around black masculinity; arguing instead that black masculinity is in fact beautiful, positive and when applied to a major social issue like sexual violence, supportive and uplifting.
I first learned about the film last year, at a conference on men and masculinity, when I met Marc Grimmett, Ph.D., a professor at North Carolina State University and co-director of My Masculinity Helps. Marc created the film to focus on the role black men and boys can play in preventing and supporting survivors of sexual violence. Here’s a full description from the film’s website (where you can also view the trailer):
MY MASCULINITY HELPS explores the role of African American men and boys in the prevention of sexual violence. It shows African American male allies (psychologist, professor, peer educator, attorney, pastor, athlete, middle and high school students, activist) demonstrating understanding and support for survivors of sexual violence. Strategies for assistance and prevention are provided. Survivors also share their stories and what has helped them. The film serves as a counter-narrative to often inaccurate and misleading portrayals of African American masculinity. Our goal is to engage boys and men in the deconstruction of gender roles, masculinity, and power and in the prevention of sexual violence. It can be used in schools, colleges, and athletic, professional, community, and faith-based organizations.
As a black man who does sexual assault prevention work, I appreciated the film’s purpose and tone so I’m extremely happy to support it. Given the very public discussions surrounding black masculinity the past few weeks, the film couldn’t have been released at a better time. Let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves.
My Masculinity Helps is available to the public for free. Details on how to obtain a copy are available at MyMasculinityHelps.com.