The 2016 Presidential election elicited passionate and partisan discussion on a range of issues. It is our goal to use this historical event as a context to discuss relevant issues about masculinity and the experience of becoming a Jewish man. While the President Elect is one focal point of the discussion, the goal is not to debate the relative merits or faults of the 2016 candidates in a political sense. Rather, our goal is to use the national conversation about this election to focus on how this election has shaped the conversation about gender—specifically masculinity.
What we will be doing today:
- Using the election in general and Trump in particular to get to the essence of what it means to be a man.
- Ground rules: This is not a political discussion—not about the election or who we might have supported for president. Rather, this is about issues that this election has raised about masculinity and the interactions between men and women.
II. Trump in His Own Words
Choose one or two of the following clips to show participants (you might want to show one from the campaign and the acceptance speech):
- Trump comments about women: http://bit.ly/29WyMIk
- More Trump comments about women: http://bzfd.it/2fjA8ME
- Trump’s insults: http://bit.ly/2byyzta
- “I alone can fix it”: http://bit.ly/2f8LQJQ
- 2005 Access Hollywood and response: http://wapo.st/2dSk1nD
- Trump’s acceptance speech: http://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004758093/donald-trump-elected-president-2016.html
- How did seeing and hearing these words make you feel?
- Trump used the term “locker room talk” to describe comments he made about women. What does “locker room talk” mean to you? Do you agree with the people who defend his comments by calling them “locker room talk?” Why/why not?
- Have you heard people engage in this type of talk? If so, share a story.
- What have you/would you say in response to comments like the ones Trump has made? In what situation (if ever) might you refrain from challenging such remarks?
- How do these videos impact your thoughts and feelings about our next President?
- Do you agree, as some said before the election, that the election of Trump, sends the message that its ok for boys to treat women poorly? Why or why not?
III. Identifying Messages about Masculinity
Take out a large sheet of chart paper. Write at the top, “Characteristics of Men and Boys.”
Ask: What do you think are the characteristics of men and boys suggested by Trump’s words and actions in the video(s) we just watched? (Another way to ask this is “What do you think Trump would say boys and men should do or be?”) Are there contradictions you notice?
Make a list of responses.
IV. NYT Article Peggy Orenstein
Read together and discuss, “How to Be a Man in the Age of Trump.”
Afterward, pass out lyrics and play one of the following songs for participants. Encourage them to read the lyrics as you play the song. If time permits, ask someone to read through the lyrics without music after you have listened to the song.
- Meat Loaf – “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”
- What is the story this song is telling?
- How do you feel about the baseball metaphor in this song? Who is the “winner” and “loser?” What other messages about sex and consent does this song convey?
- What is the boy’s role in this sexual situation? The girl’s?
- What do you think the boy in the song thinking? The girl?
- Why did the boy tell the girl that he loved her? What else could he have said or done?
- Have you ever found yourself in or heard about a friend being in a similar situation to the one described in the song (in a romantic relationship with a girl or with a guy) ? What happened?
- Grease – “Summer Nights”
- What is happening during this song?
- What is different about the questions the guys in the song are asking compared to the questions the girls are asking?
- Based on the conversation, what role did the boy and the girl play in initiating physical interactions? Communication?
- What expectations does the boy have about this relationship? The girl?
- Is this “nostalgic” way of representing boy/girl sexuality accurate? Is it how it should be?
- How do you think guys who are interested in other guys are effected by songs like this?
Returning to the chart paper, ask participants:
- After our last few conversations and based on the messages conveyed by the songs, what else (if anything) can we add to the list of “characteristics of men and boys”?
V: Moving Toward an Alternative Vision of Masculinity
Al Vernacchio TED talk on pizza in place of baseball metaphor: http://bit.ly/2foVyHi
- What is your reaction to this alternative sex metaphor? How does it compare to baseball?
- In this metaphor, what is the role of a man in a sexual situation? What is the role of the other person involved?
Share the following texts with participants:
Who is a man? Someone who appreciates life,
who loves each day
who sees the good
who holds his tongue from evil and his lips from lies
who turns away from bad
who does good
who seeks and pursues peace
Rabbi Hillel said: “In a place where there are no men… strive to be a man.”
—Pirke Avot 2:6
Haish Hahu – Shlomo Artzi
(song found on Shalom Chaver compilation album, as sung at concert in memory of Yitzhak Rabin)
- How do these expressions represent an alternative ideal of masculinity?
- How is this vision similar to and different from the expressions we saw/heard from Trump, Meat Loaf, and Danny in Grease?
- How accurate is this vision?
- What do you like about it? Dislike?
Share the following: “Sexually Enlightened R&B Song” (explicit)
- Is this funny? Why/why not?
- How is the expression of sexuality in this video different from most R&B songs?
- Is this accurate? Is it good? Why/why not?
Facebook post from a father to his sons in response to Trump 2005 video: Click here.
- How do the messages about what it means to be a man that we explored just now compare to the list of characteristics of men and boys that we compiled earlier?
- How is the expression of “what it means to be a man” similar to and different from the various expressions you have confronted?
- Of the visions presented, which one do you identify with the most? Which do you think most people identify with the most?
*Attached document: Manhood module (2011) p. 13–14