I’d like you to approach today’s email differently. Instead of reading the entire email, watch Ashton Applewhite’s TED Talk when you get to the link. It sets the stage for this week’s topic of being an advocate. We can’t challenge bias if we aren’t aware.

Applewhite does a brilliant job to wake us up and challenge us to deconstruct the ideas and norms that reinforce the isms. After all, as she points out, “It is not having a vagina that makes life harder for women. It’s sexism. It’s not loving a man that makes life harder for gay guys. It’s homophobia. And it is not the passage of time that makes getting older so much harder than it has to be. It is ageism.”

I’m choosing ageism as our entry into this topic because it’s a shared experience. We were all young, and if we’re fortunate enough, we’ll all be old. Courageous leadership advocates to end racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and the oppression of all people.

Ashton Applewhite’s TED Talk http://bit.ly/TEDLetsEndAgeism

Welcome back.

In each of these cases, women, non-heterosexuals, and those not in the prime of their life (children, teens, workers in the later part of their career, and those considered to be old) are in a target group and subject to oppression due to a widespread belief, or system of beliefs, by those not in that group.There are three terms I just used that should be defined based on how we use them in the ManKind Project.

  • Target Group or Target Status: groups or individuals with statistically limited access to resources, status, and power due to their membership in an oppressed group. Based on such differences as race, gender, orientation, class, religion, age, etc.
  • Non-target Group or Non-target Status: groups or individuals with statistically greater access to resources, status, and power based on their membership in a non-oppressed group; such as white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, upper and middle class, etc.
  • Oppression: how a disadvantaged group is kept down and given limited access to power, resources, and status by unjust use of force, authority, laws, privilege or societal (cultural) norms. Oppression is most commonly felt and expressed by a widespread, if unconscious, assumption that a particular group of people is inferior.

These definitions are used by the ManKind Project thanks to the work of VISIONS, Inc. and Dr. Thomas Griggs.

If you choose to be an advocate, you will be working to end the oppression of others. This may sound like a massive undertaking. It is. But it starts with ourselves. You can:

  • Learn about diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
  • Learn about your own membership in non-target and target groups.
  • Understand your own culture so that you can appreciate other’s culture.
  • Awaken to how oppression is supported through:
  • Language
  • Humor
  • Internal Narrative
  • Common Behavior
  • Movies, TV, and Videos
  • Cultural Expectations
  • Dysfunctional Helping
  • Use of Authority
  • Laws
  • Intimidation
  • Violence
  • Observe your own use of and participation in the above list.
  • Consider what you watch and read.

These actions don’t require anything more than your willingness to start where you are.

Given that this email series is about leadership, vulnerability, and going first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my unearned male privilege. For no reason other than my birth I have greater access to resources, status, and power than women. I’m not objectified. I don’t live under the threat of rape and violence. Men don’t talk over me. When I’m assertive and competitive, I’m not called derogatory names. These are just a few of the many ways sexism oppresses women.

I believe as leaders it is our responsibility to stop conspiring with others in the dominant culture groups – white, male, heterosexual, prime of life, etc. to advocate to end the behaviors and actions that oppress others.

Go Answer the Call