This week at SXSW I'm speaking on a panel entitled, "Rethinking Masculinity" and Uncle Frank is pissed. First, let me explain that I'm a man-lovin', cisgendered, lesbian woman who is VERY in touch with her masculine side. Yes, that's me talking RPO's with a group of dudes in the corner of a Bridgerton watch party. Uncle Frank's you're-tough-you-can-handle-it way of motivating totally works for me, and I've spent years touting how I've benefitted from it. So, perhaps Uncle Frank isn't pissed that I'm participating in a talk about rethinking masculinity, he's just confused as to why. Don't worry, Uncle Frank, you're not the only one dressing up your confusion in wolf's clothing.
In my portion of this panel, which I share with some incredible thought-leaders and humans: Ashanti Branch, Max Masure, and Craig Forman, I share a story about a discovery that was made during the filming of the feature-length documentary, Open Field. Open Field utilizes my life in football as a prism to share the story of women's tackle football. From the first iteration in the 1920s, to the first women's U.S. National Tackle Football Team, up to today where former players from the WFA (Women's Football Alliance) are coaching in the NFL.
I started playing football when I was 10 years old in 1995 (don't do that age math, just keep reading!) and became the first girl in CA to play QB in Men's Varsity Division I high school football game. This came with some challenges, because girls playing football wasn't as celebrated then as it is now and, without social networks, it certainly wasn't as visible. The biggest challenge I faced was convincing my coaches that I was:
- Just another player
- There for the right reasons (the right reason being the love of the game)
In 2014 we went back to Redlands High School to interview my coaches. Well, not me, I wasn't doing the interviewing. The Director of Open Field, Kathy Kuras, interviewed my coaches and brought up some sticky situations from the past. One coach in particular was visibly uncomfortable in the hot seat. He was confused as to why we wanted to interview him. His confusion translated through his body language as contempt. Once the director further explained the purpose of addressing these moments, the whole interview and his participation in it, changed. The change felt like magic, but really, it was just clarity. If you're attending SXSW, you can see how it all played out here...or you can sign up on the Open Field mailing list to find out how you can watch the film. Don't worry, you can always unsubscribe if something makes you feel uncomfortable...like some folks I know...
Apparently the word, "Masculinity", and the idea of rethinking it, has got some folks triggered. Who knew? Well...I do... now... after losing six subscribers from my mailing list with announcement of my participation on the "Rethinking Masculinity" panel. There was no description of what would be discussed or how, the title alone upset people enough to eject me from their inbox. Yowza!
Change can be confusing, y'all, and sometimes we choose to withdraw from things we don't understand. Instead, perhaps we try to approach that which confuses us, with curiosity. Be brave, Uncle Frank. Journey beyond those triggering headlines, through the body, out of the other side of the conclusion, and into a fresh perspective. You're tough. You can handle it. It's good for you. ;)