by Mary Button

The Ecumenical Women Parallel Event, Positive Masculinities and Gender Partnership for Equal Sharing of Responsibilities, was a packed event. We quickly reached capacity and people had to be turned away from the room. Dr. Ezra Chitando started the panel off with a bang. He introduced his presentation with the words; “it is better to build up boys than to repair men,” which was met with wild applause. These words became a mantra and were reiterated by the other panelists, which included Dr. Fulata Mbano-Moyo, Chaitanya Motupalli, and Doreen Boyd.

From left to right: Fulata Mbano-Moyo, Ezra Chitando, Chaitanya Motupalli, and Doreen Boyd

From left to right: Fulata Mbano-Moyo, Ezra Chitando, Chaitanya Motupalli, and Doreen Boyd

Dr. Chitando shared with us his personal experiences about the five areas of socialization for boys. He identified these areas as: home, community, school, church, and the media. In particular, I really responded to his criticism of the church’s role in the socialization of boys. He pointed out that the heroes of the Bible, as singled out in typical Sunday School settings, emphasize men like Samson and David, overlooking the rich stories of strong and powerful women like Esther, Ruth, and Sarah.

Speaking after Dr. Chitando was Dr. Mbano-Moyo who spoke of her personal struggles and triumphs raising three sons. Specifically, she identified the church’s model of fatherhood as one that ignores the extended family thus creating a friction that isolates boys and does not empower them to seek out father-son relationships with men in their extended biological and church families.

At the conclusion of Dr. Mbano-Moyo’s talk handouts were distributed to the audience which included the text from 2 Samuel 13: 1 – 22 (NRSV), the story of the rape of Tamar.

Dr. Chitando and Dr. Mbano-Moyo proceeded to lead us all in a short Contextual Bible Study. Among the questions we discussed were:

  • How did David, Amnon, and Jonadab (as main characters) conceive ‘what it means to be a man’?
  • How did the men in Tamar’s life understand her role as a woman?
  • Can we identify men such as David, Amnon, Jonadab in our contexts?
Chaitanya Motupalli spoke about how his mother inspired him to positive models of masculinity.

Chaitanya Motupalli spoke about how his mother inspired him to positive models of masculinity.

While the story of the rape of Tamar is difficult to hear and more difficult to internalize and contextualize; our distinguished panelists brought levity, humor and thoughtfulness to our discussion. The next two speakers were Mr. Motupalli and Ms. Boyd, who also shared their personal reflections and experiences empowering boys and men; Mr. Motupalli in the Christian student movement in India and Ms. Boyd among parishioners in the Caribbean. Mr. Motupalli spoke about his relationships with his mother and father and how profoundly influenced he has been by these relationships. Ms. Boyd talked about the ways in which she has successfully combated domestic violence in the Caribbean by empowering men and women to challenge gender stereotypes.

The presentations concluded with a rich question and answer period. Among the issues raised were the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender voices in discussion about the equal sharing of responsibilities; the usage of gender sensitive language in the liturgical setting; and the most effective ways to facilitate inter-generational conversations around the subject of gender stereotypes. Leaving the panel, everyone was incredibly energized by the strength of our diversity, the compassion of our ecumenical thinkers and the great work that we have ahead of us at CSW!

Resources from the Panel