The Man Files

The other day I stumbled across Rafael Casal on YouTube and was blown away. The first thing I did was to send out an email to a bunch of my friends that said: If you knew about this guy and didn’t tell me about him, y’all are in some deep shit.

A slam champion poet, recording artist, and educator, Rafael Casal is turning up the political heat. His message is steaming hot. And now that I’ve found Casal, I want to tell as many people as possible about this amazing hip-hop influenced poet who cuts straight to the heart of so many issues.

Take the Bill of Rights. You know, those 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution that were ratified as a package deal in 1791? Remember those 10 gems that are supposed to protect us from an overzealous federal government? Freedom of speech, the right to peacefully gather, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment or unreasonable search and seizure. Yeah, that Bill of Rights.

Well, “I’m billing them for my rights,” Casal says.


I’m thrilled to join Girl With Pen with this inaugural entry of The Man Files. Deborah Siegel and I have big plans for this column. Watch us grow! In the meantime, join our monthly discussions about masculinity, sex, culture, work, parenting, and progressive change. Our goal is to engage scholars, bloggers, and readers in a popular online forum about what it means these days to “be a man.”

Why The Man Files? Because gender isn’t just about women. And because it’s time that the amazing female feminists and the awesome feminist guys get out of our (virtual blog) boxes and start talking with each other. There are so many people doing so much hard work to end sexism, racism, and other forms of hate. Yet so often we stay oddly isolated.

Personally, I’m not one to shy away from difficult, challenging, or even unlikely convos across communities. The Man Files provides a forum for these conversations. The more we talk, the closer we come to preventing male violence against women, improving pay inequity, building strategic feminist alliances, and generally expanding our everyday choices in selecting where we work, who we love, how we act, and why we do — the sorts of choices that are so often constrained by rigid gender expectations.

To start out The Man Files I want to introduce a couple recent works about men and masculinity. A few of my favorite things, if you will, that include hot new projects hitting the scene.

Monthly Round-Up
Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel (HarperCollins 2008). Kimmel cuts new ground again with his most recent book, Guyland. Going beyond pop-psych pablum or narrow-minded moralizing, Guyland takes us inside the world of young men between 16 and 26 so that readers can understand how these critical years contribute to the formation of masculinity. Think boys and their toys, beer, babes, and (foot)ball.

The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life edited by Kevin Powell (Atria Books 2008). Kevin Powell makes a strong case in The Black Male Handbook for supporting men in the black community. This collection of highly personal essays offers “fresh solutions for old problems.” Authors like Hill Harper, Byron Hurt, Jeff Johnson, and Ryan Mack provide concrete plans for improving economic empowerment, creating physical health, and developing spiritual and political awareness. These issues have political roots and such personal consequences. Written primarily for black men, we can all benefit from reading this book. Check out the suggestions for new music, books, and other sources of entertainment.

Barack & Curtis: Manhood, Power & Respect directed by Byron Hurt. As part of the recently launched Black Masculinity Project, Byron Hurt does it again with his recent short about Barack Obama and rapper 50 Cent. (See Hurt’s acclaimed film Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.) Why these two guys? As Hurt explains, Barack Obama is shattering so many myths about black masculinity and 50 Cent (named Forbes Magazine‘s top-earning rapper), epitomizes gangsta hip-hop masculinity. “Both are successful Black men,” Hurt says. “Both are rock stars. Both are admired and feared.” Juxtaposing the two men in a short documentary film promotes — in Hurt’s words — historic level conversations. See it on YouTube.

So that’s it for this time. Humor and (respectful) controversy are always welcome at The Man Files. Send your ideas to Shira_Tarrant at yahoo dot com and tell me what you’d like to see. The lines are open, we’re taking requests, and I’ll see you here next month.

—Shira Tarrant