Colin Stokes’s presentation at TED: “How movies teach manhood”

posted by Eivind on November 11, 2013, at 8:42 am

I have been wanting to write about the Bechdel test on my site for a while. And while I’m working on a bigger article on that subject, I want to share with you my initial inspiration for looking deeper into the test in the first place, a popular TED presentation by Colin Stokes, called “How movies teach manhood”:

This is a striking presentation to me. I like parts of it – particularly the part about men and women being on the same team. I also like the part where he suggests that a man may have a woman leader. I think it’s crucial for a man to learn to take direction from a woman. My tantra experience tells me that this becomes a way for a man (like me) to learn what it’s like to be in the more surrendered, receptive mode, which helps us be directive (which most of us want to be most of the time) in more skillful, responsible ways. I also believe it helps us conquer taboos around sensitivity, vulnerability and homophobia.

Now, what worries me about this presentation is what he says at the 09:45 mark. At this point in the presentation, he has linked sexual abuse of women with movies failing the Bechdel test (while, strangely, first denying that he is doing so). And then he basically makes the logical leap that male power is destructive. Here’s what he says:

“We have tools at our disposal, like girl power. And we hope that that will help. But I gotta wonder, is girl power gonna protect them if at the same time, actively or passively, we are training our sons to maintain their boy power?”

He is not being real subtle about it; it seems clear that this man thinks it’s a good thing for girls to be powerful, but that it’s an equally bad thing for boys to be powerful. He seems to be saying that girl power is something girls use to defend against boys. And that boy power is something boys use to attack girls. Now, if I get him right, that’s a very interesting perspective, far removed from the world that I live in.

My experience says that it’s men without power who end up dangerous. Male power is good. When I started flipping out at the start of my twenties (which I believe I have not yet written about on this site), it was because I was repressing my power, not because I was abusing it.

I belive that moving in the direction mr Stokes proposes will make for less powerful men, which makes for more dangerous men. That last point is the one I don’t think Colin Stokes understands.

So while I like a lot of what this guy says, overall, there are some significant problems with the underlying message, based, I believe, on lacking understanding of what makes a man dangerous.

I will get back with more on the Bechdel test in a couple of days.

(Read here:)
The Bechdel test: Application, historical context, and introducing a male equivalentThe Bechdel test: Application, historical context, and introducing a male equivalent