Aristophanes's Speech from Plato's Symposium

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Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys on Achieving Gender Equality Rio de Janeiro
March 29 – April 3, 2009
We come from eighty countries. We are men and women, young and old, working side by side with respect and shared goals. We are active in community organizations, religious and educational institutions; we are representatives of governments, NGOs and the United Nations. We speak many languages, we look like the diverse peoples of the world and carry their diverse beliefs and religions, cultures, physical abilities, and sexual and gender identities. We are indigenous peoples, immigrants, and ones whose ancestors moved across the planet. We are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, partners and lovers, husbands and wives.

What unites us is our strong outrage at the inequality that still plagues the lives of women and girls, and the self-destructive demands we put on boys and men. But even more so, what brings us together here is a powerful sense of hope, expectation, and possibility for we have seen the capacity of men and boys to change, to care, to cherish, to love passionately, and to work for justice for all. We are outraged by the pandemic of violence women face at the hands of some men, by the relegation of women to second class status, and the continued domination by men of our economies, of our politics, of our social and cultural institutions, in far too many of our homes. We also know that among women there are those who fare even worse because of their social class, their religion, their language, their physical differences, their ancestry, their sexual orientation, or simply where they live. There are deep costs to boys and men from the ways our societies have defined men’s power and raised boys to be men. Boys deny their humanity in search of an armor-plated masculinity. Young men and boys are sacrificed as cannon fodder in war for those men of political, economic, and religious power who demand conquest and domination at any cost. Many men cause terrible harm to themselves because they deny their own needs for physical and mental care or lack services when they are in need. Too many men suffer because our male-dominated world is not only one of power of men over women, but of some groups of men over others. Too many men, like too many women, live in terrible poverty, in degradation, or are forced to do body- or soul-destroying work to put food on the table. Too many men carry the deep scars of trying to live up to the impossible demands of manhood and find terrible solace in risk-taking, violence, self-destruction or the drink and drugs sold to make a profit for others. Too many men experience violence at the hands of other men. Too many men are stigmatized and punished for the simple fact they love, desire and have sex with other men. We are here because we know that the time when women stood alone in speaking out against discrimination and violence – that this time is coming to an end. We also know this: This belief in the importance of engaging men and boys is no longer a remote hope. We see the emergence of organizations and campaigns that are directly involving hundreds of thousands, millions of men in almost every country on the planet. We hear men and boys speaking out against violence, practicing safer sex, and supporting women’s and girl’s reproductive rights. We see men caring, loving, and nurturing for other men and for women. We see men who embrace the daily challenges of looking after babies and children, and delight in their capacity to be nurturers. We see many men caring for the planet and rejecting conquering nature just as men once conquered women. We are gathering not simply to celebrate our first successes, but, with all the strength we possess, to appeal to parents, teachers, and coaches, to the media and businesses, to our governments, NGOs, religious institutions, and the United Nations, to mobilize the political...
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