When we met up in December, in the snow, we wondered how much work it would all be. How would it all go? And would anyone show up? By the time our first Wednesday Circle would roll around in January we had most of the sessions planned.
We made a point of building some extra space into our plan. We had plenty of room for improvisation and after having a few more structured workshops, we even had a planned unstructured session. “Unstructured” is a relative term though.
All of our sessions were structured in the sense that we would begin with introductions, pronoun preferences, territorial acknowledgements, and group agreements. But some sessions had agendas and exercises and break out groups planned, and some didn’t.
Our planned sessions were sometimes facilitated or co-facilitated by someone in the core group. And we also had planned sessions facilitated by AVP on Consent and Supporting survivors, which were both fantastic.
Our meetings were all roughly two hours long and we made a point of sharing food. We were sometimes shy and a little nervous at our sessions. Sometimes we would feel vulnerable, sometimes we felt excited and rowdy; sometimes both! Sharing our views and feelings and histories and wonderings with other men about how violence and patriarchy is showing up in our culture, our lives, and our thoughts and behaviours, is energizing.
It can also be a roller coaster. Not everyone who arrives is already a self-identified feminist, or pro-feminist, which can be interesting, but also really important. We’re all trying to develop our intersectional, feminist analysis (and praxis!) and that means being class sensitive.
And let’s face it, some lingo is alienating. Side note: community organizing is hard. But worth it.
The people we’ve gotten to know this semester shared so many beautiful things with us. They shared smart things that were stimulating, and tender things that were inspiring, and confusing not-making-sense things that we can still kind of understand. We’re all such fascinating works in progress and it’s very rewarding to get a chance to muddle through hard topics, and personal journeys, with other people.
The time flies.
Even when it’s hard work, or just hard, the time goes fast. It helps, we suppose, that we had great sessions last semester:
- session on Sex and Desire was really powerful, and still has us thinking,
- session on Emotional Labour was also really provocative,
- workshop on consent, yay!
- workshop on supporting survivors, A+,
- session on vulnerability was fascinating,
- open talk, Lab Time, much needed time to share,
- Masculinities and group agreements session, very helpful.
There were moments in our workshop sessions when everyone was so quiet, so intent on the next word of whoever was speaking. It’s nice to be listened to. And it’s nice to listen. Kudos to AVP for creating such a cool culture and implicit curriculum surrounding the Men’s Circle.
From our perspective, whatever it is we’re all working through together at the Men’s Circle, is doing something good. It’s an experiment for sure. And we’re not totally sure what’s next.
It would be perfectly reasonable to return to all of our topics from this semester again, and see what fresh insights, what new learnings these have for us. It’s not just an intellectual exercise, of course. It’s an emotional exercise. It’s also a very personal, very embodied process. Part of our work is to try to be a little less in our heads. Sometimes we’re sitting, mind quiet. Sometimes, we’re sitting, brains on fire and heart pounding. That’s how it goes.
Sometimes, there’s shame.
That’s how it goes too. It’s a circle. We share. We trust. We relate. We laugh.
Hopefully, we grow.
If you have ideas about what we should do next, let us know! If you’re interested in thinking more about anti-violence, colonization and masculinities and how these things show up in your life and culture, consider joining us on May 17th!
Billy and Sherwin, Brydon, captain and Jonathan were coordinators this semester who helped make Men’s Circle meetings happen, with the support and collaboration of the entire AVP team.