WATERLOO --- There is hope in a culture that seems to have given up on reversing males' violent behavior, according to Robert Minor.
Men, just like women, can be naturally whole, complete, caring, loving and nurturing, said Minor, professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Kansas. He spoke on "Making Real Men: The Journey of Our Boys" to open the first daylong YWCA Week Without Violence conference at Hawkeye Community College on Tuesday.
"In our culture, 93 percent of the violence is done by men," Minor said during his keynote speech. "I don't think that's because men are bad people."
Minor also has written several books on the relationship of religion, gender and sexuality.
In his view, a warrior culture has instilled in young boys that their worth is in killing themselves for a cause, competitions to defeat other men, sexual activities and the conquering, even demeaning, of women.
Most men don't meet the standard of masculinity, Minor said. To cover this up, they react in culturally conditioned ways that don't aid personal growth.
Homophobia, he added, is the fear of getting close to one's own gender. A pat on the back often replaces a hug, for example.
"Boys learn very early that 'if I make myself vulnerable to another man, if I show my feelings, if I do anything that looks girly, I will be put down as if I am a girl,'" Minor said. "It's either to beat or be beaten, kill or be killed."
Many issues Minor discussed are addressed during Wise Guys, a local program to help male teens build healthy relationships, learn sound decision-making skills and promote sexual responsibility, said Bob Tyson, with Seeds of Hope and the Family and Children's Council of Black Hawk County.
"We have a lot of young men shooting each other in the legs, arms, and no one seems to know who does it," he said. "You don't have to be tough guys. Rethink those values ... and put yourself beyond that. Because you kicked me in the butt, do I have to hold that grudge against you the rest of my life?"
Continuing conversations about ending violence in the Greater Cedar Valley was the goal of the event, said Hiliary Burns on the YWCA mission committee.
Workshops also were meant to further the YWCA of Black Hawk County's dedication "to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all," she added. About 50 people attended, and continuing education units were available.
Week Without Violence, an annual nationwide campaign, highlights practical, sustainable alternatives to violence in homes, schools and workplaces.
Sponsors included the YWCA, Hawkeye, the University of Northern Iowa Women's and Gender Studies and Wartburg College Women's Studies program.