Story by Anthony Buenafe
Ten years ago, I was part of the inaugural Men’s Leadership Project at UVA. I didn’t realize it at the time, but joining MLP was one of the best decisions I made in college.
My name is Anthony Buenafe, proud member of the Class of 2008. I studied liberal arts and in hindsight, I probably spent far too much time involved with the student leadership scene and not enough time at Clemons or Alderman Library. However, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences and lessons that I learned through student leadership were priceless – perhaps most importantly what I learned through the Men’s Leadership Project (MLP).
For those who don’t know – MLP is a group of UVA men (the “Big Brothers”) who meet weekly to discuss men’s issues and to mentor/interact with “Little Brothers” at Walker Elementary School. As a result of MLP, I expanded my understanding of masculinity across its spectrum (not buying into the narrow stereotypes of masculinity found in popular culture) and I gained a finer appreciation of how manhood is taught and learned. I may not remember every detail from MLP, but I’ll never forget that it was a “safe space,” where men helped each other to discuss and deepen their understanding of the tough, taboo topics that we are traditionally too scared to face.
In recent years, I found myself thinking about MLP and pushing myself to be a better man whenever I reached a new milestone. When I became a husband in 2013, I knew that I wanted to be the best husband I could be (and generally a good friend, ally, and advocate for my wife in any way she needed). When I became a father in 2015, I knew that I wanted to model healthy modes of masculinity to my son, in the hope that he becomes a better man and greater champion for women and men than I ever was (or will be).
Then a few months ago, when my wife told me we were going to have a baby girl, I felt a wave of pride, joy, and mixed emotions. I felt fear of raising a daughter in a world where “girls at the age of six in the United States already see themselves as sexual objects.” I felt renewed outrage for all the injustices protested at the Women’s March on January 21st. I felt despair that change is not happening fast enough to end sexual violence on college campuses. I felt shame that we do not have enough men working for change on behalf of our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, etc. Those feelings have called me to action; let’s help our boys become the good men of tomorrow, so our girls will know a better world as the women of tomorrow.