In the new book Amy Ferris and I co-edited, Dancing at the Shame Prom, twenty seven brave women share deeply personal stories of a shame that held them back, and how they became empowered by letting it go. This book is only the beginning of an ongoing movement. We plan to continue this conversation in workshops around the world (Woodstock NY this October, San Miguel, Mexico Feb 2013, Costa Rica, June, 2013) Amy and I plan to drag shame out of the closet and eradicate it from the planet. In order to do that, we need to bring men into the conversation. In the next few months, we’ll be featuring a series of interviews with some very interesting men.
Below is my interview with Sean Strub, filmmaker, author, activist, founder of POZ magazine ( for the HIV positive community) and Mamm magazine (for women impacted by breast and gynecological cancers). Sean’s accomplishments are too many to list here, so I included his bio at the bottom. Here are his thoughts.
Women seem to carry shame, and let it make them small in the world. Do you think men process or carry shame differently than women?
Traditional constructs of masculinity, whether expressed by a men, women, trans or intersexed persons, carry expectations about what constitutes shame. It seems that at times the most acceptable masculine emotion is around anger, dominance or violence; these are outward expressions of a deeper inner pain that has often (and destructively) been repressed by expected masculine norms.
We can also impose shame on ourselves, in reaction to specific acts or attitudes, but even those are typically underlain by traumas that make our minds work the way they work, which makes us do the things we do.
What is on your personal “dream-agenda” for the future?
Amy Ferris and I thank you so much for participating, Sean, for your thoughtful answers, and mostly for the work you do in the world.
Take a few minutes to watch Sean’s short film, HIV Is Not a Crime.
Sean Strub is well known as an activist, writer and entrepreneur. Sean has founded many successful fundraising, publishing and marketing organizations, virtually all in support of progressive social change efforts. He founded POZ in 1994. Strub’s companies have also launched POZ en Español, Mamm (for women impacted by breast and gynecological cancers) and Milford Magazine (a regional title distributed in the Delaware River Highlands area of northeast Pennsylvania).
He has written extensively on corporate social responsibility, smart growth and land development issues, direct marketing and AIDS, among other topics. Sean co-authored, with Dan Baker and Bill Henning, Cracking The Corporate Closet, (Harper Business, 1995) and co- authored, with Steve Lydenberg and Alice Tepper Marlin, the seminal guide to corporate social responsibility, Rating America’s Corporate Conscience, (Addison-Wesley, 1987).
Sean’s involvement in the social responsibility and ethical investment movements dates to the early 1980’s, when he worked with Alumni Against Apartheid and the Harvard Endowment for Divestiture through his direct marketing firm which specialized in social change and mass marketed fundraising techniques. Direct mail campaigns created by Sean have been labeled “slick” by The Wall Street Journal, “highly sophisticated” by The New York Times, and “inventive and unusual” by Business Week.
Strub has also produced theatre and large-scale fundraising events. In 1992, at the Perry Street Theatre in New York, he debuted his production of The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, written by and starring David Drake. The Obie Award-winning hit became one of the longest running one-person Off-Broadway shows ever.
In 1990, Strub was a Democratic candidate for the US Congress from New York’s 22nd congressional district, running as an openly (but incidentally) gay/HIV+ man. He was defeated by a former member of Congress by fewer than 600 votes.
He has received numerous awards and honors from AIDS organizations, community and professional groups, including the 1995 AIDS Action Foundation’s National Leadership Award, the 1996 Cielo Latino Companero award from the Latino Commission on AIDS and Los Angeles-based Being Alive’s Spirit of Hope award in 1997.
A native Iowan, Sean attended Georgetown and Columbia Universities. He lives in Milford, Pennsylvania and New York City.