By Dustin Dopirak
The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) For quite some time now Alexis Jones of CBS’ “Survivor” fame has been empowering women across the country through her “I Am That Girl” non profit which is focused on inspiring confidence in females. These days her mission to empower women is expanding in a very interesting way, with a focus on speaking to and connecting with MEN.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
Shortly after earning her master’s degree in communications from the University of Southern California, Alexis Jones started I Am That Girl, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring confidence in women. She built the foundation throughout her time working in entertainment, when she hosted a TV show on Red Carpet, worked for ESPN and Fox Sports and appeared on CBS’ “Survivor” and MTV’s “Made.”
Jones believed that her calling in life was to work with women directly, so she took on speaking engagements with women’s groups whenever possible. But her ideas changed when she was asked to speak at Elite 11, the annual Nike-sponsored and hosted camp and competition of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks, in 2014.
“That Elite 11 talk was the first room of guys I ever spoke to,” Jones said in an email to the News Sentinel on Monday, “and I always thought I was put on the planet to empower women, until I stood in a room full of men. It was then that it dawned on me: I was put on the planet to empower women through the empowerment of men.”
Jones has since spoke to numerous college and professional athletics teams and recently joined the list of guest speakers who have visited the Tennessee athletic department through the football team’s Vol For Life program, visiting the university on April 25.
Like Kathy Redmond Brown, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes who visited UT in August, Jones’ visit is noteworthy because of the string of rape allegations against Tennessee athletes from 2013-15. Those allegations led to the federal Title IX lawsuit filed against the university in February. One of those allegations led to charges. Former Tennessee players A.J. Johnson Michael Williams are still awaiting trial on aggravated rape charges stemming from an alleged incident on Nov. 16, 2014.
Jones has trademarked her speeches to men with the title “Protect Her: Redefining #Manhood.” She said although she was aware of the allegations against players and the lawsuit, she didn’t mention them during her speech, because that isn’t her style.
“I just talk to these guys,” Jones said via email. “I don’t talk at them, I don’t stand on a soapbox and tell them all the things they are doing wrong. I invite them to participate in the conversation.”
The conversation, she said, is about the message that they get from society at large, and about what they are told they are supposed to do as men and particularly as big men on campus. Jones attempts to show them how they can question and redefine some of those messages.
“I talk about how we’re all being programmed by the 10-plus hours of media we consume a day,” she said. “How we are all broken and our insecurities are actually the glue that keeps humanity together. We talk about sex and relationships and the gratuitous drunken, hookup culture and what’s really behind all of that behavior. We talk about all the things we try to avoid with candor and vulnerability. We talk about the definition of womanhood and manhood and how limiting they are, and how we are all just yearning for love and how we often go about it in bizarre ways.”
After meeting with the football team, Jones posted on Twitter pictures of her with coach Butch Jones and quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Sheriron Jones with a caption that read “Always stoked to kick it with badass men.” Changing the idea of what makes a person “badass” is part of her message.
“Redefining manhood absolutely entails redefining what it means to be badass men,” Alexis Jones said. “… I think vulnerability is something we have (extracted) from our definition of manhood and something that desperately needs to be reintegrated into humanity in general. The young men who approached me after the talk specifically asked what they could do to help, how they could be involved and how they could create the biggest impact on their school. Those young men are the definition of badass to me; they aren’t just the problem, they are truly the cure.”