Founder and Executive Director of Phallacies, Inc. in Florence to Receive National Award
Tom Schiff intends to grow the program that helps men create healthy masculinities through dialogue and theatrical performance
FLORENCE—Tom Schiff, the founder and executive director of Phallacies, Inc., will receive an Innovative Initiative Award in March for his work with the nonprofit, which helps men create healthy masculinities through dialogue and theatrical performance.
Schiff will receive the honor in person from the Men and Masculinities Knowledge Community of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) at the organization’s 100th annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 3-7.
The honor comes as Schiff is poised to begin to expand the organization in the region to reach and impact a broader audience of men of all ages.
Phallacies Inc. provides leadership development, health education and violence prevention for men via dialogue and innovative educational theater. It was born four years ago through Schiff’s work as a health educator at the University of Massachusetts, where he also founded the Men and Masculinities Center.
Through Phallacies, people who identify as male between the ages of roughly 19 and 35 engage in a dialogue about masculinity and the intersections with other identities, health, violence and relationships, and then create performance pieces as educational and thought catalysts to encourage changing the cultural scripts about masculinities. Performances take place at colleges, human service organizations and forums, conferences, local high schools and middle schools.
Men who are involved include teachers, staff from youth and human service agencies and medical students. “They’re interested in getting support for themselves about how to be healthier as a man—physically, emotionally and psychologically—and to find support for that. They are trying to rethink what it means to be a man in the world,” Schiff said.
“People also get involved because they’re interested in violence prevention,” he added. “Men need to speak up and speak out about these issues to help support more men and boys in creating healthy masculinities.”
Schiff is honored to receive the award from NASPA. “The work that I’ve done is being recognized along with the work of so many young men who have gone through the program. Their efforts are also being acknowledged. Our program wouldn’t exist without all the participants who have taken part in it over the years.”
Schiff has a goal to expand the reach of Phallacies within the Valley and to grow connections with young men through programming in middle and high schools and other educational venues.
“By growing our relationships we’re trying to continue dialogical processes and efforts as well as the theatrical aspects of our work to help young men process what it means to think about masculinity for themselves, individually and collectively,” Schiff said.
He said the first group for middle-school-aged students will begin March 1 at Gateway Regional Middle School. Much of the funding for this project is coming from the Southern Hilltown Domestic Violence Task Force.
Roughly 60 men have been part of Phallacies, and thousands have been in the audiences.
“We’ve helped to support the development of some incredible young men,” Schiff said. “Because it’s a dialogical process, I feel like I’ve also learned a lot from them as well.”
Schiff acknowledges the juxtaposition of the #metoo movement with the work of Phallacies. “It’s important for us to acknowledge that women and queer folks and folks of color have been doing human rights work for a long time, and they continue to take leadership and inspire us in that work,” he said. “Because of their work, movements like #metoo have become a really focused part of our culture. We have been, and want to continue to respond to, the call for men and boys to be more involved.”
Schiff holds a doctoral degree in organization development from UMass; a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven; and a bachelor’s degree in history with certification in secondary social studies from the State University of New York at Cortland.