Happy Anniversary: Let’s Talk Fatherhood

In early May, Modern Manhood Podcast celebrated one year of life. In the last 12 months we have had an awesome collection of interviews and guests, each providing a unique spin on what they call manhood. In the first of many different clip shows, I’m going to be providing some feedback on my favorite parts of these interviews, as well as try to parse them in a way which is relevant to the study of masculinity.

Today we talk about fatherhood, with guests like Micheal Hingston, Ryan Valley, and Darren Cheverie. And what that means to yourself as a man, and to your sons and daughters.

I hope you enjoy and you can catch all these episodes in full at the modernmanhoodpodcast.com

#MenLetsTalk

Tomorrow there will be a new episode of MMP, with none other than slam poet turned City Counselor, Jeremy Loveday. We’re going to talk all things masculinity, but it starts with this powerful emotional and important piece of art. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you pay attention tomorrow when I will drop the new episode.

How do I create a brotherhood?

**This article is also posted on The Good Men Project. You can find it here**

Late in my twenties, I had a crisis of identity. One that revolved less around who I was, and more around who I was hanging out with. More specifically, it revolved around the question, “If I were to get married today, who would be my groomsmen?” Even though I have seen other wedding parties that threw gender narratives out the window, there was a strong inclination in my head that these people needed to be male. I started thinking about the criteria these men would have: intelligent, mature, loyal, funny, relaxed, and what I came later to understand as vulnerable (at that time, I just called it “chill”).

I looked at the males around me, and none of them fit the bill.

The funny thing was that these ideas of a male group dynamic came before I started any research or any work in the human services. This was an innate feeling, one that came naturally and strongly. Now, please don’t mistake this as a form of hegemonic masculinity, claiming that all men need this or want this. Masculinity is fluid, intersectional, and different for all males. I can’t also be certain that these intense feelings I had were a result of watching movies like Fight Club or The Sandlot. But the feeling was there, that there was something I missed and something I craved. This want of a brotherhood.

I believe if you talk to a lot of men, they will identify a theme revolving around true, real, male friendships. In fact, it’s one of the most common themes in the males I have spoken to in the podcast. Many of them have talked about their own personal relationships with friends they have gone into business with (Mike Payne), friends that were their best men (Spencer Clarke), or finding a lack of friendship when they became a dad (Chris Corley). Not only that, it is a researched fact that an abundance of male friendships has been shown to increase our mental health, and a lack decreases it. Not with friends that were just hang out friends. The friends had to be people you could open up to. This want of brotherhood seems to be internal and almost necessary to achieve your full potential as a man.

The males that I identified who had a strong male cohort had the advantage that they either grew up with these guys or found them by other means (eg. Boy Scouts, band camp, sports, etc.). In other words, forms of intention create brotherhoods, specifically in groups we engage with as young boys. These brotherhoods have similar features:

  • Males engaged in shared, goal orientated activities
  • Presence of a mentor or mentors (regardless of gender)
  • Initiation, or point of entry
  • Codes of conduct/honor

Now, keep in mind that the same features found in healthy brotherhoods can be found in things like drug gangs or other unhealthy gatherings (the Klu Klux Klan, for instance). Not only that, if you miss out on these forms of brotherhood when you are younger (either from lack of access, finances, or even want), it is much harder to engage in them when you’re an adult. More barriers appear when you step out of organized social places, like school or college, places where connection is made easier and like minded groups appear without much trying.

As for me, when I was in college or university I didn’t try hard to be a part of a like-minded group. I had my friends, I had my girlfriend, and I thought I was set. However, my social situation changed when my girlfriend and I broke up. I felt like I had lost important friends, and my only avenue for connection was the people at my work – the aforementioned males that didn’t fit the bill.

Brotherhood can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but the way you come upon that brotherhood is the most important.

Brotherhood can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but the way you come upon that brotherhood is the most important. The first step is to find out more about yourself:

  • What are your interests? Are they flexible? Are you learning them, or are you an expert?
  • What are your points of entry for friendship? Is going for a coffee or a beer something that you like? Or do you want your friendships to be active?
  • What are your non-negotiables, the ideas, the values that you have that will not be bent or broken? Basically, what are your boundaries?

The next step is the hardest: get yourself out there. Look at websites or places where people hang out and see what’s happening in your area. Is there a Meet Up for something you’re loving? Is there a book club? Is there a sports league? Video game tournament?

If there isn’t one in your area or town, why not start one yourself? Invite five of the males you want to commit more time to and ask them all to do something unique, active and engaging. For example, ask them to go for a hike. Ask them to go camping or on a canoe trip. Ask them to play in a mini soccer tournament, or go for a bike ride. Start a book club, or a movie club. Commit to it, and ask others to commit as well. One person can decide the activity and everyone else can be on board, then the next month another person can decide. Be committed and be intentional, with the goal to have fun and connect.

The goal here is entry into friendship, because brotherhood doesn’t just come from shared interests. It comes from a state of comfort and a feeling of being valued by a person or people. Real connections are made when we shed the identity that people say we have, and embrace the identity that we have within ourselves. Not only that, but also by embracing the identities that other males share with you, however flawed they may be. Real connections are made in the moments between what you’re supposed to be doing, not in the activity itself.

The Barrier of Men as Allies

**This article also ran in The Good Men Project, which you can find here**

“Paradoxically, those most likely to be shamed by this kind of Feminism were not the boorish, violent and openly prejudiced members of society; but rather many more mild-tempered characters who were very keen not to offend, and yet could see that some of their impulses might, if admitted to freely, cause sudden unwitting offense to the people whose friendships and respect they sought.”

On my last post I promised that I would talk about concepts and strategy instead of rhetoric and sensationalism. This is my attempt to fulfill that promise, because what the quote above me explains is the trap that most men fall into.

I found the clearest explanation through the Book of Life’s article  Beyond Feminism (where all the quotes come from). A lot of men, as allies, as friends, and as lovers of women want to embrace the call of Feminism and empower the females in our lives. Yet when we do, the many theories, and think pieces lay the blame squarely at our feet.

The first time this blame shift happens, as an allied male it can feel a bit annoying and a little patronizing. Maybe you think about it for a bit in a little bubble of grief, or you want to speak out with sentences that begin with “But…” or “What if…” The rationale being that  you want to help, you’re not the one oppressing women. Not only that, you want to empathize with women’s struggles with our pain, forgetting that we have never really felt a women’s true pain. So women tell you this when you bring up male related issues, and in many cases you feel silenced. This can feel infuriating.  Now if you don’t follow the next few steps, this might get a lot harder for you, and maybe you’ll fall into the clutches of Men Rights Activist groups which in my eyes fall in the same spectrum as the All Lives Matter people. The me-first ideals that is reactionary to social movement.

(Remember, no one started All Lives Matter before Black Lives Matter. No one started MRA groups before modern feminism came along. This is all reactionary and amoral).

The barrier becomes, how do we separate our feelings of guilt, blame, and selfishness to help the women that are around us? How do we remove that part inside of you taking it personal, and be an energy of positivity? How do we stop this anger brewing at the people that are blaming you? You, of all people who want to help.

The first step is to be thankful.

The work that wonderful women and the people who support them have done since the 60’s and even before that has given males a sliver of release of the masculine strangle hold that has be prevalent for a long, long time. Because of feminism, we’re now allowed to think about our masculinity, and question it. The concept that men have to be providers-the bacon bringers, muscular, confident, silent, stiff upper lip person lest someone thinks you’re a woman or a homosexual (That masculinity also taught us to think that women and homosexuals were something less that males). The man who only cries when his father dies, or because his favorite sports team lost. The man who teaches his son to be dominant in the playground, lest he be mistaken for a weakling. The man who was told that sex and relationships are two different things, and something not be talked about in a meaningful way. Those concepts of manliness are all being taken to task.

Even though, a lot of people want some so called manly values back, in half-hearted ways to reach back to our primitive selves.

(I believe it’s to mainly want their beards and their leather, and their outdoors back. Listen, I like all those things too. Raw denim jeans, plaid, outdoorsy hiking, with the whiskey, and the craft beer. Getting dirty, and building something with your bare hands. All those things appeal to me. But are they purely manly things?)

It is a good time to say “That’s not me, and I’m fine with that.” Feminism allowed that. Be thankful.

I understand the part of taking offense, I was there too. I had conversations with many people complaining that I don’t feel included in the conversation. Even though I want to be. My advice is don’t take it personal and don’t interject. Women don’t need to hear your thoughts, yet. Not yet. Wait til they ask for it. The reason why this is a tough pill to swallow is because as men we’re not used to this. Masculinity has told us to be confident men with all the answers. Answers that should be given without hesitation, lest other men think you don’t know anything. Men though, should be able to talk about what they know, the problem is that we don’t know about our concept of manhood, so this is a good time to reflect and think about your own concept of what being a man is like, for you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you do certain ‘manly’ things? (eg. sports, drink, fight etc.)
  • Who told you to do that?
  • Who allowed you to be a ‘man’?
  • Who in your life was allowed to be angry?
  • What do other males do that make you upset? And why?

One of the main concepts of Feminism is that it’s not JUST about the advancement of women in modern society. It’s about everyone being KIND to each other. Kindness is the key.

“Though it may seem as if its concerns have been the rights and the position of women, Feminism has in its very essence arguably always been focused on a prior and much grander goal: Kindness.”

How does Feminism accomplish this? Understand and recognize that we haven’t been so kind to women in a long, long, time. Therefore we haven’t been kind to each other, including other males. Women are the teachers of feminism and the men are the ones been given the lesson and to spread it to other males. A flip of what is the traditional norm, which makes a lot of males uncomfortable, hence why you see the backlash. But know that it’s not the most important facet of feminism. Kindness is, and in all forms. That is the goal.

Trust me, it takes time and meditation, and self-care. I know I have work to do myself on this, but maybe we can chat about it. I’m all ears.

 

Information v/s Preaching (Including an announcement!)

I have to confess something, along with all my experience being a person in the human service field, I only know a small percentage of everything human service related. Now while reading that last statement, it might sound like a humble brag, “yes of course you don’t know anything, but you’re just striving to be the best, and blah blah blah.” When I hear this it sounds disingenuous and something you might have heard a lot of other people in the know (of any know) to say. But in this case, it’s totally real and not for lack of trying. In the case of masculinity, there’s not a lot out there. What has been said has been regurgitated in so many different forms and blog posts (including this one), that it’s becoming tiring.

If you’re a reader of healthy masculinity, then you’ve most likely encountered the same type of ideas

If you’re a reader of healthy masculinity, then you’ve most likely encountered the same type of ideas:

  • The social construct has allowed males to act in a way in which they feel owed,
  • This social construct has made it so rape culture is a prevalent norm,
  • That the most important thing males can do is to call each other out when we’re engaging in toxic masculinity.

There’s only been a handful of posts that I have found something different that moved me. What annoys me (and sometimes I see it in myself) is that these type of talks and these type of posts there is a prevalent air of superiority, and simple mindedness. The feeling that once these ideas are out in the world, people can just take them and run with it. This allows the helpers to pat themselves on the back and say “There, I have solved the world of toxic masculinity! Yay!”

I have witnessed this type of superiority in many conferences and panels. People who are much smarter than me have ideas but no approach. Allowed to get an applause for saying things like “we need to call males out more often” but not realize or understand how tough that might be in a social construct where that form of talk is abnormal. Therefore, this turns into preaching.

Realize or understand how tough that might be in a social construct where that form of talk is abnormal.

One of the main reasons why I started this podcast was to help other males have a conversation for themselves about their manhood, and what that really means. The approach part: how to have those conversations is just as important. The questions of why is it difficult, what are the barriers, what are the struggles are valid and allowed to take shape. Because it’s not easy, especially now in a world full of rhetoric and sensationalism. I know that I don’t know the answer and I want to be humble enough to say that there isn’t one main answer. That’s why I bring men of all types to have that conversation, and I hope when you hear the podcast to understand that there isn’t one solid unified answer. I don’t think there ever will be.

The other aspect to this, is the lack of research revolving around male gender studies. There is a lot of research about female genders and the struggles they endure, as well as the LGBTQ community, and there should be; It’s been high time where we pay attention to those communities and how to help them. But the problem of toxic masculinity which has a lot of roots in feminist theory and queer studies, is barely represented. As a person heavily involved in this, I don’t want to do anymore preaching. This allows the people who are on the fringes to fall to the toxic side, to be defensive, and to lose their empathy for the side that’s hurting. I’m going to do my best in bringing the most accurate and important information I have during the podcast without judgement, and with more of an approach level. My goal is to have the show go weekly instead of bi-weekly, and for the shows in between the interviews are information based.  This will include the best people that I know, telling you things that hopefully you don’t know, or if you do, then enhance your view. This will also allow people of all genders to participate in the program.

[Preaching] allows the people who are on the fringes to fall to the toxic side, to be defensive, and to lose their empathy for the side that’s hurting.

Instagram

My wonderful friend Megan has a blog about health, and as the awesome millennial she is, has a very cool Instagram account. I thought before about adding an Instagram for the pod, and at the start it didn’t make sense to me, “how can I put a visual to something that is mostly audio?” Megan showed me that it’s all about inspiration and hashtags. In the Instagram account, the purpose will be vision quests in your journey to a healthy manhood. Hopefully this will bring more people to subscribe to the pod, be part of the show, or just think and live their own healthy manhood. Ideas and inspiration, and the people that bring them.

Join me through Instagram @modernmanpod, on Twitter @modernmanpod, or on Facebook @modernmanpod.

Easy peasy, right?