Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Men of a Women's Age

"Hey hey hey hey it was the D.N.A. 
Hey hey hey hey that made me this way 
Do you know do you know do you know just how I feel? 
Do you know do you know do you know just how I feel?"

-Queen, Sheer Heart Attack

We didn't completely agree on toxic masculinity, but we were close. Decades of friendship had brought us closer than ever, giving us opportunities like never before to stretch our comfort and maturity with one another, and even more importantly, feeling sound and confident within ourselves.

"I get what you're saying, and agree about the toxicity of sexual harassment and assault, but I'm not going to apologize for being a man," one friend said.

"No one's asking you to do that; I'm not asking you to do that," I said. "You don't have to compromise your gender to be more compassionate and empathic."

"So, what are the positive attributes of masculinity then, according to that research you referenced?" another friend asked.

"Leadership and courage," I answered. "Yes, as men we battle with millions of years of biology and thousands of years of oppressive historical and cultural context, i.e., patriarchy, but we can learn to check ourselves, to be more empathic and caring and sensitive to the needs of not only women, but to each other as men."

They nodded, but we still differed in the definition of masculinity, and the contrast to women, class and race.

But we were close.

Even prior to getting together again as adults this year as we've done nearly every year for 30 years, we'd had discussions about the #MeToo movement, patriarchy and the damage that too many men, especially white men of privilege, have wrought on society, women, children and other men of varying backgrounds and ethnicities.

And yet, it's still been hard for us to unravel from the rationale that "we just can't do or say anything anymore," that we'll be next on the empowered female super bullet train out to the boonies to be ostracized and left for dead.

That's not how I feel in the slightest actually, and I've conveyed that to my best friend of 41 years and our mutual best friends we've had since junior high and high school. It's take me a long time to get here, and yes, I have an amazing and inspiring wife who I've grown with over the years, and now to young children, girls, who also inspire me to be a better man.

Yes, we've come a long way, me and my friends, us men of a consequential age. We've shared our own fumbles and foibles with females over the years. And with each other. We've gone from sharing the masculine exploits of our youth to sharing the stories of marriage, divorce and having children, especially girls. From watching adult movies to watching sad documentaries about adult movies. From watching offensive and inappropriate comedies to discussing vulnerability research of Brené Brown. From teasing about the female period to having to wear protective man pads sometimes. From calling each other gay way too much over the years to finally checking ourselves and being conscience of the derogatory context of that euphemism.

We've been good friends for a long time, which is why it's sad to see such visceral negative comments to the Gillette commercial, the one about men being the best they can be, to not being bullies or harassers. This is why it's so important for men like me and my friends to understand the impact of toxic masculinity and that we don't have to compromise masculine identity, straight or gay.

The article in the LA Times I read recently referenced the new Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men, the first-ever report published by the association aimed at helping practitioners care for their male patients “despite social forces that can harm mental health.” This is the report I shared with my friends.

According to the article: Citing more than 40 years of research, the APA warns against the “masculinity ideology,” which it defines as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure risk and violence.”


Conforming to the norms of the “masculinity ideology” can result in suppressing emotions and masking distress in young boys as well more risk-taking and aggressive behavior and a lack of willingness to seek out help. The report additionally contends this can lead to traits like homophobia and pave the way for sexual harassment, bullying and violence against others and themselves.

On this, the third consecutive year that the Women's March has happened around the world, full of solidarity and collective action, one that my wife helped organize the first year locally, and that our whole family marched in then and in year two -- I spent the third annual women's march with my best male friends sharing our own evolving feminism.

They may not want to call it that, but we do agree that it's not toxic masculinity. We're men of a women's age, mind you, full of the leadership and courage to help make a difference for us all.

Past posts about these friends of mine:

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