From “Boy Is Beautiful” in Psychology Today by Mark Sherman, Ph. D.
What was the picture? Was it a gun? A bomb? The scene of an explosion? No. It was an anatomically correct stick figure of a man. Yes, it was a man with a penis.
My son was very upset – not with my grandson, but with the school, for forcing my son to leave work in the middle of the day to pick up my grandson for what my son felt was an absurd reason. And my daughter-in-law also thought it was ridiculous, as did my wife, and my son’s in-laws, who are far more conservative than we are.
I think my son handled it beautifully. My grandson was upset to be sent home, and felt like there was something wrong with him. And that is how kids feel; you have to be pretty grown up to feel that maybe it’s not you; that perhaps there is something wrong with “the system.”
The decline of manliness is not a new observation. We have discouraged men from acting like men for decades now….now that the little danger, and the three-quarters of a century without a world war is questionable, or should be, did we defame manliness when we did not think we needed it, only to find it rare, now that we obviously do?…We have discouraged boys from becoming men. And now we will likely berate them for not defending us from terrorism today.
From Karen Woodall in Huffington Post UK’s Building Modern Men series:
I work in the field of family separation and I meet disposable dads every day. These men, who appear at times to me to be nothing more than the ghostly imprint of what a father is, are suffering. Not that you would know it, so unpopular is their plight. Gaslighted by the system which surrounds the family as it separates, these dads, who were pregnant with their partners (in that most modern approach to sharing all of the experience of bringing forth life), now find themselves routinely cast out of the family after separation. Dads are not welcome in post-separation family life, especially if they are going to cause trouble by wanting to actually parent their children. For those modern men who gave their all to fatherhood, the injustice of such a swift eviction from the lives of their children after separation, is a bewildering attack on their very sense of self….
Dads after separation were once described by the CEO of Gingerbread (the single parenting charity) as ‘secondary resources, most effective when strategically employed.’ Translated this means, dads are useful to mums after separation because they can babysit and be included on the rota for the school run. Dads as helpers, are acceptable so long as they are doing as they are told. Dads as hands on active parents, sharing the care, the chores, the long nights of tummy aches and sickness are not routinely acceptable. In fact as a practitioner working with dads who have been evicted from their children’s lives after separation, I have witnessed dads being told that their desire to care for their children is ‘aggressive and upsetting’ to their children’s mother.
Roughly 40 percent of the victims of severe physical violence were men. The CDC repeated the survey in 2011, the results of which were published in 2014, and found almost identical numbers — with the percentage of male severe physical violence victims slightly rising.
“Reports are also showing a decline of the number of women and an increase in the number of men reporting” abuse, says counselor and psychologist Karla Ivankovich, PhD, an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Springfield.
Ivankovich says there isn’t much buzz about these numbers or their implications, because we don’t know how to handle intimate partner violence against men. “Society supports that men should not hit women, by virtue — but the same is not true for the reverse,” she explains. “The fact is, it’s simply not acceptable to hit anyone.”
From The Art of Manliness blog comes “Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood in the Modern Age?”
Here in the West we live in the most resource-rich period in all human history. Even the poverty of today is far less harsh than the poverty of a century ago. The strength of the government’s safety net is debated, but its very existence is a distinctly modern phenomena. Food is so plentiful we have an obesity problem. There hasn’t been a world war in three-quarters of a century. There is very little danger; a man can go his entire life without ever getting into a fistfight. The job of defending the perimeter has been outsourced to a tiny fraction of the population. Not only does most labor not require any physical strength, we have to remind ourselves to even stand up sometimes — to take a break from sitting in front a screen around the clock. Given this positively luxurious environment, it should come as no surprise that an emphasis on manhood is currently very weak. Society doesn’t need most men to perform dirty, strenuous, dangerous jobs for which their propensity for risk-taking and their physical strength make them uniquely suited. Men are so seemingly unnecessary that we even have the luxury of denigrating them – of speculating whether we might have reached “the end of men.”
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when I worked as a psychotherapist with many traumatized men and women, it was clear that society’s focus was to help women suffering from emotional trauma. Matters became a lot more fuzzy where it concerned men’s pain. I found out very quickly that a man’s emotional pain was taboo. No one wants to hear it, people want to run away.
Honestly and compassionately addressing men’s pain usually triggers an instinctive fear that in doing so those men will no longer be available to provide and protect. They become, at least in our unconscious minds, a liability that we cannot afford.
It took me some time to understand that this fear created an empathy gap that is still rampant in the field. Even in what is supposed to be an enlightened field of work, we are operating on some level as though compassion for men will bring us to ruin. This detachment, indifference to and even hostility toward men’s pain and hardship will be made quite visible to you in the remainder of this article.
Our war dead are nearly all males. If that were any other group it would not be tolerated but since it is males, many in their teens, the response is silence. They are disposable. Our workplace deaths are 93% males. Child custody after divorce almost always means the virtual removal of one parent, more often the father. Rather than our courts seeking to restructure families through sensible plans of shared parenting, they opt for profitably ugly battles and persecution.
No one suffers more from this than the children of divorce. Fatherless children are clearly and negatively impacted by every psychosocial measure we can make of their lives. Truancy, delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug use, academic failure, violence and mental illness all skyrocket in homes where the father is largely absent.
Rather than point to the discrimination in courts and how it is ultimately damaging children, many, some social workers included, are generally more likely to sloganize the problem in terms of “deadbeat dads” and other shallow and misleading buzzwords.
Photo from Golden’s article, a playground mural illustrating the whimsy of violence against men.
We’ve heard the story of declining wages over and over. We’ve repeatedly heard the political talking points about the threat of offshoring. We want our children to have better lives than we did.
But if parents want their children to enjoy successful, fulfilling lives, it may be time to broaden our vision of what that entails. It’s telling that, in today’s America, more parents would be likely to accept their five-year-old son’s declaration that he identifies as a girl than would accept their 18-year-old’s proclamation that he wants to be an underwater welder, even though the pay for that particular vocation ranges from $54,000 to well over $100,000.
To upend this narrative that has so many of us looking down our noses at some of the best emerging job opportunities, we need to shift our attitude about the fundamental purpose of education and redefine what success looks like. We need a cultural change of heart, which starts with parents. Not every boy needs to grow up to be a welder, but neither should every boy grow up to be a lawyer.
Q. Friend in Trouble: I’m very worried about my friend “Ted.” He works two full-time jobs at literally all hours—sometimes all day, sometimes all night, but always 12 to 16 hours per day. His wife does not work and stays home with their young son. She is a warm and friendly person when I am with her, but I have been shocked to hear her scream at Ted on the other end of his cellphone. When I saw Ted recently, he was a shadow of the gentle and funny person I have known since we were kids—exhausted, emaciated, and almost silent when his wife is around, which is all the time. He and his wife have fallen out with his family and the other friends he had before his marriage, and I don’t think he has anyone in his life right now other than his wife. Is there anything I can do for him?
Warren Farrell in USA Today after the Sandy Hook shooting:
We respond by blaming guns, our inattentiveness to mental health, violence in the media or video games, or family values. Yes, all are players, but our daughters are able to find the same guns in the same homes, are about as likely to be mentally ill, have the same family values and are exposed to the same violence in the media. Our daughters, however, do not kill. Why the difference?
Start with suicide. Each mass murder is also a suicide. Boys and girls at age 9 are almost equally likely to commit suicide; by age 14, boys are twice as likely; by 19, four times; by 24, more than five times. The more a boy absorbs the male role and male hormones, the more he commits suicide…
It’s time we go beyond fighting over guns to raising our sons. With one executive order, President Obama can create a White House Council on Men and Boys to work with the Council on Women and Girls he formed in 2009. Why? No one part of government or the private sector has a handle on the solution.
From “Fatherlessness Common Among 2013 School Shooters” at Women of Grace:
Again, he cites the research of eminent sociologist David Popenoe who wrote: “ . . . (F)athers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.”
Even though most fatherless boys will grow up okay, they are vulnerable, which is why so many are swept away into gangs, violence, and crime.
While the debate over gun control and mental health issues are valuable, if the U.S. wants to get serious about ending school shootings, “it must also get serious about strengthening the families that are our first line of defense in preventing our boys from falling into a downward spiral of rage, hopelessness, or nihilism . . .”
From “Which Mass Murderers Came from A Fatherless Home” at The Federalist:
Now, this isn’t to say that every single mom is doomed to raise a mass shooter. Not every kid who grows up without his father will turn into Roof, and not every mass shooter grew up without his dad. Mental instability can be a product of any number of factors. But to ignore the link between a mass shooter and his fatherless childhood would be to simply ignore the facts. On CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History,” seven of those shootings were committed by young (under 30) males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho (who had been mentally unstable since childhood)—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.
A few days ago I was at a party in liberal north-east London, when I was asked the inevitable question, “So, what do you do then?”
It’s a question I have come to dread. This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my work, or because I think it’s dull and uninteresting, but because I know that if I tell the truth, the warm and open conversation I’d been having with the person in front of me will often suddenly be replaced by a chilled and awkward silence.
You see, telling people I write about men’s issues often feels a bit like telling them I work for Exxon.
On this occasion, I weighed up the conversational fork in the road ahead of me, and decided to take the plunge and be honest, so I told her I’d just finished editing a book of 40 writers exploring what it means to be a man in the UK today. Her response was simply: “That’s brave.”
Of course, it’s not really brave; not brave like writing about government corruption in China, or human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, but I knew exactly what she meant.
Speaking out as a man about the issues men face really can trigger a furious reaction.
The most recent example was in response to the author Matt Haig, after he said he wanted to write a book about masculinity. His statement brought down a Twitter storm of contempt in his head before he’d even written a word.
This remarkable video shows Warren Farrell explaining what moved us into our present cultural state of seeing males as disposable and offers a number of ideas about how we can move forward to a place where both men and women are valued as human beings.
Three years ago, a pilot project, titled the Davis Community Men’s Talk Circle was
started in Davis, California, as a free service to address the profound patterns of male
isolation that occur for men of all ages. As a Social Work clinician, I have seen first hand
the deleterious effects of isolation in men’s lives. Isolation contributes directly to
depression, job dissatisfaction and loss, increase in violence, numbing behaviors, and
alienation from loved ones. Moreover, isolation fuels male suicide, which is at an all
time high for boys, men and our elder males.
Our Community Men’s Talk Circle project draws from the wisdom of a 25 year on-going
annual men’s conference, held in Mendocino. The Elders at this conference structure
the talk so men can enter the deep and painful ills and the subsequent judgements of
themselves, which they have carried alone. The men attending come to feel a great
support, a deep trust, a brotherhood and a safety affording them a way to utilize the
communal experience. Their vulnerabilities, now shared by others, deepens the
possible that they don’t have to go it alone any more! Here the needed healing from
years of exiled pain begins.
This has been our model, in bringing the Talk Circle project to the men of our
community. Each month we intentionally create a Sacred space, where our Circle, our
container for our talking, welcomes men to talk aloud and discover. Men often surprise
themselves, as aspects unbeknownst, are revealed which they did not expect to share.
But this soon becomes a known and valued process, affording men a communal
unfolding, revealing new feelings, new insights, while clarity is advanced. This work
requires that Sacred space must be created, drawing a significant distinction from how
men typically relate to one another, as in the masked cautionary jokes, or the blind-eye
to dismissive behaviors toward others, or the impulse to-fix another man’s experience;
all which are recipes for an unsafe environment, prohibiting any deep and important talk
The Talk Circle is designed as a primer, for men who have never done men’s work
before. The Circle is larger in number (17 – 22 attendees), in contrast to a traditional
men’s group (smaller, 5 – 8, and with greater expectations to share). The Talk Circle
intentionally allows for men to ease their way into their held-back experiences; being
invited to talk, only as they feel ready. To further underscore emotional safety, this
project holds an open-door policy regarding attendance, furthering to lessen the rigors
and demands of the intimacy that usually arise from small and weekly men’s group
work. The Talk Circle also fosters the option for men to begin their own support group.
Contrary to belief, the inherent deep hunger for men to talk communally, once initiated
and structured, is almost unstoppable.
The Talk Circle utilizes a five man committee for planning and sharing the duties with
each monthly event. Responsibilities include establishing ground-rules, underscoring confidentiality, calling in the five directions including the inward direction (toward our
hearts and our truths), providing some music and some poetry, (the language of the
heart) and monitoring the group’s process ensuring that men’s voices of their internal
experiences will be both heard, seen and witnessed. As men gain both a new familiarity
and an emotional safety in this sharing-aloud, they cultivate skills toward new and
potentially meaningful friendships for themselves.
The Talk Circle meets monthly, in donated space (Davis International House), it is open
for all men, ages 18 years and older. Two licensed clinicians serve on the committee,
helping to monitor and assist in the group’s process.
This project is part of a new paradigm of community men’s work. One that is unique, in
its structure to create a culture that is relational and non-competitive; a departure from
our current known sense of masculinity. Ours is a community project whose intent is to
welcome men to know their interiors, thus promoting a maturing of our masculinity from
what is described as our current boy psychology, towards a man psychology. Our hope
is to afford men a reclamation in their lives of wholeness, of vitality, of tenderness, and
of stewardship. We strive to nurture creativity as integral to the aging process, and
embrace the honoring of our Elders, whose resources are currently under utilized and
often discarded. The Talk Circle fosters a culture of honoring our differences, as our
differences lead us into our humanness and our ability to connect.
Creating such Communities is not only very doable, it is teachable, affordable and
would be a significant developmental asset for both boys growing-up, and for men
throughout the course of their lives. It is a significant antidote to the stark aloneness,
(non-relational pattern), that our male culture has inflicted on itself for generations. Men
are too often unaccustomed to being in such groups, and do not know that emotional
safety is possible, and that deep sharing can be structured, leading men into support as
they find their own healing process. Talk Circles foster experiences that welcome men
into greater connection with themselves and then with others while factors contributing
to isolation are kept in check.
Our hope is to share this model with other social workers or mental health workers who
might choose to begin a Talk Circle in their own community.
More information is available regarding this project by calling: (530) 758-2794.
P. Gregory Guss, LCSW, (BA, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont; MSW, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California), a psychotherapist for 33 years, specializing in family, adolescence and men’s work, practices in Davis, CA. As a community organizer, he developed and coordinates the Davis Community Men’s Talk Circle project, and sits on the Redwood Men’s Conference Planning Committee. He and his wife have two adult children; he is an avid letter writer, poet and loves character driven movies.
“It is time that we go beyond fighting over guns and to raising our Sons”.
Newtown Shooting – Warren Farrell offers a core issue beyond the Gun Control issue about the absence of support for boys and young men and why we need a White House Council on Boys and Men. See Warren Farrell original article called: “Guns don’t kill people — our sons do” – “After Newtown, Conn., parents cried out, “What’s making our children kill?” But it is not our children who are killing. It is our sons. All but one of the 62 mass killings in the past 30 years was committed by boys or men.”
This article is in response to an article that appeared on Huffington Post that graded President Obama on women’s issues. I thought it was only fair to also have one for men. Many of the categories and even some of the wording come directly from that article.
Here we go.
1. White House Council on Women and Girls A White House Council on Boys and Men Fail
Women have good reason to be grateful to the Obama administration. President Obama created a White House Council on Women and Girls that made women’s issues an integral part of every level of the federal government. Now each department must address their progress or lack of progress as it relates to women and their issues. This is a powerful and glorious step for women and girls. However, the Obama administration has failed miserably in creating a similar opportunity for boys and men. A group of over 30 nationally known scholars, authors, researchers, and clinicians gathered to write a proposal urging the White House to offer the same sort of opportunity for our boys and men but after meetings with White House Staff and numerous officials it has been ignored at every level. President Obama met with one of those thirty and refused to even have the issue on the agenda for their meeting. Fail
Here’s the bottom line: the Obama administration failed men and women on equal pay. He is a president who entered office with the claimed intention of using science as a guide in his administration and his policy. Even a brief look at the science surrounding the issue of equal pay would indicate that the discriminatory nature of what is being called the “wage gap” is truly a myth. The government science and statistics drive this point home but this administration not only refuses to accept its own science, it makes public statements that defy its own facts. Fail
3. Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls: A Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys: Fail
The Obama administration gets major cred for taking on the escalating crisis of violence against teenage and college women. However it fails in an epic manner when it comes to teenage and college boys and men for whom it has done nothing. The CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report states clearly that in the last 12 months 2,747,000 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape. Importantly the same report shows that there were even more men who experienced sexual violence (2,793,000) in the last 12 months other than rape. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf (tables 4.5 and 4.6) The science shows that men and boys are a major part of the victims of sexual violence but the policy focuses only on helping women. Fail
4. Violence Against Women A Violence Against Men Fail
Obama and Biden have also voiced support for the reauthorization of the VAWA. (Violence Against Women Act) This bill has been shown repeatedly by credible research to ignore a large portion of victims and perpetrators. It serves female victims but ignores and even shames males who are victimized (see table 3) and also ignores female perpetrators. The bill is by name, only interested in helping women and it functions in a similar manner. Men in need are ignored. Both President Obama and VP Biden took part in a television commercial asking men to curb violence against women. This would be fine if they also were part of a commercial asking women to curb violence against men. They did no such thing. Fail
5.Reproductive Rights for Men: Fail
President Obama mentions the issues of women’s reproductive rights on a regular basis. This is good, however, he continues to ignore the fact that men have no reproductive rights whatsoever. How many men have had to stand powerless as their child is aborted against their will? Women are allowed to obtain an abortion, give up the child for adoption, have the child, or even drop the infant off at a police station.They have the right to do all of the above while men must go along with whatever the woman decides and have no rights of their own other than having to pay child support. Fail
6. Jobs: D+
When it came time to offer funds and support for those seeking employment during the crisis of our economic downturn the president had a “shovel ready” plan in place. The feminine sections complained greatly and even though this has been known to be a “mancession” the president altered his shovel ready plans and spent a good deal of the money on jobs for women, 42% of the money went to female jobs even though women were only 20% of those impacted.
There are millions of men in the United States who have suffered under the weight of a biased family court system. One would expect our president to have some words of support for these men. However, President Obama on Father’s Day calls out fathers and says, “Too many fathers are awol. “ “They have abandoned their responsibilities and are acting like boys instead of men.” His Fathers Day speeches have been littered with this sort of verbiage about how fathers need to step up to the plate. His main idea is not to celebrate the fathers and their many contributions in our lives but to point towards those who need to improve. Happy Father’s Day. Imagine he did something similar on Mothers Day and told mothers they need to step up to the plate and stop abusing their children. All hell would break loose. Fail
8. Health Care Fail
This administration has web pages for girls health girlshealth.gov and women’s health womenshealth.gov but none for boys or men. When you go to boyshealth.gov or menshealth.gov you get a “404” file not found error. (try them and see for yourself) There is no government sponsored page for boys or for men. This is an insult to boys and men and shows how this administration is simply not interested in helping men and boys but is very active in doing everything it can to be of help to women and girls. Have a look at this government page that lists the preventive care that is included in Obama’s national health package. Plenty of preventive care for women and children but not a thing about prostate cancer, testicular cancer, or other male specific diseases.
Is there any sort of national program to help suicidal males? No. Men and boys are nearly 80% of completed suicides and yet there is no interest in working on this crisis. Fail
The above shows a clearly womanitarian stance that considers women and children first and ignores the needs of men. Clearly it is a failed report card for this administration. It is worth pointing out that they are not alone or unique. The fact is that for decades our government has ignored the pain and needs of its men and boys. This is not a new phenomenon. What we need is a president who is truly humanitarian and able to see both sides and offer love and support for all people, not just for select groups. I don’t see Obama’s opponent as being a solution. He too, if elected, will likely carry on the same misandry. It is going to take a very strong shift in our cultural thinking in order to even make a dent in the unfairness and bigotry that is now accepted by nearly everyone.
Thomas Golden, LCSW is well known in the field of healing from loss. His book, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing has been acclaimed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others. Tom enjoys giving workshops in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, having been named the “1999 International Grief Educator” by the Australian Centre for Grief Education. Drawing on thirty years of practical, hands-on clinical experience, Tom brings a gentle sense of humor and a gift for storytelling to both his workshops and his writing. His work and his web site webhealing.com have been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report, as well as on CNN, CBS Evening News, ESPN and the NFL Channel. Tom served as the vice-chair for the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health and has also enjoyed helping write a proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. He is in private practice in Gaithersburg, MD and also enjoys doing Skype consults. Google+