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.
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.”
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+
Before we are able to look seriously at nurturing the passions of our sons; before we are able to consider the need to balance the seven federal offices of women’s health with even one office of men’s health; before President Obama creates a White House Council on Boys to Men to balance his creation of a White House Council on Women and Girls, we need to understand why what it took to raise our sons successfully in the past is in tension with what it will take to raise our sons successfully for their future.
In the past, virtually every society that has survived has done so by training its sons to be disposable. Disposable in war; and disposable at work (from coal mines to construction sites; from oil rigs to “deadliest catches”). And if a man who is a dad dies in war, he is also, in effect, disposable as a dad.
So if we think about it, honoring our soldiers on Veterans Day, our workers on Labor Day or on the upcoming 10th Anniversary of September 11, presents a dilemma for every family who loves their country and loves their children. We are grateful beyond words for the firefighters and policemen who sacrifice their lives for the possibility that others might live. When someone does this for a stranger, and in defense of his or her country, that is the quintessential example of heroism.
The word “hero” derives etymologically in part from the Greek word “serow,” from which we get our words “servant” and “slave.” We think of a hero as someone who has power. In fact, a servant and slave possess the psychology of disposability, not the psychology of power.
What, then, are the dilemmas? The first dilemma: To give a man promotions to risk death, to tell him he’s powerful, he’s a hero, he’s loved, he’s a “real man”—is to teach a man to value himself by dying; it is to “bribe” a man to value himself more by valuing himself less.
How well have men responded to these bribes? For money (usually to support families), very well: think mercenaries, indentured servants, coal miners. But men also respond even when the bribe is the “social bribe” of respect; the emotional bribe of love; the physical bribe of sex: thus virtually 100% of volunteer firefighters are males.
Our second dilemma is that what it has taken to create a healthy society is also what it takes to create an unhealthy son. In the past, this was true of both sexes: so that the society would be “fruitful and multiply,” women were encouraged to risk disposability in childbirth. With feminism’s leadership, women have learned to make this a choice, not a definition of womanhood. That is, during the past half century, we have encouraged our daughters to associate femininity with “control over their lives” rather than reflexive disposability.
The third dilemma involves taking care of country vs. taking care of family. A father who dies carrying the weight of the country on his shoulder can no longer carry his children on his shoulder. If our son or daughter has children at home, is it right to have him or her put the children’s life in jeopardy? For our sons, the dilemma Is intensified by the association of masculinity with both heroism and a willingness to fight and die. These associations recruit our sons to protect our country and homes, but they also create what might be called a “social bribe” for a son who is a dad to jeopardize the well-being of his own family.
A fourth dilemma involves teaching our sons the real meaning of empowerment. Many dads have learned to define power as “feeling obligated to earn money that someone else spends while he dies sooner.” Real power is best defined as “control over our one’s life.” Our daughters are “getting it”? Will our sons “get it” if their dads don’t?
The fifth dilemma is that what it takes to become a hero at work is often the opposite of what it takes to become a loved one at home. For example, to be successful as a hero, it helps to repress feelings, not express feelings. (“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” not “when the going gets tough the tough see a psychologist.”) Repressing feelings helps in war, but to be successful in love, it helps to express feelings, not repress them.
Why have we learned to praise men as heroes when they compete to be disposable? Exactly because virtually all societies that have survived have done so by socializing men to be disposable. This investment in survival embeds in our psyches an unconscious investment in the disposability of our sons.
By questioning their genetic heritage a half-century ahead of men, our daughters are trying to fall in love with a sex that is less-well socialized to love; they are trying to fall in love with a sex that is, psychologically, about a half century behind our daughters.
On the other hand, if we don’t socialize sons to consider themselves heroes by risking disposability, will women take on 50% of the risk by obligation, not by choice: should we require them to share the legal obligation to register for the draft, or expect them to be equally likely to volunteer to save our homes from fires, build bridges and be the truckers, miners, lumberjacks, welders and sheet metal workers who build the Freedom Towers? And if so, will they become the women we want our daughters to be?
There are no perfect answers. But our heroes have left those of us who live the challenge of deciding how much to encourage our sons to risk death so that others may live to praise those who have died. Until we cherish sons who “follow their passion” as much as daughters who follow theirs, we won’t want an office of men’s health or a White House Council on Boys to Men.
Warren Farrell, Ph.D. is chair of the Commission to create a White House Council on Boys to Men. He is the author of the international bestsellers, The Myth of Male Power and Why Men Are The Way They Are, as well as Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say and Father and Child Reunion. He has appeared on more than 1,000 TV and radio shows, and is the only man ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. Dr. Farrell has taught in five universities, including the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Warren has two daughters; he and his wife live in Mill Valley, CA. and virtually at http://warrenfarrell.com