Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are We Witnessing the End of Professional Football?

After reading this article from Esquire, it's hard not to believe that football as we know it now will cease to exist in the not-to-distant future.

I'd be curious to see reader opinions on the article and on the likely end of football, a sport I played growing up and have enjoyed watching as an adult.

Theater of Pain

This NFL season has been defined by people talking about "the injury issue" — pundits, columnists, league officials. The one voice you haven't heard — until now — belongs to the players.

By Tom Junod

Crushed Skull, Phil Toledano

Published in the February 2013 issue, on sale any day now

My left knee has been aching this entire week. I don't know why. I didn't get hit directly on it in the last game. My right knee has started the week so sore the side where the nerve got hit. When I wear the brace, my knees feel like total crap. When I start moving around, the muscles and tendons in my leg feel so stressed, sometimes I feel they might rupture. My lower back is so sore, painful and stiff; my right shoulder has lost some mobility for some reason. My right ankle is constantly being twisted; my left feels very weak. It's hard for me to react to movement, or even drive off of it. I used the word "hard" but the real word is "next to impossible." I don't sleep much, I feel super stressed, and on game day I take tons of drugs... 
—An entry from a journal kept by an NFL player for the purpose of preserving, for his children, a record of his pain
In 2009, Willis McGahee, then a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, caught a pass in a playoff game — a championship game — against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The pass, from his quarterback Joe Flacco, was perfect. McGahee, known since his days at the University of Miami for his ability to catch the ball, had come out of the backfield and was heading straight upfield, ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He did not have to slow down. He caught the ball over his inside shoulder at full tilt. Ryan Clark, a safety for the Steelers, was waiting for him.

It was a big play in a big game, and it turned out to be decisive. The Steelers had just gone ahead, 23 — 14, on a Troy Polamalu interception return. Now the Ravens had the ball on their own twenty-six-yard line, second and six, late in the fourth quarter. McGahee caught the pass just beyond the thirty-five; with two steps, he was just short of the forty. He never got there. Clark gathered himself, then uncoiled. He simultaneously turned and lowered his shoulder, and from a kinetic crouch he extended himself into McGahee, straightening out while leaning forward, leaving his feet after discharging all his energy, his legs helicoptering off to the side. It was a high but legal hit, and the thunderclap it released was definitive, high and low at the same time, a deep pneumatic clang, the sound of a cymbal turned by force into a gong. Clark fell to his side, holding his helmet in his hands as if to stop the ringing in his ears. McGahee fell loosely on his back, where he stayed, his cleats in Boot Hill position, toes to the sky.

"Oh, what a hit! Ball's out, recovered by Timmons. Ryan Clark is still down, so too is Willis McGahee. And they say fumble recovery, Pittsburgh..."

It was not a posture to which McGahee was unaccustomed. Six years earlier, in his last game at the U., he blew up his knee, an injury that was routinely called "gruesome" and "grotesque" and that still enjoys an Internet afterlife as one of the "Top Ten Worst Sports Injuries of All Time." Now he was on the receiving end of one of the signature collisions of the NFL's head-injury era — an era ushered in by a combination of athleticism unfolding at the edge of human capability, the expanding authority of neuroscience, and the horror stories of middle-aged football heroes descending into depression, dementia, and derangement. "When there's a savage hit, you try to get out there quickly," says Dr. Anthony Yates, who for the last thirty years has been the Steelers' team doctor and who currently serves as president of the NFL Physicians Society. "You presume it's a concussion and hope it's not more than that. And when there's two men down, you wonder about the logistics. Are we going to need two trucks, two evacuations...?"

He needed only one. After the familiar spectacle — the familiar American ritual — of two teams heretofore locked in violent struggle crowding the field in solidarity; of solitary players bent in desperate prayer; of television announcers peering through the wicket of medical personnel in order to parse the fallen for "encouraging" signs of movement; of Creedence's "Down on the Corner" playing on stadium loudspeakers for the rowdy and restive crowd: After all this, Ryan Clark walked off the field with a concussion. Only Willis McGahee was immobilized, strapped to a board, and evacuated from the stadium, after which the Pittsburgh Steelers took possession of the ball and the game, on their way to an eventual win in Super Bowl XLIII.

I called McGahee recently. He now plays for the Denver Broncos and was recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament. With the playoffs approaching, and with NFL injuries becoming ever more of "an issue" — the global warming of American sports fans, something to be fretted over and put aside — I wanted to talk to someone whose career has been defined by very public injuries and whose very public injuries have defined the state of football over the last ten years. But he didn't see it that way. "Injury has not been part of my career," he said. "I've only gotten hurt twice. I got hurt once in college and once in the pros."

Right, but that second injury, against the Steelers...

"No. I mean now. The MCL."

"So you don't consider the concussion an injury?"

"That's what they consider it. But getting a concussion and hurting your knee are two different things. You get back up from a concussion."

Willis McGahee was knocked out cold against the Steelers. He went out on the board. He didn't consider himself injured, though, because like all NFL players he considers himself an expert in what qualifies as an injury and what doesn't. The loss of consciousness he suffered in Pittsburgh didn't qualify because it didn't require rehabilitation. It didn't put his career in jeopardy. It didn't exile him from his teammates.

And most of all, it didn't hurt.

McGahee And Clark Collision - Rob Carr/AP Photo

"Fans basically know nothing," Ryan Clark says when asked to talk about his experience of injury. "They know what they see on the field and that's about it. They don't know the work, the rehab, the getting out of bed on Monday morning. A lot of injuries are the ones that don't get reported, the ones that don't take you off the field. People always ask me, 'Are you feeling good?' No. You never feel good. Once the season starts, you never feel good. But it becomes your way of life. It becomes the norm. It's different from a guy going to work at a bank. If he felt like I did, he wouldn't get out of bed. He'd call in."

"Our perspective is our own pain," says the veteran who keeps the pain journal, who we'll call PJ from now on. "What other perspective do we have? We've been beaten down since we were kids that you're never too injured to play. And so when normal people — people who are not associated with football — ask 'How do you feel?' for many years it was hard for me to answer that question. It was hard for me to say exactly how I feel, because it would show a sign of weakness or softness. And at the professional level, you better not say how you feel, or the next man will get your job."

The perspective of pain is what this story is about. For fans, injuries are like commercials, the price of watching the game as well as harrowing advertisements for the humanity of the armored giants who play it. For gamblers and fantasy-football enthusiasts, they are data, a reason to vet the arcane shorthand (knee, doubtful) of the injury report the NFL issues every week; for sportswriters they are kernels of reliable narrative. For players, though, injuries are a day-to-day reality, indeed both the central reality of their lives and an alternate reality that turns life into a theater of pain. Experienced in public and endured almost entirely in private, injuries are what players think about and try to put out of their minds; what they talk about to one another and what they make a point to suffer without complaint; what they're proud of and what they're ashamed by; what they are never able to count and always able to remember.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Charles Staley - A Power Clean Primer For Beginners


Over at T-Nation, strength coach Charles Staley has posted an excellent introduction to doing power cleans for those new to doing Olympic lifts. This is one of the single best multi-joint lifts for generating strength, power, and fat loss. Staley is one of the most respected and sought-after strength coaches in the country, was a co-founder of the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) certification company, and developed one of the single most effective training protocols for strength and fat loss, Escalating Density Training (EDT).

Charles Staley - A Power Clean Primer For Beginners


This article is an encapsulation of a teaching progression that I developed over the course of 3 years while teaching the "Olympic lifts" to over 65 Crossfit facilities in the US and Canada.

It's designed for people who are new to the Olympic lifts, and/or for those who do have some experience but still find themselves struggling.

Note: Before we go further, let me state that this is designed to be a "learn by doing" article – it won't have much real value unless you watch the videos and actually try the drills I've provided in them.

With that out of the way, the goal of the following sequence of drills is rapid competence. Not mastery, not perfection, but competence.

How rapid? One session. Honestly, I'm not very patient, and I assume you aren't either. So my goal here is to get you up and running, doing decent power cleans in the very first session, so that you have a chance to taste the fun and unique satisfaction of this lift.

And trust me, it really is fun. Once you get that initial taste, my bet is that you'll then do the hard work it takes to go from competence to mastery, which, admittedly, takes a lot longer.

Since my approach is all about expedience, please excuse my choice to omit specific recommendations about breathing, grip, stance, and the "double knee bend" (whatever that is). You can worry about those details later, and/or we can hash them out in the LiveSpill.

Remember, we're after rapid competence here – like speed-reading, my job here is to help you get the gist of the story very quickly. After that, should you so choose, you can go back with an eye for more detail.

Let's Get Started


The following series of 8 drills is designed to be learned in the order presented. But before we get to the first drill, a quick word about the weights you should be using for each drill.

I obviously can't recommend specific weights, since all of you will have different strength levels. The key for each drill is that you want to select a weight heavy enough to get the proprioceptive feedback you need to facilitate learning, but not so heavy that you're forced to do "whatever it takes" to complete the drill. If you're not sure, err on the side of going too light, at least at the beginning.

Most people can successfully work their way through all 8 drills in a single session, while others may require a few sessions to digest the skills. Further, the earlier drills can usually be ditched very quickly – within a few weeks in most cases.

Wherever you happen to fall on the skill continuum, what's most important is that you learn these drills in the order they appear below, and don't be afraid to drop back a level or two if necessary.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pelle Billing - Men May Be Disposable, But They Are Not Ending

I was fortunate to meet Pelle at the 2010 Integral Theory Conference, and it has been a pleasure to share his writing from time to time on The Masculine Heart. This new piece comes from the Good Men Project, where he addresses the recent series of books and articles on the necessity and/or obsolescence of men, reminding these authors "that it is almost exclusively men who build and maintain our infrastructure, as well as provide the raw materials needed."

Men May Be Disposable, But They Are Not Ending
JANUARY 29, 2013 BY PELLE BILLING

Pelle Billing calls for greater respect for the men who build everything from bridges to the internet.


During the past few years a number of voices have questioned whether maleness has any intrinsic value. The basic line of reasoning seems to be that post-industrial society is better suited to women, and that men no longer have any unique contributions to make. The most famous spokesperson for these ideas is perhaps Hanna Rosin, who wrote the article and subsequent book The End of Men.

Rosin posits that women are better suited to our current economy, since they excel at social intelligence, open communication and the ability to sit still and focus. Men, on the other hand, are only better at being big and strong. Women have the traits needed today, men have the traits needed yesterday.

Living in a post-industrial society, does not mean that we live in a non-industrial society. … Building, manufacturing and mining have certainly become safer, but they have not become safe, nor have they disappeared.

Ultimately, the question asked is the same as the title of Maureen Dowd’s book: Are Men Necessary? Considering how well women are doing in our current economy, this question would seem to be both timely and pertinent. Perhaps maleness is out of fashion—no longer adding any real value—and the best we can do is resocialize men into women, if that is even possible.

However, those who ask whether men are necessary, are very much out of touch with the foundations of our civilization. Perhaps this disconnect is a result of being immersed in feminism for too long; perhaps it is the consequence of being too privileged for too long. Possibly, it’s both.

Our civilization would not exist without roads, bridges, houses, plumbing and the electrical grid. Building these structures requires raw materials from mines and oil rigs, as well as cargo ships for transportation. Finally, we need armies, police forces and fire brigades to keep the entirety of this system safe.

Apparently, Hanna Rosin and similar voices have forgotten that it is almost exclusively men who build and maintain our infrastructure, as well as provide the raw materials needed. These services do not magically appear, they still require the daily effort of millions of people. If men were to end, our civilization would collapse overnight.

What many of these civilization building tasks have in common, is that they require the worker to be disposable. Not disposable in the sense that his skill set isn’t valuable, or his humanity invaluable, but disposable in the sense that he regularly faces a real threat of dying or seriously injuring himself. The price for our prosperity, safety and comfort has always been the sacrifice of millions of men around the world; men who often accept these dangerous jobs as a means to provide for their family.

Living in a post-industrial society, does not mean that we live in a non-industrial society. The knowledge economy that has leveled the playing field between women and men, still rests squarely on a foundation of industrial processes. Building, manufacturing and mining have certainly become safer, but they have not become safe, nor have they disappeared.

Mark Twain once wrote, after The New York Journal mistakenly thought he was dying, that “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” I would claim that the reports of men ending are greatly exaggerated. Not only exaggerated, but also severely disrespectful towards the millions of men who go to work daily, risking their lives for our collective well-being.

Furthermore, it’s not like men have stopped making unique contributions in the post-industrial era. It’s predominantly men who have built the Internet as well as digital giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. What would our lives look like without computers and smartphones, constantly connected through the Internet? My guess is that society would be decidedly less post-industrial without these services.

So let us be clear on one thing: Men are not ending in any shape or form. We may gradually need fewer and fewer men who sacrifice their lives building and maintaining our infrastructure, due to technological advances. This is a good thing and means that more men can live long lives and be less disposable.

However, for every man who stops building something in the physical world, there is a man who starts building something in the more abstract world. Instead of proclaiming the end of men and a new era of female supremacy, we would do well to ask ourselves how we can support boys and young men in this new world. We do not need men who are bleak carbon copies of women, we need men who express their creativity and their maleness.


Read more on The Disposability of Men on The Good Life.
Image credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sandra Kim - 6 Ways to talk to Your Son About Male Violence and Healthy Masculinity

Sandra Kim is the Founder and Editor of Everyday Feminism. In this guest post at the Good Men Project, she offers some useful advice on talking to our sons about male violence and what constitutes a more healthy and mature form of masculinity.

It's important that mothers and women be part of this discussion with boys and young men, and that daughters are also given the same information so that they do not grow up with unconscious expectations of men that covertly keep them locked inside the man box in order to be in relationship.

6 Ways to talk to Your Son About Male Violence and Healthy Masculinity

JANUARY 23, 2013 BY EVERYDAY FEMINISM


 

Our boys are being bombarded with messages on how to be “manly”—not all of them healthy. Men Can Stop Rape pairs with Sandra Kim to help parents support their sons’ healthy development.


It’s pretty common for us to worry about how women, especially our own daughters, are put into gender boxes and encouraged to engage in behavior that hurts them, simply because they’re female.

It’s far less common for us to worry about men, including our own sons, and what gender boxes and harmful behaviors they’re taught, simply because they’re male.

But they are. Boys as young as 4 year old are told to “be a man!”, usually in response to them crying or showing fear.

And as they grow up, they’re bombarded with messages that say to be a “manly” man, they need to:
  • Be big and strong
  • Be physically aggressive and ready to fight
  • Show no emotions – especially fear or pain but anger is just fine
  • Feel entitled to objectify women and sexually pursue women regardless of whether or not she’s interested
You only need to look at our thousands year old history of warring groups that pillaged, looted, and raped to see where this dominant idea of masculinity comes from.

It doesn’t take a leap of faith to see how this history has led to our society and media promoting images of masculinity as inherently obsessed with fighting and sex.

And then having some men turn that image into a reality where they feel entitled to assault and dominate others, particularly women.

Yet we seldom hear about how this male violence is connected to our traditional notion of masculinity.

And at the same time, while most violent acts are committed by men, most men are NOT violent.

So many men are caring, responsible, and non-violent people. But while many men don’t use violence to express their feelings or control others, many don’t feel comfortable showing the other sides of them for fear of being called “gay”, “girly”, “soft,” or “emotional”.

That’s why we need to change the conversation around masculinity. We need the definition of masculinity to reflect the diversity present in men beyond the narrow box they have now.

Not only to reduce the level of male violence but to also support men in accepting all parts of themselves and expressing themselves fully—without being shamed.

One organization fighting to do just that is Men Can Stop Rape. Through their Men of Strength Clubs (MOST Club), they have pioneered a violence prevention program that provides young men in middle school, high school, and college with a structured and supportive space to build individualized definitions of masculinity that promote healthy relationships.

Based on their highly effective program, here are some ideas of how to talk with your son and other men in your life about what masculinity means for them and its relationship to their lives and violence.


Here are the six topics she suggests - go to the Good Men Project to read the whole post.
1. Meet Them Where They’re At
2. Help Them To Identify Male Role Models They Know
3. Discuss How the Media Presents the Ideal Man
4. Discuss How Traditional Masculinity Shows Up In Their Own Behavior
5. Discuss the Role of Traditional Masculinity in Violence, Particularly Against Women
6. Discuss How Nonviolent Men Can Be a Part of Ending Violence

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brené Brown: Vulnerability as a Measure of Courage


This is a kind of follow-up to yesterday's post from Graham Phoenix on vulnerability and shame. In this short (a minute or so) video from Sounds True, Brené Brown talks about our misunderstanding of vulnerability as something weak as one of the most serious problems she sees in her work.

I see a lot of women who have bought into the idea that vulnerability is weakness, but this is true of nearly all the men I work with in coaching or in therapy. As I mentioned in the post from yesterday, this needs to change at the foundations - in how mothers, fathers, teachers, coaches, and so on help our children their sense of self.

Brené Brown is the author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead and The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, as well as other books. She has also recorded several audio teachings with Sounds True, including Men, Women, and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough and The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage.

Thanks to Sounds True for making this clip available.

Brené Brown: Vulnerability as a Measure of Courage

 
When Dr. Brené Brown began researching the subjects of shame and vulnerability, she was told by many people to give it up, and “nobody wants to hear about that stuff.” Twelve years later, after several top-selling books and millions of online views of her TED talks, Brené Brown has proven that many of us do want to hear about this stuff as we try to enrich our lives with authenticity and purpose. In this video clip, Brené tackles the pervasive myth that equates vulnerability with weakness, and reveals how the truth is just the opposite. 
more from Brené Brown


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Graham Phoenix - Vulnerability And Shame For Men – This Is Not About Weakness

Over at his Male eXperience blog, Graham Phoenix recently posted an excellent article on vulnerability, guilt, and shame, all of which are serious issues for men. One of the key quotes he includes in this post is from Brené Brown about a man's experience of being vulnerable and open - he says that it's not men who are hard on other men who show vulnerability or emotion, it's the women with whom they are in relationship.

Here is the key passage:
But you see those books you just signed for my wife and my three daughters? They’d rather me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable we get the shit beat out of us. 
This is unfortunately true for a lot of women and men. There is an unspoken double bind for many men when their female partners tell them to be more sensitive and open - when they do, the woman often loses interest in them or begins to resent their vulnerability as not masculine.

As much as men need to work on their own ability to be vulnerable, to dare greatly, women need to examine their unconscious biases and expectations about masculinity and begin to understand that many women still see sensitivity and vulnerability in men as weakness.

Vulnerability And Shame For Men – This Is Not About Weakness 
by Graham Phoenix (read about Graham Phoenix here)

Men see vulnerability as weakness, men see shame as weakness. They hide vulnerability and shame under a mask of emotional control, work, status and violence. How can they throw off the mask and start living in the power of vulnerability?


Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of the most watched talks on TED.com with over 7 million views. She gave the closing talk, Listening to Shame, at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach.

These talks have rebounded around the world and changed the landscape in thinking about vulnerability, shame and guilt. She has made people realise that this is an area we are all involved in.

Her 2012 TED talk went deep into this issue. In this article I will use quotations from her talk to look at how this issue affects men, in particular.

♦◊♦

She used a famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt that is particularly relevant to men. It’s about ‘the arena’ where men fight their battles, daily, and where men establish their idea of masculinity.
“It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he’s in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.” (Theodore Roosevelt)


The idea of ‘daring greatly’ is appealing to many men, but the question is how to achieve it without appearing weak. The problem is when men equate failure with weakness, or they think that others, those they love and respect, equate failure with weakness.
Graham also included one other quote from Brown that I think is especially relevant.
“For men, shame is not a bunch of competing, conflicting expectations. Shame is one, “Do not be perceived as what — weak?” […] A man looked at me one day after a book signing and said, “… you say to reach out, tell our story, be vulnerable. But you see those books you just signed for my wife and my three daughters? They’d rather me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable we get the shit beat out of us. And don’t tell me it’s from the guys and the coaches and the dads, because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else.” 
“You show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, I’ll show you a woman who’s done incredible work. You show me a man who can sit with a woman who’s just had it, she can’t do it all anymore, and his first response is not, “I unloaded the dishwasher,” but he really listens — because that’s all we need — I’ll show you a guy who’s done a lot of work.”
Go read the whole post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Battling Homophobia in Professional Sports

In recent years (mostly the last two or three years) there has been an increasingly vocal movement within professional male sports to eradicate, or at the least confront, the pervasive homophobia that has long been a part of that world. We know things are beginning to change when hyper-masculine men such as Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, Scott Fujita of the Cleveland Browns, and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings (all are straight) become vocal and even "impassioned" spokesmen for same-sex marriage.

Even boxing has an openly gay fighter, featherweight Orlando Cruz.


But there has never, ever been a professional male athlete who has come out while still playing his (team) sport in the U.S. David Kopay (Redskins running back), Billy Bean (Dodgers and Padres outfielder), John Amaechi (NBA center-forward), and Wade Davis (Titans, Seahawks, and Redskins cornerback) are gay athletes who waited until they were well out of their sport to reveal their sexual identity.

The NHL (You Can Play), MLS, and MLB have taken some leadership in trying to create a more welcoming atmosphere for gay players to feel safe and not feel compelled to be closeted. The San Francisco Giants were followed by a handful of other baseball teams, as well as teams and players from other professional sports, in participating in Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project.

35 N.H.L. players, including Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators have supported You Can Play, a campaign created and promoted by hockey’s Burke family to open doors for gay athletes to participate in sports. Brenden Burke died in a car accident in 2010 - he came out while serving as manager of his college hockey team - his brother Patrick Burke is a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers. Their father, Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, marched in Toronto’s gay pride parade with Brendan, and again after Brendan died.

The You Can Play campaign . . .
. . . is intended to “make locker rooms safe for all athletes, rather than places of fear, slurs and bullying,” said Patrick Burke, a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers and a founder of the project. 
The message will be shown for the first time during the first intermission of NBC’s Sunday afternoon telecast of the Bruins-Rangers game [note: this is from 2012]. Thirty-five N.H.L. players, including award winners and All-Stars, have committed to take part in the project, Burke said. The You Can Play Web site is scheduled to go online Sunday. 
Several Major League Baseball teams made similar announcements last season, as did N.B.A. players after a series of incidents in which fellow N.B.A. players used antigay slurs. (LA Times)
Unfortunately, there is still a rainbow ceiling for gay male athletes. 
Just ask soccer player David Testo. When Testo, a decorated midfielder with the Montreal Impact of the second-tier North American Soccer League, came out on a Canadian TV show 13 months ago he said the initial reception was positive. But his contract had expired two weeks earlier and after his announcement the phone stopped ringing. 
Testo, 31, hasn't played a game since. 
"It seems like there is a lot more support these days. But for someone to come out to the public or just to their teammates, it takes a lot of just coming to terms with it yourself," Testo says. "Most of these athletes are younger and they haven't had their time to kind of explore and just come to that kind of self-awareness. 
"I would love for someone to be able to do that in their prime and really be a role model, an inspiration for others. When that one special [player] does it, it's just going to open the floodgates. But it's hard. When there's a lot of money on the line, when there's endorsements on the line, it's different. Why would anyone want to risk that?" (LA Times)
While change is happening, men like David Testo still suffer from the homophobia infecting professional sports. He was a high quality player - nothing about his performance before coming out would have led team to ignore his availability when his contract ended.

In England, Manchester United's heterosexual goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (of the Premier League - English football's version of the NHL or MLB, sports with lower tier professional leagues) joined the campaign to kick homophobia out of football (that's soccer to my American readers).

IT WAS bold and unequivocal. ''Gay people need a hero. They need someone who dares to step forward and stand for their sexuality.''
He's not the only one. West Ham winger Matt Jarvis became the third heterosexual Premier League star to appear on the cover of Attitude (a gay magazine). Former English rugby union international Ben Cohen launched a foundation with the goal of bringing an end to homophobic bullying. In Australia, Wallabies flanker (rugby) David Pocock has vowed he won't marry his girlfriend until gay couples are afforded the same right.

Still, according to Caroline Fusco (University of Toronto), homophobic attitudes are still embedded in professional sports.
“Sport as a space has been one that has really been there for the production of a certain kind of hyper-masculinity. Particularly when you think of pro sports, the big ones: hockey, football, baseball. These all tie in to the rugged notion of masculinity, and these attitudes remain — that gay men aren’t masculine,” she says.
*****
“Homophobia is also tied in to social class, to race as well,” says Fusco. “Who gets this hyper proving ground for masculinity?”
According to Fusco, these anti-homophobia campaigns are important, but she feels they need to take "a more holistic approach."
“These campaigns are really important, [but] there’s something about the implementation of the plan. It starts very early for boys and girls, at school, and schools need to be involved. Municipal, provincial and federal governments need to get on board.
The same is true here in the U.S. If we want to change the nature of the culture, it starts with teaching our children that every human being has the right to love the person of their choice, whether that person is the opposite sex or the same sex is not relevant.

And this needs to be a part of our sports programs - with a zero tolerance policy for bullying or harassment of gay teammates, or even of other students in the school. Then the programs being created for athletes at the professional level need to be re-tooled for middle school, high school, and college athletes.

I played soccer in Seattle for a couple of seasons on a gay (well, GBT) men's team. There is nothing girlie or weak or contagious about those men. They were ferocious athletes and nice guys. As the token bi guy (most of the team was gay, with a couple of straight guys, as well), I was accepted without hesitation - all they cared was that I was a good passer and an efficient scorer.

Even though this was a "recreational" league, most of these guys had been stars of their high school teams and many of us had played college ball. The level of competition was at least equal to that of my NAIA-Division III school.

I don't know what it will take for the first man at the professional level to feel safe coming out while still playing. But I know that the efforts of You Can Play and the It Gets Better Project (among others) will be instrumental in creating that safe space.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bookforum Omnivore - The Age of White Male Mass Shootings

This is an interesting collection of links on masculinity, guns, and gun violence from Bookforum's Omnivore blog. One article in particular jumped out at me so I included parts of it below the link collection.


The age of white male mass shootings

JAN 22 2013
9:00AM



One of the articles above, from the Southwest Journal of Criminal Studies, looks at the role of "hegemonic masculinity" in mass murders in the U.S. Here is the abstract, and then a section from later in the paper.

  • Deniese Kennedy-Kollar, Ph.D., Molloy College, Rockville Center, New York
  • Christopher A.D. Charles, Ph.D., King Graduate School, Monroe College, New York
Abstract 
This exploratory study examines the act of mass murder as an attempt by the perpetrators to lay claim to a hegemonic masculine identity that has been damaged or denied them, yet that they feel entitled to as males in American culture. Biographical information was gathered for 28 men who have committed mass murder in the United States since 1970 and examined for evidence of stressors to the perpetrators’ masculine identities. The majority of the sample demonstrated financial (71%), social (61%), romantic (25%), and psychological stressors (32%) and other stressors (18%) that indicated a failure to attain the hegemonic masculine ideal in American culture. There were co-occurring stressors such as financial-social, financial-psychological and social-psychological. These stressors suggest that the motivations for mass murders are numerous and complex. There is no psychological profile unique to mass murderers and many authors have speculated on their motivations. However, in this study, the range of interrelated stressors experienced by the majority of mass murderers threatened their hegemonic masculine identity and these men engaged in violence to protect their identity.

* * * * *
Hegemonic Masculinity

Hegemonic masculinity is the socially supported and dominant masculinity, which informs normative male behavior and unequal gender practices seen in the subordination of women in the society. This dominant masculinity which is associated with power, high status, authority, heterosexism and physical toughness, and legitimizes patriarchy, not only subordinates femininities but also other masculinities deemed to be weaker in the society’s gendered order (Beasely, 2008; Connell, 1995; Lusher and Robins, 2009). Hegemonic masculine violence is not only confined to the urban milieu in the United States, because the socio-economic and political changes that also take place in rural areas, lead to internal and external male violent expressions which are strategic patriarchal practices used to create an imagined rural gendered hierarchy (Carrington and Scott, 2008).

Some critics of the hegemonic masculinity thesis suggest that it does not take into account the inequalities of class based power, and the political economy that produces and reproduces traditional physical male violence. This conceptual oversight means that hegemonic masculinity, is applied outside of relevant historical contexts and material processes, that make the use of the term hegemony a misnomer and the concept an inadequate explanatory factor for patterns of male violence (Hall, 2002). Moreover, the concept is also used in a monolithic way which ignores plural masculinities that take into account the heterogeneity of masculine identity and power (Beasely, 2008). Despite these criticisms, there is an evolutionary perspective which locates masculine violence in the descent of man. This perspective argues that violent masculinity is an expression of the survival of the fittest and the drive for reproductive success which has its genesis in human ancestral environments (Polk, 1998).

School is one of several social domains in which hegemonic masculinity is created and expressed in the contemporary era. Very few Americans link school shootings to the gender of the shooters (which is male) although criminologists have consistently argued that there is a relationship between masculinity and violence. The masculinity which influences male aggression and violence is socially constructed (Watson, 2007). In other words, the incidences of hate crimes, bullying in schools and school shootings among other violent expressions of masculinities are influenced by the approaches, processes and codes of the societal construction of men. Schools are very much reflections of this social construction as the bullying and school shootings just mentioned suggests. The ways of man making, which starts before the pre-K level and goes up to manhood, supports and approves subtle and physical expressions of violence. Therefore, the hegemonic masculinity taught in American schools jeopardises the safety of students and the society (Serriere, 2008).

The context of the inner city streets is also used by youth to express violent masculinities. Respect is central to male identity where masculine street behavior is driven by a code that regulates norms surrounding how grievances and conflicts are resolved. There is also an interaction driven ecology of danger, which is influenced by perceptions of threatening or deadly social interactions with rival males, whether they have hostile intentions and whether or not they are willing to use violence to hurt others (Wilkinson, 2001). The anatomy of violence is evident in the narrative of a young male, who was constructing his masculine identity which required the projection of a preferred presentation of self. This self presentation was achieved through creating boundaries about the use of violence, the reasons for fighting and whom one should fight. Masculine characteristics were made salient in the narrative by sorting and positioning the characters of the story. Several varying depictions of other men emerged in the discourse such as non-men, villain and hero. The foregoing discourse of violence, suggests that that masculine identity was constructed and negotiated through the gendered positioning of the negative other (Andersson, 2008).The use of the life history method to understand adolescent male violence, also suggests that boys use the ideals of hegemonic masculinity to construct their emerging manhood. This identity was buttressed in school by the institutionalized bodily and sexual practices that created subordinate masculinity which is linked to sexual violence and an opposition masculinity which is connected to assaultive violence (Messerschmidt, 1999).

The growing body of evidence in the literature that hegemonic masculinity is related to violence was contradicted by the findings of a study of the relationship between masculinity and violent and nonviolent situations. The findings of the study indicate that there is no relationship between violence and masculinity but the presence of a third party is a significant predictor of violence (Krienert, 2000). In keeping with the overall trend of the data on violent masculinity, the positive presence of a father in the life of a son constructing his hegemonic masculine identity is a key means of preventing the emotional problems that triggers male violence (Pope and Englar-Carlson, 2001). The prevalence of male violence suggests that there is a crisis of masculinity which provides opportunities to stop the violence and challenge the masculinities supported by the status quo (Hurst, 2001). However, masculine violence continues unabated in the United States and the most blatant expression of this form of violence is the action of mass murderers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Andrew Cotto - America Has a Macho Problem


From Huffington Post, Andrew Cotto argues that we are letting a minority of faux tough-guy wanna-be bad-asses dictate our national dialogue on important issues such as guns, the environment, taxes, health care, censorship, immigration, entitlements, military spending, gay rights, abortion, terrorism, and religion.

Here is the meat of the argument:
Most of us are taught from an early age that tough is good. Tough is character. Tough is necessary. Being tough makes you a man. But the truth is that most of us in America never get within an arm's length of real tough. Most of us are just too privileged to be exposed to the conditions which require mettle to survive. Good for us. And some of us appreciate this, but for many young men indoctrinated in the gospel of tough, not being tough leaves them feeling insecure as grown men. This insecurity often manifests in big talk from men with little guts. And many of these men covet power. These are the ones who publicly grandstand but privately cower. 
I think he is correct here in his assessment, but I also think there needs to be a real understanding of this issue, not mere labeling or name-calling, as this article could be easily dismissed for that reason. We need to understand the genesis of that insecurity, and then offer a corrective, not simply a dismissal.

America Has a Macho Problem

Andrew Cotto, Author

America has a macho problem. Too much of our culture is informed by the idea of manhood being defined by toughness. We love the idea of the bad ass as the good guy, doling out physical justice to those who have it coming. The archetypal American "hero" is often promoted through our narratives, particularly our film heroes. Just look at the trailer for the new Tom Cruise film, where the eponymous character of Jack Reacher, from the Lee Child novels, is brought to life. The trailer features a scene where Cruise as Trapper is in the middle of the street surrounded by a posse of apparent bad guys with bad intentions. Cool and collected, Trapper mocks and dismantles his foes with devastating force and ease. Talk about fiction. I imagine this scene is in the very beginning of the film, not part of the primary plot but merely a vehicle for characterization, though it dominates the trailer for a reason: Many men eat this shit up. Too many of them think Clint Eastwood is actually Dirty Harry (based on his attempt to bully a chair that supposedly symbolized our sitting president, Eastwood might actually think he's Dirty Harry, too).

This conflation of tough reality versus tough fantasy is dangerous. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association, openly advocates a solution to our fire arms problem with "good guys with guns" shooting the "bad guys with guns." Such a reductive and ignorant purview should be the domain of children in the "Bang! Bang! You're dead" world of youthful imagination. It should not be part of the rhetoric from the nation's most powerful lobby. LaPierre is not alone. Too many of our public figures -- those who seriously influence our culture, conversations, and laws -- have a relationship with violence that is rooted in reductive fantasy. They are novelists, filmmakers, game developers and musicians. They are also radio personalities, politicians, activists and lobbyists. This is one of the rare moments where the traditionally liberal world of entertainment conspires (unwittingly, I'm certain) with factions of the super conservative camps.

It's easy to sell this macho schlock to men because most of us are susceptible when it comes to the idea of toughness. Most of us are taught from an early age that tough is good. Tough is character. Tough is necessary. Being tough makes you a man. But the truth is that most of us in America never get within an arm's length of real tough. Most of us are just too privileged to be exposed to the conditions which require mettle to survive. Good for us. And some of us appreciate this, but for many young men indoctrinated in the gospel of tough, not being tough leaves them feeling insecure as grown men. This insecurity often manifests in big talk from men with little guts. And many of these men covet power. These are the ones who publicly grandstand but privately cower. Their inner impotence turns into outward anger. So some scared men howl belligerence into microphones; and some seek office; and some create fantasy narratives that glamorize violence; and some are lobbyists for gun makers who refuse to budge from their obstinacy even when the "Bang! Bang! You're dead" world of our children is no longer imaginary.

This macho problem is really about bullying. America is being bullied by a loud minority of cowardly men (and some women who share their faux-tough stances). Look how those who lack courage dominate (or attempt to dominate) the conversation on guns, the environment, taxes, health care, censorship, immigration, entitlements, military spending, gay rights, abortion, terrorism, and religion. Look how they poison our progress with absurd stances and a refusal to consider compromise.

The rest of us need to stand up for the greater good. We all have it in us, men and women. With our voices and our votes and our power as consumers, we can steer this country towards a more perfect/less preposterous union where faux-toughness stands down to logic.


~ Follow Andrew Cotto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrewcotto

Monday, January 21, 2013

"One Today" - Richard Blanco Inaugural Poem (Full Text)


Inaugural poet Richard Blanco read his poem "One Today" at the swearing-in ceremony for President Obama. Here is the full text of the poem as written. You can also watch a video interview (ABC News) with Blanco - Watch Video.

This is a quiet, simple poem, but one filled with the sense of unity I think President Obama also sought to invoke in his Address. We are one people, no matter how diverse, under one sun, each of us in our own ways facing one day, and then another, and another . . . together.


'One Today': Full Text of Richard Blanco Inaugural Poem



"One Today"

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

Ms Interview: Rewriting Masculinity with “The Good Men Project”

In a strange sort of inversion, Kyle Bachan (a man), writing for Ms. Magazine's blog, interviewed Lisa Hickey (a woman) who is CEO of the Good Men Project. Perhaps it's a sign that things really are changing when a man can write for a women's magazine that supports feminism, and that a woman can be CEO of an organization devoted to conversations about being a good man.

This interview is from February of 2011, but it's still interesting. At 2.5 years of age, how do you think the Good Men Project has done in promoting the cultural dialogue about being a good man?

INTERVIEW: Rewriting Masculinity with “The Good Men Project”

February 7, 2011 By Kyle Bachan



Last June marked the beginning of The Good Men Project–an online magazine that this very website described as “what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century.” Now that they’ve had several months to settle into the blogosphere, I caught up with Good Men Media’s CEO, Lisa Hickey, to talk about their first half-year and the future of Good Men:

Ms. Blog: What were your initial goals for this project and how have they changed or evolved over time?

Lisa Hickey: Our initial goal for the project was very simple: It was simply to start a conversation about what it means to be a good man. The original way that we did that was through a book that Tom Matlack had put together—the defining moments in men’s lives. They were stories about these really interesting moments, whether it was the time that a husband got kicked out on the street for being a cheat and a drunk, or the time that a man discovers that his son has autism, or someone who goes off to war and then finds out he can’t live life as a civilian. Those moments where they really have to make these choices and think about what is good, what does this mean to me as both a man and a good man. That was the very simple idea that drove everything forward.

Were there other magazines that influenced you?

Mostly magazines that we didn’t want to aspire to (laughs). Part of the secondary goal was we felt that the way men are portrayed in the media these days is often not very positive. Men are depicted as cheaters, villains or couch potatoes, or dumb idiots who only want to talk about sex and sports. I don’t mean to overgeneralize it, but I think that that’s a common perception of the way the media portrays men. Part of our mission was to change that and say, ‘Hey, men are much more multidimensional than they’re portrayed.’ In the same way that feminism took the idea of women being only one-dimensional and seen as sex objects or housewives and opened up the door to have people view them as very complex, multi-dimensional people, we wanted to do the same thing with men.

What would you consider to be the defining features of a good men’s magazine?

One that talks about the often provocative subjects that people don’t normally talk about in public, gives insights to the way that decisions are made around moral or ethical issues and is not afraid of polarizing topics. That’s one thing we have learned as we’ve gone along: We are hated by both feminists and men’s rights groups a lot of times because they don’t think that we’re doing enough for either group. We embrace that. We say, ‘Great. Disagree with us, come join the conversation, write for us, let’s hear your voice.’ because we want to understand what the issues are and not judge them.

What have these groups been criticizing in particular?

We’ve been accused of misandry by the men’s rights groups. We’ve been accused of using shameful language around men. We’ve been accused of not understanding the issues that men face in divorce courts and how they are screwed out of getting custody for their children so often. On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve been accused of using language that is pro-male and anti-woman, to have outdated views of feminism, to be part of this patriarchy, to be creating a network around men when it should be a network around humans. So we definitely get very specific things from both sides.

What have you learned then, in the first several months of operation?

That the conversation is even more important than we originally thought, in part because of these polarizing groups and the fact that we are able to bring them together. I like nothing better than when we put an article out there and we get the opposing sides arguing amongst themselves in the blog comments.

Going to your site’s mission statement, you wrote, ‘We suppose we are a difficult magazine to categorize and that’s exactly how we like it.’ Do you think that your site can be categorized now? Or can you more properly identify the site’s allies?

I think that it’s difficult to categorize for two reasons. One is that we do have these polarizing topics and because we allow people to talk about both sides of the issue it is hard to tell which side we’re on sometimes. So some of our most controversial topics … when people have made comments that are against that topic we say, ‘Come write a post for us,’ and then we publish that post.

Do you have a favorite article?

I can’t say that I have a favorite. I think that in general, my favorite ones are the articles that are about individual men confronting something in their personal life and working through how they arrived at an insight about that. And telling that story in a very personal, narrative way. For instance, we had Gregory Sherl who writes about his struggles with OCD and we had Matt Salesses who has a column called “Love Recorded” where his first post was about the courtship of this woman who he then later married—it’s a written reality TV show.

What are the future plans for the Good Men Project?

We’d like to continue expanding it into a true media platform and not just a magazine. Right now we have everything from another film that we might make, to a play that we’re writing and hoping to produce on Broadway in the near future. So to really expand the discussion into different media channels and engage people in this discussion of what it means to be a good man in whatever interesting way is possible.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Duncan Alldridge - A Man in the Presence of Men

Duncan Alldridge is the blogger behind Our Masculine Heart (UK) a cool blog "talking about men and masculinity." Nice title. I am not sure how I found his blog, but it's good stuff, although I wish he posted more often. This is the current post from back in November (2012).

A Man in the Presence of Men

 

I’m heading down a darkening, wintry M3, returning home from an intense weekend in a Wiltshire forest. I’m sleepless, tender, and inspired by the healing power of a group of men. During the past few weekends I’ve attended various events and workshops with men: in Brighton, in London and here, near Salisbury. I want to write about how it feels being in the presence of men.

Men Together

There’s nothing more grounding for me than being in the company of my own sex: no distractions, straight talking, the sense of humour, men together getting things done. I feel at home, as if I’ve come home, and even though I’m meeting many of these men for the first time, everyone here understands me in a way no woman ever can.

Do I allow this to happen enough in my life?
I look deeply into his eyes, beyond the mysteries of his childhood, and held within a deep, beautiful vulnerability, lies the heart of this man. I feel his tenderness, longing and pain. I see myself reflected as his father, his brother, his son, and sense his spirit, lightly, flickering, slowly meeting mine. I am beyond my body now, in the places where God moves, and something holy here dances between us.
When I strip away the societal conditioning of how I am expected to be as a man – me against the world, just surviving, defined by my work and in a world where I’m taught that repressing my feelings is the only way to get on – and then step into a held space with other men, it’s as if the whole world tilts. I find I can speak what’s on my heart without fear of judgement, I feel I am not alone and that other men are similar to me – they too have been hounded by addictions: pornography, computer games, sex, alcohol and drugs, they too are wounded by the world, they too know what it’s like to be truly alone.

Shared Suffering

As I grew up I was conditioned into thinking that being ‘emotional’ was weak and that it was something best avoided or overridden rather than experienced. Vulnerability was what women ‘did’ and so for me to really feel was something to be ashamed of and therefore something that I learned to hold back. It’s okay for a girl to cry at school, in fact she’s not a girl unless she can do this, but it’s absolutely not okay for a boy. So, like many of us, I spent years and years storing up my pain.
A circle of 30 men define a woodland space. ‘Any man who has lost a loved one or partner – step forward. Men, you share a special bond.’ Damp leaves carpet the wet earth. As men step forward I feel time expand and the space around me ripe with the fruit of our shared past, our history; the circles of men that have stood for thousands of years.
As the circle shifts, I feel one man’s pain, then another. As if we are one body we stand; and as the inner circle of men sharing their grief shifts, I feel the presence of an ancestry only rarely recalled. I feel an overbearing sense of grief; and as the men’s tears moisten their cheeks and fall, we are lifted up into a unity and togetherness that I yearn for all men to share.
I’m crying again. A deep, deep sense of grief. I cry. I cry for us all, for those men before me, and those to come; for everything I’ve ever lost: my childhood, my friends, the women I’ve met and will never meet, for love undiscovered; for her, for you, for life, for God.

For me, they are the tears of deep healing, the years of stored male grief; all of our shared tears. And they are the same tears that invite me to fully live the next beautiful, sunlit morning.
After I cried I felt relieved… and happy and grateful, and maybe not fully healed, but helped in a huge way by expressing my feelings… (Thomas G Fiffer – Boys Do Cry, and Men Do, Too)
Taking It To The Men

No woman wants to be her man’s mother. It’s the last thing she desires or needs. It’s a complete turn off. It’s just a big NO.

So why is it I so often fall back into doing it?

How many times have I taken my needs to my women? Just how many? I don’t know about you but it makes me squirm. Let’s just say too many.

I’ll only set her free by taking it to the men.
I feel the circle around me, the men’s faces, their presence. I move them both around the space, the two women in my life. And as I stand apart from them both, fully seen in my need, I know that I am a man, my father’s son. I leave them both to their paths and step back into the circle, more determined and resolved – to keep on taking it to the men.
Validation

Is there anything more powerful than being validated by another man – where a man actually comes to you, meets you fully in the eyes and gives you positive affirmation? I don’t mean being told I’m a clever guy who’s funny, but have you ever heard a man speak fully of his experience of you? Until my early 40s the nearest I’d got to this was a few drunk ‘I love yous’ in a pub, or some throw away comments that never landed and fit only for the wind. I was too scared to make myself vulnerable. It’s my conditioning. Maybe I still wanted to be one up; I loved him, but I wouldn’t trust him with my heart.

As men, we need each other’s validation. The validation we maybe didn’t get from our fathers. The validation that, over the years, has been replaced by individualism, narcissism and competition. My father gave me strong positive affirmation many times, but if he were unable to meet me in this way, it’s possible that I’d never get this validation anywhere else.
As the men’s words sink in I feel my heartbeat, the visceral pumping blood of history, the man inside me preparing to rule, a benevolent king ready to serve. I feel an inner strength within me, shining, and I feel something of the boy in me die. My spirit quickens, I sense God’s gentle power and feel ready to stand in the world.