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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Men’s Empowerment

On the campus where I work, some of the students I advise just finished hosting a Women’s Empowerment Week. We were fortunate to have a grant that allowed us to provide a wide variety of programming – leadership and empowerment workshops geared towards college women, discussion surrounding feminism’s origin and necessity in society today, reflection on how the media portrays women, and exploration of women’s issues in the world. In short, it was amazing and fostered a greater dialogue about how women can support themselves and each other as they go through life.

In the wake of this programming, I had to ask myself – what would a men’s empowerment week look like? What kind of programming is even happening to empower men? I know some of my colleagues in the field might share that men are already privileged by virtue of their gender and they don’t need anything more to help them be powerful. But, as I wrote earlier, that’s not the picture that I see. Men need programming and dialogues about their issues as well, so what could it look like? I’ve thought of four overarching areas that we could serve and educate men to help them be better throughout their lives.

Owning and using male power. Men, please hear this – we have power. We have power by virtue of our gender, our size, and our society. And I’m not saying that we are bad people for having this power. Having power as a male is kind of like owning a car; if you own your behaviors and use it properly, you can help out so many people. If you throw it around or use it without regard others who are less powerful or less protected, you will hurt them. This power is something we need to talk about. What does it mean to be stronger (in general) than the female gender? What responsibilities should that place on us? What does it mean to be in a culture that is dominated by males at the leadership levels and how can we use the power that we have to bring everyone up, rather than just “our own”? The HeForShe movement is calling on us to use our power properly. Will we answer? When we own our power in a right and responsible way, when we tame the hurricane energy, we can change the world.

Embracing our softer side. I say softer side rather than feminine, because it’s time to stop calling certain emotions masculine or feminine. Yes, biologies are different, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all seek to have both strength and tenderness. Get a group of guys in a room and one of the last things they’ll want to talk about is their feelings and the softer side of their being. But this is essential. If we bottle up qualities like caring (sympathy and empathy), love, and kindness, we lose access to an entire half of our being. We must create spaces where these conversations can happen and where men can feel comfortable acting on these “softer” emotions. This is all about “marrying the queen”.

Building up one another. I wrote about relationship being part of the DNA of masculinity, and it is absolutely essential for us to talk about it. Too many men will go through life without a true friend, a true comrade in arms to stay by them and encourage, sympathize, and challenge them. Instead, what happens for many men is they encounter criticism (to their face or behind their backs) about their worth and qualities as a “man”. We will get no where cutting each other down; we will get everywhere when we treat everyone with respect.

Striving and thriving. Men are catching a bad rap for not performing well in school. They also catch flack for performing well in school. When did it become uncool to strive after a goal; when did it become the norm for males to want success to appear easy to come by? We should be celebrating those men who sweat to make themselves better – be it in the classroom, on the athletic field, or on the job. And we should be finding ways to inspire this same striving and thriving in growing young men. In wanting to make everything look easy, we drag each other and ourselves down.

These are some of the conversations we need to have. As men, we should be coming together to discuss our strength and how we can use it and looking deep into our souls for the tender male that lives inside. We should be embracing one another as friends. And we should be encouraging active reaching for excellence in our daily lives. This is men’s empowerment; this is positive masculinity.

MD

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Dear Men

I love you. I share the same chromosomal makeup, the same, general body design. I’ve gone through struggles you’re dealing with; some have overcome me…others I have conquered. Know that we are in this life together, fellow brothers navigating the world. So, I hope you hear what I’m about to share in the intent that it is given – from a brother who wants you and all of us to succeed. From someone who cares.

We’re in trouble. And we could blame everything around us for putting us down, for being against us, or for failing us in some way. But in all reality, the problem is us. We cause so much hurt in the world, to ourselves and to others, and it’s time to look at what we’re doing.

Bart shouldn’t be our role model.

Let’s start with school. In several books on male development, Dr. Leonard Sax shares five factors that are holding young men back from achieving in schools and in life. He shares that video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs (Ritalin and the like), testosterone disruption, and devaluing of men in the media may be sending boys into a decline as they navigate increasingly uncertain and unfriendly waters. We know these things, but what are we doing to counteract them? These five factors affect boys throughout their adolescence and even into college. I work on a college campus. It saddens me to see the percentage of men attending college slowly dropping (down to roughly 40% of incoming classes this year), with even fewer sticking around to graduate. Even those men who do attend college perform much worse than their female counterparts – I’m talking GPAs 0.1 – 0.3 lower on average. We should be embarrassed by this, but instead we make excuses or dismiss striving for excellence as “unmanly” or “uncool”. If you’ve read any portion of this website, you know that Reach, striving to better yourself and those around you, is a mark of true manhood. Time to embrace that in college. It’s easy to offer excuses and to resist changing to fit how society provides education; what’s truly needed is men looking at how they can overcome or counter these limiting and damaging trends.

Once men graduate (if they graduate), they find themselves in the working world, a place where boy’s club and dog-eat-dog mentalities still rein. Rather than working together to accomplish things, men cling to a competitive mindset, where they view another’s success as a personal defeat. All signs point to our society becoming more collaborative, not less. We cannot continue to tear men or women down in our hurry to get to the top. We must be supportive, encouraging, everything our inner caveman doesn’t want us to be. And we must do this for everyone, not just the folks who look like or sound like us. It’s time to extend some of the manly virtue of Respect to everyone.

Finally, can we agree that all persons are deserving of respect? Even if they are *insert any negative descriptor here*, they are still human beings. When I think about respect, the most important issue that comes to mind is respect existing in a relationship. Respect is essential to a healthy, positive relationship, and especially necessary where sex is concerned. Now I know that in the heat of the moment, when your lizard brain takes over, that it’s hard to remember to respect the other person’s wishes and make sure they’re alright. But, just so we’re all on the same page – yes means yes; no doesn’t mean yes; maybe doesn’t mean yes; and certainly, silence doesn’t mean yes. Respecting someone requires you to actually ask, rather than making assumptions about what they want. I promise that having this respect for a partner will make everything in and out of the bedroom so much better!

I’m still a work in progress just as you are; I’m not perfect. But we have to stop hurting ourselves – believing in the “coolness” of not trying, leaving a pile of bodies or careers in our wake in our quest for triumph, and clinging selfishly to our rights in relationships. There are many other ways we hurt ourselves and the world, but let’s focus on how we can repair the world. We have to start Reaching, supporting, and Respecting. Then, and only then, can we begin to solve the problems we see and cure the dis-ease that is in us.

Yours in love,

MD
 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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