This month in Diversity Journal Club (#DiversityJC on Friday, 16 September, 2pm ET), we’ll be discussion this New York Times Column about teaching men to be emotionally honest.
And take it from me (Ian). It is hard to be emotionally open with other men– with everyone, really. Even those we know well.
One example of toxic masculinity is that article about the “advice” on a website about approaching women wearing headphones (the actual answer: don’t).
Andrew Reiner poses this question and assignment to his class on masculinity:
But wouldn’t encouraging men to embrace the full range of their humanity benefit women? Why do we continue to limit the emotional lives of males when it serves no one? This question is the rhetorical blueprint I pose to students before they begin what I call the “Real Man” experiment.
In this assignment, students engage strangers to explore, firsthand, the socialized norms of masculinity and to determine whether these norms encourage a healthy, sustainable identity.
The models men have in the United States are stoic, strong, favor action over contemplation, and most importantly, show no vulnerability. They may or may not also be angry, a facade of strength.
The radio show Backstory aired an episode about The American Work Ethic over labor day weekend. This episode brings up something key to (US) masculinity: Hard work. Providing. And an idea that seems increasingly less true: that hard work will pay off and be rewarded. The recession in 2008 and the slow recovery, and economic insecurity that still exists for many has left men with few outlets to express their vulnerability– and anger and abuse can come out instead.
Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability talks about how our culture- even women- often have a hard time hearing men being vulnerable and expressing emotion to their partners or loved ones. As she says, if a woman can sit with a man in true vulnerability, she’ll be showing you a woman that has done some real work (& yes, she has a reverse as well, where men really have to work at just listening to women and not trying to instantly fix everything).
Andrew Reiner notes that men commit suicide at 4 times the rate women do, are not as academically accomplished as women now, and as teenagers socially more unable to connect with others. That can also persist into adulthood.
Too many men are still walled off, isolated, and learn a form of masculinity where the only emotion acceptable is anger.
The Note to Self podcast had an episode with Lead parent, and Dad, Andrew Moravcsik, husband of Anna Marie Slaughter (who wrote the ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have it All’), about how we think about parenting, and integrating our work and home lives, having men being caretakers, a role still not traditional in the US. He points out how being lead ‘dad’, and how it has to be legitimized. He points out how some of the language and treatment of men as caretakers is akin to bias against women in the workplace (basically that there’s a perception that men can’t handle the school schedules, PTA meetings, etc- though they just haven’t been given opportunity to do so).
Similarly, men’s feelings, besides outrage, need to be able to come into the light and be legitimate (especially to other men).
If you want an example of what opening up, vulnerability, men talking about very real things with each other might look like, listen to this short Story Corps story: Guardians of The Gate where two Golden Gate Bridge workers talk about their job & pivot to talking about a really hard aspect of their job, encountering people intending to jump– it goes to my core and makes me cry every time I listen to it. These two have been colleagues and friends for 25 years.
So that’s what we’ll talk about this month in #DiversityJC on September 16 at 2pm ET.
How can we detoxify this form of masculinity Reiner writes about?
Who are men we might hold up as role models for men to emulate?
How do we legitimize and allow men to express themselves more often & to whom?
And what do you wish men knew about how their emotional distance and isolation translates to biases and abuse of women (& anyone else for that matter).
See you on the 16th.
Ian Street (@IHStreet)
Emily S Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)