Friday, April 18, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

For this week's Fitness Friday, we have an article on workout nutrition (before, during, and after), another opinion on Crossift, two articles from T-Nation - one on squatting, the other on shoulders - and we finish with an article from on core work.

First up, from Brian St. Pierre at Precision Nutrition, here is the newest thinking on workout nutrition, pre-, peri-, and post-. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, helped Biotest design some of the earliest effective post-workout nutrition products, and he has continued working in this realm ever since.

Workout nutrition: What to eat before, during, and after exercise

By Brian St. Pierre

We all know that what you eat is important. But what about when you eat? Especially if you’re active?

In this article, we’ll review the evidence on workout nutrition and give you practical recommendations for what to eat before, during, and after exercise.

Quick summary

By eating a healthy, well-considered meal 1-2 hours before exercise, and another healthy, well-considered meal within 1-2 hours after exercise, most people can meet their workout nutrition needs without anything else.

In other words:

If you’re a healthy person who exercises regularly, you probably don’t need special workout nutrition strategies.

Athletes have special needs

Of course, if you’re…
  • An endurance athlete. You train for high-level competition. You log a lot of high intensity miles each week. For you, carbohydrate and calorie needs are likely higher. You could add a protein + carbohydrate (P+C) drink during your training.
  • Training as a bodybuilder. You lift weights with serious muscle growth in mind. You want to gain weight. Your protein and calorie needs are likely higher. You could also add a protein + carbohydrate (P+C) drink during your training.
  • Getting ready for a fitness competition. You accumulate a lot of exercise hours. You’re trying to drop to a single-digit body fat percentage. For you, carb intake should be lower. You’d benefit from the performance-enhancing, muscle-preserving branched-chain-amino acids (BCAA) during your training.
Here’s a handy table that outlines our recommendations by goal and by body type.
Read the whole article.

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Here is another opinion on Crossfit, since everyone seems to have one. This time it's Dr. Jose Antonio, a well-known research in sports science.

CrossFit – My Fiddy Cents

By Jose Antonio PhD FISSN

I’ve been asked so much about CrossFit that I figured I’d share my fiddy cents worth. Now mind you, naysayers have suggested to me that “if you haven’t tried CrossFit, then you shouldn’t criticize it.” WTF? That’s the dumbest thing (okay, not the dumbest, but it’s in my top 25) I’ve ever heard. So let me use that sterling logic. If I can’t run a 9.9 sec 100 meter dash, then I can’t comment on sprinting. If I haven’t actually finished a marathon in 2 hr 30 min or less, then I can’t comment on that either. So only those who climb Mt Everest have an understanding of altitude physiology? And if you want to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, then I guess only dogs can comment on that. Those pre-conceived notions make about as much sense as fighting Mike Tyson with two arms tied behind your back. It’s just plain dumbass.

News Flash: if you understand the underlying physiology and biochemistry of any exercise or sport (i.e., overload, specificity, progression, etc), then you should be able to provide sound and evidence-based advice. It’s called SCIENCE.

Moving on.
Read the whole article.

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Two articles from T-Nation this week, one is a brutal way to improve your squats, and the other is from Eric Cressey on how to build "bullet-proof" shoulders.

The 185 Rep Squat Workout 

by Dennis Weis

Here's what you need to know...

•  High-rep squats were once a staple of legendary bodybuilders. Why? Because they worked!

•  High reps improve cardiovascular function, muscular bulk and definition, articulation and mobility of joints, coordination, and mental toughness.

•  Leg specialization of this kind has a tremendous anabolic effect on other muscle groups as well. Bodybuilders have experienced a solid 1-inch gain on their upper arms, usually accompanied by a 10-pound muscle mass gain.
Pain. Suffering. Lactic-acid paralysis. Some workouts not only tax your muscles and trigger hypertrophy, they also challenge your mental toughness, testing your courage and even your character. This is one of those workouts.

High-rep leg specialization is a badge of hardcore bodybuilding and will shred you down to the essence of who you are. My personal bests over the years were 305 x 75, 405 x 27, and 455 x 15 at a bodyweight of 212-pounds or under.

The dramatic training results of many old-school bodybuilding stars such as Steve Reeves, Larry Scott, Reg Park (who did up to 50 reps per set), John Grimek, and many others, is undeniable proof of the benefits of high reps. High reps improve cardiovascular function, respiratory efficiency, muscular bulk and definition, articulation and mobility of joints, coordination, and endurance. With high-rep back squats, your mind has to play a big part too, because they're just too damn hard to do without full-throated commitment.
Read the whole article.

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How to Build Bulletproof Shoulders

by Eric Cressey

Here's what you need to know...
•  Landmine presses are an effective "middle of the road"exercise between overhead work and true horizontal pressing exercises.

•  If you're dead-set on returning to barbell overhead pressing as you come back from a shoulder injury, test the waters with a bottoms-up kettlebell variation first.

•  Athletes need to earn the right to train lats. You aren't allowed to do pull-ups or pulldowns until you pass the back-to-wall shoulder flexion test. No exceptions allowed.

•  Don't train the rotator cuff to failure. Fatigue is your enemy when you're trying to establish a strong and effective rotator cuff.
A lot of athletes refer to me as the "Shoulder Guy." This is probably because I've personally evaluated more than 3,000 shoulders. With that experience comes a lot of new expertise in the shoulder arena. Below, you'll find three examples of new things we're doing to keep shoulders healthy and performing at high levels.
Read the whole article. By the way, for those who remember him, that is Lee Priest in the picture above. He used to advocate 25 sets of biceps curls in magazine articles (Flex usually). Insanity for anyone not loaded to the gills on steroids and growth hormone.

* * * * *


8 Moves For A Crazy-Strong Core

by Ben Bruno Apr 09, 2014


Many compound lifters scoff at abdominal exercises and argue that heavy squats and deadlifts work the core sufficiently. I think this is a mistake. Sure, the core gets taxed during heavy compound movements, but it's often the hidden weak link and limiting factor that keeps lifters from reaching new PRs.

In other words, a stronger core inevitably leads to bigger lifts. If it helps, think of it this way: Squats and deadlifts work the glutes and hamstrings a hell of a lot, but most serious lifters still do supplemental posterior chain work. Why should the core be any different?

There's a catch, though. Crunches, basic planks, and side planks aren't going to provide the stimulus necessary for strong lifters to get stronger, because they're simply too easy. You need to challenge yourself with difficult, high-tension core exercises to see improvement across the board.

Here are eight demanding exercises to take both your abdominal strength and your overall strength to the next level!

Read the whole article.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kozo Hattori - 5 Habits of Highly Compassionate Men


Excellent article. I resonate with the opening remarks of the author - I was a very sensitive child and would cry when the gazelle got caught by the lion on Wild Kingdom. Other situations, usually when someone felt shame or fear, also would lead to tears.

Like the author, years of being forced into the "man box" buried that sensitivity and it took years of therapy and Buddhist practice to rediscover it.

Future generations of boys should not have to go through that same soul-crushing experience.

Books mentioned below: Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson, PhD, Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy by Dr. Ted Zeff, Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan, From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality by Fr. Richard Rohr, and Raising Cain by Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon. 

Two books not mentioned below but very much worth reading: Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life by Darcher Keltner, and The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Fans de Waal.

5 Habits of Highly Compassionate Men

Having compassion leads to increased happiness, freedom from gender stereotypes, and better relationships with others.

by Kozo Hattori
posted Apr 02, 2014

This article originally appeared at Greater Good Berkeley.

Photo by Tom Beardshaw / Flickr.

I remember being a very compassionate child. While watching "The Little House on the Prairie," I cried my eyes out when Laura couldn’t give Pa a Christmas gift. But 12 years of physical abuse and being forced to the confines of the “act-like-a-man box” wrung most of that compassion out of me by the time I reached adulthood.

Although I was what therapists call “high-functioning,” my lack of compassion was like a cancer that poisoned my friendships, relationships, business affairs, and life. At the age of 46, I hit rock bottom. Unemployed and on the verge of divorce, I found myself slapping my four-year-old son’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me.

As a survivor of abuse, I had promised myself that I would never lay a hand on my children, but here I was abusing my beloved son.

I knew I had to change. I started with empathy, which led me to compassion. I committed to a daily meditation practice, took the CCARE Cultivating Compassion class at Stanford University, and completed a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I read and researched everything I could find on compassion.

I found that the more compassion I felt, the happier I became.

Convinced that I had found an essential ingredient to a happy and peaceful life, I started to interview scientific and spiritual experts on compassion, trying to find out what made a compassionate man. Interviewees included Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University; Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness; Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

From these interviews and research, I compiled a list of what makes a compassionate man.

1. Learn to see compassion as strength

Most events I attend that discuss compassion are predominately attended by women. When I asked Thich Nhat Hanh how we could make compassion more attractive to men, he answered, “There must be a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of compassion because compassion is very powerful … Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.”

Although many men in society see compassion and sympathy as feminine—which translates to a weakness in our patriarchal society—all of the compassionate men I interviewed view compassion as a strength.

Dr. Hanson noted how compassion makes one more courageous since compassion strengthens the heart—courage comes from the French word “coeur,” which means heart. Dacher Keltner argues that Darwin believed in “survival of the kindest,” not the fittest. Dr. Ted Zeff, author of the book Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy, believes that only compassionate men can save the planet. Zeff argues that “the time has come to break the outdated, rigid male code that insists that all men should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and unemotional”—an excellent description of the act-like-a-man box that I tried to live in.

The compassionate men I interviewed agree with the Dalai Lama when he said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

2. Have compassionate role models

All of the compassionate men seemed to have role models that supported their compassion instinct. Marc Brackett gives credit to his uncle, Marvin Maurer, who was a social studies teacher trying to instill emotional intelligence in his students before the term "emotional intelligence" was coined. Over 30 years after teaching in middle school, Maurer’s “Feeling Words Curriculum” acts as a key component of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence's RULER program. Similarly, Marshall Rosenberg, author of the book Nonviolent Communication, constantly mentions his compassionate uncle who cared for his dying grandmother.

A role model doesn’t necessarily have to be living, or even real. Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, cites Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi as a role model for compassion. Dr. Rick Hanson posits Ender from the science-fiction novel Ender’s Game as a compassionate role model. Certainly, Jesus and Buddha are obvious role models of compassion. The key is to treat them like role models.

Role models are not meant to be worshiped, deified, or prayed to. They are meant to be emulated. They pave the way for us to walk a similar path. Can we turn the other cheek and love our enemies like Jesus asked us? Can we transcend our ego and see all things as one, like the Buddha did?

In contrast are individuals who were not guided by positive role models. In his book From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality, Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes what he calls “father hunger”: “Thousands and thousands of men, young and old … grew up without a good man’s love, without a father’s understanding and affirmation.” Rohr, who was a jail chaplain for 14 years, claims that “the only universal pattern I found with men and women in jail was that they did not have a good father.”

Scott Kriens, former CEO of Juniper Networks and founder/director of the 1440 Foundation, concurs: “The most powerful thing we can do for our children is be the example we can hope for.”

3. Strive to transcend gender stereotypes

All of the compassionate men interviewed broke out of the "act-like-a-man" box. At a certain point in his life, Dr. Rick Hanson realized that he was too left-brained, so he made a conscious effort to reconnect with his intuitive, emotional side. When Elad Levinson, program director for Spirit Rock Meditation Center, first encountered loving-kindness and compassion practices, his first reaction was one he claims is fairly typical for men: “Come on! You are being a wuss, Levinson. No way are you going to sit here and wish yourself well.” So the actual practice of compassion instigated his breaking free from gender stereotypes.

Ted Zeff cites a study that found infant boys are more emotionally reactive than infant girls, but by the time a boy reaches five or six years old “he’s learned to repress every emotion except anger, because anger is the only emotion society tells a boy he is allowed to have.” If society restricts men’s emotional spectrum to anger alone, then it is obvious men need to transcend this conditioning to become compassionate.

Dr. Doty points to artificially defined roles as a major problem in our society because they prevent men from showing their vulnerability. “If you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t love,” says Doty. Vulnerability is a key to freedom from the "act-like-a-man" box, for it allows men to remove the armor of masculinity and authentically connect with others.

Both Dr. Doty and Scott Kriens emphasize authenticity as a necessary pathway to compassion. Kriens defines authenticity as “when someone is sharing what they believe as opposed to what they want you to believe.” This opens the door to compassion and true connection with others.

4. Cultivate emotional intelligence

In his book Raising Cain, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson argue that most boys are raised to be emotionally ignorant: “Lacking an emotional education, a boy meets the pressure of adolescence and that singularly cruel peer culture with the only responses he has learned and practiced—and that he know are socially acceptable—the typical ‘manly’ responses of anger, aggression, and emotional withdrawal.”

In contrast, most of the men I interviewed were “emotionally literate.” They seemed to see and feel things with the sensitivity of a Geiger counter. Tears welled up in Doty’s eyes a number of times when he talked about compassion. Hanson explained how he landed in adulthood “from the neck up” then spent a large part of his 20s becoming whole again. Much of Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself training that he developed for the employees of Google is based on emotional intelligence developed through attention training, self-knowledge, and self-mastery.

Similarly, Father Richard Rohr leads initiation groups for young men that force initiates to face pain, loneliness, boredom, and suffering to expand their emotional and spiritual capacity. It is no coincidence that these initiations are held in nature. Nature seems to be an important liminal space that allows boys and men to reconnect with their inner world. Dr. Hanson is an avid mountain climber. Ted Zeff advocates spending time in nature with boys to allow their sensitivity to develop.

5. Practice silence

Almost all of the men I interviewed regularly spend some time in silence. They’d hit “pause” so that they can see themselves and others more clearly. When our interview approached two hours, Dr. Rick Hanson asked to wrap it up so he would have time for his morning meditation. Meng Tan had just returned from a week-long silent meditation retreat a few days before our interview. Scott Kriens started a daily sitting and journaling practice almost ten years ago that he rigorously practices to this day.

Father Richard Rohr practices Christian contemplative prayer, which he says leads to a state of “undefended knowing” that transcends dualistic, us versus them thinking. Rohr argues that true compassion can’t happen without transcending dualistic thinking. “Silence teaches us not to rush to judgment,” says Rohr.

Self-awareness through mindfulness practices like meditation, silent prayer, or being in nature allow compassionate men to embrace suffering without reacting, resisting, or repressing. Thich Nhat Hanh says that mindfulness holds suffering tenderly “like a mother holding a baby.” That poetic image is backed up by more and more research, which is finding that mindfulness can help foster compassion for others.

So the path to making more compassionate men is clear: Understand compassion as a strength, get to know yourself, transcend gender roles, look for positive role models—and become one yourself. If that sounds too complicated, 84-year-old Marvin Maurer sums up being a compassionate man in five easy words, “Be in love with love.”

This article was originally written by Kozo Hattori, M.A., for Greater Good, where it originally appeared. Kozo is a writer and counselor at His current book project is titled Raising Compassionate Boys.

Read More

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shawn Smith - Why Men Feel Outmatched During Arguments with Women

I don't like the idea that men should be trying to make women happy - that is a sure route to misery and resentment. But there is good stuff here about the different ways men and women communicate - an issue I had frequently in an old relationship where she would be trying to talk about the process (HOW we communicate) and I would be trying to talk about the content (WHAT we are communicating about).

He phrases it differently below, but it's the same principle.

Why Men Feel Outmatched During Arguments with Women

“When we argue, it’s like I’m playing one-on-one against LeBron James.”

Published on March 27, 2014 by Shawn T. Smith, Psy.D. in Ironshrink

When a boy gets hurt, he’s likely to hear other males tell him to “walk it off.” Most men were taught early to squelch emotion and man up. Personally, I have no problem with these messages. I received plenty of them, and I’m glad of it. Stoicism is a useful skill. But unmoderated stoicism is a liability when it leaves us with a lack of emotional knowledge.

Insufficient emotional training leaves a lot of us men feeling outwitted and outmatched by women on matters of intimate connection – especially during arguments. As one man put it in my new book, “When we have an argument it’s like I’m playing one-on-one against LeBron James. Why do [women] have to win every argument?”

In my clinical experience, women tend to see a bigger relationship picture than men, and can more easily relate past events to current happenings. That’s not always true, and sometimes the roles are reversed, but I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve seen sidetracked into destructive and pointless arguments because he’s talking about what’s happening here and now, while she’s talking about larger patterns in the relationship.

Because she’s looking at the bigger picture, she may bring up past incidents during an argument, or even speculate about how the current problem will affect the future of the relationship.

That leaves a lot of guys feeling anxious in their relationships because arguments seem like contests for which they’re hopelessly ill-equipped. Many men have told me, in essence, that they feel stupid during arguments with the women in their lives because they don't seem to possess the same memory or insight into patterns.

That leaves a lot of guys feeling incredibly anxious about the relationship because they never know when they’ll have to (in their view) defend themselves for something they did or said long ago. Here’s a little excerpt from my book:

“A man who took my survey described one of the most common dynamics that discourages men from trying to make women happy: “They don’t forget anything. The old mistakes, the purchases that didn’t work out, the words said in anger—a guy can never take them back. Women always bring them back up in an argument. They won’t accept an apology and forget it.”

Bringing up past events in an argument is often an attempt to gain reassurance that old problems won’t be repeated in the future. It’s a problem-solving strategy designed to eradicate painful patterns.

But to the man on the receiving end, it can seem pointlessly aggressive, and it can cause the discussion to devolve into unproductive bickering over particular events rather than problematic patterns.

If one partner in an argument (often the man) is focused on present events, and the other (frequently the woman) is focused on patterns and history, each person is trying to solve a different problem. The partner who’s focused on patterns and history is likely to end up feeling unheard, and the one focused on the immediate problem is likely to fear forever being punished for past mistakes.

That’s precisely the fear that many men have described to me. As one man explained it, “When you remember our past mistakes but forget our successes, we think you expect us to be perfect.” This often compels men to retreat rather than face an impossible standard.”
In my experience working with couples, men tend to feel more comfortable in discussions when we know the ground rules and the goals. Women can help us by setting some guidelines at the outset of a difficult conversation, and letting us know whether they want to discuss the immediate problem, larger patterns, or concerns about the future.

Most of us men prefer to address one thing at a time during relationship discussions. Perhaps that’s a result of the relatively limited emotional training we received. In any case, we can end up feeling discouraged or hopeless when we’re chasing multiple problems at once and perceive that none of them are being solved. It doesn’t matter whether a couple discusses the past, the future, or the present – as long as both partners are on the same page, solving the same problem as a team.

* * * * *

My new book, The Woman’s Guide to How Men Think: Love, Commitment, and the Male Mind is available at Amazon, in stores and online at Barnes & Noble, and at other fine booksellers.

Related Links

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Alex Berg - Bisexual Culture Is No 'Fiction'

From Huffington Post, this article and podcast examines the basis of the recent New York Times Magazine article,  The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis.

I used to identify as bisexual, but not any more. It's another way to limit sexuality to a binary perspective. The new terms being used among those whose sexuality is more fluid than what a binary view allows, are pansexuality, or omnisexuality.

For now, at least, accepting bisexuality as a legitimate experience is a step in the correct direction.

Bisexual Culture Is No 'Fiction'

Alex Berg
Posted: 03/29/2014

In 'The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists,' the New York Times profiled scientific studies working to prove, once and for all, that bisexuality has a factual basis. Do bisexuals still need science to prove their sexuality is real?
Hosted by: Alex Berg
  • Anna Pulley (Oakland, CA) Bisexual Writer and Editor
  • Ellyn Ruthstrom (Boston, MA) President of the Bisexual Resource Center
  • Dr. Herukhuti (Brooklyn , NY) Clinical Sociologist; Founder, Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality
Bisexuals are "slutty." They're "men in denial about their homosexuality." Most of us are closet cases. We're "not a legitimate sexual orientation," in the eyes of 15 percent of heterosexual people. We're undermined by the "mysterious" female sexuality. We're "something you simply do," devoid of any parallel to gay culture. Sometimes, we're even "en vogue" because, you know, bisexuality is "the new black."

At least this is what the mainstream media would have you believe about us.

Last week, the New York Times Magazine featured a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis called 'The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists.' The story profiled the research of the American Institute of Bisexuality, which is responsible for funding much of the scientific research around our orientation. Though the piece didn't overtly question the very existence of bisexuality itself (the New York Times already did that in 2005), it focused largely on experiments that measure pupil dilation and genital arousal in search of concrete evidence of male bisexuality. Coupled with personal stories from mostly white, bisexual cis gender people (people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth), the research presented by Denizet-Lewis served as a reminder of the ease in which bisexual lived experiences are reduced to the offensive -- and untrue -- platitudes listed above.

Yet, while The New York Times story was imperfect for its failure to present diverse bisexual identities, a response to the piece on Slate titled 'Is Bisexual Identity a Useful Fiction?' posited whether bisexuality is more than "something you simply do" in part because "it's nearly impossible to imagine a developed bisexual culture at this point in time," according to writer Mark Joseph Stern. Stern, for his part, ultimately affirms the existence of bisexuality in men and women, but condemns the modern bisexual movement for failing culturally " articulate a coherent platform beyond its initial goals of recognition."

Even if these writers concede -- with hesitation of course -- that us bisexuals exist, now we do so without a cultural identity?

This might as well be the same as questioning our very existence -- it certainly translates into real life experiences that do. At it's best, it's when I'm viewed as little more than sexual meat by couples propositioning me on OkCupid, or when I'm accused of being too afraid to come out as gay. At its worst, it's precious media space devoted to how I'm perceived as "dirty," instead of exploring why 45 percent of bisexual women have contemplated or attempted suicide, why we're twice as likely to have an eating disorder compared to our lesbian counterparts and why, compared with straight women and lesbians, we have the highest rates of alcohol abuse instead.

But, I don't have to look to Slate or any other online magazine to know that when I tell people I identify as bisexual, it holds less cultural currency than when I say I'm simply "queer." Given that the term has been recently reclaimed from its pejorative roots, the political undertones are more obvious. Remove the word "bisexual" from my vocabulary, and I'm instantly more accepted in the lesbian scene; considered more dateable, and trustworthy, even. So, when in October, bisexual writer and editor Anna Pulley gave some compelling reasons in Salon why we ought to consider putting "the word to bed," it was hard to look away.

After all, "bisexual" is marked by strong negative connotations that perhaps a new term would present a re-birth for those of us with fluid identities. "I think people's attitudes toward bisexuals comprise the bigger obstacle to acceptance....We're Girls Gone Wild or giving you HIV or closet-cases taking advantage of straight privilege or stealing your boyfriend. These are hard stereotypes to fight because they're so pervasive and culturally ingrained, even among bisexuals ourselves," Pulley wrote me in an email last year. Then, the term is criticized within the queer community for being too binary. Pulley wrote in an email that "If you're involved with a person who's genderqueer, trans, or intersex, for instance, "bisexual" doesn't really cut it."

Given that "bisexual" triggers the world's-worst-dirty sex taboo, I wonder: Has this connotation, perpetuated by places like the New York Times and Slate, become so unshakeable that it's time to replace the term?

Absolutely not.

Bisexuality should, for once and all, be publicly understood under activist Robyn Ochs' definition: "I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted -- romantically and/or sexually -- to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree." While this definition itself encompasses all the identities of the LGBTQ community, in Slate, Stern wonders if its one unto itself: "Is bisexuality even an identity, in the way that homosexuality is?"

My bisexual identity is one that is defined by proudly challenging assumptions about sexuality altogether. Outsiders frequently judge my sexuality based on the gender of the person I'm with; in coming out to them as bisexual, through my capacity to love, I immediately challenge their notion of what makes a person LGBT. Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA, put it this way in a phone call this week, "People think one thing about bi people and the reality is different. That's what we talk about when we use bi-culture, how people see us being different than who we are." Equally as profound is the word's rich cultural and political legacy. Just look to last year's bisexual White House summit, which helped inspire Bisexual Health Awareness Month, and the many publications, musicians, manifestos and organizations dedicated to documenting the experiences of bisexual people. If these don't constitute a "coherent platform," what does?

Perhaps most proudly, bisexual culture represents intersectionality at its core. We are cis gender and trans people alike, among all of the other identities we intersect as 50 percent of the LGBT community. Cheltenham wrote me in an email last year that for her, "Bisexuality is not who I am, it is a component of my identity. As a black woman I have other aspects of my identity that will consistently affect my life. As a black American I am more likely to have poor health outcomes. As a woman I am more likely to be affected by sexism." So, when Stern insisted in Slate that it's time for the bisexual "movement to stop substantiating its own existence and start trying to give that existence the cultural substance it craves," it made me wish I could. In fact, I'd be more than happy to stop -- as soon as the media stops looking to scientific studies to prove we exist.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog stated that no people of color were interviewed for the New York Times piece. One person of color was quoted in the piece and and several were featured in the slideshow that accompanied the piece.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Men Have So Much Trouble Making Friends

For many men, the friends they make in high school or college are their friends for life, and they seem to struggle to add new men into the category friend. For even more men (straight men), once they get into a serious monogamous relationship they stop spending time with male friends and their female partner becomes their best friend and nearly constant companion. If the relationship fails, as so many do, the man is isolated and without support.

All of this is part of the genesis of men's groups. By sitting in circle with other men week after week, through jobs and relationships, there is a bond, a constancy that supports men in being true to themselves.

Without a men's group, the only real avenue for many men (besides the workplace) is sports - a softball team, a bowling team, golfing, maybe even playing pick up games at the local tennis or racquetball courts.

Why men have so much trouble making friends

Too often men are taught to be self-sufficient -- and it can hamper their ability to enjoy authentic relationships

Mark Greene, The Good Men Project
Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 
Jason Segel and Paul Rudd in "I Love You, Man" 

This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project

“Will you be my friend?” When is the last time you heard one man ask another that simple question? Little boys do it every day on the playground, but sometime around first grade, boys stop asking that question and they never ask it again. Because it quickly becomes an invitation for derision, sarcasm and rejection. Imagine, Frank walks into a bar. He approaches a group of men from work. One guy says, “Frank, meet Bob.” They all chat for a while and then Frank says brightly, “Bob! I’m glad I met you. I like you. How would you like to be my friend?”

Cue the shocked stares. Because Frank just broke the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule of male friendship. Don’t admit you want or need friends. Don’t admit you need anything. Be confident. Be self reliant. Only if you don’t need friends will you be worthy of having them.

The Question Men Won’t Ask

The reason most American men would never ask another man directly to enter into a friendship is because boys and men in American culture are given little or no opportunity in life to master this kind of interpersonal risk taking. It creates a moment of uncertainty that is agonizing for men. To ask for friendship suggests vulnerability, flexible social standing or even willingness to admit need. All values which are roundly condemned in men.

American men are taught from an early age to access friendships obliquely by joining clearly defined groups, teams or organizations. The opportunities for social contact arise in Boy Scouts, on baseball teams or in schools. This kind of social organizing aligns large populations of boys, teaching them to follow clear and simple rules of how to perform being a boy. Some organizations actually provide written hand books, manuals by which to determine rank, achievement, behavior and appropriate forms of expression. The Boy Scout handbook is one obvious example.

Within these organizations, even social stragglers are grudgingly allowed to remain part of the group regardless of their individual standing. Quickly, boys learn to self select their rank and standing within these organizations. Alphas at the top, socially awkward or needy boys at the bottom. Quickly, boys learn that advancing in the organization doesn’t require the higher skills of tracking nuance and uncertainty. Social risk taking is not rewarded. Being on top simply requires the application of confidence and assertion and a willingness to perform masculinity according to what is normative.

In this way, boys are taught to express a simplified social identity by virtue of their organizational associations. By extension, friendships formed in these organizations are also expressed in restricted and simplified ways. They are friendships that encourage conformity and avoid interpersonal authenticity.

Safety First

In adulthood, men continue to seek friends in the safe but highly conforming contexts of work, team sports, church, or their wives’s social and familial connections. They become friends with the parents they meet at the PTA. They rely on the Lions Club, fraternity or their son’s scout troop. They connect by way of the organizations they embed themselves in, tracking and performing friendship in the ways that are collectively deemed normative.

Because these friendships are sourced in organizations, men keep much of their uniqueness hidden and cleave close to what is culturally normative for those institutions. This creates a high degree of homogeneity in how men express, engage and perform masculine friendship. Joe is my friend because Joe comes to bowling every week, not because Joe is necessarily someone I connect with on any other level. These kind of risk free proximity based friendships can leave men feeling disconnected, hidden or unfulfilled emotionally. Organizational conformity guarantees belonging not expression.

Which is why for men, when their participation in any given organization ends, the relationships or friendships embedded in those organizations often end as well, unless emotional authenticity develops. Emotional authenticity is the glue that holds friendships together. Without it, they are too shallow and fragile to survive beyond simple convenience.

Welcome to the Man Box

In the absence of emotional authenticity, American men become homogeneous in their expression of self. This encourages their location, willingly or otherwise, in what many writers have come to call the Man Box. The Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is, particularly in American culture. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is a breadwinner. He is heterosexual. He is able-bodied. He plays or watches sports. He is the dominant participant in every exchange. He is a firefighter, a lawyer, a CEO. He is a man’s man. This “real man”, as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity.

Men will ask women to have sex and take a “no” without skipping a beat. Men will ask a customer to buy a product, and take “no” as just part of the territory. But asking another man to “please be my friend”, represents social risk taking that’s just too potentially frightening to attempt. Because, in the moment a man asks this question, he has failed to be what all men are expected to be. He has failed to be, and pay close attention to the word I’m using here, competent.

Men move in circles of competence. This competency component is central to how men are ranked in the institutions they relay on for social connection; in sports, at work and in every garage and backyard BBQ in the country. We approach each other not just in terms of common interests, but in terms of our competency in those areas. Knowing how matters.

On top of that, we approach with our personal business wired tight and fully formed. We are successful, smart, happy and full of advice on how to correctly do what needs to be done. By extension, we already have plenty of friendships which spring fully formed into our lives, born magically out of our raw manly charisma and charm.

Trained to Hide Behind What We Can Leverage

The male focus on competence in social situations is tied to our belief that our chances of success socially increase when underpinned by something we can leverage. Our position in the company. Our financial success. Our skill at golf. Our willingness to advance the goals of the organization. Something other than the simple fact of who we are.

We lead with: “You’ll want to be my friend because of what I can provide, not because of who I am.” And men carry this same dynamic into their romantic relationships, often leading with the “good provider” story. It’s why we pay for dinner on the first date. It’s rooted in opening doors and providing service to women. Because somewhere deep down, we’re worried we’re not enough without the financial or service element. Or worse, because we want to hold various forms of leverage in any relationship we enter.

Either way, its ultimately about male insecurity. Male insecurity born out of the fact that we have never been taught to lead with our own authentic emotional selves. Seeking friendship by offering what others can leverage is the central transactional skill boys are being taught from childhood. Buying our way in, instead of offering who we are as human beings, sets up a circular pattern by which men are always expected to bring, contribute, produce, provide.

In order to avoid interpersonal vulnerability, men are often convinced its easier buy their way into relationships in this transactional way. As if simply offering ourselves is too scary. This is why men are encouraged to be good providers. And its why we often take the bait. Collectively, we are raising men to feel insecure unless they can bring their transactional leverage. And its a lesson we were not taught by the women we date as adults, but by the boys we were first grouped with as children. That said, men and women alike participate in this generational cycle of emotional suppression. It’s pay to play.

So we take our personal stories off the table and put our competence, our networks and our alpha narratives up front. For men, if our friendships are exclusively about confidence and competence, then, by definition, they can not be very authentic. Because no one is competent across the board. No one is completely without uncertainty or confusion.

Uncertainty = Courage = Friendship

When you share your uncertainty, you start asking much bigger questions. And it is in those conversations that one speaks with honesty and authenticity. Because engaging uncertainty is the highest form of courage, in doing so, we move toward certainty of a much deeper and more resilient kind.

If friendships in men’s lives seem shallow and transitory, it is because so many of those relationships are emotionally risk free and as such, lacking in authenticity. And authenticity is the glue that holds deeper more long term friendships together.

Accordingly, I, for one, am seeking friendship in more individualized and direct ways. Outside my immediate networks, where everyone I meet is more likely to be like me. I going to look for friends away from my comfort zones. I’m going to take some risks, because the bland landscape of social conformity is not enough for me. And never has been.

If I get a “no thanks” I’m going to just move on and keep trying. I’m not going to lead anymore with something transactional that I think might be of value. Not my network. Not my business connections. Not my ability to earn approval by conforming to some set of expectations or common goals. Out front of all that, I’m just offering me. Myself. Because I’m proud of who I am. Getting here took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And I’m not going to hide it just to insure others are universally comfortable with their choices.

Above all, I want to live a good life. I want to take risks. I want to be who I’m becoming. And continue to make more authentic, emotionally vibrant friends.

~ More Mark Greene.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

10 Percent of Gay Craigslist Ads Seek Men Who Don't Identify as Gay


Curious . . . human sexuality is an interesting and complex phenomenon. The ad above is a reverse on the study below. I know a younger gay man who hooks up with men through chat rooms, but a lot of the guys he sees are straight-identified and often in hetero relationships.

10 percent of gay Craigslist ads seek men who don't identify as gay

Posted By News On March 24, 2014  
Online sexual hook-ups may present a unique opportunity to explore many factors of decision-making that inform sexual health, according to an analysis conducted by Eric Schrimshaw, PhD, at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Martin J. Downing, Jr., PhD, of the National Development and Research Institutes.

They found evidence that men having sex with men use the Internet to find sexual partners who do not identify as gay, either to fulfill a fantasy or because it allows anonymous sexual encounters without discovery. The findings are in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

To examine the subgroup of men seeking non-gay-identified (NGI) men in the online sexual marketplace, the researchers reviewed 1,200 Internet personal ads posted on Craigslist and selected 282 for analysis and performed comparisons of two categories of personal ads: those seeking encounters with NGI men, including straight, bisexual, married, curious, and men on the "down low" (those who usually identify as heterosexual but have sex with men); and a contrasting set of ads that did not specifically seek NGI men. Craigslist was chosen because it is publicly accessible, highly trafficked, free-of-charge, and widely used by gay, NGI men seeking men, or men who have sex with men and women to find sexual partners.

Among the ads studied, 11% were placed by men seeking NGI partners. Although men who posted NGI-seeking ads were more likely to self-identify as bisexual, married, and/or discreet and to seek out an anonymous encounter relative to the ads of comparison men, only 24% of online advertisements seeking NGI men were posted by men who were themselves non-gay-identified. This suggests that many of the posts are placed by gay men seeking NGI men, perceived by some gay men to be more masculine, dominant, or "straight-acting."

Only a small number of ads by NGI-seeking men mentioned safe sex or condom use. The analysis revealed that men seeking NGI partners were significantly less likely to mention that they wanted to have safer sex/use condoms (15% vs. 33%) and were more likely (66% vs. 42%) to omit mention of condoms or safer sex in their advertisements. "This suggests that these men are more likely to be looking for and willing to engage in sex without a condom which may place them at greater risk for HIV/STI transmission than men who are not seeking non-gay-identified male partners," said Dr. Schrimshaw, who is assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Although few advertisements posted by men seeking NGI partners specifically sought anal sex without a condom (1% vs. 2%), they were significantly more likely to seek oral sex without a condom (14% vs. 5%) than comparison advertisements. "Future research on NGI-seeking men could lead to better understanding of their risk behaviors which, in turn, could be helpful for developing and targeting HIV/STD prevention and intervention efforts," noted Dr. Schrimshaw.

"Men having sex with men with characteristics that are devalued in the sexual marketplace such as older, heavier, or less masculine men will perhaps have less bargaining power, or at least perceive themselves as having less power, therefore, they may be willing to place themselves at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases to obtain a sexual partner," said Dr. Downing. These findings suggest that men may be even more willing to do this with NGI men.

The findings have unique implications for sexual health research targeting non-disclosing, NGI MSM and their same-sex partners. The authors note that further investigation is warranted to determine the extent to which NGI-seeking men are successful in finding partners for same-sex encounters who identify as straight or heterosexual, bisexual, down-low, or married as well as the types of behaviors these men engage in and the level of sexual risk.

"Regardless of any study limitations, the research has allowed us to document the existence of a subgroup of men who actively seek out sexual encounters with men who do not identify as gay," said Dr. Schrimshaw. "Moreover, the findings suggest that men with a preference for NGI men attempt to alert such prospective partners through a combination of self-described characteristics, desired partner attributes, and behavioral preferences, all of which serve to attract more discreet and masculine men. Given the attention to the sexual behaviors of NGI MSM, the results of this study support the need for additional research to investigate the behavioral outcomes of NGI-seeking men's personal ads."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fitness Friday - Fitness News and Information You Can Use

For this week's edition of Fitness Friday, I am clearing out some older links. We have an article on why steady state cardio sucks, by Rachel Cosgrove, one on burning fat with high intensity intervals using weights, and two different pieces on suspension rings (for pistols and for push ups).


The first one is from T-Nation this previous week.

The Death of Steady State Cardio

by Rachel Cosgrove   

Here's what you need to know...
  Ironically, spending 20 hours a week in the "fat burning zone" leads to very little fat loss and a lot of muscle loss. The result? Looking like a flabby runner.
•  Steady state cardio should be reserved for endurance athletes, not for those seeking fat loss and awesome body composition. Physique competitors don't even need traditional long-duration cardio.
•  Metabolic interval training can be made even better with advanced work-to-recovery ratios and a few select tools.
Back in 2008, I wrote a controversial article for T Nation: The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin. In it, I talked about how my body composition suffered when training for an Ironman Triathlon. Despite twenty hours per week of endurance training, time spent mostly in the so-called "fat burning zone", I barely lost any fat and definitely lost muscle, even with a controlled diet plan and a couple of weight training sessions per week.

This solidified my belief that steady-state aerobics is absolutely, completely, utterly ineffective for fat loss. Long, steady-state endurance is not the answer for a defined, lean physique, and it's a waste of time if your goal is long term fat loss. Endurance work is only the answer if your goal is to compete in an endurance event, not if you want to actually look your best. If you want to lose fat but not look like a soft endurance athlete, metabolic interval training is the way to go.

That was five years ago. Have I changed my mind? And what have I learned since then as a coach, gym owner, and yes, as a woman who still competes in endurance events? Let's discuss.

* * * * *

Progressing the Pistol Using the Rings: Why I Was Wrong (Video)

Time for a rebuttal. Previously, I made a video that was condescending about the ring pistol. I've changed my mind, and here's why. I've worked out that in the bottom of air squat, or progressions using the air squat, your shin is as vertical as possible. However, in the pistol squat, your shin is at an angle.

We need to educate our ankle to go through that range of movement. If we don't we'll never get the full movement. I didn't like the ring pistol progression previously because it involved a cheat of pulling yourself up with the rings. But I've come to realise that's not necessarily a bad thing, as we're mostly concerned with the ankle. The rings help to get us there.

However, remember that you don't need to go to rock bottom with these. We don't with all the other types of squat we do, so why would we with the pistol?

If this ring pistol progression is a real struggle, take it back a step. Put your heel on a plate, and build up the required ankle mobility from there. This particular drill has really helped me, I hope it does the same for you.

* * * * *

Another one from T-Nation, by Dan John, back in January.

Maximal Fat Loss, Minimal Equipment

by Dan John   

Here's what you need to know...

• The better you get at an exercise, the less effective it becomes as a fat-burner.
• Combining ground-based exercise like push-ups or planks with kettlebell swings can make for a fast and effective fat-burning workout.
• For a complete program, mix planks or push-ups with sprints of various distances.
There's a funny thing you start to notice about exercise and fat loss: the better you get at the movement, the less effective the exercise becomes for burning fat. We can see this odd phenomenon in every discipline, from performance to group aerobics – people slowly getting chubbier and chubbier as they continue to train.
It comes down to efficiency, or lack of it. You see, fat loss exercise has to be inefficient.

There's a simple way to rediscover the joys and sorrows of inefficiency and it's literally at your feet – it's the ground. If you get on the ground and then get off the ground, you'll stimulate a lot of fat loss. It's really quite surprising. As such, I present the following fat-loss combos, each designed around kissing the good Earth.
* * * * *

This is a guest post from Jason Ferruggia's blog, from back in February I believe. If you enjoy the rings as much as I do, this is some cool stuff.

5 Ring Pushup Progressions

Guest Post By Rob King

Back in Feb 2012 I ventured from my home town of Newfoundland, a cold rock in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, to venture to another cold place and home of Renegade Gym, New Jersey.

I wasn’t going “down south” as we call it here when we want to escape the cold wet weather of Newfoundland, I was going on an mission to meet a guy that his impacted my life and training, that is Jason Ferruggia.

My girlfriend and I had booked up 2 spots in Jay’s Renegade Workshop and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Renegade Gym and to learn from one of the best in our industry. To be one of the best you have to LEARN from the best.

As I tell my students, always be a student and never stop learning.

Over those two days we got to have a lot of fun learning a ton about foam rolling, strength training, squatting, deadlifting, val slides, HIT cardio and more.

One of the coolest things I learned that weekend were using the rings for certain exercises. We had rings at my gym HWTC but I really didn’t know much about them.

That weekend we learned and practiced a wide variety of exercises from basic to advanced.

One of my favorites was the simple ring push up.

Once I got back to HWTC I started adding more rings and ring exercises into my workouts and my clients workouts.

One thing about my gym is that we do classes of anywhere from 12-25 people in a class mixing different body types and strength levels.

My goal in every class is to challenge EVERYONE which is not easy, but can be done.

So now for every exercise I have a set of progressions & regressions.

Here are 5 Ring Push Up Progressions I use with my students.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why Derrick Gordon Coming Out is Important, and a Story

Jason Collins was the first active NBA player to come out; Michael Sam was the first Division I NCAA football player to come out; and now Derrick Gordon is the first Division I NCAA men's basketball player to come up.

Some people seem to think it's no big deal, and it shouldn't be - no one should give a rat's ass about anyone else's sexuality if the other person is not being evangelical. But that's not the world we live in, and that is certainly not the world of male sports. So, kudos to Mr. Gordon for showing other young men it is okay to be yourself - gay, straight, or somewhere in between.

Why Derrick Gordon Coming Out is Important, and a Story

April 9, 2014

Derrick Gordon first realized he was gay in middle school but never told anybody until earlier this month. He's now 22 years old. So the UMass guard has been hiding things from his family and friends for nearly a decade, and, by Gordon's own admission, he didn't figure he'd publicly disclose his sexual orientation for at least another three or four years.

But then NBA veteran Jason Collins came out last year.

And ...

"When he came out I wanted to come out the next day," Gordon said in an interview conducted by Kate Fagan that was broadcast nationally on Wednesday. "It was a relief."

And that, quite simply, is why Gordon's story is a huge and important story.

Because his story might help somebody else the way Collins' story helped him.

"[Collins] was getting subbed into [an NBA] game [as an openly gay man], and everybody stood up and started clapping," Gordon said. "And I was visualizing ... that being me. ... I just kept replaying it over and over again. ... And that definitely put a huge smile on my face."

Over the past year we've now had three examples of prominent male athletes publicly acknowledging that they're gay, and each time somebody on Twitter or a message board has been compelled to ask why this is a story. It happened when Collins came out. It happened again when Missouri football player Michael Sam came out. It happened again early Wednesday, when Gordon, a starter on the UMass team that made this season's NCAA Tournament, came out, and I get so frustrated every time somebody asks this question.

Are you one of those people?

Are you somebody who asks why this is a story?

UMass guard Derrick Gordon's decision to come out is important beyond college basketball. (USATSI)

If so, take eight minutes, watch this interview, and then, presumably, you'll never ask that question again because what you'll realize is that Gordon wouldn't be able to live honestly if not for Collins' story first being a story. There had never been an openly gay man in the NBA until Collins just like there had never been an openly gay man in Division I football until Sam just like there had never been an openly gay man in Division I basketball until Gordon, and it's naive to think one very public announcement didn't help trigger the next. In fact, Gordon was quite clear in stating that without Collins' story he'd almost certainly still be in the closet, and he was quite clear in stating that being in the closet was an awful way to live.

"I want to be myself," Gordon said. "I don't want to be somebody that I'm not."

Now, Gordon can be himself.

He doesn't have to hide anything anymore.

And the only reason Gordon ever felt comfortable enough to take this step is because he saw the way Collins and Sam have been treated by teammates and fans in recent months, and the only reason he saw that is because their stories were stories. This is still all so new, you know? So it doesn't matter whether you care or do not care if a player is gay. What matters is that there's another young gay athlete somewhere who will feel empowered to come out because of Gordon's story the same way Gordon was empowered by Collins' story.

And I'll take it a step farther.

Is it foolish to think that Gordon's teammates at UMass are more accepting of the news than they might've otherwise been because of the way they saw the Brooklyn Nets accept Collins? Is it farfetched to suggest that the way future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce publicly handled that situation helped the UMass players better handle this situation?

I don't think it is.

I think all of these stories are connected.

And that's why anybody suggesting these stories aren't stories is wildly missing the point. Again, Collins' story helped pave the way for Sam's story, and those stories helped pave the way for Gordon's story. Across the board, those three men now say they're happier than they've ever been, and watching them be accepted will undoubtedly help somebody else, which is why these important stories deserve every headline they can possibly get.

~ Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conversation: What About the Men?

This "conversation" - What about the men? - comes from the conference The Shriver Report LIVE.

Conversation: What About the Men?

Conversation: What About the Men? from The Atlantic on

Spoken Poetry: Introducing the Role of Men with Kane Smego, Poet
Moderated by: David Gregory, Host, Meet the Press
Kathryn Edin, Author, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City
Michael Kimmel, Professor, Stony Brook University
Tony Porter, Co-Founder, A Call to Men


Kathryn Edin is Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Kennedy School of Government and a Faculty Affiliate with the Sociology Department at Harvard University. She is the coauthor of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage and Making Ends Meet: How Low Income Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low Wage Work. Timothy Nelson is Lecturer in Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church.

David Gregory is the moderator of "Meet the Press," America's longest-running television program. Since taking the helm in December 2008, the program has maintained its tradition as must-see television for politics and public policy, setting the agenda and asking the tough questions of elected officials and candidates on such issues as the economy, budget, foreign and political campaigns.

Michael Kimmel is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University in New York. He is also the executive director at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. An author or editor of more than twenty books, including Manhood in America, The Gendered Society, The History of Men, and Guyland, he lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.

Tony Porter is an educator, activist and lecturer who has been working in the social justice arena for over twenty years. He is both nationally and internationally recognized for his effort to end men's violence against women and promote healthy and respectful manhood. Tony is the co-founder and co-director of A CALL TO MEN: The Next Generation of Manhood. He is the author of "Well Meaning Men... Breaking Out of the Man Box - Ending Violence Against women" and visionary for the book, "NFL Dads: dedicated to Daughters".

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Men on the Edge of Panic: Boomer Esiason, Mike Francesa and Toxic Masculinity (The Nation)

Tori and Daniel Murphy

A little background may be necessary here for those who do not follow baseball (like me). Recently, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets received a LOT of criticism for taking paternity leave that caused him to miss opening day. In essence, he getting blasted for choosing to be with his wife for the birth of their child rather than play in the opening day game (1 of 162 games each season).

Former NFL quarterback stuck his foot so far down his throat that he had to issue a very contrite apology.

Yesterday's post looked at the ways paternity leave is changing for men. So here is some response from David Zirin at The Nation on this issue.

Men on the Edge of Panic: Boomer Esiason, Mike Francesa and Toxic Masculinity

Dave Zirin on April 7, 2014

Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets received criticism for taking paternity leave this week. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This is not another shooting-fish-in-a-barrel commentary about the antediluvian swinishness of Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa. This is not another swipe at their comments criticizing the efforts of Mets second basemen Daniel Murphy for missing opening day to be with his wife for the birth of their child. For those who missed it, Esiason opined, “I would have said, ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry, this is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to, because I’m a baseball player.’”

Fellow troglodytic troll of the NYC sports radio airwaves Mike Francesa commented, “You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse.” Francesa also called the paternity leave at his own company “a scam-and-a-half.”

Many have verbally stomped them for the nature of their comments—well done, Chris Hayes—and Esiason also issued a fulsome apology.

I spoke to my friend Martha, who is a midwife—and a Mets fan—about their comments. She said simply, “I would ask if they knew how it sounded, talking about this woman like she is a human incubator to be cut open in a dangerous, often unnecessary surgical procedure so Murphy can make it to Citi Field on time. I would ask that, but honestly, if you can’t see why the asshole-levels on these comments are off the charts, then I can’t help you.”

I also spoke with Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL player and someone who has devoted his life to challenging the ways in which sports have the capacity to communicate a toxic, destructive brand of masculinity. Ehrmann said, “I think these comments are pretty shortsighted and reflect old school thinking about masculinity and fatherhood. Paternity leave is critical in helping dads create life long bonding and sharing in the responsibilities of raising emotionally healthy children. To miss the life altering experience of ‘co-laboring’ in a delivery room due to nonessential work-related responsibilities is to create false values.”

Ehrmann also pointed out the ways in which these statements create a culture that normalizes the alienation between fathers and children. He said, “Comments like these put every man in a position to think about career and co workers opinions ahead of father/husband/partner roles. So even in companies with paternity leave, many new dads won’t or feel like they can’t take advantage of leave without a stigma being attached to them…. This is one more arena where sports/athletes could be a metaphor for social change and elevate the birth/nurture/fatherhood role and responsibilities over work.”

He then said to me that this kind of sexist mentality not only harms families, not only harms men, but also quite specifically harms athletes. “I’m convinced the number-one common denominator in locker rooms is father-child dysfunction,” he said. “It’s what pathologically elevates many performances. ‘I will prove to [the coach/father figure] I am worthy of my dad’s love and acceptance,’ at the expense of self and others. If any group should understand need for dads in delivery rooms it should be athletes and the athletic world.”

I would also add that the only reason Daniel Murphy even had the option to take this time off is because it was collectively bargained into his contract by his union. There are millions of men in nonunion jobs who don’t even have this option, not to mention millions of women who risk their employment in the United States by taking time off after the birth of their child.

I think there is something else going on as well. The comments from Boomer and Francesa smack of a kind of existential fear from an older generation of sports radio jockeys about the ways in which definitions of masculinity and sports have been rapidly changing. There have been two dominant kinds of masculine archetypes for the last thirty years in sports. Either you could be heterosexual, misogynist, talking loudly but saying nothing with a goal of trying to become a commercial brand; or you could be a heterosexual evangelical Christian, talking humbly with a goal of trying to become a commercial brand. Those who strayed outside of these norms have only done so with considerable risk to their standing in the media or even their job.

But in the last two years, these archetypes have changed. We have seen players such as Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers and Michael Sam break new ground as gay athletes. We have seen Royce White and Brandon Marshall speak out about their mental health challenges and show that this kind of openness does not demonstrate weakness but courage. We have a new cultural consensus that does not see concussions as a bizarre badge of honor but a danger sign. We’ve had Jonathan Martin go public about being bullied by teammates, forcing the NFL to confront long-standing locker-room behaviors. Poisonous, narrow definitions of masculinity are being challenged. A player’s missing opening day to be with his wife on the birth of their child clearly caused Boomer’s and Francesa’s brains to rupture. Their idealized sports world as a masculinist cocoon absent of progress and insulated from the real world, where every day is 1985 (or even 1955), is withering before their eyes. People are deciding that ruining your life and your relationship with family in the name of a code that impresses the Mike Francesas of the world isn’t worth it. This is progress, but as in any time when we see progressive healthy change, the hounds of reaction will still nip at its heels.