Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Paul Rosenberg on David Brooks’ and Chuck Todd's Twisted Rhetoric on Obama's “Manhood Problem" (Salon)

This kind of nonsense is infuriating. Because President Obama does not want to engage militarily with Russia to force them out of the Ukraine, then somehow Obama is not really an "alpha male" (Todd) and has a "manhood problem" (Brooks).

For perspective, this is what Steve Benen noted at Maddowblog noted about Obama's use of force as president:
It was this president who escalated the use of force against al Qaeda; it was this president that launched the mission that killed bin Laden; it was this president who increased the use of predator drones to strike at terrorist suspects (including killing Americans affiliated with al Qaeda living abroad); it was this president who helped assemble an international coalition to strike at the Gadhafi regime in Libya; and on and on.
Far from being a pacifist based on this record. Perhaps his rhetoric is not he cowboy bravado we
heard from Bush, or that we are getting from Putin, but talk is cheap. Bush bungled the whole 9/11 response, and Obama has cleaned up the mess, and in fact has taken even broader steps in the futile "war on terror."

In fact, Obama has been so willing to use force that does not endanger American soldiers that the far left in this country (what there is of it) has called him a thug - which is white code for a scary black man.

When one is a pragmatist and a realist, looking often for the middle way through conflict, neither side is going to support such an agenda - the conservatives brand him unmanly and the liberals brand him a brutish man. It's a no-win public image war, so one might as well do what he things is best.

David Brooks’ twisted “manhood”: Questioning Obama’s masculinity isn’t just racist, it’s wrong

Obama foreign policy's rooted in successful realist tradition. Questioning his manhood is rooted in white supremacy

Paul Rosenberg |

Chuck Todd, David Brooks (Credit: NBC News/AP/Nam Y. Huh)

This just in: New York Times columnist David Brooks and NBC’s Chuck Todd want you to know that President Obama has “a manhood problem” — or at least the appearance of one. That’s the conclusion the two white men reached on “Meet the Press” on Sunday (transcript), following comments by another white man, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker warned, “I think we’re going to lose eastern Ukraine,” which would be “a geopolitical disaster,” resulting from “an era of permissiveness the U.S. has created around the world.”

But that perception doesn’t only belong to Republicans. No, it was international, Brooks claimed:
Basically since Yalta we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders and once that comes into question if in Ukraine or in Crimea or anywhere else, then all over the world all bets are off. And let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a — I’ll say it crudely — but a manhood problem in the Middle East. (editor’s note: the bolding is ours) Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad or somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair but certainly in the Middle East there is an assumption that he’s not tough enough.
And Todd asserted that the Obama administration itself shared this perception:
By the way, internally, they fear this. You know, it’s not just Bob Corker saying it, okay, questioning whether the president is being alpha male. That’s essentially what he’s saying: He’s not alpha dog enough. His rhetoric isn’t tough enough. (blogger's note: bolding is mine) They agree with the policy decisions that they’re making. Nobody is saying– but it is sort of the rhetoric. Internally this is a question.
Here’s the video:

Of course, Todd provided no sourcing for this claim. He wouldn’t be an insider if he didn’t depend on sources he can’t name. It’s such a manly way to do politics, sniping from the shadows.

There’s so much BS involved here, one hardly knows where to start. Because it can cloud out everything else, it’s best to hold back the black masculinity aspect, and start with foreign policy facts. First off, as Steve Benen noted at Maddowblog, the assumption Obama is “not tough enough” flies in the face of “overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” even using Brooks-approved standards:
It was this president who escalated the use of force against al Qaeda; it was this president that launched the mission that killed bin Laden; it was this president who increased the use of predator drones to strike at terrorist suspects (including killing Americans affiliated with al Qaeda living abroad); it was this president who helped assemble an international coalition to strike at the Gadhafi regime in Libya; and on and on.

If you knew literally nothing about the last five years, you might hear this chatter about “manhood” and “alpha males” and assume that President Obama was a pacifist, reluctant to use military force under any circumstances. But given what we know about what actually happened over the last five years, the scuttlebutt is just bizarre.
What Obama actually is — Surprise! Surprise! — is a foreign policy realist, which is to say he belongs to the sober mainstream of U.S. foreign policy thinking since World War II. The realists stand in stark contrast to the neocons, along with their deluded sidekicks, the liberal hawks. As Stephen Walt explained last week in Foreign Policy, realists have often come off as doves, because war is almost always a bad idea from a levelheaded realist perspective, particularly for a superpower as dominant as the U.S. has been since 1945.

“For realists, international politics takes place in a dog-eat-dog world, where states keep a wary eye on potential rivals and constantly seek ways to improve their own positions,” Walt wrote, but he goes on to outline “four obvious reasons why realists are inclined to be dovish, especially here in the United States.” The first is that “realism encourages close attention to the material elements of power,” which have favored the U.S. ever since the end of World War II. During the Cold War, Walt notes, “The Soviet economy was much smaller and less efficient than America’s and its allies were also less powerful or reliable than ours.” We were sure to prevail in the long run, provided we didn’t undo ourselves “through bloated defense budgets or foolish foreign adventures.” Putin’s Russia, obviously, is far less powerful than the Soviet Union. The realist logic is stronger than ever.

Walt’s second point is the realist belief that “states tend to balance against threats rather than bandwagon with them.” Faced with clear-cut aggression, it’s relatively easy to pull together a strong coalition — become the aggressors, even just arguably, and the logic reverses against you. Hence, realists “understood that other states might take various steps to counter the United States if it threw its own weight around too often or too carelessly.” What’s more, far from bolstering your credibility, belligerence could be counterproductive: “realists understood that wasting resources on pointless wars might actually undermine your credibility, especially if it left the nation weaker or war-weary.”

Walt’s third point is so obvious — “[R]ealists also understand that war was an unpredictable business, and even powerful states sometimes blunder into costly conflicts” — that it only needs a one-word explication: Vietnam.

But Walt’s fourth point may be the most telling, for situating foreign policy in a domestic political framework: “[R]ealists are less prone to demonize opponents because they recognize that all states face competitive pressures and that most countries will act ruthlessly in order to protect their interests.”

For conservatives, however, demonizing opponents, and implicating them all in each other’s bad deeds, is the whole point, the very essence of their tribal politics. After 9/11, neocons came to the fore because their enemy “other” was most readily demonized — even if Saddam Hussein was actually bin Laden’s bitterest ideological foe. Things have changed a lot since then, as other demonizing frameworks have been deployed against Obama. A favorite one — Obama himself as Hitler — clashes violently with the notion of Obama as an incompetent weakling. But demonizing narratives don’t have to be consistent, so long as they are consistently frightening to the point that rational thought becomes impossible. And that’s what we see from conservatives today.

The racial aspect adds another dimension. Obama’s entire political career has been defined by pushing back against the “threatening, black alpha-male” stereotype. Conciliation, not confrontation, is not just his style, but the core of his substance as well. The slightest break from this stance can trigger immediate backlash — as was seen in the knee-jerk response to his comment saying police acted “stupidly” when they arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for trespassing in his own home. Since then, conservative activists and media have manufactured countless similar offenses as Obama has consistently failed to produce them himself. He has a “deep-seated hatred of white people,” as Glenn Beck alleged, without a scintilla of evidence, when Obama held his “beer summit” to atone for his momentary lapse of inconvenient truth-telling. And that has been the right-wing narrative subtext ever since. But the textual evidence has been virtually nonexistent, because Obama’s personality and his politics have been so deeply wedded to compromise and conciliation.

Now, suddenly, it’s possible for conservatives to finally admit Obama’s not a dictatorial tyrant — now that they’ve found a way to hold it against him!

This swift reversal should not be surprising. White male anxiety about black manhood has always been so deeply irrational that it can switch polarities multiple times in a single racist rant. On a much larger, historical scale, in ”Darwin’s Athletes,” one of the most striking reversals John Hoberman notes came about when blacks first began demonstrating their athletic prowess. Before that, white supremacy had been asserted across the boards — whites were superior to blacks in every way — mentally, physically, morally, spiritually. But when top black athletes emerged to disprove that, white supremacy reconfigured itself: Brute physical superiority was suddenly equated axiomatically with inferiority in every other realm.

Naturally, that’s been a problem for white manhood ever since — even without considering the long history of top black scholar athletes, from Paul Robeson to Richard Sherman. The more that physicality, per se, is demonized in the black male, the more problematic it becomes for white males asserting their own masculine identities, particularly their power over women. This inherent, largely buried contradiction lies close to the core of the GOP’s current problems, simultaneously losing the votes of women and minorities in a long demographic decline.

Faced with this reality, the GOP has no choice. No matter how riddled with contradictions it may be, faulting Barack Obama for his performance of masculinity is the only possible move Republicans have left. And if they can get away with it on “Meet the Press,” then who’s to say they’re wrong?

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg. 

More Paul Rosenberg.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Omnivore - A Manhood Problem (and a Rebuttal to Hanna Rosin)

Silhouette of young man looking up.

Here is another feast of links form Bookforum's Omnivore blog - this time all of the links are related to men, masculinity, social gender theory, and other related topics - some interesting articles.

One of the articles linked below, by Hanna Rosin (The End of Men) is adapted from her opening statement at the Munk Debate, “Resolved: Men Are Obsolete,” held in Toronto. In it she offers a list of reasons supporting her contention that men are obsolete (not in a biological sense, but in a social constructivist sense).

Here are her five evidence points:
ONE: It’s the end of men because men are failing in the workplace [curator: and in education].
TWO: It’s the end of men because the traditional household, propped up by the male breadwinner, is vanishing.
THREE: It’s the end of men because we can see it in the working and middle class.
FOUR: It’s the end of men because men have lost their monopoly on violence and aggression.
FIVE: It’s the end of men because men, too, are now obsessed with their body hair.
These are weak points aside from number one. Point two is relevant, but not necessarily a bad thing if the men are still involved in raising their kids (but they often aren't).

Once again, as I have argued before, this is not the end of men any more than the 60s and 70s was the end of women. Men are in a transitional space as far as our role in society, and how we navigate this transition will determine whether men evolve into greater care and compassion, or retrench themselves in traditional, domination models of masculinity. How women engage this transition will make all of the difference.

A manhood problem

Apr 21 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

White Male Privilege Squandered On Job At Best Buy

From The Onion, America's Finest News Source. Apparently, white male privilege is not all it's cracked up to be . . . .

White Male Privilege Squandered On Job At Best Buy

ISSUE 50•16 • Apr 21, 2014

HAMILTON, OH—Despite being the beneficiary of numerous societal advantages and having faced little to no major adversity throughout his life, local man Travis Benton has spent the last four years squandering his white male privilege on a sales floor job at Best Buy, sources confirmed Tuesday. “You can get by with a regular HDMI cable, but if you’re looking at a length longer than 10 feet, I’d go with a gold-tipped one,” said the man dressed in a bright blue polo shirt and pin-on name tag as he continued to fritter away such innate life advantages as greater access to higher education, leniency from the justice system, and favorable treatment from other white males who lead and make hiring decisions at a disproportionately high number of American companies. “The AudioQuest gold-tip is actually the cable I use in my own home entertainment center and it provides excellent audio and video clarity, plus it comes with a full five-year warranty, unlike the 90-day warranty of a bargain brand. For your money, you’re not going to find a better cable.” At press time, the man born into the world’s most affluent and privileged socioeconomic group was spending his 15-minute break silently consuming a sleeve of Donettes purchased out of a vending machine.

This Is What Real Men Do

This is what real men do. Watch what happens in under 30 seconds. Best PSA ever? Apparently, this was made by University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication students. They have just won the prestigious Peabody Award, deservedly!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Date and Acquaintance Rape - Presentation Version and Full Version


Here is the presentation (shorter version as presented and a longer version) I gave at the Tucson YWCA yesterday as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. These are hosted by SlideShare.

I posted this at Integral Options Cafe but, as I discuss in the presentation, we need to spend more time educating boys and men on treating women with respect, not on teaching women how not to get raped. Teaching women to be afraid of men is not the answer - and it's clearly not working.

Full presentation:

Presentation as given at the YWCA:

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

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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.