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I was absolutely fascinated by Devin Gordon’s take on Joe Rogan in The Atlantic. One of the things that I have wrestled with since the launch of the Better Men Project is that the men who are called to participate are men who are linked to my network. And most of these men are already “woke.”
We have PLENTY of work to do. And doing this work on ourselves is doing work that makes a difference well beyond just us.
But who is getting to all the men out there who don’t know what to do after coming face to face with #metoo? Many of them we’ll never reach. They are defensive. And reactionary. And they are just doubling down on the same toxic masculinity that keeps rape culture alive.
But there are many men who are not inside the “woke” game. And who are looking for a better way.
Devin says that Joe Rogan is so popular because “he understands men in America better than most people do. [And] The rest of the country should start paying attention.” He is not an apologist for Rogan. And he concludes the long piece with a powerful critique. But he does not make the mistake that “woke” people are prone to make. He does not dismiss him.
He notices that Rogan appeals to “a type of man who is very different from me, but whose concept of masculinity is far more prevailing than mine.” And this catches my attention. We live in a segmented culture. But we are still part of a culture. If these men are not like us, we certainly have proximity to them. These are men in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our places of work. Some of us have been these men. And many of us have a lot in common with them.
Rogan says that all he remembers of his dad “are these brief, violent flashes of domestic violence.” That will shape your masculinity.
It is from this lived experience. Followed by the experience of significant success. That he is somehow connecting with men who are experiencing:
a plunging sense of self-worth caused by a rapidly changing society. In 2019, men feeling thwarted and besieged is a bipartisan experience. This is the era of the Angry White Man, and it’s not just the MAGA army. It’s a description that also matches your garden-variety “Bernie bro,” the Biden guy who just wants to change the subject…
And he is feeding them something many of us respond to:
The competitive energy, the drive to succeed, the search for purpose, for self-respect. Get better every day. Master your domain. Total human optimization. A goal so hazy and unreachable that you never stop trying, until you realize with a kind of enviable Zen clarity that the trying is the whole point. If the world isn’t giving you much in the way of positive feedback, create your own.
Masculinity has complicated it. Patriarchy has conditioned us to be toxic. But there is a masculine impulse. There are masculine attributes. There is something that a lot of men share. And our work is to bring it out of the shadows. Our work is to make it conscious. Our work is to provide pathways for this energy that are healthier than what Joe Rogan is serving.
But to do that we need to acknowledge it. To see it. To create space before we judge it. And to learn to work with it.