Interviews for the Better Men Project confirm that many of us want to do better. It is also clear that we do not always know how to. We know how to be better than Weinstein or Cosby. Some of us have learned tough lessons about the impact of our own behavior.
But being a good man has to mean more than "don't be bad."
George Yancy invites an #IamSexist movement. He refuses to let any of us off the hook. It is not enough to not be bad. What matters is that we are men in a culture that holds ideas of masculinity that are dangerous and toxic. He quotes bell hooks:
Learning to wear a mask (that word already embedded in the term ‘masculinity’) is the first lesson in patriarchal masculinity that a boy learns. He learns that his core feelings cannot be expressed if they do not conform to the acceptable behaviors sexism defines as male. Asked to give up the true self in order to realize the patriarchal ideal, boys learn self-betrayal early and are rewarded for these acts of soul murder.
Stephen March goes farther. He goes beyond socialization. He wants us to look at what he calls the “unexamined brutality of the male libido.” He says that men cannot move forward if we refuse to look at that very nature of our sexuality. And what is dangerous in it.
“If you want to be a civilized man, you have to consider what you are. Pretending to be something else, some fiction you would prefer to be, cannot help.” It does not help that men deal with our nature alone, and apart. For this makes ignorance the norm.
We are living through a cultural purge that is long overdue. All men are participant in this system of privilege. And this means we must learn how to contend with this justified wave of feminine rage. History tells us that this feminine rage is the fuel for change. I believe that developing the capacity to hold, support, align and commit in face of this rage is the ultimate test of conscious masculinity.
Victoria Bisell Brown’s is the indictment that pushes us to action. She does not mince words in her admonishment: Thanks for not raping us, all you ‘good men.’ But it’s not enough. She reminds us that:
In the centuries of feminist movements that have washed up and away, good men have not once organized their own mass movement to change themselves and their sons or to attack the mean-spirited, teasing, punching thing that passes for male culture. Not once. Bastards. Don’t listen to me. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Earn your power for once.
This is our call to action. This is how we take responsibility for generations of harm. With a mass movement of men committed to change ourselves. Our work is to reclaim conscious masculinity. To disrupt toxic masculinity, not only within ourselves but also in our culture.
I imagine a sort of twelve step program. We need a structure that allows for perpetual self-reflection. We need ongoing mutual support and a commitment to make amends - to atone - for the hurt that we have already caused.
I imagine a structure that helps men to develop our emotional intelligence. And the capacity for vulnerability and connection. But it is a structure that also makes room for actual strategy sessions. A place to learn the practice of cultural disruption.
I imagine a real coming together. A decentralized movement committed to a generational project that defines conscious masculinity. A project focused on the crafting of a world where women are safe to be, to thrive and to lead.
What do you think men should do?
If you are a woman or non-binary person and you want to offer your thoughts on this question, please sign up below. I’d love to schedule a brief interview.