Masculinity and patriarchy are closely connected, but they are not the same. There is such a thing as conscious masculinity. There are ways for men to be masculine and true to our nature in ways that actually serve society.
I am asking men to help me develop a course on conscious masculinity. I’m currently calling it “the better men project.” What is it that we have to learn in order to make this a culture that is safe for women The group targets cis-gender, heterosexual men in committed relationships - simply because that’s what I am, it is what I know, and so it is the best place for me to start.
I am currently holding 15 minute interviews with men that are open to doing this work. I want to systematically speak to men who might consider this group, and learn as much as I can about how they define the need and the problem.
If this speaks to you, please sign up below.
Over the past 7 months I have interviewed close to 40 men for this project.Here is a collection of the blogs I have written reflecting on these interviews:
The Intimacy of Men
December 6, 2018
Last weekend I got together in ceremony with a few of my college roommates. Some of my best friends in the world. Lawyer, banker, accountant, big finance, all men. None the sort of guy you expect to find doing this work. We have been intentionally coming together over the last year and half. We are healing our hearts. And becoming more free.
These are still the early stages of the Better Men Project. I’ve been working with different groups of men, in different ways. Learning. Learning from the interviews. And learning from each experiment in coming together.
The deep work I’ve been doing with some of my most intimate male friends has also been the most remarkable. I am witnessing real change take place. The work is building upon itself. And it is sustaining over time. These men are paying more attention to what is happening in our hearts.
One of the key findings from my first round of interviews is that men don’t have enough intimacy with other men. Those who are in a relationship may tend to burden their partner with emotional labor. Or they may opt to shut down instead.
But bringing men together in ways that facilitate vulnerability and intimacy opens the door for the sort of healing that is all about taking responsibility. It is the most fundamental work. The work we have to do is to turn inwards and love ourselves. It is by making this choice that we are able to choose our own healing. It is by becoming responsible for our own healing, it is by becoming whole, that we can find our way to conscious masculinity.
Patriarchy has a devastating impact on men. Holding and ritualizing spaces that allow us to come into emotional and physical contact with each other is a direct antidote to the lie we have been told. There is immense freedom in turning to one another. In knowing that we can support each other as we seek to become better.
There was a moment during our most powerful night together. One of my friends called me to him and said: “Come here. I’ve seen you doing a lot of holding tonight. It’s time for you to be held.” And he held me.
As I allowed myself to be held I became aware of how much I needed it. And I had no idea. It mattered the world. It fed my sense of love, connection and trust. It made me strong.
I wonder about the men who are out there, needing to be held. Devoid of true friendship with other men. Needing to learn to love themselves. I wonder how much of Patriarchy's thirst for power and domination could be quelled by fulfilling this basic human need? How much more emotionally present could men be if we allowed ourselves this medicine?
Let’s keep experimenting. Let’s keep finding ways to come together. These spaces help us to heal. They make us more accountable to each other. And they may become the spaces that strengthen our resolution - and our concrete strategies - to disrupt toxic masculinity not just within ourselves but also in the world that we inhabit.
The Better Men Project
July 9, 2018
After too long a stretch on the road, I am finally back to interviewing for the Better Men Project. I am riveted by the pattern of pain and responsibility that keeps showing up in these talks with men.
I did manage to make time for a heart-centered overnight ceremony with a cohort of men. These were lawyers, accountants, and big time financiers. Men who live and work outside of the “woke” discourse. The men that I’m trying to reach. The work works, the heart opening is real, and it gives men access to parts of themselves that have been shut out by patriarchy and its conditioning.
I was also moved with hope after the first men’s meeting held for those who have participated in the Evolutionary Leadership Workshop. The depth of connection and relationship that we already hold allowed us to take a very deep dive right away. We rallied around a crisis of patriarchy, beautifully supported by the women and femme identified folks in our community.
We refused to concede to a culture that seeks to throw men away in the name of “justice.” And we committed to the idea that intimacy among men is a key aspect of becoming better men and living our way into a world that is safe for women.
The Souls Of Men
March 16, 2018
“Men’s lives are as much governed by role expectations as are the lives of women. And the corollary is that those roles do not support, confirm, or resonate to the needs of men’s souls.” -James Hollis, Jungian analyst
To be absolutely clear from the outset: Men are the perpetrators of patriarchal oppression. The problem resides in us. We enact the violence. And we are the danger. We are the beneficiaries. We hold power. And we shape this crumbling world in accordance with our patriarchal perspective. I am and have been part of the problem.
I say this first because it seems to be the only way that we can actually look at the way patriarchy harms men. James Hollis is a Jungian analyst. His statement is grounded in an understanding of shadow, the archetypal realms and the ways these influence how we show up in the world.
bell hooks is even more clear:
The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.
The most consistent statement that I’m hearing in my interviews for the Better Men Project is that men lack access to the full range of human emotion. This lack of access leaves us baffled in light of the deeply vulnerable experience of being human. We don’t know what to do. We do know what we are expected to do. And so we ignore the longings of our souls and move single mindedly in the direction that is clear, and that we understand - even it takes us nowhere.
This is clearly an oversimplification. Masculinity serves us, and it is redeemable. But the quote above lays bare an important truth, a liberating one.
The fact that you have been taught to do things a certain way does not make it right.
But when these are an attribute of culture, when they come to you through the words and modeling of your father, your grandfather, the older boys, movies, songs, television, and yes, even many of the women around you - then it can be devastating to question their truth. It becomes a major crack in the structure of belonging. And human beings want to belong.
If I’ve been taught to derive value, status and belonging from how much sex I can get and how much dominance I can wield, then it will make sense to let my soul’s longing recede.
But if I’m taught to listen to my soul, if I can learn to take my masculine drive and place it at the service of something that is truly good, something much bigger than just me or you, then freedom becomes possible. It is from here that a conscious masculinity can be born, that the work of atonement can flow, that we will cease to be a danger and remember what is good.
January 8, 2018
When I launched the Better Men Project I chose to focus on cisgender (term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth) heterosexual men in committed relationships. The intention was not to exclude other men, but to humbly begin the process based on the experience that I know. You have to start somewhere. And it is good to start with yourself.
My dear friend Felix Endara was generous enough to sign up for an interview anyway. Felix is a trans man. I had no idea until the moment of our interview. I have been working with Felix for years. It turned out to be the most powerful interview that I’ve had during this process.
Who better to speak to the redeeming aspects of masculinity than people who have had both experiences, the experience of being assigned female at birth and the experience of transitioning to life as a man. I write with Felix’s permission and with his eyes on these words.
Felix spoke to the challenge of finding ways to be in solidarity with this #MeToo moment. Felix was assigned the female gender at birth, he can certainly point to painful experiences in his past that would allow him to use the hashtag. But today he walks in the world as a man, with all the privileges that entails. Felix speaks eloquently about double consciousness, and about the trans experience of being Man2.0, a man with the somatic memory of walking the world perceived as a woman, a man with an intimate understanding of the feminine experience.
While this is not a replicable experience, it led me to ask myself, how could cisgender men come any closer to truly understanding the experience of women under patriarchy? Felix showed me that there are at least some trans men that would be willing to help.
One of the mantras that Felix repeated is that biology is not destiny. He spoke to the challenges of living through a moment that vilifies testosterone, even as he takes weekly testosterone shots. He reminded me that being a cisgender man, having male organs, and an abundance of testosterone does not itself make you dangerous or toxic. This should of course be obvious to me, as I am the father of a beautiful and innocent six year old boy that seems to display a lot of masculine traits.
If we want a culture that is truly inclusive of trans people, then we must acknowledge that there are redeeming aspects to masculinity. We must remember that biology is not destiny. That patriarchy is culturally conditioned, that it is not a biological fact. In working on a project that tackles toxic masculinity by seeking to define and practice conscious masculinity it behoves us to learn from trans men who hold this double consciousness. What can we learn about masculinity from the people who have fought so hard to become the men they really are?
The Better Men Project: Update
December 13, 2017
The Better Men Project is a way to take responsibility, a way to step up. We are in the midst of an important purge, a purge that must continue as truth and the implications of toxic masculinity are brought into light.
I come into this work in full acknowledgment that patriarchy is part of my constitution. And that I am part of the problem. I have been conducting interviews for the Better Men Project and I am made hopeful by what I’m finding.
Men are reflecting on our shortcomings, our blindspots and mistakes, and what it means to show up as a man in this culture. Some of us are ready for accountability, the restoration of justice and the responsibility of working with each other to build a culture that is safe for women.
This is a time of pain and self-reflection. Men in these interviews speak of the limits to our cultural idea of masculinity. They speak about having access to a limited range of emotion, of only being taught domination, of not always knowing how to speak to what we are feeling.
These men are increasingly aware of the ways in which we have been crippled by patriarchy. Some make a direct connection between patriarchy, the climate crisis and our pillage of the earth.
I’ve also heard that the very absence of a model for conscious masculinity is what yields the toxic masculinity that is wreaking havoc today.
We are in the early stages of the Better Men Project. We are still conducting interviews. I am specially interested in reaching men who don’t go around calling themselves “woke.” I want to talk to the good guys that mean well, want to do better, and don’t necessarily know how to. Do you know someone? Could you share this link with them?
The Better Men Project
October 17, 2017
The #metoo campaign is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen on social media. It is absolutely devastating. And it is also liberating. Silence, shame, hiding - these are the tools of oppression. I am disturbed by the masculine silence. Are you a man struggling with how to show up? Let's talk about it.
I have truly had to face the ugliness of my own patriarchy. Because I have taken leadership positions my mistakes and blind spots have had larger, messier impact. I’ve made a commitment to transform myself,to truly be a better man, not just someone that doesn’t hurt others and avoids messiness but someone that shares my learning to help others grow.
Over the years I’ve realized a crucial error in my thinking: I equated patriarchy and masculinity. I made them one and the same. And in doing so, I sought to erase the integral masculine part of myself.
There is a powerful and accurate discourse on toxic masculinity and the way it permeates the culture. That is patriarchy. Patriarchy is the structure of domination, abuse and oppression that defines our culture. Patriarchy is why our governing and economic structures are failing our humanity. It is the reason we pillage the earth. It is why we spend half of the national treasure on war and destruction. And it is why we live in a rape culture, where sexual assault is normalized. The system is not designed for men to understand the damage we are doing, and we must do better.
Masculinity and patriarchy are closely connected, but they are not the same. There is such a thing as conscious masculinity. There are ways for people to be masculine and true to our nature in ways that actually serve society.
This is what I want to explore and dive into. I am trying to create a group that I’m temporarily calling “the better men project.” The group targets cis-gender, heterosexual men in committed relationships - simply because that’s what I am, it is what I know, and so it is the best place for me to start. It is for men who want to be better, to show up better - at home and in the world.
I am now holding 15 minute interviews with men that are open to doing this work. I want to systematically speak to men who might consider this course, and learn as much as I can about how they define the need and the problem.
Are you one of them?
Do you know someone I should talk to?