Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Douglas Todd - A New Vocabulary for Men

Here is a key passage from a very good article on the benefits of men learning to be with other men, especially when the culture is down-sizing traditionally male jobs at a record rate.
[M]ost men -- just as they are quick to physically lend a hand to men on a sports teams or to build a garage – also give a damn about the inner pressures on their fellow male travelers. “Men want to help other men,” says Westwood. In an environment that guarantees confidentiality and safety, he says they can easily learn how to be there at an emotional level for other men. “Men don’t want to be coddled by other men. They just want to be seen for who they are.
Men's groups are a good way to be there for each other - learn more here on how to start and lead your own group.

And now the full article, via The Vancouver Sun.

Stu Hoover has seen first-hand the pressure, despair and repressed anger many men experience earning a living.

Hoover was having an after-work beer in a Calgary bar when two friends in the energy industry became embroiled in an intense “heart-to-heart” discussion about their difficult workplace.

Suddenly the conversation “literally exploded” and one of the friends punched the other in the face. The man who began the fight has never returned to his high-paying job -- presumably out of shame. The beer-fueled fight has also wound up in court.

“It was shocking. It was traumatizing,” says Hoover, 38, a trained economist who now lives in Vancouver. Hoover says many men move to oil-rich Alberta with one intention: to make as much money as they can for themselves and family.

To add to Calgary’s grim energy-industry reality, where many routinely bring home between $300,000 and $1 million a year, A few months after the barfight Hoover was downsized out of his own job.

The bar battle was all the motivation Hoover needed to make the huge personal decision to say goodbye to other possibilities in the oil and gas sector and enroll last year in a UBC counseling psychology masters program.

Now Hoover is focusing on career-related men’s issues; or, as he says -- “the place where economics meets psychology.”

Hoover believes his former friend “snapped” because, like many men, he was taking advantage of the numbing effects of alcohol to unload about his stress at work. But his deep-down pain was not being heard by his inebriated workmate.

Hoover knows things could have been different for his former colleagues. In the right context, he has come to learn in the past year or so that men can be there for other men, with, or especially without, alcohol.

After exploring profound personal changes in recent years, Hoover is joining other B.C. men in developing what might be considered a new kind of men’s movement, which is a little different from the one associated with poet Robert Bly in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The time is more than right for men to learn how to back up each other, Hoover believes. The ceaseless pressure that men are feeling to keep themselves, spouses and children living in the “style to which they’re accustomed” has become more intense during this economic crisis.

Many have been calling it a “mancession.”

The word has been coined because this recession is hitting North American and European male workers far harder than female employees.

Jobs in the male-majority industries of construction and manufacturing have been flying out the door to low-wage countries, while female-dominated spheres such as health care, education and the public service have not been pummeled to the same degree.

As Hoover and anyone who understands males will say, there is no quicker way for most men to lose their identity -- their sense of self-worth, their essential masculinity – than to dumped out of a money-earning job. They feel like failures.

With Statistics Canada reporting this year that men are losing their livelihoods at four times the pace of women, some health-care agencies are reporting that devastated men, their all-important “provider” image in shreds, are looking for someone to talk to.

Traditionally, men have had a great deal of trouble seeking help after losing a job or enduring other crises. In times of emotional chaos, the standing North American statistic is that, while one in three women seek some sort of counseling, only one in seven men do.

How can battered men find hope?

* * *

In the midst of the “mancession,” some are making headway in responding to fellow males who are struggling with all kinds of downturns in their lives.

Innovative psychotherapists at the University of B.C. and throughout Metro Vancouver have been taking the lead in providing a safe place for men to air their sorrow and dreams -- in the company of other men.

Hoover has worked in various ways with UBC educational psychology professor Marvin Westwood (right) and Dr. David Kuhl, who also works for Providence Health Care.

They are coming up with a new vocabulary, sometimes literally, to help men better understand and support each other.

Over the years Westwood and Kuhl have led more than 50 workshops for men everywhere from Bowen Island to the Rocky Mountains. Participants have ranged from grandfathers to young male adults.

Westwood and Kuhl recognize it can be a tough time to be a man these days, especially in a harsh economy.

While jobs for traditional male “breadwinners” are increasingly under threat – and women now make up half the workforce in North America – the gender balance in higher education has shifted, leaving many men off balance.

Men are wondering, Kuhl says, how they fit in as “minorities” in academia, where roughly 60 per cent of those enrolled in most Canadian undergraduate, graduate and professional schools are now female.

Larry Green (below left), a Vancouver therapist who has specialized in working with older and especially younger men, says some women have long had to endure being treated as “sex objects.”

But men, more subtly, have unconsciously been treated by the culture as “success objects,” valued mainly for their ability to be productive -- providers who put food on the table.

With this recession highlighting how the economy may be slowly shifting against men, their upheaval is exacerbated.

To add to the crisis, North American culture continues to fail to offer up many models for what it means to be a healthy male.

The mass media and entertainment industries are full of destructive and contradictory images – ranging from men as helpless buffoons to men as unfeeling action figures.

There are few models of manhood embodying strength and integrity.
Read the whole article. There's lots more good stuff.

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