Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kelly Sosan Bearer - The 3-2-1 Shadow Process

Shadow work is without question one of the most important things a man (or anyone, for that matter) can undertake in becoming a more complete and mature human being. Until we can look at and integrate the disowned parts of ourselves - both dark and light - we will never be whole persons.

The 3-2-1 shadow work process isn't a depth practice, but it is a very useful tool for looking into shadow material.

Practice: The 3-2-1 Shadow Process

Own Your Shadow Or Be Owned By It

In this practice we begin the process of re-owning our shadow. We'll FACE our shadow in 3rd-person; we'll TALK to our shadow in a 2nd-person dialogue; and we'll BE our shadow in 1st-person. Face it, Talk to it, Be it...It's that simple.

To Practice The 3-2-1 Process

1. Choose an experience in your life that you want to work with. It's often easier to begin with a person with whom you have difficulty (e.g., lover, relative, boss). This person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset you. Or maybe you feel attracted to, obsessed with, infatuated with, or possessive about this person. In any case, choose someone with whom you have a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative.

2. Face It : Now, imagine this person. Describe those qualities that most upset you, or the characteristics that you are most attracted to using 3rd-person language (he, she, it). Talk about them out loud or write it down in a journal. Take this opportunity to "let it out." Don't try to be skillful or say the right thing. There is no need to sugar-coat your description. The person you are describing will never see this.

3. Talk to It: Begin an imaginary dialogue with this person. Speak in 2nd person to this person (you). Talk directly to this person as if he or she were actually there in the room with you. Tell them what bothers you about them. Ask them questions such as "Why are you doing this to me?" "What do you want from me?" "What are you trying to show me?" "What do you have to teach me?" Imagine their response to these questions. Speak that imaginary response out loud. Record the conversation in your journal if you like.

4. Be It: Become this person. Take on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate you. Embody the traits you described in "Face It." Use 1st-person language ( I, me, mine). This may feel awkward, and it should. The traits you are taking on are the exact traits that you have been denying in yourself. Use statements such as "I am angry," "I am jealous," "I am radiant." Fill in the blank with whatever qualities you are working with: "I am__________."

5. To complete the process, notice these disowned qualities in yourself. Experience the part of you that is this very trait. Avoid making the process abstract or conceptual: just BE it. Now you can re-own and integrate this trait in yourself.

Practice Genealogy

The 3-2-1 process is a simple and effective tool for working with the shadow. It was developed by Ken Wilber and his associates at Integral Institute, and is a recommended practice in the Integral Life Practice Starter Kit. This practice is designed to provide a quick, easy, and effective method to work with our disowned selves. There are numerous techniques to deal with the shadow, but most require the assistance of a professional therapist. The 3-2-1 Process can be used by anyone anywhere at any time, and at no cost.

The 3-2-1 Process helps you uncover your shadow and integrate unconscious thoughts and emotions, so you can become more healthy and whole. It takes an extraordinary amount of energy to keep aspects of ourselves hidden in shadow. The energy it takes to repress or deny aspects of ourselves could potentially be employed in other ways; perhaps even a developmental transformation. When we shine a light on our shadow and work to integrate disowned aspects of ourselves, we liberate the energy we were using to hide from ourselves, and more energy is never a bad thing.

This process uses shifts in perspectives as a way of identifying and integrating shadow material. 3-2-1 refers to 3rd person, 2nd person, and 1st person perspectives. When an aspect of the self poses a threat, the self seeks to distance itself from that threat. As a result, the self concludes, "That is not me. That is someone else." The self exports that trait that threatens it onto someone else. We can disown both lower and higher aspects of ourselves. In either case, we project it as "You." You are angry. You are being selfish. You are worthy. In other words, we displace it from a 1st - person "I" to a 2nd- person "You."

If the threat of this emotion or situation becomes so great that it requires a total rejection, we push it away into a 3rd- person "It." At that point, the shadow arises as a sense of irritation, reactivity, fear, or aversion toward things, but we usually do not understand why we feel this way.

And meditation alone won't fix this, most forms of meditation won't even help; in fact, they may make things worse. Meditation suggests dis-identification from experience ("You are not your thoughts. etc."). But to integrate the shadow, we need to RE-identify with disowned dimensions of our experience and ourselves. We can only truly let go of something that we have first owned. Healthy disidentification is only possible once we have re-owned, re-associated, and re-identified with the disowned parts of ourselves. For this reason, there is no substitute for shadow work.

The 3-2-1 Process can be used in various ways. For beginners, try it out once a week for roughly 30 minutes and work with the biggest issue of your week. For more advanced practitioners, begin applying the 3-2-1 Process to dreams and issues of your daily life.

You can also opt to use the "empty chair" rather than a journal. Just replace the journal with an actual chair in the exercise outlined above. Place this chair across from you, and imagine the person you have chosen to work with sitting in it. In "Face It" (3), simply describe the qualities of this person that provoke you. Talk about them in front of them. In "Talk to It" (2), dialogue with this person. When it is their turn to respond, sit in the other chair and respond as that person. Go back and forth between chairs until the dialogue is over. In "Be It" (1), sit as the other and be the person that triggers you. Embody the qualities that irritate or fascinate you and speak as this person using "I" statements: "I am ________."


Monday, March 30, 2009

Marybeth Hicks - Men are women's 'issue'

At first glance, one might think this is a supportive article on helping men. You would be wrong. This is how the right subverts masculine power. Indirectly, in the guise of support.

She begins by dismissing Obama's White House Council on Women and Girls as silly and sexist, which it is - but coming from a writer at the stridently right-wing Washington Times it just seems anti-feminist (and it is).

She goes on to suggest that we need a "White House Council on Men and Boys," and yes, it seems if we are going to support girls and women, we should also support boys and men. BUT, she then attributes nearly everything "wrong" in our culture surrounding the sexes to men - unfairly, in my mind. She claims she is not "man bashing," but that is exactly what she is doing.

Is some of what she says true? Sure. Is it all about how men and boys are? Not even close. Her views are puritanical, not aimed at a real solution, but at a moral clamp down. Very wrong-headed.

HICKS: Men are women's 'issue'

Marybeth Hicks
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last week, President Obama signed an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. He did so with a speech in which he praised the perseverance and pluck of his own single mother, the grandmother who ultimately raised him, and especially his wife, whom he credited for her exceptional skill as mother to their two daughters.

Under the direction of his longtime political pal Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama has added membership on this council to the already daunting list of tasks of every Cabinet-level appointee. He says the council's job will be to ensure that the feminist agenda saturates public policy on all levels.

The president gathered the A-listers of feminism to celebrate his announcement, including the leaders of the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily's List. Others who work to advance the cause of women and girls (but not abortion rights), were not in attendance. Probably an oversight.

The folks who did attend seemed thrilled that a special White House council had been created to advance feminist ideas. I doubt it's going to do much good for women and girls.

If Mr. Obama wanted to actually do something significant for American's women and girls, he would have created instead a White House Council on Men and Boys.

Just imagine the estrogen-induced response to something so sexist as a council chartered to address the concerns of one gender over another. Oh, wait. That's what this is.

But anyway, his is a council to address the issues of women and girls, so of course it is entirely fair.

Actually, I'm the mother of three girls, and I happen to think Mr. Obama's new council won't win the battle of the sexes. That's because the best thing anyone can do for American women and girls is to encourage men and boys to “man up.”

A council on men and boys would promote stable marriage as the best avenue to improve the lives and living conditions of America's women and families. A council on men and boys would address the crisis in American manhood that results in the scourge of infidelity, divorce, lack of commitment and fatherhood with multiple partners.

A council on men and boys would seek to eliminate the objectification of women in the media. It would battle our hypersexual culture by fighting against the “hook-up” mentality that defines the way in which young men view young women. And most importantly, it would stamp out the violence against women that emanates from men's widespread exposure and growing addiction to pornography.

Such a council would work to train a new generation of boys to become real men, who honor and uphold women as equals in the workplace, the community and the home - not because the government regulates such an attitude, but because it's right.

A council on men and boys also would address the underlying problems that create “women's issues” such as child care, inadequate pay and domestic violence. These aren't “women's issues,” but issues related to the systemic collapse of the American family.

Believe me, I'm not man-bashing. Rather, I think the feminist agenda is a false promise. A council on women and girls that seeks to infuse feminism across the government propels us further from real solutions. Our government just isn't man enough to fix what's wrong.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sean Barker - 5 Exercises You Shouldn't Be Doing

Great article - I always tell people NOT to do these particular exercises. There is no good reason to them, and lots of risk of injury if you ignore this advice.
5 Exercises You Shouldn't Be Doing

By Sean Barker
Author of The Dad Fitness System

Old habits are hard to break. But if you keep doing these 5 old school exercises you will be breaking more than old habits.


1. Leg Extensions

Unfortunately this exercise seems to be the extent of most guys leg training. Probably because sitting down and pumping out reps of quad extensions are a lot easier than squatting down with hundreds of pounds on your back.

Despite the "burn" you may feel from your upper thighs when performing this exercise, it is not a very efficient leg exercise as it only isolates the muscles above the knee. The only time this exercise has much benefit is in a rehab setting where these muscles directly surrounding the knee need to be developed for stability and strength. Otherwise opt for any variation of the free-range squat.


2. Behind the Neck Pulldowns

This is another exercise that I still see people doing in the gym. I cringe every time I see someone take a wide grip on the angled ends of the pulldown bar and starting pulling it down behind their neck. The angled ends of the bar are an outdated design and are not where you should be gripping the bar.

This puts your shoulders and rotator cuffs in a very vulnerable position. Putting most of the stress on the shoulders and limiting range of motion away from the back muscles this exercise should be crossed off your list. Work on being able to do bodyweight chin-ups instead or at least pulldowns to the front.


3. Behind the Neck Shoulder Press

Similar to the behind the neck pulldown, the behind the neck barbell shoulder press places your shoulder in a delicate position. It is basically the same movement but by adding additional weight to the bar and pushing up in the vertical plan you are putting your rotator cuffs at an even greater risk of injury.

With the extra weight you can pile on the bar with this exercise, trying to even unrack the bar will soon send your shoulders screaming in pain. Switch to the safer option; the front barbell shoulder press.


4. Concentration Curls

Probably the most popular bicep exercise for beginners wanting to "get the pump" and get Arnold-like biceps. It's too bad a lot of experienced trainers still waste their time on this exercise. No matter how many reps of concentration curls you do, you won't get that bicep peak like the Terminator, as muscle SHAPE is genetically determined.

Muscle SIZE on the other hand can be increased through basic movements that allow a heavy weight while use many muscles instead of isolating one smaller muscle. Standing barbell or dumbbells curls are a better choice for bicep development, but better again are close grip chin-ups, which put a lot of stress on the upper arms while working many other muscles.


5. Crunches

If would be nice if all you had to do to get that ripped six pack would be to lie on the floor and pump out hundreds of reps of back breaking crunches. Despite what the infomercials want you to believe, this is NOT true! You wouldn't build your biceps by doing 100 reps with no weight, so why would you think you would develop your abdominals by doing 100 crunches or more? Your abdominals primary purpose is to actually stabilize your spine and to keep your torso from twisting in half under times of physical stress, not lift your neck off the floor.

---

Overall, the best exercises for your abs are exercises that allow your body to use your core the way it was meant to be used: for stability and support. Bodyweight planks, and compound exercises like squats and overhead presses will work your abs better than any crunch will ever do. Combined with a clean diet you might just see those abs looking back at you in the mirror.

OK quiz time. Do you see a trend with these 5 exercises?

They all involve sitting down, (which we are all experts at already) and they work only a small section of muscle, allowing you to pump out endless reps without much effort.

For you busy guys who want to get the most out of your workouts, stop wasting your valuable time on these old school exercises that break your body down instead of building it up.

Get your FREE report "The Truth On Fat Loss, How To Finally Lose That Beer Belly" from Sean Barker by clicking here.


CLICK HERE
to learn more about Sean's
book "Dad Fitness". You can also
read our review of the book by clicking here.

About The Author

Sean Barker is a nationally certified personal trainer. C.P.T., a worldwide award winning bodybuilding competitor and most importantly, a proud dad. He has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years and have appeared in High Performance Muscle Magazine, been on health and fitness radio shows and was selected as a sponsored athlete by one of the top supplement nutrition companies in the world. He is affiliated with the top trainers in the industry and has provided fitness consulting to numerous people over the years helping them get real-world results in the shortest amount of time.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

TC Luoma - 12 Manliness Guidelines

TC Is a funny guy, and while I'm not sure I'm down with his ideas here (in fact, his Beckham bashing is a little less than mature), he is entertaining to read. Oh yeah, if you are easily offended, please don't read this article.

ATOMIC DOG
12 Manliness Guidelines

Manliness is a funny thing. It's hard to define.

I mean TV and the movies and the commercials — oh, the commercials — have done mucked it up. They done made it a caricature of itself.

They made it so manliness is defined by how much beer you drink and how big your pick-up truck is and whether there's enough mud on it and how many feathers and varieties of fur are on the grill, presumably from 4-wheeling through ecologically sensitive areas and pulverizing some endangered species.

That pseudo-manliness shit, made hard and lumpy by too much popular-culture Metamucil, is hard to filter out. It's hard to keep it from influencing my man meter.

Still, I seem to have an innate sense of what actions are manly and which aren't. I even have a sense of what clothes are manly and what aren't.

But the intellectual part of me says what the hell, how do clothes or fashion or affectations define manliness? They don't, not really. Manliness is defined by actions and quiet confidence and loyalty and nobility and chivalry and a whole bunch of other good words that end in the letter y.

But I've seen things. I've not only seen things, but I've heard some things, Joey; things that make my manliness radar ping — and not just one ping, Vasily, multiple pings. Sounds like an enraged meth freak beating on the hood of a Prius with a fireplace poker.

Maybe there's a special part of our brain, nurtured by pure, high-grade Testosterone, that makes these judgments for us, and arguing about them is like analyzing, or worse, arguing about, why Miss April's sweet ass makes us temporarily forget that our wives, children, parents, or even sweet ol' Nana and Papa ever existed.

Early last year, I wrote about "The Richardson Society," a group of Marines that meet regularly to experience the finer things in life. I wrote how part of their discussion had been about this manliness thing, and they enjoyed debating such things as whether it was manly to wear a sports jersey with some athlete's name and number on the back.

(One of them recently wrote an article about this very topic, but I chose not to read it, lest it influence my list.)

Unlike me, they didn't question that part of the brain that made those decisions. Whether something was manly or not was largely a black or white issue.

Inspired by them, I've chosen to quit intellectualizing the issue and just go with my gut. With that in mind, here's some shit that just doesn't fly on my manliness scale:


1. Wearing a Sports Jersey

The Richardson Society deemed it was okay to wear a sports jersey until you got to high school. I concur. After that, it's got to go to Goodwill.

Idolizing another man merely for his athletic abilities is distasteful in itself, but wearing his name on your back? What's the point? It's not a magic talisman that will grant you the skills of the athlete, nor will it get you any girls, unless you find a nerdy one who's wearing the same jersey.

There is an exception, though. Some clothing items feature the name of a sports franchise or a sports star, but it's used in an ironic sense. If that's the case, feel free to wear it.

Oh wait a minute, I just thought of a second exception. Hot girls can wear anything — including sports jerseys — and get away with it.

12 Manliness Guidelines

2. Wearing a Sports Jersey with Beckham's name on it

Unless you live in Europe (and don't know any better), you shouldn't wear a Beckham jersey if you're older than, say, 6.

Letting a boy older than 6 wear one may affect the young man's sexual development. If you're an adult and you wear one, you can probably get a job guarding a harem.


3. Eating an Ice Cream Cone

Can you imagine Clint Eastwood licking an ice cream cone? No. The thought of it makes you queasy, doesn't it?

Maybe if it had the outline of a vagina made out of sprinkles and a little cherry gummy-bear candy clit, but a plain ice cream cone? No way.


4. Drinking Wine

I'm going to tell you a real-life secret that's more tightly guarded than anything in The Da Vinci Code:

Nobody really likes wine. Really. Oh it's fine to get drunk with, but only people with some whacked out gene that encodes for a faulty receptor protein appreciate wine, along with similar "varietals" like vinegar, cat piss, radiator fluid, or broth made from a fat sweaty girl's panties.

Besides, it's hard to be manly when you pick up that glass with your dainty fingers, swirl it around, take a sip, and get an expression that makes you look like you're getting fellated by a Vietnamese girl with removable teeth.

And I tell you, beer ain't all that much better. It's the polar opposite of wine, but not in a good way. I'll prove it to you: beer commercials. Any self-respecting man would look at any beer commercial, get sick to his stomach at the kind of guy represented therein, and swear off the evil brew forever.

Men drink whiskey, gin, vodka, bourbon, Scotch, or nothing at all, literally. I mean not even water. Okay, okay, water and protein drinks too, but that's it.


5. Texting

Go ahead and text, new-media boy, but unless you're 15 and the star of the delightful comic strip, Zits, you must occasionally converse the old-fashioned way: through speech, otherwise known as the communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words.

Read the rest of the article.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Humor - "Man of the House"

http://i.friendfeed.com/50651821731ec2c7a544bbdb6201098909005992


Forum Discussion - Showing Masculinity in a Relationship?

I came across this post and the ensuing discussion this morning in my Google feeds. While it isn't the most enlightened conversation, it is probably a pretty accurate picture of where some men are in trying to find their masculinity in a post-patriarchal world.
Showing Masculinity in a Relationship?

Over the past two months, my girlfriend has started to bring up issues... some small, some large... I am hearing a lot more of this phrase recently:

"I feel like...."

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that I may be able to fix. Some things in the past, I will admit, were my need to become more high value. One topic that has come up several times is that I need to become more masculine.

The other day: "I never knew I could be in love with someone so much, yet who isn't as masculine"

I mentioned that I realized her concern, and I understood. I have read david deida, but haven't found a good way of implementing it. i.e. - I have come way too close to overcompensating manliness since her bringing it up.

So a lot more little insecurities of the relationship are popping up on her side. I know what is needed, for me to just vanquish them all.. and kick all her insecurities in the ass. It's being a man at a different level, but how to do that?

sidenote: This girl is prob. the most decisive girl i've ever seen. She has had guys cheat on her in the past... so when i distanced myself emotionally, I went too far, and she shit-tested me with jealousy to bring me back. A friend (girl) of mine mentioned to show just a little bit jealousy to show I cared (which I hadn't yet at that point). I think I erred and showed too much, thus becoming nice guy. She isn't the kind that sticks around if an issue comes up, but runs away from it.

In the end, I think it comes down to manliness? How do I show that?

I do crack effeminate jokes from time to time, and have reduced it... I think when I hit the lovebug, I'm so attracted to the feminine that I mimick it a bit too much in jokes, mannerisms, etc.

I've done chivalry, distancing myself, improving the sex life... maybe i am misfire-ing and too far in my head.
Please do read the comments for this thread - it's interesting how people have responded to this guy's issue. It's an old conversation, but the perspectives are interesting.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jayson Gaddis - The Number 1 Reason Why So Many Boys and Grown Men Surf Porn (and What to Do About It)

This is a greatly important post from Jayson - on a topic few people are willing to talk about honestly and without generating shame. ALL men surf porn at some point. It generally isn't an issue if it is occasional, but when it becomes a habit or gets compulsive, then there is a problem.

BUT the problem is NOT immorality or some other shame-based ideal, rather it is an issue of escape - not wanting or being able to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Generally, just like drugs and alcohol, internet porn can be an addiction, and like all addictions, they are tools for escaping our painful feelings.
The Number 1 Reason Why So Many Boys and Grown Men Surf Porn (and What to Do About It)

Photo Courtesy Darrin Harris Frisby

Photo Courtesy Darrin Harris Frisby

If you’re honest with yourself and you’re a dude, you’ve surfed porn at some point in your life. I know I have.

Maybe it was a phase, maybe you’re still doing it. Do you pay for sites? Just browse the free ones and leave, deleting your cookies and any trace of your porn tracks so no one knows your little secret?

If you ever meet a man who denies surfing porn, I’d call BS on him right then and there. I’ve never met a man who hasn’t surfed porn at least once. What’s the problem with a guy who wants to surf a little porn now and again anyway? Initially, nothing.

In my opinion, nothing is fundamentally wrong with masturbation and your own sexuality, despite what strict religious organizations may tell you. The issue is not masturbation or even surfing porn, although many women might disagree. And for good reason. (The porn industry itself condones the abuse of power men have over women, many porn sites have aggressive imagery, and what the industry teaches or trains us about our sexuality are all important issues that need to be addressed).

I write this post for four reasons:

1. No one talks about it, so let’s go there. Bring on your comments.
2. To help you understand why you hide your porn use and why you feel bad about it.
3. To raise your awareness and help you understand what drives men to porn
4. To take some action in relationship to your porn use

Before we go any further, let’s look at some important, but not surprising porn stats from Tech Crunch in 2007:

  • Every second, there are 28,258 people surfing porn
  • Every second, $89 is spent on porn
  • 266 new porn sites are put on the web daily
  • “Sex” is the most searched word on the web
  • $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. porn sites in 2006
  • 72% of porn viewers are men (A 2001 Forrester Research Report had a slightly different number: 77% of online visitors to adult content sites are male. Their average age is 41 and they have an annual income of $60,000. 46% are married.)

To see other fascinating porn stats, click here: http://www.blazinggrace.org/cms/bg/pornstats

The numbers are clear. Even with the statistics, many men deny surfing porn. For the brave men that admit to surfing porn, there is little understanding and awareness around their use. So, why are the numbers so high?

According to a Kinsey Institute survey which asked “Why do you use porn?” respondents had this to say:

  • 72% said they used porn to masturbate/for physical release.
  • 69% - to sexually arouse themselves and/or others.
  • 54% - out of curiosity.
  • 43% - “because I can fantasize about things I would not necessarily want in real life.”
  • 38% - to distract myself.

From my perspective, we have to ask two important questions:

  1. Why does a man hide his porn use and then feel bad about it?
  2. Why is he surfing porn in the first place?

To answer the first question we have to look at our culture. With so many messages from religion and conservative groups telling us that sex is bad and wrong, many people in our culture end up repressing their sexual aliveness. At the same time, the media and pop culture oversexualize everything. Watch any beer commercial or MTV video. It’s no wonder we are so confused about sex and sexuality.

Repression + oversexualized imagery & messages = confused, disconnected shameful relationship to one’s own sexuality.

For example, in my work with men, at some point a man typically owns up to his porn use with me. And, almost without fail, he feels shame and guilt about it. Often he’s married or has a girlfriend and surfs porn quite a bit without ever owning up to it with his partner. Understandably, this sets up a difficult dynamic with himself and with his partner. Shame begets shame.

Think about it. What guy wants to admit that he doesn’t know how to manage the sexual life force raging through his body? Men get mixed messages about sex, and with all the conflicting information, and nowhere to go to sort it out, it can end up coming out sideways in the form of strip clubs, constantly objectifying women, porn use, hookers and much more.

To answer question number 2, we have to investigate two of the responses in the Kinsey report: ”for physical release” and “to distract myself.” What is a man “distracting himself” from and what is it that he is “releasing” aside from the obvious?

In my professional opinion, this is the number 1 reason so many boys and men surf porn:

Guys surf porn to “check out” or to “distract themselves” from certain uncomfortable feelings they are experiencing, period. Said another way, surfing porn is a symptom of some underlying discomfort a man is experiencing . It’s this simple.

Go read the rest of the post, wherein he talks about how to break the porn habit.

The New Man - Episode 55: Kute Blackson, Pt 2: Quit the Blame Game and Step Up

Here is part two of the most recent New Man interview with life coach Kute Blackson.

Episode 55: Kute Blackson Pt 2: Quit the Blame Game and Step Up

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Kute Blackson continues downloading his 6 Step Process for getting your life out of fear and into gear. In this series he describes the pitfalls guys get into when life trips them up -- analysis paralysis, the blame game -- and how you can move through them and into positive action.

It’s times like these that separate the men from the boys. What will you do?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Manly Man’s Guide to Bromance Films

Funny, I think, but this might be a step in the right direction for men. At least we can now have male friendships and it's a good thing.

A Manly Man’s Guide to Bromance Films

From 'Brian's Song' to 'I Love You, Man,' we trace the lineage of the dudes' chick flick: the bromance

By David Walker
Special to MSN Movies

It's easy to dismiss "bromance" as just another way to describe male bonding, but there's more to it than that. The Urban Dictionary defines bromance as "the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males." And while it may be a relatively new term within the American vernacular, coined in the 1990s by writer Dave Carnie in the pages of Big Brother Magazine, bromantic relationships have been intricately woven into the fabric of art and pop culture for centuries. Shakespeare's "Othello" is about a failed bromance as much as anything else. Mark Twain's adventures of both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are brimming with bromantic sentiment. And one could even argue that da Vinci's "The Last Supper" is a painting of unbridled bromanticism.

"I Love You, Man," which hits theaters March 20, is the latest in a line of films that fully embrace bromantic relationships. Now that a term exists to adequately describe the complexity of non-sexual man-on-man love, people are fully beginning to see bromance for what it is. This is a process of acceptance that has been helped along by films like "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" (from the current King of Bros, Judd Apatow), which are unabashed tales of bromance, while at the same time being just the most recent in a long line of tales of manly love.

To better understand bromance, and what it means for one man to truly love another man -- but not in the gay way (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- here are some of the greatest bromance films of all time.

Go look at the pictures of the films they mention, if you feel you must.


Friday, March 20, 2009

The "Panic Room" Self


This post is a little insight into how my mind works. My hope is that some of you might see some similarities here, or that my female readers might see their partners in this.

When I am confronted with something that seriously shakes my expectations in a negative way (which is, of course, a matter of interpretation), I have a subpersonality (a part of my psyche) that pops up and takes over - I call it the "panic room" self.

Most of you know what a panic room is, but if you don't, here is a description:
A safe room or panic room is a fortified room which is installed in a private residence or business to provide a safe hiding place for the inhabitants in the event of a break-in, home invasion, or other threat. Safe rooms usually contain communications equipment, so that law enforcement authorities can be contacted.
Many of us who have been through hard stuff in our lives have a self inside of us that functions much like a panic room. When we are overwhelmed with a threat of some kind, that part/self emerges to take over and prevent the psyche from being harmed. When we were young and defenseless, this was a healthy adaptation, as adults, not so much.

When my panic room self gets activated, like many men, I withdraw - energetically, emotionally, and often physically. Because this is a widespread issue - in fact, it is often (wrongly) seen as a feature of masculinity - men tend to be seen as incapable of expressing emotion. Or, we tend to be seen, at least in the past, as the strong, silent types. True but partial.

As we increase our awareness, however, we can often see this happening and either tell our partner about what is happening, or at the least assure her/him that it isn't personal. Being able to see these interior selves as objects of awareness rather than be their subjects of experience is an important skill to develop. Being able to make this distinction - and share it with our partners - could go a long way toward saving many relationships that might otherwise fail.

There are two basic ways to develop this skill.

1) Mindfulness and meditation practice. If we can learn to observe our thoughts and feelings as they happen, rather than simply acting them out, we are well on our way to being able to identify and observe the different selves we contain, so that we do not become victims of their maladaptive behaviors.

This video by Thich Nhat Hanh explains basic mindfulness and more:
Buddhist mindfulness techniques can help to bring the mind back to the body so that you are fully present here and now. For sitting meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh describes simple practices of awareness that increase a sense of well being and release tension in the body. He offers walking meditation as a practice that can help you to live deeply every moment of your life, free from the prison of the past and of the future. He gives instruction, too, in addressing pain and anger in your heart and developing a deeper awareness of and appreciation for everyday moments of life: cooking, cleaning, driving, and working in such a way that you feel peaceful, mindful,and happy.




2) Developing an observer self, often through psychotherapy. I've posted this before at IOC, but I'll include it here for those new to my blogs.
An Exercise to Identify the Observer Self

The observer self is that aspect of consciousness which can watch us act like fools and stand back at a safe distance, shaking its head in disbelief. It is capable of observing our behaviors with an even, unattached point of view. The observer can help us see our wounded areas, our habitual patterns, and our inner selves more clearly, without the interference of the ego and its desire to maintain the status quo. The observer self is an invaluable ally in personal growth that can lead us into higher levels of consciousness.

The following exercise, adapted from Roberto Assagioli’s disidentification process in Psychosynthesis and Ken Wilber’s meditations in One Taste, can help us detach from ego-consciousness and step back into the observer self. For each of the steps there is a mantra that some people find quite useful in detaching from each element of the ego-self.

Practicing Detachment

Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Take a few deep, centering breaths, allowing the body to relax. Closing the eyes can help focus attention. Feel the air moving in an out of your lungs as you breathe. Become aware of your body, its position, how your limbs feel, where you are holding tension. Become aware of your whole body and all the sensations it experiences. If you are comfortable with mantras, the one for this step is, "I have a body, but I am not my body." Repeat aloud or in your thoughts.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Now leave your body and move to your emotions. What feelings do you notice? Are you bored, anxious, happy? Notice your current feelings, and then think about the most common feelings in your life. Do not dwell on those feelings -- just recall them and then release them. Mantra: "I have feelings, but I am not my feelings." This mantra works well as a reminder when you are angry or afraid that you are frozen in an emotion.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Move from your feelings to your desires. Desires are those things that motivate us. We all have many things that motivate our behaviors, such as simplicity, comfort, quiet, money, health, or others. Observe the things that motivate you, but do not judge them. Simply call them up and notice them. Mantra: "I have desires, but I am not my desires."

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Now move to your thoughts. As each thought rises to consciousness, observe it but do not dwell on it. Then watch as the next one rises to replace it, over and over again. This is the state of consciousness most of us experience. However, we often get stuck on a handful of thoughts that return over and over again in our lives. Notice the pattern, but do not hold on to it. Notice the flotsam and jetsam of consciousness, the memories, the ideas, the fears, the opinions, and the ways you tell yourself who you are as a person. Mantra: "I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts." This mantra works in meditation to return a wandering mind to the breath.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Finally, become aware of that part of you that has been observing your body, your feelings, your desires, and your thoughts. Having detached from the basic elements of consciousness, repeat the mantras: I have a body, but I am not my body; I have feelings, but I am not my feelings; I have desires, but I am not my desires; I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

What is the source of your awareness? Who is that self behind all these realms of ego? The self is not an image or a thought, but a deeper essence. The self is at the core of our humanity.

The one who has been watching your sensations, feelings, desires, and thoughts is not the same as the object it observes. WHO IS IT THAT HAS BEEN OBSERVING ALL THESE REALMS? It is your SELF. The Self is not an image or a thought; it is that ESSENCE which has been observing all these realms and yet is distinct from all of them. Mantra: "I am the self, a center of pure consciousness."
Whatever comes into awareness is fine. You are none of those things, so just watch them pass like clouds across a blue sky. "And this witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of Freedom – or pure Emptiness – and in that pure Emptiness, which you are, the entire manifest world arises. You are that Freedom, Openness, Emptiness – and not any itty bitty thing that arises in it" (Ken Wilber, One Taste, 88).
If we can come to this place of mindfulness or develop a strong observer self (both function in very similar ways), we are less likely to end up in the panic room self when confronted with hard stuff, or we'll at least know that it is happening as it happens - and we'll be much more conscious partners in our relationships.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

The New Man Episode 54: Kute Blackson: Get Out of Fear and Into Gear

Nice conversation from The New Man podcast.

Episode 54: Kute Blackson: Get Out of Fear and Into Gear

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Life coach to the stars, Kute Blackson is back on The New Man, and he’s just in time. Many listeners are dealing with a ton of fear these days -- finances, career and the world in general all seem to be going to hell in a hand basket.

But what can YOU do about it, right now?

Kute walks us through a powerful 6 Step Process to cut the crap and make your life better -- regardless of the world outside.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You, Only Different - Why do girlfriends and wives keep trying to change their men?

Interesting. I'm a pretty much what you see is what you get kind of guy. No false advertising here. But this is the first relationship in my life - 40 years old when it began - where the woman hasn't wanted to or tried to change me. That feels good.

I think the author of this article is right to suggest that if you see your new boyfriend or husband as a work in progress, the relationship is probably doomed.

You, Only Different

Why do girlfriends and wives keep trying to change their men?

By Marianne Jacobbi March 15, 2009

I'm on a date with a man, and it's going pretty well -- until I discover that his politics are so far right of mine that he couldn't possibly be right for me. My first thought: This might have James Carville-Mary Matalin possibilities. Their improbable marriage is still going strong after 15-plus years. My second thought: I'm not likely to change. Is he?

In the movies, love changes people for the good all the time. After Henry Higgins gave his pupil Eliza Doolittle an extreme makeover, she morphed into a fair lady and they fell in love. Imagine how it might have played out had there been a sequel, My Fair Gentleman. Girlfriends and wives expend lots of energy trying to change their man, even though they won't always admit it and despite the fact that in real life, changing a man rarely works out. My aunt spent much of her marriage trying to get my uncle to quit gambling, until their divorce, after which he took up with a woman who's OK with how much time he spends at the blackjack table. A young friend recently married a man whose fear of commitment kept things stalled for seven long years. Will it last? I'm not sure, and I'm waiting for future installments. My own marriage was an "opposites attract" kind of love story and it endured for decades, until our differences finally did us in. We each slipped back to who we were.

Shirley Bavonese, a psychotherapist and co-director of the Relationship Institute in Michigan, says the most frequent complaint men have about women is that we're always trying to change them (with criticism, bossiness, and nagging). The most frequent complaint women have about men? They don't listen. I know there's this notion that women are bent on changing men because we're impossible to please, never content with what we've got. (Haven't you heard the Husband Store joke?) But I don't think that's right. We work on changing our man because we expect a lot from a relationship. We challenge him to talk about his feelings because we want to grow closer as a couple. We keep on him to drink less, exercise more, make a friend not because we're control freaks but because we want him to be around for a long time to come.

Change becomes harder the older you get, which makes changing and dating in middle age a real test. Let's just say I'm a good deal older than Eliza Doolittle. By now, I know what I'm capable of changing within myself and in another person and what I'm not willing or able to give up. So a new love interest knows all the sports statistics but can't seem to remember my birthday. Is this behavior likely to change? Could I grow to love it? Or at least live with it? In the old days, I'd overlook such shortfalls or assume he'd change -- for the better, for me. I no longer assume. Now, if I find myself wanting to change big and small things about someone I'm seeing -- if the change urge runs deep -- then the relationship isn't working.

I'm lucky enough to have many friends who have been married for decades, and I'm taking lessons from them about love and change and what's possible. From what I can tell, these couples let go of trying to change each other ages ago, and that may be the secret to their success. The little things that once rankled -- his tendency to be long-winded, hers to fall asleep at the movies -- no longer seem to be sources of irritation. They're little nuisances, endearing even, depending on the mood. I sometimes return home from dates and phone my friends for perspective. They've helped me see that you can't be and shouldn't be with someone you feel needs changing. Or who wants to change you. They remind me that you can change what someone does, but not who he is, and that when you've found the right person, you'll change each other without even knowing it.

That new guy seated across from me, I'm wishing he were different and it's not looking promising. My heart is telling me what to do, and this time, I listen. After coffee and dessert, I thank him for a very nice evening and move on.

Marianne Jacobbi is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. She lives in Cambridge. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mark Gungor - Men's Brain Women's Brain - EXTENDED

A wee bit of humor about the differences between men and women. Thanks to Justice Marshall for the link.
Part of a 4 DVD seminar called "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" you can find here.





Men Have a Difficult Time with Gratitude, an Essential Element of Happiness

I suspect this is true and too bad that it is - it need not be so.

Research indicates that gratitude is essential to happiness, but that men are uneasy expressing gratitude when receiving gifts (this might extend to other areas as well, but that would need further study), especially older men and especially when receiving gifts from older men.

Maybe it's a generational thing - I am often uncomfortable receiving gifts, though I have gotten better about this in recent years. Right or wrong, men might see gifts as "charity" in some twisted way, though I'm not sure about that.

Anyway, this is interesting.

From George Mason University.

New Research Suggests Key to Happiness is Gratitude—and Men May be Locked Out

Mar. 12, 2009

Media Contact: Tara Laskowski, tlaskows@gmu.edu 703-993-8815

FAIRFAX, Va.—With Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and high school and college graduations upcoming, there will be plenty of gift-giving and well wishes. When those start pouring in, let yourself be grateful—it’s the best way to achieve happiness according to several new studies conducted by Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University.

Gratitude, the emotion of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, is one of the essential ingredients for living a good life, Kashdan says. Kashdan’s most recent paper, which was published online this week at the Journal of Personality, reveals that when it comes to achieving well-being, gender plays a role. He found that men are much less likely to feel and express gratitude than women.

“Previous studies on gratitude have suggested that there might be a difference in gender, and so we wanted to explore this further—and find out why. Even if it is a small effect, it could make a huge difference in the long run,” says Kashdan.

In one study, Kashdan interviewed college-aged students and older adults, asking them to describe and evaluate a recent episode in which they received a gift. He found that women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts. In addition, older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift giver was another man.

“The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults,” says Kashdan. “Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being.”

As director of the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at Mason, Kashdan is interested in the assessment and cultivation of well-being, curiosity, gratitude and meaning and purpose in life. He has been active in the positive psychology movement since 2000, when he taught one of the first college courses on the science of happiness.

Kashdan says that if he had to name three elements that are essential for creating happiness and meaning in life it would be meaningful relationships, gratitude, and living in the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity. His book “Curious?,” which outlines ways people can enhance and maintain the various shades of well-being, is scheduled for release in April 2009 with HarperCollins.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Which is More Precious, Male or Female Brain?


This is an interesting look at the biological differences between the male and female brain. Contrary to much of what passes for knowledge in the mainstream culture, men and women are very different in some ways, and yet the differences within each gender are greater than the differences between genders. How is that for confusing?
By News Staff | January 16th 2009 12:00 AM

Writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, a group of researchers found that nutrient deprivation of neurons produced sex-dependent effects. Male neurons more readily withered up and died, while female neurons did their best to conserve energy and stay alive.

That's right, nature has declared female brains should survive with a lot less than males. Take that, glass ceiling!

The idea that the sexes respond differently to nutrient depravation is not new and revolves around the male preferences to conserve protein and female preferences to conserve fat. However, these metabolic differences have really only been examined in nutrient-rich tissues like muscles, fat deposits, and the liver.

Robert Clark and colleagues at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center examined whether this sex-dependent response in starvation could manifest in brain cells. They grew neurons taken separately from male and female rats or mice in lab dishes and subjected them to starvation over 72 hours.

After 24 hours, the male neurons experienced significantly more cell dysfunction (measured by analyzing cell respiration, which decreased by over 70% in male cells compared to 50% in female cells) and death. Visually, male neurons also displayed more abundant signs of autophagy, whereby a cell breaks down its components as a fuel source, while female neurons created more lipid droplets to store fat reserves.

As with other cell culture studies, the researchers note these results may not be truly indicative of what happens in living animals during starvation, but it allows them to look at the neurons independent of external factors like circulating hormones.


Article: "Starving Neurons Show Sex Difference in Autophagy" by Lina Du, Robert W. Hickey, Hülya Bayır, Simon C. Watkins, Vladimir Tyurin, Fengli Guo, Patrick M. Kochanek, Larry W. Jenkins, Jin Ren, Greg Gibson, Charleen T. Chu, Valerian E. Kagan, and Robert S. B. Clark, J. Biol. Chem..2009; 284: 2383-2396
This really isn't new information in the BIG sense, although it is unique in the specific sense. We have long known that more males are conceived than females, that slightly more are born, and that by age 50 or so, there are more females. Males are biologically weaker than females when it comes to survival.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Precision Nutrition Research Review: Front or Back Squats - What’s Better for Your Knees?

I thought back squats were harder on my back, and that front squats were harder on my knees - turns out there isn't a LOT of difference. Front squats are actually easier on the knees, but they also cause more activation of the spinal erectors. So I was ass-backwards.

If you - like me - can't live without doing some form of squat every week, this is an excellent research review. Two good lessons: squats are safe for those with ACL injuries, but machine squats place a LOT more shear force on the knees (not good).

Research Review: Front or Back Squats - What’s Better for Your Knees?

The squat is arguably one of the best exercises for the lower body. When you squat you use pretty much every muscle from the waist down. The big kahunas — the gluteus group and deep hip muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings — provide the drive. Other muscle groups, such as the abdominals, spinal musculature, and calves kick in to stabilize things and keep you from falling over.

Sounds like a great exercise to be doing! Right? It is a fantastic exercise, but it’s also one of the most challenging and controversial. People have loads of questions about it. Should I squat or will squatting make my thighs too big? How deep should I go? Which type of squat is best for me?

Well, I’ll try to answer at least one question with this week’s review, which compares the biomechanics of the back and front squats.

Before we get into the study there are a few things you need to know. In particular, you’ll need to be familiar with two very basic biomechanics terms: compression forces and shear forces (see figure below).

Compression forces, as their name implies, are forces that flatten or squeeze a material. In the case of the knee, compression forces squeeze cartilage.

Shear forces (stresses) are forces that run perpendicular (90°) from the material — in this case the knee. Imagine a stack of books. Now imagine trying to remove one book from the middle of the pile without disturbing the others. You probably wouldn’t try to retrieve that book by grabbing its edge and pulling it upwards; you’d probably push the book sideways and try to slide it out, right? That’s shear force.

Gullett JC, Tillman MD, Gutierrez GM, Chow JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009 Jan;23(1):284-92.

Methods

The usual suspects were used for this study: nine men and six women, all young (about 22 years old), healthy, and most likely university students. But here’s a cool thing: All participants were required to have at least one year’s experience with front and back squatting at least once a week. Yup, everybody in the study had been back and front squatting once a week for at least 52 weeks. I’m surprised they found 15 people!

While the lifters were “experienced” (unlike the commonly used untrained subjects), they weren’t huge people. Their average height was 171.2 cm (5’7”ish) and average weight was 69.7 kg (149.25 lb). Nor were they unusually strong people. On average the lifters’ 1 repetition maximum was 90% of their mass (61.8 kg -136.2 lb) for the back squat and 70% of their mass (48.5 kg - 106.9 lb) for the front squat. Not exactly world class but hey, we all have to begin somewhere, right? At least these folks were squatting, which is a great start!

Procedure for back and front squats

For this study the procedure or technique for back squatting involved “…the barbell being positioned across the shoulder on the trapezius slightly above the posterior aspect of the deltoids, and allowing the hips and knees to slowly flex until the thighs are parallel to the floor. The individual then extends the hips and knees until reaching the beginning, with emphasis with keeping the back flat, the heels on the floor, and the knees aligned over the feet”.1 In other words, lifters had the barbell in a “high bar position” and squatted until parallel with “good technique.”

For front squatting the technique was described by the authors as involving “the lifter positioning the barbell across the anterior deltoids and clavicles and fully flexing the elbows to position the upper arms parallel to the floor,” using what some might describe a “clean grip” (as opposed to the crossed-wrist style grip used by some bodybuilders). The rest of the technique was the same as the back squat.1

PN members can view videos of both techniques in our Member Zone Exercise Database!

Front squat | Back squat

When comparing the back and front squat in this experiment it all comes down to barbell placement. In the back squat, the barbell is behind the neck, across the trapezius. In the front squat the barbell is in front of the neck, across the front of the shoulders.

The measurements

This experiment measured two things: muscle activity and forces placed on the knee. Muscle activity was measured by electromyography (EMG). In particular, researchers observed the muscles of the quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis), the hamstrings (biceps femoris and semitendinosus), and the lower back (erector spinae).

To determine the forces on the knee, researchers performed a biomechanical analysis of the squats using video recordings. To make analysis possible, they placed (aka stuck) spherical reflective markers (aka shiny balls) over the greater tochanter (hip), midthigh, lateral knee, midshank (mid-shin), second metatarsal head (second toe knuckle –- if toes have knuckles), lateral malleolus (outside ankle bone) and calcaneus (heel) on each lifter’s right leg. Participants were then asked to lift “normally” with six shiny balls stuck to their right leg while being video recorded. Oh, they also had one foot on a force plate.

I’m not picking on the experimenters, but I always find it funny how in a lab setting experimental subjects have a bunch of things stuck to them; they get poked, prodded, and starved; and then they’re asked to exercise “normally” or the results are interpreted as such. So far though, this is the best we’ve got, but be careful how you interpret some of these results and their application to the real world.

One last thing about the measurements: before the day of EMG and biomechanical testing the lifters’ 1 repetition maximum (1RM) was figured out. For the testing the lifter did 70% of their 1RM.

Results

Interestingly (aka weirdly), EMG data showed no difference between front and back squats in any of the activities of muscles measured. That’s right, no difference in any of the quadriceps, hamstring or back muscles –- at least from a statistics standpoint. If you look at the data closely, there are some differences that in a larger group might be statistically significant. In cases with small differences between measures, statistics usually requires more samples –- in this case lifters -– to determine a difference. (But good luck finding more people with such desirable squat histories!)

Comparing just the averages, we find the back squat had higher hamstring activity (biceps femoris and semitendinous) compared to the front squat. The back squat also had lower quadriceps activity in two of the three muscles measured (vastus lateralis and rectus femoris), while vastus medialis activity was nearly identical in both squats. Last, front squats had higher back muscle (erector spinae) activity compared to back squats.

Analysis of biomechanical data found there were higher compressive and knee extensor moments in the back squat compared to the front squat. However there was no difference in shear stress on the knee, which was actually fairly low -– a lot lower than, say, knee extensions.


Back squat Front squat
EMG data: muscle activation


Hamstring
(biceps femoris and semitendinosus)
Higher Lower
Quadriceps

Vastus lateralis Lower Higher
Rectus femoris Lower Higher
Vastus medialis Similar Similar
Low back (erector spinae) Lower Higher
Biomechanical analysis

Compressive force Higher Lower
Knee extensor moments Higher Lower
Shear stress Similar Similar

Conclusion

There are two ways of looking at the EMG data:

  1. There is no difference in muscle activation between front and back squats.
  2. Or, front squatting less weight results in the same activation as back squatting more weight.

While front squats showed no difference, or marginally less muscle activation, you have to remember that lifters also used less weight. So it really isn’t a surprise that compressive forces on the knee during front squats are lower.

The authors suggest that if you have knee problems, such as ligament damage or meniscus tears, or if you have problems with osteoarthritis, then you may want to stick with the front squat since compressive forces can damage knee cartilage.

Another thing: if you look just at squats in general, both front and back, forces on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) (as measured by posterior shear forces) are low. Shear forces are so low, in fact, that many experimenters suggest that squats are safe for patients with ACL damage.2 So much for squats being bad for your knees! Oh, and machine squats were found to have 30-40% higher shear forces than free weight squats.3

Now isn’t it time you went and worked on that squat? Maybe the experimenters will be looking for more participants and you’ll want to be ready…

References

1. Baechle TR and Earle R. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning (2nd ed). Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2000: 366-369.

2. Escamilla, RF. Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Jan; 33(1): 127-41. Review.

3. Andrews JG, Hay JG and Vaughan CL. Knee shear forces during a squat exercise using a barbell and a weight machine. Biomechanics VIII B.H. Matsui and K. Kobayashi, eds. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1983: 923-927.


Friday, March 13, 2009

More on Courage as a Masculine Value

I recently posted two views on courage as a masculine value, by Harvey Mansfield, the author of Manliness, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel and The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. They have very different views on the topic.

Now I have come across an editorial that looks at their arguments and responds with his own conclusion - this from The Ottawa Citizen.
Several years ago, two academic heavy-hitters, Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield and Radcliffe historian Nancy Cott, debated the topic of manliness and masculinity in an exchange sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Mansfield recounted how an editor from Harvard Magazine once asked if he could offer a pithy comment on a fellow faculty member. Mansfield responded that what most impressed him was his colleague’s manliness. “There was a pause,” Mansfield told the audience. “Then the editor said, ‘Can you think of another word?’”

Mansfield’s point was that notions of manliness such as self-confidence, independence and the capacity to exercise authority had become risible in our effeminized, gender-neutral society — until Sept. 11, 2001. On that date, hundreds of men in uniforms died trying to save thousands of others when terrorists struck in the United States. Indeed, in the aftermath, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan was prompted to declare: “Men are back ... We are experiencing a new respect for their old-fashioned masculinity, a new respect for physical courage, for strength and the willingness to use both for the good of others.”

Well, Harvey Mansfield is back, too. In the Spring issue of incharacter magazine, Harvard University political theorist has weighed in again on the manliness topic in an exchange with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former member of the Dutch parliament who forced into hiding when she offended some Muslims by collaborating with slain filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the film Submission. The two swap views on the question “Is Courage a Masculine Virtue?”

Mansfield is careful to acknowledge, “courage is not solely for men.” But he insists, “it is mainly for men.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Giving women equal opportunity for displaying courage does no obvious harm if the need for courage remains clear. It would not be good to measure the amount of courage we need from the willingness of women to produce half of it. Less obvious harm might result from the loss of tenderness, and the loss of esteem for tenderness, in women. Do we really want two tough, aggressive sexes instead of one tough, the other tender? And do we want to dispense with gallantry in men, which is related to protectiveness in husbands?”

For her part, Ali, the author of Infidel and The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, points out how she was taught that only men possess courage. Unfortunately, as she shows, notions of masculinity and courage seem to have been perverted in some Islamic societies.

“It was at the age of twenty-one that I became disillusioned with the promise of protection from my men folk. On the border between Kenya and Somalia, just after the civil war began, I saw men with no sense of direction, discipline, or energy to fight. The women walked, gathered food, found water, and told stories of hope and better times to come. They found ways to reach family members dispersed across the world and appeal to them for help. There were definitely some brave men who delivered on their promise of protection. But the greatest shock came to me when I saw victims of rape (assaulted by the Kenyan border police) who were left in a vulnerable position, unguarded by the men of their clan. And after these women were raped, no male member was brave enough to confront the Kenyan police. They were left alone to die. Their agony, and perhaps eventual death, was justified as a way of washing the shame off the clan (their male relatives).”

After reading Ali’s account, I remembered Mansfield’s debate with Nancy Cott back in 2003, and how Cott insisted “there must be a better term than manly. Nobility, character, courage and integrity are wonderful principles for human behaviour. Why not dispense with trying to save the word and hold up these other terms as ideals?”

Mansfield responded by pointing out that abstract ideals are vindicated only in concrete actions, and historically it has largely been men who, acting out of sense of manhood, have risked their lives to embody those ideals. Unfortunately, Ali could rightly point out that not all men — or all cultures — live up to their ideals.