Friday, December 31, 2010

Dr Miles Groth - Working with Young Males in Psychotherapy: Implications of the Findings of Boyhood Studies

This is an useful (for some of us) from Contemporary Psychotherapy - a free online magazine. Understanding young men has become increasingly challenging - my guess is that working with them therapeutically is even more challenging.

As a note of clarification: Dr. Groth is one of the founders of the "male studies" movement - they tend to believe that men's studies are feminized due to their origin in women's studies and gender studies departments. And they tend to be harshly anti-feminism, as if all feminists are the same and hold the same values. I disagree with that part of their agenda.

Working with Young Males in Psychotherapy:

Working with Young Males in Psychotherapy: Implications of the Findings of Boyhood Studies

Dr Miles Groth discusses his approach to, and experience of, working psychotherapeutically with young men aged 4 to 24.

The New Boyhood

Boys are now among the most challenging groups with whom we work as psychotherapists. During the past two decades, boyhood has received special attention, and with good reason: boyhood is being radically redefined. As a result, the number of vulnerable boys who require our attention and care has increased significantly. Some of them are just entering kindergarten; others are graduating from high school or college and manoeuvering their way in a world of work that has increasingly fewer places for them; a decreasing number are in graduate school. Ever more are disconnected, disaffiliated and adrift. We witness a group who often make the astonishing claim that they do not feel welcome among us. Some do not articulate it this way, but they indicate it in their actions. Especially disturbing, we see more and more boys who by age fifteen have lost the kinetic playfulness and saying-by-doing typical of boys and young males. Many wander on in an odd, constricting, dimmed-down atmosphere that engulfs them for another decade. We often find that, no matter how long our reach, we cannot touch them.

The features of traditional boyish behavior still make their appearance at about age four when the differences between the sexes register with males but the boy as pre-gender trickster has often been tamed. Given the earlier average onset of puberty at about age twelve, one might suppose that boyhood ends sooner, yet for want of significant and decisive rites of passage, male adolescence has effectively disappeared, replaced by an extended period of boyhood. No longer children, males in the second decade of life are not busy consolidating their identity, the mark of the adolescent passage, as they once did. Very apparent to casual observation and evident in the media, boyhood now extends into the early twenties, when a ragged tear finds young males suddenly dropped off at the curb of a world where they are expected to assume the “elusive status” of manhood.

The behavioral manifestations of the new, two-decade-long boyhood are by now well known and have been documented by clinicians, educators and journalists: lack of commitment to projects and pastimes that once were satisfying to boys; aimless movement from one distraction to another; sullenness, withdrawal and isolation—the Western version of hikikimori which finds an alarming number of Japanese boys staying in their rooms for weeks or months at a time; an alarming increase in the number of suicides at ever earlier ages (4-6 times greater than that of their female age-mates); outbursts of aggressive behavior directed at individuals, especially those representing our major social institutions, the family and school; if attending an educational institution, lack of engagement in learning and a resulting failure to attain literacy; and numbing bouts of abuse of alcohol and both licit and illicit drugs. Such retreat into chemical solipsism is now often iatrogenic; Ritalin, as often as marijuana, is a boy’s introduction to drugs. In the college years, he grinds up the tablets he has been prescribed for more than a decade to dampen his behavior and inhales their contents. This he washes down with beer and tops off with a joint. We hear accounts of experiences of depression, hostility, feelings of rage that cannot be articulated, confusion, lack of motivation, and an almost schizoid retreat into worlds of fantasy mediated by video games and online diversions.

Young males2

Boys no longer “will be boys.” More and more, the cliché does not at all apply. In fact, we are relieved if a young boy’s dearest possession is his skateboard, yet he is now often closest to the cyclops of his computer. He may lift weights alone in his parents’ basement or strum his guitar. His emotional outlets are often limited to anger. With decreasing numbers playing organized sports, a boy’s generous physical energy may find an outlet exploding in a rave, playing in a rock band, or enacting backyard wrestling scenarios. Boyhood ends not by being transcended in initiations or symbolical rituals but by being forced underground still very much alive. Typically, this occurs when a boy leaves school, whether early or late. The creature we see then – sometimes inaccurately called a boy-man – is in fact no part man, however. This status has been made even more problematic by the fact that in the past thirty years definitions of manhood have changed in ways that even fully grown men of the past two generations have not been able to understand and accommodate. We cannot expect our boys to fathom what no one can say they are to become.

Read the whole article.

The Man Code?

For some reason, I find this amusing. Maybe because I was never let in on The Man Code - or maybe because this guy thinks he speaks for most or all men. No two men are alike, so no two men can share the same beliefs about what it means to be a man (although there are certainly cultural norms, often referred to hegemonic masculinity).

I wonder if it means anything that I have never heard of this guy?

‘The Man Code’ by Reality TV Star David Good Aims To Empower Women

More and more men are using their influence to empower women by releasing books that gives the inside scoop. Reality TV personality David Good of ABC’s ‘Bachelor Pad’ released his first book, The Man Code: A Woman’s Guide To Cracking The Tough Guy.

Although an unlikely messenger, his goal with The Man Code is to empower women, and to help them understand that they are their most attractive when they are strong, intelligent and motivated.

Good, 29, defines the Man Code as an unwritten code of conduct that guides the standards to which a man holds other men and himself. He believes the code represents the unspoken laws of masculinity, and it dictates the way men treat not just each other, but also the women in their lives. He writes, “Understanding the code empowers women to request and receive more from their men than was previously possible.”

In The Man Code, Good asserts that he’s uniquely capable of explaining the alpha male to the fairer sex – helping decipher the difference between a “Man Code” man and a bad boy. And it is in this book that he reveals what men like him value, and uncovers the stumbling blocks they most often experience on the road to love.

Since I do not know what The Man Code is, I decided to do a little research. Here is one version of the Code - appropriately, it's from

The Man Code

  1. Thou shall not rent the movie Chocolate.

  2. Under no circumstances may 2 men share an umbrella.

  3. Any man who brings a camera to a bachelor party may be legally killed and eaten by his fellow partygoers.

  4. When you are queried by a buddy's wife, girlfriend, mother, father, priest, shrink, dentist, accountant, or dog walker, you need not and should not provide any useful information whatsoever as to his whereabouts. You are permitted to deny his very existence.

  5. Unless he murdered someone in your immediate family, you must bail a friend out of jail within 12 hours.

  6. You may exaggerate any anecdote told in a bar by 50% without recrimination; beyond that, anyone within earshot is allowed to call B*LLSH$T. (Exception: When trying to pick up a girl, the allowable exaggeration rate rises to 400%)

  7. If you've known a guy for more than 24 hours, his sister is off-limits forever.

  8. The minimum amount of time you have to wait for another guy who's running late is 5 minutes. For a girl, you are required to wait 10 minutes for every point of hotness she scores on the classic 1-10 babe scale.

  9. Complaining about the brand of free beer in a buddies refrigerator is forbidden. You may gripe if the temperature is unsuitable.

  10. No man is ever required to buy a birthday present for another man. In fact, even remembering a friends birthday is strictly optional and slightly gay.

  11. Agreeing to distract the ugly friend of a hot babe that your buddy is trying to hook up with is your legal duty. Should you get carried away with your good deed and end up having sex with the beast, your pal is forbidden to speak of it, even at your bachelor party.

  12. Before dating a buddy's "ex", you are required to ask his permission and he in return is required to grant it.

  13. Women who claim they "love to watch sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to pick a buffalo wing clean.

  14. If a man's zipper is down, that's his problem - you didn't see nothin'.

  15. The universal compensation for buddies who help you move is beer.

  16. A man must never own a cat or like his girlfriend's cat.

  17. When stumbling upon other guys watching a sports event, you may always ask the score of the game in progress, but you may never ask who's playing.

  18. When your girlfriend/wife expresses a desire to fix her whiney friend up with your pal, you may give her the go-ahead only if you'll be able to warn your buddy and give him time to prepare excuses about joining the priesthood.

  19. It is permissible to consume a fruity chick drink only when you're sunning on a tropical beach... and it's delivered by a topless supermodel... and it's free.

  20. Unless you're in prison, never fight naked.

  21. A man in the company of a hot, suggestively dressed woman must remain sober enough to fight.

  22. If a buddy is outnumbered, out manned, or too drunk to fight, you must jump into the fight. Exception: If within the last 24 hours his actions have caused you to think, "What this guy needs is a good ass-whoopin", then you may sit back and enjoy.

  23. Phrases that may NOT be uttered to another man while weight lifting: "Yeah, baby, push it!", "C'mon, give me one more! Harder!", "Another set and we can hit the showers." " Nice ass, are you a Sagittarius?"

  24. Never hesitate to reach for the last beer or the last slice of pizza, but not both. That's just plain mean.

  25. If you compliment a guy on his six-pack, you better be referring to his beer.

  26. Never join your girlfriend/wife in dissing a buddy, except when she's withholding sex pending your response.

  27. Never talk to a man in the bathroom unless you're on equal footing: either both urinating or both waiting in line. In all other situations, a nod is all the conversation you need.

  28. Unlocking a car door for another man is polite. Opening it is gay.

Hmmm . . . is that what he meant>

Then there is some guy named Mattew Boggs who claims to be able to help you crack The Man Code - if you buy his seminars, books, coaching - looks like pick-up artist crap to me, except he is selling this to women to get men. There's a lot of this on the Web - teaching men how to be slick enough to get laid, and slimy enough to avoid a relationship - seems this guy wants to sell women on how to get men.

Oh wait, I think Boggs and Good are both selling the same shinola - the both are associated with The Bachelor Pad.

So, apparently, you can never screw your friend's/aide's/employee's wife (even if she works for you). OK, good to know.

I don't know . . . I think I'll stick with my code:

1. be kind
2. be loving
3. be mature
4. be honest
5. be present

All of which is subject to revision as needed to be a good guy.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Value in Being of Service

A little wisdom for the coming New Year. Imagine if we all made an effort to be of service to others in any way we can - whether it is volunteer work or changing careers to something that focuses on making the lives of other people a little better - if we all did this, imagine how much better a place the world will be in 2012?

Solace in Service
Doing for Others

Many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people in loving service.

When we feel bad, often our first instinct is to isolate ourselves and focus on what's upsetting us. Sometimes we really do need some downtime, but many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people. In being of service to others, paradoxically, we often find answers to our own questions and solutions to our own problems. We also end up feeling more connected to the people around us, as well as empowered by the experience of helping someone.

When we reach out to people we can help, we confirm that we are not alone in our own need for support and inspiration, and we also remind ourselves that we are powerful and capable in certain ways. Even as our own problems or moods get the better of us sometimes, there is always someone else who can use our particular gifts and energy to help them out. They, in turn, remind us that we are not the only people in the world with difficulties or issues. We all struggle with the problems of life, and we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we can almost always find solace in service.

In the most ideal situation, the person we are helping sheds light on our own dilemma, sometimes with a direct piece of advice, and sometimes without saying anything at all. Sometimes just the act of getting our minds out of the obsessive mode of trying to figure out what to do about our own life does the trick. Many great inventors and artists have found that the inspiration they need to get to the next level in their work comes not when they're working but when they're walking around the block or doing dishes. We do ourselves and everyone else a great service when we take a break from our sorrows and extend ourselves to someone in need.

Fluid movement - How men and women are less different than you think

The Economist reviews a new book that sounds interesting for those interested in gender studies and the differences/similarities between men and women.

Man & Woman: An Inside Story. By Donald Pfaff. Oxford University Press USA; 232 pages; $27.95 and £15.99

The making of the sexes

Fluid movement: How men and women are less different than you think

THE trouble with books about the differences between men and women is that the authors are all too often partisan, or perceived to be. Any writer brave enough to take on this subject needs to be meticulous and unflaggingly sceptical in his or her approach. Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist at Barnard College, pulled this off last year with “Brain Storm” (Harvard), in which she showed up the flaws in research that attributes sex differences in behaviour to prenatal exposure to hormones. Out of the rubble of the edifice she destroyed, or at least left wobbling dangerously, Donald Pfaff has constructed a far more complex structure, that more closely resembles what scientists know about this subject.

Mr Pfaff is the right man for the job. A neurobiologist at New York’s Rockefeller University, he has worked in the field for nearly half a century, focusing on how hormones affect the brain. Mr Pfaff’s lab was the first to demonstrate how a female hormone, oestrogen, acts on a rat’s brain to produce female mating behaviour, so he might be expected to defend his patch against attacks from the likes of Ms Jordan-Young. Instead he weaves a story of genetic, hormonal and environmental influences that interact in myriad and complex ways to determine gender. He also resists the temptation to draw too many parallels between rats and humans. Though it is a reasonable assumption that these species share the brain mechanisms that control basic sex behaviours—erection, ejaculation and so on—in humans the biological is also powerfully modulated by social and cultural influences.

The story of sex determination starts with DNA, since your genes launch you onto a male or female trajectory. But as Mr Pfaff explains, if for any reason your hormones fail to follow suit, you can grow up assuming the other gender. Even if your genes and hormones are in synch, environmental factors can reroute the gender train. Under stressful conditions, for example, a pregnant woman’s adrenal glands pump out abnormal levels of another female hormone, progesterone, feminising the developing brain of a male fetus.

What’s more, the process of sex determination is not over by birth, but continues into life, up to and including puberty. And, when it comes to humans and sex, variety is infinite. Strongly masculine and strongly feminine genders mark each end of the spectrum. In between, every permutation is possible, and the same goes for sexual orientation.

In some ways men and women are consistently different, but the significant differences in their brains only pertain to those primitive behaviours which include mating, parenting and aggression. When it comes to higher functions—the skills that arguably make us human—the similarities outweigh the differences. On average, men and women score equally on mathematical and reading ability, for example. Reported differences in empathy, leadership and verbal fluency have all been exaggerated, according to Mr Pfaff. Where differences in these skills do exist, the causes may lie in the social context. The rise of the high-achieving “alpha girl” is in part due to social changes that have allowed girls equal access to education. The reasons why many boys perform poorly at school are complex, but partly social too.

Mr Pfaff is both meticulous and sceptical, but he has a tendency to be too technical for the general reader. And although he is convincing about the existence of a gender continuum, society still frets over what to do about children whose behaviour falls in the middle, or who, more unusually, are born with ambiguous genitals. Controversy still rages over the best way to treat this last group, and medicine can claim both successes and failures. Mr Pfaff’s book is the latest of many works on the science of sex determination. But there is still room for more.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Secret Lives of Men - The Ego-Less SELF: Achieving Peace & Tranquility Beyond All Understanding

Chris Blazina speaks with Cardwell C. Nuckols, Ph.D., author of The Ego-Less SELF: Achieving Peace & Tranquility Beyond All Understanding. I'm glad to see a topic like this on a men's site - spirituality is a crucial part of a fully mature and integrated life. I would caution, however, that Nuckols makes it sound easier than it is - many people spend a lifetime making successive approximations to a more Self-led life. It's not a destination - it's a process.
The Ego-Less SELF is a journey of discovery and a return to the deepest truth. It looks closely at the notion of 'spiritual transformation' by first showing you how the ego develops over time to cause suffering in our lives. Once the ego is stripped away, the pathways to the self—heart, mind, and action—can begin to work. With a broad range of spiritual influences, from the Bible to Zen Buddhism, The Ego-Less SELF sets out to deflate the ego to let the true self shine through. You will begin to learn how to get rid of resentments, surrender the ego's unconscious programs for happiness, and employ simple techniques to increase contact with consciousness. The road to self is not about trying to acquire anything but rather the willingness to surrender all of our egoistic ways, thus taking us back to that which we are—the purest self.

Cardwell C. Nuckols, Ph.D., is a partner and board member of American Enterprises Solutions, Inc. An expert in behavioral medicine for over 20 years, he has authored more that 30 journal articles, 14 books and pamphlets, and the bestseller Cocaine: Dependency to Recovery and Roadblocks to Recovery. He has received the Gooderham Award for outstanding contributions to the alcohol and drug addiction field and lives in Apopka, Florida.

Listen to internet radio with Secret Lives of Men on Blog Talk Radio

American Contractor DynCorp Bankrolled Pedophilia by Afghani Men Against Boys

F**k - My/Our tax dollars are being spent to buy boys for Afghani men to sexually abuse so that DynCorp can do whatever the hell it is they are doing over there. This is wrong in more ways than I can count.

We would not know about this without the WikiLeaks cables released by Julian Assange. This is why we need Wikileaks and other similar efforts - our government cannot be allowed to do and fund these atrocities in secret - they must be exposed and our media is too lame to do it.

To win over Afghan locals, American contractor DynCorp bankrolled 'bacha bazi' parties -- the culturally accepted practice of pedophilia by men against boys.

By Shirin Sadeghi | December 28, 2010

Every culture has its dark secrets, the practices that many people on the outside would frown on or shudder at. There’s Mormons and polygamy. Hindus and sati. Muslims and virgin brides. And many other cultures that have very specific practices associated with them.

The list is endless but it's also not comprehensive. Not all Mormons practice polygamy -- in fact a comparatively few percentage of them do. The same for Hindus and sati or Muslims and virgin brides. Over time, increased awareness of these issues and any problems associated with them, has led to laws that provide rights to the victims of these practices. But even more effective than laws are social changes. Society's rejection of these practices are a more powerful enforcement against them than laws can ever be, it seems. Which is why public awareness is critical to changing these practices from the ground up.

This week, the WikiLeaks cables publicized another culture's dark secret: the Pashtuns and bacha bazi, the ancient practice of pedophilia by men against boys. Not all Pashtuns practice it, but like other dark secrets in other cultures, it is an inescapable fact that it exists and is strongly associated with Pashtuns.

When the issue arises, so does the sensitivity. No one wants their culture to be known for a horrible thing. But the subject cannot and should not be avoided. Bacha bazi -- literally "playing with children" -- is practiced amongst Pashtuns in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Not all of them do it, but it is acceptable among certain sections of Pashtun culture, which is why it is openly practiced. And also why, as the WikiLeaks cables demonstrated, the American contractor DynCorp took advantage of the practice to appease local Pashtuns in an area of Afghanistan in which they needed to rein in the locals to be able to continue their work there.

It was very easy for DynCorp to bankroll bacha bazi parties for those local Pashtuns who practice it. They arranged for the boys to be purchased, for the venue, and for the guests who would attend the party. Some Pashtuns came. They saw. And they partied.

Children were abused on American military dollars. The cables are undoubtedly an embarrassment to the war effort. Whereas previously bacha bazi was used in the media to stress the necessity of the war effort – "these people need to be liberated," so the theory went – the WikiLeaks cables have completely reversed that notion. Americans are clearly not liberators if they are promoting child abuse instead of preventing and prohibiting it.

But the bigger picture remains that bacha bazi was there to be exploited.

It exists, and Pashtuns need to talk about it so they can make the changes from within. Pedophilia is not a phenomenon exclusive to one culture. It tends to thrive in any situation where males and females are segregated, whether that is a religious institution, a culture of segregated boarding schools, or a closed society. Bacha bazi is particularly troubling to many people because it is not only pedophilia but culturally accepted pedophilia – amongst those Pashtuns who accept and practice it openly. The sensitivities are even greater because of this but the fact that they exist suggests that many Pashtuns realize the practice is problematic.

The WikiLeaks cables are just as damning to the war effort as they are to the Pashtuns whose silence allows this practice to continue. Many Pashtuns are speaking up, but clearly, many more still need to.

~ Shirin Sadeghi is an Iranian-American writer and Middle East expert. She formerly worked as a journalist for the BBC World Service and Al Jazeera English.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Good Men Project Speaks with Tripp Lanier

I like Tripp - he seems to have his heart in the right place. But I wonder how much more effective he might be if he included more soul in his work, and less materialism. I'm sure he is meeting most men where they are, but why not push them deeper as well? And I don't mean David Deida stuff, I mean actual psychological shadow work and spiritual work.

Man-to-Man with Tripp Lanier

December 21, 2010 By the Editors

We sit down with Tripp Lanier, life coach and host of The New Man Podcast, to discuss how to live a kick-ass life, get what you want, and avoid becoming a middle-aged grouch. Rule number one: never, ever bullshit yourself.

For those who are reading about you for the first time, how would you explain your line of work?

Basically I help guys live kick-ass lives. That’s the bottom line. I know a lot of guys are kind of stuck in molds that just don’t fit them. My role is to show them all these different possibilities that they didn’t know were available to them.

I feel like much of your message can resonate with someone who’s recently graduated from college, trying to figure out what he wants to do, looking for direction, but unwilling to commit out of fear of failure. Can you talk about your own post-college years?

I was really lucky: right after college I knew what I wanted to do. I started a video production company about five months after I graduated, and I had gone to art school—I didn’t have business backing—but my mindset at the time was I could fail spectacularly and still be OK.

That to me is the dichotomy that we’re talking about here: I’m afraid of failure and I’m afraid to give anything a shot versus I’m going to take this one thing and just explore it and see what happens. I’m no worse off than just being stuck. At least I’ll learn something, and make some connections along the way.

So I went for it, and the company was successful, and I used it to fund the music I was doing, but there was something else that I was noticing. I had the life a lot of guys wanted. I had the successful business, the cool hobby, the girlfriend thing going on, I had the house, and I was still young, in my mid- to late-20s. And I realized: wait a second, it’s not going to be more money that’s going to make me feel more fulfilled, it’s not going to be more women, it’s not going to be a hit record. I started to get anxious—what’s going to make me fulfilled? Could I do this for another 10, 15, 20, 30 years? And I knew the answer was no.

Is this how The New Man came to fruition?

Yes. I think a lot of men figure that out in their 50s or 60s—they call it a midlife crisis—and I hit it early on. Meaning was something that was lacking in what I was doing. I finally dealt with some emotional stuff that had happened to me in my teens. I went from a place of trying to control and manage everything in my life, to just getting really curious. On the other side of being terrified about everything, life just became this big adventure to me, and I was willing to take some more chances.

If I get this one shot at life—I don’t want to play it safe, and I don’t necessarily want to be the crazy guy either, reckless or hurtful. At the same time I knew if I didn’t do something I’m really proud of, I was gonna be sorry, I was gonna have a life of regret. That became the search. That’s how I got into this line of work, how The New Man came about.

Did you have your own coach or a mentor?

I had some good friends who helped me out. But I didn’t have a mentor, or someone who had been through the same thing. And it wasn’t until years later that I started to hear about terminology for it, or started to hear about people who had gone through similar things.

I thought, this is bullshit—why should men have to go through this alone? First of all, it’s the biggest joke in the world to think that you’re alone. You’re not. I want to make it the mission of The New Man: if another guy is going through the same thing, he can easily find a coach or a mentor. That was the biggest fallacy that I created: that I was alone in all of this.

When guys do come to talk to you, do you notice any common themes in the types of problems they’re having?

Most of the time, it’s the feeling of being stuck. They’ve gotten to a certain point in their lives, and they can’t quite get to the next place, they’re not even sure what the next thing is. I always feel like there aren’t enough options on the menu. The reason is, most of the time they’re living within this confined box. The box needs to be bigger. I help them identify what their life would like if they took some of the fears away and got creative.

Do you think men today, in the 21st century, face a unique set of challenges relative to other generations?

Guys that are coming of age now are in a unique position in that we’re standing on the shoulders of our fathers and our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers. It’s a luxury to have these challenges. My grandfather was fighting in a world war, my father went to war. It’s a luxury to be able to sit here and be like, Man, what am I really going to do with my life? To me, that’s the amazing beauty of it. And it can be painful.

One of the guests on your show, Jason Gaddis, talked about how every culture across time has had an initiatory process where an adolescent becomes a man. But in our culture, we sorely lack a real initiation process. Fraternities can act as a sort of quasi-initiation into manhood, but they also fail on a number of levels. Gaddis went on mini “vision quests” and sought guidance from others. Did you undergo any sort of “initiation” or spiritual quest?

In my mid- to late 20s, I felt like I was living a double life. On the one hand I had my “normal” friends and my business. But on the weekends I was flying off to different retreats and consuming as much information as I could through books, and I was hungry, I was starving for meaning, for some sort of translation as to what was going on in my life.

So I did do a lot of exploring, and some of it was in that retreat style. Before, I didn’t want anything to challenge my worldview. Now I was like, bring it on, show me what’s out here in the world.

But it was fun. Some guys will turn it into an Into the Wild–type thing, where it’s gotta be really demanding and crazy and bring us close to death. I didn’t feel like I needed that. But I did wonder, well, what else is out there? How are other people living their lives and finding joy and pleasure and meaning? Is the only way to do it the American way, the American dream? That’s what I was seeking to challenge.

What’s the biggest mistake we can make?

This tendency to collapse into fear. To me, that’s where we screw up—when we stifle our desire or vision because it doesn’t fit in with what we see around us. That’s a huge mistake, to not even allow yourself to want something, or voice it. There’s this huge fear that if we allow ourselves to really want something, we’ll impulsively go into action and screw it all up. I deal with that a lot with my clients—just getting them to say yes to what they want in life. They’re miserable because they’re not allowing themselves to want what they really want, much less have it.

What was your dad like?

I have an awesome dad. He is fantastic, he is a rock. In terms of a guy I needed to just be solid for me, he’s been that from day one. He’s also never let me get away with bullshitting. One of the most valuable lessons he taught me is don’t lie to yourself. If you lie to yourself, you lie to everyone else. In some way he instilled this little trigger in me that I know when I’m bullshitting.

At one point I was trying to make him into everything. I wanted him to be everything to me, which was incredibly unfair, and it placed a lot of pressure on him, and our relationship was uncomfortable for quite a few years. Then I read something somewhere that said, “if you’re not in jail right now, if you’re not being taken care of by the state, then your father did his job.”

And I remember just relaxing, thinking, I’m way beyond that. I’m a contributor in the world. My dad kicked ass. I realized it wasn’t just my dad’s responsibility, that it was uncles, and friends of my father’s, and so many other people in a supporting role, and it’s not just one man’s job to be everything to me. Now that I’m a father, I realize the importance of that, too: I’m never going to be everything to my daughter.

I’m glad I turned that corner, because it felt like I could see him as a human being again and not some superhero.

What do you think of traditional men’s magazines?

Most men’s magazines are serving up what “their guy” wants. I read some men’s magazines and enjoy them and I think they have something to contribute. But I think for the most part they’re doubting their reader’s ability to deal with depth and to deal with meaning. There’s a fear to challenge the reader.

In my experience, with the responses I get from the guys I work with, who are so thankful and so appreciative that someone’s talking about this stuff, I’m thinking, Wow, why isn’t GQ doing this?

What’s your most cherished guy ritual?

Every morning, my wife brings our baby daughter in, and I wake up with my daughter beating my chest and punching me in the beans. It’s the absolute best way to start the day—the giggling, the fun, the kissing—it just totally melts my heart. I could get killed that day, in a car accident or something, and I’ll be so glad I played with my daughter and wife that morning.

What advice would you give to teenage boys trying to figure out what it means to be a good man?

Number one: get into the practice of being honest with yourself. It’s probably scary, but even if you aren’t ready for action, you can use it as a starting point.

Second, don’t dismiss what you really want and who you really are. Don’t let how other people are living their life govern what you do. Be willing to own what you really want in life, because life’s not gonna come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, this is what you wanted, and we’re going to deliver it.” It doesn’t work that way.

Another one is to stay curious. Life gets really dull when we think we know everything, and so I would ask, “What is it that you want to learn? What’s intriguing to you?” Follow that thread of things that light you up and demand your attention.

The most important piece of advice, though, is to have fun. It’s so easy to go through life and constantly be on this search—so many guys who I talk to are all about passion, and purpose, or mission—and forget that what it’s really about is just having fun. If you’re curing cancer but it’s not fun to you and it’s making you a grumpy asshole, then stop doing it. I really believe that. The world doesn’t need another grumpy asshole, so go find what it is that you love to do, and feed off that passion and that fun thing, because that’s infectious and that’s going to be what inspires more people.

To learn more about Tripp and to listen to his podcasts, check out his website.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NPR - The Modern-Day Renaissance Man In Queen's Brian May

Cool guy - Brian May: rock star and astrophysicist. Not too many people can be one of Rolling Stone's top 100 guitarists and a member of one of the greatest rock bands ever, and then go on to earn a PhD. in astrophysics - oh yeah, and then become chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, as well as writing a couple of books - Bang! The Complete History of the Universe (2006) and A Village Lost and Found (2009), about life in a small English village at the beginning of the 1850s as seen through 3-d stereoscopic images created by T.R. Williams.

Talk about a well-rounded guy - very cool.

December 27, 2010

Brian May
courtesy of Queen

Brian May wrote "We Will Rock You," "I Want It All," "Fat Bottomed Girls" and "Tie Your Mother Down," among other Queen hits.

This week on Fresh Air, we're marking the year's end by revisiting some of the most memorable conversations we've had in 2010. This interview was originally broadcast on August 3, 2010.

Brian May, the lead guitarist in the British glam-rock band Queen, is a modern-day renaissance man.

Eighteen of his albums with Queen have topped the charts, selling more than 300 million copies worldwide. May, who played the guitar solo in "We Are the Champions," also sang the bass parts in Queen's rock opera "Bohemian Rhapsody" and penned the classic anthem "We Will Rock You." He's on Rolling Stone's list of the Top 100 guitarists ever.

But May's interests aren't limited to the rock world. Before Queen made it big, May was studying astrophysics at Imperial College in London. He gave it up to hit the road with Queen, but his background in physics helped the band in the recording studio: In "We Will Rock You," for example, he designed the sound of the famous "stomp stomp clap" section — in order to make it sound like thousands of people were stomping and clapping — based on his knowledge of sound waves and distances. (A more detailed explanation exists in interview highlights below, but he constructed the stomps based on a series of distances based on prime numbers.)

He tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross that ironically, that famous "stomp-clap thing" in "We Will Rock You" wasn't even included in the original song. May explains that he got the idea after a particularly animated Queen show at Bingley Hall near Birmingham, England.

"The audience was responding hugely, and they were singing along with everything we did," he says. "I remember talking to [lead singer] Freddie Mercury about it. And I said, 'Obviously, we can no longer fight this. This has to be something which is part of our show and we have to embrace it, the fact that people want to participate — and, in fact, everything becomes a two-way process now. And we sort of looked at each other and went, 'Hmm. How interesting.' "

May went home that night and says he woke up the next morning with the "stomp stomp clap" line in his head.

"I was thinking, 'What can you give an audience that they could do while they're standing there? They can stamp and they can clap and they can sing some kind of chant,' " he says. "To me, it was a united thing. It was an expression of strength."

In 2007, May earned a doctorate from Imperial after completing his dissertation on interplanetary dust. His book on the subject, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, was released in 2006.

May tells Terry Gross that, while traveling the world with Queen, he would often stop in antique stores on the road to look for stereoscopic photographs. His interest in the early 3-D photographs led to the publication of a second book, A Village Lost and Found, which depicts life in a small English village at the beginning of the 1850s.

May, now the chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, recently oversaw the remastering of several Queen albums.

Web Extra: The Story Of 'Killer Queen'

Brian May explains the guitar solo on the Queen song 'Killer Queen'

Interview Highlights

On Writing 'We Will Rock You'

"I was thinking of it more as a rock anthem and a means of uniting an audience ... enjoying the fact that an audience is united. I didn't realize that it would translate to sports games. This is an amazing thing. It's wonderful for me to see what "We Will Rock You" has done. 'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are the Champions' have kind of transcended the normal framework of where music is listened to and appreciated — they've become part of public life, which I feel wonderful about. It's fantastic to me, if I go to a football game or a soccer game or basketball or whatever — or any place all around the world — and there it is. And I think, 'My God. Most people don't even realize that I wrote it.' Most people don't realize that it was written. It's sort of become one of those things that people think was always there. So in a way, that's the best compliment you could have for the song."

On The 'Stomp-Stomp-Clap' Section Of 'We Will Rock You'

"I had this idea that, if we did it enough times and we didn't use any reverb or anything, that I could build a sound that would work. We were very lucky — we were working in an old, disused church in North London, and it already had a nice sound. And there were some old boards lying around, but they just seemed ideal to stamp on. So we piled them up and started stamping. And they sounded great anyway. But being a physicist, I said, 'Suppose there were 1,000 people doing this; what would be happening?' And I thought, 'Well, you would be hearing them stamping. You would also be hearing a little bit of an effect, which is due to the distance that they are from you.' So I put lots of individual repeats on them. Not an echo but a single repeat at various distances. And the distances were all prime numbers. Now, much later on, people designed a machine to do this. But that's what we did. When we recorded each track, we put a delay of a certain length on it. And none of the delays were harmonically related. So there's no echo on it whatsoever, but the clapped sound — they spread around the stereo, but they also kind of spread from a distance from you — so you just feel like you're in the middle of a large number of people stamping and clapping."

On 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

"This is Freddie's great baby and, yes, we all contributed to the way it developed in the studio, but really, it was so much constructed in his head before he ever stopped in there. It's an amazing thing. ... An amazing creation and quite unique."

On Freddie Mercury's Sexuality

"I think it was an undiscussed thing for a long time. The truth of the matter is nobody should care. Why should anyone care what sexual persuasion people have? It's about the music, and Freddie would have been the first to say that. He never hid the fact that he was turned on by men instead of by women, but strange enough, I don't think it was always the case. Because in the early days, we used to share rooms. So in the early days, I know who Freddie slept with, and they weren't men, but I think it gradually changed. And I have no idea how these things work, but it wasn't really anybody's business but his, and we never talked about it as if it were important. Why should it be important? We just made music together."

On His Physics Dissertation

"It's a study of dust. As simple as that. Dust, in this case, in the solar system. We're actually surrounded by it. The earth moves through a cloud of dust constantly and a lot of it comes down to Earth. My experiment was trying to figure out the motion of that dust. Where it's going, what it's doing, where it came from and what it means in terms of the creation of the solar system."

Healing Childhood Wounds

One of the strange elements of life is that girls become women simply by growing up and physically maturing (for the most part), but boys must earn manhood. We do not become men simply by growing into an adult body, we are forced to repress or deny natural parts of ourselves (emotions, compassion, vulnerability, and so on), and to adopt the four basic rules of manhood (via Michael Kimmel):
1. Don't be a sissy: You can never do anything that even remotely hints of the feminine. In the United States, we don't raise boys to become men, we raise them to not become women.

2. Always win:
Wealth, power, status—these are the markers of masculinity. All right, let's quote a bumper sticker here: "He who has the most toys when he dies wins." Sorry, did I just quote a bumper sticker?

3. Be a sturdy oak: What makes a man is that he is reliable in a crisis. And what makes him reliable is how closely he resembles an inanimate object. A rock, a pillar, a species of tree.

4. Go for it:
Exude an aura of daring and aggression. Live life on the edge, Take risks. Don't give a damn about what others think.
Then there are also two ways we define manhood - (1) not feminine, (2) not gay.

All of these "rules" for growing into manhood force into false roles - we are much more than these simplistic limiting rules. When we adopt these rules to fit in and be considered men, we lose large parts of ourselves - and this leaves up wounded and hurting.

But we do not have to live this way - we can begin to wake up to the ways we have been forced into these little boxes of manhood. We can undo the wounding and become more expansive and whole. But it requires we do some work - hard work - to uncover our pain, to find our lost emotions and reintegrate them.

Someplace inside of us - not matter how cliche this sounds - there is that child who holds all of the feelings and desires and hopes we have denied we have (in our effort to be seen as men). We can access that child with help from a therapist, a coach, or with some personal growth technologies.

We can reparent that child with love and compassion, give him permission to have his feelings, to dream big dreams, to follow his natural curiosity. In doing so, we heal ourselves as adults. It's not an easy process - it requires more strength and courage than most men possess. But the rewards for doing so are tremendous.

This Daily Om offers a simple look at the process.
Going Back By Going Within
Healing Childhood Wounds

With the wisdom of an adult, we can be the loving parent or guardian we needed as a child.

Events from childhood, our first experiences, have the power to shape our lives. Some do so immediately, offering us challenges to overcome and encouragement to make use of our talents and interests. In the process character is built, and we make the first steps upon our personal paths. Other events seem to lay dormant until adulthood, when our closest relationships help to bring out the deepest aspects of ourselves. This is when unexamined lessons can be put to use and untended childhood wounds make themselves known in a call for healing.

We may discover issues of trust coming up, or perhaps we find ourselves mirroring actions from our past instinctively. No matter the case, we have the power within us to heal ourselves at the deepest level. With the wisdom of an adult, we can be the loving parent or guardian we needed as a child. Knowing that we are each whole spiritual beings having a human experience, we can nurture ourselves from that wholeness, and then reach out to others as well. We can recreate scenarios in our mind’s eye, trying different outcomes and following them to their logical conclusions. In doing so, we may be able to imagine possible reasons a situation occurred as it did, and even accept that it could not have happened any other way. With the wisdom born from age and experience, we might be able to see events from a different perspective, bringing new understanding and freeing ourselves from any hold the past may have on us.

Life offers opportunities to clear these weeds in the gardens of our souls. However, when we want to focus on easier and more pleasant tasks, we are likely to pass up the chances, leaving the wounds to continue to drain our energy and resources for living life fully today. We might find we need support to face the events of the past, so turning to a trained professional who can offer tools for healing can be a valid choice. As long as we remember that the child we were lives on within us, we are always free to go back and right old wrongs, correct mistaken perceptions, heal wounds, forgive, and begin anew.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gender Rebel - Three Women Who Feel Male as a Core Gender Identity

I'm currently in the planning process for a research project into FTM transsexuals - people who feel like, live like, and or choose to become men. For some it's being gender queer, for some it's passing as male (binding breasts, dressing like a man), but for others it entails creating the physicality to match their gender identity (top surgery, testosterone therapy, and even, for a smaller percentage, bottom surgery).

My research questions revolve around the way FTM men (there are many other phrases and terms they use to describe themselves) construct their "enactment" of masculinity. Who and what shapes that ideal, and how conscious are they in this process of construction?

So I have been doing some reading - lots of reading. FTM men are much less talked about and written about than MTF women (biological men who identify as females). But there is some, and more is being produced - many of the best sources (aside from a few good books) have been PhD theses written in the last two years.

On Netflix, I found a 45 minute show called Gender Rebel, a show from the Logo TV network that looks at the lives of three young people (biologically female) who identify as masculine as their core gender identity. You can watch the show online for free. Here are the self-identified gender queers they look at in this show:

Twenty-two-year-old self-described "Gender Rebel" Jill grew up in New Jersey and moved to Tampa for college. For as long as she can remember, Jill and her mom have disagreed as to how Jill should dress. Jill recalls that she always wanted to buy boy's clothes, even when she was 7, but her mom...
read more

Lauren grew up in Howard Beach, a predominantly Italian-American "old-school" community where gender roles were always clearly defined. In fact, Lauren herself bought into those roles, brushing her long hair, growing her nails long -- she did everything she could to fit into her...
read more

Since a very early age, 25-year-old Kim has been uncomfortable with her breasts -- in fact, when she was six, she told her sister that she wanted to become a bodybuilder so she wouldn't have any! With the support of her girlfriend, Michelle, Kim has decided to have her breasts...
read more

Here is the summary of the show:

This original documentary explores the shattering of the confines of traditional gender identities by individuals who define themselves not as male or female, but something that incorporates both. Jill, who comfortably identifies as gender-queer, faces the challenge of coming out to family. Kim wants to undergo top surgery but must also address the effect the surgery will have on her relationship with her girlfriend Michelle. Lauren encounters confrontations from the gay community in Lauren's conservative home town regarding Lauren's gender-fluid identity and must decide whether to stay or move to another city. Part of Logo's Real Momentum documentary series.
I know there are people who are fascinated with transgender experience as some kind of "freak show" or something - daytime talk show material, but certainly not something worthy of serious consideration or academic study.

I disagree. Transgender experience in all its forms (I am looking specifically at transsexual experience, which is only small segment of the transgender or gender queer community) is a serious and important challenge to the notion of a gender binary: male or female.

Some trans men simply want to "pass," be seen as male; some inhabit an in-between place, neither entirely male or female; some live in the "butch" lesbian role; and there are many other variations, some having to do with gender, some having to do with sexuality, and some having to do with opposition to accepted norms.

In Self Made Men: Identity, embodiment, and recognition among transsexual men by Henry Rubin (2003), he did in-depth interviews with 22 men to understand their experience of embodiment as trans men. After talking about their employment and social class, and their religious background, he reveals their gender experience:
Thirteen men describe lesbian careers which preceded their FTM identification. Seven men say they never identified as a lesbian. Of those who had lesbian careers, six men claim that they are sexually attracted to women. They categorize themselves as heterosexual men or as queer-identified heterosexual men. Four of these ex-lesbians also switched their object choice over the course of transition and now identify as gay men. One now identifies as bisexual. A twelfth man who prefers women would not discount the possibility of having gay sex with another FTM. Finally, one man abstains from sex for the most part, though he thinks of himself as heterosexually oriented. Of the seven who do not have a lesbian career, two are homosexual (male sexual object choice) and three are heterosexual (female sexual object choice). Two are bisexual. One of the heterosexual men switched his object choice over the course of transition, from male partners before transition to female partners after transition. (page 7)
This is a pretty accurate snapshot from what I have read so far as to how diverse the FTM community is - and I would assume the same is true of MTF women as well.

In The Transgender Phenomenon, written by Richard Ekins and Dave King (2006), they recount that in the period around 1979 and 1981, when Anne Bolin was doing her first research, there were only "three major categories available for transgendered people to identify with: (1) those of the transsexual; (2) the heterosexual transvestite; or (3) the homosexual drag queen" (p. 10). That is certainly no longer the case.

Feminism and gay studies have revolutionized our understanding of gender issues - and certainly, this work has laid the foundations for the development of men's studies and masculinity studies (but not the new field of "male studies," because they adhere to an essentialist biological conception of gender). In generating new fields of study, they have also generated new (and often confusing, for those not initiated) terminology.

Rubin breaks down some of the terminology he uses in Self Made Men (I'm breaking this down into segments, but the words are his):
  • "Gender" refers to socially mediated expectations about an individual's role. Society divides these roles into two inflexible categories: man and woman. This strict social division is usually grounded in naturalistic assumptions that women are anatomically female and men are anatomically male.
  • "Sex" refers to an interlocking set of social expectations that bodies are divided and regulated into two discrete categories, male and female, which are hegemonically defined by the presence or absence of a penis and by secondary sex characteristics.
  • The terms "female" and "male" always describe sexed bodies.
  • The term "female-bodied" suggests that not all those with female bodies are women. Female-to-male transsexuals begin as female-bodied, though they are not women.
  • The terms "woman" and "man" refer to gender roles and identities.
  • The term "female-to-male transsexual" refers to an individual who is in transition or who has made the transition from one sexed body to another.
  • "Transgender" is an innovative concept that many transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, passing women, butch lesbians, and nellie gay men (feminine or effeminate male homosexuals)are claiming as their own.
  • The term "transsexual man" is commonly misunderstood; it refers to a female-to-male transsexual who is living as a man. Transsexual men are often contrasted with "genetic men."
  • In contrast to sex, the term "sexuality" refers to sexual desire. Social categories of sexuality are most often delineated according to sexual object-choice.'
  • The category of "intersexuality" has a complex history; this history sometimes overlaps with the history of transsexuals. "Intersexual" refers to a body that is ambivalently sexed. Physicians have created several typologies of intersexuality, each with their own diagnostic criteria and their own treatments. (p. 19-20)
Just to make things confusing, the medical fields use very different (in fact, opposite) terms than are used within the transgender community:
In medical terminology, a "female transsexual" is an FTM and a "male transsexual" is an MTF. (p. 20)
* * * * *

This is some of the background that I am looking at in developing my research proposal. I'll post more on this as I get more clear on the project.

If you know - or are yourself FTM - any FTM men who have had top surgery and have been on T therapy for a while (and preferably have also had an hysterectomy), please send this to them - and you/they can contact me at billharryman (at) gmail (dot) com.

I apologize for the limited definition offered in that request - I have been informed that it is trans phobic - however, I simply need a set of criteria to focus the sample. If there are better criteria, please let me know. Even if you do not want to participate, but are willing to speak with me by email, please drop me a note.

Books - Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do

Gabriel Thompson spent a year working jobs few Americans will take and wrote a book about it - Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do. Carlos Jimenez reviewed the book for YES! Magazine, and it was reposted by AlterNet.

I don't think this is the point of Thompson's book, but the majority of these jobs are done by men and only by men. And many of them are also among the most high-risk for injury jobs. For Thompson these jobs are a choice, but for the men he puts front and center in his book, this is their only option.

An award-winning writer immersed himself in work at the bottom of the scale in terms of pay, rights, and working conditions. Here's what he found.

Carlos Jimenez | December 24, 2010

"Please don’t make me do this [job] again—it is really, really hard.” That’s what Stephen Colbert said to a Congressional committee on immigration, recounting his day as a farm worker. Colbert was responding to the claim—often repeated but rarely explored—that undocumented migrant workers take jobs that would otherwise go to American citizens.

Gabriel Thompson’s response to the debate over immigration and employment was to embark on a serious piece of investigative journalism. He immersed himself in work at the bottom of the scale in terms of pay, rights, and working conditions. His experience, described in Working in the ​​Shadows, makes it clear why these are not only the jobs most Americans don’t do, but also the jobs most won’t do.

Thompson, an award-winning writer, went undercover to investigate the underside of the American economy. Presenting himself as a drifter with a sketchy resume, he took jobs cutting lettuce in the fields of Arizona, processing chickens in a plant in Alabama, and delivering food in New York City. It’s evident from the first day in each new setting that, although an impressive resume is not required, each job is extremely demanding in its own way.

Thompson catalogues the hardships of these jobs: the need for physical strength and endurance when bending, cutting, and bagging in the lettuce fields; the likelihood of an industrial accident during an exhausting night shift in the chicken processing plant; the frantic pressure of restaurant delivery work. Despite discomfort—at times, outright pain—Thompson remains clear about the difference between his choice and the financial realities that compel others to do this backbreaking work: “This book was an exhausting learning experience for me; for my coworkers, it’s life.”

Whatever the workplace, he sees how those in charge “will do whatever they can get away with” to make higher profits, and that while undocumented workers “suffer disproportionate abuse on the job, it is a mistake to pretend that their plight is unrelated to that of American workers.”

Thompson describes the development of the local economy and the political aspects of each of the three places he works. He exposes our broken regulatory systems, the need for strategic organizing to develop collective bargaining power, and the skewed immigration policies that punish working people rather than corporations.

Most importantly, Thompson describes the lives of the working people who keep the economy going. Coworkers befriend him, and he sees how they provide solidarity and community for each other. Their conversations reveal their life histories, dreams and aspirations, and the bleak realities of life on the edge of economic survival.

What stands out are two recurring themes: Despite their current woes, many of Thompson’s coworkers have actually known worse. And, just as importantly, that people take pride in a job well done. Thompson asks us to look a little deeper and see if we can’t find a little bit of ourselves in the working class, urging readers toward an attitude that is even more crucial in times of economic crisis: to re-evaluate how “we honor the dignity of work, no matter who is doing the work.”

~ Carlos Jimenez wrote this article for What Happy Families Know, the Winter 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Carlos is a union organizer, occasional student, and youth organizing trainer. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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