Thursday, March 31, 2011

Michael Kimmel on the Men's Rights Movement (re: Scott Adams)

Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) recently pissed off just about everyone with a recent post at his blog addressing the men's rights activists (MRA), a group that has some very real causes to fight for but loses much in its nearly universal hatred of all things feminist (as if ALL feminists simply want to do away with men).

Salon recently spoke with men's studies professor Michael Kimmel about the topic (so we are clear, the MRAs see Kimmel as a "mangina," their derogatory term for men who support equal rights for women).

Kimmel discounts the argument re: breast cancer vs prostate cancer funding ($715 million for breast cancer to $376 million for prostate cancer), despite the fact that more men get prostate cancer diagnoses than women do breat cancer (although more women die). He has that one very wrong.

Is the men's rights movement growing?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams caused a furor around the subject. Here's a closer look at it -- and what he got wrong

What's the deal with the men's rights movement?

Cartoonist Scott Adams ran into some hot water recently for a blog post he penned that nominally took aim at something calling the "men's rights movement" -- but also denigrated women, comparing them to children and handicapped persons. The episode led to a whole series of responses (including a couple here at Salon), most of which were incensed rebuttals of Adams' bizarre, uncouth statements.

Still, we wondered, just how big is the men's rights movement?

Michael Kimmel is a professor of sociology at Stony Brook University and author of such books as "Against the Tide: Pro-Feminist Men in the United States, 1776-1990" and "Manhood in America: A Cultural History." We spoke to Kimmel today about the men's rights movement -- its origins, central tenets and current role in the debate over American gender roles.

So what's the background behind the men's rights movement?

Around the time of the early second wave of feminism -- the early 1970s -- women basically said, "Women get a bad deal. We have to be mothers and homemakers but we can't have careers" -- all that stuff that everybody knows. Then a bunch of men in the 1970s started saying, "Yeah! Society says that we have to be the breadwinners, we have to be unemotional, we have to do all these things. Boy, it sucks for men too." And out of that a men's liberation movement was born.

Some of the men's liberationists actually supported feminism, said that feminism actually enables men to get in touch with their feelings, to be good fathers, to not simply be loved for their wallets, et cetera. And some men's liberationists went the anti-feminist route, and say men get a bad deal because women are actually winning. That's the basic split.

Both men's rights and pro-feminist men share a critique of traditional masculinity -- that it basically offers a raw deal for men. Where they differ is on how far gender equality has progressed. The men's rights movement says it's gone too far. And the pro-feminists say it hasn't gone far enough yet. The men's rights groups basically think that women are now in control, that women run everything and that it's a national catastrophe that women are able to interview male athletes in the locker room or serve in the military. That this is evidence of women winning.

I don't know if you're a New Yorker, but there was this lawyer [Roy Den Hollander] who keeps filing these federal cases that women's studies programs are a violation of the separation of church and state. He filed a case to sue Columbia because they have a women's studies program, and he believes that's teaching a religion, and they're not supposed to teach a religion. He's also tried to sue bars for having discounted or free drinks for women, because it's discrimination against men. I don't think there's ever been a woman that's sued a barber for charging less for men's haircuts than women's.

But, you see where this goes. It gets pretty fringe pretty quickly.

What are the central tenets of the movement? What are their big issues? What are they advocating for?

There are three issues that they constantly talk about as evidence of reverse discrimination against men.

  1. Divorce alimony issues: Women are more likely to be believed in divorce court than men.
  2. Custody issues: Women are more likely to get custody, despite the fact that men are excellent fathers.
  3. Men have to register for the draft. Women can volunteer. Despite the fact that it's an all-volunteer army, they still argue that there's discrimination against men in the military.

Those are the big three. There are some who argue there is literally a titanic [amount] of funding for breast cancer research, but there's absolutely none for prostate research -- that women control the health industry as well. I don't think that gets as much traction because it's so easily confounded by the numbers. But custody, divorce and military are the places they tend to go the most.

While I was doing research I came across what seemed like a similar movement -- the father's rights movement. What's the difference between that and the men's rights movement? Do they diverge at a certain point?

Father's rights groups focus entirely on divorce and custody. And, they claim, rightly, that as parents they have rights. They claim that men are discriminated against in custody decisions -- that women can file a false charge of domestic violence and get custody forever and prevent the father from seeing their children. That's largely where they focus their attention.

I think the men's rights groups would embrace the father's rights groups more readily than the father's rights groups would embrace the men's rights groups. The father's rights groups are very focused on one particular policy and they don't have this long litany of grievances. And I think they sometimes feel uncomfortable with how far the men's rights guys go.

The father's rights guys -- at least some of them -- they are in pain, because they really did feel like they were good fathers, and they've lost contact with their kids and lost custody. And some of them are hurting. I'm a Jeffersonian, sort of instinctively. And to Jefferson, democracy was based not just on rights, but also on responsibility. It was a delicate balance between the two. I love the fact that in minority communities, what you hear is not about the father's rights movement, but father responsibility movement. To me it's a balance. Fathering is not just an existential state of being. It's things people do. When you do it -- when you're a really good father -- you'll retain connection with your children.

Here's an interesting factoid for you: After divorce, virtually no mothers who do not retain custody -- none of them actually lose contact with their children. But about half of all non-custodial fathers lose contact with their children. It's not because the mothers are keeping them away, but because they just drift off. Mothers don't do that. I'd love to hear a zero number for fathers who don't drift off, not because they're prevented, but because they just don't.

How does the Scott Adams piece meld with the ideology of the men's rights movement?

Scott Adams' piece, to my mind, tries to have it both ways. At first he gives all the standard litany of kvetching that the men's rights movement tends to do -- which is all the places where they feel there's unfairness and discrimination toward men. And in that recitation, he's quite wrong about some things. Just to give you examples, [he argues] that women have overtaken men in college attendance and if the situation were reversed it would be considered a national emergency. No, it would actually be considered the Ivy League in 1965. It wouldn't be considered anything. It would be considered normal.

The fact is, actually, women are penalized in auto insurance, not men. Women have much safer driving records, especially for under-25 drivers. And they pay a premium, basically, for being under 25, even though women under 25 have much lower rates of accidents, especially [with regards to] driving under the influence. So, actually, women subsidize men's drunk driving. To put not too fine a point on it, he's quite wrong in some of the numbers and some of the details. But, then, he makes a complete 180 and says, Man up. It's no big deal.

Do you see the men's rights movement -- and the ideas they're espousing -- getting a wider following?

No, I don't, first of all because I don't see women in any way buying this stuff. You know, women aren't suddenly going to say, "Oh, you're right! This stuff about going to law school and medical school is a bore. Let's not do that." It's not going to happen. It's a done deal. The question for men right now is how are we going to move into this future that is more gender equal. [Most young people now] have good cross-sex friends. When you watch "When Harry Met Sally," which is from my era, and Billy Crystal says to Meg Ryan, "Men and women can't be friends because sex always gets in the way," you find that kind of laughable. My students do. What I'm saying is you're not going to go back to an adversarial relationship. You're living equality. I think that the global trend toward gender equality is not going to abate in any way.

Now, that leaves men with an existential question. Are we going to be dragged into the future, kicking and screaming -- like the men's rights guys -- or are we going to go boldly, fearlessly, and say, "What a minute: What's in this for men?" And what the data clearly shows is that the men who embrace gender equality are actually happier, healthier, live better lives, have better relationships with their friends, their wives and their kids. So I don't think it's going to catch on. Globally, the trend toward greater gender equality is going to make the men's rights movement look like a backlash movement, which is what it is.

But what about in the short-term? Do you see the minority growing?

In the short-term it's possible that -- as men feel really put upon, and feel more pressure around jobs and economic insecurity and familial insecurity -- they're going to be looking around for a place to hang that discomfort. And, certainly it's true that the greater equality of women is going to be a convenient peg on which to hang that. But it's temporary. It's not going to last.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Looming Male Backlash - Rosalind C. Barnett & Caryl Rivers

Article - Barnett Rivers Anxious Men

George Diebold / Getty Images

Rosalind C. Barnett & Caryl Rivers, writing at The Daily Beast, propose that women should expect a "looming" male backlash - this conjecture is based on a recent study that suggests that young men who read about women’s success become nervous (not sure how they are defining any of these terms, but ok).

The authors believe this finding is further proof that "women still face serious obstacles on the road to equality." Apparently, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett are gender studies experts. I think they are manufacturing a "looming" crisis out of thin air, while actually ignoring a new and serious issue within their own ranks.

The Looming Male Backlash

A recent study revealed that reading about women’s success makes young men nervous—but the finding’s just the latest proof that women still face serious obstacles on the road to equality, say gender studies experts Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett.

You can’t miss Women’s History Month. Every March, posters, books, articles, films, and lectures celebrate female success. These pats on the back can only be a good thing, right?

Maybe not. According to a recent study, spotlighting women’s achievements makes some men very nervous. We might be better off whispering our kudos or toasting each other in out-of-the-way bars.

The research, published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, reveals a major gap in how men and women view female success. In a survey given to American college students, young men reported high levels of anxiety after reading census data that showcased the gains women have made over the past 40 to 50 years, like graduating from college at higher rates than men and excelling in historically male professions.

Seemingly threatened by this progress, the male survey-takers also reported feeling a strong sense of solidarity with their own gender—protective of it, even. And they tended to exaggerate how far women have come and how far behind men have fallen.

The findings are ominous: Despite recent headlines cautioning “the end of men,” women still have miles to go to achieve gender equality—and men’s uneasy response to female success hints at real-world challenges ahead. We know from prior research that when men feel threatened, they tend to energetically protect their status. No study can claim to predict the future—but having spent decades researching gender relations, to us, this new report suggests that men might be less likely to hire women, mentor them, or value them as colleagues.

Equally troubling: The study also found that many young women aren’t concerned about gender-based career obstacles. When female survey-takers read about current opportunities to enter previously male-dominated occupations, they reported low levels of threat as well as a diminished need to bond with their own sex.
Read the whole article.

Most of their argument is not at all new - same statistics (roughly), different year - and yes, this needs to change - but nothing about it suggests a looming backlash, more like business as usual:
This month’s report from the White House on the status of women showed that, at all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009.

Indeed, female MBAs earn, on average, $4,600 less than male MBAs in their first job out of business school. Women start behind and never catch up. Professionals are hit the hardest. The latest data show that female physicians in the U.S. earn, on average, 39 percent less than male physicians. Women financial analysts take in 35 percent less, and female chief executives, one-quarter less.

They introduce a new form of oppression, however, or at least it's new to me - they call it the glass cliff - "in which female business leaders are more likely to be appointed to powerful leadership positions when an organization is in crisis or high-risk circumstances."

So the idea is that things are going badly and they aren't going to get better, so let's appoint a woman CEO and then fire her when things get worse - we will look progressive for hiring a woman while also discrediting women as CEOs.

Seriously? We are supposed to take this seriously based on THREE examples?
Carly Fiorina (Hewlett Packard), Kate Swan (W. H. Smith) and Patricia Russo (Alcatel-Lucent) were appointed to top positions at a time of tumbling share prices. All were fired or pushed out of their jobs.
Show me 20 examples and I may believe there is a pattern. I don't know about the others, but Carly Fiorina is an idiot - HP should have fired her for being stupid and should not have given her a $21 million buy-out.

While the article essentially blames men for being nervous about successful women, and also being discriminatory in pay and promotions (none of which is new or news - yes, there is still work to do to get women equal pay for equal work), the article ends with a "real" issue - one that I think should be the focus of concern:
It’s not just men who propagate and accept workplace stereotypes, but women as well. New York University psychologist Madeline Heilman finds that women see competent female bosses as ruthless, strict, mean, and stubborn. But they see equally competent men as professional and capable. Too often, we have met the enemy, and she is us.
Why didn't they write an article about this? Unless this changes, it does not matter what men do or don't do - it'll be women who are holding women back.

Rick Hanson - Who's Behind YOUR Mask?

We all have multiple selves and multiple masks that we wear in the world (father, son, brother, employee, coach, teacher, friend, mentor, employer, teammate, and on and on). Hanson talks in the singular here, but we are multiple (in a good way) and so we have many masks/roles we wear - and hide behind.

But how often do we reveal the person behind those masks, the true selves we inhabit, often without awareness? How often do we even reveal to ourselves the people behind our masks?

How often do you allow yourself to be seen, let others know who you are? Do you reveal the parts we are often afraid to let others see? How often do you truly see others and not only the mask or your expectation of who that person is?

Who's Behind YOUR Mask?

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. - Neuropsychologist and author, 'Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom

Posted: March 24, 2011 08:54 AM

Most of us wear a kind of mask -- a persona that hides our deepest thoughts and feelings and presents a polished, controlled face to the world.

To be sure, a persona is a good thing to have. For example, meetings at work, holidays with the in-laws and first dates are usually not the best times to spill your guts. Just because you're selective about what you reveal to the world does not mean you're insincere. Phoniness is only when we lie about what's really going on inside.

Much of the time, we interact mask-to-mask with other people. There's a place for that. But remember times when someone saw through your mask to see the real you, the person back behind your eyes? If you're like me, those times were both unnerving and wonderful.

Even though it's scary, everyone longs to be seen, to be known. You long to have your hopes and fears acknowledged -- the ones behind a polite smile or a frown of frustration. You long to have your true caring seen, as well as your positive intentions and natural goodness. Most intimately of all, you long to feel that your innermost being -- the one to whom things happen, the one strapped to this rollercoaster of a life, trying to make sense of it before it ends -- has been recognized by someone.

This goes both ways. Others long to be seen by you. Besides the ways that seeing the person behind the eyes benefits others, it's good for you, too. Being seen is often the real stake on the table, the top priority, more important to other people than whether you agree with them about something. When someone gets that sense from you -- that he or she exists for you as a person, not just as a pain in the neck or as someone with whom to get through this meeting, dinner, bedtime routine, phone call or sexual experience -- then it's much easier to take care of the matter at hand, whatever it is.

Sensing the deepest layers in people can nourish you in other ways, too. For example, I had a relative with a big heart but a difficult personality who drove me a little crazy. Finally, I started to imagine that being with her was like looking at a bonfire through a lattice covered with thorny vines. I focused on the love shining through and warming my own heart, and didn't get caught up in the vines. That helped both of us a lot.

This week, with different people, get a sense of the person behind the eyes. It's not a staring contest; it can actually help to look away, so you're not distracted by surface details. (While I'm using the word "see," of course you are also hearing the person behind the words and sensing the person embedded in the body sitting across from you.)

Take a moment to relax and set aside your case about the other person, and open to the being down in there somewhere, maybe rattled and defensive and acting in ways that are problematic, but really just yearning for happiness and some way to move forward in life.

You could also sense your own innermost being, and then imagine that core -- that sense of being alive, the recipient of experiences, the one for whom life is hard sometimes -- inside the other person.

Let that recognition of the person over there show in your face, in your own eyes. Be brave and let them see you seeing them.

Notice how this recognition changes the course of an interaction -- perhaps softening it, making it more authentic, leading to a good resolution more gently and quickly.

As an advanced practice, you could even raise the subject with someone of the degree to which you feel seen (or not) as persons by each other. That kind of conversation can transform a relationship.

Lastly, enjoy being a person yourself, the channel through which your life streams, with some of the richest streaming being the other persons all around you.


Just One Thing (JOT) is the free newsletter by Rick Hanson that suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Steroids or Porn for Low-Testosterone - Rx vs. XXX?

In a 2009 article from Newsweek, some unnamed writer suggests that pornography may be the better choice for low T therapy than using one of the FDA approved testosterone creams or gels.

Yes, looking at porn increases T-levels. Not as high or as sustained as the gels and creams, so it would require more time viewing DVDs or surfing for internet porn. But you also won't get gyno (man boobs), lipid imbalances, and so on. On the other hand your partner won't likely be pleased and many people end up addicted.

Here is a taste of the article:

Rx vs. XXX

The makers of a testosterone supplement are launching a national campaign touting the youth-enhancing benefits of their product. But there may be a cheaper, less clinical solution to low hormone levels.

Porn or prescriptions? It hardly sounds likes a typical fork in the road. But it's the choice that middle-aged American males apparently may face if they suffer from symptoms of low testosterone—as around five million men do, a figure that seems to be growing along with male girths, diabetes and the aging boomer generation.

At issue are competing claims about the testosterone-hiking benefits of medication versus manual labor of the most private kind. The case for pornography derives from research showing that adult fare can help restore a sapped male mojo. Monkeys that see sexually active females register as much as a 400 percent jump in testosterone (nature's own performance-enhancing drug) promoting lean muscle and quick recovery times, according to the Yerkes Center for Primate Research at Emory University. In humans, German researchers have found that just having an erection is enough to spur testosterone levels. it makes no difference whether a man is watching sex on a screen or having it in real life, his testosterone levels will go up. Just having an erection, in fact, is enough to spur production.

Such findings, along with work that shows family life to be a drain on testosterone levels, prompted Rutgers University sex researcher Helen Fisher to advise this month that males in the "captivity situation"-her term for married with kids-"go on the Internet and look at porn" as a kind of hormone-replacement therapy. "[Porn] drives up dopamine levels, which drives up your testosterone," she tells NEWSWEEK, while kissing your wife or hugging your kids drives it down.

You can read the whole article if you want - but I am curious what you men think of this idea.

Short Film - What Is That?

Elvind at Masculinity Movies posted this short film on fathers and sons - such a sad and beautiful film - so much said in so little space.

What Is That?

Father and son are sitting on a bench. Suddenly a sparrow lands across them.

Father: Nikos Zoiopoulos
Son: Panagiotis Bougiouris

Directed by: Constantin Pilavios
Written by: Nikos & Constantin Pilavios
Director of photgraphy: Zoe Manta
Music by: Christos Triantafillou
Sound by: Teo Babouris
Mixed by: Kostas Varibobiotis
Produced by: MovieTeller films

Monday, March 28, 2011

Christina Hoff Sommers Applauds Tina Brown's Post-Feminist Summit

An intern for Christina Hoff Sommers sent me this article she wrote for The American (the magazine of the conservative American Enterprise Institute). I'm not sure why they sent it to me - I've been highly critical of Sommers conservative, retro-cultural agenda - in fact, I represent most of what she despises.

That said, this is a good rebuttal to the MRA's who think all feminists are evil and ignorant.

I support the efforts of these women - financially when I can, and in spirit always. They are victims of patriarchy - men entrenched in archaic egocentric power-structures. I do not blame men in general, I blame the systems that keep these structures active.

And yet each man who stones his wife to death for speaking to another man who is not her family, each man who rapes the females in a village as a form of terrorism, each man who sells his daughter into marriage while she is still a child - each of these men carries a weight, the burden of their guilt. Each of those men is responsible for his actions.

This is not about hating men - it's about reforming violent and shameful systems that are not congruent with the 21st century.

Tina Brown's Post-Feminist Summit

By Christina Hoff Sommers
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tina Brown has given Western feminism something it has lacked since the 1970s: a contemporary purpose worthy of its illustrious past.

Tina Brown, editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, held her second annual “Women in the World” conference earlier this month at the Millennial Hotel in New York City. When I told a writer friend I was attending and urged her to come along, she e-mailed back, “zzzzzzz.”

I knew what she was thinking. Women’s conferences are usually tedious affairs, organized by women’s studies professors and Title IX lobbyists and filled with complaint, victim-talk, and “anger issues.” But this one was different. Its subject was not the travails of middle-class American women, but rather the genuine hardships and dangers faced by women in Muslim and other cultures in the developing world. Not a single representative from the National Organization for Women or the American Association of University Women was in evidence. The panels were moderated by well-known journalists—Christiane Amanpour, Charlie Rose, Leslie Stahl, and Barbara Walters. Several prominent American women served on panels, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Melinda Gates, Cheryl Mills, Amy Chua, and Diane Von Furstenberg. But the stars of the summit were activists from the poorest regions of the world. And the spirit was not self-pitying and anti-male but self-confident and serious.

One after another, women from Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Congo, and Egypt spoke about how they were organizing against honor killings, mass rapes, genital mutilation, child marriage, and gender apartheid—and getting results.

In a session called “Stealing Beauty,” panelists discussed acid attacks. A Cambodian woman named Yem Chhuon described an incident six years ago when her husband’s mistress threw acid in her face, also hitting her infant daughter cradled in her arms. Her face is badly disfigured, but instead of retreating from the world she is campaigning against the “culture of impunity” that surrounds acid assaults in her country (both Cambodian men and women wield this horrific weapon). A philanthropic group called Virtue Foundation (whose guiding principle is that “true global change must begin within each of us—one person at a time, one act at a time”) has helped her and her daughter find expert medical attention. Today Chhuon is advancing a series of reforms: regulating the sale of acid, improving police awareness, and sensitizing judges. Her daughter, Sophorn—charming, scarred, and nearly blind—came on stage to greet the crowd. Suddenly, “acid attacks” were no longer a distant abstraction; they were as real as the disfigured six-year-old girl standing onstage in her velvet dress and patent leather shoes.

One after another, women from Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Congo, and Egypt spoke about how they were organizing against honor killings, mass rapes, genital mutilation, child marriage, and gender apartheid—and getting results. We met the “Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia,” Wajeha Al-Huwaider. As co-founder of the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia, this divorced mother of two is waging a brave and relentless campaign against sexist injustice. A social networker, she has posted a provocative video of herself on YouTube—with more than 200,000 hits so far. What makes it provocative? She is driving a car and encouraging other Saudi women to do the same. In another video she revealed details about an upcoming marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a 50-year-old man. Local journalists as well as CNN picked up on the story. An unusual public discussion of the horrors of child marriage ensued—and the little girl was set free.

Read the whole article.

Craig Filek - The Strength of Masculine Support

I met Craig at the Evolving Men Conference last summer in Boulder - good guy. He's been involved in men's work for a while now and has a lot to offer. He recently posted this on his Facebook page - it's a nice example of how men can support each other in getting real - and the strength that comes from supporting each other.

The Strength of Masculine Support

by Craig Filek on Friday, March 25, 2011

On the last men's leadership training, I stepped out on the carpet because a man asked for challenge.

It was late, the room was charged, and the man was workin the edge of his shadow. We danced. I felt fear.

He started talking shit to me. I leaned in. He said he wanted to feel my power. He just wanted to push on me and feel my strength.

He was asking for permission. I wanted to give it. I wanted him to feel it. I wanted him to feel supported by me.

And I knew he would topple me. So I asked for support from the men standing around us in circle. Holding space.

Instantly, there were 10 hands on my back. I saw these men had hands on their back. I was invincible. He knew it.

He put his hands on my shoulders. He stepped back in a loose runnners lunge. He looked me in the eye. He pushed.

As I stood there, effortlessly supporting this man in his desire to feel my strength, I knew it was not my strength at all.

It was the strength of the men who supported me he was feeling. I was merely holding space for his work.

Owen Marcus - Macho Is Dead

Cool short post from Owen Marcus from his site, Owen Marcus: Sculptor of change. He's advocating for a balanced masculinity, one that is strong and tender, firm and flexible. This is only one of many useful posts at his blog, so go check out his other offerings.

Macho Is Dead

Macho is dead—but so is the nice guy.

Our new masculinity is something between the two: a man who can be emotionally demonstrative, and still stand strong as a man. It’s a man who can cherish his woman and say no to her. It’s a man who adores his woman, and also has a life beyond his relationship.

1942 photograph of Carpenter at work on Dougla...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you know a man like this? Until recently, the answer would probably have been no. Yet today there are more and more men evolving into this new paradigm of masculinity. As much as our fathers loved us, they didn’t teach us this, or model this paradigm for us. So now, we’re teaching each other.

We take workshops, get coached, read websites, join men’s groups, read books, talk to each other about this, search out new role models. We’re teaching ourselves to be Remarkable Men.

The new macho

For hundreds—if not thousands—of years, men in Western culture were told to be tough: don’t show your feelings. That’s a good thing in battle; it’s not a good thing in relationships. As we realized we want more from our relationships, we looked for new ways to be in relationships. Other men didn’t know, so we looked to women: they seemed to have something we didn’t have, so we modeled them.

We learned to be sensitive men. We learned to feel and express our emotions. We even learned to be overwhelmed by these emotions. Often, we collapsed into these emotions.

Eventually, we learned that being emotional like women is not masculine. Then we panicked, feeling damned if we did and damned if we didn’t. Emotionally, we froze.

Finally, someone asked, how does a man stay a man while expressing his emotions? But there were no men modeling this. What’s a guy to do?

You’ll learn through trial and error. Over the last decade, I have seen a wave of men learning to stand in their emotions and not collapse. These men can feel and express and still get the job done. They are sensitive and tough at the same time. They are expressive macho men.

Use the links and resources mentioned on this site to guide you into finding what it means for you to be this new macho man. Men’s groups can be the fast track to creating this new paradigm within you.

How could this new macho show up in your life?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Testosterone in the News - Mating, Prostate Health, and Cardiovascular Death Risk

There have been a couple of articles in the news of late on testosterone, a couple on health issues and one on the power of T in men to attract female partners (probably male partners, too, but that's not what they were looking for in the study).

We'll start with the fun one - higher T levels corresponded with more assertive mating behaviors, which resulted in higher attractiveness ratings from mating targets (you know, women):
Pre-competition testosterone levels were positively associated with men's dominance behaviors in the mate competition-including how assertive they were and how much they "took control" of the conversation-and with how much the woman indicated that she "clicked" with each of the men.
Here's the original study reference:

R. B. Slatcher, P. H. Mehta, R. A. Josephs. Testosterone and Self-Reported Dominance Interact to Influence Human Mating Behavior. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/1948550611400099
Testosterone Linked to Men's Ability to 'Woo' Potential Mates

ScienceDaily (Mar. 13, 2011) — Theories have long proposed that testosterone influences competition among males trying to attract females. Findings from a recent study at Wayne State University give a clearer understanding of the links between testosterone and human mating behavior, and how testosterone is associated with dominance and competitive success when men battle for the attention of an attractive woman.

The study engaged pairs of men in a seven-minute videotaped competition for the attention of an attractive female undergraduate. Pre-competition testosterone levels were positively associated with men's dominance behaviors in the mate competition-including how assertive they were and how much they "took control" of the conversation-and with how much the woman indicated that she "clicked" with each of the men.

According to Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in WSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a resident of Birmingham, Mich., the effects of testosterone on dominance behaviors were especially pronounced among men who reported having a high need for social dominance. In his study, "Testosterone and Self-Reported Dominance Interact to Influence Human Mating Behavior," published online Feb. 28 in the journal, Social Psychological and Personality Science, these men showed a strong positive association between their own testosterone and their own dominance behaviors and, most surprisingly, a strong negative association between their own testosterone and their opponents' dominance behaviors. In other words, men both high in testosterone and who reported a high need for social dominance appeared to be able somehow suppress their competitors' ability to attract potential mates. However, when men reported low need for dominance, there was no association between testosterone and dominance behaviors-either their own or their competitors'.

"We found that testosterone levels influenced men's dominance behaviors during the competitions, how much they derogated (or 'bashed') their competitors afterward, and how much the woman said she 'clicked' with them," said Slatcher. "Books, film and television often portray men who are bold and self-assured with women as being high in testosterone. Our results suggest that there is a kernel of truth to this stereotype, that naturally circulating testosterone indeed is associated with men's behaviors when they try to woo women."

Although many animal studies have shown that testosterone is associated with dominance when males compete for mates, none-until now-have demonstrated this association in humans.

"These findings highlight an important difference between humans and animals," said Slatcher. "In humans-unlike animals-explicit, conscious motives can affect how a hormone such as testosterone shapes behavior. Our findings indicate that testosterone is associated with dominance behaviors and success when men compete for the attention of an attractive woman, particularly when men also have a strong conscious desire for social dominance."

* * * * * *

OK, this stuff is a little more serious. But we'll start with the good news - testosterone replacement therapy does not seem to pose an increased risk of prostate cancer, which is what I have been saying all along.

From Renal & Urology News:

Testosterone Therapy Safe for the Prostate

Jody A. Charnow
March 20, 2011

Michael Zitzmann, MD
Michael Zitzmann, MD

VIENNA—Testosterone replacement therapy benefits hypogonadal men without adversely affecting prostate safety, according to the largest international trial of hypogonadal men receiving the treatment.

In the trial, 1,438 hypogonadal men received 6,333 injections of injectable, long-acting testosterone undeconoate (TU) during 1,103 patient-years. Patients received up to five TU injections over nine to 12 months. Study results, presented by Michael Zitzmann, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Muenster in Muenster, Germany, at the 26th Annual Congress of the European Association of Urology, demonstrated that the treatment improves erectile dysfunction and mental and sexual satisfaction without significantly impacting PSA levels. During the study, Dr. Zitzmann and his colleagues observed no case of prostate cancer.

“Testosterone replacement in hypogonadal men is a safe and highly effective medical procedure regarding multiple aspects of a man's life,” Dr. Zitzmann told Renal & Urology News.

Read the whole article.

OK, more good news - a new angle on prostate cancer research suggests that it's not testosterone at cause for enlarged prostates, or at least not in normal levels in normal people. Rather, it seems there is a hydraulics problem - a valve that allows pure testosterone to flow directly into the prostate.

This also comes from Renal & Urology News:

Mystery of Prostate Diseases Possibly Unraveled

Saturday, March 26, 2011

James Franco Talks Poetry

This interview with actor, director, Oscar host, performance artist, and PhD candidate comes from the Poetry Foundation website. Franco is an outstanding actor, so maybe he can attract more men to poetry. I enjoyed his ability to be the young Allen Ginsberg in the movie about Howl and the censorship battle that raged around the poem's publication.

James Franco Talks Poetry

How the actor, director, Oscar host, performance artist, and PhD candidate became America’s most famous poetry geek.

James Franco interviewed by Travis Nichols

James Franco in The Broken Tower
James Franco as Hart Crane on the set of The Broken Tower. Photo copyright Jason Goodman.

A few days after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Franco would be hosting this Sunday’s Oscars, he took time out of his (insane) schedule to talk on the phone with us about his upcoming biopic of Hart Crane, the cinematic lyric, and how he came to love poetry.

* * *

Travis Nichols: You seem to read poetry that has a little more crunch to it than your standard “refrigerator door” poetry. I was wondering when you were able to make that leap—from historical, dorm room poetry like Neruda and Ginsberg to contemporary poets like Frank Bidart and Spencer Reece. Did you make the leap on your own?

James Franco: I came across Ginsberg and the Beats when I was in high school. And then I suppose my first intro to what I guess you’d call the opposite pole of the poetry world at the time—Lowell and Bishop and, in that tradition, Anthony Hecht—was when I went back to UCLA. I had a teacher named Jonathan Post who had been a student of Hecht, and so he taught a class that covered American poetry up until the ’60s or ’70s. But it really wasn’t until I went to Warren Wilson that I was exposed to contemporary poetry in a real expansive or in-depth way.

When I was at Columbia there were some great poets there, and I wanted to study with Richard Howard. I was in one of his lectures, but I wanted to take a poetry workshop with him, but they just said no [laughs]. You can cross over in the lectures and seminars, but fiction writers are not allowed to go to the poetry workshops. So I asked this guy named Ian R. Wilson, who taught me at UCLA Extension, what I should do. I had gone to UCLA when I was 18 to get my bachelor’s in English, and then I left after a year to act. I went back eight years later to finish, but before I re-enrolled, I took some classes through UCLA Extension. And I took a couple of writing classes with this guy named Ian R. Wilson.

It’s funny because the UCLA Extension writing classes have a great history—Michael Cunningham taught there, and John Rechy and Janet Fitch—so I took some classes there, and this guy Ian R. Wilson was my teacher. He wrote both fiction and poetry, and so when Columbia told me that I couldn’t take the poetry classes, I was pissed off. So I asked him, “Where should I go? I want a place so I can study poetry seriously.” Even though I am at Yale now, sure there are some classes on contemporary poetry, but not in the way that it’s studied at Warren Wilson.

At Yale, you study the Romantics, you study Whitman, but not contemporary poetry. Ian said, “For my money, Warren Wilson is the best poetry program in the country as far as the faculty goes and the way the program is run and the attention you get. You should go there.” And so I applied and they let me in. That’s where I was really exposed to everything. They have a wide range of features, but there is still a heavy emphasis on craft and less experimental kinds of poetry. It seems like maybe a place like Columbia—I don’t know, I didn’t get to take any of the classes, right?—but it seems like a place like Columbia would push more kind of experimental work or, I’m not quite certain, but maybe Chicago or Iowa might push more experimental stuff, more experimental than Warren Wilson. But Warren Wilson is very strong on contemporary poets.

TN: So is that where the idea of working on your film of Hart Crane came from?

JF: That’s a weird story. It actually didn’t come from classes there, although I did end up doing a lot of work on Crane while I was there. One of the things about Warren Wilson is that they put a strong emphasis on analytical work and craft analysis, which I appreciate. In the fiction programs I was in, you could get away with only doing creative work, which is fine, but it’s nice to have somebody who kind of kicks you in the ass to really figure out the nuts and bolts and the why of what you’re doing.

TN: Was that mostly Tony Hoagland, or was there another teacher there?

JF: You’re assigned a new teacher every semester. So I had Tony Hoagland the first semester, I had James Longenbach the second semester, Rick Barot and Alan Williamson. And now I have Ellen Bryant Voigt. You have to write a 40-page essay on some aspect of craft. I think it’s a lot easier to write a story that’s 40 pages long than it is to write 40 pages about craft, because craft almost becomes like mathematics. So I wrote about Crane’s poetry, comparing some of his early poems to some of his later poems. He did get much more dense there; consciously he made his work much more difficult. So that’s what I wrote about.

But I had been interested in Crane before I was at Warren Wilson and before I had even gone back to UCLA. I was doing a movie in New Orleans, a weird movie called Sonny, and I was reading a Harold Bloom book. I’m not quite sure which one, but he mentioned Hart Crane. And then I got Crane’s poems and Bloom wrote an introduction to the collection that I bought, and in that introduction he mentioned Paul Mariani’s book, The Broken Tower. So then I found that. I remember reading it and thinking, “Oh, this is a great character. I’d love to play this character.” Crane’s life was the life of the quintessential struggling artist. I mean, James Joyce, he’s a great writer, but it would be hard to make his life dramatic. You could, but it’s just not readily dramatic. I guess you could say, “Oh, well, he went to Paris and his daughter was kind of crazy and he hung out with Sylvia Beach, then the war came. . . .”

TN: Crane makes much more sense. I mean, he was just a kind of streak across the sky.

JF: Yeah. So I had that in my mind, but at that time I didn’t know how to actually turn a book into a movie or even how to get a movie made. I was still fairly early in my career, and so I just kind of let it sit. I told people about it, and then I just waited. Finally, after going to NYU, I had made some films on my own without looking to people with experience to help me. Everything turned out okay, but it could have been better. I mean I know I was learning, but I’ve learned since that it is a very good idea, at least for me, to get advice and to work with people who I admire and who can help me develop my ideas.

TN: So did you have that kind of support with this film version of The Broken Tower? Did you feel like you were finally able to kind of get that group together?

JF: Well, what happened is I went to NYU Film School. At NYU, the program requires you to make a series of short films. So the first short films—that’s a whole long story I can go into if you want—but the short version is I needed to come up with a subject, and I had read these Anthony Hecht poems when I was at UCLA, and there was one in particular, “The Feast of Stephen,” that for whatever reason struck me at that time as something that would be cinematic. And so when I was required to make a short film, that came back to me and I thought, “Yeah, why not make that now? This is my chance. “I wouldn’t have wanted to expand it into a feature film, but somebody was pushing me to make a short film, and this poem was perfect.”

So then that led to “Herbert White,” which was a Frank Bidart poem I had stumbled across at Warren Wilson. A poet named Gabrielle Calvocoressi brought it in to a seminar, and it just hit me full force and I thought, “Oh, that would also be very cinematic.” So then I made that film based on “Herbert White,” and then I made a film based on Spencer Reece’s poem “The Clerk’s Tale.” All of that got me thinking, “Well, of course now is the time to make The Broken Tower.” I thought, “I know how to do it now, and it will be the perfect next step after making these short films based on single poems. I can do the whole life of a poet and have multiple poems in the piece.” So that’s how that came around.

TN: “Herbert White” and “The Clerk’s Tale” are both character studies and in some ways dramatic monologues. But Crane is very much a lyric poet. I mean, you find a lot of lyric juxtaposition and parataxis and just great flights of language in Crane’s poetry. It seems actually like a pretty big leap to be able to go from doing the short films that are based on these kinds of character-driven pieces to something like Crane, who is very much the poet’s poet. Did you find that hard?

JF: Actually, my approach to poetry this semester under Ellen Bryant Voigt is going to be dealing with examining the difference between lyric poems and narrative poems through a cinematic framework. For me, like I said, I’ve only been studying contemporary poetry seriously for, I guess, two and a half years now, so I still feel like I’m just learning the lay of the land. I don’t know the extent of it yet. We’re using this kind of cinematic frame that I’m much more familiar with to approach poetry. And so you’re right: I’m doing something different with The Broken Tower. When we adapted the single poems, I ended up not using any of the text of the poems in the films. Originally with the Hecht, I couldn’t use any dialogue; it had to be all non-diegetic sounds, so you couldn’t use any sound that you recorded on location. I thought, “All right, I will shoot the images and then I’ll record the poem over the top of the images.” But then I realized that the movie had translated the poem. It existed on its own. It was its own thing, so it was almost like translating it into a different new language.

With the Crane poems, because they’re more lyrical, I’m not really trying to translate them in the same way. You actually get the text of the poems in The Broken Tower, at least four, maybe five of them, in different forms. It’s almost like the anti-Howl, meaning the movie Howl. I love that movie, but Jeffrey (Friedman) and Rob (Epstein) had a different approach than I used. They put the poem at the center. The movie is really about the poem, but they did everything they could to illuminate the poem, to make it more clear, at least on one level, mostly kind of a biographical level, or an autobiographical level. Each section helped the viewer approach the poem, so you get the first reading, you get Ginsberg talking about the poem, what inspired the poem, what certain sections meant to him, you get his contemporaries, some of his contemporaries’ responses to the poem in the courtroom, you get a visual interpretation with the animation. . . .

Crane wanted his poetry to be difficult. He wanted it to be read in a different way than people normally read. So when I started developing the movie, I thought, yes, it will be a biopic of sorts, but I wanted to have the texture of his poetry. He wrote this essay “General Aims and Theories” about his work because he knew it was difficult, and he talked about how the meaning of the poems could be found in a way that the metaphors played off each other, like the tenor of the metaphors were all resting on this upper level, relating to each other. And that was the meaning of the poems, rather than the meaning you might get on the surface level.

So I thought, okay, if there is some equivalent in cinematic language that I could achieve, that would be interesting because you’ll get some incidences from his life delivered through something that feels more like his poetry.

Matt Biss - Saved By The Kettlebell - Doing the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is one of my favorite exercises - heavy for strength and power (one arm swings add to the workload, and since the heaviest bells I've seen are around 100 lbs, one arm is the only option for lower reps), lighter for cardio fat burning that preserves muscle.

We finally have a selection of bells at the gym and I use the swing with ALL of my clients currently - both one arm and two arm. In addition to the leg and back strength, it also builds core strength.

Matt Bliss gives an overview on how to do this exercise in his article from Check out the links to other kettlebell exercises at the bottom of the article.
Torch fat, build strength, and improve cardiovascular fitness with one incredible move

Saved By The Kettlebell

I'm used to getting weird looks from people. For starters, I'm a ginger doesn't help. To make matters worse, when my neighbors peek over the fence and see me training for strongman and highland games events, they wonder where I'm hiding the flying saucer.

When I enter the local gym, other patrons aren't used to seeing some of my "alien" exercises. One particular exercise than can provide out-of-this-world results is the kettlebell swing.

I begin all of my training sessions with kettlebell swings, but what I thought was now a common movement apparently still looks strange to most.

People ask me, "What is that for?" because in athletics, the main focus is on movements, not muscles. It's like when someone asks me, "What muscles does the caber toss work?"

Well, I could tell you, but the point of the caber toss isn't to work muscles; it's to throw the log, knucklehead!

Matt Biss performing a caber toss with the world's largest pencil
+ Click To Enlarge.
Matt Biss performing a caber toss with the world's largest pencil.

The kettlebell swing just might be the best exercise there is, especially for athletes. You want a strong backside? Using a kettlebell swing with heavy weight and lower reps will give you explosive, violent hips.

Fat loss?

A recent study demonstrated that kettlebell movements burn about 20 calories per minute--more than double what spinning class or boot camp class will get you. Not to mention it can build a great ass (pardon my alien French).

You can torch fat, build strength, and improve cardiovascular fitness with one incredibly functional move.

This movement looks simple, but looks can be deceiving. The key here is hip position, as this is a hip-dominant movement rather than a squatting motion.

Before starting, I usually have athletes practice pushing their hips back.

To give yourself a target, stand in front of a wall or something similar and push back your hips until your rear touches. Return to the starting position.

Now, scoot forward an inch or two and do it again.

Keep doing it until you can barely touch and your hamstrings feel like they're going to rip off the bone. This is the correct position for kettlebell swings (or Romanian deadlifts, Olympics lifts, etc).

You want minimal knee bend, with nearly all of the movement coming from the hips.

Performing A Kettlebell Swing

To perform the swing, you need a kettlebell! Don't have one? You can buy or make your very own adjustable kettlebell, which is really quite affordable If you're still unable to get a kettlebell, a dumbbell will do.

Learn how to make your own kettlebell Here.

Begin with a kettlebell in one hand and knees bent slightly.

You can place your free hand on your hip. The arm with the kettlebell should be kept tightly against the body, allowing the bell to hang between your legs.

Keep your head and chest up, and begin the movement by moving your butt back as far as you can, just like you practiced.

You might think of it as getting your butt and your chin as far away from each other as possible, while still keeping that arm close to the body. It's important that you use your hips and not your shoulders to move the kettlebell.

One-Arm Kettlebell Swings

One-Arm Kettlebell Swings
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
One-Arm Kettlebell Swings

Once you've reached maximum tension in the posterior chain, SNAP forward with your hips to drive that kettlebell up in front of you. Squeeze your glutes hard and apply the brakes to stop the bell's momentum when it reaches head level.

On the return, don't just let gravity do the work. Forcefully pull that bell down, turning your thumb toward you during the descent.

My best advice is to aim for your junk--just be sure to move your hips back to avoid the damage.

Let's just say that's a mistake you'll only make once.



Recommended Articles