What issues do men have anyway?

Many people believe ‘men are still on top’.

In most countries, men make up 50% of the population; this is the situation in Australia. But men make up 93% of the gaol population here in Australia. Men are more likely to be violent criminals (and the victims of violent crime). Every week, stories of every depravity possible, mostly committed by men: murder, abuse, rape, torture.

Let alone the self-harm! Men in Australia are 4 times more likely to kill themselves than women. For men in rural areas, the rate is seven times…Depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, domestic violence, the list continues!

Men commit these things. But is it inevitable? Does the Y-chromosome condemn a proportion of us to be criminals, monsters? I don’t believe it. It was important for women that feminism uprooted and demolished the roles that women were imprisoned in. But some extreme feminists blamed men for everything. Genetically inferior, masculinity was something to be quashed, mocked, ashamed of. Men had no gifts to bring. Fathers, when not being depicted as suspicious, dark, destructive, were painted as idiotic, incompetent, fools, large children in men’s bodies, kept out of trouble by a wise and all-knowing mother.

The simplification of the extreme feminist message was that it ignored the suffering of men; that just as women had suffered under roles that crushed them, so had men. Starting with the economic pattern established in 18th Century England and Scotland, men were forced by necessity out of their villages and farms and into the cities and factories; families and communities broken up. Men started working 12 hour shift work in factories, mills, mines, shipyards. Men’s role in the family was distorted into that of primarily the walking wallet, the main contribution money. What else could you expect when the father came home, exhausted after 12 hours of exhausting and repetitive work? Boys were encouraged to be violent, competitive. “Prove you’re a man!”. At least in the Australian experience, artistic or intellectual tendencies were suspect. God forbid anyone think you might be gay!

The feminist message also implicitly stated that the men who were the oppressors, the criminals, were ‘on top’, were the ‘winners’ out of the system. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that men who commit such crimes or live such lives are hardly to be envied. They are pathetic, distorted people, they are not really men.

And that is it actually. How do we get ourselves out of this hole? Nothing less than redrawing what we think a man is. Redefining what we think masculinity might encompass. What fatherhood could be.

What an incredible opportunity we have! We can break the pattern that has hamstrung us, our fathers and grandfathers. We can dream of what manhood can be. We can bequeath that new vision to our sons, help them grow to be freer, healthier men than we are. For a start, we could dump the ridiculous idea that you need to ‘prove’ that you are a man!

This blog is partly about what that new vision could be…

Published in: on Monday, 6 September 2010 at 9:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Imagine you are nine years old. Your parents have died, within months of each other. The world is frightening, large, lonely – as if Germany wasn’t bleak enough, only 20 years after the Thirty Years War scythed down 1/3 of the population.

This was Bach’s entry into the world.

This man’s response to a hard start in the world was to pursue the art his family loved, an art his father had initiated him into. Bach is held up as a composer of mathematical patterns and structures, but there is phenomenal emotional depth and passion, humour; you are in the hands of a great soul, a man of grand vision and humility, witticisms and compassion. As Beethoven quipped, “nicht Bach, sondern Meer”. (not a brook, rather a sea).

Looks could be deceiving; he looks somewhat stern and serious; a wig that emphasises his antiquity compared to us. But explore the geography of his music; he is much more than he looks. In his entire life, Bach never left Germany; but his soul soared.

Track down the St Matthew’s Passion, and experience one of the greatest pieces of art ever conceived.

To Bach – a great soul, a life lived with passion, despite all manner of setbacks; a man who had the courage to pursue his calling.

Published in: on Sunday, 7 February 2010 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Big outside = Big inside?

What is the difference between being male and being a man?

What gives us the perception that some men are more manly than other men?

If you were to believe the superficial layers of our culture, it would be that being big is good. Bigger is better – so why not for men, too? Get ripped in 6 weeks! Kick sand in other guys’ faces, because you are huge!

Intellectually, many of us know this is garbage. But we may still feel inadequate when football stars, boxers, and others are lauded for their bodies. No wonder that football players play up. They think they are the pinnacle of manliness, and are made to feel like it, too. But they may have souls, vision, ignorant, narrow, withered, immature.

But it is so easy to compare, to measure size. To see big muscles.

A man’s vision, his courage, the breadth and depth of soul are harder to gauge. Only he truly knows it, if he brave enough to look in the mirror.

Has he lived with a fierce spirit? Has he sacrificed himself for others? Does he put other things ahead of himself? Has he let humanity into his heart and soul? Or the universe? Has he been brave enough to listen, to learn? Has he been tough enough to care for others? Manly enough to look after others?

Published in: on Sunday, 7 February 2010 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beyond the ‘Game’

Neil Strauss and the ‘pickup artist’ community were skyrocketed into notoriety with the publishing of his book, The Game. Many young men, hoping to garner some tips on how to understand (and hold their ground… for it feels like a battleground) against women. The book explores Strauss’ entrance into, dominance of, and exit out of the ‘pickup artist’ community.

His exit was for the book, only. He continues to make money teaching  young hopefuls the skills they crave to pickup women. But his evolution, though fascinating, is maybe not worth modelling your life on.

I am not much good at picking up girls. I’m not quite an ‘average frustrated chump’, in the language of the PUA community, but I can do well enough. But what struck me with Strauss’ fate, at least so far, is that no matter how many women he fucks, he still isn’t happy. Strauss, are you happy? How many women, how many workshops, and how many one night stands? You self-hypnotise yourself that you are the prize, but then you pursue women who are entranced by magic tricks and palmistry. For fucks sake, wake up to life, as it oozes in and out. You or I may die any day.

This leads me to divulge a great revelation, which dawned on me after a corrosive, soul and mind obliterating breakup. There is a spiritual life, a yearning beyond pussy. Look to other men, and to nature, for two unending sources of inspiration and freedom. Look beyond the game. Embrace your father. Rather than the grotto of 2am desire, which disintegrates in your hands at 10am, look to the profound and incomprehensible cathedrals of nature.

The architecture of the sky over Sydney harbour can reach into your soul, like Mozart can, if you let him. The confluence of sky, swell, cloud, sun, waves, the combination of grand architecture and fine detail, the melodrama of it all, energetically changing, endlessly. The muting beauty of it, combined with the capricious and practical whoosh of a wind capsizing you, lest you dumbly theorise while nature does. It can blow your fucking mind.

The self-centredness of the PUAs, their focsu on women, means they forget that there are greater things than putting their dicks into women. You could argue that I say this, partly because I am crap at picking up women. And I am. But I also know there is something beyond us. beyond pussy, that is incredible. That is the point that the PUAs miss. They build a better mouse trap, but they never think that there might be better things than trapping mice.

Your life depends on finding those things that burn inside you, that fill your life. That burn like magnesium inside your soul. That refresh you like diving into a lake. As someone once said, “May you live every day of your life”.

Published in: on Sunday, 15 November 2009 at 12:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Fear of being gay

Hands

Are you afraid of being thought gay?

Are you frightened of showing affection to other men because you are worried they might think you’re a ‘fag’?

Homophobia is bad enough for gay men, but the truth is that it takes its toll on all men, straight, bi or gay.

It’s closely interwoven with having to “prove” you’re a man. ‘Men’ don’t express emotion, dance, behave flamboyantly, or show affection (at least, Australian men, anyway). Fear of being gay straitjackets how we act, til we don’t even notice that we’ve grown into the straitjacket – after a while, it’s scary to take it off. So we don’t become ballet dancers, artists, designers. We dress to fit in.

Fear of being thought gay blocks men from sharing emotions with each other, from talking more deeply than work, footy, and the weekend. It’s hard enough to work out how to relate to women, but men also miss out on forming solid and emotional bonds with other men. It’s scary enough to form emotional bonds, and trust, with people, let alone to worry that you’ll be ostracised for being gay.

So homophobia is external; little boys are expressive and affectionate; but at some stage after that, they are whipped into line by the other boys in the schoolyard. Given enough time, they join the gang too, and internally check themselves and others from deviating.

If you’re a woman and reading this, imagine you had to fight another girl to ‘prove’ you’re a woman. Imagine being scared of forming a bond with another girl, because you might be thought a lesbian (I’m sure this happens too, but I think women have some more license here).

Homophobia is brutal, it crushes all men. Homophobia represses their expressiveness, their creativity, their compassion. Let’s eradicate it.

Hug your mate when he leaves for his honeymoon. Ask your Dad how he’s feeling (and don’t let him just talk about his bad back), tell him you love him. Tell your mates how much you appreciate them. Tell them how your marriage is going. Ask them about theirs. It’s not a nice-to-have, we fuckin’ need it.

Published in: on Sunday, 2 August 2009 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brother

wright_bros.jpg

You must have brothers in your life. We need fathers, but we also need men of our own generation and times to share our feelings with. We need brothers to get drunk with, to wrestle, to play sport against, talk shit with.

Several real male friendships, forged over time, are worth a million times more than the dalliances that consume most teenage and young men’s time. You probably need both, but men are not reminded or taught that they need each other as brothers. They generally do not view other men as brothers. At best, they are strangers and are indifferent. At worst, they are looking for a fight, looking for someone to shame, someone to compete with and better.

Understanding a true brother takes time, and can only be forged through actions and experiences, more than words. Forged is the right word, in the sense of a blacksmith forging a piece of steel. It takes time. It is hand-made and reflects the personality of the smith. And it is imperfect, but it cannot be truly made any other way. You cannot buy friendship, you have to forge it yourself.

If you have no biological brother, like me, it is both easier and harder. Easier because you can pick your brothers, you can be fussy. But also harder, because at least your biological brother will, for better or worse, still be your brother.

But whether your brothers are from the same or another mother, you must have them, for they offer you what women cannot. They offer understanding, because they are men of your own age. They have more or less recently lived or are living what you have. No years of pain and experience moderate their view, as with fathers and grandfathers. Your brothers are living with their hearts in the same time as you. Women have little idea of what true male friendship is – they usually think it centres solely on beer, cars, TV and football. It might, but these are not the centre-stage reason for your mates, or at least shouldn’t be.

You give your brothers freedom. Freedom from women, and their usually boxed vision of the world. Some women may know this and, in typical female style, perceive mates as a threat to their power, seeking to cut you off from them. Truly realised women understand that you need your mates to keep sane.

Brothers understand your problems and your heartaches. They will listen to you. But they also have no fear of waking you up to your own vanity or neuroticism.  True brothers will bring you into line, if you are out of line. They speak your language and will be as blunt as necessary to help you realise if you’ve gone wrong.

Brothers help us regain a sense of fun that we somehow lost as teenagers being disciplined at school, or as young men made to feel guilty for all the problems in the world. Brothers help us break the rules and create a little haven of political incorrectness and subversiveness – if only for a little time.

I watch with sadness at how married men allow their friendships to atrophy, the zest, harshness and zaniness of youthful male friendship long forgotten. But the truth is that we need these brothers all through our life. They will be there, after the devastating break-up or divorce. They will be there, after you lose your job or go bankrupt.

A group of brothers will look after each other – magical fairies or crickets won’t show up to stop you taking your own life. It’s more likely to be John, who turns up in his ute, weighs 90kg, and plays footy on the weekend.

Published in: on Tuesday, 4 March 2008 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Father Part 2

In my first Father post I discussed the myths surrounding fathers. I also mentioned the great need that we have for fathers; that children cannot be raised properly without fathers. Proof of that is simple – find a man who never knew his father. He will explain.

Much more can be said about fathers though, beyond the myths about them, and beyond their invalidation and alienation in society.

Fathers are crucial to raising boys into men. They offer boys things that women cannot offer and usually do not understand.

For a man, your father is your first idea, your initial and always-core idea of what a man is. The word ur springs to mind – a German word meaning ‘original’ or ‘extremely old’, as in Urwald (ancient forest). Your father is your ur-man. He is your reference point as what a man is. In the hands of a poor father, this power is corrupted or simply wasted, but in the hands of loving, nuturing father this power is liquid gold.

A father has hardwired what a boy needs, but the problem often arises that the father himself was not properly raised. What if he himself is not a fully realised man? How good are his chances then of raising his own boy well?

As much as many people would have you believe that gender roles are the problem, they are naive. A boy cannot grow to be a man in a vacuum. Of course every man has his own path in life, but a good father will teach what is important in life, and the things a boy needs; how to love, how to work, how be be rational and control your emotions – in short what a man needs to live well.

Acknowledging fathers are important if you understand that living well is not automatic, even with age. It is a craft that is learnt and not possible to short cut by drugs or short term pleasures.

A father teaches a boy – with help from older men too – that being a man is something learnt and earned, it not automatically conferred at age 18.

Fathers can have much more resonance with their sons, because they have lived through similar experiences. Male wisdom is gold for a young man understanding how to navigate through the world; it is essential.

More than we really understand, fathers also need us. Society has denied the ability of fathers to love and nurture, it has also denied the vulnerability that fathers feel. Many fathers feel vulnerable – feel that they have failed at many things in life – and deeply need to be accepted, if not loved, by their children. They need to feel understood and that at least their life was worth something. This is the unspoken tragedy of modern fathers today.

Published in: on Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mythocracy

Time to clear out the bullshit

Marc Rudov lists five myths about women:

1. “Women don’t like or need sex as much as men”

2. “Women aren’t as visually stimulated or as obsessed with looks as men are.”

3. “Women are more faithful than men.”

4. “Women are more relationship oriented than men – men prefer to date.”

5. “Women are kinder, gentler and more romantic than men.”

These implicit myths about women are as much a problem for women as they are for men. They are bullshit, and blanket endow all women with virtues they may not necessarily have.

How about if we flip these on their head?

1. “Men don’t like or need sex as much as women”

2. “Men aren’t as visually stimulated or as obsessed with looks as women are.”

3. “Men are more faithful than women.”

4. “Men are more relationship oriented than women – women prefer to date.”

5. “Men are kinder, gentler and more romantic than women.”

It does seem odd to read these flipped-around myths – but I bet you can think of your own examples where men have been more faithful, gentle, or less focussed on sex than women. Women will shout these down as exceptions to the rule but I believe this is more because they feel their position on Mt Moral High Ground is threatened rather than because the myths are true. The myths, to a degree, also socially condition men and women and frame how they see each other.

Men have been imprisoned in a cage that refuses to acknowledge their fidelity, their self-control, their ability to see beyond mere surface appearance, their empathy, idealism, kindness and that all these qualities are a part of masculinity. The cold, unemotional John Wayne is bullshit — and men should junk this false cardboard cutout of maleness.

The 50s tough guy man is a modern invention and denies the great spirit, and tradition of male emotion and experience. We men are able to control our emotions – we must do so to be to be good firemen, coast guards or policemen. Our ability to control our emotions is a great strength of men and one that was always traditionally celebrated. The great sagas, fairy tales and epic poems celebrate this and look down on men who gave in to their passions and indulged their emotions without any vestige of thought or reason.

Up til not long ago, popular tales or accounts of men, of explorers, shipwreck survivors or soldiers, often celebrated this ability to control fear, despair and other destructive emotions, and men’s strength in getting on with the job. If you are in an overcrowded lifeboat in the Midatlantic, and you are running out of water, and you are suffering from sunstroke, it is not helpful to crawl into a ball and cry as the water seeps in through the caulking in the boat.

There is a great difference between control and denial. By controlling emotions, it doesn’t mean we deny them, it just means that we need to know when and how to let those emotions flow. Manginas get it wrong, because they think that maleness and emotionality are incompatible. We men have our own emotions and they cannot be anything but masculine. How could they not be – we are men! Men’s emotions simply differ in degree of maturity and his progress along the path of manhood.

As for fidelity, it is simply a fact that women cheat as much as men – but other women generally ‘close ranks’ and give ad hoc excuses for why that woman’s infidelity was OK “She must have felt destitute” or “He probably never listened to her/He ignored her” etcetera.

I grant full equality to women: they can be as shallow, destructive, duplicitous, brutal, callous, cynical, lecherous, manipulative and hollow as men can be.

We men don’t have to accept the myths that grant women immunity from their vices. Don’t buy into them, and don’t let women hoist their pennant, unchallenged, on Mt Moral High Ground.

Don’t accept these myths, don’t be a willing sheep in the Mythocracy.

Barnoz.

Published in: on Saturday, 19 January 2008 at 6:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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Father

Lego Father

Like it or lump it, I think your father is part of you.

This is a hard fact to face for many men who had alcoholic, abusive, violent or absent fathers. Sometimes men who never know their father discover years later how much their character, habits and gestures have been inherited from their father. But your father is always there inside you, and I think you won’t find peace with yourself until you have made peace with him. Because your father is part of you, if you fight him – even if you are shadow-boxing a ghost – you are really fighting with yourself.

I really wonder if the violent, thuggish men we have in our society are partly trying to prove to their fathers that they really are a man after all. Perhaps their father never accepted them, perhaps he sat behind a newspaper.

I know men who never knew their own father. I cannot even begin to understand the grief, that deep abyss that just keeps swallowing you up. Even understanding the reason why he was absent doesn’t help the feeling of isolation, that somehow, they have missed out connecting with generations of male wisdom. This is a grief that is truly male, because your father in theory should have the most love, sympathy and understanding of you, out of all men. Never knowing your father might be like wandering round a mansion, carrying a telephone you wish to connect but never finding a socket for it. You are missing out on plugging into years of experience and wisdom. “Who ya gonna call?” “I don’t know!” (Although maybe Ghostbusters might help out…)

It is time to acknowledge that men desperately need their fathers.

This simple fact, that children (but especially sons) need their father is so often ignored, denied and overlooked. Even men have claimed that the only contribution men make is some genetic material at conception. What bullshit. It is very hard for a mother to raise a healthy, balanced man on her own, simply because a mother cannot provide what a father provides. This is the key idea, because the recent myths about mothers and fathers incorporate the assumption that mothers do all the nurturing.

This myth underpins the outrage about refusing IVF to women who have no male partner. It is deeply offensive and ignorant to suggest that children can be raised as well without a father as with one. This myth, which really suggests the father only contributes money to a family, and offers nothing more, is a slap in the face of men.

The myth that fathers only bring money to a family is also bolstered by the anti-father bias in pop culture. Fathers are depicted as irrelevant, oblivious, doddering, irrational, dispensable, weak and out of touch. In contrast, “Mother is always right”. Next time you watch a pop-culture sitcom, keep in mind this bias. Imagine if the father’s character was swapped with the mother’s, or the jokes about fathers were flipped to be about mothers. There would be an outcry that the show was sexist. Yet fathers are depicted as only being interested in cars, football, beer, TV and show-room models.

It is important to critically assess these influences, because however subtle or peripheral they might be, these stereotypes sink in. Liberty to make jokes about anyone is important, but the real issue is balance. Contrast fairy-tales with modern day culture. Fairy tales often taught of the destructive, poisonous potential that mothers have. Yet these warnings are largely absent these days, and the columnists are a flurry of confusion when another crack-addicted mother murders her children. ‘How could this happen – we always thought mothers were perfect’.

Fathers have a lot to offer and do not deserve the popular stereotypes forced into their faces. We should be vigilant – write a complaint letter, talk about it with your father, throw your newspaper at the TV and switch it off, just don’t let it go unchallenged.

Men need their fathers. They need to work alongside them, learn from them, and above all connect. This connection is different from that which women have with each other.

We forge our bond with our father by working with him. Men often don’t need to talk, the connection and bond can simply be formed by doing things together. This activity and working together is an essence of being a man and therefore connecting with men. You might have weeded the garden, played music together, dug potatos, fished or changed the oil on the car. But there is somehow an osmosis about working with your father.

Father is the living example of a man for his children. He is what they refer back to, even if not consciously. He teaches his son what being a man is, not by words, which are often poor teachers, but by living and doing. I think it is fundamental that sons and fathers talk and think about these things, in light of the misinformation and misandry present.

We also forget that fathers need their sons, they ultimately must have their son’s approval and respect, even if they would never admit to it.

Published in: on Friday, 4 January 2008 at 1:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Keep It Comin’

The Blog Movement is rolling…

The Net has put a small measure of power into our hands, if we choose to use it. We now have the power to publish – our success, ultimately, determined by how much we want to devote ourselves to writing.

Don’t flag guys – keep those blogs rolling. The Men’s Movement is not just about blogs, but this is where the ideas and debate can germinate.

Barnoz.

Published in: on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  
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