Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Promote The Positive: Step Your Life Game Up

Our #PromoteThePositive campaign is to shine a spotlight on those who are promoting styles of healthy masculinities in order to create change in traditional, limiting definitions of manhood.

Caleb Cole, is a Philosopher of life, Husband, and Stay-at-Home Father. He is committed to the service of others, and has been courageous in his efforts to go against what's typically seen as 'weak' for men to do -- show emotions, love!

Caleb, says, "I won't to help others help them self to just be an all around better person. From giving to the homeless to just being content with who you are, and what you are."

Caleb, is challenging social norms to create change in the perceptions, and hearts of people around the world by being a positive example, and promoting positivity. He adds, "self peace is missing for many people in this world, and with all the bad things being promoted through social media and TV it's about time we all start focusing on the good, and doing good."

He continues: "I am here to motivate, inspire, and liberate people to true mental and spiritual freedom."

Caleb isn't playing around, either. He's took a huge step in trying to create positive change, spread a positive message for everyone to 'Step Ur Life Game Up' and taking his example to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

He's created a Facebook group for Step Ur Life Game Up (This group is about spreading love, positive thoughts, and letting people be their true self. We are all unique and should express it more often. Find your true self and be it.) If you're looking for a Facebook group to join for more positivity in your life, definitely check out this group! All are invited, no negativity though!
You can find him spreading around more positive thoughts and ideas on his Step Ur Life Game Up YouTube Channel
Also, you can follow him on Twitter
Caleb concludes, "Everyone has hard times or skeletons in their closet, so why dwell on them. Live in the present. After all there is a reason it is called the 'present' and the reason is it's a gift -- enjoy it!"
Thank you, Caleb, for taking initiative to create change in the world to make it a better place, and promote what I consider to be an encouragement to all men, to break out of the traditional mold of masculinity, and create change with a positive message!
"Life is like a box of chocolates, but you get to pick your box. Chose the box of joy, love, peace, and the rest will fall in place." - Caleb Cole
"Sing in the shower, when you're not in the shower." - Caleb Cole
Not all men are part of the problem, but all men can be part of the solution! - Step Up

Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Will Keep Asking!

I know it’s asked all the time, and if you’re in the movement, you hear it. You may have even asked it yourself. Or, perhaps, since we’ve seen an increase, or you’re aware of those who’ve been around a while, you have an answer to the question.

As I’m getting prepared for the East Texas Crisis Center’s 2nd Annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, asking for sponsorships, trying to recruit men, the question is being reinforced to me.

This isn’t a question that’s a stranger though. I go to speaking engagements and present on the topics of masculinity, men’s involvement in ending men’s violence, and promoting equality. The ratio is a dismal one.

You have probably already figured out what the question is I’m referring to. I’m not saying that there aren’t a great amount of men that are out there being vocal, showing support, and creating change in their communities to promote healthy masculinities, and reduce violence, because there are.

Yet, time & time again, even at events focused strictly toward men, its women stepping up to the plate. Any time I mention anything about creating change that involves men; women are quick to jump on board. Men, not so much though. There are many reasons for this. One, is society has taught us (men) that speaking out, using our voice, specifically toward a cause that is seen strictly as a ‘women’s issue,’ is a sign of weakness. Our conditioning says we’re not ‘real men’ if we step up to the plate along side women to show we support and/or value their worth as equals, or that we care for their well-being, and won’t tolerate or accept men’s violence toward them.

When I go present or train on the prevention of sexual violence, focused toward gender socialization, bystander intervention, and men’s involvement; if it isn’t mandatory, the majority of my audience is female. So, that begs the question, why are females so interested in change in masculinity, and men aren’t? I would go as far to say that they realize that if we can change the way we mold men into a narrowed box of what it means to ‘be a man,’ we can change the world.

Male privilege allows us men to go on in life not realizing what detriments we induce simply from our ignorance. “Ah, there’s nothing wrong with the way men are” you say, but have you really dove into what ‘being a man’ in society means? Being a man in society means that you are not allowed to show emotion, meaning, you’re not allowed to be human. If you show emotions, you’re going to get some sort of reinforcement to get you back into the box, because you can’t appear weak, and we must keep you conformed into the mold. So, why does one choose to not step out of the box? Fear. Fear of being seen as weak, fear of being perceived as not a ‘real man,’ fear of the consequences you may face by your friends and/or peers for doing what ‘only girls do’. Men create a commonplace in fear of not being seen as a man in the eyes of their gender.

“I’m a good guy, and I don’t commit violence against women.” Well, let me say, that being a ‘good guy’ isn’t good enough. Our inaction and/or silence are complicity. We, as men, must take responsibility for creating change in our communities, our cultures, our inner most circles, and all of this begins with ourselves.
Back to the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event. We’ll be downtown, a handful of men, walking around a square surrounded by women cheering us on. There will be a few men in that crowd, and I’d ask them: “Why aren’t you out here walking?”

To the men who are involved, you are appreciated and your involvement is crucial. But, we must keep in mind that we’re not special, or nor do we need to be overtly celebrated for what we’re doing. Women shouldn’t have to do back flips to get us to see that there is a need for men to step up. And, as men, we should realize that this support of or for our fellow, equal, human, that just so happens to be a female, should be expected from us.

Not all men are part of the problem, but all men can be part of the solution!

So I ask….. Where are the men?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mixed "Defining" Messages, and The Policing of Masculinity!

The routine of a young boy from out of the womb is to love his nurturer (usually mother) and mirror his same sex authoritarian (usually father). With the exception of a father not being around, in which they look for outside resources to imitate, and emulate. We are taught to acquire our most important fundamental human needs from a female. Then we're taught to act like a male. Meaning, males are not typically the one who provide us with our needs, but are those that provide us with an image of how we're supposed to build our character, personality, and competency. As we grow older we're taught to distance ourselves or disconnect from the one we hold the most intimate bond with - mom! In order to become 'a man'.

Socialization creates a stigma around anything that elicits behavior relative to what is considered a 'momma's boy'. Masculinity is unfortunately and mostly defined by what females do and reinforced by emphasizing to not do what females do. This message has two prominent meanings that I think are crucial in making the core of masculinity visible. First, is to keep women inferior. We live in an undeniable patriarchal society that is male-identified, male-centered, and male-dominated. From the time boy's start learning about how to be a person, one of the very first messages and concepts they are taught about being a boy is "girls are bad, don't be like girls". I hear this at my sons baseball games, even from females with statements such as "I'm going to go get you some panties to wear if you don't quit whining." - A Mother. But, it's usually from the men that are overwhelmingly reinforcing this message with statements such as "You should be wearing a cheerleading outfit, instead of a baseball uniform." - A Father. Why is this? Because, girls in the perspective of the social lens are 'weak,' 'emotional,' and essentially, 'less than boys'. Boy's in social perspective are to be strong, in control, dominant, and superior to others (especially females). Secondly, is a deeply ingrained social ideology of homophobia. A boy has to be anything that doesn't portray him as being gay. As a society we relate anything a male does, including showing emotion; which is naturally human, to femininity. We place a stereotypical set of characteristics around a heterosexual male that says if he acts like a girl (in any way) he must be gay. And, being homosexual is normalized as a negative inherency due to the oppression from societal, religious, and patriarchal acceptancy. Therefore, anything feminine (or a girl does) is conditioned into the male mind as perverse. So what does this tell us is one of the basic components at the core of masculinity? Fear! Fear of whom? Men.

As boy's become men they learn very quickly what it takes to be 'one of the guys'. We live in a very hyper-masculine society where you will find boy's always trying to prove 'it'. Boy's are always looking for an avenue to stabilize and/or confirm their status as masculine. We set standards in very vague and contradicting ways that leave boys feeling insecure, continuously looking for ways to, and having to live up to what society says it means to be a man. Since we learn that females don't equate to us as boys, we're not looking to them for clarity in whether or not we are measuring up. Although, men do use women to clarify their status with other males. We look for acceptance from our male peers, father figures, male role models, and males we don't even know. We don't have to know another male to get confirmation of our standing, because all males connect on one essential level -- manhood. Traditional masculinity teaches us to value and internalize the same thing's about manhood. There tends to be one common theme around male solidarity, and that's how to perceive women. I guess we could try to input competition as well, but that's not the point I’m trying to make. Boys readily rely on other male’s approval throughout their adolescents, and into adulthood it transfers to seeking approval of men.

Men create a commonplace in fear of not being seen as a man in the eyes of their gender. This commonplace allows men to divert attention away from their actual fear (because fear is not manly) and place it on the subordinate group(s). Shifting the focus to women (or homosexuals) allows men to get along on a day to day basis without having to face what is actually going on. This is known as male privilege. The constant need for male acceptance from other males remains invisible for the reason of its power of solitude, and its homosexual implications. This is not to say that guys can’t bond or give the occasional handshake/hug, but even that isn’t considered to fall into the category of showing emotion. Rather, it’s one of the few times male bonding is displayed physically, and open.

Normally, men do not associate this commonplace of viewing women as sexual objects, less than, and entitled to, with their daughters, mothers, aunts, sisters, or any woman they are close to. As if the women who have meaning in their life aren’t in the same society as the rest of the women in the world. Sometimes even the women men hold closely to their care aren’t exempt from this type of behavior though.

A never ending search for control of ones self identity in a society engulfed with inconsistent and restricting definitions leaves boys & men with a skewed reality of what it really means to 'be a man'.

I’m aware that this type of socialization doesn’t fit the norm for all men. How often, if ever, do you as a man challenge your own masculinity to see how you contribute to the negative aspects of it? See, we don’t have a choice in whether or not we participate in the system that creates these levels of oppression by men over women, men over other men, men over minorities or any other form. However, we do have a choice of how we participate in the system.

Step Up,


(photo courtesy of Google)


Friday, April 26, 2013

Promote the Positive: Healthy Masculinity!

                                          (Photo courtesy of the White Ribbon Campaign)

We spend a lot of time seeing examples of what is wrong with the socialization of masculinity in our society from violence, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, and etc, etc, etc.

In order to mold a new model of masculinity, one that is inclusive of emotional intelligence, emotional expression, empathy, compassion, promotion of gender equality, and the rejection of negative patriarchal socialization of masculinity; we need to know what that looks like.

So, what is healthy masculinity and what does that look like? Well, we want to know what you think!

If you are or know a person who is a role model of positive masculinity please share with us!

We want to know who they are, how they are a role model for positive masculinity, and what are they doing to promote it.

We want to let everyone know what does healthy masculinity look like! Please share with us via short story, blog, video, essay, you or someone you know who is living and promoting positive & healthy masculinity!

The information received will be shared on our Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and/or YouTube!

We want to illustrate, set examples for our youth, and share with the world positive definitions of manhood/masculinity!

Please Email: Jfallout1212@yahoo.com or Facebook mail us!

Not all men are part of the problem, but all men can be part of the solution -- Step Up!

Check out some organizations who are already educating on, and promoting healthy styles of masculinity: Men Can Stop Rape, White Ribbon Campaign, A CALL TO MEN, Futures Without Violence.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quit Being a B***h, Man!

The word ‘bitch’ is very commonplace in the everyday language of society. It has many different meanings, but they all have the same underlying connotation.

“You bitch!”

“Quit bitching!”

“Why are you acting like a bitch?”

This word is undeniably gendered, and when used, it’s typically in a demeaning and/or degrading fashion. It’s well known, if you’re a male, that this is something you do not want to be labeled as. Because, what is the most absurd, belittling thing you can do to devalue a heterosexual male? That’s right, compare him to a female.

Soraya Chemaly ask us to do a simple test illustrating gender inequality through language by asking:

“how many boys do you know who would willingly and gleefully trade genders or want to grow up to be like a woman? How many ways, in how many languages, is it acceptable to insult a person by calling them some variation of "girl" or "woman"?”

I’ve wrote on the power of words before, and we all know what a divisive tool they can be to use.

The other day I was riding in the car with an acquaintance that identifies as female. I stated an emotional expression about the conversation taking place, and her rebut was: “you’re a bitch.” Now, regardless of the manner this was said in, it is obvious what its intent was; which was to say, “You’re not being a man” (sigh!).

This is what we’ve been taught by our culture; that natural *human* expression is perceived as relative to our biology. Emotions are controlled by our preconscious automatic thinking. The beliefs we hold about ourselves, and social norms, determine how we interpret these situations.

Socially constructed ideas about *human* roles are detrimental to humanity in many ways. The way we structure our perceptions of reality, are shaped by the language we use.

I’m a man, who is confident in the use of his emotional expression. It may not be perfect or even on par, because I have been taught my whole life that these feelings I get in any given situation -- I must stuff down, and hide. I’m working on being able to let these emotions flow freely now, and identifying them as they come in order to process them.

Each time we reference a man with the word ‘bitch’ we’re not only reinforcing to him that he shouldn’t act ‘feminine,’ with the message being feminine is less, but also, he shouldn’t act human.

We must break out of these stereotypical boxes that society has constructed for us to fit into, because they limit us from our full capacity as humans.

Check out Texas Association Against Sexual Assault’s “Break The Box” Campaign: www.causes.com/breakthebox

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Conditioning & Heart of Men

You may be familiar with bipolar syndrome. It is a diagnosis for a person who has episodes of abnormal energy levels (mood swings) in extreme polar opposites.

Men often portray
 a (tough) guise as we learn from Jackson Katz. Men need to illustrate their manliness by posturing, stoicism, and dialogue (via ‘The Guy Code’ handbook) to maintain the appearance of their status as a man. Masculinity is a performance a man must act out to express and at the same-time protect his manhood. One of the main reasons men exercise violence as an option is to show the world they’ve lived up to staying inside the socialized box of society’s standards that labels them “a man”. The pressures of the box are never more present than when men are surrounded by the company of other men, and their behaviors may or may not change in the presence of a female (depending on how much she is respected, if any).

The performance of masculinity requires constant self-critique and vigilance to make sure that 
no one sees misapprehension. Due to the black & white context of the box, there is no gray area. You’re either fully in or you’re fully out. When males reach the age of being able to fully perform, they’ve already internalized all the said tools needed to act out their masculinity. The ideology behind what it means to be a man is so ingrained into the psyche and core of being, that the perception of this performance appears normal, and is believed to be by mostly everyone. 

Over my life span, falling two weeks short of 30 years long, the majority of the men I have met and come to kno
w have huge hearts. They are compassionate, loving, and have an overall concern for the well-being of everyone.But, more specifically, you know who these men have the utmost devotion for? …. Women.Time after time this same majority of men (including my previous self) end up hurting a woman or women in some fashion.

So where’s the disconnection? Does the heart control the mind or does the mind control the heart?

The heart I believe activates the feelings that correlate with when we’re doing something right and/or when we’re doing something wrong. Men are typically socialized to repress and not express emotions when they’re little, because showing emotions is seen as feminine
 (therefore not manly)Emotions are a human trait, not a gendered one. 

This internalized
 performance of men has caused extreme distortion in the messages being relayed between the heart and mind. Making the heart desensitized to that which has been conditioned as norm in the mind.

From what I’ve learned of bipolar there are a numerous amount of ups & downs. Men I know who act like the men society has told them 
they should tend to ride a similar emotional roller-coaster. When they do something they shouldn’t, they feel remorse. When they find out what they’ve been doing isn’t normal behavior toward women, they seem to actively want to create change in that behavior. We raise boys to become men who are in control of their lives in every aspect. The way we show them to have control over their emotions, is to not show the emotions at all. This is a recipe for internal disaster.  

To be clear I’m not suggesting men need to take medicine to deconstruct the conditioning of traditional masculinity.

If we can touch the heart of the man and give it inspiration, it can unravel any and all negative conditioning that has been received. 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

5 Questions About Masculinity.

1. What does being a man mean to you?

Being a man, to me, means embracing the qualities of life that help me to help other's and create a better world for humanity. Being a man is being human. Therefore, being a man means exploring the diversity of human nature, human characteristics, the whole of human individuality  and not only accepting, but also appreciating the (positive) differences in all cultures including my own. Being a man to me means seeking out a sense of self, and purpose, that isn't bound by the shackles of traditional socialization of masculinity  This means looking within to grow and mature my inner-self. Feeling, and processing emotions. Expressing them properly, and constructively. Not out of anger, and violently like how I've been taught is normal, and tolerable for men to do. Being a man, is about being a human role model. Playing a role that is positive in the perspective of all gender identities, and illustrating this thru my behaviors/actions and my integrity, that all humans are equal. Being a man is about being empathetic, loving, compassionate, caring, (mentally & emotionally) strong, altruistic, and being comfortable enough in your (person-hood) manhood to know when to use your voice, when not to. Developing principles to live by structured around the inclusiveness of equality, justice, and love - are essential to being a (human) man. Being a man is being able to free yourself from the narrowed, limiting, and restrictive societal definition of manhood. 

2. Is the societal perspective on the male role positive or negative? Why?

Both. The privilege of the male role typically goes unseen, because that is how the social system we live in (patriarchal) is set-up to function. Invisibility fuels the perpetuation of male privilege & entitlement; which means men aren't talked about enough in the appropriate context. Highly frequent is the 'downfall' fall of men in media. In the societal perspective with the most recent election in mind, and my feminist ideology -- men have a pretty overall negative perspective in society (not saying this isn't justified). We lack in the parenting department, we lack in emotional competence, we cause unjust violence in our country and start it in other parts of the world, and youth males aren't up to speed in academics. On the other-side there are men who contradict the negativity of manhood  and promotion of traditional masculinity. They are men who reject what patriarchy demands of them without worry of repercussions toward the status of their manhood. Men who are confident, nurturing  respectable men --  are out there working toward the betterment of our nation, the world, but are lacking as being vastly seen in the eye of popular or 'normal' manhood. 

3. What are the most crucial elements to healthy masculinity, and how do we promote them?  Or, do we not need to promote healthy masculinity?

The most crucial elements of healthy masculinity are human elements. Our actions/behaviors toward, and about the world are not defined by our anatomy. The most crucial elements of masculinity are those that prosper, and influence the well-being of other's and self as a whole. Kindness, empathy, compassion, understanding, emotional capacity, and love are all crucial elements to the production of healthy masculinity. If we can centralize the conditioning of our youth around core values & beliefs of equality, justice, and love we can make great strides in opening up the rigid definition of what masculinity is today. 

How do we promote it? Learn it, live it, and teach it. We must make the movement toward healthy masculinity a lifestyle, not a practice. 

4. What are the worst elements of masculinity? How do you feel we change them?

I wouldn't say there is a element of masculinity that is the worst. I do think that society has poorly emphasized the wrong attributes of masculinity as the necessary ones (tough, strong, always in control, dominant, etc.). We must change these by reshaping the idea of what it means to be a man in the lens of social normality. Focusing on the more human qualities of men, and less on the outdated concepts of what makes a man be 'a man'.

5. How do you personally work on your own masculinity to be the best person you can be? Or do you at all?

This is a daily struggle. Unlearning everything that I've been taught, and internalized as what it means to be a man, because it was wrong. I challenge myself to recognize the ways in which I (as a white, heterosexual, able bodied male) provide a path for discrimination, inequality, sexism, racism, and then change the direction I'm headed. For me, it is a journey to find my true inner-self, and to focus on unconditional love of all human beings. Deconstructing the conditioning of a patriarchal mold of maleness isn't an easy task. In fact, for me, it was having the core of my belief system uprooted. Although, at the same-time feeling a huge relief to my being. I try to read as much as I can pertaining to masculinity, discuss masculinity with other males (and/or females), watch lectures, and then reflect inward to measure the areas that are in need of improvement. And, there's always room for improvement, for everyone -- always!!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Nastiness of 'The Guise'

“Indeed, what would lead a man who, by all accounts, loved family, friends and football and had overcome great odds to make the National Football League as an undrafted pick out of the University of Maine to take such shocking actions? A man raised by a single mother, he had achieved so much in such a short period that he had widely been considered a great role model for what could be done through hard work, grit and determination.”

I imagine you’ve read or heard a statement similar to the one quoted above following a tragic act of violence perpetrated by a man. This is all too common.

“Jovan Belcher, 25-year-old starting linebacker for the Chiefs, a man and an athlete spoken of in the highest regard by everyone from his high school teammates and coaches to his fellow professional football players. They, too, were stunned.”

Masculinity is a performance, a routine, an act. When placed on center stage or in the spotlight, the show is exaggerated to the highest of levels. A young professional athlete, a wife, and a child -- from the outside it would appear that Jovan had the formula for living a great life. And, apparently, that is exactly how it appeared to those he was closest with.

We raise boys to build up walls and imprison their emotions. This entails taking on certain styles of posturing to exert and/or portray manliness. This posturing Jackson Katz refers to as the "Tough Guise”. Katz says, "being a so called "real man" you have to take on this "Tough Guise" in other words, you have to show the world only certain parts of yourself that the dominant culture has defined as manly" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3exzMPT4nGI). Since emotions are categorized as feminine (instead of human), men are not allowed to express to the world what is on the inside for fear of being seen as 'weak'. So it gets masked on the outside.

When men internalize the notion that we must always be confident and in control it is easy to hide the truth from other's about our feelings. Even denying our own feelings or not being able to recognize them become symptoms. Men are taught to repress emotions, except anger. When we allow anger to be expressed as a primary source for solutions it creates a misconception that it is the best and/or only one.

It is reported that Jovan had a previous record of violence. Abusers are often professional manipulators, and learn how to parade around a facade while in the public eye. "You can't talk to me like that," said Belcher to Kasi Perkins, right before shooting her, according to the Kansas City Star newspaper. Domestic violence is rooted in power over & control of another person. The status of a man 'being a man' is equated with how well he can establish and maintain power & control. See an issue?

Men acting like men by society's traditional standard of 'being a man' continues to illustrate being a detriment. We must learn to recognize this as bystanders in the lives of men around us. Unfortunately, that isn't an easy task. Most of us have been conditioned to perceive masculinity the same way men have been taught to act it out. So when a man is 'being a man' we tend to believe that nothing abnormal is going on. Until it is too late.

Another woman and child have lost their lives due to violence at the hands of a man. I'm not going to site statistics, because one is too many. It is time for us as a society to quit being stunned by the tragedies the conditioning of masculinity produce and instead promote, live, model and educate on different, meaningful, ways to be a man.

Not all men are part of the problem, but all men can be part of the solution.