When you touch people deeply, they react emotionally.
I’ve been writing about men and masculinity since my first book Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man was published in 1983. I was inspired to write about men and masculinity after reading Herb Goldberg’s book, The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege. I still have my copy of Goldberg’s book with the picture of a masculine, muscled arm, with a broken red heart.
The inspiration for this article came from a discussion by authors who write for The Good Men Project about an article that appeared in the Guardian titled Matt Haig “Crucified” on Twitter for planning a book about masculinity. It isn’t always easy to write from the heart about matters of sex and gender. I hope Matt finds a way to express what is in his heart. We need to hear more about men and masculinity in these changing times.
In Goldberg’s book, published in 1976 he says,
“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body…The humanistic growth movement and the feminist movements have both helped to create a climate that is conducive to altering the rigid and harmful patterns of behavior. It is naïve, however, to believe that men will experience meaningful growth simply by piggy-backing the changes that are occurring in women’s attitudes. Men need to arrive at their own realization of what is crucial to their survival and well-being.”
Getting my first book published was not easy. I kept getting angry rejection letters from publisher after publisher. After each letter I became more and more discouraged. “I didn’t think my writing was that bad,” I thought to myself. I finally brought the letters to a colleague who was a publisher at a major book company. He read them and was amazed. “No one gets these kinds of long rejection letters. Most everyone gets polite, short letters, saying that the work isn’t right for us.” He asked to read my manuscript. He got back to me soon. I was hopeful. “No wonder you’re getting these kinds of rejections, you’re touching people deeply, and they are reacting emotionally. With your professional background people are expecting a ‘professional’ book with objectivity and distance. You write so personally, you’re shaking people up.”
“So, does that mean you want to publish my book,” I asked. “I’d never get it past our review team. I’m sorry,” he told me. Eventually I got an offer from another publisher, but by then I had decided to create my own company, Fifth Wave Press, to publish this book as well as my wife’s Love It, Don’t Label It: A Practical Guide for Using Spiritual Principles in Everyday Life. I was glad I had published myself. Since my wife and I were the publishers we could say the things we wanted to say.
In the book I wrote about going into a feminist book store in San Francisco because I felt that a lot of what I was reading from feminists was going to liberate me. A number of the women seemed fine with my being in the store, but others, including the person in charge seemed hostile. There was a young boy, about nine years old, in the store who was obviously the son of the person in charge. He would walk by me and “accidentally” bump into me. At first I didn’t notice how angry he was. On the third “bump through” he pushed a little hand-written note in my hand. What I read hurt my soul. “We don’t like men in here,” it said. It still pains me to remember that young boy and what he was learning about his own maleness.
I kept reading and I kept writing. I wrote a series on the male change of life including Male Menopause, Surviving Male Menopause, and The Whole Man Program. I got mostly angry comments from men. Reading between the lines I got the idea that suggesting that a man might go through anything like what a woman went through was threatening to many men’s sense of themselves. Most women loved the books. “It’s about time you men finally figured out that you’re as hormonal as women are,” one woman told me.
However this was not true for all. Some women who identified as feminists, including my friend, Sally Miller Gearhart, refused to endorse the book. She said, “Damn, can’t you men leave anything for women. Now you even want to co-opt menopause.” It took a few years before our friendship got back on track. After I wrote The Whole Man Program my medical colleagues attacked me for suggesting that many of the ailments that were most common, including things like atrial fibrillation, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis had a significant emotional component and could be treated with energy medicine practices in addition to more mainstream medical treatments.
When I wrote The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression some of my colleagues in the men’s movement accused me of “pandering to feminists by taking a women’s view of men and putting men down.” There were rants on my blog saying the title was “anti-male.”
One of the things I love most about writing for The Good Men Project is that we can explore controversial areas of male/female life and experience and still be able to be respectful of each other. In a world that in many ways is out of balance, it’s easy for some to take a simple approach to literature on men and masculinity.
“You’re either with me or you’re against me. Either you agree with me or you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I intend to continue writing about men and masculinity. It’s one of the ways I continue to grow and change. I owe it to myself, my wife of thirty-five years, and to our five children and fifteen grandchildren. I look forward to your comments. What are some of the hazards and rewards about writing about men and masculinity for you?
Photo Credit: Getty Images