Our mission at GMPM is to spark a national conversation about manhood. Recently, I have noticed that the comments on several of my columns are, frankly, a lot better than the columns themselves. Thus, Good Discussion is born. Each Saturday morning, I’ll highlight one or two pieces from prior weeks that sparked some thoughtful discussion, providing a selection of comments that ask, answer, or amplify critical questions about manhood. As with all conversations we have here, Good Discussion is open to men and the women who love them.
Responses to: Is Manhood Killing Us?
A year ago my wife threw me out of the house. She had finally had enough of our mediocre and unfulfilling partnership even though we had a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. Depression that I’d carried for most of my life contributed to the relationship failing, and worsened as a result. Becoming a dad has been the most positively transformative experience of my life. Becoming what feels like a part-time dad has been devastating. The Good Men Project has propped me up and kept me slogging forward.
My daughter was 3 when I walked out of my marriage, and I went through hell for years. My daughter was the only reason I kept going. With the support of my family, especially my brother, I got through it all in one piece. All the struggles I had, advice I received, and experiences I have are, in one way or another, told through this project, and it continues to be one of my sources of good advice from real people.
I lost my dad over a year ago because of heart disease. He was a very hardworking man who spent decades working grueling hours. He was a workaholic because that’s how he defined his contribution to our family. He kept everything in because he wasn’t one to talk about his feelings.
A few years ago he was finally ready to retire and take a few family vacations with my brother and me because he wanted to make up for lost time. But it didn’t work out like that. Nine months after heart surgery, he went for a walk by himself and just collapsed by the side of the road. His heart just gave out. The last memory I have of him is that he and I watched the World Series together.
I have a wonderful family. But there is always going to be a hole because he’s not with us anymore. He won’t be here to see my brother or me get married or have kids. And my mom hasn’t been the same person since his death. There are so many things I miss about him. His sense of humor, his laugh, the way he felt and smelled that was just “Dad.”
So guys, if there is one thing you do for your family, you’ve got to take care of your health because they want you around. I wouldn’t have cared if we had to pinch pennies growing up if it meant my dad could have been around more and had less work stress. Nothing is worth not being around for the people that love you.
My dad was a hard worker and a wonderful provider to us. He frequently worked 70- to 80-hour weeks in a demanding field of surgery, but he lacked much as a parent to younger children. As a result I don’t think I had a relationship with my dad properly until he quit the position he was in and started working regular full-time hours.
The thing I want most of all for my dad is the opportunity to be happy and to enjoy good health and a better relationship with us than we had together as kids. The less he works, and the more he is him, the better it is getting. And I especially don’t want my own fiancé having the kind of life that my dad had to lead.
My son Jemal was born in 1969 and I made a vow to be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and to make a different kind of world where men were not isolated and alone. My father tried to commit suicide when I was 5 years old. Though he survived physically, our lives were never the same.
We know that, on average, men commit suicide at four times the rate of women. As shocking as this is, it doesn’t capture the full picture. The truth is that suicide rates increase with age. According to Dr. Will Courtenay, author of the forthcoming book, Dying to Be Men, men in their 60s and 70s are six times more likely to commit suicide than women in that age group. That goes up to seven times for men in their 70s. And men 85 or older, the suicide rate is nearly 18 times higher than it is for women. Plus, we know that a down economy and job loss impacts men more destructively than it does women.
It’s time we told the truth and began to change the personal, interpersonal, and societal practices that are killing us all.
To be honest, I have no particular desire or expectation to live very long. My father died when I was a small child and I live under the expectation that I won’t make it to 40 … To be honest, I’ll be disappointed if I survive to 30.
I felt like you, Jay, until I read the last paragraph of this blog.
Responses to: Are Women’s Colleges Outdated?
In law school, I was on the editorial board of the law review, which consisted of 7 women (out of 12 board positions), 5 of whom had gone to women’s colleges … a little striking, to say the least. I didn’t pick Mt. Holyoke because it was a women’s college (quite frankly, it was the best school to which I was admitted), but I have looked back gratefully on that fortuituous decision many times in my life. It has shaped my life, and my choices, in so many ways, and I’m both glad and grateful.
I went to Smith. It’s hard to describe what going to a women’s college did for me. The experience of being in a place where women engage in every conceivable function in college life operates most powerfully on a sub-conscious level. As those in the advertising biz know so well, it is the assumptions that are made, not the overtly stated message, that carry the most weight. Regardless of our backgrounds, we left Smith assuming that women can, and do, do everything.
A part of that powerful, subconscious message is in the mission as well. It’s no small gift to the psyche of a young woman that everything she sees, all of the money and effort and business of the college, from groundskeepers to professors to endowment, are going toward educating her and her sisters. The implicit respect for women and what they have to offer is enormous, exhilarating, and never leaves you.
I was adamantly against going to an all-women’s college—until my Mount Holyoke tour. Not only was the campus beautiful—and don’t think that wasn’t a big factor—but the rhetoric they used made me stop and think.
As an athlete (competitive swimmer) and as a girl with a lot of guy friends, I assumed a co-ed school would be the place for me. But my guide made me reconsider when she brought up living four years in an environment that focused all of its efforts on ME. I would learn uniquely, I would grow uniquely, I would be supported and encouraged and built up to be the very best version of the woman I could be.
No other school had offered me that.
In the end, I chose to go to Mount Holyoke, and in my junior year, I became a tour guide so I could help encourage other young women to make the similar choice I made—choose an all-women’s college, if that’s the right choice for YOU. For the education of you, to grow into being the absolute best, most well-rounded, self-focused (NOT self-centered) woman you can be.
There will always be men around as both potential dates (depending on your sexual orientation) and potential friends—not all women’s colleges are cloistered nunneries accessible only through impenetrable forests or on mountaintops. But take the time to consider college may be the only time an entire institution will be devoted to developing a girl into a woman.
Oh, and Mr. Matlack? Yes, pillow fights in our pajamas may occasionally happen as well.
I was like your daughter—committed to a liberal arts school but wondering how I would survive without the male friends I loved. What I found out after a year was simple: Male friends are great, but great FEMALE friends? Invaluable. I had real, true girlfriends for this first time in my young life and I owe Mount Holyoke for both a top-notch education and the best women I have ever known, who have sustained me in the years since. The issues with cattiness that I had feared existed, but they existed for my female friends at Amherst too, and in a way they had it worse—they had boys to fight over! My male friends from high school were all there when I graduated, and I’ve made plenty since. But those Mount Holyoke girls…they’re my best friends, and I’m so much better for it.
I am an alumna and longtime (now term-limited) board member and spent lots of time working on how to articulate Barnard advantages. Your article about your visit thrilled me as you clearly “got” all the things we hold dear about Barnard.
There was a response piece written by Colleen Gribbin, the high school principal of Saint Mary Academy-Bay View and Rhode Island’s Principal of the Year in 2007: Why Gender Education Matters
While Mr. Matlack’s feature focused on all-girls colleges, the process of creating powerful female leaders can and often does start with empowering our daughters with same gender education at an even earlier age.
In response to that piece there was this comment: from Nancy Freeman:
I agree that there is enormous value in all-girls education, but I find it interesting that this essay does not discuss why that may be. I attended an all-girls Catholic high school for two years and was a high achiever, a class leader. I transferred to a “better” private but co-ed school and my grades slipped and I almost didn’t graduate. Not because it was harder; it wasn’t by any stretch. It was my attitude that changed 180 degrees in the presence of the “boys.”
Women are terribly competitive, but in an all-girls school, that’s all there is to do: learn, compete, and achieve. Gossip and cliques are a plague, but there really are no distractions to pursuing your full potential. There are no perceived or imposed restrictions to how far you can rise as an individual among peers.
In my junior year, as the new kid in a new school, I operated in class the same way I had when at the all-girls school: If I knew the answer—and I often did—I raised my hand, discussed, and debated with the instructor. Except, as I very quickly learned, that intimidated the boys. It didn’t take me too long to cool my jets and stop standing out, to fit in. If I expected to date some of these boys—and I wanted to—I couldn’t scare them away by appearing smarter than they were. So I dumbed down.
It’s my own experience and might not appropriately be extrapolated to others. However, having experienced both education models, and looking back, I am shocked at how powerfully undermining co-education was to me, and might be for other smart, strong females. The sexual tension and distraction of high school males and females in class together, at an age when bubbling hormones and relationship exploration starts to become a preoccupation, is one factor that may unnecessarily complicate and undercut academic achievement.
—Photos: Good Men Foundation/reid.gilman Flickr/Columbia University