Monday, January 31, 2011

Robert Leahy - Why Men Don't Listen to Women

At first I suspected this might be another of those men are lame and women need to get them to be more like women posts - glad I was wrong. Dr. Leahy, a psychotherapist, actually offers women some useful information about the ways men have been trained not to listen and not to communicate. On the other hand, some of these are not "reasons" for not listening as much as they are lame ass childish responses.

We can do better than this.

And it's not always the men - some women do whine, or manipulate, or want him to be her twin, or refuse to communicate coherently, or . . . . Leahy mentions this, but only in passing. In most relationships issues, there are two people involved.

It certainly need not be this way - a lot of men can listen, attentively and openly, and not have their "jewels" shrivel and fall off (no matter what some of the psuedo-macho men might argue).

Why Men Don't Listen to Women

Robert Leahy, Ph.D.

Posted: January 27, 2011

In a recent posting I identified a list of the wrong things to say to someone who is upset. Interestingly, this led to a lot of comments on The Huffington Post, which got me thinking. The first thought I had was, "Why do men find it so hard to validate women?"

Before I get into this, I'd like you to think about the research by psychologist John Gottman. Gottman has been able to predict with 91 percent accuracy which couples will end up getting divorced. He calls these "The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse" -- along with other problematic styles of communication. The Four Horsemen are Criticism ("You are always whining"), Contempt ("You're a basket case"), Defensiveness ("I'm not the problem, you are!") and Stonewalling (withdrawing or becoming silent). Other problematic styles include starting the conversation in a hostile or intense style, giving off body-language that is defensive or cold, flooding your partner with negativity, and bringing up past memories, complaints and injuries. When you can predict divorce with 91 percent accuracy you know you are on to something.

Now I don't want to claim that men are always the problem -- or that they are even more likely to be the problem than women are. No group is innocent, no group is perfect. But I can see that a lot of times men have a great deal of difficulty validating and emotionally supporting the women in their lives. Here are some reasons.

The Seven Reasons Men Don't Listen

  1. It's a Power Struggle: Some men view intimate relationships as a win-lose game. If the woman is venting her feelings, then she is winning and the man is losing. As a result these men may try to dominate and control the woman, telling her that she is illogical, out of control or just a pain to deal with. One man says, "You want us to be doormats."
  2. Sarcasm: Many men describe their interactions in terms of "sarcastic" comments -- put-downs, contempt, criticism and condescension. For example, some men respond with, "It must be that time of the month" or "Get me a beer" or other problematic and self-defeating comments. They think that sarcasm will get the woman to either shut up or help her see that she is being ridiculous. She gets the message that he not only doesn't care -- but that he is the last person to ask for support. He thinks he's clever and funny -- and she thinks he just doesn't get it.
  3. Macho Thinking: A number of men comment that to validate or to use emotional language to support the woman is unmanly. "You are trying to make us into wusses," a number of men say. They believe that the role of the man is to be strong, above it, domineering. Validating and allowing emotional ventilation is for feminized men, men who have lost their dignity as "real men." The women may think that some of the macho confidence is appealing, until it leads them to feel that the only emotion they can get from him is his anger.
  4. Emotional Dysregulation: Some men find it so upsetting, so emotionally arousing to listen to their partners that they feel they have to ventilate their anger or withdraw. In fact, this is supported by the research that shows that their pulse-rates escalate during conflict and they find this unbearable. As a result of their own escalating emotion -- which they can't tolerate -- they either try to get her to shut up -- or they leave the room. She feels controlled, marginalized and abandoned.
  5. Not Wanting to Reinforce Whining: This is another reason that men give for not supporting or encouraging expression. They believe that validating and making time and space for their partner's expression will reinforce complaining which, in turn, will go on indefinitely. So they want to stop it immediately by using sarcasm, control or stonewalling. She feels that he won't let her talk, that he is cold, aloof, hostile. So she goes somewhere else to get that support -- another woman friend -- or another man.
  6. Demand for Rationality: Some men believe that their partner should always be rational and that irrationality cannot be tolerated. Their response to their partner's apparent irrationality is to point out every error in her thinking, dismiss her, become sarcastic or withdraw. This demand for rationality or "the facts" might sound "mature" but I have yet to hear someone say that they have a great sex life because they have the facts on their side. Communication is often more about soothing, grooming, connecting -- less about simply giving you the information and being logical.
  7. Problems Have to Be Solved: These men think that the main reason for communication is to share facts that then can be used for problem-solving. They think that venting and sharing feelings gets you nowhere and that if their partner is not willing to initiate problem-solving then she is being self-indulgent and wasting everyone's time and energy. When he jumps in with problem-solving, she either escalates the emotion which she believes is not heard, or she withdraws.

Well, ask yourself, "Have these responses really worked?" Why is this kind of behavior and thinking so predictive of divorce? If it's not working -- and you and your partner both know it's not -- then maybe it's time to think about making a change. You can change your partner -- break up, get divorced. Or, perhaps it would be easier to change your response to your partner. In a previous posting I listed some possible responses.

Let me go back to a fundamental part of intimate relationships. We want to feel that our partner cares about and respects our feelings. We want to believe that they have time to listen. We want to feel supported, soothed and that we are not a burden. The seven beliefs and styles above -- which many men use -- only alienate the women that they claim they love. If it's not working, why would you continue to act this way?

The answer may be that some men view relationships in terms of power and control. They believe that being real men means never giving up your power. They think that women need to be kept in their place, not "indulged," taught how to think rationally and solve real problems. Of course, rationality and problem-solving are important, but if your partner wants to be heard and respected you better find out first before you jump in and take control. Real men share power, real men are partners, real men know that real women need real respect.

Men of Tears: Workshops where men go to cry

Wow, this is sorry statement on the quality of men's lives. When we feel we need to go to a workshop to be able to cry, or to have a safe place to cry, things are really messed up in terms of who we are and how we live in this culture.

On the other hand, better there than not at all.

Men of Tears: workshops where men go to cry

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

John touches his chest during a Men of Tears "tear circle" in San Anselmo at which men get together to cry as a therapeutic practice.


John touches his chest during a Men of Tears "tear circle...Lee Glickstein (center) and Pete van Dyk (right) lead a "...Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, wipes his tears as he awaits t...

A few moments before 4 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, nine men ages 25 to 67, filed into a small, bare office in San Anselmo, arranged their chairs in a circle, sat down and prepared to cry.

Few knew each other. Some hadn't cried since they were young boys and wanted to learn how to cry again. A few cried often, and were thrilled to have found a safe space to do so.

These were the Men of Tears.

"If you can't cry, you can't find joy," says Lee Glickstein of Woodacre, founder of Speaking Circles International, which offers instruction in public speaking.

Glickstein and Pete van Dyk, a couples' and troubled boys' counselor who lives in Fairfax, founded the group in July, basing it on the idea that suppressing tears is detrimental to individual physical and emotional health, as well as the health of the community. The more men let out their tears, Glickstein and van Dyk claim, the less anger and violence in the world.

With Men of Tears, they want to provide men with a safe space to tap into emotions they may have dissociated from since childhood, so the next time tears well up, they can well over. The group is an all-male subset of WaterWorkers, an organization also headed by Glickstein that promotes crying as a therapeutic practice.

Glickstein, 66, who studied sociology at Brooklyn College and once worked as a stand-up comedian, realized a few months ago while watching the movie "Crumb" that he hadn't truly cried since he was 6 years old. During a scene where the title character, artist Robert Crumb, finds a mentor, Glickstein, thinking about his lack of mentorship as a young man, began to cry. Once he did so, he became happier, and wanted to share the experience with other men. Men of Tears was born.

Tears and sadness

He and van Dyk, 63, lead the two-hour sessions, during which men share their experiences with tears and sadness.

On that Wednesday, one participant spoke of the emotional and financial pain he'd experienced in the recent economic downturn. Another, eyebrows furrowed, said he hadn't cried for years. Some sniffled as they spoke. Only one wept hard enough to need a tissue - he was recounting the long-ago death of his 6-year-old sister.

For scientific backing, Glickstein and van Dyk cite the work of neuroscientist William H. Frye II, who directs the Alzheimer's Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. In the late 1980s, Frye published studies about emotional tears - one of three types of tears shed by humans. (The other two types are basal, to keep the eyes moist; and reflex, which wash out irritants like smoke.) One study, conducted with several hundred volunteers at the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, showed that emotional tears release two types of stress hormones from the body, thus producing a calming effect, which Frye theorized could be the tears' evolutionary purpose, though all three types of tears release the same hormones and in the same amount.

Frye also found that women cry five times as much as men, partly because of hormonal, anatomical and biological differences, and partly because of societal conditioning. He firmly believes that emotional tears are key to stress reduction.

A biological function

"There are a number of ways of reducing stress, from exercising to laughing, but none of them is a substitute for the biological function of emotional tears," Frye says. "If we didn't really need it, we wouldn't have evolved it."

So what if you do choke back that lump in your throat and "pull it together"? Is that bad? Scientists are mostly in agreement that repressing negative emotion amps up cardiovascular stress and produces anxiety, and long-term stress has been shown to kill brain cells and impair memory function. For men, who learn at a young age that stoicism is tantamount to masculinity, such emotional repression is common, according to Jonathan Bowman, associate professor of communication at the University of San Diego.

As such, he believes that Men of Tears is addressing a societal problem.

"Men are really great at expressing joy, happiness and anger," says Bowman, who specializes in researching male friendship. "But we're really bad at expressing things that may reflect negatively on us, particularly sadness and fear.

In a safe space

"This group is allowing guys to affirm their masculinity while expressing emotion in a safe space."

After the session wrapped up Wednesday, many participants said they felt more connected to each other, more in tune with their emotions.

"I felt a shield drop," said Rick Walt, 62, a retired sheet metal worker from San Rafael.

Anthony Chang, a first-timer, said he'd definitely come back.

"This is the first time I've talked about the hardships in my life with any emotion," said Chang, 25, a former world-class karate champion from Cupertino.

For Glickstein and van Dyk, the groups are just the first step. They'd like to spread the movement to jails, offices and schools.

The political field, especially right now, is ripe for tear discussion.

"We absolutely love that Boehner is crying and getting people talking about crying," says Glickstein, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his oft-flowing tears. But he and van Dyk are thinking bigger, calling it a "primary mission" to get President Obama to admit that he cries.

After seeing Obama pause for 51 seconds - presumably collecting himself and holding back tears - during a speech Jan. 12 about the Arizona shooting victims, Glickstein wrote a blog entry asking the president to cry openly.

Glickstein realizes that the political field is often not a place where tears are welcome (during his 1972 presidential bid, Edmund Muskie seemed to cry when defending his wife, something that is believed to have contributed to his loss) but is considering e-mailing Obama to ask him to talk about tears.

"I know he is a compassionate man," Glickstein says, "and we assume he cries at home. If he admits at a press conference that he cries, that would be a huge step in (ending) the cycle of violence. And it would only take a few seconds."

Men of Tears: Circles are scheduled for 3-5 p.m. Wed.; 7-9 p.m. Feb. 2, 9 and 16; 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 25. 223 San Anselmo Ave., No. 6, San Anselmo. The circles are open to drop-ins. A $30 donation is suggested.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Temporarily Out Of Balance - Going Through A Phase

When we feel out of balance and that our lives have gotten off track in some way, it's very easy to become caught up in the feeling and see that as our reality. However, if we can take a step back and look at the big picture, see the narrative arc of our lives, so to speak, we begin to understand that these difficulties, whatever form they take, are not our reality, but only a temporary phase. This too shall pass.

In this Daily Om, they are talking more about the imbalance that occurs as we learn new skills or adopt new behaviors. One of the "warnings" that come with entering therapy is that your life is about to become very unbalanced - old behaviors may no longer feel right, but the new ones you might be learning are not yet comfortable.

When we grow, our balance gets thrown off for a bit. The important thing is to flow with it, and if you are in relationship, PLEASE be sure to talk to your partner about what you are experiencing - make her (or him) an ally, a partner in the process. To do otherwise can destroy a relationship.
Temporarily Out Of Balance
Going Through A Phase

In the process of becoming, we can become out of balance temporarily, but know it is only a phase and will pass.

We are all almost always in the process of learning something new, developing an underused ability or talent, or toning down an overused one. Some of us are involved in learning how to speak up for ourselves, while others are learning how to be more considerate. In the process of becoming, we are always developing and fine tuning one or the other of our many qualities, and it is a natural part of this process that things tend to get out of balance. This may be upsetting to us, or the people around us, but we can trust that it’s a normal part of the work of self-development.

For example, we may go through a phase of needing to learn how to say no, as part of learning to set boundaries and take care of ourselves. During this time, we might say no to just about everything, as a way of practicing and exploring this ability. Like a child who learns a new word, we want to try out this new avenue of expression and empowerment as much as we can because it is new and exciting for us and we want to explore it fully. In this way, we are mastering a new skill, and eventually, as we integrate it into our overall identity, it will resume its position as one part of our balanced life.

In this process, we are overcompensating for a quality that was suppressed in our life, and the swinging of the pendulum from under-use to overuse serves to bring that quality into balance. Understanding what’s happening is a useful tool that helps us to be patient with the process. In the end, the pendulum settles comfortably in the center, restoring balance inside and out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Julio Diaz - This Is How a Man Behaves (from 2008)

This guy's story is amazing - a true act of compassion and understanding. This is what it means to be a man, to be a human being, to be humane to our fellow citizens. Moving story - from 2008 - not sure how I only now came across it.

Chuck Norris style masculinity might have hurt the kid, broken his arm in taking away the knife. But Diaz saw a kinder way, some simple compassion and recognition of this kid's heart, which the kid probably didn't even know he had.
Julio Diaz

Julio Diaz recorded his story in New York City just days after he was mugged in the subway.
March 28, 2008

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

"He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, "Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm."

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, "like what's going on here?" Diaz says. "He asked me, 'Why are you doing this?'"

Diaz replied: "If you're willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me ... hey, you're more than welcome.

"You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help," Diaz says.

Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.

"The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi," Diaz says. "The kid was like, 'You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'"

"No, I just eat here a lot," Diaz says he told the teen. "He says, 'But you're even nice to the dishwasher.'"

Diaz replied, "Well, haven't you been taught you should be nice to everybody?"

"Yea, but I didn't think people actually behaved that way," the teen said.

Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. "He just had almost a sad face," Diaz says.

The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, "Look, I guess you're going to have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you."

The teen "didn't even think about it" and returned the wallet, Diaz says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know."

Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."

Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, "You're the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch."

"I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

Certainly, this could have gone very wrong and Diaz might be dead - but he's not. That's what matters. Would you be able to "man up" this way? I don't know that I could - and that bothers me.

I have been trained in self-defense, but I also have seen muggings go very badly. I might have given him the wallet and let him go about his night, mugging more people.

I'm still working to find that place within me that is open enough in those moments to act from my "warrior heart" and not from my culture-bound brain.

So why is it all right for women to be sexist about MEN?

This article from the Daily Mail (UK) looks at the double standard that exists regarding men making dumbass comments about women and women making dumbass about men - guess who can get away with it and who can't? So why is that?

This article is a bit more strident than I would be, but the issue is an important one.

So why is it all right for women to be sexist about MEN?


The two Sky Sports presenters who were caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women earlier this week are a pair of daft old duffers, and no mistake. It is important for me to say that first, before I get to the business in hand.

Andy Gray and Richard Keys are a couple of dull, flabby, middle-aged football bores and are just the sort of doddering old clowns you would expect to relax off camera by swapping ancient prejudices and poking fun at women — in this case a female linesman — for not understanding the offside rule.

You shouldn’t pass unflattering remarks about women behind their backs because it is not a well brought-up thing to do, and they needed to be told. I would never do it myself. Not because I am a feminist, but because I am a gentleman.

The real sexists? Gile Coren wonders how the Loose Women can get away with some of the things they say about men

The real sexists? Gile Coren wonders how the Loose Women can get away with some of the things they say about men

But while Gray has now been sacked, I don’t expect that will be the end of the matter.

We will hear an endless shrieking to ‘kick sexism out of football’; a PE teacher will be fired for telling his goalkeeper to ‘stop crying like a girl’; and a hapless League One manager will be deported for describing a fight between players as ‘handbags at dawn’.

There will be the endless apologies, public soul-searching and self-flagellation. And as usual the rest of us men will be expected to atone as a sex for a couple of remarks by two fat, superannuated fools on the telly, and to grovel for forgiveness with every snivel and cringe of our waking lives.

Not that that’s anything new. To be a man in this country is constantly to have to apologise for oneself and to be ever so very careful about every sentence we speak or write which contains any reference at all to members of the opposite sex.

    While at the same time, and this is the shame of it, we ourselves are fair game for women. While sexism from men is the outstanding social crime of the modern world, women can say absolutely whatever they like about us.

    For make no mistake: sexism is alive and well in this country and applauded in all quarters — as long as it is practised by women. And they are allowed to say the most terrible, terrible things.

    Only last week, for example, Jo Brand, the newly crowned Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards, was on Have I Got News For You and replied to the question ‘What’s your favourite kind of man, Jo?’ by saying: ‘A dead one.’ Oh, how the audience fell about. And the other contestants, all male, chortled away too.

    I’m not saying it wasn’t funny. I’m just saying we live in a world where the thorough-going awfulness, uselessness and superfluity of the male sex is such a given, that a frontline television comic can get big laughs by saying she’d prefer it if we were all dead.

    Giving men a bad name: Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys caused outrage when they made disparaging remarks about a female linesman

    Giving men a bad name: Andy Gray, left, and Richard Keys caused outrage when they made disparaging remarks about a female linesman

    And I’m trying to imagine a world in which I am on that show and they say, ‘What kind of women do you like, Giles?’ and I reply: ‘Dead ones.’ I just don’t think it would get the same laughs, do you?

    Here’s another of Jo Brand’s (excellent) gags. ‘What’s the way to a man’s heart? Straight through the chest with a kitchen knife!’ Again, not unfunny. But predicated on the idea that killing men is hilarious. Whereas killing women, as we all know, is a very serious affair and not to be joked about.

    It’s not just Brand, it’s all women. ‘What do you call the useless flap of skin attached to a penis?’ they joke. ‘A man!’ they all reply, and clink their chardonnay glasses and chortle till dawn. How on earth did this get to be OK?

    I’ll tell you how. It is because pretty much from birth women are schooled by their mothers to deride men. They are sugar and spice, we are slugs and snails.

    They are reflective and sensitive, while we run around kicking balls and shouting. And then as girls push towards puberty their mothers take them aside and tell them: ‘Boys are only after one thing!’

    The great lie. All men want is sex. Not so. If anything, it is women who think only of having it off. Girls on average lose their ­virginity much younger than boys and have more sexual partners in youth.

    As a teenager, I was ­terribly shy about sex and yet girls were trying to do it with me all the time. I used to run, literally run, from their bedrooms when they tried it on. And yet women are allowed endlessly to harangue us with our supposed lechery.

    And the prejudice festers. Harriet Harman says that men caused the banking crisis, and the ­harridan legions nod their heads. ‘If women ruled the world,’ they cry, ‘there would be no wars.’

    What nonsense. Women are far meaner, more brutal, aggressive, small-minded, jealous, petty and venal than any man.

    If women ruled the world ­countries would be invaded because ‘she’s always been jealous of my feet’ and because ‘she looks down on me for going out to work’.

    Millions would die, torture would increase. If women ruled the world there would be carnage.

    And what sort of an insult is it anyway to suggest that most women don’t understand the offside rule? It’s true, for a start. Most women don’t. And most of them declare it proudly.

    Most of them use football as an example of one of their favourite gags, the one about how men never grow up, about how we’re all just children — most often manifested in the one where a mother-of-two says ‘I’ve got three children’, you raise an eyebrow, and she nods towards her husband. Hilarious.

    Giles Coren

    Nonsense: Women are far meaner, more brutal, small-minded, and petty than any man, says Giles Coren

    And nor are men, in this female narrative, merely puerile, aggressive and underdeveloped. They are hypochondriacs, too.

    ‘He’s got a touch of man flu,’ say the ­womenfolk and titter. But what nonsense is that? It is women who make a big fuss about mild ­discomfort, not men.

    I have never had so much as a cold in my life, nor claimed to. I even suspect sometimes that the whole palaver about the pain of childbirth is a conspiracy to ride roughshod over men.

    My own mother, a ­consultant anaesthetist herself, has always claimed that giving birth was a breeze but that she pretended it had been painful to build bargaining chips with my father.

    You look at shows like Loose Women and you wonder how on earth they get away with the ­terrible things they say about men. I went on once and it was horrific. I wanted to die.

    No male-hosted show could treat women the way those outsized harpies treat men.

    I don’t especially want to throw my hat in with Dominic Raab, the slightly bonkers Tory MP who has called for an end to legislative ­discrimination against men, but there is no question that women today have it all.

    They retire younger and live longer to such an extent that minor inequalities in pay levels are obliterated when you consider whose money pays for those 25 years of retirement. And it just isn’t fair that they are allowed to be so vile about us.

    I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War.

    We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative.

    They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead.

    If that’s not off-side, I don’t know what is.

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Men and Masculinity in the News - Random Articles

    I need to clear a few tabs so that Firefox will crash less often, so here are a few things I have come across that I have not had a chance to blog about. Follow the title links to see the whole article.

    This first one is interesting to me - it says a lot about our culture accepts bisexuality in women, but not in men. It also suggests that there is an assumption that if a man cheats with another man, then he most likely is gay, so best to kick him to the curb.

    Men more likely to stick with girlfriends who sleep with other women than other men

    AUSTIN, Texas—Men are more than twice as likely to continue dating a girlfriend who has cheated on them with another woman than one who has cheated with another man, according to new research from a University of Texas at Austin psychologist.

    Women show the opposite pattern. They are more likely to continue dating a man who has had a heterosexual affair than one who has had a homosexual affair.

    The study, published last month in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, provides new insight into the psychological adaptations behind men's desire for a variety of partners and women's desire for a committed partner. These drives have played a key role in the evolution of human mating psychology.

    "A robust jealousy mechanism is activated in men and women by different types of cues — those that threaten paternity in men and those that threaten abandonment in women," says Jaime C. Confer, the study's lead author and a doctoral candidate in evolutionary psychology.

    Confer conducted the study with her father, Mark D. Cloud, a psychology professor at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania.

    * * * * *

    Men With Macho Faces Attractive to Fertile Women, Researchers Find

    ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2011) — When their romantic partners are not quintessentially masculine, women in their fertile phase are more likely to fantasize about masculine-looking men than are women paired with George Clooney types.

    But women with masculine-looking partners do not necessarily become more attracted to their partners, a recent study co-authored by a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher concludes.

    Meanwhile, a man's intelligence has no effect on the extent to which fertile, female partners fantasize about others, the researchers found. They say the lack of an observed "fertility effect" related to intelligence is puzzling.

    The findings augment the emerging understanding of how human sexual selection evolved over time, and how the vestiges of that evolution are evident today.

    * * * * *

    Antioxidants may improve male fertility

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Couples who struggle to conceive could find baby-making help from antioxidants such as vitamin E and zinc, hints a new review of more than 30 studies.

    The researchers focused on men who were subfertile -- less fertile than average but still capable of making a baby -- and found that those who took antioxidants were more than four times as likely to get their partners pregnant than subfertile men who did not take the supplements.

    The New Zealand team stops short of saying that antioxidants actually improve fertility, however. More research is needed to be sure.

    Subfertility affects one in 20 men and is responsible for half of delayed conceptions. Up to 80 percent of cases are thought to be due to the effects of oxidative stress on sperm cells, lowering both their numbers and their quality.

    * * * * *

    Extra calcium, vitamin D no bone booster for men

    (Reuters Health) - Taking extra vitamin D and calcium doesn't seem to prevent bone-thinning in older men, according to Australian researchers.

    However, exercise did boost bone mineral density, a proxy for bone strength, their report shows.

    Despite the findings, people still need to get enough calcium and vitamin D to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, or bone thinning, said Dr. Mone Zaidi, an osteoporosis researcher at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study.

    "It's like the four legs of the stool: vitamin D and calcium, exercise, medications if a person is losing bone, and the fourth leg is telling people how to prevent fractures," Zaidi said.

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    Jackson Katz Says the Tucson Tragedy Is about Men and Violence: Part 1

    I generally disagree with Jackson Katz (the film-maker behind Tough Guise) even when he is on the right track - he is correct that we need to have a national conversation about outdated models of manhood and masculinity that contribute to violence and shooting. BUT, the tragedy that happened here in my own town is NOT the proper context for that discussion.

    I have issues with this article he posted at Huffington Post a week and a half or so after the shootings. So I'm going to post his article broken up by my commentary.
    Teachable Moment in Tucson: Guns, Mental Illness and Masculinity

    Jackson Katz - Author, educator, cultural theorist

    Posted: January 17, 2011

    A consensus seems to have developed that some in media precipitously and inaccurately blamed violent rhetoric from the right for the shooting in Tucson on January 8. But whether or not they were misled in this instance by what turns out to be false reports about the shooter's political motivations, something positive did emerge from the media in the wake of this tragedy. Key figures in media promised to "look in the mirror" and examine their responsibility for contributing to a toxic political environment that could lead to violence.

    This is a promise to which we should hold the media, regardless of how the event that initially catalyzed it turns out. There is a lot more that journalists and opinion-makers in the media could do to advance a discussion in our society about violence - political and otherwise.

    Much of what needs to happen is an honest conversation about issues related to masculinity and violence. Many people have circled around this subject, especially in terms of the intensifying debate about guns. The Tucson massacre has revived debate (for the moment) about our country's gun laws, and the astounding power of the NRA to block commonsense regulations. Some people go beyond the power of the gun lobby and ask larger questions about our culture, such as MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who asks repeatedly: what's the obsession with guns? But few if any voices in mainstream media have discussed the connection between guns, violence, and American ideals of manhood.

    I'm not convinced that there was anything about this tragedy that has anything to do with men and guns. Yes, technically, Jared Loughner is a man and yes, he used a gun in his killing spree. The violence was a function of his mental illness, and most likely was a troubled family life, copious drug use, and increasing social isolation.

    Katz is using the Tucson tragedy in the same way that liberals in the media (that would include me) have used it to attack right-wing hate speech and violent rhetoric. This situation is not the proper context to have a discussion about misguided ideas about masculinity, violence, and guns.

    To make Loughner's actions about masculinity and violence, as Katz suggests, is to ignore the very real issue of his mental illness. In my opinion, we need to have a discussion about why we allow our young to suffer in isolation with severe mental illness - why do we neglect to get them the help and treatment they need?

    Amazingly, this connection has not been part of the mainstream coverage of Tucson or any of the rampage killings in recent years. The trouble is you can't change a social phenomenon until you can at least identify and name it. Each time one of these horrific acts of violence occurs, commentators and editorial writers hone in on every relevant factor they can identify - mental illness, the availability of handguns, the vitriolic tone of talk radio and cable TV - and leave out what is arguably the most important factor: gender.

    Why is gender such a critical factor in an incident like Tucson? In the Tucson rampage, like the Virginia Tech killings to which it has been compared, "expert" opinion and media commentary has coalesced around "mental illness" as the cause of the mayhem. But mental illness itself has critical gendered dynamics. As the psychiatrist James Gilligan has written, the vast majority of homicidal violence is perpetrated by men who have severe disorders of personality or character, but who are not technically "insane." Thus it should be no surprise, Gilligan writes, that less than one percent of murderers in the U.S. are found "not guilty by reason of insanity." (Arizona law, unlike federal law, includes a possible finding of "guilty but insane.")
    Again, I have to take issue with these assertions. It is not Loughner's gender that made him mentally ill. According to National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), schizophrenia (if that is indeed what Loughner suffers from - and I am doubtful it is) hits men and women equally (source). On the other hand, if he is simply suffering from antisocial personality disorder, then being male increases the chances of this disorder. If he were female, the odds would two to four times higher that he has borderline personality disorder.

    Clearly, then, gender plays a role a mental illness as Katz suggests, but if all of the media shrinks are correct, then gender did not play a role in this situation. Schizophrenia strikes men and women equally, and while men tend to get it younger and are less likely to experience remission, there is no clear gender bias regarding who gets it. And if some reports are true about his father being psychologically unstable (his father stayed home and raised while his mother worked), genetics are clearly involved.

    From the New York Times:

    Some people who knew, or at least glimpsed, Mr. Loughner’s life at home with his parents, Randy and Amy Loughner, said they found the family inscrutable sometimes, and downright unpleasant at other times, especially the behavior of Randy Loughner.“

    Sometimes our trash would be out, and he would come up and yell that the trash stinks,” said a next-door neighbor, Anthony Woods, 19. “He’s very aggressive.”

    Mrs. Loughner has worked for the city’s Parks Department for many years, Tucson officials confirmed. Mr. Loughner’s employment, if any, was not known. Mr. Woods and his father, Stephen, 46, said they rarely saw the older Mr. Loughner go anywhere.

    One of Loughner's "friends," Zach Osler, reports that Loughner told him he was unhappy being at home (WSJ), not an uncommon feeling for a young man out of high school who should be in college or working and on his own. But he was unable to find work, for obvious reasons, and he was increasingly isolated by his illness.

    Is that about gender? I don't think so - it's about his illness, it's about his family life, and it's about no one making a real effort to do anything about any of it.

    And here we have the real issue in my opinion - Loughner's parents, his school mates, or even his professors, under Arizona law, could have had him involuntarily committed for a psych evaluation. The names of two witnesses to his bizarre behavior was all that would have been needed. Yet no one did anything. If they had, it highly probable that he would have been placed in a psych ward and put on meds, and hopefully given some therapy.

    At this point in his manifesto, Katz leaves the Tucson shootings behind and tries to make some valid points about masculinity, shame, and violent crime (although even here I take issue with him). The shootings in Tucson, the deaths of six innocent bystanders, the life-altering wounds suffered by Giffords - all of this was just a pretext for Katz to make his real arguments.

    In part 2, later today or tomorrow, I will examine the rest of his argument and offer, if needed, a wider and more comprehensive view.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Daddy Dialectic - Parenting While Male: 74 Fathers Talk about Playground Discrimination

    Interesting - it seems that stay-at-home dads still are not accepted as actual, honest-to-god parents. "Parenting while male" is how some dads refer to the discrimination they face. Sad, very sad.

    Parenting While Male: 74 Fathers Talk about Playground Discrimination

    Posted by Jeremy Adam Smith

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “driving while black,” which refers to a perception that black drivers are more likely to be stopped by cops. This was whispered in the African-American community for years before it broke out into the wider cultural conversation and was gradually validated by empirical studies.

    Similarly, stay-at-home dads have whispered for years about feeling unfairly targeted for "parenting while male," and recently their concerns have started to get mainstream attention. In last week's Wall Street Journal, Free-Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy explored what happens when “when almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep.”

    I spotted the column in a tweet from the redoubtable DadLabs. I replied: “I was once asked to leave a playground by a grandmother. I wonder how many guys have had that experience?” DadLabs tweeted back: “Most? Or faced playdate discrimination of one kind or another? #dadsnotpervs.”

    This little twitter exchange echoes less-public discussion I’ve heard many times at gatherings of fathers: that they are often made to feel like outsiders at parks, playgrounds, and situations where most of the other parents are moms or grandmoms—and that their participation in playgroups or classes is sometimes rejected.

    Atrocity stories circulate, but how widespread are actual "parenting while male" experiences, really? To start to get the answer, on Monday I created this survey, which as of this morning had been taken by 74 guys—60 percent of whom spend 31 or more hours a week taking care of a child.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    "Mangina" Is the New Slang Term for Shaming Men

    If you read any of the Men's Rights Activists (MRA) blogs, you have no doubt seen their frequent use of the term "mangina" for men who support women's rights, do not hate all feminists, believe that men have not always acted nobly toward women, or simply for people they do not like or who do not hold their socially retro-conservative perspectives.

    I have been labeled a mangina many times for suggesting that many men need to mature a bit, or that women are still oppressed in some ways (while also acknowledging that men are as well) or for disagreeing the MRA crowd in their essential hatred toward most women.

    Now Tom Matlock at the Good Men Project has suffered that same fate. Welcome to the brotherhood, Tom.

    But Tom has had a revelation (Have You Seen My Mangina?) about this whole thing, which started when he dissed porn (even the socially approved stuff in Maxim) a while back (Cleavage or Soul?) because it objectifies women's bodies and ignores who she is as a person. So today he went looking for his mangina, eventually reaching this epiphany:

    It was the long look in the mirror I had been waiting for, and it came with a revelation:

    I am a mangina, I whispered to myself. I stood up from my desk and said it louder: I AM A MANGINA!

    My 5-year-old came running into my study, Wii remote in hand, with a questioning look on his face. “Daddy?”

    “Son, it’s all right. Daddy is very, very happy,” I reassured him, not wanting my newfound identity to frighten him.

    Just to be sure, I checked with my friend Bennett, who I met my first week of college. He wore a sundress to orientation (or a kilt, I can’t remember) and we have been friends ever since. The guy has more guts than I ever will.

    “If those guys come for you with a bow, just put it on your hair! I hope it’s a cute color!” he began from somewhere on the left coast, where he teaches acting. “From where I stand, you smell like chest hair and Old Spice. You are manlier than I can ever hope to achieve. I am a fag. I am a proud, wrists-arcing-through-the-air, pinky-raising, loafer-wearing, scarf-tying sissy. You, sir, are a father. You also scrog women. Right there you out-butch me.”

    This self-proclaimed fag was trying to reassure me, but as I laughed, I confirmed what I had suspected all along: Being a mangina is loving guys like Bennett and all my other friends, because they show me that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to manhood. It means not entering into a misguided zero-sum battle of the sexes, or imagining that women are the enemy. If that is what my critics are talking about, they are definitely right. I am a mangina, and damn proud of it.

    Just as I was embracing my inner mangina, I got an email from Peter Hunsinger, the publisher of GQ, with a confessional: “I am a mangina because I always clear my golf dates with my wife’s schedule before I book them.”

    Then I recalled what a fellow writer, Micah Toub, recently wrote in the Globe and Mail:

    “If that makes me a ‘mangina,’ then I’ll put that on a T-shirt and wear it,” he concluded.

    Better make that three, my friend.

    The thing that strikes me as a little bit stupid about the MRA guys using this word is that they often use it for men who they feel are shaming them and other men for being "knuckle draggers" or "mouth breathers" or whatever insult one wants to use. They feel that the men's studies guys (Kimmel, Pollack, Thompson, etc.) are shaming men for not being more like women (which is patently silly if you read their work) - or that by virtue of working in men's studies, a field that grew out of feminism, that they are essentially feminists in male bodies, thus the term mangina (man with a vagina).

    But this word is shaming in the same way that calling a boy or man a sissy, a girlie man, a faggot, a queer, and so on, is shaming. In my experience, effeminate men, gay men, and trans men, and even some butch women are more well-rounded and whole men than some of the MRA guys who like to spew their insults and shaming language.

    Here are a couple of the witty and insightful comments to Tom's first post (with which I am not in full agreement, just to be clear):
    Peter-Andrew:Nolan(c) says:

    “We have an enemy—and the enemy is us”

    No Tom. Men like me have an enemy all right. And the enemy is man-hating, white knighting, mangina apologists like you.

    Sha says:

    well said Peter !!

    Pussified manginas like Tom Matlack needs to lear what its like to be a MAN…something this dude no nothing about !!!!

    I'd rather be a mangina than an MRA if this is how they handle simple differences in perspective.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    In Defense of Jay Cutler

    [Disclaimer - I don't like Cutler as a quarterback and I think he is kind of whiny. Hell, I don't even think he has what it takes to be an NFL starting quarterback. But that has nothing to do with his toughness.]

    For those who live under rocks or (for some unknown reason) do not follow professional sports (I'm joking, I'm joking), Jay Cutler is the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears football team. In Sunday's NFC Championship Game, he was injured at the end of the first half and tried to play to begin the second half. After one pass attempt, the coaching staff (at the recommendation of team doctors) pulled him from the game and sent in the 2nd string quarterback (and quickly pulled him in favor of the 3rd string quarterback, who played VERY well in a losing effort).

    Within minutes some of his fellow NFL players - who are done for the season and were sitting in front of the TV - were commenting on Twitter that Cutler is soft, that he "tapped out" (an MMA term for admitting you have been beaten - you literally tap the other guy and the ref stops the fight). These quotes comes from a Fox Sports post by Nancy Gay (Cutler lacks grit in loss against Packers):

    Maurice Jones-Drew: “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one …”

    Asante Samuel: “If he was my teammate I would be looking at him sideways. … I luv my QB @mikevick he has the heart of a lion. I guess others are scared of success.”

    Mark Schlereth: “As a guy (who) had 20 knee surgeries you’d have to drag me out on a stretcher to Leave a championship game! #justsaying”

    Darnell Dockett: “If I’m on Chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room!”

    Kirk Morrison: “If my knee was hurt or acl/mcl/pcl sprain, I would not be standing up on the sideline.”

    NFL Network talking head, and former NFL star, Deion Sanders added: "Im telling u in the playoffs u must drag me off the field. All the medicine in pro lockerooms this dude comes out! I apologize bear fans! ... Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players heart."

    Another player (who has never proven himself as anything but an emergency backup quarterback), Oakland's Bruce Gradkowski, was widely quoted as Tweeting: "Is cutler still ur starter next year? Did the players give up on him?"

    During and after the game, Cutler was trashed by "fans" on Twitter, as well. More concerning, however, is that he was also trashed by most of the sports talking heads, include many former players on ESPN and the NFL Network.

    After the fact, after the damage had been done, Jones-Drew and Gradkowski retracted their Tweets - sorry guys, you spoke out of your ass, knowing nothing about the injury Cutler sustained (a sprained MCL).

    The situation was made worse by two things:

    1) During game coverage, Cutler was shown sitting alone at the end of the bench, looking like he was sulking. He was also shown standing a couple of times. There was no icing or immobilization of the knee that one would expect with a serious injury. And, to me, the worst part was that he did not put on a headset to help help his back-ups in whatever way possible. This, to me, is about his poor attitude, his emotional immaturity, not his courage as a player.

    2) When asked about the Twitter comments at his locker following the game, the Sports Illustrated reporter suggested that he saw Cutler crying (and everyone knows the "real men don't cry" bullshit we get hit with all the time):
    Cutler appeared genuinely hurt when asked about the comments, saying: "No comment on that." He then turned his back to reporters, fiddled with some things on a shelf and bit his lip as tears welled.
    Reporting on the SI story, an NBC reporter wrote (partly in defense and partly to shame):
    For the record, Cutler has missed exactly one game since he first became a starter as a rookie in Denver, and that one game came when doctors wouldn’t clear him after suffering a concussion this season. One missed game in a career that has seen Cutler get sacked 138 times does not make him a wimp.

    But Cutler has a long way to go to rebuild his reputation. And crying in his locker isn’t the way to do that.

    [Emphasis added.]

    I'll get back to this last comment in a moment, but I want to address the toughness issue. Cutler took more sacks than any other quarterback this season - and he never pulled himself from the game in losses or gave up on his team.

    "I can't even believe I'm sitting here talking about Cutler's toughness," (general manager) Jerry Angelo said.

    Cutler is often criticized for his demeanor, along with his decisions during games. But his toughness? That's a new one.

    No one took a bigger pounding this season.

    The league-leading 52 sacks barely reflected the number of hits he absorbed. He was constantly under pressure, particularly in the early going, and even when he runs, he'll often take the tackle rather than slide. He did it again at least once against the Packers.

    "We're in a perception business," Angelo said. "I certainly didn't like what was said. I take that personally, too. He's our quarterback. We wouldn't have been where we're at without him, and I want that to be made clear. We stand by him."

    His coaches and his teammates have stood beside him and refuted the criticism of his toughness, especially Brian Urlacher in the post-game press conference:
    "He’s a tough son of a bitch, hell yeah he is. He practices every day. You’ve seen the hits he’s taken his career. He gets up, he doesn’t bitch, he doesn’t complain, he just goes out there and competes and tries to win the game,” Urlacher said of Cutler. “If he couldn’t be in there, it’s because he was hurt, because he couldn’t go and probably thought he was hurting the team if he couldn’t be in there. That’s why."
    I have suffered a partially torn MCL. I could stand and walk, looking pretty much normal, but when I tried to play on it, even with a heavy-duty brace, there was NO stability in the joint. I understand exactly why the coaches pulled him.

    When I injured mine (I was 18), I found a doctor who would shoot me up with cortisone so I could play in a tournament (where college scouts would be in attendance), and by playing on it I damaged it to the point that it took a year to fully heal, costing me any chance at a soccer scholarship.

    They could have shot Cutler up with drugs - but the Bears have invested a LOT of money in him (it is irrelevant that I would never have done so), and they did not want to seriously damage their guy in order to play him - especially when it was clear he had no stability in the joint and would be a liability to a team that was already behind.

    Do you think he wanted to come out? No way - and my guess is that was why he was sulking.

    For what little it's worth, the fans are divided as to whether he quit on his team or did the right thing (via USA Today):

    Did Cutler make wise choice or quit on Bears?

    TOTAL VOTES: 18326
    Yes, by the way, those numbers add up to 101% - someone is doing some rounding.

    The Real Issue is the Man Code

    In the world of sports, especially pro sports, men are expected to be tougher than nails, never show emotions (other than anger and triumph), and never quit/give up - so Cutler is perceived as having violated the (hegemonic) masculine code of conduct:
    Brannon identified four components of traditional masculinity ideology:
    • men should not be feminine (“no sissy stuff”);
    • men should never show weakness (“the sturdy oak”);
    • men should strive to be respected for successful achievement (“the big wheel”);
    • men should seek adventure and risk, even accepting violence if necessary (“give ‘em hell”).
    More recently, Levant defined traditional masculinity ideology in terms of seven dimensions:
    • The requirement to avoid all things feminine;
    • The injunction to restrict one's emotional life;
    • The emphasis on achieving status above all else;
    • The injunction to be completely self-reliant;
    • The emphasis on toughness and aggression;
    • Non-relational, objectifying attitudes toward sexuality;
    • Fear and hatred of homosexuals. (Ron Levant, Men and Masculinity, 2001)
    So, from the first list: Cutler acted "feminine" (he had a tear after unfair criticism and a tough loss); he showed "weakness" by not staying in the game; and he did not have a good day, so his team lost, showing him to be less than "successful."

    From the second list, Cutler violated the prohibitions against being "feminine," not restricting emotions, not being tough enough, and possibly in not being self-reliant enough.

    These are unfair criticisms in my opinion.

    By not fighting to play when he knew he was hurt, he acted in the best interest of his team. He also may have saved his next season from being one where he was rehabbing a major reconstruction of his knee (again, this is also in the best interest of his team).

    In essence, Cutler sulked on the sideline and later shed a tear when he heard about the criticisms from his fellow players (I would have, too, especially after losing a game that would have put them in the Super Bowl). If they had lost and he had played the whole game, and he was then spotted shedding a tear, no one would have said a thing. It's no wonder that his teammates are standing up so strongly in his defense. He showed himself to be a team player, not the selfish player I always thought of him.

    In the end, though, having played my share of team sports (including football), I should not expect any different from NFL players than what we saw. Teams are notoriously tribal and authoritarian in their worldview. Teams become insular families - and there are strict rules of conduct, especially for men.

    Cutler honored his responsibility to his team, to his family. But he is seen by his peers, some in the media, and about half of the fans, to have violated the male athlete's masculinity code.

    That code needs to go the way of leather helmets.