This Salon article offered a paragraph about my part in the conference and I found it highly inaccurate. I thought I would take some time here to voice my side of things. I have been interviewed by the mainstream media many times over the years including The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS Evening News, CNN, and even the NFL Channel and ESPN. Each of these interviews was fair and accurate in their portrayal of the message I was trying to get across. The Salon article however fails in that regard and the writer seems to have a bone to pick with men and boys. Here’s the paragraph in question:
If one of the primary messages of the conferences was “feminists are bad,” the other was “men’s rights activists are good.” In the talk “Men’s Unique Way of Healing,” social worker Tom Golden covered every inch of the stage with his energetic pacing and pantomiming, opening the talk by holding his hands in the air and chanting, “Men are GOOD!” “How many of you have been told that you don’t know how to talk about your feelings?” Golden asked the crowd. His explanation: Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally. They sit in a fishing boat all day without saying a word and then exit the boat as best friends. Michael Jordan emoted by crying for his late father after winning the championship. Men are “good” just the way they are, and need not bother with all of that “crying” and “talking about your feelings” stuff.
Okay. So let’s take the very first part.
“opening the talk by holding his hands in the air and chanting, “Men are GOOD!””
Now have a look at the very beginning of the youtube (about 2:40) and see if I hold my hands in the air and chant men are good:
So I hope you noticed my hands were behind my back and I said “men are good” exactly two times. Not much of a chant. But why would he want to portray me like that? My guess is that what I was saying went against the grain of his own belief system and he was trying to paint me as a fanatic of some sort. Perhaps he was thinking… “men are good? No, can’t be right. Men are the problem!” And when we don’t agree with someone and want to diminish their ethos what can we do? Say they are chanting! You know, who chants? Mostly religious folks who are far from the mainstream and often seen as fanatics. The default population views “chanting” with great suspicion. So let’s just paint Golden as a chanter! LOL Cheap. Whatever happened to Woodward and Bernstein? This writer actually reminds me of what I might expect from a middle school student who had it in for the person they were writing about.
But it gets worse. The article quotes me as saying “How many of you have been told that you don’t know how to talk about your feelings? Golden asked the crowd.” (the actual quote was “how many men in this audience have heard that? That you are not dealing with your feelings” – considerably different but close) But then goes on to say
“His explanation: Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally.“
Okay now this one gets me. I have spent over 30 years sitting with men in deep emotional pain and have never said and will likely never say that men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally. He has missed the entire thrust of the talk. What I tried to say was that men have a very different way to open up and most people can’t even see it.
The article says:
“Men are “good” just the way they are, and need not bother with all of that “crying” and “talking about your feelings” stuff.“
Yet another horrible interpretation. What I have found and I hope what I said in the talk was that men have a different way to get at their emotions. I never said anything about them not needing to bother with the crying etc. The fact is that their actions and inactions will often move them to a place of tears. They are just much less likely, for a wide variety of reasons, to do this in public.
The question that arises in my mind is why would this reporter write such a biased and inaccurate piece when all of the rest of the interviews I have done over the years have been markedly different in accuracy? I think it is a small jump to see that this was the first time that I had presented for AVFM in a public men’s issues setting. My normal setting is with mental health professionals or with hospices. In those settings people seem very receptive to the message but once you get associated with men’s issues you get slammed. I think what we are dealing with is a culture and a writer who is so gynocentric and so threatened by hearing the idea that men have needs that he fails repeatedly to be able to see and discuss those needs. He shuts down and attacks. This is what people do when they are feeling threatened. Be sure to read the rest of the article and you will see that his slant was not reserved just for me. The entire conference seems to have gotten under his skin.
I wrote a comment for the online Salon article to try to clarify what I actually said but I think it is falling on deaf ears. Read some of the comments and you will see Archie Bunker and worse. Archie was at least lovable. If you can detach it can actually be fairly entertaining to read through them. This is a brainwashed group that is vehement that their brainwashing is the only way to see things and anyone voicing a different viewpoint is seen as an idiot who can’t get dates. I mean really? I will paste in the comment I made here.
Here’s the comment:
Thanks for including me in your article. While I do appreciate being included I feel that you didn’t seem to portray the talk in an accurate manner. I thought I would post here and offer the basics that you seem to have missed. I would encourage everyone to have a look at the free video on youtube and judge for yourself the accuracy of this article. http://youtu.be/h7yaH-DVbYQ?t=2m34s Here are the main points:
You can’t say all men heal one way and all women heal another. It is much more complicated but it is fairly safe to talk about most men and that is what the talk considered as will this post.
1. Most men will process their emotions in a way that is very different from the cultural default. They will tend to use action, inaction, and honoring to do so.
2. Men do this for many reasons but the main reasons that were discussed in the talk were that a man’s emotional pain is taboo in our culture. The second reason of four was that men are expected to provide and protect and this expectation includes a powerful expectation that men avoid any form of dependency. When men are seen as dependent they are often judged as not being “real men.” Men are not dumb enough to fall for that trap.
3. There are physical reasons for these differences starting with the large levels of testosterone that boys (and about 18% of girls) receive at about 2 months in utero. We discussed the probable impact of this on the processing of emotions. The work of Shelly Taylor (The Tending Instinct) showed us that when stressed, men and women have different paths to cope. Men tend to fight or flight. That is, they tend to connect their stress with action or inaction while women do something very different. Taylor found that women will “tend and befriend.” That is, women will move towards INTERACTION when stressed. This contrasts with the men’s tendency to move towards action and/or inaction. This important bifurcation starts to help us understand our differences in processing emotions.
4. The talk then gave two examples of the way men heal. We discussed Eric Clapton and the way he worked with his loss following the sudden death of his young son. We also discussed Michael Jordan and his ways of coping following the murder of his father.
I have been working with men in emotional pain for over 30 years and having someone write that I said “Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally” is pretty shocking and inaccurate. I said nothing of the sort. What I did say was that men have a very different way to process their emotions and we need to factor that in when we help them connect. The material I presented was a summary of what usually takes 3-4 hours to get across. Many details were left out due to time. If you have any interest I have written two books on the topic, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, and the more recent kindle book “The Way Men Heal.”