Evidence shown during the impeachment trial last month was chilling.
Members of the mostly male mob stomping through the Capitol building last month were out for blood.
They made a mockery of the rule of law and any sense of real solidarity with those who serve and protect.
“Faggot,” is what one man in the mob yelled at a police officer—the anti-gay slur defining defenders of democracy as unmanly.
The insurrectionists’ hero, would-be strongman Donald Trump, was acquitted in his second impeachment trial, thanks to mostly male Republican Senators.
In fact, Trump is poised to keep spreading a dysfunctional form of masculinity across the nation and the globe–a violent, self-centered, unhinged-from-reality version of manhood.
Given the recent days of men behaving badly, you might be tempted to conclude that American men in general are hopeless.
But that’s too dark a view.
Because an inclusive, adaptive, hopeful model of masculinity is taking root in the United States. Beyond the headlines from Washington, men from all walks of life–but especially younger men–are breaking out of a confined, unhealthy and dangerous definition of manhood. These men are sprouting up with fresh, encouraging perspectives in popular culture, in sports, in business, in politics and in local communities.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a “masculine spring” is on the horizon–one that promises a brighter future for our families, our workplaces, our country and our world.
New Men Springing Up Everywhere
The tendrils of this growing, positive masculinity can be seen in many spheres.
Look at popular culture, where one of the hunkiest entertainers of our time, Justin Baldoni, is about to release a memoir titled Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity. Baldoni’s 2017 TED talk “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough’” has been seen 6.5 million times. Baldoni asks men such questions as: “Are you brave enough to be vulnerable? Are you strong enough to be sensitive? Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life?”
And he’s one of many examples where pop culture is prompting men to redefine masculinity to be more than conventional traits such as stoicism, aggressiveness and rugged individualism. Consider the popularity of Ted Lasso—a sitcom about the U.S. coach of an English soccer team with kindness at the center of his leadership style.
Ted Lasso’s message about compassion as a success strategy has echoes in real-life sports leaders today. These include Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Kerr’s Warriors won three championships in recent years inspired in part by his unconventional team values: competition, compassion, mindfulness and joy.
In politics and business as well, men are bucking old beliefs that males must be domineering and stern in favor of a fuller expression of our humanity. The Better Man Movement is a business organization focused on “heart-based leadership”—defined to include emotional literacy, vulnerability and inclusivity. Among the corporations sponsoring its events are industry giants Intel, Verizon and Kaiser Permanente.
And no man may represent empathy better than the one Americans elected president this Fall, Joe Biden. Biden, like Baldoni, Kerr and others, demonstrates a manhood where compassion and connection inform important leadership decisions and are seen as necessary sources of strength.
Winter into Spring
It’s true that an estimated 53 percent of American men backed Donald Trump in the November election. Some of those men stormed the Capitol on January 6. But support for Trump ought to be seen, in part, as a response to a period of gender role confusion. We’re experiencing rapid change in the roles men and women are playing in families, in business, in society.
These changes can be bewildering to men growing up in a culture that to this day tells us to be defined by how we provide, protect and conquer, to be self-made men, to deny vulnerability and to be afraid of deeper connections with other men. Gender roles are made even more perplexing by years of economic dislocation and growing inequality, by social media technologies that promote polarization and a pandemic that quickly became politicized. Some men are reacting to these tumultuous times by, in effect, refusing to grow up,
But other men are choosing a path of positive growth. They are shaking off the rigid, cold, isolated confines of last century’s masculinity. They are embracing a “liberating masculinity” that frees them to show up as agile, warm and connected men. They are bringing the best of their humanity—including strength, creativity, courage and determination—to help solve the challenges of a changing and complex world.
Instead of breaking into the Capitol building, men are gathering instead on Zoom calls to support one another and hold each other accountable for making wise choices. Among these men’s groups is Men Mentoring Men, or M3 . M3 was founded 30 years ago by co-author Dr. Ed Adams, and it continues to serve over 100 active members today.
The men in M3 learn to feel emotionally safe enough to reveal their inner lives, to take pride in their triumphs when fractured relationships are repaired or to share the hurt of loss.
One relatively new member, we’ll call him Bill, spoke earlier this year about the power of the group in his daily life. Several M3 members had gone on a hike—practicing social distancing—in early January.
“I feel loved right now,” Bill said on a Zoom call. “And it’s partially because of my day with my M3 friends that I did not have a year ago.”
Love is a four-letter word men don’t often use with each other. We’ve feared being called mushy, or worse, “faggot.” But today, homophobia’s sting is fading. More and more men appreciate connection with other men—and see themselves interconnected with all men and women. Brotherly love itself is becoming manly.
Change is in the air.
A masculine spring is on its way.
**Originally published at OEN