When I first found out that Men’s Health was featuring me in an article, I was thrilled. This was a global publication, one with reach and influence. As a speaker who viscerally believes in his platform, how could I not be excited? A chance to further my potential reach.
Not used to these types of media requests, the build-up was strange. The writer contacted me explaining the story was about men who speak on the topic of masculinity. I asked if they needed to conduct an interview or what information we could provide, but the writer reassured me that they had enough from my website and our agency page. The article would come out in September. And that was it. There was no other build up.
Come September 1 I excitedly checked the magazine. I knew I was not going to be on the cover, but looking back, I laugh at myself because I realize my expectations were a little bit high. I was excited to be included anyways.
Page 37. I remember looking at the table of contents and seeing the article was on page 37. The short synopsis was cheery enough. I rushed to page 37.
The cover page for the article struck me.
My first glance was not what I expected. Referring to the “Manconmy” while making jokes about “25% more intentional” and “WokePellets,” the initial tone was a bit more cynical than I expected. Reading over the article, I felt this cynicism throughout.
It is not that the article was bad. My profile especially was not negative as it was a direct quote from my website about how I prefer to speak on the topic.
But the article was tinged with a bit of skepticism about those who teach masculinity. The term exploit is in one of the first few paragraphs. A few of the stories they selected and other men they bundled me with jarred me a little.
I debated whether this was good or bad. The article itself questions the impacts of those who are speaking about masculinity, highlighting internal critiques because of how much attention this field is now getting and how it has become commodified.
As I sat on the article, I had two pervasive thoughts.
First, I get the cynicism.
There are a lot of people talking about men and masculinity who are not qualified to do so. People parroting others’ talking points, taking information from a hodgepodge of sources without critical thought about who has created this information or how it shows up in a more extensive data set or using it to reinforce their own biases.
I have seen masculinity work go wrong, bolstering false ideals or outdated beliefs. I get the fear that exists around talking about masculinity because I get the fact that this is a burgeoning field.
We must approach our work on masculinity with a degree of cynicism. Where it may be impossible to create a baseline for agreement on all forms of the masculinity conversations, we need to at least set standards for what we will allow and who we will accept as experts.
The second thought was a bit of distaste for this cynicism. This is where it gets personal.
Of course, the Men’s Health article does not show the entire picture of my work because it is limited in the scope it presented about me. It is also limited in understanding my motivations.
The reason I talk about masculinity, why I got involved in this field, is because I experienced deep trauma brought about in part because of the systems of masculinity we have normalized.
I talk about masculinity because of my trauma as a male survivor of sexual assault. You could argue I have made a living talking about that trauma.
I talk because a lot of people, a lot of men, tell me they wish they could also use their stories of trauma as well to make a difference.
I talk because I don’t ever wish that for anyone else.
I have made a living talking about my trauma. And there are parts of this that eat at me every day. I talk about the worst moments of my life. I have educated myself heavily, researched how to talk about this productively. I have educated myself to talk about my worst parts to help others in their worst parts.
The piece the article misses is that this isn’t enjoyable. I don’t do this because it’s easy or fun or profitable.
I don’t want anyone to profit off their trauma. Because I don’t want anyone to have to experience any form of this trauma in the first place.
Men in the United States are often not taught how to talk about the trauma we are experiencing. And we are not taught how to prevent or fight the trauma we are inflicting on others, whether individually or through the systems that enable the worst pieces of masculinity.
I talk to help other men learn how to talk about this. To help men learn how to better support one another. And how to better challenge each other.
It is not usually a fun conversation. I get why cynicism exists. I get we need to be careful about these conversations. It is not an easy one to have. It is an easy one to mess up.
But it is one I will have as long as I must.
Yes, I make a living talking about and redefining how we are viewing masculinity. Yes, I get why people might be skeptical. But, damn it, we have to be having this conversation. Because doing it the right way is better than never doing it at all. Because we cannot keep letting the status quo exist as it does.