Modern Manhood

Being a man in today’s society seems to be a confusing and contentious topic.  I think for a lot of guys right now it can be difficult to be a man and navigate the current climate and culture while trying to understand what “manliness” means.  However, I firmly believe that it has always been tougher and scarier to be a woman in our society, and I think that is one of the main points I got out of reading the soon-to-be-released: Modern Manhood by Cleo Stiller.  I was sent an advanced copy of this book to read and review in my space here by the publisher.  There were no strings attached and I’m not receiving any type of compensation for this review.  I was just asked to read the book and share my thoughts.

Well…I have some thoughts.  First, this is a very well-written and researched book.  It is extremely timely and relevant for anyone, but especially for guys and especially relating to the #MeToo Movement.  It is easy to read, and by that I don’t mean the content is easy…far from it, but that it is organized well and flows very nicely.  It is blunt and meant to provoke feelings, thoughts and actions without trying to beat you down.  In fact, for a decent portion of the book there were times when I thought the author might be being a little lenient on guys and men (this isn’t actually true as I’ll get to in a minute), but I can understand why.

We guys can be sensitive when it comes to owning our stuff and talking about our feelings…most of the time guys put up walls or get angry when confronted with emotions and thoughts we don’t want to deal with or are ashamed of (I say “guys” in a very general sense, there are a lot of men who are very good at talking about and grappling with their feelings).  However, the more I read the more I enjoyed and realized that this book was trying to confront feelings, emotions, thoughts and attitudes in a way that was approachable and understanding, while still emphasizing the main point that confronting these things can be hard, but is necessary if we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe.  The book finishes with a motivating call to action, and a common refrain and thread throughout the writing is of holding ourselves accountable for our actions even if we’re not sure how best to go about it.

While reading this I spent a lot of my time thinking about myself, my thoughts, my attitudes and my failures.  I felt very challenged while reading this book.  Challenged to be better, to do better, to be an advocate and an ally.  I also felt guilt and shame over times where I have come up short.  But, more than anything I felt frustration and sympathy for how women have been treated, and a desire to make sure that I am not the reason that someone feels uncomfortable or disrespected.  I said “sympathy” and not “empathy” before because I know that I have never and will never be able to fully empathize with some of the things that women have had to deal with because of the simple fact that I am a privileged white man.

I believe that’s the main takeaway that the author wants us to get from this book.  Let’s acknowledge where society fails people, let’s acknowledge our own role in that and our privileges and biases that might keep us from seeing things, and let’s do everything we can to make life better and less difficult for survivors and for those that have been oppressed.  Let’s think critically and examine ourselves, but do so in a way that changes our actions and attitudes so that we can lift up the people who are going through real pain and torment.  Let’s move beyond only feeling guilt and shame and move towards action and empowerment.  I’m really grateful for Cleo Stiller’s challenge in this book, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that I don’t just say I’m about it…but that I actually am about it…

This is fatherhood…

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