Because I love men and y’all drive me crazy, I’ve been on a quest to figure out WHY IN THE EVERLOVING MULTIVERSE men do the things they do—because, c’mon.
I’ve also had this knowing, deep down, that there was more to the story—that the unraveling we’re seeing with our dominator systems (the shadow of patriarchy), with #metoo, with the addiction to technology and the isolation that can foster, with the degradation of the environment, with that bigger button than his button—has deeper roots than we might think.
It can’t just be that all of you guys are idiots. Can it?
So, for the past few years I’ve been searching for an answer to my WHY by diving into masculinities and partnership studies (among other things). Because we’re in this together. And because I see a lot of pain and confusion, and frankly, idiocy all around.
(To be clear, I do not believe that all women are saints. At all. I also do not absolve anyone of responsibility—we are all responsible for our actions. It’s just that unfortunately, I believe our culture has systems in place right now that make it more likely that men will be the ones to do more damage, whether they realize it or not—and whether they wish to or not. I believe that systems can change, and I am all for systems that make it easier--not harder--for us to be wonderful people. It starts with each one of us.)
These are five books that both CELEBRATE and OFFER GUIDANCE to good men who want to be even better.
There is no finger-pointing. There is no “us” versus “them.” The blame game is not useful.
There is just lots of really good information about how bad systems have generated pain, and what we can do about it.
Information about how men are naturally born into STRENGTH and GENERATIVITY—and how you can claim them to live a joyful and healthy life.
You have options. You can make choices that can bring you closer to living a freedom-filled life that is aligned with your heart—not your dumbphone.
And if you’re already one of those men on the joyful, healthy, self-actualized side of masculinity? Hallelujah! Please, please, be a model for other men—share your stories, share your tools, share this post, share your encouragement.
So, my wonderful, possibly-misguided-but-still-loveable-and-redeemable men, just read these books. Seriously.
Share these books with your friends. Ask your significant others to read them.
These are important.
YOU are important.
Be the best you. The best you is what’s best for the world. You got this.
Love + courage (+ a little bit of crazy),
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
This book infuriated me, and then it broke my heart. It broke my heart because it confirmed a suspicion that had been festering in me for years: Patriarchal culture does not care that men are miserable; it literally banks on it.
bell hooks lays out clearly how men are being manipulated into being less than men. This is not okay. Everyone should be infuriated by this, because we are all losing out because of this. Every single one of us.
“Only a revolution of values in our nation will end male violence, and that revolution will necessarily be based on a love ethic. To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males simply for being.”
Oh my god, YES. Tattoo this on your body. Make it into a bumper sticker. Tweet it, sing it, slam it. THIS MUST BE KNOWN.
“Men cannot change if there are no blueprints for change. Men cannot love if they are not taught the art of loving.”
This is why your heart is so important. (And why my coaching for men program is called HE/ART: The Art of the Masculine.)
Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously by Osho
I love courage. I am constantly in awe of courageous people. I spend a lot of time getting up my courage, acting courageously—or wishing I had. And it’s no wonder: courage starts in the heart, so when we do act with courage, our hearts sing—and when we don’t, it leaves a little piece of our hearts that much colder.
The word “courage” even has the Latin root “cor,” which means “heart.” It’s the heart that empowers us in those moments when logic fails us. And in this world, it requires a LOT of courage to live a life of freedom, love, and joy.
With mastery and mystic quirkiness, Osho explores everyday courage and how to cultivate it.
“A man really becomes a man when he accepts total responsibility—he is responsible for whatsoever he is. This is the first courage, the greatest courage.”
Be the best you. That’s the lovolution. That is life, empowered.
“You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous. You cannot be loving if you are not courageous. You cannot be trusting if you are not courageous. You cannot inquire into reality if you are not courageous. You cannot inquire into reality if you are not courageous. Hence courage comes first and everything else follows.”
“Risk is the only guarantee for being truly alive.”
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
A cool exploration of masculinity through four Jungian archetypes, as well as the role of initiation rites in making the transition from boyhood to manhood (at any age).
What’s great about this book is that it makes clear the distinction between mature masculinity and unhealthy masculinity, boy psychology and man psychology, and how we can better balance these energies. This helps dispel any notions that masculinity is somehow "bad," but rather how it can have negative consequences when out of balance. (This book is written for men, but I believe that everyone has both feminine and masculine energy—so even as I read it I found strategies for working with my own masculine energies.)
You’ll learn how to access these archetypal energies for guidance, how to balance your warrior energy with your lover energy, and how to solidify your masculinity as a generative, affirming, and empowered man. (Or non-man! Reminder: we’re all in this together.)
“Patriarchy, in our view, is an attack on masculinity in its fullness as well as femininity in its fullness. Those caught up in the structures and dynamics of patriarchy seek to dominate not only women but men as well. Patriarchy is based on fear—the boy’s fear, the immature masculine’s fear—of women, to be sure, but also fear of men. Boys fear women. They also fear real men.”
“In the present crisis of masculinity we do not need, as some feminists are saying, less masculine power. We need more. But we need more of the mature masculine. We need more Man psychology. We need to develop a sense of calmness about masculine power so we don’t have to act out dominating, disempowering behavior towards others.”
Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society by John W. Gardner
In Gardner’s own words, “It’s a book about the things that hem you in and the things that liberate you. It’s about coping with change. It’s about the loss and renewal of vitality.”
He writes about the importance of self-knowledge, motivation, courage, and having the courage to fail, at both the individual and systems levels—which I think is key.
At its core, it’s about self-empowerment and re-creation: of yourself, and the world. No wonder I love it.
“The capacity to germinate is in the individual seed. And the source of creativity for the society is in the person. Renewal springs from the freshness and vitality of individual men and women.”
“Exploration of the full range of our own potentialities is not something that we can safely leave to the chances of life. It is something to be pursued systematically, or at least avidly, to the end of our days. We should look forward to an endless and unpredictable dialogue between our potentialities and the claims of life—not only the claims we encounter, but the claims we invent. And by potentialities I mean not just skills, but the full range of our capacities for sensing, wondering, learning, understanding, loving, and aspiring.”
The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life by Riane Eisler
I wish everyone everywhere would read this book. Eisler explains clearly and elegantly how partnership is the key to creating a world we love—and how to do partnership well. She explores many different types of partnership: being a good partner to ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, to nature, to the world.
Even better, with each chapter she provides ACTION STEPS to move from a dominator model to a partnership model. It’s literally a how-to manual for evolution. Full disclosure: I swoon for her work. I follow her Center for Partnership Studies, was thunderstruck by The Chalice and the Blade (a sweeping exploration of how the sacred feminine became suppressed over the millennia, and what that has cost us), and next on my reading list is Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body. She is brilliant.
Eisler is moving the conversation about sexuality and gender politics—which has become the conversation about human survival—not just by undertaking expansive research and avoiding the blame game, but by offering us real tools for propelling the conversation into action. This is what we need.
“If we live in a culture that pushes us to tune out rather than tune in to ourselves, it’s difficult to be aware and fully alive. If different aspects of our being are chronically suppressed to fit into dominator families, workplaces, and other social and economic institutions, we learn not only to suppress these aspects but we also learn to disengage from our capacity for feeling—including our great capacity to feel joy and love.”
“The problem is not ‘human nature.’ It is not science and technology. The problem is that the domination/control model leads to imbalanced relations with ourselves, our planet, and those with whom we share the planet. Viewing our challenges from the perspective of partnership is the first step. By expanding our awareness and helping expand that of others, we begin the long journey home to the kind of society we need to survive and thrive.”
“Every moment of our lives is an opportunity, a potential moment for partnership and the sharing of love, achievement, growth, and accomplishment.”
Seize the moment, wild ones.
If you read any of these books and are inspired (I made it easy and put the links right there in this post if you want to hop right over and get one or two or all five)--I’d love to know what sparked! What action are you taking based on what you learned? What other topics would you like to see addressed? Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
p.s. Know someone else who might find inspiration or empowerment in these books? Why not send this along to them? It might be just the thing they’re looking for. Just hit that little share button on the bottom right.
p.p.s. Looking for a little partnership in creating your best self? That’s what I’m here for. I’d love to connect.
p.p.p.s. LOVE + COURAGE