Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Good Men Project - Call for Bloggers: A Conversation About Men

Do you care about men? Do you want to help create the conversation about how men are or can redefine masculinity for the 21st Century? The the Good Men Project is looking for you - whether you are XX, XY or one of the many variations is not relevant.

Call for Bloggers: A Conversation About Men

October 26, 2013 by the Editors

photo by isaimoreno

We’re having a conversation about what it means to be a man in the 21st century. It’s the conversation no one else is having. And we’re hoping you’ll join.

We’re looking for people want to talk about men, and want to better understand the rapidly changing roles that are happening in the 21st century. If writing about the trials, the tribulations, and the joys of manhood appeals to you, we’d love for you to become a regular blogger. You will get a terrific platform (the total network is steadily growing, but right now gets almost 8 million pageviews a month) and an opportunity to help shape not only The Good Men Project itself, but the conversation about men in the world. There really is no limit to what you can blog about, as long as it relates in some way to things that men in today’s modern world care about (And trust us, that’s a whole lot of things). We are also looking for humor, insights, and raw honest truths. But mostly we’re looking for your own unique voice. First person narratives that lead to some deeper, universal understandings are always welcome here. Check out our about page if you want to learn more about who we are and how we’ve grown.

Virtually any well-written post about anything you can imagine that relates to men in the 21st century is something we’d consider publishing.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in becoming a blogger at The Good Men Project, please email Lisa Hickey at with a pitch. We’ll want to know who you are, what you want to write about, and how you expect to do it. Some sense of your writing (and life) experience would help too. You will need to show that you have good ideas, the capacity for brutal honesty and, hopefully, a sense of humor. You will need a social media platform—be prepared to tell us your twitter following, facebook fans, g+ profile and any other places you have a social media footprint. (Redditors get brownie points). We are happy to help you grow your network—in fact, one of the benefits to working with our platform is that you can expect to double your network size if you combine our platform with your own efforts towards growth.

Answers to FAQs: a) unpaid b) 2 month minimum commitment c) write only when you have time, but we are looking for people who want to write at least four times a month—and up to 20 times a month—because they see the value to their own brand, name recognition and platform-building opportunities d) you will get editorial help, direction, and story ideas—as much or as little as you want and need e) you can always link back to your own blog or repost their after e) the majority of your posts will need to be unique content e) once you get into our system, you will upload and format your posts, however, we will have final editorial say f) yes, we work with many large media companies and have a large social network, and we will not only help push your work outward but teach you how to grow your own network. Regular writers also get first crack at interview opportunities, appearances on our own video panels, and the chance to do paid sponsored posts or move up to paid editorial positions.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lou Reed: Sex and Gender Songs


Around the internet, the tributes to rock icon Lou Reed continue. en|Gender offered their own tribute with a selection of videos that deal with gender, sexuality, and transgender realities.

Great collection of songs.

Here is a audio-remastered video of Reed's classic, Walk on the Wild Side, from 1973.

Lou Reed: Sex and Gender Songs

Posted by helenboyd – October 28, 2013
  • He wrote “Walk on the Wild Side” which inspired a ton of trans people to say “Wait, what? That’s possible?” when it came to gender transformation. 
  • Then of course there’s “Venus in Furs”, too, which is a whole other thing altogether, but certainly of interest to a certain subset of y’all.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mike Robertson - Everything You Need to Know to Do Front Squats

The traditional squat that most people do - from bodybuilders to weekend athletes - is the back squat, with either high bar position (bodybuilder style) or a low bar position (power lifter style) and every possible stance from very narrow to very wide.

Fewer people do front squats, especially guys (and gals) who are concerned about looking like they are lifting heavy weights. When you first do front squats, you may be working with half of the weight you use for a back squat - it's humbling. It also blasts your quads in a way back squats can't. And for some of us, seemingly taller guys, it's easier to go ass to floor on a front squat than a back squat (I could be wrong about this and it might just be me).

In the post below, Mike Robertson of Robertson Training Systems, teaches you everything you need to know to do good front squats in a variety of forms, with different types of weights (bar, kettle bells, etc.), and with different types of grip - videos included.

Front Squat

October 25, 2013


Front squats are a different animal.

After years of dedicated powerlifting training and back squatting, I read an article by one of my strength training mentors, Brad Gillingham.

“Big Brad” is one of the strongest human beings on the face of the planet, and his 5×5 squat program had worked wonders for my back squat.

In this article he mentioned that he front squatted a lot in the off-season, so I figured I’d give it a shot as well.

And all I can say is, I got dominated!

I was squirrelly under the bar, my thighs were burning, and my core was crushed for three days straight as a result.

And needless to say, I loved the pain, and I’ve grown to love the lift.

The front squat is an amazing exercise, and one that’s well worth your time and attention to master. In this article, I will take you step-by-step through the process, to help you learn everything possible about the front squat.

Let’s start with the big benefits you get from the front squat.

Benefits of Front Squatting

There are numerous reasons you should learn to front squat. Here’s just a short list.



One of the biggest benefits you’ll receive from front squatting regularly is improving (or at least maintaining) your mobility through all the key joints: The ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and elbows.

Too often people assume that if they want to be mobile, they have to do extensive mobility or stretching routines day-in and day-out forever.

And this simply isn’t the case.

Instead, what it often requires is a block or period of time that’s dedicated to improving mobility, and then maintaining that mobility going forward.

Front squatting can help you build the mobility, and by regularly including them in your programming they will keep you mobile for years to come.

Core Strength

Another benefit to front squatting is improving core strength.

This is where a key distinction needs to be made; while back squats tend to put more stress on the posterior core such as the lower back/spinal erectors, front squats put more stress on the anterior core.

This area is typically very weak and underdeveloped, so front squatting can be a great tool to bring this up to snuff. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure to give you some resources later on if this is an issue.

Muscle Mass – Quads

Let’s be honest – quads get a bad rap, and if your goal is to get flat-out huge quads, I could think of worse ways to go about developing them.

The front squat is at the end of the squat/hinge spectrum. If you want big quads, training with an angled tibia and upright torso (like you do when front squatting) is a sure-fire way to look like Quadzilla come next Halloween.

Strength Gains

Front squats are an invaluable tool to get stronger, regardless of your ultimate end-goal.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a team sport athlete, a powerlifter or an Olympic lifter – getting stronger in the glutes, quads and anterior core is rarely a bad thing. When you combine that with the mobility you can develop as well, you have a first-class exercise you should be using routinely in your programming.

And while we’re talking about Olympic lifters….

Foundation for O-lifts

Last but not least, if you have any dreams or aspirations of Olympic lifting in the future, you need to learn how to front squat.

The front squat is the foundation for catching/receiving a clean. Failure to catch a big clean in the bottom position will force you to either power clean every rep of every set, or simply find a new sport to pursue.

As you can see, there are tons of benefits to front squatting.

Now that we’ve covered them, let’s get down to brass tax: How to front squat. 

Read the whole article.

Dad’s Been On A Parenting Kick Lately

Don't be this dad, okay? Please . . . .

Dad’s Been On A Parenting Kick Lately

ISSUE 49•44 • Oct 28, 2013

AUSTIN, TX—In the most recent of a long string of hobbies and obsessions to completely absorb the local father’s attention, friends and family reported Monday that Jacob Rossbach, 35, has been on a serious parenting jag lately. “In the past few days, he’s just been going nuts with the paternal encouragement and affection stuff—he’s really gotten into it lately,” said daughter Jenny, 7, adding that while she’s not sure what put the parenting bug in her dad’s ear, her father now spends nearly all his free time on activities such as doling out advice, providing material assistance, and imparting wisdom to his two children. “A few minutes ago he stopped by my room just to tell me he was proud of me. He’s done that five times today. It’s like, huh, guess he’s going through a little nurturing-his-children phase or something.” The sudden burst of commitment to his paternal duties reportedly replaces a fiscal responsibility kick that dominated the previous week and a half of Rossbach’s life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Matt Forney Is a Douche

The real Matt Forney. Is he also LaidInNYC?

This is Matt Forney, he is a douche. He recently posted an article entitled The Case Against Female Self-Esteem that has set the internet ablaze with commentary, most of it suggesting that Forney is a douche, or much more explicit things I am choosing not to repeat (despite full agreement).

Forney represents what the men's rights activists, or MRAs (i.e., all feminists are evil) call a red pill/anti-feminist (men who are feminists have apparently swallowed the blue pill, or are white knights [used as a derogatory term], or are manginas).

The red pill/blue pill thing is taken from The Matrix, where it represented the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue). In the MRA and PUA worlds (PUA = pick-up artists) being a male feminist (i.e., believing that biological sex and gender should be invisible before the law) is to have taken the blue pill.

Men like Forney (really just a sniveling little boy) are why we have something as ugly as rape culture in this era. For him, women should not get college degrees, should not have jobs, should not do anything other than submit to him sexually. Fortunately for the rest of us, those of us who are adult men, little boys like Forney are decreasing in number with each successive generation.
On the downside, they will never be fully extinct.

His article is frustrating, infuriating, and deeply flawed (at best). Rather than try to summarize his nonsense myself - it makes my brain hurt just reading the stupid flowing from this guy's keyboard - here is a post called 60 sexist incoherent things matt forney believes.

60 sexist incoherent things matt forney believes
Posted on October 7, 2013 by Clara 

In the event that you’re confused, check out this glorious masterpiece: The Case Against Female Self-Esteem. It has made me so angry that I have literally spent an hour (which I could and should have spent at the GCB) writing this blog post. Basically, he writes that women should stop having self-esteem because it’s killing his boner. Enjoy.
  1. Women have “natural biological social functions.” Somewhere in our DNA, femininity is encoded as a series of ACGT sequences that spell out sugar and spice and everything nice.
  2. America is not currently waging a war against female self-esteem. No, America is way too woman-friendly as far as media goes.
  3. America ought to be waging a war against female self-esteem.
  4. Girls (only girls, definitely not boys, not at all) are bombarded with pro-self-esteem propaganda from childhood.
  5. We live in “a man’s world.” For some reason.
  6. “Girls should be discouraged from being confident.”
  7. “Most girls have done nothing to deserve self-esteem.”
  8. Men get respect (and self-esteem) by accomplishing things, but women expect it to just be handed to them like a free cookie.
  9. Men deserve to have self-esteem because they do important things
  10. Women don’t deserve to have self-esteem because they do unimportant things.
  11. Women’s achievements are “complete jokes.”
  12. “Having a college degree is a strike against a girl,” because it demonstrates that she thinks education is like, important or something.
  13. Women all do silly things like teach elementary school.
  14. Men do the really important things, not because of any glass ceiling, but because men are better.
  15. We are “girls,” and we want to “play” in the man’s world.
  16. We (girls) have to obey their (men’s) rules.
  17. We are “girls” or “females,” but members of the other gender are only known as “men.”
  18. A couple of guitarists on Matt Forney’s street corner provide a more useful service to society than a career-driven woman.
  19. “Insecurity is integral to femininity.”
  20. Emotional vulnerability is the same thing as fragility. This is so wrong. Vulnerability is absolutely an integral part of any real relationship between two human beings. You need to be able to be open with your partner, trusting that they won’t hurt you, even though they can. Basically, Matt Forney thinks vulnerability is the opposite of confidence.
  21. “Insecurity is the natural state of woman.” Yes, womanhood has a natural state, and that state is insecure.
  22. “Given their lack of physical strength, a woman on her own should be frightened as hell without men to protect her.” That is a direct quote. I didn’t have to embellish that one bit.
  23. There is a predetermined relationship between men and women, and any deviation from that script is backwards and wrong and leads to misery for everyone forever.
  24. Part of the male identity requires women to need them, either emotionally or materialistically.
  25. “Female insecurity is a crucial ingredient for unlocking our inner masculine instincts.” Again, I wish I’d made that up.
  26. Women should be concerned with unlocking Matt Forney’s “inner masculine instincts.”
  27. If only women looked weaker, men would look super strong! And that would give Matt Forney a boner!
  28. “Confidence doesn’t give men erections; vulnerability does.”
  29. All men get erections from the same things. (That’s why there are only three or four porn videos out there. Once they figured out what turns on the all-encompassing male hive mind, they quickly realized there was no need for any more porn, ever.)
  30. My purpose is to give Matt Forney an erection.
  31. Vulnerability and confidence are opposites.
  32. Women need to be more vulnerable than men, in relationships, because women like confident men, and men like insecure women.
  33. That’s just how it is, for everyone, forever. If you disagree, then you’re either a feminist or a manboob.
  34. Girls get mental illnesses because they deny their feminine instincts.
  35. Women have “inborn insecurity.”
  36. “The modern woman has become an emotional cripple.”
  37. Considering yourself an “equal” in the dating world is the same as viewing your partner as “a life support system for a penis.” Because I consider myself a life support system for my vagina. Hooray for equality!
  38. “Confident women are incapable of viewing men as human beings.” This is the most insane jump Forney makes. He describes a vulnerable, fragile, needy girl, and then describes a totally heartless and frankly horrible-sounding alternative. None of these people are emotionally healthy! A confident woman is not a sociopath!
  39. If women are confident and empowered, “men are nothing more than fashion items to help women show how cool or sophisticated they are.” Because a confident woman couldn’t possibly see a man as a human being.
  40. “If I’m not the center of a girl’s world, I’m not going to be in her world period.” Matt Forney literally demands to be the center of a girl’s world. Nothing else will do, because Matt Forney is so fucking special that he deserves it, as a man.
  41. “So-called confident women are as threatening as a pile of dog turds.” Matt has just described all of the horrible things a confident woman can do to a man (e.g. throwing him in the trash, exchanging him for cash and prizes, etc), but now he’s saying they’re all totally harmless, for reasons that are unclear.
  42. “Women don’t want to have high self-esteem.”
  43. Women with depression are only depressed because their lives are a total lie. Also, women with depression are “confident.” Because if there’s one quality I’d say I associate with depression, it’s confidence.
  44. Their lives are a lie because they’re being confident, and it would be better if they were weak and submissive.
  45. Women “despise their strong, independent lives.” You can tell because they take all that Prozac. You can also tell because they’re so notoriously unhappy.
  46. Women “want nothing more than for a man to throw them over his knee, shatter the Berlin Wall around their hearts, and expose the lovestruck, bashful little girl within.” I cannot even begin to comprehend this.
  47. Pick-up artists are only successful because women need insane displays of dominance to overpower their artificially confident psyches.
  48. Lana Del Rey is popular because women all want to pretend we’re all sixteen years old.
  49. Women write songs about men, because we are all totally nuts for men. Men don’t write songs about women, ever, because men are smart and women are stupid.
  50. Women need men “far more” than men need women.
  51. “Girls will all but die without masculine attention.”
  52. Rape culture is just a made-up thing that lets women feel vulnerable, because we just love feeling vulnerable. This is the part in the article where Matt Forney’s argument goes from insane to sickening. It’s not even a little bit funny.
  53. Feminists lie about rape all the time, for fun. Lying about rape is super fun.
  54. “At the end of the day, there are no Strong, Independent Women™. There are only shrews pleading for a taming.” Women are like pets. Disobedient pets.
  55. Girls don’t want a six-figure job.
  56. Girls don’t want an apartment.
  57. Girls don’t want a master’s degree.
  58. Girls don’t want sexual liberation.
  59. Girls want to be led back to the kitchen.
  60. Girls want to make Matt Forney a sandwich.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gender Fluidity: Gabrielle Burton at TEDxColumbus

This is a nice, though TED-style brief talk on one of my favorite gender-related topics - gender fluidity. Burton explores the notion that gender is fluid, revealing insight into a culture that makes us question social roles and assumptions we may not even be aware we are promoting.

Gabrielle Burton: Gender Fluidity (TEDxColumbus)

At one point a few years ago, Gabrielle’s worlds of being a filmmaker, conscious observer and parent collided. Fueled by her upbringing by thoughtful, feminist, and creative parents and being in business with her four sisters, her current project has put her ‘out there’ in ways she’d never imagined. By challenging presumptions and misunderstandings, Gabrielle will explore the notion that gender is fluid, revealing insight into a culture that makes us question social roles and assumptions we may not even be aware we are promoting.

Gabrielle Burton
Filmmaker. Writer. Activist.

Gabrielle’s Website

About Gabrielle:

Gabrielle is a writer/director/actor whose current project is as director of Kings, Queens, and In- Betweens, a documentary about the fluidity of gender identity as seen through the window of drag queens and kings in Columbus, Ohio. Her feature and short film credits include: Manna from Heaven (MGM/Sony), Temps (Netflix), Just Friends (AMC/We Channel), The Happiest Day of His Life (MTV/Logo), Letting Go of God (Showtime), as well as nationally released commercials and PSAs. As a director, Gabrielle got her training in film school at the Ecole Superieure d’Audio-Visuel in Toulouse, France, where she received a DEUP degree with High Honors. Gabrielle worked on the television program Law and Order in their director training program. After an Isobel Briggs scholarship to study music at Berklee College of Music, she won a Rotary Scholarship to study film in France. Her short, Sage and Time, was selected for the La Corrida International Film Festival in France, and Gabrielle was invited as the opening night speaker to show Manna from Heaven at La Corrida’s 10th film festival. A graduate of Harvard/Radcliffe, Gabrielle is a published poet, and also wrote and directed the full length plays Sage and Time and Club Venus at the ART’s Loeb Ex theater. She was featured on the Voice Of America program and in the Harvard CRIMSON. She just received the Thomas A. Milhelmus Editor’s Award for an essay she wrote on the giant turtles in Malaysia, which will be published this fall by the Southern Indiana Review.
* * * * *

Ms. Burton's next project, Kings, Queens, and In- Betweens (see here for more about the film), also looks very interesting and fun.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens (to be completed this year) is a documentary on the fluidity of gender identity as seen through the window of drag queens, kings, and transgender performers in Columbus, Ohio. Perhaps surprisingly, Columbus has one of the most imaginative, diverse drag scenes in the country, set in the middle of Ohio as a complex, politically important swing state. Drawing on interviews and performances by entertainers (from those who only do drag as a form of show business to those who use drag for personal exploration), KQIB challenges common assumptions about drag and gender.

KQIB will be the first film to include the whole gender performance spectrum — queens, kings, and transgender performers.

Twenty years since the groundbreaking film “Paris is Burning” was shot, this is a chance to move the conversation forward, showing how drag both entertains and pushes the envelope — making us question binary categories of male/female, gay/straight, butch/femme. KQIB captures how these terrific performers tackle the complexities and pathos of gender expression, personal identity, and human rights — all with humor, great music, big hair, and duct tape.

Jim Palmer - Jesus Was Not a Christian

"Jesus was not a Christian. He is not the founder of Christianity. Christianity is a religion created in the name of Jesus, and is much different from the actual truth that Jesus taught. Were Jesus alive today, I don’t think Jesus would be a Christian. Jesus is still one of best-kept secrets because his truth has been grossly distorted by those who claim to speak for him. There is a religion-free Jesus who belongs to all of humankind. Christianity does not own or have first rights to Jesus. His truth has universal significance. It’s often the case that you have to disentangle Jesus from institutional Christianity in order to uncover his truth." 

- Jim Palmer, Notes from (Over) the Edge - (a new book-in-progress)
Jim Palmer describes himself as a "Religion-Free Jesus Follower."  Here is a recent blog post the offers some insight into his spiritual journey.

Common objections to shedding religion

October 25, 2013

I began sharing my faith journey as an author in 2005, publishing Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God (and the unlikely people who help you) (2006). The book struck a nerve, and my Inbox was flooded with emails from others who were trying to untangle their lives and faith from religion. Ordinary people, mainly from a Christian background, they had come to the end of their rope with faith and God, but felt understood and validated through my story, and inspired by the possibility that it could be different.

Seeing that people often got stuck in their disenchantment with religion, my follow-up book, Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity (2007), gave a glimpse into what it might look like to live a religion-free relationship with God. I also noticed that many of these people in the throes of spiritual crisis chose to abandon God and Jesus altogether. My third book, Being Jesus in Nashville: Finding the Courage to Live Your Life (whoever and wherever you are) (2012), spoke to this issue as I shared my story of discovering a religion-free Jesus who finally set me free from my religious pathologies and led me forward in my spiritual pilgrimage.

People often take issue with and object to people who are “shedding religion” to know God. I decided to identify and address some of the most common objections I hear.

You don’t go to church anymore

If a person’s involvement in a church feeds and reinforces a message and perspective that hinders their knowing God, then it makes complete sense not to involve yourself there anymore. Many Christians receive their understanding about God through the institution of Church and when they discover this understanding is deeply flawed and they see how this flawed understanding has damaged their lives, they remove themselves from their church. The reason most people object to this is because these confuse leaving one’s church with leaving one’s faith. Research shows that “church leavers” grow stronger in their faith, as opposed to digressing in their faith. The issue is also controversial because people wrongly equate “church” with their specific form of church. There are an endless number of forms of church ranging from highly organized to practically no organization at all. Many people who leave organized church eventually connect in smaller, more informal types of community, which may not comply with the letter of the law when it comes to institutional church but fulfills the true spirit of “church.”

You are reading some really weird books

Many Christians in the “shedding religion” process will read books that: a) looks at their Christian faith with a critical eye, b) promotes spirituality over religion, c) offers a different and fresh view and perspective on faith and God. Shedders will be drawn to authors who offer something beyond institutional Christianity and offer the prospect of knowing God and following Jesus as a way of life as opposed to check-list Churchianity. many of these authors, including myself, get hammered by the Christian establishment. If you mess with city hall, you’re going to pay for it. People criticize such authors as having “bad theology.” In my opinion, many of the criticizers have “bad theology,” and so I’m not sure where that argument ends. People who are “shedding religion” are also drawn to books that promote and speak to spirituality over religion or books that focus on nurturing your inner world. You’d be surprised to know even how many church-going Christians secretly read Eckhart Tolle books but would never admit it. For some people, reading one chapter from The Power of Now was worth more than one year of sermons. This is also the reason why some Christians become interested in Buddhism and Eastern spirituality; these seem to speak more deeply to the root condition of humankind and one’s inner spiritual world as opposed to the focus of a lot of pop-Christian writings. At first, some people are not aware that there is a rich Christian tradition of contemplatives and mystics who lived a very robust Christ-centered spirituality. A few contemporary examples might be Thomas Merton, Ricahrd Rohr, Bede Griffiths, and Flora Wueller.

You are in danger of going off the deep end

Perhaps one of the most annoying things (to those who judge them) about people who are shedding religion is that they begin thinking for themselves. Some Christians have come from churches where the idea is fostered that congregants should only expose themselves to church-approved leaders, teachers, writers, musicians, politicians etc…because doing otherwise would be the equivalent of purchasing a one-way ticket to the flames of hell. Apparently, only a very select few people are capable of discerning truth on their own, the rest of us are ill-equipped for doing so and would be easily lured into all kinds of error if left to our own. I know this may be difficult for some to believe, but people are capable of being exposed to all kinds of differing views of God, and can discern for themselves what truth is present in these views, and what of these views seems inconsistent with truth. I have a Buddhist friend; i have detected truth is things he believes but i did not become a Buddhist. I have an Atheist friend, and I totally agree with this person’s views on all kinds of things, including some of their objections to God, but i did not become an Atheist. I have a N.Y. Yankees friend, i agree that the Yankees have some of the best baseball players but I did not become a Yankees fan. People are truly capable of doing this sort of thing.

When people begin thinking for themselves and base their opinions on firsthand personal experience, they realize that the world doesn’t fit so nicely into all the labels and boxes that religion is sometimes prone toward imposing on things. Religion and politics seems to share a difficulty in disagreeing with others without demonizing them, and wants to slice up the world into the “us” and “them” camp or the “right” and “wrong” camp. I’m not talking about turning a blind eye to evil in the world, or pretending that one’s beliefs doesn’t fuel such evil. All religions, including Christians, have justified evil in the name of God.

You can’t give a straight answer

Lots of questions aren’t so easy to answer anymore for Christians in the “shedding religion” process. For example, questions like: “Are you a Christian?” or “Do you believe in the Bible?” or “Do you go to church?” or “Do you believe in the gospel?” are no longer “yes” or “no” questions for a person who is “shedding religion.” He or she is immediately wondering what is your definition of a “Christian,” and what is your interpretation of the Bible, and how you delineate what “church” is, and how do you understand the “gospel?” By not answering “yes” or “no” it is not a sign that the person is “dodging the issue;” they legitimately cannot answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” It would be better to ask more open-ended questions like, How is Jesus Christ relevant to you?

[My disclaimer: Some people say I am “too hard” on the “Christian establishment.” Let me be the first to say that I know many people who identify themselves as “Christians” who are deeply spiritual, and not guilty of the things I described above. Some of these Christians have had a big influence on my own journey. I also know there are organized forms of church that promote true and authentic Christ-centered spirituality, as well as open, honest, and authentic relationships. I know many Christian churches that are wonderful expressions of love, compassion, and service in the communities where they exist. Since my personal experiences are in some cases related to churches (including my own) and Christians (including myself) that were guilty of the above judgments, I am prone to speak of it. Based on my experience the last several years as an author and spiritual director/coach, I have encountered countless numbers of people who have a similar experiences. I mainly wrote the above post in hopes of encouraging more understanding about many people who are in “shedding religion” mode.]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fr. Richard Rohr - Jesus Is Not Loyal to One Religion


Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation ( in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard's teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy--practices of contemplation and lived kenosis (self-emptying), expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized. As a teacher, he bears witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.

Among Fr. Rohr's many books are Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (2013),
Yes, and...: Daily Meditations (2013), The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (2009), and From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality (2005).

A Central Point!

Meditation 38 of 51 - Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy
Sixth Theme: The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines (Process).

Why does the Bible, and why does Jesus, tell us to care for the poor and the outsider? It is because we all need to stand in that position for our own conversion. We each need to stand under the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God—to understand the very nature of reality. When we are too smug and content, then grace and mercy have no meaning—and God has no meaning. Forgiveness is not even desired. When we have pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps, religion is always corrupted because it doesn’t understand the mystery of how divine life is transferred, how people change, and how life flows. It has been said by others that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell.

Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. He is not loyal to one religion, or this or that group, or the “worthy” ones—Jesus is loyal to suffering itself, wherever it is. He is just as loyal to the suffering of Iraqis or Afghanis as he is to the suffering of Americans. He is just as loyal to an oppressed gay man as he is to an oppressed married woman. We do not like that! He grabs all of our self-created boundaries away from us, and suddenly all we have is a free fall into the arms of God, who is our only and solid security. This seems to be God’s very surprising agenda, if I am to believe the Bible.

Adapted from A Lever and a Place to Stand: The Contemplative Stance, the Active Prayer (CD)

The Daily Meditations for 2013 are now available in Fr. Richard’s new book Yes, And . . .

Friday, October 25, 2013

Actor/Comedian Russell Brand Calls for Global Political Revolution on the BBC

uTPJcUh.png (1024×512)
Russell Brand calls for global political revolution on the BBC

Damn Straight!

I've always enjoyed Russell Brand's comedy when he was not being raunchy - like Eddie Izzard, he has the ability to use his intelligence in his comedy in a way that might limit his audience (although no one is as good as Izzard).

In the last year or two, Brand has been putting his intelligence and progressive political views on display in his own television show, Brand X with Russell Brand. His 2012 conversation with the Dalai Lama at a youth event went viral (His Holiness stole the laughs).

In a new video that has gone Super Viral, Brand has declared his vision for a revolution, a global political revolution that is necessary because we now have a ruling class that is only concerned with maintaining their power and wealth, not serving the people.

Brand has a foundation, as the child of a messed up family, for his progressive political views, despite the fact that he is now a wealthy man. He has not forgotten where he came from and he is able to see the corruption that supports a small elite class and a large underclass . . . because he comes from the underclass. Here is some of his background from Wikipedia:
Russell Edward Brand was born in Grays, Essex, England. He is the only child of photographer Ronald Henry Brand and Barbara Elizabeth Nichols.[4] Brand's parents divorced when he was six months old, and he was raised by his mother. He has described his childhood as isolated and lonely.[5] When he was seven, a tutor sexually abused him.[6] When Brand was eight, his mother contracted uterine cancer and then breast cancer one year later.[7] While she underwent treatment, Brand lived with relatives.[7] When he was 14, he suffered from bulimia nervosa. When he was 16, he left home because of disagreements with his ill mother's live-in partner.[7] Brand then started to use illegal drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines, LSD, and ecstasy.[7]

In an interview on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday, Brand says he had a strange relationship with his father, whom he saw sporadically and who took him to visit prostitutes during a trip to the Far East.[8]

Brand has been a vegetarian since the age of 14[67] and a vegan since October 2011.[68] He dresses in a flamboyant bohemian fashion, describing himself as looking like an "S&M Willy Wonka".[69] He has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.[70] He has also suffered from bulimia[67] and went through a period of self-harming.[71] Brand has shown interest in the Hare Krishna Movement and chants the Hare Krishna mantra for drug rehabilitation.[72] During an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on her show in October 2010, Brand talked about his love of Transcendental Meditation.[73][74][75]
Two key quotes from the interview on BBC:
“The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we're exploiting poor people all over the world and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.” 

“By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised.”

“The revolution of consciousness is a decision, decisions take a moment. In my mind the revolution has already begun.”

He demonstrates here a progressive perspective and a certain degree of naivete, which is probably necessary for one to become the spokesperson for a revolution. There is also the evidence here of his spiritual practices. Here is a quote from the beginning of that essay:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”

I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.

Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot. Is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Buckminster Fuller said humanity now faces a choice: oblivion or utopia. We’re inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?

Read his full commentary (4,500 words) on a revolution in consciousness at the New Statesmen.

Russell Brand Calls for Global Political Revolution on the BBC

By Dell Cameron on October 24, 2013 

Russell Brand wants to launch a global political revolution or, at least, instigate one.

During a Thursday night interview on the BBC’s Newsnight, the actor and comedian told Jeremy Paxman that traditional political structures should be razed, since they’ve consistently failed to respond to vital global economic and environmental issues.

On YouTube, the BBC promoted the video as if it were a boxing match, “Paxman vs Brand.” If so, Brand scored an easy knockout.

Earlier this week, political magazine New Statesman appointed Brand as a guest editor. He used the opportunity to published a 4,500 word essay that uses the word “revolution” 12 times.

In the piece, Brand says that he doesn’t vote and claims he never has.

“Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites,” he writes.

When Paxman asked if he was advocating revolution, Brand explained, “The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we're exploiting poor people all over the world and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.”

During the broadcast, Paxman seemed genuinely perplexed as to how Brand could make such strong political statements, given his non-existant voting record, and accused Brand of being "trivial."

Brand responded, “It’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy, I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations.”

When asked what his ideal political system would look like, Brand admitted he didn’t have all the answers, but he quickly shot off a list of reasonable qualifications: “Shouldn’t destroy the planet; shouldn’t create massive economic disparity; shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.”

More specifically he called it a “Socialist-egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations and massive responsibility for energy companies… exploiting the environment.”

“Do you see any hope?” Paxman asked Brand at the end of their interview.

“Totally. There’s going to be a revolution. It’s totally going to happen.” Brand responded.

In the New Statesman, Brand declares his allegiance to the leftist political ideologies and attacks conservatism, “The right has all the advantages, just as the devil has all the best tunes. Conservatism appeals to our selfishness and fear, our desire and self-interest; they neatly nurture and then harvest the inherent and incubating individualism.”

But, he also claims the “solution” must also be spiritual, something he admits is often at odds with leftist principles. He explains, “By spiritual I mean the acknowledgement that our connection to one another and the planet must be prioritised.”

“The revolution of consciousness is a decision, decisions take a moment. In my mind the revolution has already begun.”

The Newsnight interview was not the first time Brand has drastically overmatched the hosts of a news program. In June, he made headlines for excoriating the gang on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," in an appearance the Washington Post called "devastating."

Photo via Russell Brand (Remix by Dell Cameron)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

'Tough Guise 2': The Ongoing Crisis of Violent Masculinity

Hmmm . . . There were some things I liked about the original Tough Guise, and there were some things that really bothered me about that film. It felt to me that Jackson Katz fails to understand the complexity of the issue he was addressing. I wrote this back in 2009:
I have my issues with Jackson Katz’s “Tough Guise” video - it feels to me like the pathological side of the postmodern, relativist developmental stage, otherwise known as the Mean Green Meme in integral circles. I'm not sure such a beast actually exists (see here), but there does seem to be a tendency in this developmental stage - which is focused on group harmony, expression of emotion, and other communal manifestations of development - to reject any and all expressions of violence. I'm not sure this is realistic.

While as a Buddhist I reject violence, this is not necessarily a universal belief, even among Buddhists. Many hundreds of years have shown that Buddhists will take violent action in order to protect the weak and the dharma - the killing of a few to save the many has been the argument.

When the Chinese invaded Tibet, the few "soldiers" that existed tried in vain to fight off the invaders. This might be seen as the dark side of the complete opposition to violence and force. If they had taken seriously the realities of a world in which not everyone shares their values of peace and compassion, they might have been more prepared to defend those values by whatever means necessary.

Perhaps this is not good Buddhist doctrine. Or perhaps this is a more integral understanding of the need for right use of force. The "right use" part is crucial - I am not for the glorification of violence in film and TV. I do not think that boys should be taught that violence is how to resolve issues. I do not think that the military should be deployed unless our borders are threatened or unless we can protect the weak from genocide by the few who are ignorant and violent.

But I do know that we should be able to defend ourselves and those we love if there is no other option. Is there ever a time when there is no other option? I'm not sure.
So I'm not sure how I feel about his making of a sequel, from which there is a short clip below. Maybe over the past 14 years he has become more accepting that there are some masculine traits that are results of our biology and hormones . . . and evolution. That we still have these traits when they have ceased be relevant does not mean that they are wrong.

Whether violence is wrong or necessary depends on the context.

'Tough Guise 2': The Ongoing Crisis of Violent Masculinity

In a follow-up to his powerful 1999 documentary, Jackson Katz argues that men are actively taught to be violent creatures.

October 24, 2013 • By Lisa Wade

A still from Tough Guise 2. (PHOTO: COURTESY OF JACKSON KATZ)
In 1999 Jackson Katz headlined a documentary that powerfully revealed the mask of masculinity, a pretense of stoicism and readiness for violence that many men feel compelled to put on, at least part of the time. The film, Tough Guise: Violence, Manhood, and American Culture, became a staple in classes on gender across the country.
It’s no use arguing whether the media, the military, or the gun industry are responsible for rates of violence, he observes, since they’re in cahoots.
Last week marked the release of Tough Guise 2 and SocImages was given the honor of debuting an exclusive clip from the new film. In the segment below, Katz explains that men aren’t naturally violent but, instead, often learn how to be so. Focusing on socialization, however, threatens to make invisible the socialization agents. In other words, Katz argues, men don’t just learn to be more violent than they otherwise would be—they are actively taught.

He begins with the fact that the video game and film industries both take money from companies that make firearms to feature their products. The U.S. military then uses the video game Call of Duty for recruitment and training. It’s no use arguing whether the media, the military, or the gun industry are responsible for rates of violence, he observes, since they’re in cahoots. These extreme examples intersect with the everyday, mundane lessons about the importance of being “real men” that boys and men receive from the media and their peers, parents, coaches, and more.

This update of the original will tell the compelling story about manhood and violence to a new generation and remind older ones of the ongoing crisis of masculinity in America.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

James Fell Meditates . . . While Lifting Heavy Things

James Fell shared this article over at the Good Men Project, a reflection on his exploration of meditation to help him focus and relax while trying to run a 3:25:00 Boston Marathon. I don't know if he made his time, but he learned a lot about his own approach to meditation.

Like James, I tend to be most focused and in the present moment (other than during sessions with my therapy clients) while lifting heavy weights. There is nothing like a heavy squat day to keep your mind focused in the moment . . . failing to do so could mean serious injury.

One of the thought leaders in this field is Rob McNamara, author of Strength to Awaken, Make Strength Training Your Spiritual Practice and Find New Power and Purpose in Your Life (2011). You can listen to (or read) a nice conversation with Rob (conducted by Vince Horn) over at the Buddhist Geeks Podcast.

How the Universe Responded When I Tried Meditation

October 19, 2013 by James Fell

James Fell meditates. He just happens to be lifting heavy things while he does it.

That’s the last time I listen to Jane Seymour.

It was her idea. She was telling me about how great Transcendental Meditation is, and how after a 20 minutes session she obtains amazing powers of concentration. She also told me that her son, a musician, does TM right before performing; again, to help with concentration.

It got me thinking that perhaps it was worth a shot. Not because I have trouble sleeping (I don’t), or that I’m stressed out (I’m not), but because if it actually does help the mind relax and focus, then perhaps it would be something that could get me in the proper headspace immediately before my attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon this fall.

I’m learning that concentration is going to be key. I can’t just power my way through this like I did in Los Angeles last year. In the past few months I’ve learned a great deal about proper running technique, and being able to hold form and run in as efficient a manner as possible is critical to sustaining the 4:40 per kilometer pace (roughly a seven-and-a-half minute mile) for the entire 42.2km in order to finish in under the required 3 hours and 25 minutes to meet the Boston Athletic Associations time requirements for my age group.

Sorry about all that metric stuff for my American readers. I know it weirds you out, but I’m running this race in Canada, so I need to think in kilometers. If you get confused, there’s an app for that.

Anyway, maintaining proper form and pace takes a lot of concentration, and when I run my mind has a tendency to wander. I used to listen to music all the time while running, but had to stop that because it hampers the ability to concentrate. Music is great for beginner and intermediate exercisers; it helps them create a “dissociative state,” which means it distracts them from the discomfort of training and allows them to push harder and longer. However, when you get to an advanced level, music actually inhibits running performance. To go to the wall, you need to be in an “associative state,” which is like embracing the pain, or something. (Read my entire article for the Chicago Tribune about using music for fitness motivation here).

And I’ve been doing some runs at marathon pace and putting all of my brainpower into expending as few calories as possible. This isn’t about fat loss – if I was chasing that an inefficient technique where I ran like I had a scorpion shoved down my running shorts would be the best way to maximize caloric burn per mile. It’s about enhancing my ability to sustain the fastest pace possible for the full distance, and to do that I need to not waste a single iota of energy. It means perfect form, with minimal vertical movement, a soft landing on each stride. A glide like I’m on a low-flying magic carpet.

Yeah, gotta think about all that. Get to the meditation part.

As a confirmed skeptic, I don’t go in for what Eric Cartman would refer to as “tree-hugging hippie crap,” so I began my investigations in to meditation not by going to any official Transcendental Meditation site, but by reading what others outside the organization had to say, and I found this story, which automatically put my guard up. Meditation may be valuable, but I balk at lining someone’s pockets with thousands of dollars to lead me down the garden path and off the deep end into mystical bullshittery.

I’m a pretty good do-it-yourself learner, and I didn’t think I needed some $2,500 yogi-guided course to learn how to relax and enhance my concentration. So I searched some more, and came across this article at “How Stuff Works.” It seemed pretty basic, but since I wasn’t trying to learn brain surgery I figured basic = good enough.

I should mention that during this whole learning process I was sitting on the deck at my parents’ condo on the coast of B.C. with my wife. She wanted to give it a whirl too, so I read her the basic instructions I found at How Stuff Works and we decided to try it and see what happened.

The first thing I noticed was that there was too damn much stuff to remember. Breathe in and pretend like it’s a lotus blossom opening in your stomach, and then the lotus blossom closes when you breathe out. Let your mouth hang partially open. Don’t close your eyes, but don’t focus on anything either. Imagine some kind of totem image in your mind. Repeat your mantra over and over. (TM says you’re supposed to get your mantra given to you from an official yogi as part of the $2,500 fee, and then keep it secret so it doesn’t lose it’s magical powers, but I don’t mind telling you that the one I came up with was running specific: “glide” was the word I chose.)

As far as a totem image goes, an appealing part of the female anatomy popped into my head – my wife was sitting next to me, remember – so I went with that.

And it was all too much.

After a while I ditched most of it and just tried to relax and do the opposite of letting my mind wander, if that makes any sense. This was about being able to enhance concentration for focusing on running form, so I just imagined good running technique over and over in my mind while lying there in the sun next to my beautiful and also meditating wife, who finished top of her class from med school and has never shown any indications of lacking the ability to concentrate.

It was a few minutes later when I felt a wet blob fall on my chest.

“Son of a bitch!” I exclaimed, looking down at the brown goo that had suddenly appeared on my bare pectoral muscle. “A bird just shit on me!”

My wife burst out laughing like I hadn’t heard in a long time. “Well, I guess that tells you what the universe thinks of your ability to meditate.”

With love from The Universe.

Yeah, we all had a good laugh. The bigger laughs came about 10 minutes later.

After cleaning up I’d given up on the meditating and was just enjoying a beer on the deck when my 14-year-old son came out with a look of undisguised mirth on his face. “Dad,” he said, “I should tell you that I was up on the next deck above eating chocolate ice cream, and some fell from my spoon and landed on you. When I heard you swear I couldn’t help it, I just ran away laughing.”

Well, everyone else laughed harder. For some reason I was disappointed that it was ice cream and not poop. Not sure why. Perhaps I’m warped.

Anyway, screw meditation. If it works for you, great. I don’t think I need it. Every time I lift weights it’s an act of supreme concentration, and during my pace-holding runs I’m learning how to put all my concentration into holding proper running form and pace. I’m learning by doing. I don’t need to enhance my calm or de-stress, because neither of those things are issues for me. I already engage in plenty of meditation; I just happen to be lifting heavy things while doing it.

– Originally published on

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"12 Years a Slave" Reminds Us that Slaves Didn't Win Freedom by Being Manly

A friend at Facebook (thanks Jean!) turned me on to this article from The Atlantic, a review of the new film (based on a true story), 12 Years a Slave. The reason this film - and this review of the film - appeals to me is that Director Steve McQueen offers a different take on the movie hero - traditionally a role that requires that a man "man-up," or become a "real man," which generally means to physically defeat one's tormentor or enemy.

Not so in this film, which is a fictionalized adaptation of the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery.

In Django Unchained, as is also true in Glory, manly strength leads to freedom and vengeance. In 12 Years a Slave, it serves only to harm those you care about.
When Northup escapes, it's not through violence, but because a white Canadian working on the plantation agreed to get word to the north. Northup's ordeal ends as abruptly as it began when an old white friend pulls up at the plantation with the sheriff. There's no hail of gunfire, only a hail of legalese. Nor is this a happy ending. No one can give him back his lost years with his wife, or missing his children grow up. Patsey, and many others, are still enslaved. The men who kidnapped him are never brought to justice. Northup has no manly triumph. '12 Years a Slave' doesn't see slavery as a trial that men must overcome on their way to being men, but as a systemic evil that leaves those in its grasp with no good choices.
I'm excited to see this film - it's rare that life on film is presented with the fully incomprehensible abruptness that we experience in real life. One day Northup is a happily married man making a living as a musician - the next he has been sold into slavery. And just as suddenly, 12 years later, through no heroic action on his part, he is once again a free man . . . but his life and his sense of the world is forever altered by his experience.

NPR did a short but interesting review of the film, and it has been reviewed by nearly every major newspaper and culture blog. It has a 7.9/10 rating at IMdB and a 95% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes (94% among views who are not critics).

12 Years a Slave's Reminder: Slaves Didn't Win Freedom by Being Manly

Unlike Glory or Django Unchained, Steve McQueen's film resists the notion that a slave could overcome the institution just by fully asserting his masculinity.

Noah Berlatsky | Oct 21 2013

Fox Searchlight

Hollywood is in general uncomfortable with race, but it likes heroic masculinity. It's no surprise, then, that films about slavery often end up being about men becoming men. Django Unchained is a basic revenge story, with Django taking up the phallic gun to blast the evil forces that have held him down and captured his wife. Glory is a standard military parable, with the weak and undisciplined black troops learning to be a deadly fighting force even as their boyish white commanding officer proves himself. "We're men," Denzel Washington declares before the final battle, for all the world as if, before they joined the regiment, they were something else.

Remarkably and honorably, 12 Years a Slave, based on Solomon Northup's 1841 autobiographical narrative, has a different story to tell. When the film opens, Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free musician, living in Saratoga, New York with his wife, son and daughter. He's a success and a grown-up; he doesn't need to learn to become a man. The narrative arc of the film isn't from powerlessness to power. It's the reverse.

Northup is courted by two men who promise him a touring gig, and then, after they've lured him to Washington, slip him a drug, knocking him unconscious. He wakes up in a cell, where he is viciously beaten on all fours while the slaver hits him with a stick from behind. Northup loses his former life, his dignity, even his self, as he is forced to take the name of a runaway slave, Platt. The entire sequence is a violation and unmanning—it's presented as a symbolic rape.

If we were working with the logic of Glory or Django, Northup would have to regain his manhood by standing up to his attackers and besting them in combat. That's not what happens here, though. Instead, Northup tries various ways to deal with the system. At first, he uses his education and skills to help his (very) relatively humane owner, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), with various engineering projects. Then, when he is harassed and attacked by Ford's overseer, he fights back, in a scene reminiscent of Frederick Douglass's autobiography, whipping the man who had intended to whip him. Where Douglass triumphed, though, Northup just ends up sold to a true sadist. As another slave, Eliza (Adepero Oduye), tells Northup, you can compromise yourself as you will, give the slave-owners your skills or your body. It doesn't matter. You're still a slave.

Eliza's speech has no parallels in Glory or Django, because when masculinity is the story, women are pushed to the sidelines. In Django, the main romance of the film is between Django and his white buddy; the second is between Django and the evil slave Stephen—and lagging far behind in third is the relationship between Django and his wife, who functions more as a prize than as a person. For its part, Glory barely has a female speaking role; like Django, all its energy goes into inter- and intra-racial male bonding.

12 Years a Slave though, doesn't present masculinity as a solution to slavery, and as a result it's able to think about and care about women as people rather than as accessories or MacGuffins. Other than Northup, in fact, the most vivid slave characters are female. There's Eliza, who is utterly devastated by the loss of her children. And there's Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), a phenomenal worker in the cotton fields who Northup's second sadistic owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), takes as his mistress. Patsey is raped by Epps, loathed by his jealous wife, and systematically abused, beaten, and tortured by both. In a terrifying scene, she wakes Northup up and begs him to take her to the marsh and drown her. "Do what I ain't got the strength to do myself," she pleads. "God is merciful and forgives merciful acts."

Northup, with a desperate callousness, refuses, asking her "How can you fall into such despair?"—though there's no question that he knows exactly how. Later, he is forced at gunpoint to lash her back bloody. In Django, manly strength leads to freedom and vengeance; here, it serves only to harm those you care about.

When Northup escapes, it's not through violence, but because a white Canadian working on the plantation agreed to get word to the north. Northup's ordeal ends as abruptly as it began when an old white friend pulls up at the plantation with the sheriff. There's no hail of gunfire, only a hail of legalese. Nor is this a happy ending. No one can give him back his lost years with his wife, or missing his children grow up. Patsey, and many others, are still enslaved. The men who kidnapped him are never brought to justice. Northup has no manly triumph. '12 Years a Slave' doesn't see slavery as a trial that men must overcome on their way to being men, but as a systemic evil that leaves those in its grasp with no good choices.

Manly triumph isn't to be sneered at in every case. The 54th Massachusetts of Glory really did fight with honor and transform Northern opinion about blacks—their courage really did matter. But seeing slavery solely as a test of masculinity not only erases women's experience; it ends up making men who don't overcome it responsible for their own oppression. If you were a man, such narratives say, you would fight back and kill them all with the music swelling, as Django does in Django Unchained. Django even explicitly refers to its title character as "exceptional"—he is better than all those others sunk in slavery. If you don't defeat your enemies like a man, the film seems to say, then you're not a man, you're a moral failure. Which is not that far from saying that victims are responsible for their victimhood.

At the end of the film, when Northup returns to his family, he starts stammering apologies—for his appearance, for crying, and, though he doesn't say it, for being captured and being unable to return to his family for so long. To which his wife, Anne (Kelsey Scott) replies, "You have absolutely nothing to apologize for." 12 Years a Slave doesn't see slavery as a trial that men must overcome on their way to being men, but as a systemic evil that leaves those in its grasp with no good choices. As a result, 12 Years a Slave is that rare film about slavery in which slaves don't have to become Hollywood "men" for their stories to matter.

Related Story: 

The Searing, Visceral 12 Years a Slave

Monday, October 21, 2013

Family Watches In Silence As Dad Checks Out Waitress

This is from The Onion, so it's satire, but satire is based in reality. In this case, a common reality. Don't be this guy.

Family Watches In Silence As Dad Checks Out Waitress

ISSUE 49•42 Oct 14, 2013 

CLEVELAND—Struggling not to openly show discomfort, family members dining with local man Louis Munson sat quietly on Sunday as Munson peered intently in the direction of Olive Garden waitress Layla Martinez. Munson, who first noticed the 23-year-old brunette as she walked past carrying another table’s pasta entrees, reportedly gazed at her for approximately 12 seconds, lingering on certain features of her anatomy while his fully aware wife, two sons, and daughter watched in silence. Though the family’s unease had largely passed by the end of the meal, sources say it was re-sparked when Munson suddenly noticed Martinez from across the restaurant bending down to tie her shoe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ed Yong - Sexism and Harassment in the Science-Writing World

Ed Yong (photo below) blogs at National Geographic's Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science blog here he does a weekly column of cool science-related articles from around the interwebs (I've got your missing links right here" - this week's is I've got your missing links right here (19 October 2013).

Before I continue, I want to mention that on the sidebar of his blog, Yong has this:

My wife, who makes it all possible  

I share this because Yong's personality and commitment to his wife is relevant to his comments on and coverage of a recent series of disturbing events in science journalism. This lends Yong more weight in his refutation of the behaviors described below.

A very well-known science writer and blogger, the Blogs Editor at Scientific American, and co-founder of - Bora Zivkovic - was accused by first one and then several science writers - all female - of sexual harassment.

The pattern is pretty distinct in each of their stories
[Bora] contacted her, showed interest in her work, met with her, and then proceeded to steer the conversation straight towards sex (such as repeatedly telling her he was a "very sexual person.")
This is all so effing disturbing as a man - I work with women who go through this is much less public ways. Often, as is the case with Kathleen Raven, this kind of harassment devolves into rape.

I am so proud of these women for speaking out and revealing the culture of control and power in which they work. And I applaud Ed Yong for featuring this story on his blog this weekend.

Ladybits have issued a call for submissions on the power of harassment.

So with that, here is the opening to this week's "missing links" column.

Sexism and harassment in the science-writing world

It’s been a bit of a week in the science-writing world. First, Scientific American blogger Danielle Lee wrote about an editor who asked her to write for free and called her a whore when she turned him down. SciAm took down the post with inconsistent explanations, prompting a fierce online response. Maryn McKenna sums up the story and I’d really recommend this post by Kate Clancy. The post is back up; the editor, fired.

In the wake of that, writer Monica Byrne accused Bora Zivkovic, a leading figure in the science blogging community, of harassment. He apologised, but concurrently other women stepped forward, including science writers Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven. The women are brave; their accounts, devastating. Raven’s is the most gut-wrenching thing I have read in recent memory. Trigger warnings apply.

The event has also prompted a lot of good pieces on gender and power issues in the science community. This is a non-exhaustive list, but: many good pieces on Ladybits; Melanie Tannenbaum on the psychology of impact vs. intent; Alice Bell on the nature of the sci-blogging community; Laura Helmuth with sage advice for people seeking mentorship (and those who can provide it), and more; Martin Robbins on keep-it-quiet-ism.

The whole thing also led to the heartbreaking #ripplesofdoubt hashtag as many people shared their stories of how pervasive harassment and sexism affects them. See Hope Jahren’s piece.

I’m pushing this to the foreground because it’s more important than any of the stuff below. We need to open our eyes. We need to ensure that our colleagues don’t have to go through this, and certainly not alone. We need to speak up about it because doing so will create a culture where people can speak up about it, where they can stand up and be supported. Not this. [emphasis added]

More coverage here, here, here.