It’s time we got our heads screwed on straight about the so-called ”patriarchy.”
Men have always been my biggest supporters throughout life: running, military, promotions, continued schooling. I think they are great! :)
A good man is a good husband, a good father, a good son, and a good brother.
It's that simple.
I also rubbed me the wrong way when Reeves and Emba talked about the need for a new masculinity. Why create a new category that will certainly have its own exclusions? Why not just focus on being good people who do good and let a million flowers bloom as people develop their particular strengths?
How to be a good person? We could do worse than aim for the Stoic virtues from 2000 years ago — a guide that, given the recent Stoic renaissance, seems to be resonating.
Bowen, thank you, brother. It's refreshing to read present moment reflections on these things. It's clear that you spend many moments present.
and it's something special to see your list of men you respect and trust.
blessings on your path.
Well done Bowen, you outdid yourself on this essay. As the mom of two adult sons, I am thankful there are more and more folks stepping up to be great mentors and role models to them.
You mentioned you prefer the word culture and this resonates with me. We can say patriarchy, establishment, or whatever but, as you point out, there are so many layers to what that means and how we came to be at this point in history that we need a more encompassing word. Culture means a lot of things.
Thanks for this great article.
So much to unpack here BD. Kudos for taking this on. I love this quote from Kim Stanley Robinson you referenced: “that we were all doing our best at the time, we got what we got as we went along, and rather than spend more time lamenting the past, we’d be better served by working what’s next.”
With so many things. 👍
I will answer question #1. A "good man" is all men. Some are connected well to their creational design, others not so. However, a man who honors God, His Word, and all women (dominant or not) is highly regarded in my book. When one respects their creational design, this man honors the primary male - God the Father.
I've always believed being a good human is more important than the polarity of sex to define one's role models. Which might be why I've never understood the whining by all those toxic masculinity types. My ex-brother-in-law was one, and my god, what a petulant, arrogant ass. I tried to dissuade my nephew from idolizing the jackass but to no avail. Sadly his mother (my sister) was so damaged by that marriage that she was also of no help to show her son the error in his beliefs. Therefore in the small circle of family, all one can do to is try and be the best decent person one can be, then hopefully others in the family will take note as they blunder their way in and out of bad life choices.
Choosing a role model is no easy task since everyone is a human prone to mistakes. But if pressed I'd have to say mine have always been various friends I've met along the road of life. None were famous. Just regular folks uplifting others.
Hey Bowen, thanks for the mention! I love you too.
A vigorous and courageous essay, Bowen. Thanks for tagging me. Also, hilarious: “I know not one loser, zero, failure to launch, 4chan troll, or basement-dwelling incel.” I did meet some Bernie bros in 2016, but largely I agree with you.
As for your discussion questions... It's cliche to say it, but I think Barack Obama is a great model of positive masculinity. Ambitious, driven, sexy, but also a consummate family man. Not a whiff of scandal about his presidency, which is really saying something these days. I'm sure there is plenty about the Obama family that we don't see or haven't seen. But by nearly all accounts, Barack is a fine target to aim at.
I have a poor relationship with my father (slowly getting better, but still troubled), and I've often gravitated to women mentors. My graduate advisor, Sue, transformed my life. Many of my closest friends are women. But I've known some fine men who are not celebrities. Paul Olson, a Shakespeare scholar at the University of Nebraska, was like a father to me during my PhD program -- and he's still an affirming presence in my life in his early 90s. Two of my undergraduate professors still keep in touch and cheer me on in their own way (I need that sometimes). And I find much to admire in two of my uncles who have each weathered great personal misery yet have found very different sources of resilience. One is a devout Christian, an eminently gracious and accepting man. The other is gay and an atheist, but ironically the best practitioner of unconditional love that I know. It was great to connect with each of them -- and to give them a manly hug -- during my recent trip to Montana.
Your first question is, I think, unanswerable if we accept a plurality of masculinities. There can't be a singular definition of "good" or "man." In that case, I think we're likely talking about less gender-specific qualities, like compassion and honesty and generosity. But I've wondered, for instance, about the very one-sided narratives we get in a series like Rebel Girls, which sometimes mentions "good" men as allies, but often glosses over their importance. For instance, I've wondered if a truly progressive version of the RGB story might give equal weight to her husband Marty, who made some sacrifices to allow Ruth's rise, but also seemed to find a way to be happy. He was no repressed dominator. Presumably Ruth also helped him feel that way, despite the fact that it was always her star in ascendancy. It's unfortunate that the feminist alternative to patriarchy often feels zero sum. Marty isn't an historic figure, and I'm not arguing that he ought to be given equal space in American lore, but I think he could be a role model for other men if his story were better understood.
Increasingly, I find that I don't really want to go down in history. But I would like to be remembered as a good father and family member. As you say, it's up to me to tell that story myself. But I could also use other stories like Marty's to orient my own.
Perhaps there is no dearth of good men to emulate, but still a struggle to find them thanks to, among other things, backwards looking recommendation algorithms and other systemic rewards bestowed on adherents to the Default models you’ve described.
I’m only a few chapters into The Will to Change by Bell Hooks, but the thesis so far has been that impersonal cultural forces indoctrinate men toward becoming repressed dominators. It stands to reason some of those forces are just ideas of “what sells” that make it a little harder to find people like those on your list.
So thanks for making a list and making it a little easier!
This puts ‘the patriarchy’ into a different perspective for me. Very interesting, thank you!
Great read Bowen! It compels me to comment. I grew up in an environment of working class undereducated alcoholics-save for my brother that probably saved me. I read a piece long ago about young successful entrepreneurs. One said, make a list of all your friends, identify the deadbeats and lose their numbers. My life flashed before my eyes. As an adolescent, I admired those who were the toughest fighters and heaviest drinkers. My turnaround came when I joined my brother in martial arts at thirteen. He is now a fifth degree blackbelt-I quit three years later at brown belt level. I'll get to the questions eventually after my critique and question for you. Are you California sober? The likes of the Deep Reset retreats are great for those with the financial means and I'm suspicious they attract the already indoctrinated-more like a love-in than therapy. I suggest buy a sauna, some good books and take a cold shower. As for citing an essay in that legacy media rag Wapo? I'm sure the qualification for a female journalist is 'man-hater'. Yes the term patriarchy does have negative connotations and the term gentrification really means moving into poorer core areas because I can't afford to live in the burb's. And Leave Karl Marx alone already FFS, he's been dead for well over a hundred years. If he lived in the 60's he'd be smoking weed, protesting the Vietnam war and hanging around with the merry pranksters. Congrats on the Evryman Retreat for hosting GBTQ+ men. Not sure how the Q differs from GBT and have no clue WTF + is! Sure adds new meaning to we got your back. They also left out the A which could be considered discriminatory in Canada these days-BTW Bowen your essay clearly defining men could land you in the hoosegow here in Kanucistan. I looked up Headwaters Outdoor School. In 2023 they are still testing for covid, suggesting you take the jab, recommending distancing and requiring masks (nice thick ones to rebreathe you co2) in certain situations. Maybe they should rename it Camp Fear? I'm really sincerely joking here-Tim would make a good role model for a kid aspiring to be a certain iconic figure at Macy's during the Christmas holidays. Again, enjoying your writing. To the moon Bowen!
1. Literally, having a penis. A good person could be either sex
2. Jordan Peterson. I don't agree with him on all points but I think he is an admirable template. Interestingly, Bill Maher said he looked like the Marlborough Man