March 30, 2010

Mentoring and Sexism

Guest blogger Tim W., has an understandable concern about men and mentoring. If you'd like to connect with Tim after reading this, send an email to me at earl at and I'll pass it along.

For the past 25 years, I have been doing gender equity educational work in middle and high schools in Arizona. My interest in gender issues began in graduate school (mid-1970s) when I took a sociology course on gender. At that time was mostly about women/femininity with an occasional article on men/masculinity. After graduation I joined a men's group and also became aware of the small, pro-feminist, men's movement in the US. These involvements helped me realize both the political/power dimensions in gender relationships and, specifically, how men have been restricted and hurt by traditional gender roles.

Some of the beliefs and assumptions I was brought up with as a young man include: A) men have to be strong (physically and emotionally) and can't be vulnerable (such as asking for help or admitting you're scared/uncertain); B) the best way to handle conflict is by being (at the minimum) assertive, and (if need be) aggressive or violent; C) the best measure of success for men is money, power, and material possessions (including an attractive partner). My interest in your Man-Making website and blog grew out of a concern adult men may be unconsciously mentoring boys and young men in ways that perpetuate those views of manhood.

In my student presentations, I emphasize work, careers, and financial independence for girls/young women (traditional male roles) and I emphasize parenting and homemaking responsibilities and rewards for the boys/young men (traditional female roles). For both I encourage them to consider all the jobs/careers available to them, rather than restricting themselves to traditional male or female jobs/careers. I invite all men who are mentoring, or those with boys in your lives, to do the same. Watch for those subtle sexist messages in your exchanges with young men.

Keep up the great blog,


For the record, I believe that all men are mentoring, whether they know it or not, because adolescent males are always watching and listening to men.

For those who would like more information on this topic, Tim recommends the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS). On their site you can also find a great piece titled:12 Steps Men Can Take to End Sexism. This would be a great conversation piece between you and a young guy or group of guys.

March 26, 2010

Rite of Passage Adventure Weekend

I am just back from a long and beautiful weekend in a remote corner of the Arizona desert. There 23 men, and 5 Journeymen (last year's initiates) put 11 adolescent males through an ancient Rite of Passage experience. As it has always been, it was a process whose core purpose is for men to intentionally launch young males on their journey to manhood. The weekend creates a clear line in the sand of a boy's life, and then, after appropriate trials and training, celebrates his crossing over that line and stepping into the world of men. These kinds of Rite of Passage experiences help a male to answer one of the powerful questions of his life, When did you become a man?

 When did you become a man?

It was a weekend full of joy, playfulness, some tears, lots of laughs, and time spent around fires with very good men. The initiates were surrounded by intense, focused, and caring men who took the business of initiation seriously. There was appropriate drama, sufficient trials for the initiates, lessons about manhood laid out and learned, commitments made, constant blessings for men and younger males, and just enough food to keep it all rolling along.

You can see just a few of the pictures at this link:  The pictures don't begin to tell the whole story, and will look a little strange to those who weren't there, but you'll get the idea.

In the end, it was apparent to all the new Journeymen had changed. No one can say how deeply the experience penetrated or how permanent the effects would be, but everyone could see that some boyishness was left behind and new men were hatched. Men too were transformed. Hearts were softened, and as it often happens when a man has occasion to revisit his adolescence, sadness, joy, and healing occurred.

To keep this passage experience alive and working on the Journeyman, we will follow it up with monthly Men's Hut activities. These events are fun, challenging, and sometimes teach the participants (all of them) something about being a man.

The new J-Men will also get a chance each month to sit in a circle with other J-Men and adult male mentors. There they can build on the intimacy created on their passage weekend and talk about the challenges of their lives, newly formed intentions, and their unique path toward manhood.

Go to to learn more about The Desert Men's Council and our approach to this work.

My hope for my male readers is, at some point in your life, you get a chance to be part of a similar experience. No matter your age, being in a tribe of males does put you in your "right place" in the masculine order of things. For me as an elder, I was gifted with wonderful and cross-generational connections, a comfortable sense of membership in a male tribe, and clarity about my job description as a man. Not bad for 3 nights in a tent in the desert!

March 20, 2010


I love hearing about interesting programs and iMentor fits that criteria. It is a New York City based program that believes:
(1) even the busiest, most successful professionals have time to be quality mentors and that (2) formal mentoring programs can flourish in the most isolated, low-income, and under-served communities.

Since 1999, iMentor has been cultivating relationships between young people and volunteer adult mentors through using and interesting approach of e-mail correspondence and in-person meetings. Mentors and mentees develop their relationship using a combination of weekly email correspondence and monthly meetings at iMentor-sponsored events. iMentor even provides what they call, "Writing Prompts," questions that guides mentors and mentees through discussion of, "topics critical to relationship-building."

To-date, iMentor has matched over 5,000 mentor-mentee pairs, partnering with 30 NYC schools and after school programs in four of New York City's five boroughs. That's a pretty impressive record. You can learn more about iMentor at

If you have a young male relative or know a boy far away but within email reach, consider how even consistent email connection with an occasional phone call could extend your positive influence in his life. eMentoring works.

March 16, 2010

Man Collective - Oxford

I just got an email from Alex Linsley, one of the guys who started the Man Collective at Oxford University. Man Collective is holding a meeting called The Gathering in London on the 27th of March to ". . . unite the range of guys involved in UK men's work". He was asking if I could give The Gathering some exposure on the Man-Making blog.

On the Man Collective homepage it says, "Man Collective was conceived to offer guys the opportunities and the tools to step up to their innate brilliance. Mediocrity sucks! We want to create linked communities of men who live powerful, inspiring, playful lives they love." Wonderful!

I'm not exactly sure what these two guys are up to, but it makes my heart sing to see young men like Alex, at age 20, stepping up and promoting a broader definition of manhood. What I know to be true is anytime men gather in a safe place and risk speaking their truth, better men result. In doing so, men become man-makers for each other, and ultimately, that is very good for boys.

From where I sit as the publisher of this blog, I'm aware of other groups like Man Collective springing up across the globe. It gives me the distinct feeling that a "manhood renaissance" is happening about the planet.

You can learn more about Man Collective and read an invitation to The Gathering at the MC website. You can also listen to Alex below as he calls men to gather around the belief that more, "positive, loving, powerful men in the world is a good thing."

March 12, 2010

Wimps, Barbarians, and Virtuous Men

I was sent a lead to an amazing article titled, Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown. It was written in 2003 and appeared in the winter, 2003 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. While just a little outdated, the ideas expressed by its author, Dr. Terrence Moore, are very relevant for those of us thinking about creating a positive and realistic vision of manhood to offer our boys. You'll have to dig a little in his somewhat idea-packed article, but if you do, there are some real gems

Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word "virtue" is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be "manly." As Aristotle understood it, virtue is a "golden mean" between the extremes of excess and deficiency. Too often among today's young males, the extremes seem to predominate. One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies. The other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don't be a barbarian. Don't be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man.

I'm not at all convinced that you can identify "a man" by what's left over after removing barbaric and wimpy tendencies, but those two poles do show up in the lives of today's boys. Dr. Moore goes to some lengths to describe the characteristics of boys who are wimps, those who have chosen the barbarian path, and the cultural forces that push boys in those directions. He says, for example, "A close look at the culture in which boys are raised reveals not only that they are no longer encouraged to become vigorous and responsible men, but also that practically every factor affecting their development is profoundly hostile to the ideals and practices of traditional manhood and the painstaking steps necessary to attain it. The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men."

Dr. Moore looks back at previous eras when there were easily identifiable rites of passage that helped turn men into boys. He says modern culture is lacking in those passage experiences and he feels today's boys  " . . . mill about their adolescent and post-adolescent years lacking any formal, approved rite of passage that would turn them into men. The American frontier disappeared in 1890. The call of the sea did not survive much longer. All-male colleges, where young men used to compete against each other in the lecture halls and on the playing field, can now be counted on the fingers of one hand."
Other than a return to the boy civilizing forces of the old days however, Dr. Moore is missing a prescription for turning boys into men that will work in today's world. That said, there is a lot of value in considering what used to work as we try to shape man-making experiences and processes for our boys. When you have a moment, give the article a look and see what you think.

 Dr. Moore currently teaches history at Hillsdale College. A former Marine, he was, for seven years, principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colorado, one of the highest ranked public schools in the nation.

March 7, 2010

How to Start a Man-Making Group

This is a very funny, but instructive video is about both leadership and how to start a "movement." Given that new Man-Making initiatives are sometimes hard to launch, I believe the lessons in this "Dancing Guy" training might just inspire you to action. You may be very surprised to learn who the "real" leader is when getting a movement started.

The young males in your world are waiting for a "movement" where men show up to support and guide them. There are clear instructions here for how to get started. Let me know if it works.

If the clip doesn't show up, click here.

March 3, 2010

New Warrior - New Zealand


The Mankind Project men in New Zealand have put out a powerful video describing the impact of their New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). This is a program of The Mankind Project (MKP) being put on in communities all around the world. I did the NWTA in 2002 and can echo what the men in the video below say about the experience. I recommend it to any man. You can likely find an MKP center near you on The Mankind Project website.

On the MKP New Zealand website they make a wonderful statement: We are very proud to be part of this community of Men, and to be changing the world one man at a time. My bottom line, when it comes to men showing up for boys is, any good man for any boy. That said, men who are intentionally stepping into the work of becoming better men, make awfully good role models.

If the clip doesn't show up, click here.