February 28, 2012

Blokes Celebrating What It Means To Be Male

Brian Mier, a brother in mission and Men's Health Educator in Melbourne, Australia. He told me about BDO, or Bloke's Day Out. In the city of Geelong, the second biggest city in the Australian State of Victoria, some motivated man-makers from Barwon Health, a regional health service, who together with a number of other local agencies are creating the Blokes Day Out event.

A primary purpose of BDO is to honor the males in their community, and the event is a week-long celebration of what it means to be male. Here is how the sponsors describe the role of males in their community: Blokes are woven into the social fabric of our community and their lives, choices, thoughts and actions help define what it means to live in the Barwon region. Men have stories of tragedy and triumph; love and laughter. Boys and teens add to our rich youth culture, fathers help shape our future generations, men go to work, they participate in the community, and older men give us wisdom and knowledge. 

On the BDO website, the stated purposes of the event include:
  • Celebration - Of men, boys and fathers contributing to the shape of our community
  • Participation - Promoting the positive involvement of blokes with their families, friends; the community
  • Family - Promoting safe, healthy and respectful relationships
  • Health - Creating awareness and promotion of men’s health and well-being
  • Fun - Encouraging boys and men to connect with their family and mates to have a good time
BDO was launched in 2010, and the 2011 event saw over 1,200 men and families participate. Bloke’s Week, runs from Friday, March 23rd to Sunday, April 1st, 2012. The good people at Barwon Health are promoting a full agenda of activities and are expecting another great turnout.
As part of BDO this year, the local White Box Gallery has initiated what they call a Postcard Project titled, To A Man That Really Matters. The idea is to write a message to a male you know who has had a positive impact on your life. They suggest that man could be your dad, son, brother, uncle, partner, mate or neighbor. On the “postcard,” you can thank the man, and share with him the story of his influence on you. The beauty of this idea is that the postcards will be exhibited at the Courthouse Arts Gallery and shared with the entire community during the week of BDO. I’m pretty sure those stories will offer a heartfelt look into the caring male heart of the men of Barwon.

I love the idea of a “. . . celebration of what it means to be male.” Just hearing about another event to recognize and honor men for their important roles in the life of their community, families and relationships, gives MY masculine esteem a boost. I can only imagine the positive consequences for the men and community of Barwon.

Could you or an organization you belong to
sponsor a similar event?

For more information on Bloke’s Day Out, you can go to the BDO website, or visit the BDO Facebook page. You can also contact Peter Kelly, one of the organizers, by email. Peter says if any men reading this would like to contribute a postcard, he welcomes contributions from around the world. The format of submission can be a letter, picture, poster, certificate, video, anything that can either be mailed or emailed to him. If you're inclined, send him your entry prior to March, 16th, and your celebration of an influential man in your life will join the others on the wall.



LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message.

February 25, 2012

The Male Wish List

What a wonderfully simple idea! Why don't we just ask men what they want? That is what a couple of good men decided to do using the Twitter platform. From that powerful intention, an unusual and global chain of events has transpired to allow this very masculine seedpod of feelings, hungers, and dreams to be opened into the world.

As the story goes, UK based Tony Martin (@redfoxcountry on Twitter) had the very creative idea of starting a “male wish list” using the Twitter hashtag #malewishlist. His US based pal, Rick Belden, author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood, so liked the idea that in addition to posting his own tweets, he started inviting men from around the world to contribute. Soon, a running archive of tweets began to accumulate. On his blog, Rick Belden says, The results were outstanding. It was great to see so many men sharing their most heartfelt desires in such a free and spontaneous way, and as the list grew, I felt I was beginning to see the formation of a running archive of communiqu├ęs from the deepest inner lives of men.

Sadly, when hashtag responses slow down, they fall off Twitter’s search radar pretty quickly. As posting slowed, the Male Wish List became hidden from view and, for all practical purposes, invisible. Fortunately, a friend of Rick's named Peter de Kock, from the Netherlands, and one of the contributors to the list, had been compiling his own collection of the original tweets from #malewishlist. Peter put his collection on his blog, and in doing so, has preserved this snapshot into the masculine heart.

Here is a sampling of the Male Wish List from Peter's collection:
  • To know and trust that I can be strong and powerful without hurting others.
  • To not be assigned the role of combat soldier by gender in time of war.
  • Not to be regarded as culpable or responsible for bad acts committed by other men or groups of men, now or in the past.
  • To not feel like I'm a rapist every time a woman walks the same route home as me after 9 PM.
  • To always remember failure and rejection do not reduce or diminish me as a man, but are pathways into my own strength and wisdom.
  • To know our real (masculine) strengths and not be afraid to use them.
  • To connect more openly with other men and allow their support into my life. I need to hear men speak from their deep inner self. I want to know all men better.
  • To not be pigeonholed as a man who is only interested in sex and beer.
  • To make a living doing work that truly moves me.
  • To live in a world in which cooperating, collaborating, and caring are valued and rewarded as highly as competing and winning.
  • To feel that my sensitivity is an asset rather than a weakness to be feared and hidden from others.
  • Being vulnerable, experiencing shame, and having friends to share about it without being judged or fixed.
  • I want the good men to start showing up for young males. I'm tired of hearing about the creepy ones!
  • To love myself enough to feel tired and take some rest instead of violating my boundaries for the sake of work, work, work.
  • To feel, without having to have words for what I feel.
  • To smile at a child in public or enjoy watching kids play in the park without being seen as some kind of threat or weirdo.
  • To live in a world in which men and boys who've been abused feel free to talk about it, and have the words to do so. To live in a world in which support for men and boys who've been abused means more than just words and candles.
  • To live in a world in which greed, avarice, venal stupidity, and amoral self-interest are punished rather than rewarded.
  • For every man to have the support he needs from other men. Far too many of us are still trying to go it alone.
  • To be able to cry without shame or fear when feeling sadness, grief, disappointment, weakness, or loss.
  • To live in a world in which tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity are no longer regarded as primarily feminine qualities.
  • To be Unapologetically Ourselves as men.

I feel pretty confident that simply reading through this list has stirred your own collection of male feelings, hungers, and dreams you could add to this list.

I think this is part of a grand re-visioning of manhood we can all, collectively, create.

Don't you have something to add?

If there is a wish from deep in your masculine soul you'd like to contribute, you can put it up as a tweet with the hashtag #malewishlist on Twitter, add it to the comments of this blog post, or sent it along to me and I'll add it to the comments for you.

If you'd like to communicate with Rick Belden, you can reach him via his website, or at his Twitter page.

Peter de Kock can be reached via his website, or by visiting his Twitter page.



LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message.

February 17, 2012

Absent and The Father Wound

An engaged and loving father is the most powerful man-making force on the planet. The opposite is also true. When fathers are absent, physically or emotionally, the wound that results is profound. It touches a man to his core and forever leaves him with the question, “Am I good enough as a person and a man?" All men long to hear the biblical pronouncement from a father, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” The truth is that too many men and young males did not and do not hear it, and we are all paying the price as a result.

In my research for the Man-Making book, countless men offered up clear statements of their sense of masculine insufficiency as one of the barriers keeping them from being involved with and supporting young males. Too many men said they had been poorly prepared for manhood, their fathers had been unavailable, and as a result, they felt, as men, they didn’t have anything to offer boys. In the most tragic stories, some men felt such low masculine-esteem they believed their involvement with a boy would be damaging or hurtful to the young man. You can be certain that behind many of those stories is an invisible but still-open father wound.

In the Rite of Passage and group-mentoring work men are now doing with young males, an all too common story is about pathologically disengaged or abusive fathers or dads who were simply never part of a boy's life. In the emotionally safe and supportive place that's created, if it's time, young males have the emotional room and permission to give up their deeply shielded and buried grief about their father wound. Often this shows up as powerful anger or deep sobbing. The tears in the eyes of so many of the men who hear these boy-stories are damp testimony to the pervasiveness of this father wound, and the core emptiness of the men that carry it. I have my own story about a present, but unavailable, shaming and emotionally terrorizing, alcoholic father.
Nearly every gang member I’ve dealt with had inadequate or no fathering
and little or no elder male mentoring.
Michael Gurian in the book The Wonder of Boys

Fathers Unite is an organization dedicated to equal rights for both parents in divorce, and fighting to keep fathers involved with their children. On their website you can find a description of the personal and social costs of fatherlessness. Here is a very small sample. Children from fatherless homes are:
  • 5 times more likely to commit suicide
  • 32 times more likely to run away
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  • 14 times more likely to commit rape
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
  • 20 times more likely to end up in prison

Into this masculine reality comes Justin Hunt with his film Absent. Justin already has built a solid reputation from his previous documentary, American Meth, a heart-wrenching tale of the impact of the methamphetamine epidemic in the United States. In Absent, his approach is just as potent. Justin says, “The father wound is so deep and so all-pervasive in so many parts of the world that its healing could well be the most radical social reform conceivable.” With Absent, Justin intends to start that healing.

Absent is winning rave reviews because of the honest and intimate way it talks about this painful issue and resulting damage to the collective male psyche. In the film, Hunt interviews prominent figures from the world of men’s work, and conducts brutally honest and emotionally charged exchanges with prostitutes, homeless people, and a world champion boxer. There is one especially moving conversation with James Hetfield of the legendary heavy metal band, Metallica. If you REALLY want a sample of what a father wound sounds like, read a few of the 175 letters to fathers that have been submitted to the Absent website. You can learn more about the film, order a DVD, contact Justin, or even schedule a screening at the Absent website.

Viewing this film (with a group of men friends) will stir your male psyche, greatly increase your male-literacy, and just possibly increase the likelihood you’d find the courage to become a man-maker in the life of a boy with a gaping father wound.



If the video doesn't show, you can view it at this link.


LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message.

February 11, 2012

Boys, Bikes, and The Pack


Dave K., a men’s group pal, sent me this amazing photo. On Vashon Island (near Seattle, Washington), a tree grows carrying a strange passenger – an old bike. There are a variety of stories about how the bike got into the tree. One story goes, a boy went to war in 1914 and left his bike chained to a tree. He never came home and the family left the bike there as a memorial to the fallen soldier. Another less romantic version is that a kid simply put his bike in the tree decades ago and never picked it up, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike. Then, of course there are those who think the whole think is a hoax and just a tourist attraction.

Apparently, you can go to the Country Store and Gardens, across the street from the Bicycle Tree, and get a copy of the "original" history of this island legend written by Aunt Vy (Vy Bie), the woman who lived it and wrote it.While there will always be some controversy, and maybe even mystery about when the bike was left and by whom, the photo of that bike touched something deep in me.

Do you remember having a bike as a kid? My bike memory, when I was 6 or 7, was the boy equivalent of getting a driver’s license. That ride opened up new neighborhood territory, fresh vistas, got me away from my house, and, almost more importantly, got me access to the cool boy pack of young guys who also had gotten bikes. In the summer, we’d swarm the neighborhood, test our skills on rugged park terrain, terrorize other kids, and pedal till we couldn’t any more.

Boys, adolescent males, and even men are simply pack animals. Tribe, team, squad, or troop, guys are comfortable in a swarm and have been for centuries. Were you part of a boy tribe? What was your core experience of being on a team? Do you support a sports team today and, if so, what's in it for you? Who is in your male tribe today, if you have one, and how do you feel if you are without one? Leave your story in the comments section of this blog post below or send them to me and I’ll add them for you.



LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message.

February 7, 2012

Making Mentoring SAFE

A few months back, I reached a limit of sorts, when the news about Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State tragedy appeared. In this tabloid “news” world we live in, we are always hearing about molesters and the layers of tragedy they create. I titled that blog post, “I’m really angry about creepy guys,” and I still am, a little.

The truth is there are so many more wonderful stories about really good men showing up for young males with inspirational tales of lives transformed. But sadly, the dominant media focus always seems to be on the sordid. I know it’s a good thing to shine the light of awareness in the dark places, but how about some balance? I’ll be trying to bring some of that balance in future posts. If you have a story about good men or a man involved in boys' lives, please send it along to me. The world needs to hear these stories.

The good news is that youth-serving organizations everywhere are learning how to do a better job of screening applicants. This creates more protection for young people and the organization. It makes parents more comfortable, and the right prospective volunteers feel safe in applying. When it’s clear an organization is using state of the art background checking and other forms of vetting, volunteers know they, too, will be protected from guilt by association should something or someone go terribly wrong.

One organization in the vanguard of this movement is Friends for Youth, Inc., out of Redwood City, CA. They have been in the mentoring business for a quarter of a century and, out of that experience, they have produced an amazing book titled, SAFE (Screening Applicants for Effectiveness): Guidelines to Prevent Child Molestation in Mentoring and Youth-Serving Organizations. It’s the most current and comprehensive work on the subject I’ve seen in a while. It covers a literature review on the issue of child molestation, offers examples of and instruction in best-practice screening AND monitoring of applicants, and describes state-of-the-art molestation prevention tools and resources. The SAFE book is a good read for anyone who wants to understand what it means to have solid organizational integrity when it comes to protecting kids and the good adults who want to support them. You can order the SAFE book on the Friends for Youth, Inc. website.

As an indication the commitment by Friends for Youth to helping organizations and protecting kids, they are offering a free webinar on this important topic. It’s being offered on Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2012, from 10:00 AM to 11:15 AM (PST). The webinar is open to anyone who cares enough to be interested. Visit their website Webinar page for more information and to register.

In making involvement with young people SAFE, perhaps it will remove some of the fear of involvement that results in long organizational wait-lists of young guys. Young males are hoping someone like you might come forward and hang out with them for a while, maybe be a man-maker in someone's life!



LIKE: If you enjoy this blog, please visit the Man-Making Facebook page and click the "Like" button.

TWEET: Sent this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, go to this link for a free subscription.

CONTACT: Send Earl a message.