Who says men won’t talk about feelings?
Popular opinion would suggest that men: have a hard time opening up, are taught to hide their feelings by societal influences, or just aren’t “programmed” that way. Regardless of what the motivation for the stereotype is, as society modernizes the question “what does it means to be a man?” increases with complexity. Think it’s simple? Try to define what “being a man is” right now. This statement intensifies even more when considering other factors such as cultural influences, gender identity, intersections of race and culture, specifically in the Black community. Growing up into a Black man, I was pulled in a thousand directions about what actions were acceptable for a man to do or not do. Do be strong, don’t cry, do fight, don’t let anyone insult your honor, do pursue every woman you can, do not ask for help etc. Embodying these ideas and behaviors have destroyed relationships, caused personal turmoil, and probably created more insecurities than strengths.
If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is that if I feel some type a way, chances are, there is someone else that does too. I gained a great deal of comfort in this truth upon attending a mentor of mines,(Brian Heat’s) workshop in Maryland, about redefining manhood. I got to build with men of ages and backgrounds challenging their own ideals of manhood. So contrary to the conventional “manhood” instructions, upon return to Chicago I reached out for the help of my fellow brothers. Not for aid, but for their presence. I put out a call to many of the men who are leaders in the Chicago artistic & activist community,to come to an open forum to talk about what “Being a Man” means today. I didn’t have a mission statement, specific goal, or expectation, but I suppose it was with some hope of clarification, healing, growth, and community improvement. several of the women in the community felt let down by the men that surround them regarding accountability (of each other), street harassment, misogyny, etc.
I held the first meeting with the simple topic of “Re-Defining Manhood, What does it mean to be a man?”. The interesting thing was that with only 5 participants, a 1.5 hour discussion literally extended to an all-day event. Once provided the platform each individual was well equip and essentially unleashed the floodgates on their experience processing one simple question “What does it mean to be a Man?” As our numbers increase, I truly realize how something as simple as providing a safe space can impact a community tenfold. Especially a community that is often thought of as “not the Feeling type” yet seemingly never asked “How they feel”. If I had to describe the Manhood Discussion Forum today, I would say: it is a safe space meeting group that allows Men (& those who identify as Men) to openly process their stance on controversial topics related to manhood in a modernizing world. And we still don’t have the answers, but at least we are actively asking.
Contact: JordanHolmes.firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries on how to join up.