Archive by Author

Poor Pitiful Men: The Martyr Complex of the American Husband

In this week’s guest post, Hugo Schwyzer responds to Lisa Hickey’s article, “Are Husbands Really Assholes,” where he muses on the idea of what constitutes a “good” husband and what responsibilities men must shoulder in efforts to fulfill the role of a partner in a relationship.

Most men, as far as I can tell, do want to be good husbands. And most of them really don’t know what that entails. But that inability to figure out how to be the good husbands we dream of being is not our wives’ problem to solve. The source of our frustrated inability to connect with our spouses and long-term girlfriends isn’t their elevated expectations or some innate male biological trait that serves as an impediment to self-awareness. The problem is that most men are raised with what is often called the “Guy Code.”

The Guy Code, which boys learn from their male peers and older men, prizes action rather than words. It teaches boys, as the sociologists Deborah David and Robert Brannon pointed out decades ago, to be highly competitive “sturdy oaks” with little vocabulary for anything other than ambition or anger. The Guy Code teaches men how to pursue women, how to court, and how to charm; it teaches us nothing about how to be in an actual relationship with a woman once we’ve succeeded in catching her. (If you’re getting an image of a dog who looks bewildered and helpless when he’s finally managed to catch the cat he’s been chasing, you’re not far off the mark.)

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My Kid Would Never…

Our third guest post for The Current Conscience comes from NBC News correspondent, Kate Snow. In her piece, entitled “My Kid Would Never…” Snow offers a parent’s experience of encountering and dealing with the reality of kid and teenaged bullying. She explores what it means for kids of confront and resist bullying and what it means as a parent, to teach and guide her kids to stand up for themselves and others, when bullied.

My daughter is just five. Every day she proudly trots out to wait for the yellow school bus with a big Spiderman backpack overwhelming her small frame. She loves all the Marvel superheroes.

I distinctly remember the day she got off the bus and told me there was an older boy who was taunting her, bullying her, telling her: “Girls can’t like Spiderman” or “That’s a BOY backpack”. I think it hurt me more than it hurt her. And I couldn’t believe it had started already. In kindergarten. What’s it going to be like when she’s in high school? I wondered. How do I teach my daughter and my 8-year-old son to stand up for themselves?
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When You Trust and He Doesn’t

This past year, I have made a great number of changes in my life, all for the better. And in the process, I have learned a lot about myself and also about how I want to form all types of relationships. However, I am not always able to escape the ghosts of my past in terms of former behaviors.

When we change for the better, we don’t necessarily want to be reminded of how we used to be. We like to look forward and embrace the better version of ourselves. One area where that’s hard to control is when we are on the receiving end of the very behavior we have worked so hard to overcome.
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On Women’s Rights: Yeah, Yeah, Blah, Blah, Blah. Whatever.

Last week, I was having a conversation with friend, when she made mention of a mutual friend, who has been generally very supportive of my writing about women. She shared with me that he saw my writing and advocacy on behalf of women as an “overreaction,” that I was overly emotional about it and that my views on what women really face in our culture is overblown.

As much as I may be frustrated by my friend’s opinion and angered that he is so dismissive of what women face, as a man, I don’t deal with the same kind of dismissal that women are subject to.

In their case it’s personal.
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Treating Men Like Four-Year-Olds

I’ve always said that it’s a generally fantastic experience to be a man in our culture. This is because, in comparison to women, we men get way more room to be ourselves or do what is most comfortable for us. One of the areas in life where men are most coddled is how we are permitted to emotionally express ourselves.

Specifically, I am talking about the excuses that women make for men who lack emotional follow-through. For me, emotional follow-through is about capability in completely and clearly expressing emotions or emotional responsibilities–whether that means someone apologizing in a heartfelt way, expressing affection, etc. I’m not talking about extraordinary expressions of emotion, rather I am addressing the most basic forms of emotional follow-through like, “I love you” and “I’m sorry.”
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I Don’t Want To Have Kids. Get Over It.

There is a script in my life that repeats itself over and over again: I tell someone, a friend, colleague, family member, that I don’t want to have kids and with rare exception, I hear the following, “Oh no, you have to have kids, you’d be a great father! You’re just saying that now, but you’ll change your mind.”

I have known from a young age that I wasn’t meant to and didn’t want to have kids–it’s just not part of my life. I understand why people would have given me the advice that I might change my mind when I was 18 years old. But now that I’m 32, I wonder when are these people going to believe me and trust that I know what I want.

Why don’t we trust people when they decide that they don’t want to have kids?
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Why We Need To Stop Saying “Calm Down” and “You’re Crazy”

Most people don’t enjoy witnessing someone they know experiencing a distressing moment or being agitated. What usually happens when most of us see a person in that state? We have the urge to tell that person to remain calm, to encourage them to be calm, and so often, to demand that they be calm.

When people hear the order to “calm down”–no adult ever responds with relief, “Phew, thank god you told me to calm down, otherwise I’d be flipping out.”

We will also never hear anybody say, “Wait! That’s an option?! I can be calm?”

So why do we insist on requesting or demanding calm?
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Dating The Same Asshole Over and Over Again

Last week, I was listening to Ani DiFranco’s song “Little Plastic Castle.” And while I’ve heard this song many times before, this time, I was struck by the title and lyrics. One particular line of the song made me re-frame how I look at relationships and the mistakes some us repeatedly make when we become attracted to or enter into a relationship with the type of people who have already proven to be toxic for us.

In the song, DiFranco sings, “And they say, “goldfish have no memory”/I guess their lives are much like mine/And the little plastic castle/Is a surprise every time…”
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The Stiff Upper Lip: A Man’s Condition and A Woman’s Burden

It’s a sight many of us are familiar with: a politician who has committed a misdeed, holding a press conference to explain his behavior. And who do we often see standing behind him during his moment of confession? His wife.

Inevitably, in the days after a politician’s confession, we see columnists deride him for forcing his wife to stand beside him during his moment of disgrace–the politician is often chastised for encouraging his partner to keep a “stiff upper lip.”

Keeping a stiff upper lip is about abstaining from displaying emotion, especially in times of great adversity. But to me, the concept of the stiff upper lip, as it applies to relationships between men and women, has a much broader definition and bigger consequences.
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Fearing The Fear of Judgment

“Fearing The Fear of Judgment,” is a companion piece to the column I posted couple weeks ago, “Our Need For Privacy: The Blueprint of Abuse,” which explored the shaping of my identity through the sexual abuse I experienced as a child.

To a certain extent, all of us fear being judged about something. No matter how old, wise, mature we become, a small part of us will always be concerned about what others think, and especially how others will see what we perceive as our weaknesses.

This fear of the possibility that other people are judging us can be crippling, preventing us from living the life we want to live, and from being who we fundamentally are. But this fear is something we’ve come to accept as just the way things are.

Two weeks ago, I published a column about my childhood experiences with abuse and how it impacted my extreme need for privacy and perfection. But it wasn’t until I wrote that column and discussed it with friends, that I realized how much I not only feared judgment, but also feared being seen as fearing judgment.
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