‘Other ways to be’

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

In a chalet in the Mas­sachusetts coun­try­side, tears run down Lu­cas Krump's cheeks as he pours his heart out at one of a new kind of sup­port group grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity among Amer­i­can men.

"There were mo­ments this year when I wanted to give up," the 40 year old told the cir­cle of par­tic­i­pants, all tired of try­ing to live up to tra­di­tional male stereo­types.

The dozen men - al­most all white Amer­i­cans, rang­ing in age from their 20s to 60s - were lead­ing a re­treat run by Evry­man, a group that helps men shrug off the armour of mas­culin­ity to get in touch with their true feel­ings.

Like a sort of anti- Fight Club.

Over the course of one week­end in De­cem­ber, no fewer than 55 men opened up about their weak­nesses and in­se­cu­ri­ties at the chalet, as snow fell qui­etly in the woods out­side.

"I am sad. I am afraid," said Michael. He wished he could tell his fam­ily how he feels, but finds it hard.

The groups are see­ing a surge in at­ten­dance, re­flect­ing a shift in at­ti­tudes and in­creased cu­rios­ity about what it means to be male, par­tic­u­larly among US mil­len­ni­als - as well as grow­ing de­bate about so-called "toxic mas­culin­ity" fu­eled by the #MeToo move­ment.

Another par­tic­i­pant, Tom, is strug­gling to get over a re­cent breakup.

"I felt a lot of pain. I felt a lot of sad­ness," he says, as his fel­low at­ten­dees look on with con­cern.

Par­tic­i­pants share their ex­pe­ri­ences and take part in group and one-on-one work­shops where they learn to deal with feel­ings of anx­i­ety and anger.

Ryan Zagone has been at­tend­ing ses­sions for six months.

"I grew up in Louisiana where the def­i­ni­tion of a man is very nar­row. Do you hunt or do you play foot­ball? And I didn't do ei­ther. I grew up feel­ing like an out­sider," he said

"Com­ing here for the first time gave me role mod­els of other ways to be as a man. How to be emo­tional in... a way that is pow­er­ful, lov­ing, em­pa­thetic and at the same time strong," Zagone added.

Take a risk

Michael Kim­mel, a so­ci­ol­o­gist who spe­cialises in mas­culin­ity, says many

Amer­i­can men to­day worry they are not do­ing as well as their fa­ther or grand­fa­ther and feel like they are liv­ing in a "strait­jacket."

"We live in a so­ci­ety in which ev­ery other man is a po­ten­tial com­peti­tor, for jobs, for money, for ac­cess, for power," he ex­plained.

"So we don't look at each other as broth­ers, we look at each other as ri­vals. So when you have that kind of re­la­tion­ship, you feel iso­lated."

Other sup­port groups pro­vid­ing men's work­shops and reg­u­lar re­treats in­clude Junto and ManKind Project.

The idea be­hind them is not new. Writer Robert Bly pi­o­neered self-help books and ther­apy ses­sions for men in the 1990s.

But Owen Mar­cus, who helped struc­ture Evry­man's pro­grammes, says the ses­sions would never have been this pop­u­lar 20 years ago.

"Younger men are much more open to this. They're more will­ing to take that ini­tial risk," he told AFP.

‘Meet men where they are’

Evry­man was founded in 2016, pre­dat­ing the #MeToo move­ment ig­nited by the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal in late 2017.

But the group and oth­ers like it have been brought into fo­cus by the global reck­on­ing on sex­ual mis­con­duct, which has caused many men to ques­tion their own be­hav­iour.

Evry­man co-founder Dan Doty, says its pur­pose is not to deal di­rectly with "toxic mas­culin­ity" but that the is­sue is never too far away.

"We need to meet men where they are and not come in and say, 'Hey, what you're do­ing is ter­ri­ble.'"

Zagone be­lieves men cause hurt be­cause they them­selves are hurt­ing.

"So men hav­ing the abil­ity to go deep into that hurt, to feel it and to process it in a more healthy way, then they're not hurt­ing other peo­ple. That's the skill we're teach­ing here," he said.

Aside from re­treats and week-long ex­pe­di­tions, Evry­man has a net­work of sup­port groups that gather lo­cally on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, year-round, which it con­sid­ers as im­por­tant as the one-off events.

Evry­man says its ses­sions are not in­tended to re­place ther­apy. Many par­tic­i­pants still see their reg­u­lar ther­a­pist and come to Evry­man for a sup­port net­work.

Presently, Evry­man re­treats are mainly fre­quented by white men. The group is work­ing to at­tract more di­verse par­tic­i­pants. Women can­not join for now, how­ever, for fear they will in­hibit the men.

Every­man says it has helped thou­sands of men. It hopes to help many more.

"We want to have a mil­lion do this work,” says co-founder Sascha Lewis. "There is a sense of a move­ment hap­pen­ing here in the US."

(AFP pho­tos)

An Evry­man group meets at Race Brook Lodge on De­cem­ber 6, 2019, in Sh­effield, Mas­sachusetts

A board an­nounc­ing an Evry­man ses­sion at Race Brook Lodge in Sh­effield, Mas­sachusetts

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