Last month in our Dad’s Perspective column, we spoke with Emmy nominated actor, Greg Ellis about the modern male experience. There was so much to cover, we broke it out into a two-part series. Here is the second part of our wonderful interview with Greg.
You mention relieving device dependency, toxic masculinity, #mentoo in your trailer. Do you feel these are the defining obstacles men face today?
I think we need #MenToo in the conversation. There’s a saying: Speak up and risk something. Remain silent and risk something else. Pick your poison.” I think it’s time for men to speak. We have reached the point where men need to stand up and explore the nature of the modern male experience in this era of deteriorating respect for family. To sever ties with #ToxicMasculinity and serve up #TonicMasculinity. What are we going through and what is our future? Men and fathers need to be the authors of their own stories of pain and struggle for redemption, they need to defend and celebrate the positive side of masculinity, and they need to advocate for the changes necessary to make life better for everyone.
A key point I make in my book The Respondent is that, no matter our gender, we need to become better acquainted with our emotions, including our rage—albeit, in an effort to refocus it into beneficial channels. The deep hypocrisy in our current gender conversation is infused with a cycle of shame and rage: At the same time that men are being browbeaten with stale stereotypes about toxic masculinity, a growing chorus of writers is urging women in celebrated books to go as far as to physically assail anyone who does them wrong. How does advocating this type of behavior help our familial relationships?
The reverse psychology embedded in the algorithms of our technology (anti-social media like Facebook etc.) and the devices we rely on such much in this age of information overload are creating chemical imbalances and dopamine addictions – where the device becomes more important than the human to human interactions. This disturbing trend is causing mental health issues, particularly with our younger generations, whereby people are exercising with the eyes down, rather than exercising from the neck up.
I just listened to episode 1 where you pose the question of God & religion to Stephen Fry (great episode). What are some of the other topics you will be tackling on The Respondent?
Family, parenting, fatherhood, men’s mental health, philosophy, religion, psychology, politics, sports, behavioral science, family law, divorce, entertainment, feminism, and more!
Who are some of your upcoming guests? Who would be your ultimate guest?
Christina Hoff Sommers
The author of 5 books, including Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Australian writer, commentator and 2020 Order of Australia award recipient. We discuss positive masculinity, radical feminism and Australia’s gender violence policy. Not to mention, family law, the bias in family courts, the cash cow of domestic violence, celebrity respondents and the affliction of attorney addiction.
The controversial journalist and I discuss masculinity, the Overton window and hate crime hoaxes. As well as, the reactive news cycles and the rise of the domestic terrorist organization Antifa.
There’s also a special celebrity guest toward the end of the season I’m just about to announce!
What has surprised you about fatherhood?
How challenging, meaningful and rewarding it is. My boys are the meaning of my life. They define the modern male experience.
There is always a space between who you perceive yourself and who you are in the eyes of those close to you. I hope I’ve done enough work on myself so the more positive aspects of masculinity can be instilled in them – not by telling them what to think, rather, teaching them how to think. Preparing them for individuation as they mature into becoming their ‘own men.’ And learning from them. I’ve learned so many lessons through my experiences as a father.
Boys vs girls
Little Boys play with different toys than girls. They fight with clenched fists not sharp finger nails. When boys run to climb a tree and play in the branches. While their mothers are concerned at the possible dangers and risk involved, dad sees it as a necessary adventure of boyhood learning in the modern male experience.
How the matriarch and patriarch negotiate these differences of opinion so that the child gets the most opportunities to take risks, but not risks that will kill or severely injure him, is vital.
Boys square off
I remember the first time my sons squared off to fight physically. I reassured my wife it was a necessary rite of passage, as our youngest needed to experience that prideful moment of taking his ‘elder’ brother on. (And maybe even teach him a lesson in the process). She was still somewhat distressed as I led the boys to an imaginary boxing ring in the middle of our garden. Although she trusted me enough to calm her understandable concerns to believe that I might know how better handle this ‘rush of testosterone’ situation.
This sort of balanced parenting cannot take place if the father is not present. There must be a balanced “Spirit Level of the Sexes” in order for boys to become more fully formed, self-actualized young men. With a deeper more ingrained sense of healthy boundaries, so that eventually they alone can begin these rites of passage. And start to ‘think like men’ (responsibility = reward) and ‘feel like boys’ (risk taking = ambition).
Advocating fatherhood is not about diminishing motherhood.
What is one lesson you would like to leave with your children?
To remember the importance of family, relationships, and to become an individual adult with a sense of empathy, integrity and a strong moral compass.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for kids these days?
As a father of two teenage boys, one of the things I think about is HOW I CAN HELP THEM differentiate between clean and dirty anger – as a parent, how do I provide my sons with an emotional landing strip when crisis strikes and disorienting forces threaten to debilitate me and derail them?
The ability to self-diagnose and self-repair mood swings and moments of anxiety when crisis strikes is invaluable when behavior spirals out of control. Learning new coping skills and techniques to help modify pre-existing reactive behavior patterns help everyone in the family unit relate and behave with a more evolved sense of emotional maturity.
What would you like to see change for them?
Cancel culture waning and a healthier representation of men, fathers, and boys in the media.
Recalibrating manhood in the ice age
I believe we’ve entered an ice age in which empathy for our fellow man is slowly freezing to death as we watch on. On social media, we pander to faux friends and “cancel” people in crowdsourced witch hunts. “Social murder” rates are at an all-time high, redemption is considered a quaint luxury most of us don’t deserve, and lives and careers are routinely destroyed for decade-old tweets.
At the same time, the sanctity of marriage diminishes daily; we are told social binds like family are dusty ideas of an era best forgotten.
A long overdue reckoning came with the #metoo movement. The ascendancy of women as they break through the last of centuries-old barriers to true equality is a beautiful thing to experience. But we must look at the other side of the coin: the necessary and important recalibration of masculinity. In my book, I make the case that when it comes to the dwindling importance of fatherhood, and a legal system that practically promotes family dissolution, something has gone completely haywire.
The members of the more than 800,000 families that break down each year in America are living through an overcorrection in divorce law. The no-fault divorce laws that swept through most of Western society in the 1970s and ‘80s made divorce much easier for women. But, in our zeal to make things better did we overshoot? Many experts now say divorce systems throughout the Western world are gender biased from top to bottom in favour of mothers, which is what makes it possible for some parents to game the system.
For so many of us, the relationship between men and women has become strained to the point of breaking. We need to ask ourselves where we are headed in the culture war. We need to ask ourselves whether we are picking the right heroes to speak for us. I am skeptical of any ideology that insists that half the population be quiet and “sit this one out.” To the contrary, I don’t think there has been a moment in my lifetime when it’s more important for both men and women to be participating passionately in the discussion. Remind each other that love and family are not a zero-sum game.
What are you hoping to achieve with the podcast?
I want to ignite a multimedia conversation on positive masculinity. A more inclusive and civil discourse that allows for apology pathways to be unblocked. Extreme opinions to be heard and maybe even minds changed. To champion the value of family, parents and fatherhood. And further my presence in the world so that our younger generations find less problems and more solutions. So we can all begin moving from less hateful to more grateful for a better modern male experience.
To catch episodes of The Respondent, http://realgregellis.com
Catch up on Greg’s article last month’s https://houstonfamilymagazine.com/family-life/modern-male-perspective-with-greg-ellis/