Author: The Progressive Man

Stay Classy, Nirvana

(Photo: Anton Corjin)

We’ve all been there: rolling through youtube, and you find something worth watching that takes you back to your adolescence.

In my case, I found my self looking at videos on music production – which I’ve been getting into more and more these days – which led me to Pensado’s Place, which led me to Butch Vig, which culminated in the watching of the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of a band that inspired not only my generation, but me. Nirvana.

After imbibing the nostalgia, feeling the all-encompassing goosebumps and shivers that come from reliving some of the most relevant and connected songs to my life’s soundtrack, I took a moment to reflect.

First, the songs are still fucking amazing. Tight, well-constructed, and powerful. Whether Kurt Cobain is the messiah of a generation, as is customary for media to say in hindsight, is not really relevant. His (and Nirvana’s) over the past 25 years are continually standing the test of time. Dave Grohl has continued to produce amazing music, alongside Foo Fighters and oft-cited Nirvana member Pat Smear (who is amazing in his own right). Krist Novoselic (Bog!) has contributed to the political landscape in Washington state.

What struck me about the induction ceremony was not about the music, but all about the music at the same time. It wasn’t the tears that filled my eyes listening to Lorde’s voice hauntingly reawaken All Apologies, or enjoying the hell out of Kim Gordon provide the melancholy polar opposite to Kurt’s amazing range and rasp. It wasn’t even Joan Jett (who I agree, should be in the fucking HOF) and her awesome pickscrapes to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The best part of the induction was that for each performance, the guys chose to represent. They shared the stage with awesome women who in their own right have had, and continue to have great careers in music. Quite simply, it was a very classy move from my teen idols; guys I grew up with, playing along to their songs, memorizing each line and drum and bass note. A fucking class move from some classy guys, straight up.

Watch the collection of videos here:

I thought of my friend and co-conspirator Bandana Singh, and how she would have belonged on that stage. Check out my post on why I play in a female-fronted rock band to learn more.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share with you all out there. What are your thoughts? Classy move? Should they have gone with a male performer? Let me know!

PS – on a related note, this 2012 Kennedy Center Honours performance of Stairway to Heaven by Heart, actually moved me (and Robert Plant) to tears. There are no words. Just watch – if you don’t have 7 minutes, try starting at 5:00 and wait until after the solo. Trust me:

I mean how on her game is Ann Wilson! Incredible!

Larry Sanders, Professional Sports, and Mental Health

(Photo: Jed Jacobsohn)

During my university days, I once opened up to a professor about feeling depressed and anxious, and completely stressed out – what we call mental health issues. She responded by saying “the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself.” I can’t tell you how much those words helped. Just knowing that in the middle of academia, with its own unique and unrelenting versions of pressure and stress, that this person listened and shared her own war stories. That I wasn’t alone was the only thing that helped. That was 6 years ago, and I was an undergraduate student having a series of never-ending shitty days.

We are all built differently, but with the same parts.

Larry Sanders, formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) recently opened up about what makes him who he is, and about the man behind the facade of lights, contractually-obliges censorship, one can easily become a series of canned one-liners. We all know the standard monotone-laden snippets: I just need to do better for my team/I just gotta keep getting better and better/we have to play hard for 48 minutes/etc. It’s a shock to that system when one of the proletariat changes course – in this case a very well-salaried proletariat, but I digress. Speaking out about voluntarily attending a program for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders is not an easy thing to do, especially in the spotlight of the greatest stage in his field.

Professional athletes are supposed to entertain us, take us away from our day-to-day lives, and gIve us a place to project all of our shit and anger and hopes and of course money. They’re not supposed to feel, to hurt, and if they do, they’re supposed to suck it up and get on with the show. They don’t get paid to feel. They get paid to win. This is why they’re paid incredulous salaries. This whole mountain of pressure falls on their shoulders to perform, even when they are having a shitty day. Let’s face it, we all have them. So why are athletes different?

Everyone’s come up with their own theories about why I’ve been absent since leaving the Bucks. I knew people would speculate, but the crazy thing to me is that people are making it about the money. As a person who grew up with nothing, I know money is important. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to play in the NBA. But at the same time, that’s not what fuels me. I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate. – Larry Sanders, The Players’ Tribune.

For anyone that has dealt with similar issues, no amount of money can make it right.

See the entire video here:

Can we relate to Sanders?

He is not the first member of the NBA to have struggled with these issues, and he certainly won’t be the last. I’m certain that many are suffering right now, but functionally need to rationalize within themselves that maintaining the status quo is the better decision (versus going public). Families to feed, etc. This goes for the NHL, NFL, and all other professional sports leagues, and hell, for life generally. I know first-hand what it feels like to admit the problem, having myself dealt with similar issues of anxiety and depression. It’s no easy feat – let alone when the pressures of big sports and/or real life compound what you’re feeling.

Without these things [mental wellness] being corrected, I don’t think basketball would be something that I could do – Larry Sanders, Bucks.comTV, January 6, 2015

This statement applies to life. Just replace basketball with whatever it is that you do in your life.

I’m curious to know what you think. Agree? Disagree? Drop a line below.

Terry Crews: Cracking the Egg of Male Stereotypes

(Photo Credit: hollowverse.com)

“I’m a man, and I’ve got to look like a man. And I can’t admit that I’m afraid, I can’t say that I’m weak. I can’t say that I’m tired. I’m not allowed to say that I’m sleepy, or I’m hurt, or that I can’t handle this. … When I crack that egg for my son, he was free. And I’ve got to learn to keep cracking that egg for myself, every time.” Terry Crews interview on The Agenda

One look at Terry Crews, and you would think: “there’s a man”. But you would doing so for the wrong reasons. Sure, he’s spent his lifetime modelling the traditional gladiator physique, playing in the NFL, and even being known for his Old Spice commercials. But Terry Crews is a Progressive Man.

Ask him why feminism is so important, and you will get this answer: “Let’s not even go back to slavery, let’s go to civil rights: the people who were silent at the lunch counters, when it was the black lunch counter and the white one. … [If] you were quiet, you were accepting it,” By simply letting stereotypes and institutional power work their magic, you are doing nothing, and certainly not contributing to any progress. He goes on to emphatically forward:

“Same thing with men right now. If you don’t say anything, you are, by your silence — it’s acceptance. I’m not going to be silent.”

He was recently in town for the What Makes a Man Conference presented by the White Ribbon Campaign, and sat down for a full length interview with TVO on The Agenda. 

This is THE conversation on modern manhood. Watch the entire interview here:

Mad love to Terry Crews for being TPM’s Progressive of the Month for December.

Where Are All the Men?

(Photo Credit: teachingonpurpose.com)

Here’s the scoop:

A few weeks back, I looked around the room I was sitting in and found myself as the only man there. There I was, surrounded by 20 other people, and I was the only guy. 20 women, and me. There are certainly many ways that this statement can be interpreted, but I’ll curb the mystery.

I work as a university administrator in higher education, and more specifically, in student life. I was in a room with 21 people, and I was the only man.

Our jobs are to provide meaningful opportunities for post-secondary students to grow and develop awareness and skills in everything from leadership, global cultures, professional skills, etc. Pretty much everything that isn’t academic. This can be done in a variety of forms, from mentorship to peer-to-peer learning, to service learning and community engagement, to international mobility programs (or exchange as it’s called more typically). It’s all really great stuff, and I’m delighted to be to be a part of it.

My own professional background is in community- and youth-oriented initiatives and arts and culture, so I fit right in. Effectively, the programs and services we develop and offer help students (ideally) to figure out who they are, and to discover all the (non-academic) things that they’re made up of.

On the surface, this is great stuff, and I am blessed to work with such a committed group of individuals that are highly educated and honestly concerned with how to do this work well. But with this power to create educative (as well as miseducative) experiences, I’m left wondering “where the hell are all the men?” Have we entirely given up on participating in this conversation?

The answer isn’t so clear.

Maybe this is simply a trend that represents education as a whole. This Queen’s Journal article reflects on a “2011 survey of Queen’s reported that 59 per cent of full-time students are female. In 1950, only 21.6 per cent of Canadian undergraduates were women, according to Statistics Canada.” While there are still male-dominated faculties and professions (engineering, computer science, finance, for example) we need to ask ourselves: why is this shift important?

Perhaps the women’s movement and progress towards equal rights has a lot to do with it.

Perhaps our economic model is at play here – universities need students, and need money. This argument can also be used when thinking about the civil rights movement, and the equity and diversity movement with respect to the LGBTQ community. Just a thought.

As the only man in the room, here are a few thoughts that I had, which I’m sure would not have been the case 30 years ago:

1. They all make more money than me. I know this because they are either in higher positions than me, or I’ve seen their salaries.

1b. Where’s the justice? I mean really, we’re doing the same work, so they can’t be paid more. That’s not right. Right? Sarcasm has its benefits, and is always a welcomed delivery device.

2. The system is reversing, and young men need to be prepared to compete. Queen’s sociology professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky hopes that this will lead them to step up their efforts to do so because “[i]n the past, male privilege went unchallenged.”

I won’t attempt to answer these questions here. Our work is to help students become who they are, and how to best exist in this ever-changing world.

But, when this conversation is missing an entire side of itself, young men will still have to compete. For those of us in the workforce, and in leadership roles, and in education, we need to understand that we’ll have to be better role models simply because there are fewer of us here.

That’s where we are. What are you thoughts on the male presence (or lack thereof) in education?

10 Songs that Explore What it Means to be a Man

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

The exploration of the question – what makes a good man – cannot be completed without some input from the arts, and in this case, music. Below are several selections that attempt to define the term from multiple perspectives.

1. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy

A timeless blues standard, and a self-affirming pep talk that could be used equally either before a sports event or speaking in public.

2. The Heavy – What Makes a Good Man?

Truly, it’s what I’m trying to discover, too.

3. Raphael Saadiq – Good Man

You might remember Raphael from Tony!Toni!Toné! or Lucy Pearl, but he’s pretty much trumped all of that on his own.

4. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – How do I let a Good Man Down?

Can Sharon Jones please run for president?

5. The Philosopher Kings – I Am the Man

Put Jarvis Church in front of a mic, and you’re usually guaranteed awesomeness. Case in point; we’ve been blessed here with another self-affirming strut-walk of a song.

6. K-OS – Man I Used to Be

“Ya holler and ya holla/ you folla you fall”. Damn, ain’t that the truth. A great introspective account of what can go on inside our heads.

7. Nina Simone – Sinner Man (Felix Da Housecat Remix)

A very literal interpretation of the video, which blends in the 7 deadly sins, and of course, running.

8. Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men

The line that gets me is “be a man my dad said/ but what the hell did he know?/he lost his dream/lost his flow/and I don’t want to be alone/I’m born KING so where’s my throne/I’m too intense/I’m too deep/I’m too nice for life/so what makes this place so nervous?”

Also, the album Everyday is probably one of the best, ever.

9. Pearl Jam – Better Man

The apparent story here: “before a performance of the song at Pearl Jam’s show on April 3, 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said ‘it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma.’ He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother.”

10. Tom Waits – Little Man

Nothing like the epicness of Tom Waits sharing his take on fatherhood. Some good pieces of advice in here, even for those of us who are no longer ‘little’.

What are some other songs we should have included? Let us know in the comments box below!

Joss Whedon: Screenwriter, Director, Producer, Male Feminist, Ally

(Photo: popmatters.com)

For those of you who grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or Serenity, Joss Whedon is not a new name to you. Thematically, he is known for his vision which incorporates strong female leads. Looking ahead to The Avengers and his work in translating other comic books to the big screen, this we can expect him to undoubtedly follow suit.

Why is he progressive? Here’s why:

“You know, it’s one of those things that’s always surprising. I was raised by a very strong woman, I didn’t know feminism was actually a thing until I left home and found out the country didn’t run the way my mom’s house did. So I have this goldfish, idiot, forgetful thing in that every time I’m confronted with true misogyny, I’m stunned. I’m like, Really? That’s like, I don’t believe in airplanes. It’s like, What century are you from?”

Like Joss, I was raised by a strong woman myself and thought it normal to consider a woman’s point-of-view, thoughts, and body, with as much respect as I would treat my own. For us, this has not been as novel an idea as it seems to be in the media of late (#HeForShe, #rapedneverreported #mentalhealth). These conversations need to continue long beyond the point when the media cycle deems them no longer ‘relevant’.

Joss’ work shows quite aptly puts his money where his mouth is, sans agenda:

“Action is the best way to say anything. A guy who goes around saying “I’m a feminist” usually has an agenda that is not feminist. A guy who behaves like one, who actually becomes involved in the movement, generally speaking, you can trust that. And it doesn’t just apply to the action that is activist. It applies to the way they treat the women they work with and they live with and they see on the street.”

The impact of entertainment media (and media in general) on notions of self and constructions of identity cannot be overstated. Joss sets a fine example of how to weave an important topic into the stories that become an inherent part of society’s fabric.

Joss is the TPM Progressive of the Month for these reasons. We look forward to his continued success in the film and television industry, as well as to see how his pop culture influence forwards equality.