The good men: inside the all-male group taking on modern masculinity


    In the hometown of Jordan Peterson, the evangelist of white male resentment, a different and thoughtful mankinds movement vies to be heard

    On a warm Tuesday evening, a dozen boys collected on lounges at a Lululemon location in Toronto called The Local. Since last year, as an experiment to reach more male customers, the store has been home to The Huddle, a male bonding group which satisfies Tuesday nights after closing to work out, run, or meditate.

    But once a month, the men circle up to talk about, well, their feelings.

    Downtempo jazz and cartons of maple sap water greeted me as I plunked myself down next to a young man who recently quit his job to become a freelance cinematographer. The evening’s facilitator, Alex Cameron, a boy with hulk, tattoo-plastered limbs and slicked-back salt-and-pepper whisker, told us the theme for this session: emotional literacy. Cameron, who is 40, runs a psychotherapy practise nearby.

    To start off, Joe, a slight man in a hoodie, volunteered a tale about how he came to realize that vulnerability was a strength rather than weakness.

    ” I’ve never shared this in front of a group before ,” said Joe, 34, who told us the histories of his mother passing away when he was three; how his father became hardened and remote; and how, at the age of 27, he found himself in deep depression.

    ” I was single, in a job I disliked, with very few friends I could count on. I felt like we are all am dying anyways, so what’s the purpose of trying ?”

    Uncovering blocked emotions, Joe told us, saved his life.

    ” I realized if I wasn’t going to take “peoples lives”, I had to go back in time and work through my feelings. I was a 27 -year-old living in a little boy’s trauma. I needed to prove to myself that this organization is safe to feel again .”

    We went all over the circle sharing whatever came to mind about manhood, emotions, relationships, Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Jordan Peterson, the fact that most mass shootings are committed by socially isolated white men.

    ” Conversations with other humankinds are usually very superficial ,” told Marvin, a transplant from Germany who works at an ad agency.

    ” It’s always about sexuality and money ,” the man next to him added.( Some of the participants declined to be named for this story .)” Like,’ Oh, I get laid last night ‘. It get boring .”

    ” It’s not only fucking boring, it’s unhealthy ,” said Marvin.” Most boys suffer alone .”

    The discussion shifted to the meaning of anger.

    ” I played football growing up and I learned that, as a humankind, you kept things inside so you could use them as a weapon. But feelings are energy and they have to move, they have to be released ,” mentioned Chris, who recently returned from a chakra retreat in Belize. Many humen never read” how to liberate that energy without using force “.

    ” Anger is like an iceberg ,” Alex Cameron, the healer resulting its present session, told us.” Anger is what you see, but it comes from everything else below the surface- dishonor, panic, guilt. For most men, it seems safer to get angry than express sadness or vulnerability .”

    He wrapped up on a more personal note.” When I feel vulnerable, I scream. It looks like sadness on the outside, but it seems powerful .”

    Liberation from sons being boys

    I’ve dropped in on The Huddle several times over the past six months. One meet focused on mental health and substance abuse; a former drug addict shared the histories of his attempted suicide and recent recovery. Another served as a #MeToo confessional.” I gamble every man in here has a tale about how they’ve mistreated a woman ,” the facilitator nudged. After a deafening stillnes, one boy threw up his hands.” I know I’ve done some foul shit .”

    I met a Reiki healer, a construction worker, a former professional soccer player, a gym owner, a bartender, and several social workers. The group appeared to attract mainly straight-out, unmarried boys in their thirties who share interest in fashion, athletics, and wellness trends; the tattoo quotient of the participants was high. In a nation, and a neighborhood, that is predominantly white, The Huddle crowd skews about 50% black.

    Lululemon’s dive into the murk of modern manlines is a hipster-approved strand in a longer pedigree of male reckoning.

    Alongside the din of women’s lib in the late 1960 s was the lesser known men’s liberation motion.” Male liberation calls for men to free themselves from the sexuality role stereotypes that restriction their ability to be human ,” wrote psychologist Jack Sawyer, an early supporter, in a 1970 issue of Liberation magazine.” The duel of the status of women to be free need not be a battle against humen as oppressors. The option about whether humen are the foe is up to humen themselves .”

    Today the pro-feminist men’s movement champs causes ranging from reducing cases of violence against women to raising awareness about male suicide and prostate cancer. Adherents dwell in gender studies programs, social justice groups, and mental health organizations–and in small groups of men who gather in coffee shop and living room for heartfelt talk.

    Pro-feminist masculinity has remained relatively obscure, though #MeToo may be changing that.

    ” It’s allowed male feminists like myself to come out of the shadows ,” Michael Kehler, a University of Calgary masculinities studies professor, told me by phone. His job, after two decades of” quiet, diligent work to move the agenda items forward ,” has budded with media requests and speaking involvements. In January, Kehler became North America’s first manliness investigates research chair.

    ” Until recently, there was an allowance, or even an expectation, for men to behave badly, like it was a natural behavior of being ,” Kehler told. “[ I] t was written off as’ boys being sons’ or’ that’s just locker chamber talk ‘. If you didn’t talk about athletics or engage in sexualizing banter, other boys might question the adequacy of your manlines .”

    Kehler believes this older breed of masculinity is dying. Some proof, nonetheless, recommends otherwise.

    Pro-feminist boys was of the view that by modulating hypermasculinity, and conceding a wider wedge of societal power to ladies, they can clear a track to male enlightenment- something good for men and women.

    But a countermovement has gained steam.

    Known as the men’s rights motion, these ad-hoc, mainly internet-based activists are resistant to policies promoting women’s equality and to the men-as-oppressors narrative generally. Strangely enough, the movement’s ideological godfather, Warren Farrell, was a well-known male feminist in the seventies who marched alongside Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. By the time Farrell’s 1993 book The Myth of Male Power arrived on shelves, his metamorphosis was complete:” What we, as feminists, did is put humen into the oppressor class and called it patriarchy ,” he once said of his previous self.

    While some strands of the men’s rights movement tout their efforts to provide men’s shelters, male-centric mental health services, and legal supporting in paternity cases, others are openly misogynist.

    ” Pussy is the only real empowerment women will ever know ,” wrote Paul Elam, the founder of, to promote the website’s “slap-a-violent-bitch month” in 2017.” Threw all the hopelessly wishful thinking of feminist ideology aside and what remains is the fact that it is men and pretty much boys only who outline power from accomplishment, who invent technology, construct nations, cure cancer, make empires and generally advanced civilization .”

    Elam’s online community has been deemed a loathe group by the Southern Poverty Law Center., a blog for” pickup artists”( humen focused on manipulating women into sex ), has also earned this distinction. The website’s founder, Daryush Valizadeh, even suggested rape should be legal” if done on private property “.

    Also in the constellation of men’s rights groups are “incels”- men who blame women for the purpose of their inability to attract a teammate.( The word is a contraction of” involuntary celibate “.) The online subculture reached disrepute in April when 25 -year-old Alek Minassian drove into two dozen pedestrians in Toronto. Eight of the 10 killed were women.” The Incel Rebellion have begun ,” Minassian posted on Facebook minutes before he rammed his rental van into a Yonge Street sidewalk.

    ‘Black children can’t afford therapy – we have to fix ourselves’

    Jahmal Padmore, one of the organizers of The Huddle, believes that blaming girls, or anyone, does not dissolve one’s woes so much as harden them.

    The bespectacled, well-muscled 34 -year-old gently badgers his male pals to show up for The Huddle because he knows firsthand how difficult it is to reach out for support.

    ” Black children can’t render therapy- if we’re going to get fixed, we have to do it ourselves ,” Padmore, the son of Antiguan immigrants, told me.” So I just went on YouTube and watched a lot of personal development videos .”

    Padmore’s craving for self-discovery accelerated as he approached his 30 th birthday. He was drinking heavily and had some brushes with mental illness. One period he came across a series of videos by the University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, focused on men’s sorenes. Padmore was hooked- briefly.

    Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto psychology professor. Photo: Carlos Osorio/ Toronto Star via Getty Images

    ” Peterson “was talkin about a” find your personal capacity within. I adoration that, that’s real, that’s what a lot of young man “re even looking for”. When guys are maturing and coming to terms with the fact that they’re not going to be an NBA star, or whatever nightmares or expectations they had aren’t being fulfilled, it can be pain. And because we’re humankinds, we’re socialized to not convey those sensations of annoyance in a healthy way .”

    In the early 2010 s, the eccentric prof was known for TedX talks with innocuous, New Age names like” Potential” and” Redefining Reality “. But Peterson likewise had a reputation for blistering strikes on male laziness-” Clean up your chamber !” he often barks at his young followers- and blaming political correctness.

    In 2016 Peterson’s viral popularity explosion after he protested Bill C-1 6, legislation adding gender identity to the characteristics protected by Canadian anti-discrimination law. The publication of his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos in January this year vaulted Peterson into international stardom.

    While Peterson preserves the persona of a self-help guru styled as a stern but loving father figure-” To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the awful responsibility of life ,” he writes- the weaves of intolerance in his study, and the rhetoric of some of his followers, teeter toward hate.

    In a recent New York Times profile, Peterson deduced that the Toronto van attacker” was angry at God because women were repudiating him “. He suggested” enforced monogamy” as a societal remedy for incels and other disgruntled young men. Peterson has never hidden his view that women should submit to conventional gender roles, but in May he published a chummy 90 -minute interview with Warren Farrell, cementing his affinity with the men’s rights movement.

    Padmore sensed these weaves times before they were making headlines.” The trouble I have with Jordan Peterson and his ilk is that, for them, detecting your personal[ abilities] arrives at the cost of others. I have a huge issue with the tendency to blame women and trans people and anyone that doesn’t conform. Go deep, try to find out more about yourself- of course- but don’t drag other people down .”

    Another reason he promptly fell from the orbit of Peterson’s charisma:” I’m black .”

    Peterson’s fan base, which is 84 % male according to the data analytics firm Zoomph, is well-steeped in racist alt-right culture. He does not endorse the extreme right-wing motion, but it’s no coincidence that it has significantly endorsed him, while the pro-feminist men’s motion has not.

    But can Lululemon make it chill?

    Jeff Perera, a figure in Toronto’s pro-feminist men’s community. Photo: Gary William Ogle for the Guardian

    Doing pro-feminist men’s work under corporate auspices comes with certain pitfalls. The Huddle is free of charge, but when Padmore shouts” Hit me up if you crave a discount on some stretchy gasps ,” one can’t but feel like the specific objectives of a sophisticated marketing scheme.

    The corporation in question also has some skeletons in its closet.

    ” You know, feminists really hate Lululemon ,” my wife said when I mentioned The Huddle. She cited me to an article advising girls to” drop[ their] Lululemon preoccupation “.

    Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, once suggested that breast cancer rates rose in the nineties because of” cigarette-smoking Power Women who were on the pill…and taking on the stress previously left to humankinds in the working world “. He said that Lululemon clothing was not for plus-sized or even average-sized wives. In 2015, after being forced to recall a number of yoga gasps with a conspicuous flaw- they became see-through in the crotch after a short period of use- Wilson resigned.

    In 2016, a supervisor at a Lululemon in California was accused of raping a female co-worker. The victim’s lawsuit painted the company as a haven for sexual predators– a place, BuzzFeed wrote,” where women are encouraged to wear tight clothes to job, lewd statements run unchecked, and hookups between foremen and subordinates are accepted as par for the course after a wild night of drinking “.

    This February, Wilson’s replacement as CEO, Laurent Potdevin, was also forced out for misconduct, perhaps because of a relationship with a subordinate.( Further details have not yet emerged .)

    When I contacted Lululemon headquarters to ask how the company reconciled its brand identity as a lighthouse of yogic enlightenment with its reputation as a bastion of toxic masculinity, a PR rep supplied me with a statement is assigned to Ben Stubbington, senior vice president of men’s designing 😛 TAGEND

    ” At Lululemon we’ live in practice ‘. This is translated literally on the yoga mat and also in all ways we walk in life. […] As the definitions contained in masculinity constantly evolve in culture, we espouse deconstructing its traditional limits, working to the principle that addressing vulnerability is a strength and has immense power to give back .”

    Padmore, unwilling to defend the company, took a more prosaic stance.” I’m not particularly concerned with Lululemon’s past, present, or future image; I’m concerned with depicting up and doing things that impact people’s lives in a positive way .” He said he hasn’t seen any signs of a culture of toxic manlines at the company since being hired a year ago.

    The righteous aren’t immune to hypocrisy, he added.” I suppose a lot of liberal white folks get caught up in perfection. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to fuck up. But I think you have to be okay with that and keep pushing forward .”

    If the various types men’s motion subcultures are in competition for followers, the pro-feminist folks are losing severely. Jordan Peterson has 1.2 million followers on YouTube and more than 700,000 on Twitter. Prominent pro-feminist male personalities count four or five digits at most.

    Jeff Perera, a figure in Toronto’s pro-feminist men’s community, told me he hasn’t won any converts from the Peterson camp, but has occasionally lost pals who “converted to the other side”.

    ” We put out a lot of statistics about the unfortunate realities ladies go through, which are important for men to hear ,” Perera mentioned.” The trouble is a lot of men don’t want to hear some expert telling them what a shitty person the objective is. They’re like,’ Yeah, I wasn’t planning on raping anyone today, so peace out ‘.”

    Around the time Trump was elected, Perera, 42, worked part-time for Next Gen Men, a non-profit that works with teenage boys to get them supposing outside the gender container. During one afterschool program at an elite prep school outside Toronto, the conversation, Perera recalled, turned to the new US president.

    ” I described him as the’ televangelist of toxic masculinity ‘. I said to the guys,’ He’s like Cobra Commander from GI Joe- he has to have his supervillain logo on everything from his helicopter to his evil headquarters at Trump Tower ‘. One of the boys looked at me with various kinds of a deadpan gaze, and was like,’ That’s actually kind of cool ‘. It was this moment where I had a crisis of religion. I realized that the free movement of persons is failing .”

    The coolness quotient of the pro-feminist men’s world, at the least in the eyes of the average adolescent male, is rather low. Attendees of the annual meeting put on by the National Organization of Men Against Sexism are likely to be treated to rousing renditions of ballads like” Let the Woman In You Come Through” or” Womb Envy “. One can imagine wail of laughter from 16 -year-olds was necessary to sing along to” It’s Simply A Wee-Wee, So What’s the Big deal ?”

    Which is why it may not be a bad thing for a trendy, globally recognized brand, however imperfect, to take up the torch.

    Jian Pablico, who originated The Huddle at Lululemon’s Vancouver headquarters, told me his role as a” mindful performance administrator” is to ” curate” non-traditional masculinity for” men who may not be part of that culture yet “. That’s why the touchy-feely talks are held only one day a month.

    ” We wanted to find a way to bring people together who might be hesitant about demonstrating up for a conversation on vulnerability ,” Pablico mentioned.” Sweating together first helps it arrive naturally. Once you suffer together in a workout, you begin to bond and a layer of the mask arrives off. It’s then a little easier to chat afterwards over a brew. Or a kombucha .”


    Jordan Peterson views feminism as an emasculating force. He believes men ought to be allowed to be unapologetically tough, ambitious, competitive, and forceful.

    But no one in the pro-feminist camp should certainly suggested that men can’t be tough, ambitious, competitive, or forceful- simply that it is unhealthy to suppress other ways of being.

    After his Huddle session on emotional literacy, Alex Cameron, the therapist, showed me his tattoos. I’d presumed they were a relic from some previous life as a bouncer or lumberjack. It turns out he got them on graduating his master’s in social work. One limb illustrates a dragon, emblem of virility; the other, a phoenix, which in Chinese mythology signifies feminine grace .” We have resisting sides within us ,” Cameron mentioned. Harmony, he belief, is derived from” espousing our entire self “.

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