Tom Golden Is Too Radical

For progressives and others interested in equality, is there such a thing as too radical? I think the answer yes, and discomfort with Tom Golden’s radicalism is an example.

In my post, “Expressing Emotions: Men’s Double Bind“, I summarized a talk Golden gave about men coping with grief. I described Golden’s message as:

…the question “Why don’t men talk about their grief”? assumes that talking is the only way of dealing with grief. …Golden says, “In general, men will tend to heal themselves through an action or an inaction (pulling back and being quiet) that uses honoring and pulls them into the future”. …That is, men often focus on a shared activity where there may not be much talking, but there is much communication.

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Michael Jordan playing baseball to honour his late father, or Eric Clapton writing songs in his son’s memory are examples.

Four key points Golden makes are: “A man’s pain is invisible because a man’s pain is taboo”, a man’s duty to provide and protect means that “by being in need of help, men forfeit their right to it”, the dominance hierarchy means that emoting in public decreases a man’s status, and measurable physiological differences in the way men and women respond to stress.

Golden isn’t endorsing these cultural norms, but rather is seeking change.

But in Salon, Jonathan Timm summarizes Golden’s talk thus: “Men shouldn’t be expected to open up emotionally”. Golden responded to Timm’s disinformation, but the question nagging me is:

Why does Timm present disinformation rather than engage Golden’s points directly and thoughtfully?

My answer is the taboo against men opening up emotionally, as Golden describes.

Men are constantly told to be more open with their feelings, but note that the implied message is that men should first try to be in touch with women’s feelings. This is important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Men are also encouraged to talk about how they feel about being oppressors of women. But what about men’s real life experiences in contrast to a prepackaged political script?

In my previous post I also quoted Heather Gray, who writes, “As a therapist, I sit and talk with men all the time and what I most often hear is that when they try to talk to their wives about their upset, they are met with defensiveness”.

And there’s the taboo again. Communication isn’t just about men talking. It’s also about women listening to things they don’t want to hear.

But the progressive perspective hasn’t progressed to that point yet. Embarrassingly, men like Tom Golden have the bad habit of talking about the male gender role as everyday men actually experience it, which means pointing out feminism’s distorted view of men – and how men feel about that (gasp!).

Golden also talks about men who experience domestic violence and sexual assault – when a woman is the perpetrator. But a man does not have society’s permission to speak about this. Not even the permission of progressives, who may be even more likely to oppose such open male communication because it upsets the simplistic “women always victims/male always perpetrators” narrative.

In his talk, Golden breaks a taboo. What, then, can a progressive do with the cognitive dissonance resulting from such open male communication, which has his lip service but which in practice is too uncomfortable for him to address directly?

Snarky political correctness will do the trick.

 

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3 thoughts on “Tom Golden Is Too Radical

  1. That’s really interesting. I think we need to honor and respect biology much more than we do. Perhaps women are biological unprepared to fully empathize with men, to bear witness to their emotions? Women say they want men to talk about their feelings more, but I suspect that really isn’t true.

    On the flip side, perhaps it’s healthy for men to express themselves physically, to work out emotions in ways other than talking? Perhaps men’s biology, their physiology, requires physical release more than it does a purely psychological one?

    I’m sure this is a completely moronic and rhetorical question, but why our we seeking to change the very nature of ourselves anyway?

    1. I don’t think it’s a moronic question at all – it’s a neglected question. Culture may exaggerate certain traits, but the notion that we’re blank slates and that gender is nothing more than a social construct lacks scientific support.

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