Me: the towhead on the right.
I was born in 1971. I’m a cisgender heterosexual white man. Everything I say here is from my perspective. Results may vary.
GenX is a transitional generation.
From analog to digital.
From outdoors to indoors
From the Lone Ranger to Mr Rogers … and From Mr. Rogers to HeMan … and Hulk Hogan and Die Hard … from Tyler Durden to Ted Lasso and “Top Gun’’ to “This is Us.”
From the Cold War to the Culture Wars. (and back to the Cold War?)
Rachel Maddow AND Tucker Carlson are both Gen X.
“I like you just as you are.”
“Don’t be a girly-man.”
We are the last generation who had any time in a world not saturated by advertising DIRECTLY intended to make us life-long product consumers.
We are the last generation to live without the ubiquitous availability of streaming pornography.
Analog to Digital.
Homogenous to Broadly Heterogenous
From hegemonic belief systems to the end of truth
There are lots of wonderful mythologies about GenX men — about our toughness, cynicism, ‘above-it-all-ness’ … Resilience. And in many ways — these are true!
And what I learned — and what I think many other men in my generation learned — is to be experts at hiding, dodging, and adapting. Unlike the silent generation — we were taught to have a voice. Unlike the Boomers — we were taught that we weren’t the center of the universe.
We are a generation where post-modern frameworks for understanding & deconstructing gender, politics, national identity, capitalism, and more came into the mainstream.
Shit’s broken. We know it.
We pretend day to day that it isn’t. Many of this are doing this for our kids. (They know it’s broken too, but we play a game of make-believe so we can keep getting by.)
The promises about what it’s supposed to be like … are lies.
The buckets that keep things organized … good and bad … are bullshit.
What I see in working with GenX men is toughness built of hard work and practice, AND also a rigid shell of armor, sarcasm, and cynicism adopted to shield the festering wounds of living in this transitional time.
Underneath the facade of resilience — we are still trying to internalize and understand — still trying to grasp what it means to live out the idealism that we learned in our childhoods, heal the trauma of our personal histories, and not collapse in the bludgeoning reality of the present moment.
We are the generation trying to figure out whether we want to stay in the matrix, break out of it, or burn it all down completely.
And this energy of contradiction, this energy of push forward and retreat is taking a tremendous toll.
I grew up believing that women were strong, capable of anything and motivated to succeed … and the reason for our society collapsing.
I grew up being taught that women should be in positions of power … and that they should be restricted from accessing power.
Both — at the same time — from different voices.
I grew up being taught that my feelings were valid and welcome on the one hand, AND that those same feelings would get me hurt — physically and emotionally — by my peers and by adult men in my world.
I grew up being taught that equality between men and women was the way it should be … but what I saw modeled around me was mostly the glorification of submissiveness, and men’s anger and frustration at being asked to make things different.
So what I witness in the ManKind Project with the men’s healing work we do …
Is GenX men attempting to integrate the contradictions we learned about manhood, equality, men’s roles in the world … How do we have feelings … and use them well. How do we express the healthy aspects of ‘traditional’ characteristics associated with masculinity?
How do we reconcile that in order to reach gender equality, we have to face the shadow that maintaining dominance by threat of violence is the essence of the social and political construction of manhood.
What am I without that?
How do we go to where the hurt is … and heal there.
How do we stop hiding from each other?
How do we overcome the cultural push to backlash against feminism AND against masculinity.
Well. It’s complicated.
And complicated doesn’t sell well.
Ambiguity is scary.
I did learn though, the answer usually starts with talking about it. Maybe we should spend a Saturday in the library.
“You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
ANDY: …and an athlete…
ALLISON: …and a basketcase…
CLAIRE: …a princess…
JOHN: …and a criminal.”