A Master Speaks Out about What it Means to be a Man

A book review of To Be A Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power
by Robert Augustus Masters.

We live in a time when issues of men and masculinity are finally surfacing, when men’s struggles with what it means to be a man are finally entering into the national conversation. There is a growing consciousness of the problems of male supremacy and privilege, of men’s sense of entitlement, and of oppression of others, especially women. Men are being challenged to manifest a greater accountability: witness the new awareness of the plague of the old boy’s networks, domestic abuse, sexual assault, child abuse, and police violence in reports on NPR, TV talk shows, and the Internet.

Beyond increased accountability, we’re seeing various forays into the hearts and psyches of men. As there’s more interest and awareness of the problems of men and their various masculinities, there have been more books written recently on the subject. We have of course contributed Stop Hurting the Woman You Love: Breaking the Cycle of Abusive Behavior and Mascupathy: Understanding and Treating the Malaise of American Manhood.

Every so often come a new book comes across my desk which stands out from the rest. Such a book is To Be A Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power by Robert Augustus Masters, Sounds True: Boulder Colorado, 2015.

Masters demonstrates a broad understanding of the problems of contemporary manhood, and writes in a clear and insightful manner. He covers the important subjects: shame, emotional literacy, shadow work, and relationships. Masters’ chapter topics are enticing: Softening does not necessarily mean emasculation; Denumbing; Bring your shadow out of the dark: Facing what you’ve disowned in yourself; Freeing your sexuality from the obligation to make you feel better.

Masters offers advice but in a congenial way that avoids heavy-handedness. He provides accounts of men from his practice to illustrate his points. Here are some of his remarks about men’s most basic ailment, shame, from the introduction to the book.

“Be a man” may seem a straightforward statement, but it is packed to varying degrees with pressures and expectations – and often in-your-face shaming – the delivery of which can alienate men from much of their basic humanity. Such alienation has enormous consequences. When we are thus cut off – emotionally and relationally disconnected or numbed – we are far more capable of dehumanizing activity, far more able to rationalize harmful behavior, far more likely to get caught up in abuses of sex and power. But nothing can truly compensate for what’s been lost through such disconnection and numbing. Disassociation from one soul – ones individuated essence or core of being – is hell, regardless of one’s comforts and distractions, and all too many men are suffering this, doing little more than just getting by or dutifully manning up.

Masters masterfully sums up the plight of many men in this telling paragraph. It is hell to be a man who relentlessly damages himself and those around him, especially those who he loves.

A brief bio suggests that “Masters is a pioneer in the evolving men’s movement.” We are glad to make his acquaintance through his writing and gratified that he’s part of the crusade for the development of a more aware, open-hearted and egalitarian masculinity. We recommend To Be A Man to men, both to those who are new to exploration of masculinities and those already engaged in our mission.

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