EP103 – Rob Okun on the Anti-Sexist Men’s Movement

EP103 – Rob Okun on the Anti-Sexist Men’s Movement

Rob Okun is editor and publisher of Voice Male magazine and a former executive director of the Men’s Resource Center for Change, one of the earliest men’s centers in North America.

His book, VOICE MALE: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement, chronicles the transformation of men and masculinity through the pages of the magazine, bringing readers inside “one of the most important social justice movements most people have never heard of”—the anti-sexist men’s movement.

Rob speaks at colleges and universities around the U.S., and his essays on men and manhood have appeared in newspapers in every region of the country, as well as on websites including Ms., Women’s eNews, and Vday.

Rob is on the board of directors of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinititesand North American MenEngage.





Dennis Tardan, Clay Boykin, Rob Okun, Clay

Rob Okun  00:00

I know we’ve talked about some people describe the crisis and masculinity and we’re not hearing about, Well, the good news about compassionate man and men were wanting to change. But if we want to see men change, and if we want to have a culture that’s really inviting that change, then we have to be honest and open to identify situations where the danger is so acute, and the lack of identification of what’s going on is so under state.

Clay Boykin  00:53

Hello, my name is Clay Boykin, and I’m in search of the new compassionate male. Today I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Rob Oaken. Rob is the editor and publisher of voicemail magazine, that’s male spelled ma le, he’s also the former executive director of the men’s Resource Center for change. That’s one of the earliest men’s centers in North America. Rob has a book The title is voicemail, the untold story of the pro feminist movement. In it, he talks about one of the most important social justice movements, most people have never heard of the anti sexist men’s movement. Let’s join that conversation.

Dennis Tardan  01:37

Hello, World. It’s me, Dennis. And we are in search of the new compassionate male. I’m the co host of this podcast, and I’m here with the founder, Playboy can Hello, play.

Clay Boykin  01:50

Hello, Dennis. Boy, am I excited about this afternoon. Rob Oaken is with us. And Rob has been deeply involved. And that’s an understatement, with with men’s work at all different levels. And I wish we had five hours to talk but we only have about 15 minutes.

Dennis Tardan  02:11

Well, we’re let’s give this a start. And we’ll be we’ll be going out. Rob, welcome. Welcome to the podcast.

Rob Okun  02:17

Delighted to be here and to meet you about? Well, it

Dennis Tardan  02:20

is, you know, we have been in search of the new compassionate male, because we’ve been looking, we know that that our role, especially our role as older white men, we have and who are still in power, who still have 80% of all of the of the political and economic influence that it is our role, we have to come to the table, and you specifically have talked about in all of your writing and all of your, your advocacy about the role of the male in the feminist in the pro feminist movement. Do I have that? That understanding? And I’m just exactly, I wonder explore that today?

Rob Okun  03:04

Sure. That’s it. That’s a fair summary. If you want me to pick up from that I can or

Dennis Tardan  03:12

That’s exactly right. Up in big beep.

Rob Okun  03:15

Okay. Well, it’s true that there’s been this tension all along over the years between feminism and men. And to me, it’s a false flag, because the benefits of feminism are about equality for everyone. So, you know, just to put that aside at the outset that, that men who feel threatened by feminism aren’t really understanding what it is and the unfair advantages that we have had just by the, you know, this the chance that we arrived on the planet in male identified bodies, doesn’t mean that we’re ruling the roost, even as you say that, this this moment that we’re in where it feels to a lot of men that the nature given God given power to be in charge is somehow being threatened, as opposed to recognizing that it’s been an unfair situation. It’s been a imbalanced playing field, an unlevel playing field. And now we’re at it at a moment where if men can get out of our own way, and when I say that, I mean our, our grasping on to what was your our fear of what could be if we can find that middle ground, you know, in our own hearts between trusting that what’s ahead is healthy and helpful for us as male identified people, but that there’s richness to having the input and the experience and the voice of women, you know, in all conversations and in all walks of life, and we’re having this conversation on a day when first African American woman is being nominated to be an associate justice in the Supreme Court. So I just want to put out for men who are listening to this, who might be skeptical or just feeling a little tightness around someone who’s identifying himself as Pro feminist, we can talk about why I say that versus just feminists that get comfortable with the idea that equality is something that we’re all entitled to, and that feminism is simply the proposition that women and men and anyone else that however they describe themselves, or define themselves, should have equal opportunities, equal benefits in our society.

Dennis Tardan  06:10

I was one of the things that clay, you know, you and I have talked about on many times is that it appears to us as if the level the world has gone to a level of complexity, that requires that before in the before times, that it was the words a simple enough system that that the patriarchal system might work to get us in certain in certain places. But now the world is so complex and interdependent, that we need the combination of all thoughts, the population at all thoughts and perspectives in order to succeed. It’s a synergistic rather than a zero sum game. Does, does that resonate with your, with your experience?

Rob Okun  06:58

Yeah, so of course, and, you know, I grew up, you know, in 50s, and 60s, and was socialized, you know, to the ideas and the expectations of maleness in, in those times. And it was only my experiences, going through the, you know, primarily the anti war movement, but certainly the beginnings of the environmental movement, birthday in 1970. And the gay rights movement and the women’s movement that informed how I was identifying with my maleness. And I feel fortunate that I came of age when I did, because I hadn’t hardened my views. So that I was not suspicious of women in the women’s movement or suspicious of gay rights movement. I was just kind of a young guy trying to figure it all out, and I was open. And I think that one of the things that I, I reflected on many years later in chapter I wrote for a book called Confessions of a premature pro feminist, which was a takeoff on the premature Anti Fascist from the 30s, to people that went to fight for the, against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, who our State Department described as, you know, premature Anti Fascist, and then who they turn to, to become involved in the second world war with their leadership. But I digress. I think that one of the things that occurred to me when I thought about those days in my late teens, early 20s, was that I’d be at these anti war meetings. And they were run by the stereotypical mustachioed more macho oriented guys whose politics on the war were great, whose politics on gender was just tone deaf to everything. And as I thought about it, when I was writing, you know, 40 years later, women were making the most cogent points in these meetings. And yet, in tools, leadership positions, that wasn’t entirely the case, there were moments and people in places but by and large, it was a male dominated. And that was one of the downfalls of the new left. And of course, it was women in the New Left, who threw up their hands when they recognize just how resistant in fact, As these men’s work, men work, and that’s gave rise to the women’s movement. And I think that it’s that nexus of recognizing women’s leadership, women stepping away from the movement that they were in, in creating their own movement that gave some men pause. Some men resisted that, you know, done. And other men said, what’s that about? And I think for those of us who had even a little bit of curiosity, you know, we were the kinder, gentler sexes. And I’m sure that if I could be in touch with some of the women that I knew in my undergraduate days that I would have some, some embarrassing moments. But, but it was that recognition that there’s something going on here, that consciousness raising groups and recognizing that there’s this relationship between the personal and the political, that that was just exciting, was confusing for sure. And I certainly like a lot of men who became involved in pro feminist men’s work. Certainly, there was some trepidation. But I think they the hunger for what was going on over there. And, and I think, more than just, you know, being sort of envious of it that that camaraderie and sisterhood in the politics and everything was so sparking, but I think there was in my heart of hearts, it was this recognition that this is right. And what was happening before was wrong. And it’s hard to unseat the truth when you’ve seen it.

Dennis Tardan  11:59

Well, you talked about trust, you talked a lot you’ve talked about. Both of us had had a lot of trust issues with men. Would you talk about that clay? And I’d love to hear Rob’s Yeah,

Clay Boykin  12:13

well, in this has been my feeling. And it’s been over the past 10 years in the men’s work that I’ve done. That seems to be kind of a common theme that so many men have either gone through their dark night of the soul, or they’re, they’re coming up through a recovery program or something, and they’re looking for something a little bit more, I’ll say spiritual, but they don’t differentiate between spirituality and religion. And they said, Well, I got burned on organized religion, so I’m not going to go there. And they can speak to their spouse or partner to a certain level, but it’s only when they can connect with another man at a deep level, that there’s some things that they’re that’s that they can only learn there. But we’re raised not to trust one another. And so that for me, personally, my experience was that created this void in me. And this knowing and, and the harder I worked outwardly, the more that this hurt inwardly. And I’ve run across so many men who said, Oh, yeah, I’ve got that feeling, too. And it’s, it stems from me, in not really having a strong male role model model growing up, and finding situations where I couldn’t trust men. And so that starts at spin, but I see a whole population out there of guys that are here, there, but they’re stuck. They’re stuck in their heart, or they’re stuck, or they don’t know, they don’t have the vocabulary to, to speak or to express themselves. And they’re confused about this. And, you know, we’re festering inside, and we’re dying, or we’re killing other people as a result.

Rob Okun  14:01

Right? I think you’re you’re hitting on and we’re the conversation in this organic fashion. We started with a little bit more of this social justice, social change, political orientation towards understanding what we could do as men. And you’re bringing us back to the key important, hard work that so many men have struggled with or our struggle with or don’t have the vocabulary for. And it just reminds me of the blessing of connecting with the organization that I became deeply involved with for many years. One of the earliest men centers in North America was called Men’s Resource Center and it was based in Western Massachusetts. I like to say that I showed up in Using baseball terminology in the bottom of the first second founder, but I was I was up close from pretty much the beginning. And the community where where I live in Western Massachusetts has had a long history of integrating spiritual pursuits in social justice pursuits, that, that, that whatever tension there might have been about those areas in the 70s, and into the early 80s, began to become very integrated. So the tagline of the organization, mentor Resource Center was supporting men, challenging men’s violence. So it was in the two wings of this this vertiv piece that we were trying to create. And I know that sometimes there were people who showed up, who were taken aback, and they couldn’t quite connect with, you know, those seemingly disparate ideas. But once the the conversation happened, or the self exploration happened, and there was that aha moment, it was like, Oh, of course, I have to do the inner work. And I can’t ignore the outer work. And, you know, it’s really interesting when, when Robert Bly died, recently, there was so much emphasis on his his work, you know, particularly Iron Man, and how he was perceived as this elder in the men’s movement. And it really ignored his whole history as a political activist, very strong anti war activist. And I always felt that it was too bad that even a paragraph or two in that book that said, you know, I’m focusing in on the inner work that men need to do. But this isn’t the place that I want to talk about the outer work that men need to be engaged in. And I, I had the opportunity of meeting him in his later Later years. And we didn’t have that direct conversation. But I felt like there was a sense of like, appreciation for I know what you guys are doing, meaning the men center and magazine that I added. And I think that, that there was a lost opportunity in the 90s. And, you know, I’m sure that if one talked to Bill Moyers, who did that famous interview with Robert Bly, that there would have been Oh, yeah, I probably should have talked about this piece. So I’m glad that we’re having the chance to notice that the stuck place the hurt place, can actually be loosened and freed up by feeling that sense of purpose to take on injustice. And particularly, gender inequality is a place where when men open up to it, and don’t feel resistant to it, that light bulb does really go on,

Clay Boykin  18:27

you know, I so true. We had a gentleman named Howard tie on, and I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. And in, in our conversation, at one point, we was talking about solar and lunar, he was putting the speaking in that term, the solar male and the lunar female. And the fact that both the genders if you will have both energies within them. And I was tracking along with that just fine. And then he said, Now clay, you’re in all marine. Now tell me if this isn’t true. The lunar leads, and the solar executes. Well, Dennis saw me I kind of back. Oh, boy. But, but I thought about it. And it’s true. In all my time in the Corps, it was heart. This is where leadership is born. And yes, and it’s a combination, of course, but primarily, it’s from the heart. And we execute from the head. I can’t think of a situation where we had to, you know, go into harm’s way where someone was just leaning leading from the neck up. And so to me, it’s like, Why can’t guys understand this? That that you’re not complete, just up here that you’ve got to embrace that this is where true leadership comes from. It’s from the heart, and you need to get there and learn. There’s nothing sought. There’s nothing soft about that.

Dennis Tardan  20:08

I really like how you how you phrase that clay because I want to ask you rob, that question of why. Alright, because here we are as a culture. Here we are in 2022. All the three of us are in the fourth quarters of our lives, and what we’re doing and what we’re so so where are the places where we can have impact in order to push this conversation forth and help change the world?

Rob Okun  20:36

Yeah. Yeah. Just a little question to ask

Dennis Tardan  20:40

just a little one on so yeah, they’re just toss away little.

Rob Okun  20:46

So man’s frozen spot, that place that, that we’ve been naming that that inability to open up into, look at our interior lives and to feel the struggle and to embrace it and to be vulnerable. All these things that most men have been socialized to be resistant to? We’re at, we’re at an at an inflection point where that’s slowly shifting. And I think it’s a great opportunity. And it’s a sense of frustration that we haven’t made kind of progress that we might have. But I think you hit on something like, there will probably be some people when they hear the word compassion. Or some people identify as male though, okay, I’m not going I’m not checking that out. No, that that words have been gender. So compassion is feminine, feminine. And courage is masking. So when we think the word courage, we think of the firefighter rushing into the burning, building and coming out with the baby, we don’t necessarily think that it’s a group of guys standing around and somebody makes a sexist or racist, or homophobic joke. And rather than casting your eyes down or walking away, somebody says, Hey, man, I don’t like that. I need you to stop talking that way. That’s not cool. That’s the kind of courage. So I think we’re, we’ve been stuck because men have felt that inability to speak up. And right now, I mean, this is a it’s a great point to dig into. Because I think we are at a moment where we need our voices in the conversation. When I say our, you know, whether it’s men and you say, the fourth quarter, I say, the 7/7 inning of them and

Dennis Tardan  22:55

yeah, I’m sorry. We’ve got a Red Sox fan here. So we better make sure that Fenway is as well represented.

Rob Okun  23:04

No, I’m referred to by my grandchildren as Big Papi. David Ortiz is the Red Sox. Now Hall of Famer. Yeah. Anyway. I think that right now, there is a potential army of men, making say from no young fathers in their 30s up to guys in their seven in the seventh inning, who, if we can organize ourselves and find their voices, we can really contribute so much to every social problem that we’re dealing with, you know, from from climate crisis, no, to no democracy crisis, I mean, across the board, and it occurred to me after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted for murdering two people in wanting another FF in Kenosha, Wisconsin at the protests about Jacob likes being paralyzed that he at 18 became suddenly a star among the particular perspective from the right wing. And I’m thinking to myself, are there fathers and teachers and uncles and mentors who want to raise sons, regardless of what you think of the the jury verdict or any of that? Do we want to have our 18 717 year old at the time? Do we want them thinking that the way to express power and courage and manhood is to go with a No What was it a key? Yeah. Yeah. Whatever he had an assault rifle. Is that what we want? Because if, if we stay silent, then that is the message that millions of males are expressing through our through our silence. And I say even that makes us in collusion with that we’re called, you know,

Rob Okun  25:34

it’s it’s just time that we use things like that as an example, to say no, no more.

Clay Boykin  25:41

I agree. This is what, so excited me, Rob, when you sent me the magazines, voicemail. And I started just quickly thumbing through and got tremendously excited because this is speaking to the younger men. And this has been an area where in search, the new compassionate male has really, it’s a wide audience, but it tends to be towards this, you know, entering into the second half of life. And so this has been a real,

Dennis Tardan  26:17

yeah. Entering and it is, and so are you finding, Rob, are you finding that, that burning in the 20 year olds, and the young and the young kids that are coming, I see it on the political front, but I’m not sure I see it in the men, I’m not experiencing it. Yet as much in in the, in the pro feminist movement?

Rob Okun  26:42

Yeah, I want to see two things, and then get into that a little bit more. One is that we haven’t done as good a job at doing outreach to a more diverse group of men. And that, just as the women’s movement started with, mostly, you know, middle class, white women, there became a critique of the narrowness of this and how it wasn’t expressing the needs of all women. And, and, and they took that on and over time diversified that movement, so that it is very racially diverse and sexual orientation diverse. And it’s been slower, but inside of the movement, that I use term, pro feminist or anti sexist, that it’s been important that there are more men of color involved and in leadership positions, and also to recognize that it’s, it’s the time where, for those of us who’ve been doing this work for a long time, and are in this fourth quarter, seventh inning, that we look to younger men. So one of the issues the last issue, I think, that I sent to play, the cover story is about an organization called next gen men. Yes, and, and your name, you know, says it all. And I’ve gotten to know the executive director and a few people on their staff over the last couple of years. And they are exactly taking on for 2022 and beyond the issues that men’s Resource Center was taking on in the 80s and 90s. Just to say, the founding executive director of the men’s Resource Center, work with closely My dear friend, Steve black. And when he first read about next gen man, he said, Oh, this reminds us of class in the early days. Wow. So that forecasting is going on. And they’re working more closely with voicemail. And I think, even though they’re in Canada, where there’s been a lot of great intersects as Pro feminist men’s work going on. So it’s happening and those of us who have a sphere of influence to make to bridge those divides and to bring more people in, whether it’s getting clergy to talk about it from the pulpit, or work with mentors in schools, to coaches to really invite because, you know, at the high end pointing up the street, the high school here, there’s a women’s rights club that’s been going on for 20 years, and we’re not at the place where it’s called the gender rights. Club. But every year, if there’s, you know, 2530 women, there’s five or six or seven guys. And that gives me hope when I see that that’s what’s happening

Clay Boykin  30:11

well and add on the voicemail magazine as kind of the the flag for some of this work. And it’s voice mail ma L E, which I love it. The point I wanted to make is this is this is not just a US magazine. This has this, it looks to me like it’s taking in, in speaking to more than just the young men in the US. Am I correct?

Rob Okun  30:41

Yes. And I think one of the most exciting things that has happened is starting about 20 years ago, maybe a little bit more. Those of us who have been involved in North America became aware that this work is actually global. Yeah. There was a US one guy who is actually originally from Texas, who was living in Brazil, and colleague working in South Africa, they had the perspective that was not North America, narrow perspective, they had a more global perspective. And they started about 20, some years ago and organization called Men engage all one word men engaged with the person he capitalized. And that’s grown over the years, the global MenEngage. Alliance, to be in I want to say about 85 countries, and hundreds and hundreds of organizational and individual members on five continents. And as soon as we end, the men’s Resource Center, and as I was taking voicemail, from organizational newsletter, and elevating it to magazine, it became clear that, oh, we have to talk about what’s going on globally. And some of the most exciting work was going on in South Africa, in India, and, you know, Europe was similar. And Scandinavia, I mean, Africa itself, there’s probably 17 countries on the African continent that happened engaged chapters. So this is clearly a global movement. And it’s all from from the get go, it has acknowledged as voice noun and and resource and it did the leadership of women and the wanting to endorse and back the voices of women. So this is a movement to invite younger men in into working for gender equality, and for their own enlightenment and their own freeing of themselves. But it has been an inclusive movement that has been diverse across the board in race and class and gender. I think I read there were over 900 organizations.

Rob Okun  33:43

Yeah. My keeping up with my own information.

Dennis Tardan  33:47

You know, Rob, what I love about this is how much hope this gives me because the when when the embers are just started, when we were just seeing a little bit to read before the fire really catches and when we’re doing, you know, when Lin Manuel Miranda wrote, wrote the Hamilton and he talked to and one of the songs is being in the room where it happened. This feels like we are in the room where it happened, that there is such a shift in consciousness that is happening right now. That is, that is actually what is emerging is something so much more integrated, and so much more whole than where we have been before.

Rob Okun  34:34

It’s true. It’s true that the first symposium of the MenEngage Alliance was in 2009, in Rio de Janeiro. And there are about 450 people from around the world. Few years later in 2014 was the next symposium and that happened to New Delhi, India, and that had 1200 delegates. And it was the most thrilling thing, the workshops, the plenaries, everything was so sparkling. But there was a big courtyard, it was November and the temperature is very late spring, like around 70s. And at lunch for in the breaks, people be outside and we had booths with our information. But it was like United Nations of people all rowing in the same direction. And it looked like the united nations of the world. And, you know, there were many things that I learned in the plenaries, and all of the workshops, but my heart lived in that courtyard for the breaks and for lunch and, and getting together with Julio from Mozambique. And everyone. I mean, it you can see the excitement is still there all these years later. We were all set we as members to go to Kigali and Wanda, last November, November of last year, for the the new symposium. But of course, we intervene and talk about making lemonade out of lemons, instead of a five day experience with finite, maybe it would have been up to 2000 people. It was a series of plenaries and workshops that went on from November to June and allow people from around the world and you can go to the menengage.org to their website and just type in Kigali MenEngage. Third, world symposium, and you can dip into workshops on every topic under the sun in some some outer space, probably.

Clay Boykin  37:18

I’ll be sure to put that URL and because it’s so important.

Dennis Tardan  37:23

It is and it’s so so exciting, Rob to to to see when you look at where you are today, and what are the things that you’re investing in the things that you’re curious about what’s what’s burning on, on, on the work that you’re doing.

Clay Boykin  37:42

I touched on it, it’s it’s that next gen men, it’s it’s literally those people from you know, their 20s 30s 40s, who were stepping into this work, and we’re ready to take on this work. I think that that’s, that’s, that’s one piece. And the other is figuring out how to loosen and open the hearts of men who have so much to offer in terms of mentoring, and leadership and expressing that dialogue that we’re hearing out there about, man. No, there’s another voice. Sadly, too many of the examples of masculine behaviors, quote, unquote, are so negative, I’m not a fan of the term, toxic masculinity, but I get it, I understand it in a kind of freeze frames, you know, we’re not all, you know, in a, in a moment, someone could be expressing toxic behavior, but that’s not their full identity, yet, examples that we get that we’re bombarded with every day. I mean, you know, there’s, there’s a madman operating in Moscow, who’s isolated who, who is an example, you know, until a couple until a year ago, I mean, you know, who we could point to our own country and speak about that example. But, I mean, it’s still influential, but he’s hopefully going to get more isolated, become old news. But all of these examples of the worst have stuck, stubborn, right? Fearful, tight, all of those examples, if we sit back and don’t challenge them, and that becomes that’s why that term, you know, you’re introducing, you know, a great new term and may you know, take route and become more powerful and more in the daily pylons. Then when toxic compassion, compassion wins every time.

Dennis Tardan  40:11

And it is a power it’s not a win. It’s not doesn’t come. I love the way you frame that earlier where you were talking about compassion, being identified with the female with it with a woman rather than compassion and courage yet yet what what you’ve said clay so often and we’ve had is that is the courage if there is such courage in compassion,

Clay Boykin  40:38

well Brene Brown talks about courage and the root being curb which means heart. And I keep going back to my time in college as a as a cadet at a&m and as a freshman, they marched us over to the memorial students center and say, you memorize this Bible verse. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend, John 1530. Yeah, that’s compassion. And there’s nothing soft about that when a man lays down his life for another man. That’s, that’s the supreme act of compassion. So these ideas that compassion is something soft, is really not it’s really off base. It’s much greater than that. I

Rob Okun  41:32

know, we’ve talked about some people describe the crisis of masculinity, and we’re not hearing about the good news about the passionate man, and then we’re wanting to change. But if we want to see men change, and if we want to have a culture that’s really inviting that change, then we have to be honest and open to identify situations where the danger is so acute, and the lack of identification of what’s going on. Is so under stated, What do I mean by that? The January six insurrection? Okay, it was this was an information from my friend and colleague Jackson Capps was 93%. White, but 86%. Male. And have you heard any discourse if you’ve heard any commentary? Have you heard any attention being given to the gender of insurrectionists? I’ve written commentaries over the years since Columbine, about how maddening it is that we don’t say the shooters gender identity, name, a spot name a spot 99% of the mass shootings, school shootings, theaters, shootings are done by men, and that we, at our peril. Think of this as a mental health issue, which of course, it is, on some level, even gender even with this, this high school student and his out of control parents in Michigan, we don’t speak the truth. And how are we going to change if we don’t identify what the problem is? So to me, if we want to take back the precious democracy, that’s an arrow right now, one of the places is to identify who the insurrection is primarily. And I would say that, of course, everybody knows that they’re mad. I mean, you say that there was a mass shooting, and everybody’s in their mind the image is, is not of a of a woman. And of course, if it is a woman, then that’s what the woman charged with mass shooting, but we don’t identify the perpetrator. We take it for granted. So part of the work of getting to a place where we can all embrace the new compassionate male is by looking at the hurt, twisted, destructive, troubled, dangerous, existing expression of so called man may think that that’s a piece that In terms of what we need to be looking at right now, as a culture as a society as a political moment, is really honing in on that disparity.

Clay Boykin  45:15

So well put, thank you for that.

Rob Okun  45:19

I, I, one of the things I did in my days at the men’s Resource Center, we had a range of programs from bunch of different kinds of support groups for men, young men of color leadership program and a women support group for women whose partners or ex partners were in a batter’s program, and we ran a certified batterers intervention program. So it was very broad range and published voicemail, we had a bunch of things going on with us as women, the battered general support gay men support group, and we’ve been neglected or abused in some way growing up. But for many years, Wednesday nights, I would lead a group. And at a later point, we decided who should have co leadership of a woman and a man running, better intervention. But one of our CO leaders coined this term. Steep Jefferson, who’s now not here on the planet, wonderful man. He coined the term compassionate confrontation. So imagine you’re sitting in a room where men either have been ordered by the court, go through this 24 week, 20 week program, two hours every week for Spouse said, we either deal with this I’m out of here, for a clergy member or therapist, so there was a mix of Courtney and dated and pushed in, encouraged. And they sit there and you could watch over the course of the groups, when when they started would be such resistance and there would be no, not unwilling to own any of the behaviors that got them there. And the beauty of the program was that people came in in a staggered way. So somebody who’s in week two, sitting in a room with someone that week nine and someone that week 16. And the the bats would hone in the group leader. Do you are just completely bullshitting yourself? You are completely, you know, not acknowledging the reality? She just fell? No. I just know if if she hadn’t had done that, then I wouldn’t have. And they broke it down. But Steve, when he coined this term, it’s like, we know that you’re not, you know, a battered 24/7. And so I’m going to feel the compassion for whatever it was in your life circumstances, however, you were brought up whatever happened to you, whatever bad things, I’m going to feel compassion for you. And simultaneous truth, I’m going to confront your abusive behavior. So going back to that model of how we ran the organization, supporting men challenging men’s violence, we could hold both parts of them. Yes. And just as a historical note, in the 80s, and 90s. That was a radical notion within the batters intervention world. And as time went on, the rest of that movement, caught up with that vision, just because it became the truth that compassion is urging exactly like you said.

Dennis Tardan  49:14

bra that is that is so that is so profound, because today we to be able to hold two thoughts at the same time and to be able to have because I need to not only have compassion for what I see out in the world, but if I cannot have compassion for myself for my mistakes for what I’m doing, if I’m not able to express it to myself, also, I’m not going to be able to be as effective in the outer world

Rob Okun  49:42

that fires burning out in the world and among the ones that we have to take care of is still a fire of of hate that In our own hearts,

Dennis Tardan  50:01

yes, yes, I have that. When you look at your grandchildren, what what do you see? How do you see in their consciousnesses as they were growing up from when you were, you were that age and you you’re getting a chance to do what does that do?

Rob Okun  50:21

I mean, that’s another place where I feel a lot of hope, or a girl and for two sets of siblings, for a little boy and two boys, and you’re between almost nine and down to four, particularly the older ones, nine and seven. They have a natural sensitivity. You know, one of them is copying out poems that he likes. One of them is knitting one day and going to Taekwondo, the next. I mean, they’re they’re integrators. And I think, and their, their parents are raising them to pull both places. Now the culture, no question, the culture is going to still try to push them into those traditional boxes. But I think a lot of younger parents who are it’s not even that they’re consciously fighting back. They’re just, this is how I want to raise my kids. And the whole both.

Dennis Tardan  51:32

And, you know, I don’t think Rob that the number has to be 50%. To get to the tipping point, there’s something about consciousness that takes a much smaller number, to get to a tipping point to to infect the entire society. Isn’t this wonderful clay, you just feel I my emotions, my heart is opening so much to being around you, Rob,

Clay Boykin  52:02

I want to say this. And I’m saying this with all my heart that last year with this podcast, we talked to great men, great women. And as I said earlier, they tend to be towards a little bit older. This year, I really want to bring in the youth, I really want to hear the voices of the young people. Because the audience needs to hear it and I want to want them to have this plan.

Dennis Tardan  52:35

I need to hear it and I need to hear it. That’s why we are in search of Rob, we’re in searches because we’re exploring without and within us. Because there’s so many places that I have conscious and unconscious biases that I haven’t even worked through, that I need to continue to work through. And both of us are exploring. That’s why we are in search of and deliberately made it in that vein.

Rob Okun  53:00

Yeah, they’re out there. And no, not at this moment. But I’m happy to give you some suggestions of and to invite. And I don’t know do you have women on this?

Clay Boykin  53:12


Dennis Tardan  53:14

Demographic clay crazies, don’t we demographic Yeah,

Clay Boykin  53:17

that listen to the podcast and visit the website, consistently between 48 to 52% of the followers of the people who go to visit the website or listen to the podcast, or women. There’s been weeks that that where it’s more women than men on the podcast, or listening to the podcast, they want

Dennis Tardan  53:39

to believe it’s possible. They want to believe that we can actually grow and change.

Clay Boykin  53:45

And the voices of the women who’ve been on the podcast have been incredible. Please have been incredible.

Rob Okun  53:55

Great. Okay,

Dennis Tardan  53:57

so we would love we would love to not only that, but we want to continue to connect with you, Rob and your guidance and helping us to find the voices. Because the voices that are around you are the voices we want to amplify.

Rob Okun  54:15

Well, that’s wonderful. And it just occurred to me that in addition to listeners or viewers on YouTube, of the podcast, might want to check voice mail magazine.org and look at it online and just remember if you don’t spell mail ma le, we won’t get too far. And if you don’t, and if you don’t put in magazine, you’re going to find a wonderful men’s soccer pellet group. Some great singing I always thought they should do a benefit concert for us but they’re called voicemail but you have to write voice mail ma le magazine.org. But for those who are Old school or if we just like the tactile experience, I’d be happy to have us send a physical copy of the magazine to anybody. And they can have that as a month.

Dennis Tardan  55:17

Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn with and from you. And to have this gracious moment this is very holy. For me, this gives me a great deal of inspiration and hope and play. I know you.

Clay Boykin  55:36

Yeah. I’m almost speechless. I’m so excited.

Dennis Tardan  55:41

I’m not bad at something my boy can being speechless is really

Clay  55:47

That’s a mouthful, right?

Rob Okun  55:51

I am understanding from what you’re both saying that we reached the end of our time, and it’s literally flown by because you have both invited the conversation and woven it together. That just really allowed me to feel that sense of hope that, you know, men aren’t just stuck, that men are opening up. I I used to say that when I was giving a talk or something that if the lights went out and there was no pilot power, you know, I would just have three words to say. Believe in men believe in our capacity to grow, believe in our capacity to change and to feel a sense of hope, fullness. Despite how many opportunities there might be to feel hopeless, because it’s happening. It’s happening and we’re only going to grow and it’s our time to speak up and to speak out.

Dennis Tardan  57:07

Clay thank you so much for for inviting me and Rob Oaken. Thank you so much for joining me and it is certainly for me not going to be the last time I’m going to be joining you and we are going to be doing it but anyway, thank you so much. And I think all the listeners thanks everyone for supporting the podcast supporting the vid cast and clay and I will get a chance all the information is on the link. And we will see all of you in search of the new compassionate mail next time.

Clay Boykin  57:49

Check out the latest episode of In Search of the new compassionate mail on your favorite podcast Station.

Ep91: Susan Cottrell on Affirming the LGBTQ Community

Ep91: Susan Cottrell on Affirming the LGBTQ Community

Susan Cottrell is an international speaker whose TEDx talk has 1.5 million views. OutSmart magazine called her “The Mother of All MamaBears.” The Advocate dubbed her “our favorite affirming matriarch.” She is a prominent voice for the LGBTQ community and their faith parents who has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, Nightline and Good Morning America, on NBC News Out, and as a contributor on the Our Bible app. She is a public theologian and through her nonprofit organization—FreedHearts—Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her authentic love; and she challenges Christians to love as the foundation of faith.




Freed Hearts

Freed Hearts Podcast

Ep:101 – Robert Jensen on the Pornography Crisis (Sexually explicit language)

Ep:101 – Robert Jensen on the Pornography Crisis (Sexually explicit language)



Robert Jensen is an emeritus professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Texas at Austin and a founding board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He collaborates with the Ecosphere Studies program at The Land Institute, and with New Perennials Publishing and the New Perennials Project at Middlebury College. Jensen joined the UT faculty in 1992 after completing his Ph.D. in media ethics and law in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a professional journalist for a decade. At UT, Jensen taught undergraduate and graduate courses in media law, ethics, and politics until he retired in 2018. In his writing and teaching, Jensen draws on a variety of critical approaches to media and power. Much of his work has analyzed pornography and the radical feminist critique of sexuality and men’s violence, and he also has addressed questions of race through a critique of white privilege and institutionalized racism. Jensen’s recent work has focused on the ecological crises. Jensen writes for popular media, both alternative and mainstream. His opinion and analytic pieces on such subjects as foreign policy, politics, economics, and ecology have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and websites all over the world. – Continued…

Robert Jensen: https://robertwjensen.org/about/
Clay Boykin – https://clayboykin.com
Dennis Tardan – https://dennistardan.com

Ep99: Gudjon Bergmann on Book Coaching with Heart

Ep99: Gudjon Bergmann on Book Coaching with Heart

As an author of more than thirty books, Gudjon Bergmann has been sharing his knowledge of writing and self-publishing since 2009. He offers his coaching clients a no-nonsense, affordable, systematic approach that creates results. His services include: Individual coaching, group coaching, workshops, content editing, typesetting, cover design, and more. For a no-obligation free 30-minute assessment, book your appointment through Calendly. ​For email inquiries, click here. Gudjon is an Icelandic-American author of more than thirty books and an ordained interfaith minister. Since 1996, Bergmann has combined his passion for spirituality and religion with his deep interest in human psychology and decades of experience as a workshop facilitator, and professional speaker.



Ep98: Menka Sethi on Homing (Not Housing)

Ep98: Menka Sethi on Homing (Not Housing)

Menka Sethi is an ESG company leader, housing executive, and strategy innovator. She uses her combined background as an architect and business strategist to scale companies. Menka recently scaled American Battery Technology Company from a $50MM to $1B valuation as Chief Operating Officer, and prior to this led Facebook’s location strategy and $1B investments in affordable housing. She is a licensed architect and received her Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University and MBA from Columbia University.