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How to Successfully Navigate the Treacherous Path of Multiple Male Identities: A Conversation with Dr. Thomas Keith (#57)

Jul 08, 2021


This week Jean interviews Dr. Thomas Keith, Professor of Philosophy at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Gender Studies at Clairmont Graduate University. Below are some of the highlights. 

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Jean says, “I wanted you here because I saw your book, The Bro Code. And one of the things that I have often thought is there's not enough said about how men are raised, and how that creates the problems that we're experiencing today.” She asks Dr. Keith about his study of how men are raised and the resulting problems.

Tom: Men in American culture have intersectional identities, all of which play a role in the way some boys are raised to be men. The common denominator is that girls and women are less important and should be subordinate to men.


Jean: What are some of the impacts of that belief?

Tom: The number one cause of injury to men is car accidents. The number one cause for women is intimate partner violence. It is domestic violence. When we talk about violence against women, what we should always say is men's violence against women.

When a man goes into the military, they are taught you don't reach out for help. If you've got a problem, you fix it, you fix it on your own, you take charge and you don't ask others for help. That's a feminine thing to do, you're supposed to be a man and man up and be tough. And that's killing us, literally killing us.


Jean: Do you get much pushback?

Tom: Yes, primarily from men and primarily from White men. First they accuse me of trying to blur gender differences, to make everyone the same. Then they tell me women are making up these stories to get attention and make men look bad.


Jean: Compare this to the need of White men to maintain racial dominance.

Tom: There’s a lot of overlap with the White men who feel they’re losing their power. They believe there was some mythical time in the past when everything was great. And it was great, for them. The men who are angriest, who are carrying out domestic terrorism, are almost exclusively White men.


Jean: How did you come to this subject of study?

Tom: I was born into a typical White, conservative, Southern Baptist family. I didn’t question their homophobic and racist attitudes. When I started playing basketball at college, the locker room culture was very misogynistic and homophobic. It wasn’t until afterwards that I started reading bell hooks and W.E.B. Du Bois. Also parenthood changed me.


Jean: What do men have to do?

Tom: They have to understand I’m not male-bashing. True male-bashing would be to tell them not to change. They have to understand that staying the same is literally killing them. The younger generation understands this; they’re the ones who push for equality and diversity.


Jean: Are you optimistic?

Tom: I’m very optimistic because of what I see in the younger generation.


Tom Keith headshot

Dr. Thomas Keith
Author, Filmmaker, Educator

Dr. Thomas Keith teaches philosophy and gender studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Claremont Graduate University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2001. He specializes in American philosophy and pragmatism with an emphasis on issues of race, class, and gender. He has written books and films on the subject of male identity. Dr. Keith also works with School on Wheels in Southern California, providing tutoring and mentoring to children living in homeless and domestic violence shelters. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. For women: What would you have to give up if men were successful in giving up power?

  2. For men: If you can see yourself from a woman’s perspective, what do you think you do that hinders equality?

Leading Consciously concepts and skills covered in this blog post

  • Bridging differences
    • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
    • Develop an awareness of your own stereotyping tendencies and biases and learn how to manage them
    • Address underlying systemic biases
    • As a dominant:
      • Recognize that you may have blind spots as to your own behavior and systemic biases
      • Provide support to nondominants in your group
    • As a nondominant:
      • Recognize that dominants may have blind spots about the impact of their behavior on nondominants
      • Ferret out any tendency toward internalized oppression and views of the dominants as a monolithic, all-powerful group

#BeTheChange #BridgingDifferences  #ChangeStartsWithMe #Dominant/NondominantDynamics



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