It's been 11 years since feminist author Susan Faludi wrote Stiffed, her lament to rudderless males in postindustrial times. The '90s wave of gender identity work for men, from drumming circles to Robert Bly's muscular verse, may now seem as dated as the grunge scene. Yet confusion over gender roles seems greater than ever. For men today, the options are few, says Manology facilitator David Hatfield. Hatfield is not talking about reifying or endorsing existing models of masculinity, but reexamining them for a changing world.
The Globe and Mail's front page recently featured a photo of an NHL player knocked out on the ice. The accompanying story focused on concussions in professional sports, and a tragic succession of brain-injured players. This wasn't the only story on male-on-male violence on the Globe's front page that day: Vancouver city council has voted to allow mixed-martial arts competitions in the city, under a two-year trial. Also known as "extreme fighting," the Thunderdome-like sport is considered by some to be a bloody barometer of our times. Over coffee, I asked David Hatfield, a Vancouver leadership consultant and facilitator who specializes in masculinity work, what he thought of this ironic juxtaposition of news items.
David Hatfield has worked with over 18,000 men and boys in his career as a leadership consultant and facilitator. He was recently at the Tatamagouche Centre in Northern Nova Scotia delivering a 2-day workshop entitled “It’s Better to Build Boys than to Mend Men,” a seminar aimed at people who work with adolescent males. Hatfield describes his work as “social justice, masculinity, and leadership”. Though programs aiming to create healthy young girls and women are becoming more common, similar programs for boys are sorely lacking, says Hatfield. The Halifax Media Co-op caught up with Hatfield before he returned to his home in Vancouver.