Mediocre Mystic

Am I Performing My Manhood Correctly? with Darren Calhoun

June 22, 2021 Fundamental Shift Season 2 Episode 9
Mediocre Mystic
Am I Performing My Manhood Correctly? with Darren Calhoun
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is Part 2 of a series. If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1, which is the episode immediately prior to this one in our podcast feed.

Today we’re continuing the conversation on Toxic Masculinity with justice advocate Darren Calhoun. We’ll also talk about some of your responses to our online survey about your vision of the Ultimate Man. You don’t want to miss it.

Referenced and Recommended in this Episode:
Darren Calhoun
Good Men Project
What's Good, Man?
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo

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Music by '86 Aerostar

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Am I performing my manhood correctly?

James: Heads up: the following podcast contains adult language and deals with adult subjects. Keep this in mind as you listen. This episode is Part Two of a series. If you haven't yet check out Part One, which is the episode immediately prior to this one in our podcast feed. We'll link to it in our show notes as well.

Today we're continuing the conversation on toxic masculinity with my friend and justice advocate, Darren Calhoun. We'll also talk about some of your responses to our online survey about your vision of the ultimate man. You don't want to miss it. On with the show. 

Grace: Hey folks, I'm Grace.

James: And I'm James. Welcome to Fundamental Shift: the podcast where we explore the major shakeups in our lives, their fault lines and aftershocks.

 Grace: Thanks for listening. You're in for a real shift show. 

James: Last time on Fundamental Shift, I invited you, our listeners, to imagine a person who embodies masculinity to you, then to fill out our survey at about who you imagined and what factors played into why this person comes to mind when you imagine manhood or masculinity. The responses we received were interesting.

Most of you who responded pictured someone from the world of arts and entertainment, indicating they were an actor, performer, artist, and/ or TV character. More than one of you pictured Jason Momoa, known for his roles in Aquaman, Game of Thrones, and Stargate: Atlantis. Hugh Jackman, registered as did Ron Swanson from the hilarious TV series Parks and Recreation.

Although I didn't fill out the survey myself, Ron Swanson actor Nick Offerman was one that came to mind for me, as well as Jackman. Of those who indicated the category to which their ultimate man belonged, 37 and a half percent indicated  they thought of a family member, and of those, people cited their father or grandfather as the person they imagined. 

One person said of their grandfather, "He was very physically strong. He spent a summer breaking up rocks to build a stone fireplace at the cottage. He loved doing woodwork. He was fiercely loyal to his family. I knew that if I had any trouble with my teachers, I could go to him and he would straighten things out, but he was also very gentle and encouraging. When he was speaking to you, you felt like the most important person in his world." 

Other people indicated well-roundedness as being a big factor. Quote.  "My dad was a blue collar worker, his entire life. He was always covered in car grease," one said. "He could fix anything, always did yard work, cooked every night and cried at animal movies." 

Of Hugh Jackman, one respondent said, "he carries the brute strength and physicality with gentleness, and isn't afraid of embracing traits that some would see as more feminine, such as singing and dancing in plays, et cetera."

And one respondent wanted to say, "It definitely wouldn't be anybody from the arts politics, media, etc. The fact that you think they should be says more about you than I possibly could."

 Yikes. Can I get some ice for that burn, please? 

Kidding. I know not to put ice on a burn. Or butter. Yeah, don't do either of those things.

Seriously though, I think this is a point worth discussing because if one person wrote in about it, I imagine there are probably more folks out there with similar thoughts who didn't. So thank you, anonymous listener, for your comment. Just to be clear, I never suggested someone's idea of masculinity should derive from people or characters we see in arts, politics or media. I made an informed guess about the interplay between our individual notions and concepts and the influence exerted through factors, such as politics, arts, entertainment, and other forms of media we consume. And based on the responses we received, I wasn't wrong.  I wanted to address what you said because mutual understanding is something we value very highly here at Fundamental Shift, and misunderstanding and misperception can often lead to misinformation, which in turn can have a devastating effect on personal relationships and society at large.

If you sent in this comment and would like to share additional insight into your thoughts regarding how popular culture does or doesn't or should, or shouldn't influence individual notions or concepts of masculinity or any other topics, I invite you to drop us a line through any of the channels we reference at the end of the show and in our show notes.

Thanks again, everyone, for your input. It was so great hearing from you. 

Darren Calhoun is a speaker, musician, photographer, writer, activist, and conversation starter concentrating on LGBTQ+ inclusion and racial equity.

He works to bridge connections between people of differing perspectives through story and relationship. Darren is from Chicago, where he is currently the worship leader at the LGBTQ inclusive Urban Village Church–South Loop and also sings with a band called The Many. He serves on the board of directors for the Center for Inclusivity, The Reformation Project, and Q Christian Fellowship, and describes himself as an extrovert who loves hugs. Darren, welcome to the show.

DC: Glad to be here.

James: As an extrovert who loves hugs, I mean, COVID has been an ordeal for everyone, but I imagine for folks like yourself, even harder. What has that been like for you as an extrovert who loves hugs, not being able to do a lot of the things you would like to do?

DC: For the most part, just shifting into being online, connecting with folks, I went as far as to get a automated little scheduling thing to make sure that anytime we say, "Hey, we should get together," I just drop a link and make it happen. But then, you know, there is a very real and human part of us that needs physical touch and navigating how to do that safely and how to do that in a way that  honors the realities of both the need to stay safe and the need to stay connected.

That's also been a, another piece to navigate, but I'm making it. I'm feeling pretty good.

James:   What first comes to mind when you hear the phrase toxic masculinity?

DC: My gut response is always clarifying that we aren't saying all masculinity is toxic. I think some people try to make that semantic jump. But we're saying that there are some things about a specific brand of, or a specific vein of masculine ideals that are toxic and that are harmful not only to women and non masculine people, but also to the men that embody these ideals.

And so it usually starts from this need to, to clarify what we're saying, but there's a really rich conversation to be had.

James: Definitely.  Who were some of your early role models and teachers of masculinity and manhood and how did their influence shape your consciousness in either positive or negative ways?

DC: I think that's a really great question. Everything from my dad being a guy who, like me, is a big and large bodied man, but who also. I didn't realize until much later in life that it was great that there was never an issue with me crying in front of him, there was never an issue with me dancing and performing and all the kinds of things and being artistic and being nerdy.

All those things are just normal. And I didn't realize how many people didn't necessarily grow up with that kind of example of, of manhood in their lives. And then from there. It's kind of been a conglomerate of people just who I meet or encounter along the way that have helped me to kind of re frame what I think is normal or healthy or good.

Cause I've had some, some really messed up examples in my life too.

James: So how has your  view or understanding of masculinity, I guess, shifted over the years?

DC: When I think about some of my earliest views of what it means to be masculine or what it means to be a man, they were informed by these kinds of super heightened ideals that sometimes I think weren't really sustainable. We always, had okay, well, "Masculine men have deep voices and masculine men are strong and masculine men do this, that and the other."

And for me, so much of that kind of got filtered through the lens of this is also what it means to be heterosexual. And from a pretty early age of at least early in puberty, I realized that that wasn't necessarily going to be me, but I was still going to be held to these examples and demands.

And so it became really important for me to figure out, Oh, like, okay, well, masculine men talk this way, masculine men and do this and do that. And I spent so much time trying to figure out how I was supposed to "be" that I spent many years just being awkward and for example, not swinging my arms when I walked, because I didn't know the quote unquote, correct, masculine way to do that. And it made me actually more awkward because I was avoiding doing quote unquote normal things, because I didn't know how to be masculine enough.

James: Where was that influence coming from? 

DC: It was often people at school, it was normal to use "that's gay" as a slur or as a, as a put down.  In retrospect it didn't really have much to do with an assessment of one's sexuality. But because again, it was just so normalized and anything that was less than a masculine ideal was, was termed as, as gay. It kind of created this perpetual cycle of "Oh, if I don't perform a certain way then I'm not being seen as masculine," and if it's not natural for me to perform that way, then there's this deeper question of, am I masculine enough or not? So yeah, it came from the places I was sometimes from the more overt things like high school, but also the smaller, quieter things like, "Oh, you're a man. You should help with this." Or "you're a man. You should like that." I remember one time probably in my early twenties I was at a church one of my previous churches and there weren't a lot of guys who were a part of this church and one of the guys had said, "Oh, Hey, could you help me grab these tables and take them upstairs?"

He was a guy who was a smaller frame than myself. But a pretty nice guy. And I remember him grabbing that table, chucking it under one arm, and zipping right up the stairs. And I was like, "Oh, sure. I'll help." So I went to go grab a table too. And when I grabbed it, it didn't leave the floor.

It was just like, "Oh I'm going to wait until you come back and help with this." It was too heavy. It was too big and heavy for me to do it myself. And I just remember that there's this inherent assumption. "Oh yeah, guys should be able to do this," but also  when you're not able to do what some other guy in the space is doing, it's like, "Wait, am I man enough? Am I performing my manhood correctly?" It always struck me as just like, "Oh yeah, we're not all the same in this world."

James: Right. So   as you do the internal and external work of redefining, what manhood is to you and how that vision of manhood is communicated to others. Do you see that as part of  an ongoing process of deprogramming and unlearning and communicating to people that you don't necessarily have to check off these boxes and fulfill these things that the culture tells you you have to?

DC: Oh, yeah, it's so important. And, and an ongoing conversation because we've kinda equated so much about what we idealize for men as also what it means to be male. And it has left out so many people who... what about our, our siblings who are feminine? What about our siblings who, for example, women who consider themselves masculine of center or have very masculine presentation that is like, they have no doubt about being women, but they're masculine women. And you know, we start to make kind of pejorative statements of, "Oh, they just, they just secretly want to be a woman or they secretly want to be a man."

And it's just like, no, like, there's a whole wide range of how we might do what we do, and we typically haven't looked at the fact that masculinity is such a construct. It's a thing that we've created. And so many of the hallmarks of  today's U.S. Western masculine ideals aren't the same. Like, pink was a boy's color and high heels were invented for men.

And, you know, like there's these, all these things that we're like, "Oh, obviously that's feminine." It's just like, yeah it wasn't always the case. It's changed often.

James: Yeah. That's something that a lot of folks don't realize is that these things that, you know, are now considered feminine or for women actually,  were first for men. So yeah, really interesting stuff. 

One of the things that I kinda worked through, and this is coming from sort of my churched background going through conservative churches, a lot of like Southern Baptist churches , and I remembered being in like a small group where, I don't know how familiar you are with this, but like the Wild at Heart series? 

John Eldredge?


With a big eye roll. Yes. 

James: Yeah. So.  The kind of things that are involved in reparative therapy, which I know you were heavily involved in for a couple of years or so.  It kind of occurred to me when I was learning about reparative therapy, which I myself have never been through, that there seem to be some similarities between the stuff that's taught as valid manhood in those kinds of settings and the kinds of settings where we have even heterosexual cis men going through this Wild at Heart stuff.

Did you go through any of the John Eldredge stuff?

DC: Fortunately, I only knew that  Wild at Heart existed. And it was one of those things that was kind of promoted as a, you know, you're listening to Focus on the Family or something like that. And they're like, "Yeah, this the answer to what's wrong with men in today's times."

And yeah, I, I was fortunate to miss that boat, but much of the same teaching, this kind of essentialism of reducing manhood down to so much that, again, just these constructs of, "Oh yeah, men need this, men need that." 

Are there ways that, because of how we're socialized, that we have some specific needs and lacks and deficiencies? Oh, absolutely. But again, I think that's so much about the context that we're in rather than some innate biological thing that happens with maleness. And those kinds of series of miss it. They're like, "Oh yeah, men need to need to conquer." And you're like, "Yeah, now, white Western, historically male folks tend to do that, but it has so much more to do with this idea that, "Oh, well, you know, you're more valuable if you conquer, you're more valuable if you're able to, to be dominating," and so forth. I was just like, no. If we disconnect from so many of the things that capitalism has taught us, that having more is always the most important thing, being more powerful is the most important, these really do come from some of our, our economic values.

If we let that go for a moment, we're like, "Yeah, no, that's that's not, that's not necessarily true." And then if you look into world history and look outside of places that have been colonized or been dominated by essentially European powers Then you'll see that, "Yeah, actually the world has existed in different ways."

Women have been much stronger leaders. Gender has been more than binary. There's so much that was literally erased in the name of normalizing men being at the lead so that colonizers could have the power to colonize. And then since most of our history was written by the colonizers, we don't even realize that half the time when they were talking about "witch doctors" and "uncivilized" communities, they're just talking about people who didn't follow their colonizing ideals, not necessarily these people who didn't have technology and didn't have order or anything like that.

James: So it's kind of like those in power making those under them in their image in a sense. It's interesting though, where you're talking about, conquerors is one of these quotes that I  was already familiar with before I started this, but  it's an African proverb about the tale of the hunt, where it says,  "Until the tale of the hunt is told from the point of view of the lion, it will always center the hunter." And I think maybe that's kind of what we're seeing with these messages that, that promote a toxic version of manhood or masculinity is that we've always got that narrative coming from those at the top, and those who are conquering, and that's why it's it's the center.

DC: Yeah. And, we don't think about, that there are some other stories to be told until we  just pull back and pull back out of what we've been presented as normal and, and default and "right." 

The work of feminist scholars and womanist scholars has done so much to help me understand things that again, because I was socialized as male and because I'm cis-gender , so that I matched the assignment that we all received at birth, it means I haven't had to think about the ways that my experience is gendered until I listened to the perspectives of people who fall outside of that prioritized or dominant construct. And it's, it's in listening to them. It's just like, "Oh, so this is, this is what made this so hard for me."

' Cause part of what makes this a conversation about toxic masculinity is that even for the men that it benefits, our status as masculine is constantly under scrutiny. When you're not acting the way people say they want you to act, they tell you to "man up," right?

 If you are somehow deviating, you get called names for women's body parts that are sometimes derogatory. Like all of it is a constant, who's going to be the top of the dog heap and  is fragile performance. As a gay man, this, this intersects, in that gay men who, there's a constant threat of, are you secretly gay? Like in our society, "Is, is this person secretly gay? Well, if you ever, if you've ever experimented with a man, then you're really gay," is the thing that gets thrown out there. But on the flip side, many of my friends who are gay and male who have children had children by a quote unquote traditional means. No one's accusing them of secretly being straight because the paradigm, the ideals of masculinity, aren't easy to get into, but they're easy to get kicked out of. We've made masculinity, and by extension heterosexuality and being cis-gender and so forth, we've made those the top of the pyramid and everyone else is scrapping for that ideal status, but all of it's fake. All of it is fragile. All of it goes away so easily and it doesn't work to easily get knocked into that, into that primary status. So yeah,  I have so many thoughts on it. It's just, it's wild.

James: Yeah. Yeah. There's so many things to consider. And so many things that we're kind of oblivious to until we open ourselves up to the perspectives of folks who aren't like us, and we hear about their experience and as much as we can, try to understand what folks are going through. 

And you're very much into intersectionality and one thing that kind of occurred to me is this idea of masculinity as you know, it rewards men who are aggressive and competitive and try to dominate, but also the fact that we're in a white supremacist society, and we have those ideals being handed down from the top. But at the same time, as a black man, it seems like there would probably have to be a lot of code switching.

Like, what's that like ,where, and of course you have a different version of masculinity that you're living into, but, you know, during those years where you were maybe more in the figuring it out stage, what was that experience like for you?

DC: Oh, and I promise you, I'm still trying to figure this thing out. But like when we do the intersection of race and masculinity, black men in the U S have had an especially  awkward dual presumption about us. On the one hand, there is a racialized history of "black men are lazy" and it was common thought that because black people are lazy that they need the strongness of white men who were enslavers to enslave us and make us useful and make us productive. And this narrative served a couple of things. One, it was part of creating comfort with the idea that you should be barbaric and dominate over these people because they won't be able to help themselves if you don't. It also created the idea of comfort that you should have these people being your house servants and slaves, as enslaved people, because they're just so passive. They're just so lazy. And that makes them not a threat -air quotes- but on the flip side, we're also historically presented as barbarians and beasts and wild and untamed. And so there's this highly hypersexual sexualized vision of black men, as they're going to rape your daughters, they're going to rape your wives.

There's this image of black men as, they're like wild animals that you have to tame, and if they're left to their own devices, then they're going to be these sexual beasts. And so it creates this image of black men as these over sexual very dangerous, very aggressive people that you have to be afraid of, and that you have to use this extreme force with. Even in the medical industry, this idea that we don't experience as much pain as other people is still a medical myth that medical students still commonly report thinking is true. So growing up in a, in a society that has been saying both that people like me, black men, are lazy, and that we're these aggressive hypersexual beasts, means that these ideals get quietly internalized into what we understand to be black men. You see it play out from everything from the thug caricature of, you know, being the gangster and, and using the deepest voice and being just hyper-masculine, to " I have to work twice as hard because I'm not going to be perceived as lazy. I have to work twice as hard because everybody's going to assume that black people can't succeed," and so forth. And so you get these distorted images of what is required of you because you're black and especially as a black man, and it becomes this endless battle because not only did the ideals come from a white dominant society, but they've been around for black Americans for so long that we've internalized it and made it into our own demands that we hold each other accountable to. And until for some reason you fall outside of that and you realize this isn't really sustainable, you just think, "Oh, well this is just a part of my culture." And again, when you look at black history globally, it's like, "Oh wait, no, this isn't our culture. This isn't who we, who we are, who we came from." But these were the demands that were made of black people who were enslaved in America. And it's a hard web to untangle because is it okay for you to be masculine? Yes. Is it okay for you to perform your masculinity in a certain way? Absolutely. But we are so protective of it because we've built our identities on certain pieces of this that it can be a really long, messy road to start to say, you know what? It's okay for me to be a man who processes his emotions, and it's okay for me to be a man who chooses peace over using my fists. Like there's a lot of things that we have to learn that yeah, it can be different. But it takes some intentional work.

James: Yeah, so in a world, in a culture, in an economy that seems to promote and reward men who display traits like aggression, competitiveness, domination, where do you find support as you work toward and live out a better version of manhood for yourself and others?

DC: So much of this is in listening to people who fallen outside of the category, everything from gay men who are figuring out what it means to be a gay man without making that somehow also being less than a man to like the most recent thing I've been doing is listening a lot to the ways that our language is working. For example, the violent phrases, little everyday phrases like, Oh, I can kill two birds with one stone. I don't actually mean that I want to kill any birds at all. So what if I instead did something that we normally associate again with, with femininity? What if I fed two birds with one loaf, you know, like it's still talking about efficiency and getting things done in a way that makes sense.

But disconnecting from like this kind of inherently violent language is, is one example of that. And then. Taking some agency back; taking back the fact that I can write my own narrative, I can be whatever kind of man I want to be. I can be masculine in whatever ways I think masculine is. So it doesn't matter if I'm using my upper register or my lower register.

All that can be masculine. It doesn't matter if I grow a full beard out or if I decide to shave it, which I never plan on shaving it, but, but like, it's still about me creating this ideal of what masculinity is. There's nobody who has the, has the rule book and is in charge of approving what's officially masculine or not, it's just, we have to come to a place of realizing this is, this is something we create together.

And if I live in my truth, well, then others can see that and have permission to live in their truth well, and so I also love like the social trends that are happening. Like I don't personally wear nail polish, but it's becoming a lot more socialized, normalized, for men who are masculine to wear nail polish.

The work to normalize that came from men who were counted out from that, whether they're feminine or whether they're non-binary or, or, or anything they did the work and they physically risked their lives to just present in a way that was authentic. So I don't ever want to overlook the fact that this came from essentially queer people just striving to be themselves.

But as with most things we're all benefiting from the work of the marginalized. I don't feel as, as conscious about if I decided to get some skinny jeans, you know, I don't feel as overly worried about if I buy, if I buy a shirt that's longer than my waist and it looks maybe kind of like a dress.

Okay. Who says I can't be a masculine man who wears something that looks like a dress? Looks very much like Hawaiian culture and African culture to me. So, so yeah, it's, it's, it's making little personal decisions for myself that that, yeah, that just affirm my ability to choose, choose my own adventure.

James: Cool. That's awesome. Do you think it's getting a little bit better now with, it seems like, somewhere between young gen Xers and millennials and forward, there's, there's a lot greater consciousness around things like this. And folks are blaming millennials for killing Applebee's and things like that.

And so do you think that also, you know, folks like us and younger are also sort of hammering away at this idea of masculinity or even gender roles in general?

DC: Yeah. Fortunately, I have the, the honor of being a Xennial , that very old millennial. Yeah. And I, and I wear that proudly. Not because it's about not being with either group, but it's about understanding both groups. But I, I, I keep going back to the phrase "the kids are all right."

The younger generations are definitely doing work that we didn't do. I remember riding a bus and hearing teenagers talk about the distinctions between what it means to be non-binary and what it means to be trans. And this was like an afterschool conversation, not like a, "Oh, we just really learned so..." No, it was just like, "Oh no, you got... no that person's non-binary, it's not the same." Like, you're like, wow, y'all ... This is just normal for you. Older folks are still having whole webinars and discussions and learning sessions about it. And y'all, this is a normal part of your conversation. So I appreciate the ways that we're creating more room. There's obviously so much work to still be done. And it's often most frustrating with folks in my age group and they're just like, "Nah, this is why we don't have any men." It's like, "no, we have plenty of men. This is why we don't have men who are toxic like you." So yeah, the kids are all right. I'm happy about it.

James: Yeah, me too.  I mean Applebee's can go, you know, go fly a kite or whatever, and can all this. So I, I love the way that folks today are questioning and just more open about it doesn't have to be the way, you know, my folks said it had to be, and, I think, probably a couple more generations, I hope, you know, I think what we're seeing maybe is the dying gasp of hopefully of toxic white masculinity being the ones in charge. I really hope that's true. I think we're seeing good signs from the young folks today, and some reasons to be optimistic, I think.

DC: Yeah. There's a really good presentation by Dr. Cheryl Anderson at The Reformation P roject in 2019, in the "before" times. And she did this presentation. You can look it up on YouTube called Why 'Me Too' Matters For The LGBTQ I don't know if it was   "movement" or something like that.

But what she was doing was kind of looking back at this history of what the masculine ideal was really rooted in like the 1940s, '50s, and how that impacted a lot of what we're doing right now. Because when you talk about Me Too, you're talking about, "Oh, these things were done. Men were.. typically men were somehow inappropriate," and often we look back at those actions and go, "Oh, well that was just normal for the time. It was just normal for men to be flirtatious with, with coworkers. It was just normal for somebody to say this overtly sexual story to, to a woman or in the workplace." And she does this really good illustration of how previous constructs of masculinity that are still held up as ideal don't leave room for a lot of folks. It doesn't leave room for you to not be white. It doesn't leave room for you to, to be queer and still seen as ideal. And when she breaks this down, one of the things she gets into is this idea of deaths of despair and, and you know, condensing a whole lot of information.

But what she's basically saying is that people who are men in this society were told if you do these things, if you work hard, quote unquote, if you try to be the provider for your family if you get a good factory job, then you'll be successful and you'll be a good man.

And in a society where factory jobs are dying, where Or, you know, even the idea of being able to be a single family provider just for many, it's just an inaccessible thing, you have people who are very angry, very upset that they're doing their end of the bargain and not seeing the benefits.

And so everything from the white men who are chanting, wearing MAGA hats and khakis saying "You will not replace us." Who is the you that they're fighting against? So who wants to replace them? But it's this idea that, the immigrants are the ones who are taking your jobs or whoever is your threat to you being a good American man is just like, no, our society moved on and had promised you some things and it's not going to deliver on those promises. And so they're angry and they're looking for somebody to hold accountable. And unfortunately they've been taught that it's about the immigrants and it's about the black people and it's about the queer people and it's gotta be somebody else other than the affluent white men who are policymakers and own corporations and so forth that are making these decisions. And so when she talks about this idea of death by despair she's basically saying that that men are committing suicide, that men are drug addicted, that men are physically unhealthy and dying as a result of not being able to reach or attain this idealized version of, of masculinity that was presented to them and that had promises associated with it. And because there's no other means, people are giving up, guys are giving up. And I thought that was just so profound to think about that.

Like, yeah. The people who are supporting MAGA are, in some ways, as a point of compassion, desperate for this American dream to be real. And it was never real, but it was more accessible to them in a previous generation. And no one updated the promise. No one said, Oh yeah, you getting the good factory job and being faithful to that your whole life isn't going to be enough anymore. And with nothing left, nothing left to, to hang their identity and their, and their worth on people are angry. And people are reaching to anyone who can give them  the sliver of hope.

And so even though "45" promised coal and factory jobs would come back, and it never happened, they still went with it. They still were like, yeah, this is gonna, this is gonna make America great again. And sadly it's, it's not, it's actually worse. But but yeah, that, that, that just resonates with me. Sorry for taking so long to explain it, but I think that's an important part of this.

James: Yeah, no, that's great stuff. It actually reminds me of, I don't know if you read the book Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo, it's like her latest. I think it might've come out last year. And it's about toxic  white male supremacy.

And the, the title is based on that quote. And I think it might've been her that came up with the quote. I'm not sure, but it's "God give me the confidence of a mediocre white...

DC: "...   I mediocre white man." Yes,

James: So she, she really researches and goes over the history of toxic white male supremacy and especially in the U S and and, and she goes over the fact that there's like this epidemic of suicide of these desperate white men who are chasing that dream and realizing it's not what they were sold and they just feel desperate and they decide to end it. And she kind of, she goes over something that  I talk about a lot, which is perpetrators are also victims.

It's the, the idea of "hurt people hurt people." And. Not to say that because someone is a victim, it's not, it's not their responsibility, what they do, but taking a holistic view of things and understanding cause and effect, some people call it karma, you know, this idea that nothing comes from nothing. So yeah, I mean, a really resonates with me a lot, especially since I just recently read that book.

DC: Yeah, I might have to check that out. I think is the first time I'm saying it publicly, but a part of my little 2021 mantra has been, I'm going to do the bare minimum. And that's informed by that same quote, that that same idea of there are mediocre white men who are asking for more money, who are showing up with very little capacity and qualification, and very little knowledge and understanding, and still making the most in the country. And it's just like, Oh, so I've been going above and beyond and wearing myself out when the reality is I don't need to do all that. I'm going to, I'm going to do the bare minimum in, in regard to that, and show up and ask the same way. I have even seen some TikToks where like, "Oh, you need your, you need your Chad voice for when..." and this is written to women of color, "have your Chad voice and have your Chad person in your head," like, write the way Chad would, because Chad wouldn't be like, "Oh, could you please help me out with this now?" Chad would be like, "I need you to do this, this and that."

And again, it's not to say it's not good to be kind or thoughtful or considerate, but our society still works in certain ways that favor certain types of folks. And I'm going to lean into that for my own survival and not, you know, not to be oppressive, not to do anything that comes with the negative sides of that.

But just to realize that, yeah, there are some ways that are centered toward a certain group of people who effectively have been mediocre in a whole lot of ways that I'm going to tap into and access because I've been working   way too hard for how much I've been getting paid for.

James: Yeah, Yeah, absolutely.  I did want to ask, you know, before we close out, if you want to throw out where can we find you online? How can we support the work that you're doing? Hit us with your CashApp, your Venmo, your PayPal, whatever you like.

DC: Oh, absolutely. If you, if you want to find out what I'm doing, a great way to do that is follow me on social media. So that's hopping over to Facebook and searching for Darren Calhoun as well as on things like Twitter and Instagram @HeyDarren, which also means that if you want to support me, you can do so on CashApp and Venmo with the same name: HeyDarren. And there's lots and lots of resources that I'm putting out and conversations that I'm having about what it means to make the world a better place for everyone in it. And so I think part of that, you know, just like we say it, men too need to have a better world for them to be in it.

And as I figure out my journey, I invite you to join me and, and we'll figure it out together. So yeah, I really appreciate being here today and as always invite people to check out the work of my band, The Many. We're definitely presenting music, if you are Christian or leaning toward things that are spiritual we're presenting stuff that doesn't lean on a lot of the tropes of what Christian music has been. So yeah. Check us out, check me out. Slide in the DMs, whatever. Say hi. 

James: It was a pleasure to have Darren Calhoun on the show today. I'm so grateful for his perspective on this topic and pretty much every topic I've seen him talk about. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and all the platforms. Search for him by name to follow him on Facebook and search for HeyDarren on most of the other ones like Twitter and Insta, as well as the payment channels cash app and Venmo. If you got something from this discussion and you want to show some love to Darren, send him some money and let him know you enjoyed our talk here. 

We use many resources for the show. If you'd like to look into toxic masculinity and ways we can shift the way we think about manhood and maleness, check out the Good Men Project at They have articles, discussion threads, and other resources for anyone looking to confront and dismantle toxic masculinity in areas like politics, gender and sexuality, relationships, family life, ethics, and more. Also check out the podcast "What's Good, Man?," with Guante and Tony the Scribe at or on your favorite podcast app.

Once again, I also highly recommend Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo. It's available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook wherever books are sold. I found the e-book and audio format through my local library using the Libby app, which is available for iOS and Android. If you have additional thoughts about toxic masculinity or anything you would like to see discussed on Fundamental Shift, please reach out through any of the channels we give you at the end of the show.

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James: Tune in next time when Grace returns in full force.

Grace: And until then, remember folks: shift happens.