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by Jim Herbert

The Chase For the Cup

It’s that time of year again! This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which for my money is still the best sports tournament on the planet. Teams that advanced to the Cup finals each year undergo a grueling, two month odyssey of games. During that stretch, players lace up every other night under the most intensecircumstances for games that typically last up to three hours, that is if there is no overtime. Since there can be no tiesin a Stanley Cup playoff game, there have been instances where overtime games have gone on for six or even seven hours, until one team scores a game-winning goal in sudden death, which feels a good bit like actual death to the losing team and their fan base. Watching a Stanley Cup sudden death overtime game can be scintillating and excruciating at the same time.

During the Stanley cup playoffs, superstitious hockey players do ridiculous things like wear the same unwashed T-shirtfor every game until they’re eliminated. Many players refuse to shave for the entirety of the playoffs for fear of creating a string of bad luck. What could possibly be more manly than a hairy, gritty, sweaty and sometimes bloody hockey game? That being said, “being manly” can be a confusing and slippery slope these days, can’t it?

I grew up in Detroit, so my first love when it comes to hockey has always been the Detroit Red Wings. I grew upwatching tough guys like Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, then much later Bob Probert and Joey Kocur. The Blackhawks were our most hated rival.

Over my last three decades in Chicago though, I’ve been to hundreds of Blackhawk’s games as well. Most hockey fans would suggest that it is impossible to be both a Red Wings fan and Blackhawks fan at the same time, but what can I say, I’m a bit unusual in many ways. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a lot of Stanley Cup playoff excitement for me over the last few years. The Blackhawks are in a full on rebuild with great potential, but they’re currently one ofthe worst teams in the league. The Red Wings made the playoffs for 26 consecutive years up until 2017, but are now on a seven year streak of not making the playoffs at all. To add insult, this year the Wings missed the final playoff spot by one goal on the very last game of the season.

The last time my Red Wings were actually pretty good was back in 2009 when they lost in the Cup finals to thePittsburgh Penguins in a heartbreaking best of seven game series that went all the way to game seven. I had the pleasure of attending games #1 and #2 of that Cup final series in Detroit. The Red Wings won each of those games 3 – 1 and took a commanding 2-0 series lead. Penguins’ star Sidney Crosby made a few public complaints about the officiating in games #1 and #2, which led numerous Red Wings fans, including me, to make fun of Crosby’s whining.

Misogynist in Denial

On the day after game #2, I re-posted a meme that I saw on another Red Wings fan’s Facebook profile. The meme was of a hockey skate with a high heel attached to the blade and the words “Sidney Crosby’s Skate”. Included in the same post was a photo of Crosby crying like a baby. Back then I clearlythought the post was hilarious because I reposted it with enthusiasm. Shortly after I made the Facebook post, one of my wife’s friends challenged me and called me a misogynist. I was infuriated!

“I’m no misogynist!” I thought to myself. If I had the chance to talk with this friend of my wife, I would have told her, “I have more friends who are women than men! I treat women with the utmost respect just like my father always did! Most women love me. I’m in touch with my feminine side!” I immediately called the matter to my then girlfriend, now wife Christiana’s attention, expecting her full support to the degree that she would reach out to her friend and ask her to apologize to me. To my surprise, Christiana said, “Well… it is kind of offensive, Jim.”

I was confused. How could a little Facebook sports humor be offensive? After listening to Christiana explain the whole situation to me in detail from a perspective I had never previously considered, I realized for the first time in my life that using gender specific insults is marginalizing, even if it is done as an attempt to be humorous. Never in a million years had I previously tied together the thought that portraying Sidney Crosby as “weak” because he wore a high heeled skate or because he showed his emotions through tears, was implying that I thought femininity was somehow less than masculinity. Obviously, the same could be said about using sexual orientation related insults.

At that point, I became aware that misogyny, just like racism, sexual orientation discrimination and other forms of hate,sometimes shows up subtly or covertly, even in those of us who are not overtly misogynistic. Lesson learned. Eversince that moment I have been keenly more aware of some of the old paradigm beliefs systems that are hardwired into me, no matter how much I try to be as open minded, fair and inclusive as I can be.

A Cat by Any Other Name

Shortly before my daughter Emma was born six years ago, a regular customer of the restaurant I worked at back then pulled out his phone and started to show me a video. It was a video of a bachelor party he attended the weekend prior and it had graphic footage of naked women embracing each other along with some of the men at the party at the same time. From the brief glimpse that I took, the party looked to me to be a full on orgy.

This customer proudly announced that he was at that party and that he had “One of the best nights of his life.” I glanced at the phone and then politely told him that I wasn’t interested in looking at the video, to which he exclaimed, “What are you? Some kind of pussy?”

I excused myself from the exchange immediately, but I never said or did anything else about it. Truth be told, the man who showed me that video was an extremely wealthy and powerful individual who had strong connections within our company and throughout Chicago. Even though I had come a long way from my high heeled hockey skate posting days, I was still too fearful to call out inappropriate, objectifying, misogynistic behavior for fear of the repercussions I might face at work or elsewhere. I realize now that my failure to call out the behavior made me complicit. It’s a toughspot to be in for me. It can be a lot easier to look the other way than it is to have a tough conversation.

Running Out of Time

One month before the world as we knew it stopped talking to each other in person back in March of 2020, I competed in an in person Toastmasters Speech Contest which was actually held in a local hospital! It’s hard to imagine hospitalsletting people off the streets stroll casually in for a social gathering after all that has changed in the last four years, but it happened quite regularly before then. This particular contest was one of many speaking contests that I participated in through the years. If I remember correctly, it was the Toastmasters District contest for 2020, which made it the third round of that particular competition.

For the first two rounds, I used an old speech that I loved about a man named Jamal who I met on the red line train one morning. The Jamal speech has always been one of my favorite speeches and I have used it or a variation of it to win a number of speaking competitions, including the first two rounds. For some reason, I felt a calling to write a newspeech for the third round of the Winter 2020 contest though, and the speech I felt called to write was one about how much my views on masculinity and femininity have changed since I became a father to a daughter. My sense is that this happens for a lot of men when they become fathers to future young ladies. In many ways for me, it was as if a switch went off and things that I used to look the other way for, suddenly became intolerable.

I wrote a speech about how men need to do more to call out other men when they see things that marginalize, objectify and mistreat women, or people of any gender other than their own for that matter. It was a good speech. Ireferenced the high heeled hockey skate post of 2009 and a number of other self awareness elevation points I hadalong the way on my life journey. I was on fire that night. The speech was packed with emotion and real life stories. The chief judge told me that I would have easily won the contest and moved on to the fourth round except for the simple fact I was disqualified for going over the time limit by 14 seconds. I typically have a lot to say. If you read mymulti thousand word posts with any regularity, you know that already. When I want to be, I can be really good about making a speech fit on time, but I think the emotion of the moment that night distracted me from my inner timer. Ultimately, it didn’t matter whether or not I went on to the next round. I said what I went there to say that night.

Shame on Me

 It can be tricky to call a man out on behavior that I personally deem to be inappropriate without shaming the man in the process. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work and research around the topic of shame over the last couple ofyears. In my opinion, shame is prevalent in all aspects of our society. Shame can be used as a weapon. Shame is toxic. Shame is also almost impossible to shut off completely no matter how hard I try. Most of all, shame needs to be witnessed and heard in order for it to be processed and that can take a TON of effort. I do my best to avoid creating more shame in the universe than already exists.

One of my friends frequently refers to the process of pointing something out to another as calling a man in instead of calling him out. I like it. No shame. The energy behind calling someone in seems more like an invitation to consider acurrent situation by viewing it through a different lens, much like my wife so skillfully did for me 15 years ago with Sidney Crosby’s high heeled hockey skate. One of the ways I do that these days, is to use “I statements” the same way we practice them in all of our MenLiving in person and virtual meetings.

I hang around a lot of men these days. Over the last couple of months I have had numerous opportunities to read, hear or see things that I deemed to be objectifying or unintentionally misogynistic. I have found that the best way to addressthose moments is on a one to one basis, and I always start with me and my own feelings. Starting with statements like “You’re being misogynistic” or “That’s objectifying women” are statements which are not only packed with shame, but they can also put the receiver on the defensive.

These days, I always fall back to the “When you do this (fill in the blank), I feel that (fill in the blank)” model for calling a man in. For example, if I had this skill in my tool box when Mr.

Wealthy and Powerful Bachelor Party Guy showed me the video of the naked women six years ago. I might have said, “When you try to show me that video, I feel angry and sad. Those women are somebody’s daughters and I have no idea what led them to be in that situation. I have a young daughter at home and I’m hoping to help create a world thatdoesn’t normalize the objectification of women.”

I would like to think that saying something like that would have at the very least made the man think, even if it would have been uncomfortable for me to say it and for him to hear it.

It’s My Signature

Like many of you I have multiple email addresses. The two that I use most frequently are my personal Gmail address and my MenLiving email address. My MenLiving email address has a nice signature block at the bottom with a picture of me along with the words “facilitator“ and “contributing member“. One of the primary reasons I love to do this work isbecause I thoroughly enjoy facilitating conversations that create spaces for men to continually shift their belief systems about themself and the world, much like I have over the last 15 to 20 years. I also love the phrase “contributing member“ because as a father and husband, I can’t think of anything that is more worthy of my contribution to the Universe than continuing to work on myself as a man.

The signature line on my personal email is “Be the love you wish to see in the universe.” The phrase is a play on words of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In my mind, misogyny,racism and all other things that divide us are driven by fear, which is nothing more than the opposite of love. The more we can call each other in to love others, and to love ourselves, the less time we will need to spend calling men out on divisive behavior patterns. Itcan be scary to put yourself out there and have a difficult conversation, but doing my part to help create a world of healthy intentional men is SO worth a little discomfort.

These days I realize that being manly has very little to do with burly beards, sweaty sports gear and locker room talk. It has taken me decades to get to a better understanding that the most manly thing that I can do is find a balance between the two very distinct and different edges on the skates of life that are masculinity and femininity. Who knows, if I keep working on myself this way, maybe by the time I finish this lifelong hero’s journey, I’ll no longer be skating on thin ice.


Jim Herbert


Jim is passionate about life and he explores his individual hero’s journey with curiosity and zeal. Jim is a father, husband, yogi, mystic, storyteller, author, coach, teacher and student who sees himself as a spiritual being having an amazing human experience.


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