You Can’t Inspire a Man by Using the Same Language that Took away his Inspiration. ~ Matthew Alexander Sloane

Via elephant journal
on Jul 7, 2012
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I often hear from both men and women that men today aren’t pulling their weight—that women have been doing a lot of work on themselves and really desire for men to “step up.”

Have all men been lumped into a category of being privileged and lazy? 

As a man who’s been engaged with inner work since 2004, I can agree that in group settings, there used to be a lot more women than men present.

That’s been shifting.

I can also tell you from experience that being told to “step up” rarely inspired me—in fact, oftentimes it had the opposite effect. Anyone saying “step up” seemed to care more about herself than about me, and may just be recycling a command that worked for her in the past.

With this perception—the perception that men are not “stepping up”—what makes anyone believe that all that’s needed is an invitation?

Such invitations can be patronizing. It’s like a parent noticing that little Johnny doesn’t do his homework and responding with, “Johnny, your family and the world needs you to do your homework now.”

Invitations to “step up” can come across as a quick-fix Band-Aid that ignores the individual, like a solution to a problem defined by the observer rather than the individual who’s ultimately responsible for any personal change.

Any man who doesn’t consider the problems defined by others as his biggest problems, can’t even hear an invitation to fix those problems. 

“But it’s so obvious! Why don’t these men see things the way the rest of us do?” you may ask.

That’s a good start: asking questions.

How does anyone who sees his self-worth as directly connected to their effectiveness in the world respond to commands like “step up,” which carries with it the underlying message of “you’re not good enough?”

Have you noticed the trend in male suicides due to the shame of not providing a “good enough” income recently?

In 2010, in the United Kingdom, suicide rates were highest for those aged 45–74 at 17.7 per 100,000 for men and 6.0 per 100,000 for women.   That’s three men for every one woman.

Do you think telling those men (or women) to “step up” before they stepped out would have made any difference?

Why not inquire about some root causes that have left some men without hope and let your response come from that understanding?

Maybe first, we’ll have to hear some things we don’t really want to hear.

In the United States, men repeatedly get the message that they’re disposable.

  • >>98 percent of war casualties are men.
  • >>There’s no national office for men’s health.
  • >>Men are at least 38 percent of the injured victims of domestic violence but receive none of the billion-dollar-per-year support offered to women.
  • >>Men have no reproductive rights: her body, her choice (even when he wants to father the child).

This isn’t a pity party or a cop out—it’s a reality check.

An alternative to asking men to “step up” could be to celebrate the men who have been making a difference in their own lives, and the lives of their families and communities.

Isn’t it possible that there are movements underway to affect change that just aren’t being recognized?

Maybe it’s time to listen to what men have been experiencing before offering a prescription. Even if some men aren’t ready or willing to talk yet, there are plenty who are.

Matthew Alexander Sloane is the creator of Tulies Garden, a book he wrote and illustrated about authenticity, vulnerability, and the dark side of being a man. He is also the co-founder of Soulful Brand, helping life and business coaches stand out with a unique message in their market, while staying true to themselves. He lives in Los Angeles with a woman he adores and two cats that keep him company while he writes.


Editor: April Dawn Ricchuito

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34 Responses to “You Can’t Inspire a Man by Using the Same Language that Took away his Inspiration. ~ Matthew Alexander Sloane”

  1. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Love, Family, Enlightened & I'm Not Spiritual.

  2. trueayurveda says:

    You rock Matthew. Thanks for saying it.

  3. yogasamurai says:

    Great job, Brother. You left out WORK fatalities — but that's okay. Our extremely high percentage of that total, unlike in war, isn't because we dominate work, either. It's the kind of jobs we have, and of course, if there's anything that requires risk, a woman immediately avails herself of our services, too. And then there is FAMILY law, which is filled with sexist assumptions. The list goes on. I appreciate your restrained demeanor in raising these actually quite obvious points — which the women here will only take as a sign of weakness on your part. Which, of course, it's not. :o) Thanks, YS

  4. "An alternative to asking men to “step up” could be to celebrate the men who have been making a difference in their own lives, and the lives of their families and communities."

    Love this Matthew, thanks for writing it.

  5. slsimms says:

    I can dig this Matthew…men's health is a very important, often overlooked section. I think when we can finally stop pointing fingers at one another and start looking within then we can all move forward (as you elude to). Thank you for this piece.

  6. Paul says:

    When are we going to wake up and realize that its not about "men" or "women" or any other separatist category people are put in. That's all ego. We are all one.

  7. jhepstein says:

    I agree here.

    I't love to see you do you, real, real big man. I do declare that Self Worth among both men and women needs a huge overhaul. I support your cause!

  8. cheshire says:


    Love the article's point…..but there is no national office for men's health because ALL of healthcare– until very recently and still not much– is dedicated, tested on and for, and specifically catered to the masculine form. For most of history, in fact.

    It is ridiculous to want a national health care office when virtually all of national health care IS male health.

    We are different as male and female– different hormones, different functionality. This is a question of equality– and right now in healthcare the scales are very favorable tilted to men and male needs. This is fact, not opinion.

    Still, great article and great points.

  9. Hi mathew. I love your clarity and simplicity of message in this piece. Yes, of course, it the invitation to "step up" comes from a place of judgement in the woman of "you are not enough" or if the man hears it that way (regardeless of the woman's intent) it would take a very self aware man/or women to not become reactive–in otherwords, to not become defensive and ask himself: What is she really asking from me? Beyond what feels like her judgement, what IS the invitation?

    So just as you point out that women missetp in HOW they ask (and perhaps I am a great example in A Call to the Sacred Masculine of being clumsy), men to mistep in how they react (vs respond).

    A response to a "step up" invite might be something like, "I feel defensive right now, because your invitation feels like a demand. I am hearing I am not good enough. Is that what you want to communicate to me?"

    Alas, non-violent self aware communcation is not the norm.

    I loved your book by the way. It arrived last week.


    Lori Ann

  10. Really? says:

    Where do you get this fact from? All the research I can find suggests we spend about 30% more on women's health than on men's. Of course, a lot of this is due to reproductive issues, and women living longer. But, doesn't this latter fact suggest we should be spending more to figure out how to get men to live as long as women? If there is any unfairness to be addressed about our society you would think it would be in how many years you get to live! But, I guess that is just considered an unchangeable biological fact, whereas there cannot be any biological basis to other areas of inequality.

  11. cheshire says:


    I thought this was common knowledge– your questions surprise me. Here are some sources, other than my personal experience in this area. But… do know that women have only been allowed to vote in the US since 1920? I'll grant you we might (are) spending more money on women's health care at this time in history…but if you look at the long view the only reason for that is that it was not adequately studied prior to this time period. It's still not.

    Men do not live as long as women (scientists think) because of lifestyle differences and hormonal differences. Men are more likely to suffer acute illness, women more likely for chronic. Western medicine simply does not understand chronic conditions as well as it does acute. And long life (or not) is surely not only determined by gender. Women are much more likely to live longer at reduced function….so, while the life span is greater, the quality is not. It is certainly not considered an 'unchangeable biological fact' of nature!

    and here is a quick history lesson on feminism:

    Yes, the US has been aware of gender bias in research and overcompensating for such since the early 1970's……but that doesn't make up for literally centuries of research done only or mostly on men. There is a lot of catching up to do.

    I'll state again that I really enjoyed this article….. I agree that the pendulum is swinging too far in the anti-male direction……I am not in favor of the androgynous- I celebrate the masculine and the feminine and I quite loudly celebrate the men in my life.

  12. yogasamurai says:

    I don't know a single man who's not doing that. Why you would assume otherwise simply boggles the mind. We don't need tokenism, or special celebrations. Just simple decent respect free of your hateful ideologies? Every man is a hero. It's his birthright.

  13. Hmm. Not sure where you are coming from. I quoted the author and said that I agreed/liked where he was coming from. The mention of celebration was Matthews, though I agree with him.

    Why are my ideologies hateful? I've written quite a bit on equality (true equality…not feminist beating up on men, not just men's rights). Every person is a hero. It's all of our birthrights.

  14. Really? says:

    The articles you point to are long on opinions and "it has been said",s and short on actual statistics. But, I won't dispute your point was probably true 100 years ago. However, I would be less certain of your claim that the last 40 years of modern medical research has not made up for all those centuries focused on men. Also, I do not agree with your claim that the only reason we are spending so much more on women now is to make up for past imbalance. "Women and children first" has a long tradition in our culture, and I suspect it was mainly ignorance, not bias, that kept this from being reflected in the medical practices of 100 years ago.

  15. yogasamurai says:

    You are still obsessed with that piece you wrote — as an expression of YOU. It's kind of pathological? And you are still trying to reclaim "control" over this "discourse" as if it somehow belongs to you. Let it go – it doesn't belong to you. Never did.

    Matt needs no guidance or correction from you. Take a seat – and listen.

  16. yogasamurai says:

    I agree with you. I see no way to take these divisive social category-based ideologies and square them with the individual and his or her need for spiritual growth and enlightenment.

    Yoga is not a socialist, feminist, libertarian or fascist approach to life.

    Actually, each one of these groups has claimed yoga as its own. The Nazis LOVED yoga. The US military is clutching yoga to its bosom. And yes, feminists especially — just read EJ — insist that yoga is "theirs," too.

    It''s not. These are all power-based people seeking a spiritual justification – a patina of Godliness – for their social and political views, which arise in the secular world – not the spiritual one.

    Leslie Kaminoff in NYC just loves to link yoga to Ron Paul, and libertarianism. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson does the same. Yoga and "freedom" – meaning unrestrained free enterprise, no taxes, no government, and the Tea Party.

    Carol Horton – academic Marxist, says yoga's about left-wing social change, and she thinks her yoga celebrity pal Sean Corne making an obnoxious display of herself at Occupy Wall Street is the start of the yoga "revolution" – or God knows what. Whatever will exalt them both and sell more classes and workshops, I guess.

    Himmler wanted to use yoga to help death camp guards relax while they were exterminating Jews. Crazy eh? It's all very well documented in a book published last February. If the Nazis had won World War II maybe we'd all be doing the Duck Walk Pose.

    The Pentagon thinks yoga is great for the US Navy SEALS, to calm them before their raids, and let them relax and stay flexible on their hiding places before they spring out suddenly and cut some poor bastard's throat.

    The list goes on and fucking on.

    Appropriating spiritual philosophies and practices to support your own secular political and institutional agendas is as old as human society – and oppression.

    Once you go down that road, you inevitably start deciding that some people are more worthy of grace than others, or can only achieve it if they bend to your will. It's inevitable.

    God doesn't bestow more Grace on one group or cause than another. Well, maybe your God does? If so, you can have Him/Her?

    When Martin Luther King, Jr. said don't judge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, he wasn't just talking about Black people. And he probably meant any individual with any presumed social characteristic, don't you think?

    So, either you believe it or you don't . And ideally that profound spiritual belief informs your heady, ego-based politics — as opposed to the latter informing your judgments of people's worthiness as humans.

    P.S. There's no Yoga for Obama, or Yoga for Romney. Yogis for Obama? Who cares. If Ann Romney finds a way to use yoga to help with her MS, more power to the lady! If she wants to teach her thorough bred horses yoga, and become a yoga horse whisperer, even more power to her. LOL. As long as her horse feed is organic. :o)

  17. Mariucc says:

    Great article; unfortunately, I personally know one too many single mothers whose exes are not supporting their families. Even my husband (who is not American) wonders about it. BUT, I believe it is changing, and we definitely need to hear from more men. Thanks for posting.

  18. Kai says:

    I'm a man going to Naropa university in boulder and I don't get this feedback at all. There's an exceptual amount of badass men , and we bring it. If anything, I'd like to see more badass woman. there are few badass woman..

  19. Kai says:

    I'm a man going to Naropa university in boulder and I don't get this feedback at all. There's an exceptual amount of badass men.. what I'm hearing is a personal exchange where someone told you you needed to step up.. In a judgemental way, not a battlecry way Aka not accepting you where ur at. U can't force personal growth. The very demand issued to you reflects the lack of development of whichever female told u. But that's fine, where ever she's at. This is an opportunity for you to own where ur at and look at where u want to go.

  20. Yogasamurai, you do a LOT of commenting at ele, and always bring hard-hitting critique to the table. Why don't you consider submitting an article? Or are you already one of our writers?

    Lori Ann (elephant love and relationship/team leader/editor)

  21. Yogasamurai, I am actually very interested in mathew's points and what I brought to the discourse was simply 1) recognition of his points 2) counter points that any intelligent reader might also bring up.

    The piece I wrote did spark Mathew to write two follow up pieces, this one clearly the second in terms of thematic connecttion.

    Lori Ann

  22. David Pimentel says:

    hi Matt, thanks for sharing this article. I will admit that I both enjoyed your words and was a little confused by them. The intent of the article seemed a bit muddled. The overall flavor of the article had a “not all men are bad and here I’m proof” feel to it. The writing did flow nicely and seemed sane, kind, and logical.

    In the end, I couldn’t see specifically what you were getting at. It seemed to begin by pointing out how the pop culture phrase “stepping up” isn’t actually effective as a catalyst for change, but isn’t that obvious? I always thought of it as some gossipy kind of quick-fix comment people use when secretly they just wanted to blame and complain. So was the article promoting men’s growth movements, defending men, or suggesting better ways to communicate? Are there people out there who actually believe a generic call to “step up” is actually a magical solution that will inspire people?

    Anyway, I do believe in movements that support ANY group without feeling the need to put down all other groups. And perhaps this is what I liked best about your article.


  23. Matthew A. Sloane says:

    This is true. One thing I'm appreciating more and more is that, for me, a difference of opinions does not mean I am being disrespected or that I need to disrespect.

    I loved your article Lori, not because I agreed with it (though I can imagine ways to do that) but because it truly did waken something in me. In my quest for clarity, a piece of my own truth came more into fruition.

  24. Matthew A. Sloane says:

    For Kai — yes. I have forced personal growth on myself and I can imagine that tone coming from me at times. It's ironic that this is the point I'm making—that it doesn't feel good, and yet, I may have just done something similar.

    David — I think you are not alone in your confusion. I've heard privately form others on this as well.

    Here are two things I've learned about my approach with this article…

    1) I removed myself from the conversation by sharing those statistics.

    2) I generally did not share very much of myself here.

    I typically write in a very different way. This article had a lot of "you" statements rather than "I" statements where I can simply own my personal experience.

    For me in my past, I've often pushed down my needs, not spoken up, and suffered in silence. So I get protective in situations where I perceive the blaming and shaming approach from one person towards another. And I generalize that many men are suffering in silence. If this is true, I'm not wanting to blame anyone, just to point out that it can happen without notice.

    Part of this did come form an isolated experience, and I made it abstract above. Partially because my own rage was triggered and I blamed someone else for bringing up an emotion in me that I am continuing to let be (i.e. not further shame myself for being in contact with my own rage).

    I suppose the point of the article was more about the sting that some (not all) 'step-up' statements are delivered with. Of course it takes two to tango, one to poke and one to feel poked. At a base level, I do question the effectiveness of barking commands at each other as if we are dogs.

    Nobody should be told to 'step-up' unless it truly comes form a place of love (which may be 'tough love') and I believe requires knowing another person deeply.

    And I continue to see, I need to check myself before I wreck myself, or my fellow human being.

  25. Yes, that is the beauty of discourse. We need not agree, but the friction of disagreement about ideas is powerful, creative and ultimately healthy. Sometimes, people take criticism of their work/words personally–think I had that drilled out of me in short fiction writing workshops in my 20's, where the critique was intense.

  26. honey_b says:

    Thank you, Matt! I've been so lucky in the past couple of years or so to meet a good many men who are doing wonderful self-work as well as making a commitment to honor and preserve their relationships, families, and communities. It's disturbed me for DECADES that men in this culture are treated as either disposable, idiots, or children. I don't see this talked about much. Men I've talked to about it have actually asked ME to speak out, but I can't. It has to come from men, IMO. I'm so glad to see you keeping this conversation going and I look forward to hearing more from you!

  27. Melissa d. says:

    Thank you, Matt. A brave article that I find to be very truthful.

  28. dreadedyogi87 says:

    >Men have no reproductive rights: her body, her choice (even when he wants to father the child).

    really??? i think that there is quite a big difference between women having the right to decide when to become pregnant and men deciding when they want another person to spawn their offspring.

    on that note, men don't need any reproductive rights because historically, they just impregnated their wives whenever they wanted to. it's still going on strong like that in most parts of the world, and still culturally acceptable in a lot of north america. women, on the other hand, have only recently convinced people that marital rape is not okay.

    overall, i have to disagree with a lot of assumptions about gender and privilege in this article. just not accurate! as far as telling men to step up, seriously. it's not at all as severe as the f*cked up demands our society makes on women. quite laughable, actually. what's wrong with stepping up to your responsibilities? is it really a cruel thing to say!? wouldn't that kind of make one an a-hole if they get offended by people saying that they should do the things they need to do in order to take care of themselves and the people in their lives?

    i'm a heterosexual male, not too learned in the politics of gender, but my bulls#!t detector kinda goes off the meter when dudes start talking about how hard we have it.

    of coarse, no one should be made to feel expendable or diminished, but i find the implication that the world, and the female population in particular, are making life sh*tswamp of f*ckiness for bro-kind is actually INSANE.

    (sorry if that sounded rude. no offense. one love!)

  29. For such a short piece, this carries much weight. I really liked it and was moved by it. Then I read the comments and realized how much more there is to what you wrote. Then I actually clicked some of your links, esp. the one that proposes a counsel for men and boys. We really have a long way to go.

    I really do love men and want to understand them better and I want to help them in the best way I can. My son needs help getting his homework done. I really want him to do what is right. Okay, I shouldn't ask him to "step up." Now I know that. Well, I never liked that phrase myself.

    I think that there is a lot of baggage to carry for both male and females. We have been stereotyped throughout history. We are constantly being told that we should do what is appropriate for our gender, rather than what we are actually good at. If a man wants to perform in the ballet, we should let him without giving him a hard time. If a woman wants to be the CEO of a company, we should let her run it without being insecure that she is in charge. I think its a touchy subject for both sides.

    Recently, I watched Tony Porter's A Call To Men. I gather it is a feminine piece, but it talks about how men are put into a little box and if they step out of it, they are not considered to be real men. I think that's pretty sad, knowing how hard it was for me to step out of the box that my family put me into. Here's the link for the talk:

  30. Men really die of bad treatment and they have no one to go to or speak with! Women are getting it all people!

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