Reclaiming Male Role Models is a podcast created by Bob Schwenkler. I discovered it in 2014 when I became dissatisfied with my options for men modeling healthy masculinity in our culture and began actively seeking men I could look up to and even follow their example.
Schwenkler himself was in a similar place. Embarking on a new career as a personal coach for men, he found he had few men in his life he admired, desired to emulate and, as a coach, was willing to hold up to other men as examples.
Determined to change that, he asked for recommendations and embarked on a road trip across the United States interviewing men, and a couple of women, about the male influences they experienced growing up and their thoughts on what it means to be a man. The result is a series of 30 powerful, deep conversations exploring masculinity through the lens of our male role models.
Some of the men speak of the positive impact their father or grandfather has had on their lives. Some speak of absent fathers, the lack of strong male figures in their lives and instead the positive impact the women in their family have had. Some point gratefully to mentors, coaches, teachers, friends and bosses who have guided their development or to pop culture figures such as comedians and musicians whose body of work has influenced them. Some open up about abuse and pain caused by men in their lives growing up, their fear of other men, and how they overcame it by also seeking healthier role models.
These men talk about creating greater intimacy with their partners, developing more authentic friendships with other men, repairing the relationship with their fathers, healing deep wounds and overcoming the stories they carried in their heads about being unlovable and unworthy. They also speak of being fathers, step-fathers, mentors and role models and their struggle to be a strong example to the younger men and boys in their lives.
Throughout each conversation, Schwenkler is a curious, gentle, vulnerable inquisitor – modeling the deep, empathic listening many of us crave to experience in our own lives and diving deeper to explore the meaning of what his questions are bringing forth in his guests.
My favourite episode – and an excellent entry point to the series (there is no need to listen sequentially) – is Bob’s interview with Bryan Reeves.
Reeves shares his journey from being dead inside and checked out, to being open, vulnerable and present 10 years later. He contrasts his experience in life and in his relationships with women as an immature, adolescent man versus a mature, masculine man.
He also talks about the transformational power of deep, vulnerable, thoughtful conversations with other men and how this takes more courage than bottling up our emotions.
“What men don’t want to share, but is true for all of us, is that somewhere inside we’re all scared. Or at least feel that we don’t measure up. Once we start confessing that to each other, magic can come from that. Vulnerability is not the same as weakness… None of us is feeling anything that someone else hasn’t felt before. We’re not nearly as alone as we think we are,” says Reeves.
This podcast has had a powerful, positive impact on my life. It has encouraged me to hold myself and the men in my life to a higher standard. It has awakened a deeper curiosity about my own life and the lives of the men around me. It has helped me identify the men in my community who are strong role models and celebrate them.
I encourage you to check it out. Episodes can be found at ReclaimingMaleRoleModels.com and on iTunes.