I remember meeting Eric for the first time and being so impressed with his ability to articulate his thoughts and perspective; I appreciate his insight and creativity. When he expressed an interest in being interviewed for this segment, I was quick to jump at the opportunity. Thank you, Eric, for meeting with me and sharing your thoughts on this topic!
Have you experienced insecurity?
“I think when I was younger, in elementary school, I think I always thought that I was kind of a weirdo to other people. It’s not that I didn’t have social skills, I just wasn’t afraid to be weird around other people. When you’re young you don’t realize how cool you are as far as interests go. I always assumed that girls wouldn’t like me…I thought I was the awkward one. I’ve always been interested in art, and drawing, kind of like Will in Stranger Things. I was always into art and comics. In middle school, strangely enough in retrospect, I was actually pretty accepted by people. I just always compared myself to the buddies I had at the time. To this day I can’t really connect to the middle school boys that I lead. Something about the way boys are growing up, I just never got the gist of it. The assumption is just that boys at that age are always pretty awkward and not in touch with their feelings. I was always driven by creativity instead of being driven by rough housing like boys typically are. The fact that I would rather do this instead of that does not have to indicate anything.”
“In high school people thought I was gay. The community consensus was that I was gay because of how I dressed, and I was not into sports. I didn’t like team sports like baseball, therefore I wasn’t as ‘manly’ as the other boys. I was always an outcast, I didn’t really fit in. With that comes some level of insecurity, especially when others are insisting that you are something that you’re not. People were never really able to connect with me because of my interests and what I am intuitively drawn to. I am like Will and Jonathan combined from Stranger Things…focused on art and music, quiet…not into what a lot of other people were into. I constantly questioned if there was something wrong with me because I didn’t fit in with what everyone else was doing. I’ve always questioned myself because I’ve never liked football,"
"I am not rambunctious and loud…tackling people and running to a goal line, I never got it. I like that people love sports, its just never been my thing. The lack of interest has caused some emotional and social suffering, which I think speaks to the cultural understanding that boys are insensitive, and instinctive, where on the flip side I am more thoughtful and methodical. I also didn’t go after every girl that liked me…I was never interested in flirting or sleeping around, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t attracted to or was uninterested in women, it just meant that I had the wherewithal to recognize that those weren’t things were not for me at that time.”
“When Kailyn and I were more than just friends, I got asked to Sadie’s in high school. It was awkward. That was the straw that broke the camels back when people decided not to be friends with me anymore after I had to turn down the offer to go to Sadie’s. I didn’t want to have to explain to people that I had a friend, that although at the time we weren’t officially dating, I was still exclusive to her in the sense that she was a friend that I liked and wanted to pursue. People didn’t understand that, and they rejected me because of it. That has been kind of my experience…into music, into art and movies and comics…the things that are not ‘masculine’…that’s my experience.”
What does masculinity mean to you?
“I just want to tell a little story that might not answer your question, but that speaks to our cultural perspective on masculinity. So ‘La La Land’ was my favorite movie of last year. I am always recommending movies to people, and sharing about them. I recommended it to my parents so they went and saw it. Then my dad recommended it to his friends, and one of his friends responded by saying, ‘why did you recommend that I go to that gay movie?’ That is one of my favorite movies ever, and the thought is that just because it is a movie with singing, dancing, and lots of colors…because it didn’t have guns in it means its a ‘woman’s movie’ or a ‘gay movie’. A lot of men are deprived of certain things because culture says that feelings equal women, music and movies equal women…the emotional core of humanity equals women, and not men. Men are physical, women are emotional, supposedly. So a man can’t go to a movie called ‘La La Land’ without someone having a certain judgement about it as being ‘gay’ or feminine.”
“It’s unfortunate to know that people are so controlled by cultural assumptions that they can’t think for themselves, especially when it comes to the art and music they appreciate in life. Culture around us says that men are physical beings that go with their gut, and are rambunctious. And women are emotional, and introspective. Those assumptions can either be good or bad. Men are the brave ones, like in military commercials where the spokesperson is a big, strong man, with a noticeably deep voice…because a deep voice equals manliness. There is also this idea of a prom king, or an MMA fighter…men that can climb the ladder by stepping on others to get to the top…this idea that you are a man’s man if you are better than all the other men. It’s a false assumption that you have to be better than everyone else to truly be a man. And what does that say? That says that you have to bring others down, tell jokes to hurt others, and maintain the ‘let the best man win’ mentality."
"Everything is a competition. I don’t see that in the arts necessarily, but I definitely see that in sports. Men thrive off of ego. The standard to be a man is to be strong, and ripped, and able to win in a physical fight…why do you think middle school boys get in fights? I guarantee its not because they are trying to defend other people, they are just trying to prove that they are the toughest. The cultural standard is that men have to be king of the world or else they are not a man, and most men are clambering for that spot. When you’re dealing with someone’s psychology, background, livelihood…that becomes a very dangerous game to play.”
“Additionally, the cultural understanding is that men are primarily sex-driven, that they are only thinking about one thing…that concept, while being untrue, is continually reinforced by the standards placed on women. The visual standard set by a Victoria’s Secret model on a poster in the mall across from a Build-A-Bear workshop…men assume that they have to be primarily sexually driven because sex sells…so little boys walking out of Build-A-Bear see this giant poster of an underwear model, which also hurts women because it targets their insecurities as well, and teaches men that they need to be ruled by chemicals in their brain. Carl’s Jr. commercials for example, it makes women feel bad about themselves, but also teaches men that women are something to consume, and that the primary drive in life is to consume it."
"Women’s insecurities are directly influenced by men’s insecurities, and men’s insecurities are directly influenced by women’s insecurities. That is always going to be the case. Men are taught that sex is a primary appetite, therefore women are taught to fulfill that appetite. Another example is pornography…it feeds into a man’s sexual desires but in the wrong way. Pornography gives men power over women without the responsibility because they are able to consume endlessly. The sexuality is there but not in the way we think it is. It’s a system of falsehoods. Everything works together to degrade women, to make men fearful, to encourage the inability to be responsible, and that a man’s primary appetite in life is sex.”
“When I think of what men are called to be, just in the way they intuitively function from the start, especially in the way they interact with women…I think the strength of a man is in their ability to lead. I don’t mean ‘lead’ as in being a boss to others. Leaders are supposed to empower those they are leading, encouraging them and guiding their steps….empowering people to have their own vision. Leaders are meant to lift others up and push in the right direction. In the context of marriage, there is a calling on both partners to correct each other when correction is needed. But regarding vision of where that marriage is heading, I think that the man is called to take the overarching view and to lead accordingly. Obviously women have that ability as well, but I think that men are called to it. I think that a man is the one who should step up to the plate and have that responsibility more than a woman."
"For example, if a dude likes a girl, I think it is his job to tell her. I’m so tired of hearing about guys that leave girls hanging, and girls having to take the initiative to figure out how the guy feels. If you have feelings for a girl, tell her. It is not a disservice to women for men to take initiative, because the fact is that women are far more brave and willing to talk about those things than men typically are…men are afraid of rejection. I actually think they are more fearful of rejection than women are. Men are left paralyzed by their fear of emotional vulnerability. Men repress their emotions, but they are extremely emotional. They just don’t know how to feel something and not freak out about it. Masculinity to me is being brave to have initiative, and stepping up to the plate as a leader to those around you. A leader and a boss are not the same thing. A boss is a position that you’re put in, a leadership is part of your character.”
Think of men in your life that you respect…what qualities and characteristics cause you to respect them?
"The number one man in my life that inspires me, not only in my perception of what a man is supposed to be, but I how I can live that out on a daily basis, is my dad. Ironically he has told me that I am a better man that he was at my age. Most of the perspective I have on this topic comes from my dad. He genuinely showed me the things that he liked, like comics and movies…it’s funny because he was the kid that got in fights at school. He was the kid that I was talking about. But he had a radical change in his late teen years. He has been an inspiration in showing me that it is okay to enjoy life. He has shown me how to be a leader."
"Everything I said about what a man should be, he embodies that. My dad isn’t afraid to be honest, while other men are. He is not afraid to stand up for the truth in every situation. When I think of my dad, I think of his resolve to be doing the right thing. He’s also not afraid to say he is sorry. He has shown me how to be vulnerable. My dad has admitted his wrong-doing in certain situations…I know a lot of people that have said their dads would never say sorry or admit to being wrong, but my dad taught me humility in his willingness to apologize. I look at my dad’s life and see Jesus manifested in his story, which ultimately reflects in my own life as well.”