In this episode, SooJin and Kyle talk about how art, spoken word, and poetry can serve as door ways to talk to our children about larger, more complex systems of oppression. Through his work on dismantling toxic masculinity, Kyle points out how harmful forms of masculinity is embedded throughout white supremacist culture, capitalism, and other systems of oppression as it informs dominant notions of power and control. We must attend to the ways in which toxic forms of masculinity show up in our work and relationships in order to not only save ourselves but also save our planet. And we reflect on the word “enough” and what that has to teach us in implementing anti-oppressive ways of relating, doing, and being.
To jumpstart your examination of toxic masculinity, check out this Detoxifying Masculinity Meditation by Renee Sills of Embodied Astrology. It’s a great complement to this episode.
Maya Daniels Patreon page (Book Club and Political Education Resources)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Tema Okun
Guante (Kyle’s website to pre-order Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, But Enough)
What’s Good, Man? podcast
All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
We are Owed by Ariana Brown
The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
E16: Addressing Toxic Masculinity with Kyle Tran Myhre
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: Kyle Tran Myhre
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Welcome to Episode 16. Today marks the start of our series on toxic masculinity. As you know, the topics we cover are driven by our guests, you, our listeners, and what's going on in our society. And this topic was suggested by Kale Fajardo who spoke about the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality in raising his antiracist kid. So the next few episodes, we'll be addressing toxic masculinity and how we can interrupt it in ourselves and in others. And so we're really excited to have Kyle Tran Myhre with us today to launch the series. But before we get to our conversation with him, I just have a couple of announcements to make.
First, I just want you all to know that Hannah is stepping away from the podcast for a few episodes to attend to some family matters and will return when she's able. As she shared with us in previous episodes, she's working on setting healthy boundaries, as well as asking for help. By stepping away, she's doing both. So I'm really proud of her for doing that. And I look forward to having her join me again but, in the interim, I'm just grateful that she's doing her work and implementing the things that she's been learning from our podcast into her life. And, folks, really that's the whole point of this podcast: to take what we've learned and apply it to our lives so that we can change and transform. And that is precisely what she's doing. And I just couldn't be more proud or grateful to her, for modeling that for us.
The second thing I'd like to announce is I'm so excited to share it with you all that we have our first patron of the show, Wayne Lee is our first Patreon member, and we can't thank him enough for his financial support.
Wayne is a former student of mine. We met while I was teaching at Macalester College. And now I'm thankful to be able to consider him a friend. I have learned so much, being in relationship with Wayne, and I'm just so grateful to have him in my life. And as a way to honor Wayne's generosity, we asked him if he’d like us to promote or uplift anything on the episode.
And true to his character, he wanted us to pass along a couple of messages that amplifies the work of other brilliant people in his orbit. So first he asked us to uplift Maya Suzuki Daniels, a Macalester alum and high school teacher in the LA area, who is committed to furthering the
political education of her students, herself, and her community. And in addition to transforming the minds of her students inside the classroom, she transforms people outside the classroom, through her Patreon page that houses all kinds of resources and tools to help people develop their collective political education.
She also leads a weekly book club that she's been teaching. Um, I browsed her reading list and it's phenomenal. All the writers I love and all the books that I've taught over the years are on her list. So join the book club. You'll have a built-in community of learners to help you grow in your antiracist education and practice. The group has been meeting virtually, so you don't have to live in LA to join. So you can reach out to Maya through her Patreon page to join the book club. And then also, while you're there, support her amazing work by becoming a patron. You can visit her Patreon page at Patreon.com/mfsdaniels.
And of course, I will include all that in the show notes. Uh, the second thing Wayne would like to uplift is this: he's reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and he's taking every opportunity he can to tell people to read this book. Read this book, folks! You will literally see with new eyes. Because of that, I teach it every chance I get. And I teach it because it holds the key to our survival as a species. I know that may sound hyperbolic, but it's not. If we actually implement all the things that she talks about in that book, we would ensure our survival of not only ourselves and all the beings around us but also our planet.
So please read this book. Your mind will literally shift. You will perceive and experience the world in a totally different way if you read this book. So just reading the first paragraph of the Preface, you'll immediately notice that the book feels differently from any book that you've read. And it's because she's bringing you into a world where white supremacy doesn't exist and, instead, indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing are centered. How radical and revolutionary is that, right? To be able to immerse yourself in a world where indigenous epistemologies are centered and white supremacy doesn't exist. Wow. Do yourself a favor, um, take care of yourself by picking up this book and reading it. The audiobook I heard is really great. It's narrated by Robin herself. And I just heard that her voice is really soothing and it almost is kind of like a meditation of sorts, as you're hearing her read.
And then there's also, uh, I just recently heard that a young adult version is being created. So super excited about that. So thank you, Wayne, for raising our consciousness by bringing Braiding Sweetgrass and the work of Maya Suzuki Daniels to the fore. And thank you so much again for being a patron of this podcast, Wayne. Thank you.
So now it's time for our Accountability Check-in where Hannah and I checked in with each other about the commitments that we made from the last episode. But since Hannah isn't here, I'd like to hold myself accountable to you all, our listeners.
So I made two commitments from our conversation with Deepa Iyer. The first was to talk to my daughter about 9/11 given the 20th anniversary. And I did that. It went well, I thought. I first shared where I was and where her dad was when the attacks took place. And I was living in DC at the time and he was scheduled to be at the World Trade Center that day for a meeting, but it got rescheduled, so he was safe in Minneapolis. And I can't tell you how many times, like we just are so thankful for that schedule change. So I just provided some context to make things more real and familiar for her, sharing with her the tone and tenor of that day and then the days that followed.
I also compared the heightened xenophobia, Islamophobia, and the exponential increase in hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians that took place post-9/11. I compared all that to the rise in xenophobia, anti-Asian racism, and the hate crimes against Asian and Asian American community that took place during COVID and explaining how our country has a history of scapegoating people of color in times of national crisis. And that led me to thread the Japanese internment to 9/11 and then to the COVID-19 pandemic. And then after that, my daughter, she asked about what was going on in Afghanistan.
And I just, I loved that question because it created an opening where I was able to explain that 9/11 has its roots in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that took place in 1979. And that we, the US government, we stepped in to train and resource and support the Mujahdeen (which included the Taliban) and the emerging group at the time known as Al Qaeda to fight the Soviets.
And I explained to her that we were all on the same side at that point. But then after the Soviet Afghan War, they became our enemies, or we became enemies to each other in the same way that the Chinese who were our allies during World War II were now our enemies after that. So anyway, it ended up being a long history lesson where I was connecting all these dots, all these
different events in history and explaining why people around the world may hate Americans and what “America,” in this case, the United States, stands for given how we've acted like terrorists in other countries and have supported fascist governments around the world.
So yeah, it went good. I could tell by the end of it, she's like, “Okay, I've had enough.” But I'm glad that I was able to provide her with all that because her school didn't go into all this. I checked in with her and she said like, yeah, no, they didn't talk about all that. But she did interview me for a history assignment asking me what I remembered about that day so, at least, it was addressed somewhat in that way at her school.
The second commitment that I made was to invite children to be guests on our podcast. And again, this was a suggestion that was made by Deepa. And we have a couple of folks, children and adult children, that are already lined up and we'll continue to work to grow our guest list. And we just decided we're just going to be interspersing their voices throughout our podcast. So it's not going to be like a special series. We're just going to have them and integrate their voices along the way throughout all of our seasons going forward. And if any of our listeners would be interested in sharing what worked well and what didn't work well for you in the way that you were raised to think about race, racism, intersectionality, systems of oppression, etc., kind of all the things that we've been talking about, or if you know of children who might be interested in being on our podcast, please reach out to us. Just go to our website, antiracistparentingpodcast.com to contact us.
I'm super excited to learn from our children on how we can be better antiracist parents and the more we can include their voices into our podcast, the better. So we're eager to solicit help from you all in making that happen. And then finally, I just want to share an update, kind of on the larger commitment I made during our Sankofa episode, our Episode 13. In that episode, I made an ongoing commitment to increase the number of oppression-free spaces in our lives. And one of the ways that I'm doing that is by starting a new podcast called “Decolonize Yourself.” It's a podcast on decolonizing your mind, spirit, body, and relationships. And I just released my first Welcome episode. I'm super excited about this project because it's a project that came directly from my ancestors. So let me explain what I mean by that.
A friend of mine, she recently shared on Facebook that she’s celebrating the one-year anniversary of an organization that she started, that first arrived as “a whisper from my ancestors.” And it's a whisper that she's heard for years. And she finally heeded the call and made it happen last year. And in some ways, I feel like this podcast on decolonization was also a “whisper from my ancestors.” The content and the feeling has been brewing inside me for decades. But the format didn't quite crystallize in my mind until just a couple months ago.
So anyway, that's what I mean by I feel like it's in direct response to a calling from my ancestors, and I hope you will tune into my new podcast again, called “Decolonize Yourself.” It's available on all major podcast streaming platforms.
So before I welcome our guest, I just want to set our intention for today. I hope our intention is that we will be open to having our norms and assumptions disrupted, as we listen to Kyle talk about toxic masculinity and then also be open to seeing and doing things differently based on the things that we've learned together in this space with him.
I am honored to introduce you to Kyle Tran Myhre also known as Guante. He's a poet, rapper, activist, educator, and cohost of “What's good, Man?” a podcast that explores what it means to be a man and examines masculinity in our society and culture. I first met Kyle through his spoken word poetry but, in the past year, we have gotten to know each other better through our work with MPD150, which is an abolitionist collective in Minneapolis.
So Kyle, thank you for being here. Before we launch into the conversation about toxic masculinity, can you just tell us a little bit more about who you are, where you come from, and what you do. And then if you have a particular intention that you'd like to set for our time together, you can share that, as well.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, thank you as well. Um, a lot of gratitude. It's always cool to be able to come into a different space to talk about this stuff that I'm used to talking about in my own spaces, which I think is maybe a theme we might even revisit at some point. But yeah, my name is Kyle Tran Myhre. He, him, his pronouns. My stage name is Guante, but I'm encouraging people to just call me Kyle..like just in general for people out there.
But yeah, I have kind of a weird, I don't know if you call it a job. I have a weird calling, I guess, in that on one level I am a poet, right? Like I write and perform poetry, which has all of its own kind of baggage and stereotypes. And on the other level, my background is in critical education, like pedagogy, social justice education, like this facilitation stuff.
And so a lot of the actual work that I ended up doing draws from both of those worlds. Like I'll get brought into a college or a conference or a high school or somewhere to like, you know, maybe do a couple of poems, but then the poems are really— It's not about that the poems aren’t so brilliant that they change people's minds or whatever; the poems are just entry points. They're like I'm telling stories. And then the people that I'm working with, whether they're students or younger people, older people, whoever— Hopefully the poems can become foundations upon which we can just have conversations. So I do that around like a lot of different issues and stuff and try to make a lot of connections around how different types of harm or different types of oppression are connected. And I think poetry is a really good tool for that. But, over the years, I've found myself more than anything doing that kind of work, centered around issues of masculinity and specifically masculinity's connection to gender violence specifically but also violence more broadly, top.
SooJin: So when Kale suggested that we explore toxic masculinity on our podcast, the very first person I thought about was you and then Tony, your cohost, because of the podcast that you have. So thank you for accepting this invitation. Could you share a little bit about how you came to devote an entire podcast to toxic masculinity, you know, given all the various topics that you could focus on and all the work and activism and education that you do around social justice and critical education, why did you choose to focus on toxic masculinity?
Kyle: Yeah. For one, I think because of my background in facilitation and critical ed stuff, it's really important to me to go into a space and not give like a presentation with my PowerPoint and my authority. It’s really important to me to enter a space and ask people questions and like have more of an interactive, dialogue-based session with people.
And I think, on one hand, podcasts as a format is maybe a little bit more one-sided because like you’re a disembodied voice and you're just talking. But on the other hand, when you have a podcast that has multiple people who are hosts and then have people coming in as guests and then are engaging with all kinds of different like texts and quotes and thought currents, I think it can be a way to do that kind of diffused authority, critical ed work, just in a different format. And so, on one level, there was just a good fit for that. I think a more direct way to answer the question is: there's a both/and here and that one, I think lots of people are talking about issues of masculinity and toxic masculinity right now. Like there are all these books, there are a hundred different podcasts. It took us forever to find a name because there are already a lot of podcasts out there. And on one hand, you know, you don't want to reinvent the wheel. You want to uplift people who are already doing the work.
But on the other hand, we did feel like there was maybe a specific niche we could fill. I'm just thinking about one, you know, this hallmark of white supremacist thinking: you could only do something if it's perfect; you can only do something if it's unique and singular. So on one hand, just pushing back against that and being like, look because we're two unique individuals and interesting people, we can do this in a way that other people aren't doing it.
But I think even specifically, you know, both being rappers and coming from the hip hop community, both being artists, coming from an arts community, um, being of different generations and holding different racial, ethnic identities—like all those different factors combined—to be like, you know, we might be well-positioned to do something that is, you know, however it fits into the wider landscape is something that can have value, that can be an entry point or a foothold for someone out there to kind of enter into this conversation.
And then, you know, our, our podcast only lasted for a season, right. But then like to use that as an entry point into a wider engagement. Every episode shares a lot of other resources, you know, like other ways people can continue this conversation, tools for bringing this into other spaces, et cetera, et cetera.
SooJin: Okay. Okay, cool. So could you, um, I'm just curious, like how have you come to interrupt toxic masculinity in your life, in your work, and in your relationships? Like, how does that play out?
Kyle: Um, well, one, I think about my own entry into talking about this stuff and engaging with this stuff. And a lot of times I think there's an expectation that that entry has to be something really dramatic. It has to be like a thing that happened to someone or like a Eureka moment where suddenly they're like, “Oh, wow! Gender violence is an important thing or the ways I’ve been socialized to think about what it means to be a man has impacted my life in this super dramatic, specific way.” And I can't speak for anyone else, can't speak for Tony, but for me, it was not that; it was much more of a gradual, gradual coming into consciousness around these ideas.
And then, of course, you never actually get to a destination. It's like a continued process of coming into consciousness around this stuff. And I think specifically in my case, it was around having good people around me, like mentors and community members. And sometimes that was very explicit. Like when I was an undergrad in college, I had mentors in my life who did this work and who passed on all these different frameworks and vocabulary words and ways of thinking about issues around masculinity and around gender essentialism and all that kind of stuff.
And then sometimes that work was more implicit where, you know, someone might not be using the phrase “toxic masculinity” or talking about gender in that very direct way, but they were modeling maybe in like a deeper, more embodied way, just different ways of understanding how I could have a relationship with my own masculinity and how that could potentially be a healthy relationship and not just a harmful relationship.
And so on one level, there's a lot of privilege, a lot of luck wrapped up in that. And I think that has informed how I think about these issues today, too. It's kind of a—on one level, a sense of like, responsibility: because I had that, I want to share that with others and that, you know, whether that's through the podcast or through the kind of poetry and facilitation work that I do through creating materials, et cetera, et cetera. But also just like being a person, you know, like in my, in my big family and stuff like that and trying to model that stuff. And again, sometimes talk about it explicitly, sometimes model it implicitly—it's the both/and there that I think is important. And I think, you know, to continue on with this big question: I'm thinking about the term toxic masculinity and how it can be useful in some ways, and it can be not useful in other ways, right? I think this is something we might've talked about in the first episode of the show, if I remember correctly. But how on one hand, it’s like the way that that term has come into popular consciousness over the past 10 years, even though it is an older term, but like, especially over the past 10 years, I would say it's probably just a good thing. And that more people have a conception of what that means. More people are having conversations about it and more people are organizing and advocating around it. And that's good. But also I've heard critiques of it that have been really helpful to me. And there are kind of two different critiques. One of them is the idea that because whether or not the term toxic masculinity is political, it has definitely become politicized. And because of that, it can sometimes be a distraction, right? The idea that the people that you most want to reach are the people who are not going to listen to you as soon as you say that word because it's like a buzzword that has been kind of stripped of its meaning, even if that meaning is actually like interesting and important. I'm not saying that that critique is a hundred percent right or a hundred percent wrong. I'm saying that it is useful to think about.
And then the other critique, I think I heard first from one of the people with the national organization called A Call to Men. I think it was Ted Bunch. He wrote a piece about how the phrase, “toxic masculinity” makes it easier for someone like—I’ll use myself as an example and not project onto other people—to say like, “Oh, those men over there are toxic. Those men over there are doing bad things, and I'm not like them. I'm good.” And like just how dangerous that can be, right, when we stop being self-reflexive about the issues and are always pointing at the other people and their problems. And so, yeah, those two critiques together have been really interesting.
And then not to babble too much, but just really briefly to connect that to a poetry practice in which we talk so much in poetry about how sometimes the most powerful way to talk about a thing is not to just talk about the thing, right? It's to talk about like a metaphor or an image that makes you think of the concept or something that can kind of encapsulate it in a way that is not just an intellectual conversation but something that is more internalized. But that kind of melding of a few different ideas has been useful to me as I continue to figure out how to do this kind of work.
SooJin: So would you say that being on this journey— How has this journey changed you, if at all? What have you learned about yourself?
Kyle: Because of that lack of kind of a very dramatic pivot point or like Eureka moment in my life, it's harder to pinpoint changes, right, because it's been more of a gradual process. I do think just in a general sense, like whether or not we are experts on issues related to masculinity and toxic masculinity and gender roles and all that kind of stuff, I think having space to just think critically about them and to reflect like, even just as one individual person to reflect on how I learned about “being a man” growing up. And then, of course, to have dialogue with other people around their experiences and telling my story and comparing that to other people's stories and hearing other people's stories—like that, I think, has just been— I don't know if there's a better word than just like healthy, you know, the idea that— You know, this is a generational thing too, right? Like the teenagers that I work with today generally, and this is obviously a generalization, but generally have much more of a handle on this than people who are a little bit older than me. Like we've seen the culture shift in a really cool way over the past 10, 15, 20 years. What I was saying was that generally like from my own generation and how I was raised, it's just been really healthy to be able to say like, “Hey, it is okay to have emotions”—it seems so obvious—but like, “It's okay to ask for help.” It's not just okay to ask for help, but you kinda should ask for help, you know? And it's okay to express yourself in a way that feels right to you and not have to fit into this extremely narrow box.
That relates to a question you asked earlier about when I work with college undergrads or with high school students. So on one hand, there's that generational note about how I think a lot of younger people across gender identities have maybe a better handle on the idea that the whole idea of “men look like this and act like this and dress like this, and women look like this and act like this and dress like this. And those are the only two options you have. You have to fit in one of those boxes.” I think younger generations have more of a handle on how absurd that is. But I'm also finding that even people who have not had that conversation yet, or have not thought about that stuff really critically yet, are super open to it. Like when I work with young men especially, like I'll get called to a college to work with the athletic department or the football team or a fraternity or something like that. What I found is that some fraction of the young men I work with are like down and they get it and they're excited about it and it makes sense to them.
Another fraction: they've just never talked about it before and never really thought about it before, but when we start to talk about it and we start to share these stories, they're super open to it. And then the third, the idea of people being resistant to it. That obviously exists. And I've worked with some young men here and there who are very resistant. But it's hard to know how much of this is just my own experience, my own privilege of working with the specific people I've worked with. But like, there are, in my experience, an extremely small fraction of the people who are like super resistant and sometimes there's an assumption or expectation that, “Oh, you work with young men around issues of masculinity. I bet they like hate you or scream at you or whatever.” And it's not been my experience. I think people are super open to these ideas, especially once they have an opportunity just to think about them and talk about them.
SooJin: Yeah, I bet from their perspective, it's refreshing to see someone who is older openly talking about these things, like giving them permission to be able to access their feelings. And, so I bet from their eyes, it's actually really quite validating and affirming to see someone like you, who’s a rapper, a poet—like a really cool dude—showing that there is an alternative way to be a man that explodes this box— Not only explodes this box but that is much more humane to your own self and then also to others.
Kyle: And I mean, this might relate to other things that we want to talk about, but I think about how you're never just talking about masculinity. There's always other stuff going on like in terms of the other identities that we hold and other like contextual factors and stuff like that. And so like, I'm really interested specifically in working with young men, but not just young men, like young white men. I might identify as mixed race, but I also kind of have the lived experience of a white person, right? Like when I walked down the street, people see me as white. I think most of the audiences I work with see me as white. And so I'm interested in talking to that group. I'm also from a small town. I'm from Wisconsin. I grew up in Lacrosse, or the Lacrosse area and moved around a lot when I was a kid. But I'm interested in that population and not because that population is more or less important to work with but just because of all the other identities that I hold point me in that direction and saying like, “This is the work that you should be engaging in.”
I found that to be very, uh, I don't want to say, I don't think rewarding is the right word because it's also draining and it's also stressful, like whatever, but, if it feels right. I've had some really cool opportunities to work in smaller towns and smaller cities, particularly in the Midwest, in Iowa and Wisconsin and Minnesota, talking about these issues. And I think the conversation in those spaces, this may be a little bit different than the conversation at like, you know, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, or the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Like in those spaces, they, again, not a qualitative difference in terms of being better or worse, but just different things come up. People have different questions, different issues.
SooJin: I'm so glad that you mentioned that because that reminded me of question that I wanted to ask you, which is, how do you see the relationship between examining, interrupting, eliminating these toxic approaches to being a “man” in this society with antiracism?
Kyle: Oh, yeah. Actually, I want to pull something up really quick. There's a quote from— This isn't exactly a response to that question, but I think it will be a doorway into a response to that question. But there’s this quote I really, really like from a book called All We Can Save, which is an anthology of writing about environmental justice from a feminist perspective, from a feminist lens, that was edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson. But this is a quote from, I think, the foreword of the book. And it says, “The same patriarchal power structure that oppresses and exploits girls, women, and non-binary people and constricts and contorts boys and men also wreaks destruction on the natural world. Dominance, supremacy, violence, extraction, egotism, greed, ruthless competition: these hallmarks of patriarchy fueled the climate crisis just as surely as they do inequality, colluding with racism along the way. Patriarchy silences, breeds contempt, fuels destructive capitalism, and plays a zero-sum game. Its harms are chronic, cumulative, and fundamentally planetary.”
Again, the book is called All We Can Save. Definitely a recommended reading. That quote jumped out at me because one of the reasons that I'm really interested in working around issues of masculinity is that, that is important in and of itself, but it also connects to literally every other issue, right? Like not just even gender-related issues—like sexual assault or like reproductive justice—but also, as the quote talks about, environmental justice, mass shootings, and police and prisons and punishment culture, around militarism and imperialism and war, around immigration and xenophobia, and like the authoritarian fascist politics that are always tied up in a vision of masculinity as control and power and dominance.
And then it's connected specifically to your question about anti-racism, right? White supremacy is also about control and dominance and power and upholding these systems and not really about like, “White people are smarter” or anything like that. It's about using those types of attitudes or impulses as a way to uphold systems of control, power, and dominance. And that is always wrapped up in this vision of masculinity that is very old fashioned, traditional, harmful vision of what masculinity is. So I think by, hopefully, chipping away at that, by challenging myself and the men and boys around me and the men and boys that I work with to have just a broader understanding of what masculinity can be, and to say that, “You don't have to always be in control of every situation. You don’t have to be dominant or have power in order to have value as a human being.” Just [having] all of those different conversations that can happen that chips away also at the power of white supremacy and at environmental destruction and climate crisis and violence in a broader sense—like all of that stuff is connected. And I think in the way that activists say all issues are connected, all struggles are connected: I think sometimes that is written off as kind of a thing people say, right, or as a platitude. But I think when you take a close look at masculinity, it's a very real-world example of how all these different issues are inextricably connected to one another.
SooJin: Dang, Kyle, thank you so much for that. That was such a beautiful exposition. Really! What a wonderful doorway that you provide us with. I feel like sparks are going off in my mind as all these connections that you brought to bear were made. And I think it's really important to point out that even if we're raising children who identify as girls or as non-binary, we all are implicated in masculinity. We all practice toxic masculine tendencies because that is the society in which we live in. And just in the same way that you don't need to have white people to have white supremacy, you don't need to have men to have sexism. Women and gender nonconforming folks—like we, too, can reinforce and reproduce toxic masculinity in our lives.
Kyle: Just listening to you talk in the last minute, the one thing that jumped into my head was, have you ever used or come across the whole like— Is it Tema Okun's “White Supremacy Culture”? For people who don't know, it's made the rounds. It's been around for a while, but it really made the rounds in the last year because of people on the right wing, but also some people in the middle of the political spectrum, being like, “Look how ridiculous this is! Like saying that punctuality is a hallmark of white supremacy culture.” And, I think there's a lot of bad faith critiques in there. Like I've seen that document or that work used as a tool, like not necessarily a roadmap to understanding everything there is to know about racism, but as one thing to think about. Some food for thought.
And I think the thing that sparked this in my head was the idea— I think sometimes participants struggle with the idea of like, “So these are a bunch of practices that aren't necessarily good, but why are they necessarily connected to white supremacy?” And I think the same thing could be said about when you're talking about how patriarchy or toxic masculinity or whatever isn't just about the gender identity of the people who are doing the thing, like the action that is harmful, but it's a deeper understanding. And I think there's something in there about the idea of dominant culture: dominant culture encapsulates white supremacy, encapsulates patriarchy, encapsulates heteronormativity and capitalism and all this stuff. But I feel like, at least in my experience—and this is something I would ask you about—that idea is maybe still a little more invisible than the idea of toxic masculinity or the idea of white supremacy: this idea that all these things work together to create a kind of dominant culture fog that we walked through. I don't know if that makes any sense.
SooJin: Yeah, it makes absolute sense. I think you're absolutely right because those people who have those kinds of critiques about that document: it's because they can't get past the word “white” without attributing it to a very specific racial identity. But when we talk about—like on this podcast—when Hannah and I talk about white supremacy, when me and you here together are talking about white supremacy, we're not thinking about white people. We're thinking about dominant culture, dominant society. The ruling class and power. That is what we're thinking about historically and presently. And so, I thank you for teasing that out for us.
That document is something that I carry in my purse. I have it in my workspace because it is something that helps— It's a practice that I've developed to hold myself accountable because I've made a commitment to be diligent about eliminating white supremacy from my life. And these kinds of characteristics and culture— When I first read that list, Kyle, I was like, I would not have identified as being a reproducer of white supremacy, but when I read that list, like every single thing on that list, I do. Every single thing! And so it was like I was holding up a mirror and being like, “I don't like who I see in this mirror!” So what can I do to eliminate, you know, what you said, kind of chipping away at those different characteristics and qualities and the ways that they're showing up in my life. And it has transformed my life because I kept a journal. I keep a journal where I itemized. When I first started, I was itemizing all the ways in which all of these things were showing up in my life.
And then I would reflect on, “Okay, where did this come from? Why am I doing this? Who taught me to think like this, to work like this, to have this kind of value judgment and assignment to the written word versus the spoken word? So I started to unravel all that and chip away at those layers. And in that process, I've decolonized my mind, you know? Yeah, I've decolonized so many aspects of my life, and it has really, really helped me with my parenting. It's transformed my parenting, and it also has transformed my work and how I work with people, how I make decisions. [It has] completely changed the way, the process in which I make decisions. So thanks for bringing that.
Kyle: And I was going to say just really quick: the specific phrasing that you used just now about value judgments is so important. I think another way that patriarchy and white supremacy share a lot of qualities is the idea of absolutism and very either/or, black-and-white thinking. If people haven't seen or read the list or seen the document, there's one specific example that you mentioned was like the worship of the written word: like knowledge and information is only valid if it's written down. And like how that connects the idea of value judgment: it's not saying that writing stuff down is bad. It's just saying that we shouldn't put all of the validity into the written word when there is also validity in story and validity in other types of knowledge and other types of communication. And I think that resistance of the either/or, black-and-white, but just being able to see those types of trends and patterns in our life and our behavior, like that connects clearly to masculinity stuff to me.
SooJin: Absolutely, because one of the things that I've, in my journey, have come to realize is that knowledge that is embodied, knowledge that comes through feeling for me is more accurate in honing into what I really want to do in terms of making choices. Versus like the “written word,” I'm now starting to integrate knowledge that comes from feeling, from emotions, and prioritizing that in my life. And I think that is tied directly with the work that you've been doing around masculinity. And how differently would our world be if we made decisions and choices based on feeling, you know? Like what you said makes me feel like this and, therefore, I gotta do the work to figure out like, why I'm being triggered. And then you also got to do your work on, like, why are you saying this? Or why are you treating me like this that would induce this type of feeling in somebody? So, yeah. Thank you for this.
So before we get to our Lightning Round, I was wondering if there's anything else that you'd like to uplift, promote, share?
Kyle: So I know it's kind of silly, like with a question like this, my first instinct is not to talk about myself because partly it's a Midwestern thing, but then partly because you know, doing this kind of work, so much is how do you decenter yourself? How do you uplift other people's voices and stuff? So I want to do that, but I do want to shout out something that is directly related to me, just really briefly in that, I just finished a book and it's coming out in March and the book is a kind of science fiction poetry book. And it's about this whole other world. And it's a book about abolition. It's a book about art's role in responding to authoritarianism and authoritarian politics. But because of that, because of those kind of twin themes, masculinity comes up over and over and over again in the book. And I think it's just another way to hit home what we were talking about a second ago of how these things are related. And I'm really interested in art that uses— You know, I can write a poem about masculinity, where I stand up on a stage and say, “Hey, everyone. Let's think more critically about masculinity.” And like, that's true, but it isn't always the most exciting as art. So I'm really interested in art and storytelling and poetry that talks about these issues from kind of a— The word that I use is like a flanking maneuver, like coming at them from just a different angle. That's the work that my book is trying to do.
But I'm also interested in collecting other pieces of art from other people that kind of do that similar the work. And so one thing I could shout out is, at my website which is just guante.info, I've curated a couple of different lists of spoken word poem videos by a bunch of people, not just me, but by a bunch of artists that can serve as entry points for people who are trying to say, open up a conversation with their kid for the first time about gender roles and stuff, or who are teachers and want to open up a unit about these issues with their students. I find spoken word poems, particularly because they tend to be short and like kind of punchy—there’s probably a better word than that—but like short and direct and powerful and emotional. And you can find them written by people who hold all different identities and whoever the group you're working with might respond to.
But there's a couple different lists on my website in the resources tab. One is a dozen different spoken word poem videos around masculinity's connection to violence and how, when we don't think critically about masculinity, how easily that is to lead into violence, both gender violence and violence in general. And then another list of videos on consent and kind of building a culture of consent and different poems that kind of touch on that particularly, not exclusively, but particularly from a cis male perspective because that's just the groups I end up working with more often. But if those can be useful to people, there's some really really cool stuff on there.
SooJin: Yeah, that is awesome. I'll definitely include all that in the show notes because I can already see parents using those spoken word poems as a doorway, an entry point, into having more deeper conversations around the way masculinity is showing up in their relationships. I can't wait to check out those videos for myself to have those kinds of conversations with my daughter. So thank you so much for that.
So we end with a lightning round, so just whatever comes to the top of your head. No pressure. Antiracist parenting or caretaking is… Fill in the blank.
Kyle: Oh, this is so difficult for me because of the way that— It's funny, not to go off on a tangent, but you know, I'm a rapper, right? And part of rapping for a lot of people is freestyling. And in order to freestyle—like to go completely off the top of your head and make things rhyme and make them make sense—there's a certain thing you have to do in your brain to like turn off the “judgey” part of your brain and just like really— It's like a meditation thing to be really present in the moment and just let stuff come out. And that's always been really hard for me. I'm much more excited about writing things down and then saying them out loud versus that free-association thing, but I'm going to give it my best shot.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind for me is like, we've been talking about “connected,” right? Like it's not just its own bucket of actions or habits to develop, but it's connected to parenting in a much broader sense and caretaking in a much broader sense. And it's connected to— You know, so much stuff that we talk about in social justice world is really basic stuff about critical thinking and kindness and empathy. And I think that that gets lost sometimes, you know? And so I think antiracist parenting is a great reminder. ‘Cause like, as a poet, antiracist to me feels, you know, it could be seen as kind of like jargony academic terminology and parenting can be seen as a very kind of—I hate the word universal cause there’s a lot of baggage to it— but like maybe a more universal, heart work, heart H-E-A-R-T work. And when you put them together, it's a reminder of how the two can support each other, if that makes sense.
SooJin: Oh, gosh, Kyle! That is gorgeous! Oh, my gosh! I love that visual! Thank you for that. Wow, that's powerful. Okay, what's the last thing a youth or student you worked with did to make you smile?
Kyle: Awww. It's harder than it normally would be to answer that question because so much of the work I've been doing has been virtual. And like you sometimes lose some of those little moments in a facilitated session where things are a little more noticeable, for lack of a better word. I get excited about the idea that sometimes— Like I mentioned before, a lot of the art side of what I do is really a tool to get to the facilitator side of what I do. And so I think when someone really acknowledges the art itself and says like, “Oh, this poem was beautiful,” or “This poem moved me” or whatever before we even get to the facilitation stuff, like that is really cool. And that happened recently in—again, it was like a virtual program—but just the idea of people responding emotionally to the art itself just ‘cause I don't get to experience that as much as I used to. And so that's always cool.
SooJin: That is cool. What are you reading right now?
Kyle: Two things I’d shout out. Ariana Brown's new book. And Ariana also got a shout-out on the Netflix show, “Sex Education,” which is really cool. One of the characters was like, “the poet Ariana Brown,” which is just like such a dream thing. But Ariana Brown's new book is called We are Owed and Ariana has been like one of my favorite spoken word poets to watch, watch videos and stuff, but to actually read the book is also really cool. Then the other book is: it's called the Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh. It is specifically about— Well, at least how I'm reading it is that it's about the responsibility of artists. Specifically about the responsibility that artists have to reckon with the climate crisis, to not go along as though everything is normal. But like how important it is for all artists and poets, writers, and culture producers to take on the climate crisis because art is such an important kind of vehicle for public thought and then public thought influences policy and et cetera, et cetera. And it's been a great kind of call to action.
SooJin: Oh, it sounds fantastic. Oh, I love these questions because I learn so much from our guests in this way. What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Kyle: To me, the answer has usually been video games over the past X number of years because, you know, not to like overexplain it, like on one level, it's just fun. Like I like playing video games. It's fun. But on another level, I've noticed in my body—you know, if we listen to our bodies—how much similarity there is between playing video games and meditating. Obviously, they're not exactly the same thing, but the idea that you are completely present in the thing that you are doing. It's easier for me with video games than it is like reading or music or movies or other types of media, other types of hobbies and stuff. It's a way to really be present. That's been really helpful to me.
SooJin: That is so cool. I've never heard anybody explain video games in that way. Yeah. I can see why people are drawn to that then. I love that. Finally, what question would you like anti racist parenting podcasts to answer in a future.
Kyle: So I haven't listened to every episode so forgive me.
SooJin: Oh, no. We don’t expect that from our guests.
Kyle: I'm really interested in these types of conversations when we kind of go from ideas and bring them really down to earth, kind of “where the rubber meets the road.” Like one thing that I'm super interested in, as a poet but also as an activist, is the conversation around tactics, around communication tactics because I usually think about that in terms of like, you're fighting for a particular campaign. How do you get the public on board with that campaign? What kind of language do you use? What's your hashtag? Like those kinds of questions. But I think the conversation with kids and not just young people, but specifically like your kids as a parent, could be really— I've never heard that conversation before about—again, “where the rubber meets the road”—what kind of language tactics do you use? And obviously you're not necessarily thinking in a tactical way. You're just being yourself. But even within that, like what is effective? And what is less effective? I think those kinds of questions are really interesting.
SooJin: It's so interesting that you're saying this because this is exactly the focus for the conversations with the children that we're going to be bringing in. That is the primary question is like, what tactic—we didn't use that word tactic, but I guess we will now—but what approach was effective in helping you learn about systems of oppression? And what tactics worked and how can us, parents, learn from you? How can we learn from our children so that we can be more effective in having these conversations with them?
So before you go, could you remind our listeners: what's the title of your book?
Kyle: The new book is called Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough, which is very like the cynical side of me, the very cynical, negative person always having to remind myself that like, not that it's okay but it's okay to recognize that the world is terrible. It's okay to be cynical, as long as we're also seeing all of the many reasons to keep fighting. Like the amazing people out there who are doing this work every day and how important it is to not lose sight of that. And so that's kind of an ongoing theme in the larger book. That'll be coming out in March, but pre orders are open now, though.
SooJin: You know, I have been meditating on this word enough and here it is in the title of your book. And especially when you were just talking about the Great Derangement and about the climate crisis: like what is enough, really? And what does it mean to itemize for ourselves, to come to an understanding for ourselves, what enough is in our lives? And accept that because the reason why we're facing a climate, planetary crisis is because there is never enough. You know, we're operating from this mentality—which is white supremacist—that you have to constantly have more, more, more, more, more, more, and there's never a point at which there is enough. And so I kind of love that title just for that because I feel like it evokes this call for us to acknowledge and to reflect on what is enough and be okay with that.
Kyle: Wow. See that made me think about how, again, the kind of layers of that word enough and how even if individuals decide that X is enough and can live in a different way or in a different relationship with land and stuff like that, the system, like capitalism is built on the idea that not just that there is never enough, but like by necessity, there can never be enough. Capitalism has to keep growing and has to keep devouring. It's like an interesting individual conversation and a systemic conversation. And then like the individual conversation, enough might mean that “I have enough.” Whereas the systemic conversation, enough might mean like, “This is where we put our foot down. This is where we draw the line. This is where we push back against the system.” There's so many layers to that word that I wasn't even thinking about when I wrote the title. Like that's really cool.
SooJin: And the beauty of discourse, right, and this conversation. Kyle, I can't thank you enough. I just feel really full, and the sparks are flying in my brain. And I thank you for that because I love to learn. And I've learned so much from you in just this short little bit of time. So thank you for what you do in our community. Thank you for your art, for creating doorways and pathways to these really tough, complex conversations through your art. I know that parents are really gonna benefit from your poetry and from the resources that you created. So thank you.
Kyle: Exact same stuff back at you. Thank you so much for your presence and for this opportunity and for everything.
SooJin: Well, take care.
Kyle: Yeah, you, too.
SooJin: Okay. Bye.
SooJin: Oh, my goodness. Gosh, where do I even begin in terms of reflecting on that conversation and all the things that it's inspiring me to think about? Um, one of the phrases that is coming up in my mind is the phrase “chipping away.” It's something that Kyle said a few times as he talked about how tackling, reflecting on, and examining the ways in which masculinity shows up in toxic harmful ways in his life is one way to chip away at the broader structure, system of white supremacy of capitalism because patriarchy is embedded in those systems. And so I think the reason why I'm really drawn to that phrase chipping away right now is because I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at all the things that we need to address: like the climate crisis, the racism that is showing up, all these different intersectional oppressions that are playing out in policies and legislation all around our country regarding voter suppression, regarding reproductive rights. I just feel really overwhelmed right now just with all of the things that are going on politically in our society, environmentally in our society, that people all around the world are experiencing right now. And Kyle talking about just chipping away at things—that helped me to kind of scale back and give myself permission to say, “Actually, it's okay if I focus on one thing at a time. Not only is it okay, but that's probably the most effective path is to just think about like, “Okay, what can I do now in this moment? Where do I feel energy right now, as it relates to tackling a particular aspect of white supremacy, of capitalism, of patriarchy?” So I thank him for that because, as stimulated as I'm feeling right now, I'm feeling a lot less overwhelmed in terms of the work ahead for me.
Another thing is, I loved the titles that he shared so I'm going to take a look at all of the books he suggested. And then the second commitment I'm going to make is to visit his resources tab on his website and go through some of the spoken word videos and identify which ones I want to use to have conversations with my daughter Sxela. So those are the two things I'm going to do.
Okay, so I guess that's it for this episode. I want to thank you all for listening, and I can't thank you enough for hanging in there with me, with Hannah, with us on this journey. Again, if you yourself or if you have children that you know who would like to be a guest on our podcast to talk about the ineffective and effective tactics on how to hold these conversations around racism and sexism and masculinity and sexuality and all of these really important issues that not only define our lives—like in terms of our identity—but also how we experience the world because policies and laws are created around these very things, please reach out to us through our contact page on our website.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.