Fremantle Press author Laurie Steed explores new perspectives on masculinity and fatherhood

Laurie Steed is a writer living and working in the Wadjak region on the traditional lands of the Noongar people. He is the author of You Belong Here and recipient of the 2021 Henry Handel Richardson flagship fellowship. His short story anthology Greater City Shadows was shortlisted for the 2022 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. His latest memoir, Love, Dad, sets out to explore the meaning of being a father in the twenty-first century.

For most of my life, I’ve received clear messages on what constitutes a man in our society. Many messages have been reductive or dismissive of men even having emotional needs. In traditional masculinity, in particular, I’ve found mostly empathic cul-de-sacs rather the necessary pathways to authenticity, sincerity and vulnerability.

What would I like more than what’s been? What might be if men could begin to talk more openly and honestly about what’s really bothering them; the ways in which they’re struggling, how they’re hurting, and a means to find accountability as a gift rather than a burden.

I am acutely aware of accountability in my own life. When I lose my temper, I sometimes see a spike of fear in my boys’ eyes, and I must immediately acknowledge that spike, own it and work to repair anything that happens due to that moment of anger. I do this quickly because trauma is often about what happens after the slip-up and how we reaffirm our ongoing love for and commitment to our kids.

Love, Dad is about (and for) those men who want to be better but wonder where support might come from. Good dads, in particular, can feel immense pressure to be great while not always having the necessary networks to process their natural vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Love, Dad is an invitation to any dad who’s felt unhappy with the sad sack of stones we’ve been given to represent masculinity. It’s time to think more deeply about where we might head to make for a better society. So, here for your consideration, are some gems we might embed into the male psyche as part of a more realistic, more inclusive approach to masculinity:

  • Tenderness
  • Compassion
  • Humility
  • Acceptance
  • Forgiveness
  • Kindness
  • Accountability
  • Self-compassion

Over time, I’ve fostered male friendships that look more and more like real connections. Life can be more challenging when you’re vulnerable, honest, and emotional. Still, that’s necessarily so because life is not a track to conquer but an off-road track where the terrain is often rocky or otherwise unpredictable. It’s a space only a fool would attempt to tackle alone.

We can no longer pretend that the subdued or misdirected man does anything other than break things. We must be raw, honest and vulnerable as men to escape the mess we’ve made for ourselves. We need genuine connections with each other and with ourselves. We must show up as ourselves with all our flaws intact and share our vulnerabilities. By doing this, we will expand ideas around manhood and masculinity and, in time, bring forth a generational shift towards kinder, happier men.

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