Jan 8 • 50M

Theory of Change #054: Brandon Bradford on America's masculinity crisis

Men’s support group leader Brandon Bradford says many men are feeling lonely because society never taught them sustainable mental health


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
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Episode Summary

One of the biggest social changes since the 1960s has been the empowerment of women to make personal choices, to control who they date, whether they’re married, and when or if they have children.

While society and popular culture aimed at women seem to have embraced many of these changes, the unfortunate reality is that popular culture aimed at men has not kept pace. Instead of encouraging adaptation and teaching new social and professional skills, cultural influencers who aim for the male media market have mostly been offering the same old advice—which simply doesn’t work in a world in which divorce is common and dating apps have made things easier but also more complicated.

Male friendship has also declined. A 2021 study from the Survey Center on American Life found that 15 of male respondents said they had no close friends. Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic played an important role in this, but there are other factors as well, such as pop culture that encourages men to avoid new friendships or discussing their feelings. As a result, many men have not been able to resolve these struggles. So-called “deaths of despair,” such as drug or alcohol overdoses and deliberate suicides are much higher among men than women.

Further compounding the negative situation has been the proliferation of “men’s rights” activists and other far-right political actors such as the “incel” movement who have been radicalizing millions of young men to blame others for their problems, instead of learning from mistakes or improving their outlook.

Is there a crisis of masculinity in America? In this episode, we’re featuring Brandon Bradford, he’s a political consultant who also serves as a men’s support group leader in his spare time.

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