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Hip-hop artist Dxtr Spits on teaching men to cry

Spits hosts workshops that get at the heart of his own mental health issues, which he says are rooted in toxic masculinity

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Dxtr Spits posing with hands up to his chin against a purple background
Photo courtesy of Dxtr Spits

Hip-hop artist Dxtr Spits realized that his mental health issues were rooted in the toxicity of masculinity.

So he started the “How Men Cry” campaign, which teaches men how to cry. Spits’ podcast by the same name is focused on getting 1,000 men to tell stories about vulnerability. Charles Monroe-Kane of “To the Best of Our Knowledge” recently talked with Spits about the “How Men Cry” movement.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

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Charles Monroe-Kane: You know, we’re human beings. We all have ups and downs and problems. But at some point, you made the decision that your mental health problems were an issue of you being a man, that this was an issue of masculinity.

DS: I think that was when I started to go through the process of therapy and started to look at the conditioning, you know, whether that be within the family that I was in or society…I started to look back in that mirror of where these beliefs came from. For instance, one of the big ones is that my value and self-worth is attached to what I produce. That’s probably one of the bigger things that I saw that has had a huge impact through a lens of manhood and masculinity.

CMK: Your movement is called “How Men Cry.” And the first thing I want to ask you about is that word, “how.”

DS: The “how” in “How Men Cry” is very deliberate, because we’re not given the opportunity to cry publicly or to comfortably be able to do so with our partners. But we still find ways to cry out, just negatively. You know, in my case it is self-harm. Men are crying out, and then we can start to bleed out. Society doesn’t label it crying. But when I look carefully enough, and also witness it from a lot of the men that I will work with and talk with, I see our actions as crying now more than ever.

CMK: Let’s talk about the workshops. What do you do?

DS: So I use a combination of poems and spoken word material, which actually tend to be stories. And then I will add in meditation and mindfulness. I’m a big fan of meditating. I love to incorporate it into work because I think it goes hand-in-hand with a lot of therapeutic practices. And then I will also have men journal and reflect on whatever comes up for them during the workshop. So, I kind of use this combination of seeing the piece, being able to witness, and reflection.

CMK: Why don’t men want help? It seems almost ridiculous that we don’t get the help we need.

DS: One of my female friend’s friend was going through a breakup and she’s like, ‘Yeah, my friend is going through this breakup, and she’s going to come over later. We’re going to spoon, we’re going to eat ice cream, we’re going to do this and that.’ She is just basically going to come over to be a presence and console this individual. Really not that difficult of an ask.

CMK: No, no, it isn’t.

DS: It’s not that crazy of a concept. I had to sit back and ask myself if I would ever do that. And I’m like, even with the work I’m doing now, would I have thought to turn and say to a male friend, ‘Hey, man, I’m going through this breakup, and I’m having a tough time and I don’t know how to keep it together right now. Can you just come and keep me company?’

CMK: I think about bro culture, and it makes sense to me. I don’t think the women in my life understand it, but I totally understand the arm punch instead of the hug. And I look at all that and what I now see, I see pain. I can see why (some kids) would want an Andrew Tate to look up to, to be a Proud Boy.

DS: Yeah. It’s easier. And here’s the other thing. It’s also familiar. It is familiar because all you’ve been receiving is ‘toughen up’ your entire life. And a lot of men are not necessarily feeling heard. And I think what ends up happening for a young man new into the world is there’s a lot of criticism. And I get it. I’m not even trying to argue against what the criticism is, but I’m just saying there’s a lot of criticism that goes towards men.

So, if you’re a young man going into the world, especially social media wise, it seems that you’re not doing anything right. If you want to try to talk about something that maybe you have complex feelings around, if you don’t word it just right, you will likely receive this negative onslaught on social media.

Then add to that that it is hard for them to talk to their friends about it because they may not even know how to communicate with them in the first place. It’s like, where are they supposed to go? Especially when everyone else is just saying, “I don’t know, just don’t be like that.”

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