Meet Garrett Carlson: The Dudefluencer
Garrett Carlson, the founder of Dudefluencer.com, “a men's magazine that champions positive masculinity through self-care and building communities” is passionate about his mission to enlighten men, or “dudes” everywhere. He isn’t a self-help guru, or looking to make a quick buck off of men’s insecurities. On the contrary, Garrett is a regular, down-to-earth guy who is on a road of discovery: discovery of self, of others, and discovery of what it means to be a man or “masculine” in the 21st century. And, he wants to share what he learns with his ever-broadening group of followers.
Dudefluencer extols the 6 Pillars of Positive Masculinity and covers a wide range of topics including community, wellness, introspection and enclothed cognition, giving readers a great choice of subjects to explore.
We recently chatted with Garrett to go deeper about the origins of Dudefluencer, his personal take on different aspects of masculinity and the importance of make friendships:
Disclosure: sensing a great symmetry between Beckett Simonon and Dudefluencer, we approached Garrett to create a collaboration with our brand. He received complementary products, and has graciously offered to write an impartial review. You can read Part 1 of Garrett’s commentary by clicking here.
Now, to the interview...
Why and when did you create Dudefluencer? And, why did you choose to use the word “dude?”
After I left education, I knew I wanted to pursue a writing career. At the same time, I focused many personal narratives writing around the concepts of masculinity and trying to figure out where I fit in. The more I wrote and researched the topic, the more I realized that there weren’t many voices sharing the experiences I went through with masculinity. That’s how Dudefluencer came to be.
As for using the word “Dude,” there are two reasons. One, my wife half-jokingly came up with the name “Dudefluencer” on a car ride, and I loved it immediately. Secondly, it’s an inside thing with my dad; when I was younger, his nickname was always Dude. So there’s this loving memory attached every time I think about the name.
What, in your opinion, are some of the main causes of "Toxic Masculinity?"
I really dislike the term “Toxic Masculinity.” It’s one of those phrases that started out meaning one thing, and over time, its definition means less and less. I think Toxic Masculinity now has been co-opted to define anything bad that a man does. And I think the entire conversation is a whole lot more nuanced than that.
But to talk to the idea of toxic masculinity, I don’t know if there’s one leading cause we can point to. There are generations of negative behaviors passed down from men to men. There are harmful stereotypes portrayed in movies. As Ronald Levant likes to say, masculinity can be a prison that holds men back from truly being themselves (and the best version of themselves as well).
What is your definition of "Positive Masculinity?"
Positive masculinity is when men use their physical and emotional strength to champion healthy behaviors and communities. Positive masculinity is the antithesis of toxic masculinity. The focus of positive masculinity is to help generations of men emphasize healthy behaviors and develop more robust communities. I can share lots of anecdotes about my own experiences, but science backs up these theories. There is research that proves the importance of strong communities in lifespan.
I think it’s really easy to critique masculinity; there are tons of articles out there that highlight the same points. It’s much more difficult to start talking about what’s next, what men should be. That’s what I believe positive masculinity is: part of a more extensive discussion around masculinity to help men live happier and healthier lives.
In your article “Everything You Need to Know About Positive Masculinity (And What Toxic Masculinity Gets Wrong)” you recount the harrowing story of Jonathan and the wrestling coach. Is Toxic Masculinity inherent in traditionally “masculine” pursuits, such as (some) sports? If so, how should - and can - it change? BTW, what became of Jonathan after he left wrestling?
I don’t think Toxic Masculinity is inherent in “traditionally masculine pursuits.” That’s not to say there aren’t harmful masculine behaviors present. Still, I also don’t believe that those behaviors are just from the existence of those pursuits.
Immediately my brain jumped to John Mosley and John Beam, the last two coaches from Last Chance U. There are certainly times when harmful masculine behaviors are present. Still, those two men do a tremendous job of showcasing empathy, vulnerability, and love towards their players. These men are the role models we should be pointing to within sports to showcase how positive masculinity can help an athlete and communities and generations of men.
As for Jonathan, he left wrestling and continued on with his life. We never really had any conversations about it afterward. I don’t think either of us was capable of really digging deep and trying to figure out what was going on.
Speaking of sports... Why are sports an important part of masculinity? What other activities could be classified as traditionally “masculine?” Are boys still looked down upon for participating in other activities, such as the performing arts, visual arts, intellectual games (e.g., chess), etc.?
Sports provide two significant positives when it comes to masculinity: community and competition. Let’s start with the community. Research shows that men who have a strong community around them are happier, healthier, and live more fulfilling lives. There might be no tighter-knit communities than sports teams.
And while I know competition might be strange, some studies point out that competition is actually one of the healthier ways masculinity manifests itself. Competition helps men set goals, push themselves, and display personal growth. Of course there are negatives too, but overall, competition is surprisingly great for men.
That being said, I do think there are some young men (and adult men) who look down on boys who don’t want to participate in traditionally masculine activities. It’s a shame, too, because we are missing out on so many great artists, dancers, chess players all because of this stupid masculine stereotype.
I say it’s more important to be happy and healthy than anything else, so pursue whatever activity will provide that for you.
How are the Me Too, “woke” movements and so-called “cancel culture” shaping the conversation around masculinity? And, indeed, shaping male behavior?
I believe that the “Me Too” movement has been a good thing for the conversation around masculinity. It’s really making every man rethink how they’ve treated the women in their lives. And finally, at least some dangerous men are facing the consequences for their actions. I hope that these conversations continue, and more importantly, cause men to reflect on their behavior.
And while there are plenty of men reflecting, there are also plenty who are feeling really defensive. Pushing back on everything because requires them to rethink everything they’ve known about masculinity (and themselves, for that matter). I mean, imagine living your life by a certain set of rules for decades, and then suddenly be told that you’re wrong, that it’s all a lie. I totally understand why there would be pushback. Identities are built off of the foundations we grew up with, and I don’t think people spend enough time wrapping their heads around this idea.
Whether it’s individual actions or even stepping up to talk to their friends when they make negative comments, every man has a role in creating a safer community for everyone to live in.
Why is it important for boys and men to have meaningful friendships? And, what are the stigmas preventing this from happening?
Meaningful friendships are part of what makes life so fulfilling. It’s how boys learn empathy and vulnerability. I recently read a beautiful interview in The Atlantic about two male friends. They shared how vital physical interactions are for their friendship. I can’t help but read that and want all men to share that sort of intimacy with one another because a healthy community of dudes is an integral part of a fulfilling life.
Unfortunately, research shows that boys around their teenage years begin to distance themselves from their male friendships. This idea that close male friendships suddenly are feminine, or makes them gay, pushes them into this traditional masculine norm they’ve believed in all happens in their teenage years. Boys at a young age are reminded that they need to be “men,” and there are a series of rules that come along with that “manhood.” Unfortunately, having close male friendships breaks those boundaries.
Is it important for heterosexual and / or cisgender men to include bi / gay and trans men in their friends group? And, conversely, is it important for bi / gay and trans men to include hetero and / or cisgender men in their friends group?
I think friend groups should be as diverse as possible because we only grow as people if we share diverse experiences. For example, I only know my experience with traditional masculinity. While there are some commonalities with others, it’s still only going to be my experience. Sharing those experiences allows us to better understand the human condition and helps us build empathy towards others.
Tokenism can be dangerous, no matter which way you look at it. Don’t strive to find a certain type of friend, but put yourself in situations where you are able to meet a variety of different people.
What are some examples of positive male relationships (in pop culture, film, tv, literature, etc.)?
My favorite example as of late is Ted Lasso. I freaking love Ted Lasso. Between his friend group, The Diamond Dogs, and Lasso’s relationship with his team, there’s just so much positive to take away from this show. If more men tried to build friendships like Lasso, there’d be a heck of a lot less lonely men in the world.
I also think the movie I Love You, Man is an excellent example of the stress related to male loneliness. I know it’s a comedy, but there is just something unique about how it highlights the challenges of making friends as an adult.
Interviewer's Note: For me, the "brotherhood" of actors Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf, Magneto) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard, Professor Charles Xavier) is an amazing example of how men can forge enduring and profound relationships.
How do boy bands or other famous young men influence / shape the way young men see themselves and act?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. I grew up in the days of N*Sync and the Backstreet Boys and every teen boy hated them.
Of course, now, go put on a Backstreet Boys song at karaoke; every dude in the place is going to be singing with you.
But as teens, I don’t necessarily know if boy bands are a more significant influence than some of the more traditional masculine characters.
How can adult males model positive behaviors for younger males?
This is such an important question. As adults, we need to showcase healthy male friendships so younger men can normalize what those look like. I think calling out harmful masculine behaviors, comments, etc., early on in life is something men can do to showcase how to be respectful.
Something understated is that adult men can emphasize taking care of themselves. If you’re sick, don’t try and tough out going to the doctor. If you’re struggling with depression, normalize taking care of your mental health.
Young men see these things and emulate them, so why shouldn’t we try and help them live their best lives?
What role do girls and women play in perpetuating Toxic Masculinity and shaping Positive Masculinity?
There’s no argument that girls and women have had to deal with the brunt of toxic masculinity. Men need to do a better job of treating women better.
That being said, those same ideals that men struggle with, such as “Man Up” or “Boys Don’t Cry,” have also been ingrained in young women’s minds. So breaking those stereotypes is going to be important for women as well.
I think the biggest challenge for everyone is going to be pushing back on essentialism. I’ve seen plenty of tweets such as “Men are garbage” or TikToks like “All Men are Trash.” That doesn’t help any conversations that need to happen. Once we stop pretending everyone is the same, we can start breaking some of the harmful stereotypes and cycles around masculinity.
What factors can threaten, damage, or end male friendships?
Probably number one is the fear of emotional intimacy. Since men are often taught to be afraid of being pushed out of the “man bubble,” they’ll do anything to keep themselves safe. That means not displaying emotional vulnerability. There have been plenty of times that one friend is going through something, they share it with a friend, and the friend doesn’t reciprocate. That’s going to destroy any friendship.
There’s also just how we prioritize our friendships. As we grow older, have families or work obligations, it’s easy for us to just let our male friendships fall by the wayside. And the longer we do that, the harder it becomes to rebuild those relationships. Men aren’t taught how to make friends, so it’s no wonder that older men really struggle building/rebuilding friendships.
How do you “practice what you preach?”
I think it’s first to admit that I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes, and I’m going to continue making mistakes. But what’s most important to me is being able to reflect on those mistakes, so I don’t make them again. That’s probably the most essential step in practicing what I preach.
Secondly, I try to openly talk about my insecurities, vulnerabilities publicly and with my friends. I try to engage in those conversations, those vulnerability groups, as an opportunity for other men to share themselves. From there, it’s like dominoes falling cause those friendships to bleed into other communities. It’s really amazing to watch.
I do my best to touch on all of the traits of positive masculinity every day as much as I can. And when I fail and believe me, I fail at times, I make sure to learn and grow. That’s the only path through our journey.
I hope you found this interview enlightening and enjoyable. A lot of ground was covered to be sure, but there are things I’m sure we can all take away from Garrett’s insights and apply to our daily lives.
Please share your thoughts about Toxic and Positive Masculinity, male friendships and anything else related to these topics in the comments section below.
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