“Your term, not mine,” she smiled. “I didn’t say it.” Cleo Stiller, the author of Modern Manhood, had agreed to be a guest on the podcast. I had just proposed the idea of making male privilege a point of focus for the episode.

Hear my conversation with Cleo on episode 74 of The Path to Authenticity. She released her book, subtitled Conversations About the Complicated World of Being a Good Man Today, in November 2019. Her reporting for this work included hundreds of conversations with men, and male privilege was language she chose to avoid, specifically.

In hindsight, I realized she wasn’t sure how I felt about the term, and may have assumed I was averse to it. This looked like a land mine, and she wasn’t about to step on it.

My co-host, Ed Tilton, and I scheduled this introductory Zoom meeting with Cleo that we intended to maybe last 15-minutes. We wanted an opportunity to thank her and to explain what we envisioned for the episode. But, this conversation, itself, yielded plenty of episode material.

Avoiding the Landmines

“One thing with Modern Manhood, I wanted to be really careful about is,” she paused. “Men don’t like to be told what to do. So I tried not to.” Here was another buried bomb she flagged, a couple steps from the male privilege one.

“I really just tried to offer anecdotes, and research, and historical context, and really let the reader have the agency and make their own decisions.” What I heard her describing was a brand of kid’s gloves that only women have to wear.

After confirming to her that both Ed and I really do acknowledge male privilege is a thing, we talked about the laughs we shared as we each read the book. Specifically, we found humor in something,throughout her reporting, men expressed repeatedly. Guys are confused about what is and isn’t okay to say to women, especially in the workplace.

Confusion in Modern Manhood

“So, you feel like it’s not confusing at all right now,” she asked. “Or, you feel like some things are confusing and some aren’t?”

I acknowledged that, to the extent that it is confusing for men, it’s only confusing because of the privilege we have enjoyed. Historically, thoughts about a woman’s anatomy could travel from brain to tongue without stopping at consideration. So, yeah. If you’ve always gotten away without using a filter, you probably have no idea what to do with one.

“I was really careful,” she said. “Never in the book do I say toxic masculinity.” Another mine flagged. “When I interviewed guys and those words would come up, you could just instantly see. They would shut down.”

You can hear my complete conversation with Cleo Stiller in episode 74 of The Path to Authenticity. In episode 74, you can hear me and Ed discuss our conversations with Cleo further, in the second segment of Getting Real About Manhood. You’ll definitely hear us talk about male privilege. Our term, not hers.

Using a Filter

We decided to do this series because of all the guys who don’t like women telling them what to do. It’s for the guys who shut down when they hear about male privilege and toxic masculinity. And, it’s for women like Cleo. Because, until all the confused men out there, who think they’re walking on eggshells, learn how to use a filter (like the one who told his co-worker she better stop eating donuts, or else she’ll get fat, and her husband won’t want to have sex with her anymore), she’ll have to tiptoe around land mines.

The Cover of the book Modern Manhood, by Cleo Stiller


Cleo Stiller is an award-winning journalist

Cleo is also a speaker, television host, and the author of Modern Manhood: Conversations About the Complicated World of Being a Good Man Today. She received a prestigious Peabody Award nomination for public service journalism in 2018 and an Emmy Award nomination in 2015. Her health-focused television show for Univision’s cable network, Fusion, is the network’s highest-performing original series premiere. Her work receives frequent media coverage, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Fortune Magazine, PBS, Mother Jones, ABC News, Variety, Self, Essence and many more. Cleo speaks regularly around the country about her work and social impact, most recently at New York University Global Affairs: Women’s Global Health Conference, the University of Toronto’s Rotman Institute, and The French-American Foundation.

Tom Gentry produces and hosts The Path to Authenticity

It’s a podcast for people looking for more from life. It starts from the premise that our true power comes from our individuality. He talks to various types of writers and artists as well as therapists, coaches, teachers, entrepreneurs, and professionals of all kinds. His guests possess one common trait. They know who they are. He engages them in real conversation about what makes them who they are, how they became who they are, and how we might become truer expressions of who we are.

Hear Tom and Ed discuss their conversation with Cleo in episode 75.