Out In The Open

Finding one's masculinity through muscle

Looking back, Gregory Scofield says he thinks he started working out to prepare for the harder work of mining his inner self and what it means to be a man.
Gregory Scofield is a poet and the author of Witness, I Am. (Courtesy of Gregory Scofield )

"[T]here was definitely a certain physical power that I felt. That physical strength almost made me stand up straighter. It made me feel almost...rooted," says Gregory Scofield, a Canadian Métis poet and assistant professor at Laurentian University.

"It was the complete antithesis of the little boy who was unable to protect his mother, protect his aunties." 

Gregory grew up with violence in his home. 

"I had a definite sense of helplessness," he says, "So building my physical body really helped with that feeling."

In his early thirties, Gregory began lifting weights and working out.

"You know, of course my body began to change. I began to become more muscular.

"I remember kind of thinking if I had run into my stepfather back then and if there was any kind of issue, then I would have been able to protect myself."

Gregory says there are so many expectations of what a man should be and that masculinity in our culture is often centred in the body and physical strength.

But for him, working out was about more than that. 

It wasn't a conscious effort at the time, but, looking back, Gregory believes "it was like I was preparing myself physically in order to begin the emotional work inside... the mental and the spiritual work inside... which really was a lot more difficult and really, harder work than actually lifting weights."

Gregory says looking inward, dealing with his vulnerabilities and his childhood traumas helped him navigate those experiences and do something with them as a poet and as a person.

"A lot of my writing, my poetry deals with women. It deals with Indigenous women. It deals with the women that I primarily grew up with. You know a lot of my work deals with the violence that was visited upon them. A lot of the work that I do now is around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

"So, 20 years later now, I'm still on that journey but I'm feeling a lot closer to balancing those four things - balancing the physical, the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual."