A paradigm shift or a culture war. We choose.
It’s not an either/or, masculine or feminine, man or woman.
As a culture war threatens, or maybe it’s already here, I urge us to consider another way.
When a women’s movement sprung up, and women rallied, “Me Too!”, men were whispering, “Well what about me? I’ve been abused too.”
At the time, I was one of those women that said, “Shh, not now. This time is for women.” And that felt really true, but that also perpetuates a polarity. Why wasn’t I allowing space for men to share their stories of abuse? Something inside me was saying, “This is not just about abuse, this is about evidence of a shifting paradigm. Let the women show they are rising.”
And I get that if we are looking through the eyes of a “men vs. women” scenario, that we would see most often “woman = victim” and “man = perpetrator.” And there are plenty of examples of this. But we are humans, and so not all men want to fall into the perpetrator category, and there’s a fear response within many men that they will be assigned this label. They don’t know if they will be called a perpetrator or if they deserve it, and there’s a surge in defensiveness as well as a massive quieting of men right now. I get that. And, yes, sometimes men are victims too.
What Ford/Kavanaugh symbolized to me was another step in the paradigm shift, and this time, about women’s voice. No matter what, Dr. Ford was going to tell her truth. In doing so, she reminded many, many women that this is a noble path, regardless of reception. In fact, we even saw less tolerance than ever before, historically, of a culture willing to defer to the judgement of men over a woman. We all knew what the GOP was really doing and we knew it was BS. And women know what Ford was doing. And a lot of us appreciate it and find some new resolve within ourselves as a result of her bravery.
Then, on the tales of this, inevitably, there are also attempts by men to say, “But wait, us too, our voices are suppressed to.” I’ve been involved in quite a few of these conversations, meanwhile navigating my own resurfacing of memories and lived experience, and my own stories that I’ve silenced or didn’t even know I could tell.
I hold space for men as well as women in my work, for all humans regardless of gender, and so I’m watching my own “stuff” come up meanwhile trying to stay open to what my male friends are saying. “We don’t feel like we can tell our truth either.”
I know. I know there is a repression of authentic male voice and that we are also collectively yelling about “toxic masculinity” at the same time we commonly don’t want to be holding space for men to do much about it. We want men to go do their work and yet we aren’t very tolerant of hearing about that work or creating space for it in our culture.
And so, when this conversation comes up, we question whether or not men are trying to steal women’s thunder if they also say, “Uh… I’m hurting too right now.” It’s messy. It’s especially messy when the focus is “winning” or proving that one gender has it better or worse.
Truly men, I think it’s actually indicative of a legitimate core problem with masculinity that men immediately want to go to women to “solve” their problems with masculinity. There’s nothing simple about this, right? But hear me out. Men often carry what Jung called The Mother Wound, and to ask the women in your life, in the middle of a women’s movement, to also hold your own victimhood, whether legitimate or not, is indicative of this wounding where men think that women are going to solve it for them, like Mommy would. The collective “Mommy” right now just might need a minute. And, go to a men’s group and talk about this. Please. We need men in this conversation checking their own shit and showing up having done some work. Because if you’re doing your personal work to heal your masculinity, we can have this conversation. I will have that conversation with you. But I’m not responsible for providing you with your reassurance right now, and I find it difficult to do so in the middle of a collective women’s movement when my own trauma responses are active.
When my trauma responses are active, and men attempt to prove that they’ve had it as bad as or worse than women, I feel tired.
That’s just real. I’m human. And! I don’t want to perpetuate a divide. So I keep showing up, questioning myself, talking to my male friends, and writing about this at 5:30 in the morning.
I don’t want to send or perpetuate a “You’re broken, go fix yourself, we’re having a women’s movement over here” message to men.
And at the same time when I’m “in it” as a woman, and a man says, “Yeah but we don’t feel we can speak our truth either,” the first thing I want to do as a woman is attempt to recount why I think I had it worse. (Stick with me here…)
So I start in with my automatic replies, “Yeah but you don’t know what it’s like to live feeling suppressed by the other gender your entire life.” And then I think — I don’t know that that is absolutely true. That’s not actually fair to say. I know plenty of men who were actually suppressed by women their entire lives.
So I try another route, “Yeah but I have stories that I couldn’t share and my tongue felt caught in my throat until I unstuck it with all my might.” And then I think — I know men who this is absolutely true for.
So then I try, “Yeah but my body. My body lived the horror of an over-taxed nervous system and I felt like I was in fight or flight for most of my life for living in fear.” And then I think — this is not female exclusive.
This week, as a woman, I reactively wanted to really prove the differences, in order to prove why it’s important that we really allow space for women. But I can’t prove the differences on a human soul to human soul level. And my focus, now that I’ve reflected, is that it is not my work or interest to do so — to prove differences, or to perpetuate a divide.
I don’t want to compare wounds. It is no longer my interest.
I don’t want us to prove who had it worse as a result of the repression of the feminine — because THAT’S WHERE ALL OF THIS COMES FROM. There are two main archetypal energies in all of us — masculine and feminine — and guess what: the feminine has been repressed in all of us. ALL of us. That’s what this movement is. A bringing back, a reclamation, a re-integration of the feminine, AS WELL AS rediscovering what healthy femininity and masculinity truly is. We need to rediscover and rebalance that within each of us, individually. And, we need to do it collectively in the culture. The only way we are going to do this is together.
It’s not triggering for me to hold space for men who also have pain right now. It’s triggering for me to compare stories, to attempt to one-up the pain. And reflexively, this is where we go.
Let’s stop it. Reroute.
Ask questions. Seek understanding. Assume positive intent. Forgive. See how the people you love are trying. Reach out. Apologize. Listen to a story. Lean in. Go to a place where this conversation is happening to bridge a divide, or start one.
This is how we shift this old paradigm. This is the work I want to do and the way I want to live — in masculine/feminine union.