Misogyngy and Healing the Masculine

  • by Charles Eisenstein
My new home of West Asheville is in the news. A local coffee shop, Waking Life Espresso, closed its doors after its owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens were outed for hosting a misogynistic blog. In addition to repulsive and degrading comments about women and details of their supposed sexual exploits, they boasted of one or two incidents that may have crossed the line into rape.
As one would expect, the community exploded with outrage. Ample coatings of tar and feathers were applied to the two men, and many people think they will have to leave town.
I wonder, though, if there might be a better outcome. After all, their attitudes are an extreme version of a malady that afflicts many men, maybe the majority, in our society. Who among us, my brothers, has never used “getting laid” as a way to boost our self-esteem? I know I have – in fact there was a time in my life when that was my primary motivation. While I didn’t publicly rate my partners or say degrading things about them, I felt uncomfortable to be seen in public with them if they didn’t conform to cultural standards of attractiveness, and proud if they did. To some extent, I bought into using women as a kind of social currency. I also used sex and the affection of a female as a way to assuage my insecurities and salve my wound of self-rejection. In other words, I think the actions of Jared and Jacob are on a continuum with my own attitudes and actions, which makes me hesitant to join the public stoning that seems to be underway.
The outcome I’d like to see is healing, both of the two men and of the women and larger community that they harmed. Many of the commenters on the blog that exposed them thought that they were sorry only because they got caught. But perhaps they unconsciously wanted to get caught.
The unconscious shadow rises into our awareness for a reason – to be faced and to be healed. Here is misogyny, previously underground, made visible to the community. The community can accept this opportunity for healing, or it can simply banish the men and pretend that the problem has gone away.
Personally, I would like to see something like a truth and reconciliation committee arise out of this incident. I would like to see the men be confronted by those they harmed, and really hear what it was like for those women, their families, and their community to be humiliated. Getting caught brings regret, but only fully feeling one’s impact on another brings remorse. And from remorse, the possibility of healing arises.
Society is becoming aware of the damage that patriarchy has visited upon women, from economic oppression to domestic violence, sex trafficking, rape, and genital mutilation. But patriarchy also damages men. Many of us have grown up in a toxic cultural story of what it is to be a man. When women are turned into objects and sex is made artificially scarce (all things become scarce when subject to property thinking), then of course men will be insecure. As with money, they will attempt to gain a semblance of security through control of scarce resources. They will feel a compulsion to dominate – because in a world of scarcity, only the dominant experience abundance.
The life of man in patriarchy is a life of endless anxiety. Being a loser is never far away. Now you might say that this psychological suffering pales in comparison to the physical violence perpetrated on women, but consider: how much must a man be hurting, to violate and abuse the precious gift of the feminine?
Tragically, the dominating, controlling, and abusive behavior enacted by insecure, patriarchy-damaged men doesn’t meet their real needs. They are diverting their need for intimacy onto sex, and their need for unconditional acceptance onto control. Therefore, no matter how much they get laid, and no matter how many women they dominate, it is never enough. They will need always to up the dose, to push the degradation of women to new levels. And still it isn’t enough.
Men like Jared and Jacob are symptoms of a much deeper malady. Shaming and punishing them addresses the symptom. Can we also address the illness that the symptom points to?
Part of that, I believe, is to transition into a new cultural narrative that defines what it is to be manly. If the old narrative was about domination, control, and emotional shutdown, what would be an alternative? I would like to see men like Jared and Jacob be held in a circle of men that offer a story of the sacred masculine in a post-patriarchal world. In that world, a man does not dominate and abuse the feminine, but seeks to protect her, treasure her, pleasure her, be unshakable for her, make her laugh, bring gifts to her, and, as in a ballroom dance, sense where she wants to go and invite her there with clarity and confidence. He places his qualities of linearity, decisiveness, humor, calmness, solidity, directness, strength, persistence, generosity, mobility, and assertiveness in service to the dance. I offer this as a partial description of what a sacred masculinity might be, living to varying degrees within men and women both.
How would men like Jared and Jacob act if they were immersed in a male culture that upheld that vision of masculinity? It is hard to say, since we don’t yet have such a culture. However, I know that many men are striving to create it, gathering in men’s groups to hold each other accountable to the values I have named. They are not impressed by stories of sexual conquest. They are not impressed by weakness masquerading as strength. They are not impressed by insecurity expressed as dominance. They would say, “Man up!” Am I hoping for too much, if I envision these two men landing in a circle of brothers to ground them in a new Story of Manhood?
While a time of rage is normal, perhaps even healthy, in time it passes and we naturally turn toward a desire to make the fabric of community whole again. That transition is difficult in a culture of “othering” that takes certain people and assigns them to the category of evil. Any apology is interpreted as insincere, any attempt to make amends is interpreted as self-serving. The next step in the culture of othering, after the miscreant has been securely identified as a monster or a scumbag, is to degrade, humiliate, and punish that person. Step one: dehumanize; step 2: punish. Can you see how this recipe precisely mirrors the misogyny and abuse perpetrated by the two men? Can you see the same insecurity at play, when we assure ourselves, “I am better than that person. If I were in the totality of his circumstances, I would have chosen differently – because I am just better.”
“Let whoever be without sin, cast the first stone.”
Some readers will doubtless think that I am suggesting that Jared and Jacob’s behavior “go unpunished.” Certainly, in the logic of punishment, they deserve to be punished. In that logic, my suggestion for an alternative process (truth & reconciliation, restorative justice, etc.) can only be categorized as excusing or tolerating their behavior. What I’m suggesting is to step outside the whole mindset of deterrence and punishment (which, by the way, is the logic of the entire prison-industrial complex and much of U.S. foreign policy). That mindset only makes sense if “the terrorists,” “the criminals,” “the extremists,’ along with men like Jared and Jacob, are irredeemable psychopaths who will only listen to the language of force.
In a world of us versus them, punishment is the only way. Is that our vision for a more beautiful world: to purge it of evil people, so that only the pure remain? Is that our vision of a better human being, to purge ourselves of sin? It won’t work. In neither case does the evil disappear. It just goes underground and pops out in a different form somewhere else, and the War on Evil never ceases.
Do we want to send these two men out of town regretful but not remorseful, bearing even more self-hatred than they had already, perhaps to act it out a bit more discreetly in another place?
Instead, we can cultivate a community that moves past the old story of judgement and punishment, that is open to the redemption of errors, and that believes in its members’ capacity to heal and to grow. In such a community, we can stop hiding our hurting parts, our unacceptable or ugly parts. We know we are accepted at our core. When confronted with harm we have done, we feel safe to move through shame and experience remorse, knowing that forgiveness lies at the other side. As an imperfect human being myself, that’s where I want to live. Isn’t that the kind of community you want to live in too?
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Anne Lamott on Dieting!

We need to talk.

I know you are planning to start a diet on Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ” Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”

I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.

Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, to friendship with my own heart, to a glade that had always existed deep inside me, to mostly healthy eating, but that I’d avoided all those years by achieving, dieting, binging, people-pleasing, and so on

Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: “Great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?” Here is what’s true: diets make you fat. 95% of the time, we gain it back, plus 5 lbs.

I may have mentioned several hundred times that I have had the tiniest, tiniest struggle with food and body image for the last–well, life time. Hardly worth mentioning. It is a long story, having to do with childhood injuries to my sense of self, terrible anxiety, and the inability of my parents to nurture my soul: so starving and chastising myself cannot possibly heal this. I hate to say it, but only profound self-love will work, union with that scared breath-holding self, and not a diet that forbids apples, or avocado. Horribly, but as usual, only kindness and grace–spiritual WD-40–can save us.

Can you put the scale away for a week? Okay, then how about 4 days? I have been addicted to the scale, too, which is like needing Dick Cheney to weigh in every morning on my value as a human being. Can you put away your tight pants? Wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act, with random thoughts about my butt.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor’s care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won’t work. You will lose tons of weight quickly, and gain it all back, plus five. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious problem with sugar: if I start eating it, I sometimes can’t stop. I don’t have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat Raisinets until the cows come home–and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.

But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with very little sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don’t eat peanuts. Have an apple! Have some avocado.

It’s really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It’s okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and to pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. Unfortunately, it’s yet another inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there. It’s within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it’s true.

Maybe some of us can try to eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems. Doing a three minute meditation every day will change your life. And naps are nice.

I’ll leave you with this: I’ve helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn’t say, “Here Pastor–let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of barbecue Pringles is all for you. i have my own.” And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container. No, they’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, a plate filled with love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or on the 1st. Wow!

Join me in not staring a diet January 1st. And God bless you all real good, as my pastor always says.

 

by Anne Lamott

Patriarchy by Bell Hooks

The Most Beautiful People are…..

More

Embracing All Parts of YOU……by Caroline deLisser

She’s descending into the underworld to resurrect the pieces of her heart that were lost to her.
her descent is a quest for soul retrieval,
It is a sacred pilgrimage but the most challenging and painful one…
It’s not easy to enter the darkness, to face, welcome and embrace the parts of herself that she has rejected and denied, but she needs every little piece of herself in order to be whole, only then can the phoenix of her God/dess self rise in full possession of her potency and power..
Within every held bondage Inanna sits patiently waiting and she is now very aware of her presence…

This has not been an overnight journey, this is the culmination of an initiation spanning many lifetimes of slowly and repeatedly waking up and falling back into slumber, she’s been sleep walking for centuries, lost in false power seeking and the distractions of maya…
Her awakening terrifies her because she knows that she has come too far to return to sleep.

What has become clear to her, is clear because she’s ready to address it, ready to take her awareness and her actions to a higher level of self responsibility and integrity…
But a part of her is holding back, so she’s taking baby steps, testing the water carefully as she moves into her own darkness…
She’s not quite courageous enough to take a flying leap over the edge yet but she’s ok with that, for her it’s enough that she is willing and has embarked on the journey back to her true kingdom.

She is practicing patience with her vulnerability that wants to hold on to her false crutches…
She’s practicing patience with her fear disguised as laziness…
She knows that she’s gathering momentum with each step towards her own liberation and that’s enough, she’s being gentle with the part of her that fears change, that fears her own power and this time she’s not viewing that part of herself as her enemy, she’s holding her hand, she’s moving with all of herself, discarding the layers as they are ready to be shed…
She’s no longer forcing, she’s flowing with her own rhythms…
nothing is going to stop her now.
© Caroline de Lisser

Great Compassion!!!!!

“Great compassion makes a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart makes a peaceful person. A peaceful person makes a peaceful family. A peaceful family makes a peaceful community. A peaceful community makes a peaceful nation. A peaceful nation makes a peaceful world.”

~Maha Ghosananda

Thoughts on Stillness by Lao Tzu

In the beginning the least possible resistance magnetized the ultimate power of stillness thus to come up short – short of the reconciliation needed for stillness to remain still – and so, it cycles on/off. The movement is a psychic event and as it thinks it cycles faster. But all is not lost because the back and forth causes a magnetic flux that separates and individuates into the things that make up the universe. Voila! Release is at hand and all it takes is for the things to figure out where they come from.
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The short-circuit is the only movement; it is a ‘soft bang’. The flux created by repetition is resistance to ultimate magnetism. All that exists is resistance to ultimate magnetism/stillness and it is with tongue-in-cheek that the sacred ‘sound of the universe’ is called OM.
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The universe is disappearing and reappearing to meet the demands of our insistence that illusion is real. When we stop this nonsense we enter states of unimaginable power ~ Lao Tzu.

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