Since opening up my suitcase and reading through 30 years of notebooks and journals….See here…… I have been reading things that I wrote at various stages of my years of working in human services. what an interesting expereince to say the least!
In the late 80’s and through the 90’s I was constantly coming across the ‘sexism in reverse’ trend of the very anti-male feminist right movement that was quite influential in the welfare sector, resulting in some of the very same exclusion by gender issues that women were rallying against in the first place.
I do not see myself as separate to or victimised by men, despite having had significant challenges in the male-female dynamics of our family in my formative years….
and living in a relationship that was hostile and volatile for a number of years.
After attending a public workshop one day I decided to pen my views , as a woman who is very not anti male and had never aligned with the feminist movement, preferring to focus on Human Liberation – recognising that the perpetrator is in their own prison too.
The following is the semi-fictional piece I wrote:
“Sisters, our Brothers are not all to blame”…. and although 10 years down the track it is a bit dated and has not been edited, my core belief in a much bigger story of Men and Women and the dynamics and politics remains as strong now as it did then….perhaps even more so as I understand the evolving nature of consciousness.
Sisters… Our Brothers are Not All To Blame!
She had been quite vocal for most of the morning. She was a tall lady, probably the oldest in the room and she commanded a certain degree of respect because of her age.
Those who were gathered were mostly white women without tribe and they responded well when a potential Elder was in their midst.
Some of the Archetypes are imbued with more power than others!
She was almost 6 foot and she had the equestrian look of someone who had ridden the hurdles and steeple chases of life in a manner that left her somewhat scathed…And when it was her time to speak, she proved to be very scathing indeed.
I had been doodling as the invited guests spoke. We had gathered from many walks of the working life to discuss the nature of addiction amongst women who are in pain.
There was only one man amongst us and when I saw him I experienced a ripple of trepidation that whispered words of premonition… “I hope this doesn’t turn into a blame all men session” I thought with more than a touch of apprehension…I had walked this path before.
I continued with my doodling…My subconscious tossed out the word BLAME…B-Lame, B, hyphen… lame.
“Hmm I like that. Blame. B-Lame be crippled by blame. Blame makes you lame”
I was beComing lost in the lateral realm so I forced myself to put the pen down and pay attention to the tall woman.
It was her turn to speak.
Robyn, who had shared her story earlier that day offered her the microphone. She rudely dismissed it with a sweep of her hands.
I was in the presence of someone who had forgone politeness for purpose. She didn’t even notice Robyn’s slightly embarrassed smile…She was far too busy preparing for the attack.
She began to speak. “Women have been disempowered in all walks of life. In the Media, in Law, in Parliament and in the Church”
She launched into her interpretation of why the world is in the mess that it is. “The male structures are resistant to change and it is up to women to move into these areas so that the damage can be corrected”
I was unable to look up because I was in the midst of my premonition coming true and I was expending quite a bit of energy trying to thought-form communicate to the solitary male in the room.
Unfortunately the number of heads nodding in agreement negated my lone psychic cry. “Excuse me”, I projected his way, “Not all of use here believe that men are to blame for absolutely everything that has gone wrong”.
I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat.
“B-lame. Get stuck in blame.”
I went back to my doodling and sketched a cradle around the words. Underneath the cradle I wrote more words:
“The hand that rocked the cradle helped to perpetuate the myths”.
I was underlining it for the third time when I was compelled to look up.
A wise Elder would not misuse her sacred trust by imparting bias as a truth but before my very ears, she was perpetuating more of the victim-speak that had somehow become accepted as historical fact.
Her hostility brought forth the memory of a past learning curve. I had joined a forum of Youthworkers who had gathered to look at issues for young women who lived in shelters.…
Male workers were not allowed.
They were not allowed to participate regardless of whether or not they worked with the young women who we were discussing.
Excluded. Full stop. Excluded regardless of whether or not they were directly involved in policy making and that they may have had some very valuable contributions to make They were not allowed to participate because they were men.
I cast my mind back to the curve that strengthened my spine.
“Excuse me. Isn’t this forum concerned with issues for young women. Aren’t we being sexist by not allowing male Youthworkers to participate?”
The moisture in my mouth had undergone internal alchemy and was now pouring out the palms of my hand.
I was not used to asserting myself in the presence of overt separatism but I had done my research. I had checked with the Equal Opportunities commission first.
A male worker would be quite within his rights to assert that he was discriminated against because of his gender if he was excluded from this forum . I knew many good, kind, caring Youthworkers…and many of them were men!
Mickee, who was known as Michelle in the first half of her current incarnation, glared at me. It was not a politely concealed response. Mickee didn’t like men. She counselled female survivors of sexual abuse and she considered all men to be perpetrators.
No man was to be trusted! Betrayal by women who defended the rights of men was viewed as further evidence of the toxins of patriarchy…Mickee had read the book “Divas in Denial”.
I hadn’t but I knew that she thought I was in denial. She didn’t know that I used to partake of the blame-game.
I looked back on that time as a period of creative and Spiritual atrophy.
At that time I had not begun to understand metaphysics and the evolution of consciousness. The illusory nature of drama and pain were still unrealistic concepts …things had changed a great deal since then.
I thought Mickee looked very aggressive.
She was dogmatic and narrow minded.
She was angry and not at all compassionate or flexible.
She leant forward as she spoke.
“Look, we know that men are dogmatic, narrow minded, inflexible and full of anger.
I question why men want to work with young women anyway”…
Her sisters, my sisters rallied to her support…I was a misfit in my floral skirt.
I felt under attack by women who looked and acted in the manner that they attributed to the men who they despised.
Duality and paradox swirled before me as my learning curve stretched at my resolve and enticed me to back down. I didn’t.
The anti-male movement had been ruffling my feathers for far too long.
After terse debate there was a token compromise. Male workers could come along once every fourth meeting.
Alas, there was only one who was brave enough to come along and he was treated to the embarrassment of whispered intonations and looks that told him he was not welcome in this enemy camp..
He paid for the sins, real and imagined of all men who had journeyed before him.
The forum disbanded shortly after. The philosophical divide had created a chasm that could not be bridged and I had outed myself as a hetrosexual humanist in a flock of anti-male mostly-sisterhood- feminists who had little to do with men, unless it was to decry their flawed and vitriolic ways…
I brought my thoughts back to the room.
The speaker was drawing to a close. I knew it was time.
I had to respond to the attack that had lasted for half an hour and had left no man standing in it’s wake:
“Excuse me. I think that it’s quite sexist to make sweeping statements about men. What you have said is akin to saying that all women are bad drivers. It’s an archaic, sexist statement and it’s untrue.”
I knew my analogy was a little twee but she got the gist of what I was trying to say.
I looked at her with many other thoughts remaining unspoken.
Little boys who were told by their mothers, sisters, aunties and grandmothers not to cry. “Don’t be a sooky”. “Act like a man”. “Stop being a cry baby” “You’re acting like a girl”. “Don’t be a sissy”…”Boy’s don’t play with DOLLS!”
Suck it up!
Little boy artists and poets and dancers and writers who were laughed off the family stage and re-programmed to be tough, compete as urban warriors, providers for their flock.
The strong, silent type became a metaphor for the repressed, made-mute type.
Their fathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers collaborated in these unenlightened beliefs…
Sugar and spice and all things nice…for the Girls.
Rats and snails and puppy dogs tails for the Boys.
We have all been involved in the machinations and messages that created the mess we are in.
Millions of boys schooled in the rigid discipline of removing themselves from the poetry and rhythm of life.
Millions of girls who were taught by their mothers and fathers to be nice, be a wife…don’t get a life.
Generations of blocked, angry frustrated men.
Generations of repressed, angry frustrated women.
Concentration camps for the Soul churning out damaged Men and Women, many of whom spend their adult lives wasting time and energy accusing each other of blame.
B-lame…get stuck in blame and we’ll never ever move forward.
Men who have had a shorter life span, higher incidence of heart failure and cancer and other Soul-bondage related illnesses.
Their Sisters, we women who suffered repression, depression, nest-internment, neurosis and an inability to reach our fullest potential …
We have all suffered…Let’s move on from the blame game say I!
My face remained expressionless whilst my thoughts embarked on my one sided debate.
“Life is one long conversation with our Self occassionally interupted by others”
The Expert on Addictions Elder looked down at me form her lofty height.
She spoke slowly because it was obvious I didn’t understand what she was saying.
“I was referring to the general state of things. The references I made to the male structures are to do with the patriarchal system”.
I did not respond. I didn’t want to debate in a few minutes her sexism of a lifetime. I dare not suggest that in order to address the balance we would have to look at the role of the Matriarchy in all of this. I wasn’t prepared to prod that sacred cow…not yet.
I did not want to take out the scales of injustice and weigh the grains of pain to see who has suffered the most and who was the most to blame.
I would not accept it when she inferred that a woman would be able to create positive change by virtue of the fact that she is a woman. The sceptre of my wicked step-sister loomed before me. Pauline Hanson. A paragon of the absence of insight and wisdom for multicultural reform.
I resisted the urge to request the tall woman to please explain!
The forum drew to a close. I tried to catch the eye of the man who had sat through the days discussion. He was nowhere to be seen. I heard later that he had not come back after lunch.
That evening I sat down to write a few words to the tall woman with a small view of a large and complex concern.
She was angry at all men and I crafted my words carefully in order to address her sexist views…….
“Dear Sister” I began, the internal alchemy now transmuting perceptions into the fluidity of words. “My Brothers are not to blame for everything that has gone wrong. To assume a person is a particular way because of their gender is something women have fought to have corrected. It works both ways……”.
I wrote about much of what I have spoken here and found myself writing late into the night.
I sensed that her blame was a mask that thinly disguised her own pain and the issue I was addressing was only a slither of much bigger story.
Nevertheless men had come in for quite a knocking that day, and it tends to happen a lot these days and I stand by my assertion that reminds us…
“Sisters, my Brothers are not all to blame”