women and men part 2

Two Stories of Women and Men – Part 2

plwhnawIn Part 1 I shared two stories of women and men that I’d heard in the previous week.
In one story a group of men supported a group of women who were defending a sacred site in Ireland. They stood outside the circle of women, protecting it and this gift was deeply felt by the women. In the other a mixed group of men and women who were exploring inner feelings and new consciousness gradually was reduced to women only. And the question was, why was that.
What a subject! To talk about women and men is to talk about everything and all in a little blog post! And what I did write failed to mail out due to a tech glitz caused by moi!
One reason for the difficulty is that the fascinating exploration of women and men isn’t best handled analytically.
Approaching it analytically or intellectually often makes it seem to be about two sides, which is pretty much where the conversation is in the developed west. Whereas what’s most useful – and true – about women and men together is our mutuality. Much better a safe enough place to deeply hear each other’s experience.
One entry point to the analytical conversation might be the little Viking fellow above.  A man with a helmet and a shield. His right hand is held up to his chest – perhaps he’s holding his heart. He looks ahead to his future with the small pupils that suggest fright. If he’s at all typical he has a name that celebrates martial ability because that’s how we named the men of old. And we still use those names. My own name Andrew means “strong;” my father Barry means “spear” and his father Louis’ name means “loud in battle.” If the little Viking is aghast at what he sees, who could blame him? He’s dressed to kill or be killed. There’s no pension, lousy pay, and a real possibility of not coming back alive. It’s not an enticing job opening. Yet men have always done it.
The view of evolutionary psychology is essentially that he’s fighting for his community and family and that he’s been bred for that in a survival oriented world. He’s been bred to put himself on the line so they can be safer.
Back at home his wife and the women of his community have a difficult job as well. She’s continually busy with feeding, clothing and cleaning for the children and making the home a refuge as best she can. She’s got little  time for herself and very little access to the affairs of the wider world, which after all, involve the negotiations that determine who fights who. But for all that, and because of both of their sacrifices, loves lives in the family. It was enough to make it safe for us.

These survivalist roles for women and men existed for a very long time. They weren’t optional, unless public scorn and censure of the cruelest kind is what you call a choice.  The roles weren’t socially visible either. Jane Austen for example, took the view she did, rather than the feminist viewpoint that came visible 150 years later, because the more modern perspective we see today wasn’t yet evolutionarily available. The old survival-based roles largely defined reality for women and men.

What about the story of the women who were defending the sacred site while the men were defending them. My guess is that the women inside the circle felt seen and held by the men – as a group – in a way they often didn’t in their usual lives. The men felt seen and valued offering that service. Each sex felt that they had a good place and a connection to the other. I’m guessing the women were “stunned” (as they described it) because this mutuality is seldom acknowledged in our time.

The story has some power, even for us who weren’t there, because we resonate with those archetypal roles deeply and bodily.

And yes the beginnings of change are upon us.

Maybe there’s a new world coming in which women can be fully agentic and in the world without being seen, by women or men, as less womanly or worthy. Maybe there’s a world coming in which men might permit a vulnerability that simply wasn’t possible in the survival-oriented world. (In that world, the name of the man who stopped to check his feelings when confronted with the tiger was often “Lunch”, as Ken Wilber and perhaps others have noted.)

This post-survivalist partnership hasn’t arrived yet.

What about the second story, the Focusing (body-centered inner inquiry) community in which the men dropped out until all were gone? (The “fewer men in personal growth areas” is often observed, of course, not only in this community.)

The short short answer is that men’s inner sense of vulnerability is still culturally hidden from both women and men alike. It’s in a position much like Jane Austen’s feminism was in its time, still invisible.

Men are slower because it was evolutionarily functional for women to ask men for help. She gets love, help and support by asking it of men. It’s part of her traditional territory to ask for help. It’s evolutionarily dysfunctional for him to ask for help. His role has been to protect and provide and he’s socially perceived as unmanly and unworthy for asking for help. Or to notice that he might like to have it.

A few notes towards the conversation we could be having in Part 3 very soon.

(I’ll share some news about my “Euro-pilgrimage” – which is already opening more doors than I dared hope for – soon.)

 

 

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