Is Domination An Issue For Men? [A Perspective On Male and Female]

The more men come to terms with their masculinity, the more the tension grows between men and women. Yet from my perspective and my experience this movement brings men and women together.

Why is my perspective at odds with the wider experience? Have I got it wrong or are there bigger issues at stake?

Male and Female—An Introduction

I have seen this situation brought to light in two different issues about masculinity and femininity. They show a level of discord which is surprising to me in this time of understanding and clarity. I have decided, therefore, to look at the questions raised. I start by laying the groundwork for the more detailed analysis to follow.

Gender Stereotypes

In an Associated Press article, 'Gender stereotypes easing more for girls than boys', the reporter looks at how it is much easier for girls to take on boy's characteristics than the other way round. He draws a set of battle lines between groups for and against strengthening gender roles. It's not men against women, it's androgyny against stereotyping.

For girls nowadays, it's OK to play with boys' toys, dress like boys, talk like them -- it's often encouraged. Boys have to walk a much finer line, and their fathers tend to be more stereotyped, telling them not to deviate from what's typically seen as masculine.

Denying History

In 'My take on a manifesto for conscious men' a female commenter, Marianne, took on the men supporting the site by criticising its approach to the ' Manifesto for Conscious Men'. Her objection was that men shouldn't seem to reject the historic domination of women,

What I do think is abusive is to deny history [...] when you minimize that or make light of it [...] then NO healing can take place. The violence and second class status of women throughout history runs deep in women's psyche.

The arguments raged around the subject of individual as opposed to gender responsibility. As the two are different the question remained unresolved.

The stress and tension between men and women stems so often from misunderstanding and confusion and from people seeing the world in terms that are too simplistic.

Male and Female

In trying to open up the debate I set out here my views on the complex interactions between male and female. These views are from my male perspective and enable me to help men come to terms with the difficult issues involved. What I say is probably equally applicable to women, but I don't know that.

I have touched on this subject before, in 'Manifestos For Men' Are They Any Use?' I dismissed the idea of apologising to women,

It's just another example of men trying to dominate women, this time with exaggerated sorrow and responsibility. Let's love and respect each other and stop telling each other how they should be. That means as men we should look to ourselves.

My view has shifted in that I think that respect involves a sense of collective responsibility for the past. As Marianne said,

I do NOT think men should be brought up feeling guilt and pain and sorrow for all of the abuse women have taken in history. I think men should be raised to be men and part of that is RESPECTING women.

What Is Masculinity

I need to clarify what I mean by masculinity. The details vary for each of us dependent on our personality, family and the culture we grew up in. The common thread, however, is a set of characteristics or attitudes that allow us to feel masculine or feminine.

As a male I have a desire to feel masculine. It is this inner sense that defines my masculinity. It comes from my knowledge and understanding of myself as a male. I decide what is right but I need to feel the fullness of it. That, for me, is masculinity; feeling like a man.

I will look at all this in more detail, specifically at:

In taking this journey I will work from the general to the particular to draw distinctions between wider issues and personal experience.

To me the definition of true masculinity - and femininity, too - is being able to lay in your own skin comfortably.
Vincent D'Onofrio

We all need to lay in our own skin comfortably, not be ashamed of the past, not shrink from the present nor be fearful of the future. As men we need to allow ourselves to be men.

Is Male Domination An Issue For Men—Is A New View Needed?

The domination, abuse and suppression of women by men has existed throughout history. Men physically, psychologically, socially and emotionally dominate women all over the world. Our view of the world and ourselves in it influences our view of this. Men deny it and accept it. Most men see its existence but deny any personal involvement in it, they approach it from their own needs as men and leave women to resolve their own relationship to it.

Centuries of Humiliation

I find I need to understand this from a perspective other than my own and respond to it in a way that helps women overcome the centuries of pain and humiliation.

Where we have a personal responsibility for abuse we need to deal with that personally. But many men feel that at a personal level they aren't responsible, and they aren't. They feel it is false to take on the guilt of others and that a simple apology does not change the situation.

Other men take on all the guilt and shame and prostrate themselves before women. It is alright for them to deal with their own personal views in this way, but adopting this stance creates a divide among men and turns it into a problem about men.

Joint Responsibility

As men I feel we need to recognise that this issue transcends us individually. Men cause this domination and abuse. We can only stop it by men taking a universal, joint responsibility.

If we seek masculinity, we must take responsibility. If we seek common ground to support our growth we must see that it's in this common ground that the responsibility lies. No matter how we express our masculinity it is by working together with other men that we strengthen it. In this joint process we create a common male energy that is the source of the domination. It is for us to see this.

We can help women move beyond their fear and anger and understand us as men, we can help women to find their power and face us as equals. We don't need to feel guilt, pain or sorrow for all the abuse women have taken in history, but as men we need to respect women. It is in this joint respecting of each other that union and polarity between us can grow and flourish.

If we men cannot take on this responsibility we must reject any sense of universal masculinity or any sense that there are connections between us at a higher, or spiritual, level. We can only exist as individuals without any connection to others. I don't find that this is what men think about themselves and it is certainly not what the men's movement thinks.

Manifesto for Conscious Men

I have taken my step and posted this comment on the Manifesto for Conscious Men Facebook Page:

I opposed the Manifesto. I saw it as a way for men to dominate women. I have looked at what I feel and what others are saying and realised that all the argument about it is by and about men. This is Male Domination, the exclusion of what is important to women and what they think.

As men we seek a common agenda to support our masculinity, in that lies a joint responsibility for what men have created and a desire to find a polarity with women that acknowledges our differences and supports our equality.

I believe it is time for me to take my part of our joint responsibility as a gender and own up to what has happened, what is happening and what will continue to happen unless I do something about it.

I acknowledge my responsibility as a man and apologise to women for the way men have dominated, abused and suppressed them. I deal with my own personal responsibility in my own personal way.

I do this in the fullness of my masculinity.

Gender Stereotyping—Why?

What is really worrying in the general debate on masculinity and femininity is that people see gender identity as a battle ground. It is similar to the stagnation of the First World War and its trenches filled with soldiers facing each other and dying for a forgotten principle. We face this stagnation in everyday life, The Battle of the Sexes. What are men and women, why all the strife between them?

Social Stereotyping

Society and culture socialise men and women to conform to gender stereotypes that suit the dominant group. This happens in all societies and is a characteristic of human behaviour. The inequality created by this socialisation causes many of the issues of tension between men and women.

The norms of femininity have expanded much more than the norms for masculinity said Judith Stacey (New York University). With boys, it's not seen as OK to wear skirts, play with princesses' wands. There's still a lot of anxiety about being sufficiently masculine.

People are more concerned with how others perceive them than with being authentic. The media and people's expectations create arbitrary norms for masculinity and femininity. Individuals feel they have to conform to these norms or be thought 'different'.

We still socialize boys to follow their more aggressive side rather than their more thoughtful and caring side. said William Pollack (Harvard Medical School). We're basically telling boys that the worst thing they can be is a girl.

The problems stem from people seeing these socialised models as reality and not as models.

Differences between Men and Women

Men and women are different. In 'Masculinity Required — Confusion Not Required' I said,

When it comes to men and women there are disagreements over the source of the differences that are perceived, over gender definition. There are three major viewpoints:

The differences are genetic and are part of our physical make-up, much as our obvious differences are.

The differences are socialised, they are created by our cultural upbringing and are purely learned.

The differences are given by God and are meant for the procreation and protection of children.

I see characteristics or attitudes that are essentially male or female, these we develop as part of our personality but underneath there is a core essence of masculinity that most men are born with. According to gender studies by the American Psychiatric Association,

There are numerous theories about the origins of a person's sexual orientation. ... In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person's sexuality.

A person's sexuality is closely aligned with their core essence. The choices a person makes determine what they do with this essence; how they are socialised through the early years can also have an effect.

Equality

The question of equality is the issue that seems to be fought most often. In 'Masculinity Required — Confusion Not Required' I also said,

I see equality as equality of rights and responsibilities. People are equal no matter their age, sex, colour, religion etc. [...] But there are areas in which none of us are equal. Our skills and abilities differ in many areas, our knowledge, our understanding are different. We all have different characteristics, emotions, physical qualities. ... This doesn't make any group better than any other, it shouldn't make any group dominant.

We are equal in our differences. The differences between men and women are to celebrated and enjoyed. Union and polarity between men and women create a world that is defined by the balance between us, a world of power and strength for both.

How to be a Man

The way forward, as I see it, is:

The way to achieve this is to develop your own norms based on your core essence; your own masculinity.

Masculine Characteristics—A New Approach

The way to move forward as men is to develop our own norms based on our core masculine characteristics and our response to cultural conditioning, not based on cultural norms—create our personal masculinity. This move away from the feminine was achieved in tribal societies through initiation and ceremony. In modern society we have lost this blunting our access to our masculine characteristics and making the shift more problematic and painful. The lack of involvement of fathers in this process makes the situation worse.

Core Masculine Characteristics

The result is increasing conflict between men and women because men either fail to make the transition or they over-compensate and dominate women.

Men need help in dealing with these personal issues. Each man has different needs but there are common steps that can be taken to avoid others feeling dominated. My core purpose is to help men find these steps.

In a post A New Vision of Masculinity I said,

The greater power is in a personal approach to masculinity and male behaviour, what I call Personal Masculinity. This rejects the single approach to being a man in favour of one that gels with our own personality and energy.

This approach forms around specific characteristics regarded as either essential masculine or feminine. They are:

Gender Characteristics

Masculine Characteristics:

Feminine Characteristics:

All of these characteristics are available to all of us. They act as a model to help us understand how we grow. They don't specify how to be masculine rather they indicate where masculinity lies.

Integrated Masculinity

An integrated, masculine man would develop many of the masculine characteristics and some of the feminine ones. Their balance would influence the extent to which a man might be seen as masculine, or not. The key, however, is what qualities he sees as representing masculinity in his world.

To counter the media driven masculine stereotypes and move on from old school masculinity it is essential that men take back control from the dominant cultural influences and develop what they see as masculinity. This will vary for different men and will, in time, develop new norms for men.

There is a four-pronged process for men to achieve this developed on this site, it is:

Awareness

Developing awareness of our Core Essence, our Masculine Characteristics and of the extent to which we have been subject to Social Conditioning. It is important to distinguish these and understand what is truly us and what has come from others.

Acceptance

To go beyond awareness to acceptance. It is not a question of whether we want to be what we discover but whether we can be. Can we take the discoveries into our life and make them fully us.

Adaptation

Where what we discover is not what we consider to be us we can change and develop what we want to be. We adapt what we are to what we would like to be. Using the qualities is a great way to start. Loop back to awareness and go through the process again as many times as are necessary.

Authenticity

Having come to our Personal Masculinity we need to develop a way of living that authentically represents us. It is not enough to feel it, it is necessary to live it.

William Harryman, who writes the fabulous blog Masculine Heart, in Psychologists Show How Precarious 'Manhood' Is put it very simply,

Imagine how different it might be if our sense of self and our sense of masculinity were determined internally (internal locus of control) rather than by others (external locus of control). Clearly, it's not easy to get to this place in our lives (coaching or therapy helps), but more and more men are doing so and more men are seeking ways to become more internally focused in their identity.

Further in A New Vision of Masculinity I say,

Be bold in your life but make sure it is an examined life, one that you stand by and are willing to defend. But don't put it forward as the only answer, it is just a way, a direction. In helping men to become more masculine in their lives my aim is develop their awareness, test their acceptance, guide their adaptation and challenge their authenticity.

Masculine and Feminine—The Future

I have touched on some vital aspects of what it is to be a man and the essence of the contrast between masculine and feminine. Men, your time is now, seize it, grab the future of masculine and feminine. There is a challenge that men to take up. It's to re-align their masculinity so it becomes relevant today. It's not about becoming feminine, it's not about developing a feminine side, it's about developing compassion along with strength, courage and certainty.

Masculine and Feminine - Gender

I have entered the Lion's Den of masculinity and suggested that it is time we found a way to respect women. We can help women move beyond their fear and anger and understand us as men, we can help women to find their power and face us as equals. We don't need to feel guilt, pain or sorrow for all the abuse women have taken in history, but as men we need to respect women. It is in this joint respecting of each other that union and polarity between us can grow and flourish.

I have looked at gender and found that we can be equal in our difference. I have found that it is critical to look at the environment you grew up in and how you have been socialised by family, friends and society, look at what you can do to make your own decisions on this.

Masculine and Feminine - Men

I have inspected men and laid out a new way we can be men.

To counter the media driven masculine stereotypes and move on from old school masculinity it is essential that men take back control from the dominant cultural influences and develop what they see as masculinity. This will vary for different men and will, in time, develop new norms for men.

What does all this mean for men, what does it mean for the future?

Men and Certainty

Men have generally been the dominant group in society. We have run things, organised life and dictated how we should all be. Men have created the cultural norms that now so distort society. We have hung on to outdated beliefs and complained when they haven't worked. We have dominated and abused women and whinged when they fight back. It seems to me that we have wanted it all and stamped our collective foot when it hasn't worked.

There is a lack of men who are sure in themselves and who radiate certainty to those around them. There is a lack of men who see masculinity as an enduring quality that can be used for good. There is a lack of men who are willing to step out there and give themselves for the good of others.

Yes, they exist, but do they exist in the full strength of their masculinity as giving, caring men? Do they, on the other hand, just cling to an idea of their moral superiority? Gail Sheehy in her book 'Passages in Men's Lives' said,

For tens of thousands of years men lived as warriors, hunters and providers, dominant over women and indispensable as breadwinners. Their brawn was admired and feared and they were usually employed in work that required the strength of a male physique. The idea that a man's moral superiority is related to his physical attributes harks all the way back to the ancients

But surely it is no longer relevant. We have moved on as a society, it's time we moved on as men.

Men's problem with defining and proving their masculinity is an eternal one. True manhood is an elusive status beyond mere biological maleness. In aboriginal North America, for example, among the non-violent Fox tribe of the Iowa area, real manhood was described as 'The Big Impossible'. It was an elevated status that only an extraordinary few could achieve.

We don't want it to be so rarified but we do want it to mean something, to be something that is respected by men and women.

Respect

A man who approaches the second half of life, still valuing his physical strength and the aggressiveness to make things happen, can find a new challenge in developing the more creative, intuitive, nurturant side of himself. If he cultivates this side, he can be even more enduringly effective.

It is this challenge that we need men to take up. It's not about becoming feminine, it's not about developing a feminine side, it's about re-aligning masculinity so it becomes relevant today.

Men are needed more than ever. they are need by their children, particularly by their sons, they are need by their women, they are needed by society. They are needed to stand alongside women to create a new more caring society, they are needed to take their place and feel proud of it.

Men, your time is now, seize it, grab the future of masculine and feminine.