First, I am a 67-year-old man. Second, I consider myself a feminist man. The first statement sets the era for my global frames of reference. The second statement is a position statement that I spent my life believing in and advocating for; a balanced approach to gender roles.
I have a neuromuscular disease that forced me to adjust my male frame of reference; “What is a boy, a man?” My physical limitations made living in the fullness of the rhyme very difficult. Indeed impossible. The rhyme sets up the male psyche in relation to sports, gender role, as well as other identifiers for what makes a man. My generation, Baby Boomers, had 18th and 19th Century identity development education tools in the form of nursery rhymes and stories from which to develop a male identity. One such nursery rhyme: “What are boys made of?”
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
The post WWII era ushered in Modernity, thus making identity more complex, therefore treacherous for the healthy development of female identity. Dominance crystallized what was already burdensome for women in the agrarian and pioneer society. Creating a neo-dictatorship style of identity.
This treatment of identity sets forth the barrier for women to advance a female identity in terms of gender equality and parity. Evolution, from the beginning to now, has always included gender identity and therefore roles. The development of Humankind carried with it the curiosity of creation, thus the curiosity of the Divine. In turn, this raised the question, “whose in charge,” woman or man? History seems to indicate that wrested gender cooperation from females by using their physical strength differential. As evolution continued males used their power differential to wrest away other components of gender cooperation, equality, and parity. Components such as intellect, societal norms, and homemaking duties were defined by the male to solidify their power differential. Even the understanding of the Divine becomes male dominant. Thus the, oversimplified, charge that the male half of the human species wrested the female’s choice of expressing identity development as means to “stay in charge.” That is until the era of the “Information Age” was ushered in through evolution.
Unrestrainable access to raw information and the resulting building up critical mass, seems to vulcanize the 21st Century woman’s challenge to male power. The current struggle for power equity is not about physical powers, like the first evolutionary straggle. This moment in evolutionary history, regarding male and female identity, centers on emotional and intellectual maturity. Men no longer have the power differential to deny to the truth that the Divine is not, nor ever been, just pro-male. This truth strips away the guilt of female identity development and eradicates the shame of wanting a powerful sense of self, as a woman.
The show “Naked and Afraid,” partners an unrelated male and female, both completely naked, with no provisions, each with some skill in survival, dropped off in a wilderness environment. The game is to survive 21 days. The point of using this example is the typical beginning and ending of the episode.
The episode begins with the man explaining his plan to the woman, expecting submission. The woman typically offers little feedback and tenuously acquiesces. The episode typically ends with the woman more successful, in terms of competent skill, situational awareness and stronger emotional maturity. The man ends by making apologetic and complimentary statements to the woman. The twist is that even with the woman demonstrating superior skill in adjusting, the man typically has the last word, as if it is his role to congratulate the female.
What, then, is the point of this long, detailed post? Male identity and power differential has deterred, and is competing with the expression of healthy female identity development. Male identity and power differential continues to impede the movement towards rebuilding the cooperation between females and males, experienced in the beginning of humankind. The male side to humanity must evolve to release its hold on the expression of female identity development, so as to mitigate a battle for power equality and parity in gender roles.
The 21st Century female identity expresses itself as stronger and more well developed than the male identity. Furthermore, the female side to the species outnumbers the male to the point that the power differential is reduced by numbers. Thus, the power to shape society, and industry by women is inevitable. The choices the male side needs to make will be between rebuilding a cooperating partnership, or experiencing gender dominance. My wish is that female identity development doesn’t include a propensity for gender abuse, like that experienced by men.
Many of the specific ideas put forth here came by interpreting various evolutionary changes. One such change is social. Society no longer tolerates, turning a “blind eye,” open or discovering abuses by men. Society is currently shining a spotlight on women’s contribution, leadership, and strength.
Another such change through evolution, as I see it, is the process of interpreting religious writings, the use of the feminine and gender-neutral language, where honestly appropriate. (Many ancient and non-English languages treat male/female pronouns less specifically than does English).
A man wishing to step into the 21st Century evolutionary period will first need to take an honest inventory of his learned and cultural attitudes toward women as equal partners. Does he recoil from women with equal or more power than he? Does he laugh at demeaning, or sexual jokes about women? Does he, with unprovoked initiative, share in, relinquish, or promote power with his woman significant other? Secondly, an intentionally evolving man will need to become an educator of men. To avoid slipping back or becoming desensitized to the wrongful differential of power, the evolving man is compelled to actively confront the male collective unconscious and evolutionary history. It may take several generations to rewrite the male DNA code that perpetuates the male gender power differential, keeping women from full gender partnership.
I wish to voice what a woman, or women, can do to further evolution to rebalance power. To do so, however, would be an error in judgment. If I am even close to the correct assessment of the history of human evolution then to voice such would deny that truth. It would simply be one more example of a man pretending to know what is best practice for women.
I can, however, hold space for men seeking to find what they want to choose for their new road ahead. I can be a sound listening board to help them educate themselves on male identity for the 21st Century.