Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jayson Gaddis - Men’s Work in 2010, Is it Relevant?

Nice post from Jayson. Here's a bit of what he has to say, and then I have some thoughts of my own. I have a slightly different version of "men's work," but fully compatible.

Men’s Work in 2010, Is it Relevant?

Thu, Jun 17, 2010

Art by Bryce Widom

When I tell people I “do men’s work” I often get some seriously funny looks. From my understanding, the term “men’s work” originally came into use in the late 70’s and early 80’s as men began to react and respond to the feminist movement. Reactions to feminism sprouted different aspects of men’s work. Largely, men’s work is associated with the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 80’s.

Unfortunately, over time, men doing men’s work got labeled wimpy, new age guys. The stereotype painted a picture of men beating on drums, reading poetry, getting naked, and crying. To this day, some men think this is what I do and while I do participate in drum circles, I do get naked, and I do cry, there is much more to the story.

From my own judgment, “new age,” “spiritual,” “green meme” or whatever you want to call men who are open to personal development work, are labled wimpy and spineless not only because those casting judgment have internalized homophobia and are disconnected from their own feminine and masculine essence, but because sometimes we “holistic guys” do have attributes that lack action, follow through, and practical business skills.

Here is my own definition of men’s work since I couldn’t find one when I Googled it.

Men’s work in 2010 is a term used by men to describe “inner psychological work” used to work through and overcome blocks to what men claim they want. Men’s work also challenges and empowers men to be their best. Men’s work is most commonly done in the community of other men in men’s circles and groups and men-only weekend workshops. Men’s work is noteworthy for teaching men to lean on other men, instead of always leaning on women. Men’s work is NOT in reaction to feminism. It is merely one vehicle to help men live the life they claim they want.

Whatever the case, men’s work hasn’t been that cool, nor has it had broad appeal among many men today. Because of this and other reasons, I am calling on men’s leaders to gather in September at the Evolving Men’s Conference Build the Foundation Weekend to vision, collaborate, and brainstorm the way forward.
Continue reading to see where he is going with this post.

So related to all of this, I had a nice conversation last night with a casual friend who is also working toward a master's degree in counseling and eventual licensing. What I didn't know was that he also has a strong interest in "men's work," although like me, he is not fond of any of the existing models (Makind Project, mythopoetic movement, and so on).

As a gay man who came to that awareness later in life, after a failed marriage and recovery from substance abuse, he has to had to work through what it means to be a man in this culture, what it meant that he was identified in his family of origin as the emotionally unstable one (because he dared to have and name emotions), and what it means to be male in his spiritual development toward a nondual awareness.

He has a very well-developed anima, a term he prefers rather than "inner feminine" or something of that nature:
The anima is an archetype of the collective unconscious and not an aggregate of a man's mother, sisters, aunts, and teachers though these aspects of the personal unconscious can 'influence for good or ill' the person.

Because sensitivity is often repressed, the anima is one of the most significant autonomous complexes of all. It manifests itself by appearing as figures in dreams as well as by influencing a man's interactions with women and his attitudes toward them, and vice versa for females and the animus. Jung said that confronting one's shadow self is an "apprentice-piece," while confronting one's fears is the masterpiece. Jung viewed the anima process as being one of the sources of creative ability.

All men have this anima archetype operating within them, but part of our traditional masculinity ideal in America is that men should no evidence of anything feminine, which includes emotions, interpersonal needs, and being open and vulnerable. So we have exiled this part of ourselves - and rather than embody our anima, we seek it in women, we seek our projections to complete ourselves. We want our partner (if we are straight men) to be the idealized feminine we are missing in ourselves - and so we ask them to be more than themselves, and fail to love them and appreciate them for who they are.

The ways that we force boys into adhering to the traditional definitions of being a boy/man is to shame him for any steps outside of that limited/limiting definition - by calling him a girl, pussy, wuss, faggot, queer, and so on - all things I was called at some point growing up. And those taunts kept me within the limited definition of being a boy/man until I was old enough and wise to not care as much what people thought of me - so I have earrings, I had long hair, I wore eye-liner, and I also worked to access my anima, the inner expression as well as the outer expression. The older I got, the less I needed to rebel through appearance and the more comfortable I became with simply being me.

Men's work, to me, is about finding ways to help men become more whole, to re-access those parts of themselves that got exiled through the acculturation of an "acceptable" masculinity. It's about giving them the freedom that has always already been their right to be whoever they are, free from cultural limitations.

And more importantly, it's about finding ways to allow boys to development their own unique ways of being men, without any limitations on that process by forcing them into pre-existing gender roles. This means we have to learn to be accepting fathers, mentors, coaches - we need to give the boys we know the courage and the support to be themselves, whoever that may be as they mature. We need to give them permission to have and express their feelings, to know that they are okay exactly as they are, no matter what others might think.

As we talked last night, I became aware of my own sense that I do not have as many men in my life as I would like who are also doing this work, who I can talk with about the struggles and joys of simply being a man - and I am grateful that I have found a new ally in this process.

He and I both feel most accepted among our female friends and we both would like to know more men who are growing and searching - so that is the new goal, to find some more men and form a circle of exploration and support.

I will be attending Jayson's Evolving Men’s Conference Build the Foundation Weekend in September - I look forward to meeting men who are also seeking a "new" form of men's work, a 21st century of who we are and who we can become.

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