Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day One: Evolving Men's Conference - My Reflections

Evolving Men's Conference

Evolving Men's Conference

WOW - I'm freaking wiped out. There is a lot of passion, a lot of energy, and a lot of conflicting worldviews in the room, and it's exciting, creative, and frustrating. Sounds about right, yes?

The morning began with an attempt by Jayson and his team to build a container for the work to come - but a few guys felt like that was a waste of our time (in all fairness, without that work in the morning, the rest of the day may not have been as creatively volatile, in a good way).

The leadership team went with the flow they felt in the room (I was a little skeptical at first, like, "You're going to let a few guys derail your agenda?!") - before lunch we broke up into smaller groups to figure just what it is we came to Boulder to do - and some of us came a long way at considerable expense (especially the men from Europe).

What seemed "up" for everyone was getting to some take-home projects, some way to make this weekend useful going forward - set up some goals, some plans, and some steps to get that done. In retrospect, I am pleased and grateful that Jayson and the other leaders opened the agenda to what they saw coming from the group - I think it was a good decision that led to a very productive afternoon.

After lunch we engaged in an organic open process to generate ideas for break-out groups - and several came together - a very cool process that I had not seen done before. Those of us who didn't have a specific topic we wanted to propose listened to the others (a 30 second pitch) and voted with our feet, so to speak, by joining the group that moved us.

I ended up in a group working on the socio-cultural issues that keep men trapped in out-dated models of how to be a man, as well as the issues that keep them from doing "men's work."

One of the guys behind this topic was sort of, kind of, possibly speaking my language (social constructivism and integral). Although I did not know for sure that he was coming from that perspective, but sensing the potential of a kindred, I was drawn to his ideas as reflective of my own. I was correct in my sense - he's a guy I feel has much to offer in this area, since he works with several men's groups and talks integral without the jargon.

The jumping off point was identifying three primary "bubbles" (worldviews) that keep bumping up against each other in the men's movement, which also reflect the culture at large - the Biblical/religious perspective (this is how God made us and our holy book tells us so), the essentialist/archetypal perspective (men are masculine because of archetypal masculine essence, or because we are hard-wired as masculine in our biology/neurology), and the socialization model (social constructivism: we are essentially human beings socialized to be masculine, with many possible masculinities, all of which are cool).

[I threw in a little Ken Wilber color-coding there (amber, orange, and green), for those who know about altitudes and worldviews in his model.]

So the big question, then, is how do we talk about men and masculinity in a way that appeals to all three perspectives, or at least does not alienate them. If I speak of multiple masculinities that are socially constructed, the religious perspective will shut down immediately. Likewise, if I speak about God or religious origins of masculine identity, the other two wage rebellion or simply do not listen.

There has to be a way to speak about this work in a way that gets to men, that touches them in the ways in which the little box of hegemonic masculinity does not work for them, causes them pain, and restricts their authenticity - without alienating any the perspectives.

I suspect that we need to get to the real issues for men - many men are feeling lost, feeling misunderstood, and feeling like we no longer have an identity that is solid and respected as men. This addresses all three perspectives without languaging it in a way that might alienate one or more perspectives.

This is one of the things I am sure we will talk about tomorrow - so stay tuned.

Finally -we raised one important issue very briefly that I think needs more attention: Who is invested in preventing men from doing this work? Who wants to maintain the status quo as far as men being stuck in the old models and unaware that they can do and be something else? That is a serious topic for discussion in my perspective.


Anonymous said...

i can't read yellow type on a white background.

Mushin said...

Thanks. Ah like dis stuff!

But really, its way more interesting to get an angle on the wording so that several developmental stages CAN listen then "Who is invested in preventing men from doing this work? Who wants to maintain the status quo as far as men being stuck in the old models and unaware that they can do and be something else?"
What would be so interesting about that? So we can start a new conspiracy-theory? So that we know who "they" are?