Friday, September 24, 2010

The Evolving Men’s Conference - Boulder, CO

Evolving Men's Conference

I made it to Boulder - taking a little breather from travel before meeting up with a non-EMC friend for tea and maybe some food.

The discussion that maybe should have happened before the conference about expectations and other issues has been happening today by email. Very interesting - some men have different ideas about this weekend than do others - and I don't know how closely anyone's vision is with what Jayson and the planning team had in mind.

One of the big issues is women attending any or all of the weekend - some men are seriously opposed to this. They want a space to be men without any sense of "restraint," which is my word, not theirs.

I am not opposed to having women present, but then I have never done the male only thing except for my therapy group, and that's a much different environment.

This was my comment to the exchange:
When Jayson pitched this weekend to me, it was about setting a course for the future of an evolving men's agenda, bringing together diverse voices in the community to examine issues, needs, values, and where we want to go as a community of men.

One of the areas I work in is academic - transforming hegemonic masculinity from a static ism into fluid masculinities, plural - there are all kinds of men, and all kinds of ways to be masculine. With that truth, there are going to be many perspectives on our work and what we want from the weekend.

I am glad to have some women involved - without the feminine we cease to be masculine. Masculinity is a relational construct, we exist as human beings in relationships. BUT, I understand that some men are not as comfortable with that for a lot of very valid reasons.

My hope is that we can listen to each other with compassion - and I have heard some less than compassionate voices in this exchange. We can be better.

I look forward to how this exchange will develop and shape the discussion this weekend, since it feels to me to be foundational to our work.
On the flight here - I read an article about relational masculinity - and one of the big issues for many men appears to be "relational dread" - feeling on the spot, not able to adequately communicate, fears of failure or shame - all of which revolve around talking about feelings in the presence of women. The author of this particular article, "Men's Psychological Development: A Relational Perspective," Stephen J. Bergman, outlined 10 qualities of relational dread:
1. Inevitability - nothing good will come of this
2. Timelessness - this will last forever
3. Damage - this is going to be BAD
4. Closeness - the more I love her, the greater my dread
5. Precariousness - even if it goes well, it will get bad again
6. Process - I have no idea how to navigate this
7. Guilt - I have effed this up before, I will again, and I feel guilty about that
8. Denial and fear of aggression - I am afraid that if pushed too much I might snap and become violent
9. Incompetence and shame - I do NOT feel competent doing this - she is better at this than I am
10. Paralysis - when each or any of the previous 9 items comes up, my dread doubles
I'm not saying this is what is going on for the men who do not want women at this weekend, but this seemed relevant to me as I read the essay.

Men are relational - and I am sure it helps to get comfortable being with and talking to other men to make us more comfortable with this element of ourselves that we were never taught by our mothers or fathers - it's no wonder we have such a challenge talking about our feelings.


~noms said...

I very much appreciated you sharing this here. Loved the 10 qualities, which in my mind are quite relevant, resonant, and true for me as a woman too, in it's feminine ways. I hope and trust that there may be deep conversation about the resistance to the women being there. There is always a very valid reason or many! A wonderful opportunity to create some healthy challenge and understanding. Safety, mistrust, territory, are all words that seem to pop for me. Meanwhile, I keep wondering why I have never been to a women's group! I have such resistance to them :(

Good luck, dear Evolving Men. May this weekend lay the foundation for many future blessings.

william harryman said...

Thanks Noms (can I call you Noms?)

I am hoping for the same - this is such rich territory for us men to explore.

Thanks for the blessing!