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The Hidden Impact: How Does Patriarchy Harm Men Too?

The overarching task right now is the reconciliation of the oldest wound of humanity, which is patriarchy. This wound manifests in very devious ways and once you get beyond the limiting notion that patriarchy is only about men and women, you’ll see that it underlies everywhere there's a power imbalance.


Patriarchy is not as much about women and men as a dynamic underpinning almost all the systems in which we live that rely on hierarchy and ranking, which is reinforced through different forms of violence, including economic, bodily, and environmental.


Patriarchal systems over value the masculine style of consciousness (everyone has an inner masculine) and denigrate the feminine (everyone has an inner feminine). The masculine and feminine are ways of approaching things, and assuming one has more value than the other explains a lot of the devastation in the world. What is needed is not so much balance, rather the capacity to be fluid. There are times to bring a masculine (intellectual) perspective but without the feminine (connectedness) perspective, there is exploitation, suffering, and even death.

Men do not inherently have a well-developed masculine. Those men who shout and parade their "masculinity" are the most insecure. Some women have a healthier developed masculine and an unhealthy relationship with their feminine. Some men are more in tune with their feminine than some women. It's quite a mess. You can gauge the relationship with your inner feminine and masculine by your emotional reactions to others. It can be eye opening when you discover your disdain for some other people reveals a lot about your inner battle. This is not to excuse bad behavior on the part of others, but the potential insight about your inner battle lies in the intensity of your emotions.

Men Aren't the Enemy and Neither Are Women


When patriarchy hooked up with religion, Christianity for example, the feminine was split off, discarded, and projected onto women as a gender, their bodies, sexuality, and nature, which is also the feminine. Think Mother Nature. The result of splitting off a part of yourself is hating a part of yourself without knowing it. The inner disdain for a part of yourself is projected onto those whom the powers that be have decided are inferior. By seeing others as inferior, you are projecting your own sense of inferiority or insecurity onto them. First, this not a winning strategy and second, you're fighting the wrong enemy.

It's not men that are women's enemy, nor women who are men's enemy. Right there, that is how patriarchy shows up - divide and conquer vs. collaboration. The real enemy is the indoctrination that relies on your sense of inferiority to accept your own oppression. Women's oppression is more obvious, but men are just as oppressed by the need to be validated by those who tell them the proper way to be a man or masculine. That's called giving away your power.


Extreme forms of religion turn this power imbalance into a righteous project, which excuses violence like rape. You could say we live in a rape culture, as first brought to our attention in the book Transforming A Rape Culture, by Emilie Buchwald, published in 2005. Not until 1993 did a husband stop having the legal right to rape his own wife in all fifty states in America.


Women’s patriarchal wound is more obvious and is healed by women claiming power and taking up space in the world. Men’s patriarchal wound is different but no less damaging to men and relationships. You could say it’s even more sinister because men are trained to denigrate and emasculate other men, first for supporting women who claim their rightful place in the world, and second for coming into relationship with their own feminine style of consciousness.


In fact, there is research that shows that good men who believe in equality overestimate the sexism of the men around them, even their own friends and family. They hold back compassion, empathy and a sense of community out of fear for being emasculated by other men, even those who are close to them. Too many good men are afraid to express compassion and empathy because other men will punish them for it. And some women will punish men for showing vulnerability too.. 


Imagine the loneliness, the fear, resentment, anger deep down in men that eventually needs to be expressed and released. Some will project these unconscious wounds through words or violence onto the Other, like women, other men, children, immigrants, people of color. Others will internalize the constant messages to the point of suicidal ideation and depression.


Current research shows that vulnerability is required for deep connection, and it is deep connection that will save us and the planet. But now, as Carol Gilligan, American feminist, ethicist, and psychologist suggests in her book Why Does Patriarchy Persist, patriarchy has become a defense mechanism for all of us, used to avoid the vulnerability that is required for deep connection, even with ourselves.


Healing Movements Are Everywhere!

Someone must step up and go first in this reconciliation project, and that’s where William Diplock comes in and his work with a growing movement of brave men, women, and those who transcend gender.  William is a Senior GERI Trainer and Program Coordinator for Gender Equity & Reconciliation International, in Brisbane, Australia. William is also one of the 16 contributors to the book, Gender Equity & Reconciliation: Thirty Years of Healing the Most Ancient Wound in the Human Family.

I had a chat with William on Dose of Depth podcast. We started with thoughts about how entrenched our gender wound is. Even those who are somewhat conscious of the sinister way the patriarchal wound manifests in their personal lives, there’s so much more that’s deep in the personal unconscious. And then there’s the collective unconscious, which includes the whole history of humanity and its relationship with the planet, its resources, and indigenous people.

Too many people have only a surface level understanding of patriarchy as a man/woman dynamic. But the sinister patriarchal virus shows up in economic systems, governmental policies, attitudes about parenting, and all forms of relationship, including employer/employee, landlord and tenant, father and son or daughter, and of course intimate relationships.


On the other hand, the feminine is always showing up because it will not be squashed. It shows up for example as innovative ways new communities are being planned and designed, or the focus on social emotional wellbeing in schools. The feminine will not go away and it pops up in all sorts of places, sometimes in angry revenge, like int he early 1980s, and other times in compassionate ways.

You can see the feminine showing up right now as challenging that belief. For example, many people, especially younger people, are able to resist the temptation of picking one side in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Lots of things are true and each action over the last forty years as laid the path where we find ourselves now. Busting the myth of either/or thinking is hard work, to think critically is hard work, but if we don't put in the work, we are saying yes to oppression and more death.


So, all of that to highlight the complexity of and why evolving out of patriarchy is so difficult. There really are so many movements happening in the background where there is reconciliation and peacemaking happening. Millions of people are doing work consistently and somewhat quietly. I love bringing attention to them. When I was contacted by the publicist for this book, I said, “Of course I will promote the book!” I had not seen something so comprehensive since reading Riane Eisler’s book, Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body – New Paths to Power and Love. Now I’m on a mission to interview as many of the book’s contributors as possible. The book is full of stories of transformation of men and women taking their power back from the false ideas they were indoctrinated to believe.

During my chat with William, he shared how men’s experience of healing their patriarchal wound is different than women’s. I think back to men coming up to Brené Brown, shattering the stereotype that men don’t have shame and feel vulnerable, as well as the unintended consequences of women taking their rightful place as equals. A natural part of that process is to overcompensate. We can’t help but project, so women also need to become aware of how their fight for equality is more effective with men at their side. And these days, there are plenty of enlightened good men.


It's not true that women are better at relationship than men. There was a time when that relationship stuff was projected onto women, but women have not been successful bringing that into the workplace. Overall, women have not been able to evolve the workplace to transcend patriarchy, to embrace relationship and connectedness. In fact, some women are as misogynistic as men and can emasculate a man as well as a man can.

My Personal Experience of Healing

I have always had a special place in my heart for men. I’m not sure why. I came of age in the 1980s. I declared I could do and be anything, including having sex when I wanted. Some men didn't know what to do with that, and there was a violent self-righteous religious backlash against women like me. I thought I had successfully ignored it, but alas, the task of my midlife unraveling was to heal my inner split between sexuality and spirituality.


At the same time, I was aware that I was taking stands in my relationships, which in hindsight now seemed a little rude. “Let me open the door for you,” I would say to a guy. Early on in my relationship with my former husband, I refused to do his laundry even if I thought it would be a nice thing to do. I was aware that I would get trapped in those stereotypes I hated.


I was aware of the push and pull, that as I was pushing to claim space in the world, men needed to adjust and adapt. Some could and did and others couldn’t and didn’t even try. Power is rarely given back willingly, unless you are able to understand that real power isn't about hierarchy and ranking. It's a tough road for men who have been sold a bill of goods and accepted other people's beliefs about what it means to be a man.

During my midlife unraveling and as I was going into my PhD coursework, I decided to journal about all the men I felt a particularly strong attraction for. The first was Darren in fifth grade. I couldn’t even look him in the eye as he sat across me, because I felt this mysterious force being beamed through him into my depths and it was so overwhelming. Then there was Andy in 7th grade who never knew how strong my attraction was. And then another man when I was 19.

I discovered that there were several men that had this mysterious force that penetrated me. It’s like they were vessels through which something transcendent was reaching into me. Not until later in life, after I had fallen apart, did I recognize the connection between sexuality and spirituality, which I went on to research. I had found my Sex and God wound, the root of which was an inner battle between my feminine and masculine.

I became aware of how my own wounded feminine and masculine expressed itself out in the world. Something interesting happened after other interesting experiences during my healing process. Coming into deeper relationship with my Self, which included reconciling the inner battle between sexuality and spirituality, I unleashed spiritually and creatively (Yes, spiritual orgasms are a thing). After submitting my dissertation, I did some workshops with college age women, and there was this collective sigh of relief when the women realized they could honor their patriarchal wound AND at the same time have compassion for the patriarchal wound that men carry. You could see the look of liberation on their faces when they realized they didn’t have to make men the enemy and they didn’t have to choose their wound over men’s wound. That's another way patriarchy shows up, as a mistaken belief that you must choose.

If you're reading this, you're already familiar with the concept of inner masculine and feminine, and even have a deeper understanding than most of how patriarchy shows up in such devious ways. I hope my chat with William allows you to go deeper, because your self-reflection is important to the human instinct to expand conciousness. It is the current regression that is our kick in the ass for going deeper. I am thankful for William's willingness to help us understand men’s experience of the patriarchal wound and how their healing journey is different, maybe even more difficult than women’s. I hope you enjoy our chat and will be touched by stories of transformation, self-acceptance, and the deepening of connection with others. You might even be inspired to purchase the book, which comes at the topic in many ways, using different perspectives.

Sex, God & Transcending Patriarchy

Because the discarded feminine was projected onto women as a gender, their bodies, their sexuality, their right to feel pleasure, and of course the environment, it makes sense that the path back to the feminine might require reconnecting with nature, pleasure, sexuality, our bodies and ultimately transcending the notion of separation through rigid ideas about gender. It's like a life course. This is one of my favorite collection of topics. To read or listen to more:

Thanks for being a self-reflecting human!

Dr. Deborah

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