Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Where did men’s shame come from? or X & Y

First off, in reading this, it would be helpful if you agreed that a lot of the dysfunctionality between the genders is caused by shame. I don’t know if/how I can prove this to you. Even if I did, I would advise you to not take my word for it but to apply my theories to your own lives and measure your results. I have, through the years, provided numerous personal examples of gender shame on this blog; if I can find them, I'll link to them. The examples won't prove anything however.

For this post, I start with the premise that all dysfunctional gender relations begin with shame. Period. You can read further or not according to your pleasure.

It has been pretty well agreed that female shame stems from the patriarchy. Because women hold the generative powers (ability to breed baby humans) and they do not have sexual limitations (multiple orgasms without a need for "down time"), they are feared by men. Men shame women in order to control them and remain relevant, i.e., men's bad behaviors stem from their debilitating fear of becoming useless to women. This is the fundamental feminist theory, and I am not agreeing or disagreeing with it. I am only pointing out that agreement exists on the female side of this equation.

I can see all my male friends now – who are all non-spiritually inclined – rolling their eyes at me. Telling me that I am reading too deeply into it. "Men just want fun and adventure. They are not deep or complicated. So why, Belle, do you keep trying to project some significant meaning into us?"

I've known many men. Each and every one was complicated. And I wasn't projecting. I was confused. Because I was operating under the assumptions enforced upon me as above only to be left wondering why men didn't fall pat into those assumptions. If he's really so uncomplicated, then why is he withholding? If he's really so uncomplicated, then why is he controlling? If all he really wants is fun and adventure, then why does he brood? But especially I was confused as to why – men more vociferously than women – hang onto the male assumptive stereotype when it is so patently wrong? And why is disagreement with this stereotype absolutely verboten? Whereas agreement exists as to the origins of female shame, why do we act as if male shame doesn't exist at all - in ANY form?

I do not know what a spiritually inclined male would say. There are some Robert Bly and Sam Keen books out there with some ideas. But, mostly, male mysteries are not to be shared with women.

If pinned into a corner, I could see some men blaming women for male shame, i.e., if men cause female shame, then it is only logical that women cause male shame. Take for example, the nagging wife whose bitter complaints against her husband are obviously the fodder from which his own shame would sprout.

To this I respond that, if I am expected to rise above the patriarchy and take responsibility for my gender shame, i.e., not let it control me or affect my romantic relationships, then men should be expected to do likewise. But how can men do that, if they never admit they have any shame in the first place? As part of my spiritual journey, I've had to assess and question and process my shame. That journey started with recognizing that I was even carrying any around with me. And that is an odd concept, feeling ashamed for nothing more than being that which I was born – a woman. It was not an easy concept to wrap my brain around. But I can and have done it.

How would a man, under the assumptions above, ever get to wrapping his brain around a similar concept for himself? If he never does, has/can he really progress(ed) spiritually?

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