“Do you know that you are a classic chauvinist?”
I blinked at this comment and became more confused. Me, a chauvinist? What? My ego sprang to life, and the lines of defense came instantly.
“Um, I don’t think you really see who I am sir.”
“I’m a nice guy. I’ve always been a friend to women. I’ve never hurt a woman in my life.”
“Do you see the way I treat ‘C’ (my first wife), Um, she’s like a princess, I cater to her every need.”
<Insert about 50 more self-protective rationalizations)>
It was a cold day in January 2000, and I was at the beginning of my personal journey that would eventually lead me to dedicate my life to helping people live free, expressed, authentic and unHIDDEN. However, at that moment, I was raw exposed, and I wanted to escape.
My teacher, RJ, of the Welcomed Consensus is a powerful man, smart, intense and vastly experienced in the ways of interpersonal relating. My three-month program was at a tipping point and in this particular session, I was already triggered, confused, and mentally exhausted. He knew it. He could feel that my ego had been bypassed and there was an available doorway for me to walk through.
He sat patiently watching my face. I suspect he knew exactly what was happening. I had seen that look in other workshops where he speaks the raw truth, and the student squirms to avoid it. I’ve watched that student debate for upwards of 30 minutes trying to beat RJ.
They don’t win because he’s usually right. He’s pointing out to them the shadow that they cannot see and he was doing it to me. I wanted to fight him. I wanted to win badly.
Weakly, I responded, “uh, what do you mean?”
He told me what he noticed about my behavior towards C and what he knew in his core to be true. The language I used, the posture I took, and my viewpoints on my relationship. He tore apart the facade of my biased view that I was not indeed a chauvinist. He was right, and I knew it. After a few more bouts, I raised the white flag and surrendered. He won.
The newfound reflection and viewpoint that I was a chauvinist took many years to integrate. After years of working with RJ and his team, I started OneTaste with another powerful teacher, Nicole Daedone, who continued to show me the depths of my chauvinistic viewpoints. During this tenure, I add a second charged descriptor to my resume: “misogynist”… Ugh.
For the next several years, I engaged with these parts of myself. Where they lived in my shadow, I confronted them, saw their origins, untied how they influenced my judgments and worked hard to become familiar with them. I experienced shame, fear, laughter, and joy. I started to see how I related to women, I also saw how I could pick alternative viewpoints that would bring me closer to the women in my life.
During my journey, I learned an important lesson.
It wasn’t my fault that I was a chauvinist, I was born and raised to become one.
I am a white, cis-gendered, first-born New York Jew raised in the upper middle class in the 1970’s and 80’s. My parents were of the previous generation ruled by patriarchal rules. My mom was the “housewife” until her own awakening in 1977 at my tender age of 7 years old. The locker room talk with my peers was of “boys versus girls,” and the movies and television I swam in were filled with the theme of male-domination and female-acquiesce.
The lessons took, and I followed the script. I progressed through school, found a woman who I perceived was a “broken-winged bird,” got on my white horse and rode in to save the day. We fell in love and got married and followed the scripts handed to us by society. Then, she decided she wanted more.
Her desire for more led me to that crucial moment with RJ when he reflected to me the hardest truth I had ever received. It felt like a sharp dagger entering my heart when he said it and it did take years for the wound to heal and for my system to get stronger.
In my current research, I follow two distinct threads around the current challenges of today’s man-woman dynamics. On one side, I am aware of the depth of pain, anger and frustration women have carried for generations around the negative impact of men’s ignorance. I see the tinderbox of explosive energy that lies beneath the surface for most women. I watch men attempting to connect, discuss their viewpoints and get absolutely flamed by angry feminists. In the heat of the discussion, the tender heart of women gets hardened and angry, men go into their defensive mode and disconnect, and the chasm between these two parties increase.
On the other side, I read books like Hanna Rosen’s The End of Men and Helen Smith’s Men on Strike about the difficulties that men face in today’s societies. Both books have significant statistical and anecdotal proof that the world is getting harder and harder for men and it’s not being talked about.
In my coaching practice, I see both sides of the coin very clearly and I am often put into the role of mediator between the genders. I relish this role because I can translate the hurt, the emotional charge, the withheld anger (and love) that creates the separation between two hurt people who can’t see the ties between them. There is always hope and possibility in this reconciliation that the past can be put into its place and the future can have re-connection.
The piece I usually start off with men is their inner chauvinist/misogynist. Yes, my friend, if you are a male-born citizen of this world, you have elements of both programmed deep into your system. Like myself on that cold winter day, you may want to debate with me. However, like RJ, I suspect that I could win that argument.
After you surrender, I would say something to you that I said to myself. “It’s okay. You’re not a bad man. It’s time to see what lies beneath your hood”. Without seeing those viewpoints, they will run you and like generations before you unwilling to look at it, it creates harm for members of other genders in your life.
I challenge you with this personal self-inquiry. “Are you willing to look at your own inner chauvinist and see the impact on the women in your life?”
For those wanting to explore more, I applaud you and know that your journey will be beneficial. Read books and articles, listen to women speak, and subscribe to my podcast, Tuff Love, where I frequently speak to this topic and how we can all uplevel our ways of relating.
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