Ok, lets get the trailer out of the way. Because this isn’t a postcard about feminism; this is a postcard about masculinism. And the fact that spellcheck doesn’t even recognise masculinism as a word goes a long way to making my point. But first, in order to really make my point, I need to vent about that trailer. So strap yourselves in for a couple of paragraphs, because I’m not feeling warm and fuzzy about it.
I can’t tell you how excited I was about that movie. The Lasso of Truth and indestructible Bracelets of Submission for heaven’s sake. How much material for awesomeness do you need? And then the trailer began, and within a minute my heart was sinking as I watched yet another portrayal of a woman’s power being defined by her capacity to reject her femininity, embody masculine energy and to wear a sexy outfit as she uses destructive weapons to fight and brutalize men.
Now excuse me while I get out my soapbox and megaphone because I need to yell this part: A person’s power does not come from diminishing the value or power of the opposite sex, making them redundant, or from putting them in their place. That’s just fear and unresolved pain plus the exertion of will. A woman does not need to become a man in order to defend herself or her equality. Women’s bodies are not supposed to be ‘tight’ and excessively muscular or kicking anyone’s ass. Feminine power is fluid, creative, intuitive, nurturing magic. And believe me, if you think that physical aggression is power, that any kind of kicking ass and taking names behaviour is power, then you have never messed with a woman in full possession of her magic.
I am incredibly lucky to be part of a group of women who meet every other week to challenge, support and celebrate each other through the trials and victories of life, along with all the places in between. We often laughingly refer to ourselves as a coven—and we are only half kidding. I cannot begin to tell you the hardship and darkness these women have lived through. And they have risen, not by fighting or exacting revenge or staying angry, but through their capacity to process deep rivers of pain through grief, forgiveness, making difficult choices, and ultimately by returning to love. That, my friends, is power.
But while the Wonder Woman trailer may have been the inciting incident that brought me to the page, I’m not here to write with an exclusively pro-woman agenda. So let me explain.
As I mentioned in my previous postcard, I take time to process my experiences. So, on November 8th last year, the only thing I felt was surprised. 24 hours later, I sat down in a dark, candle-lit temple in California, and cried…for an hour. My heart was hurting so badly, that I’d needed solace. But what healed me that night wasn’t meditation, or another woman sitting with me in solidarity. It was watching a young man, maybe in his early 30’s, performing his spiritual ritual. Dressed head to toe in white, his dark hair shaved to nearly nothing, he sat in meditation in front of an altar until after maybe 30 minutes he stood, cleaned the altar, and left. It was all I needed. An experience of an aspect of true masculine energy as the perfect balm for a dark, dark time.
So, men, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we women are becoming pretty vocal, active and insistent about our place in the world and the way we want to be seen and treated, and I’d like to invite you to join us. Because I can spend the rest of my life becoming an empowered woman, but if you aren’t healing with me, then half of my heart will never be quiet. Because we are not separate or divided, this isn’t us versus you, so I need us to do this together. But I need you to start taking a stand too, not for us, but for yourselves. Because as far as I can tell, here’s how are being portrayed in popular culture, most of the time, with varying degrees of severity.
Apparently, your true nature is to be either aggressively violent, or to remain perpetually adolescent, always looking for a ‘get out of jail free’ card to renounce responsibility for your relationships, homes, children, and adulthood. They say your truest desire for connection with women is to have as little accountability and commitment as possible, to use pornography, visit strip clubs and generally to objectify women. Apparently, you have no desire or capacity for authentic intimacy. In fact, what you really want, is for the woman you have your primary relationship with to be your mother, the one who emotionally supports you and will always be there. The person who keeps a home you can come back to at the end of the day, weekends, or just whenever you feel like it and that other women outside of your primary relationship are where you place your fantasy life, just as you did when you were 16. Also your obsession with women’s bodies or sleeping with as many of them as possible without any degree of intimacy or commitment, a healthy part of an experimental phase of adolescence, is actually your true, fully matured nature. Essentially you are developmentally challenged teenage boys, trapped somewhere between puberty and adolescence, without an innate desire or even capacity to progress into maturity. It is a profoundly disrespectful portrait, and I can only imagine deeply frustrating.
Because we’re going to all this trouble to teach young girls that they are smart, that they don’t need rescuing, and that they are not sexual objects. And that being a princess is great, so long as you have your eye on becoming a queen. But if we’re not empowering boys with equivalent teachings, then this whole thing, as far as I can tell, is just going to keep going round and around. And this battle of the sexes is never going to end.
I’m not denying that these portraits are true reflections of a disturbingly large percentage of the male population. I’m saying that these portraits depict the shadow masculine who has become stuck at a developmental stage of life due to some kind of trauma, or the absence of a qualified elder or elders to guide him into adulthood. Men in their whole state are not irresponsible, commitment-phobic, sexually insatiable, Peter Pans. Nor are they instinctively misogynistic or filled with rage and the need or desire to be violent.
What’s described here, I believe, is a psyche that hasn’t received what it needs to individuate into adulthood. What is a healthy state of attachment to his mother, sexual experimentation and a fervent interest in the opposite sex in adolescence, becomes dark when that man isn’t fathered into manhood. His psyche gets stuck and is still being expressed by a man in his 60’s, or indeed any age beyond the appropriate time. The same goes for a woman who has not received the fathering she needed, to be guided into her value and power and sent out into the world as a woman. She becomes trapped in a dysfunctional cycle of trying to get that power and value, most likely still from a man, but now through her sexuality, or by trying to be a man or by simply giving up and stepping into the mother role in all of her subsequent relationships with men. What was once a healthy need goes into shadow and becomes an angry, frightened sense of entitlement and frustration.
So it strikes me that perhaps there is so little understood about both the necessity and the requirements of the individuation process, that we are mistaking all kinds of behaviour as being about disrespect or a fight for power and domination, when in fact, we’re just a population of overgrown adolescents, still unconsciously trying to process a necessary part of development that doesn’t happen just because you physically grow.
So men we need you! We need you to be men. But that’s not going to happen just because people are yelling ‘grow up!’ or ‘stop being a misogynist’ at you. What if you don’t know that your feelings and your psyche are the results of not having individuated?
I can’t imagine where you would receive that information these days. Because everywhere I look, it’s either being normalised as “that’s just men,” or shamed, “ugh men are such pigs.'”So we need you to become conscious. To become educated around not just masculinity, but about what constitutes an emotionally and psychically developed adult male. We, women, have our own mountain to climb, and I believe that this is one of yours. Sons and daughters need you to complete this process and become adults. Adults who see no gender divide, only the perfect function and necessity of our differences.
It’s never too late to go through this process if it is still incomplete. If you’re older you may need more support to process the unhealed wounds that arrested you there in the first place, and the subsequent wounds of having been stuck there through your adult life, probably including self and other harming behaviour. So just as many men have come out recently in support of women, I want to come out in support of you. I don’t imagine for one second that I truly understand what your evolutionary mountain really is, but I know for sure that you have one, too and that it’s not about going from being “bad” to “good.” It is surely about going from unconscious to conscious.
And so I wonder, in the west where maturity and individuation are assumed to be an automatic aspect of the aging process, where rites of passage are few and far between, and the role of a father seems to be somewhat uncertain, what is a boy to do? And if this boy is still a boy but now in a man’s body, would he feel safe and supported enough to seek help to move through this stuck place, rather than his arrested development being normalised or shamed? Certainly, there are many theraputic, or 12-step programs, spiritual or religious resources, Big Brother programs, The Mankind Project alongside others like it. But even then, are we supporting men enough with the education, unconditional love and the forgiveness that they need to be able to own that perhaps they are still, way into or even beyond midlife, suffering with the effects of not having individuated into manhood, so that they can be free of these shadow aspects of their unresolved wounds or development, not just around women, but around their own masculinity. I am fearful that no platform seems to be surfacing to promote forgiveness, understanding, and solutions for the masculine wounding that we are currently condemning.
Because if I were a man in 2017, I think I would be having a kind of identity crisis. And I’d be angry, frustrated, and most likely feeling a lot of shame and fear. Especially around admitting how angry and frustrated and lost I felt. If we’re asking a man to step into his power, or to empower the women in his life, what exactly are we asking him to do? Because I believe that this is where a lot of this anger and frustration is coming from, from both men and women. A misunderstanding of what constitutes a powerful man, and what constitutes a powerful woman. I believe those definitions have become confused and there are very few voices who are clearly defining them.
So if a man finds himself afraid of or angry or confused around women, or if he finds himself indiscriminately sexualising women or turning to them as mothers, subordinates or objects of sexual gratification well into adulthood, then can we create an atmosphere of consciousness, encouragement and safety for them to find the support and guidance they need, rather than shaming them for something that they have, after all, been taught? Just as women have been given the disempowering teachings they received and are now working so hard to reform.
And if a man has been fortunate enough, to have been given all that he needs to move into a place of authentic, and actualized manhood, does he feel impassioned enough to seek out those who haven’t been so lucky, in order to offer guidance and support? Even if it’s just to be a voice of conscious awareness?
Lately, I’ve been hearing word on the street that the patriarchy is falling; and I can’t help but think that that is why this dark shadow of masculinity has surfaced, to expose the necessity of change. And I know that women are rising, slowly but unstoppably. But here’s my greatest hope; that the pendulum doesn’t swing, and that instead, we rise together. That we walk off the battlefield, and we try to get clear instead about how we were made to be compatible and to work together as a team. In what way do our differences compliment one another, so that we can become stronger as a whole, rather than divided in a fight for dominance or supremacy, perpetually treating one another other as victims and perpetrators? Because I, for one, do not want to have to excessively embrace my masculine energy in order to ‘survive’ or be appropriately valued, any more than I want men to excessively embrace their feminine energy, or to shrink in any way in order to be acceptable.
I want to feel safe for men to step into their true masculine power, able to trust and respect them in the places where they are stronger than me. I want to give their masculinity back to them, not compete with them for it or try to take it as mine. And I want to take back my feminine power, and respect it for exactly what it is. There’s a reason they burned us at the stake you know? Because when a woman is in her power she is all knowing, she is endlessly compassionate, she is the conduit of life itself. As individuals, we are extraordinary, but we were made, in every respect, to do this together. So, perhaps now, the most powerful thing that any of us can do on this ‘issue’ of gender, is simply to admit just how much and in what ways we truly need each other.
This article originally appeared on the author’s blog, Natalie Peatfield as is republished here with her permission.
Photo credit: Getty Images