relinquishing the patriarchy

dear men.

this is mostly a note to straight, cis men; but also includes trans men, queer men, and all who participate in masculinity – if you see yourself in these words, this is a love note to you.

patriarchy (the system of society/government in which men hold the power and women are excluded from it) is collapsing, and it’s time for you, too, to give it up, to get yourself out.

it won’t be easy.

i don’t believe total revolution or liberation happens in one generation, but i know from my own life and many lives i have witnessed and accompanied, that it is absolutely possible in your lifetime, in a generation, to personally relinquish an unjust ideology, to begin to practice a more evolved way of being.

when enough of us relinquish injustices that only pretend to benefit us, we tip society towards justice.

in my life i have been homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist and, yes, patriarchal. and i have been able to turn and face each of those parts of myself, to consider that what i know to be right might, in fact, be wrong. is wrong. i’m wrong.

but! right, or more precisely, right relationship, is available to me.

what i have learned is that:
– in the US, ‘normal’ is still understood as a white, us citizen, who has degrees, is (or is married to) a cis male, straight and able bodied.
– there are no people i should fear or disregard or think are lesser because they were born outside of some false concept of ‘normal’.
– the only people i’ve every truly needed to fear are those who believe they are superior to me/others. and the only part of me that is truly monstrous is the part that has been trained to convince me that i am superior to anyone else. superior because of proximity to that false norm – i am american born, light skinned, college educated, cis, briefly able-bodied, etc.
– the pain i have caused others in my life has been born of these false superiorities, which made me believe i deserved more of the goodness of existence for doing less physical, mental or emotional work.

now i am trying every day to do my share. to carry my portion of miracle and suffering, to labor fairly. to examine my privileges and to dismantle the largest unjust systems in this world with my choices and behaviors.

in order to do this work, i’ve had to learn to listen to things i didn’t want to hear, and couldn’t believe.

now i am listening to so many women in my life navigate the fall of patriarchy. they are exhausted, scared, lonely and rushed.

so many of these women have confided in me, ‘i wish sexuality was a choice! if i could choose to be with a woman i would in a heartbeat.’ i do not want to imply here that women are above patriarchy or other disease, or in any way minimize the complexities of queer love. but the frequency with which i have heard this from straight women speaks to a particular desperation, heartbreak, and confusion about how to be met in intimate relationship in this lifetime.*

there are women who are straight, or…mostly straight. and i am watching them battle their way out of patriarchy, only to resign themselves to either painful compromise or dignified solitude.

so i want to offer here a brief primer for men who want intimacy, informed by emergent strategy and pleasure activism, and by life. this is for men who don’t want to be alone. who want to be part of communities. who don’t want to be a burden to humanity. who want to be trustworthy! who don’t want to be assholes and fuckbois and distant dads, but can’t see how they are perpetuating patriarchy.

this is for men who want to know love in their lives.

if a woman tells you she is tired, that the dynamic of labor between you is imbalanced, it means you have been carried without realizing or honoring it. in naming this, she is reaching for interdependence with you.

we are in a set of transition generations, most of us with mothers who were taught to keep their labor out of sight. this means many men grew up in households where the full time work of managing home was intentionally invisible.

this is especially true if you had a father – you would come home from school, see your father come home from working out in the world, see your mother make a meal and serve it with a smile on. then she would clean dishes while your father watched TV and you did homework.

maybe you did one chore, like cleaning your own room, or taking out garbage you’d helped create. you may have learned to do these chores as if they were a rare favor to your mother, rather than a reasonable expectation for a human that makes messes and produces waste as a part of life.

if you grew up with a single mother, you may have been brought into more of this work, helping out your mom. but a good number of you got the benefit of a mother who was trying to cover the ground of both mother and father, guilty in some way for not being able to keep a family together. she may have coddled you even more to make up for what society was telling her was her failure.

what you most likely didn’t see, or saw but didn’t register as crucial labor, was how the laundry, cleaning, fixing, gardening, grocery and clothes and all other shopping, mailing, mending, financial management and planning took place. and how hard and necessary that work is.

i have seen a number of relationships where a man takes on one or two of these areas of crucial labor and thinks things are balanced.

i have seen a number of situations in which men think the work of caring for the children they cocreated is ‘babysitting’ or ‘providing childcare’, briefly inhabiting a role that primarily belongs to a woman coparent.

i’ve also seen how often, when men are left even briefly with labor that women regularly do, they are quickly overwhelmed. the results range from neglect (the home is dirty, the kid is sitting in a poopy diaper, the sick wife is hungry, etc) to full out adult male tantrums (to paraphrase: ‘you didn’t even thank me for doing the things you do every day!!’).

which brings me to my next point: if a woman tells you you are scaring her, you are. and you have been – it usually takes us a while to gather the words of our fear. she is saying this because something in your behavior has become physically or emotionally unsafe. domestic violence isn’t always a bruised eye – there are so many ways to terrorize an intimate. sometimes the fear is the only signal to a woman that she’s in a dangerous situation – there are some fears we can’t trick ourselves out of, even if we love y’all.

i have witnessed men (who i thought “knew better”) in states of road rage, alcohol-induced rage, property destruction, gaslighting/manipulation intended to make their female partners feel crazy, and physical intimidation. if this is what they do in front of a witness – i know it’s worse when they have no concern of being seen.

i have seen men endangering their children in these moments. i have heard stories of men grabbing, hitting, pushing against a wall, and giving silent treatment for days to their woman partners and their children.

men, you must learn to be responsible for your own feelings and actions. and it’s difficult for a number of reasons – most of which add up to codependence training. most men expect to be mothered by women they get involved with.

here are some of the reasons why men’s default relational approach is codependency:

– you aren’t encouraged to feel your feelings. in fact, the opposite is the case. you are told it isn’t manly to cry, to need comfort, to feel longing. you are ridiculed for emotions that aren’t weaponized, for gentleness, for what is categorized as feminine behavior.

– you aren’t encouraged to have friends. activity bros are different – you may have guys you go play ball with, or drink with. you may even have men you complain to, perhaps even clichéd complaints about the demands women are making of you to gr/show up. but at a certain age all humans need mirrors, witnesses, people they can trust to hear their lives, to cut through any victim narrative and help them pivot away from behaviors that harm themselves and others. that’s literally what friends are for. women are actively doing this for each other right now, witnessing each other, reaching for our own lives, holding each other’s hands as we walk towards our power. y’all need to get in right relationship!

– you aren’t encouraged to get professional help. again, many of you think it’s only “crazy” people or women who seek professional help, so you either refuse to see the therapists or healers who could support your growing up, or you wait until it’s so late that you’ve already built a mountain of harm on top of the person who has been carrying your emotional load in addition to her own. you end up unhinged, unstable, not rooted in reality – in many ways acting out the definition of what people call crazy. in my mediations, facilitation and friendships, i’ve learned that roughly everyone has the potential to be “crazy”. the difference in how much negative impact our crazy has on ourselves and others is directly related to who has adequate support structures and rigorous practices when the storms of adulthood come, and who doesn’t. therapy, friends, meditation, repeat.

– not enough of the people who offer professional help recognize patriarchy as a type of insanity. i will say it as clearly as i can – believing that masculinity is a factor of mental, physical, emotional, economic or other superiority that results in doing less labor and having more power is disease. therapists and healers can be of best service when they recognize this and stop normalizing patriarchal expectations. especially with men who carry other socially acceptable diseases, such as white supremacy, or extreme wealth.*

if a woman tells you she needs boundaries, step back immediately, and listen to her. respect the lines she draws between you. if she needs space from you, don’t antagonize her…consider offering her space. and silence.

this can be very hard for men, who are trained to pursue and capture women – seeing women as human, not prey, can be a lifelong journey for men unlearning patriarchy, unlearning woman-as-belonging or woman-as-prize.

it’s also hard for men whose default relationship position is, as mentioned, codependency. i have been shocked at the number of processes i have witnessed and/or supported where men, in absence of friends or professional support, expect the women they’ve worn down and disrespected and sometimes abused to also be their primary support through breakdowns, breakups, new adventures, and figuring out how to adult.

in a word, she can’t help you with that. she’s tired, she’s scared, and she needs her own space to heal.

it is time for fractal accountability – each unit of masculinity has to heal, to become part of a healed identity. you MUST:

– recognize that you are a part of a seductive and dying system of holding imbalanced privilege.

– opt out, even when everything in your system is screaming “double down!”, control her!

– be willing to understand that patriarchy is a million small choices everyday to shirk responsibility, to assume power you haven’t earned, to be mothered by your partners…you MUST learn to see those choices and add more options into your life.

the good news is, there are practices that work. here are steps i guarantee will help you to relinquish patriarchy.

1. recognize that as a man, you are a part of patriarchy. even if you have made some effort to break out of it, the system/insanity of patriarchy is still there for you to fall back into under pressure or duress.

2. be particularly vigilant about your masculinity growing toxic in your 30-50s age range. those are the years for many of us where the weight of adulting gets real and feels too heavy, and the dreams we had for our lives may not be coming true – hence the pattern of midlife crises. this is when men can become strangers to the women who trust them. yes, change is constant, and we all deserve space to change. none of us deserve a pass to change in ways that make us more harmful to those with less systemic power than we have, especially not those who have carried us.

3. don’t get into language supremacy, or read-the-most-feminists supremacy. don’t think that you are better than other men because you know the language of patriarchy, feminism and other isms. it’s the overcharged competitive nature, the desire to be better than, the inappropriate topping itself that is toxic.

4. in practice, release any belief that your mind will liberate you from patriarchy. the change required now is not something you can learn or do with your mind alone. it is something you must practice with your body, emotions, soul. only consistent practice will rewire your mind and liberate your life.

5. practice trusting the women in your life to see what you cannot see. seek, wrestle with, trust, and apply their feedback.

6. practice shared labor. ask to take on tasks and change the dynamic of labor because you want to and/or you should, not as if you are relieving her of a burden or helping her out. don’t ask her how to do these things. she doesn’t just magically know; she has long worked at learning/creating all of this.*

7. practice sitting in groups with other men (a group of two is a fine and valiant beginning) and speaking of feelings. do not offer solutions or try to cheer each other up. invite the feelings as they are – sadness, heartbreak, abandonment, fear, trauma from the process of masculinization. be there for each other. build friendships of radical honesty.

8. practice taking action together. go to marches to protect women’s rights, volunteer to hold the line at abortion clinics, intervene on observed acts of misogyny and patriarchy in private and public!*

9. practice finding something other than women to blame for your feelings. consider that your own behavior might be responsible for the hardships you are currently experiencing.

10. practice listening to the truth: ask the women in your life how they have survived you. this is not to say that all women are innocent, or never abusive/ controlling/ unfair/ harmful. it is to say that women have most often engaged in those strategies in order to navigate staying safe and sane inside of patriarchy. ask her how she carried that emotional, economic, child-rearing, home management, and/or fear burden.

11. practice equality in the workplace – if you are offered a raise, ask who else is getting one. share your salary information with women colleagues so they can know if they are underpaid. if you advocate for a raise, advocate for women’s raises too. if you’re in a position to make those decisions about hiring/pay, never ask how much someone was paid in their last job. pay them relative to those around them.*

12. make a list of things you believe you are owed by the world. if there’s anything you think you are owed that others are not, get curious about that. begin to release that way of thinking. you deserve dignity, belonging and safety. you also deserve love, community, respect. you deserve pleasure and joy. not at the expense of half the world, but alongside us.*

13. seek professional help. require that your therapists and/or healers identify as feminists. this doesn’t mean that they are women. this simply means that they believe in the equality of men and women. not the sameness, but the equality – no sex is superior or inferior.

14. read. i recommend:
– The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. bell hooks.
– Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. bell hooks.
– The Combahee River Collective Statement
– Men Explain Things to Me. Rebecca Solnit.
– Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Brene Brown

men, do those things even if you think you’re already doing it and think you already know all this and think you are already all right. ALL of us have much to learn and to listen.*

the fall of patriarchy is inevitable. it is #metoo, it is #timesup. it is your turn, specifically, to lead by transforming yourself into the kind of man who always feels safe to women and children. those are the men who will be allowed into the future.

this is your invitation.

* shaped by goddesses/woes
image: Maceo Paisley

and here’s a link to more resources to help you in the work!

unpopular: shamelessly blogging about a facebook post

even though i once promised myself i wouldn’t be the kind of writer who wrote about experiences i had on social media, i am about to reflect on a positive facebook experience. because what you pay attention to grows.

you may think i am about to reflect on how rebecca solnit is diligently veering president-elect grump’s clown car, vaguely heading towards the white house, off the road. yes, i am feeling embers of hope, and doing all the actions she and taj james post about.

but i am writing about something else, my other form of resistance: putting my attention where i want it.

which, it turns out, is on other peoples’ toilet roll practices. over, under, available, in arm’s reach, recycled, etc.

and the vocal prowess of mary j blige, alicia keys, michael jackson and others who make/made a living singing.

and monogamy vs polygamy vs relationship anarchy.

and if respectful difference of opinion about the magical unicorn beam of perfection king beyoncé is possible, or political.

and how gross (or exquisite) avocados, fruit, cats, kale, human-pet french kissing, rimming, body odor, gas and so many other life choices are.

so satisfying.

this is the prompt that was posted by lauren bacon, who got it from a friend:

“What is a non-political opinion you have that is likely to be VERY unpopular?”

people reposted it. i have been reading the thread of responses on mine and several other people’s. today i asked again with a focus on sex, love, and relationships. there are thousands of responses, many of which made me actually laugh with my body and mouth to the point of tears. i didn’t know i needed it til i was in the comment thread enjoying it.

here’s what i came away with (things i distinctly do NOT usually feel on social media):

people are awesome and funny and can learn together in a public space across all kinds of identities.

having different opinions can be really activating and fun.

vulnerability is so much more interesting than anything else.

there is an elegant place for, and art to, pettiness and shade…too often, simply being mean or negative is rewarded as #petty or #shady. when its done well it delights everyone (eh, most?) involved.

we judge each other! but often not from a technical place of right or wrong, though we use that language. we judge each other because reality is a myth we have weaponized. what we actually live in is a multitude of perceptions that really can’t see outside themselves. ourselves, our small self that needs others, our small movements that need to grow.

only listening can open the door to the world beyond ourselves.

we long for less groupthink and more honesty!

i share this because i want this type of social media experience to proliferate: to celebrate difference and distinction, to realize there is enough room for the multitudes.

and…for the record?

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p.s. this just in: works for dinner conversations too ??

pleasure in the age of [insert president elect]

if you are actively working on the election (knocking on doors, calling black voters in the south, talking to voters who feel confused, etc), thank you. remember to eat, shower and drink something other than coffee – at least twice a day. book a massage for november 9.

if you have voted already, or are waiting to vote in person, and know what your choice is (for example in Detroit you know why you are voting yes on Prop A and no on Prop B), and aren’t actively working in the election, but still find it impacting the pleasure potential of your days?

some options:

1a. if ranting and raving at people online makes you feel good, this is the week to indulge. helpful tip – when sharing any of the often terrifying and/or underwhelming news about the womEn running against candidate bump, make your recommendation for what you think people should do in the voting booth. it is more interesting to hear how people navigate the compromises than to pretend there are none.

afterwards we will all be out of the theoretical multiverse and back in some version of the same boat (an ethno-racialized hyper-gendered/abled/class segregated multiverse), so rage against whichever machine most enrages you.

1b. if ranting and raving (your own or others) makes you feel hopeless and miserable, take a social media break. write a book. read a book. i was accidentally offline most of last weekend and i felt my brain instantly nourished by the lack of incoming election-related crises.

1c. i have also curated who i follow right now – mostly checking for people who inspire and inform, with humor and fact checked sources. some favorites: alicia garza, kiese laymon, rebecca solnit, dallas goldtooth, jay smooth, taylor renee aldridge. yours?

2a. have at least one orgasm each and every day. minimum. to paraphrase mae west, an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away AND keeps everything in perspective – no matter what, right now you still have your miraculous body, made up of a complex system of pleasure sensors.

if you don’t have easy access to a lover each day, or if you do but still love the idea of buying new sex toys to use for political purposes, i recommend the womanizer (worth it), magic wand (dependable), wahl (also good for joint massages) or jimmy jane 2. use separately or all together. i’ve also heard positive reviews of the fleshlight, but can’t evangelize from experience…feel free to add your recommendations.

2b. more cuddles and more massages. hold, comfort and release each other.

3. stay hydrated and increase your exercise and mobility. polls show a 100% likelihood that some portion of us will move closer to apocalyptic conditions on nov 8, 2016. get ready!

4. focus on how incredible standing rock/#nodapl and the movement for black lives/#blacklivesmatter continue to be every day in the face of traumatizing and hard work. feel grateful to be alive at a time when you can give time, attention and money to such groundbreaking work.

5. in order to help yourself remember that whatever the outcome, y/our work continues, write a love note to your today-self from your 2020-self about the incredible work you and y/our community accomplish in the next four years.

this might include working on evolutions in the voting system like instant runoff voting so you don’t spend the next election in a fear vise about voting your values.

or not. your future self knows.

6. plan post election community healing spaces, places to notice how we are, knit ourselves back together if need be, hug on each other and focus on breath and laughter.

i will be hosting such events in oakland (11/16, 7pm solespace) and detroit (TBA) (will post events on my page)!

7. if all else fails, google michelle obama speeches (just fast forward through the ‘greatest nation’ parts, because as a reader of this blog i assume your goals for humanity are global survival, abundance and pleasure, not permanent dominance and competition) and revel in black woman magic.

let your pleasure be an act of resistance in this time of terror and distraction. as always, we are almost in the future, and this moment is almost in the past.