Looking at Male Domination

A talk by Tim Jackins, at the East Coast USA Men’s Leaders’ Workshop, May 2011

We get to look at how male domination has affected us. Who ordered you around? Who made life hard for you, more than anyone else? Sometimes it may have been female schoolteachers or members of your family, as they reacted to what had been acted out at them. (Something happens to lot of boy babies: they are welcomed, it’s wonderful, but Mommy also wants them to be different from other men.) However, it is extremely likely that it was another male’s distresses that dominated your life.


We picked up1 male domination, and we act it out at each other and at women. We’ll get to the second half in a little while, but I want to look now at the first part: that every man has been trained to try to dominate.

In the present society, somebody has to dominate. That’s how most societies work. Somebody gives the orders. You can hunt for reasons why it’s that way, but it happened. It all fell that way. This is where we are. And it doesn’t matter if there were good reasons for it or it was simply a “twist of fate.”2

This is our situation, and so men dominate. Men dominated you. You were separated from and dominated by men in many different ways. It got played out3 in all the institutions you came into contact with: church, school, public transit, television, radio, your family. The larger the institution, the more uniformly it came down. (There was more variation within our families as to who had the upper hand and could intimidate the others.)

We get to look at and start talking about the men who dominated us. It could have been our dad, our older brother, an uncle, or an older playmate in the neighborhood. Just about everybody was trying for the upper hand. Everybody was under pressure to hunt for a way to dominate.

Some of us gave up on dominating. Some of us went silent, sullen, and covert and refused to play that way. We each grew up with our own set of distresses from male domination. We all have them, and we would greatly benefit from looking at them. So let’s do a mini-session, six minutes each way, going through the list of top male oppressors in our young lives.


The next question is, who have we dominated? We know that distresses push us to play out what was aimed at us—to play it out when we aren’t the smallest one anymore, when we have an apparent advantage that allows us to stop being stepped on by stepping on someone else. We have done this in our families, and in all the institutions that have encouraged it, done it to us, and passed it on down. I suspect that one of the places it gets played out most fully is in boys’ schools. Boys are set up to oppress and intimidate the boys who come after them. How many people here ever went to an all-male institution? Whooh!

Discharging our distresses is harder when we have acted them out. It is much easier to work on having been targeted. Then we feel justified in working on the hurt, justified in being mad at the people who did it to us. We feel like our Co-Counselor will sympathize, even if he or she doesn’t understand.

If it got heavy enough, we acted it out, and that is just as sad. It is just as destructive. It is just as hard on us. But how do we talk, and to whom, about acting out distress? People outside RC try to work on it, and they often do it by bragging. They brag about how tough and oppressive they are in an attempt to get some slack to work on it. It doesn’t work.

It can be hard, even in RC, to trust that somebody will remember how good and dear and lovable we are when we are talking about what an oppressor—how thoughtless, heartless, and mean—we have been. Meanness is one of the hardest things to live around, and yet all of us have mean tones in us, feelings that it doesn’t matter that the target is human. We forget that fact entirely. Our awareness of it is sacrificed, in an attempt to get the distress out.

All of us have done that. All of us have been restimulated enough to forget the humanness of the people who then accidentally became the targets of our distresses. We may have first targeted our younger siblings, because they were nearby.

It doesn’t matter how the pattern got there. We need to handle and discharge what it has done to our minds. That is the reality in the present. Nobody can make the distress move except us. We have to decide to work on it, even though we feel really guilty about it. (Sometimes we are so defensive we can’t feel guilty.)


Male domination, like all oppressions, plays a big role in determining the conditions of people’s lives. Oppressions are all ultimately connected to keeping economic exploitation in place. They serve the purpose of dividing and confusing all people about each other so that they can’t become allies and think together well enough to create a society that serves everyone’s interest.

We can’t accept the oppressor material. We have to be fighting against it even before we can discharge it. We have done that well enough that we have gotten this far, and we get to use our progress to accelerate the work.

We can decide that we are fortunate to be in a position to discharge the oppressive side of our distress. We are lucky to have that opportunity. We have lived through all the distress, including playing it out at others, and now we can stop it. It doesn’t have to be passed down to another generation. We actually have the chance, because of the work we have done, to interrupt it and keep it from flowing on from here. This really is our job. We are trying to stop it. We are trying to resolve all the distresses so that they don’t flow any further in time. We are the first set of people to really have a choice about it. We can stop ourselves. That is what we do first. We get to take responsibility for and look at all the mistakes we have made, so we don’t continue to pass them on in the way they were passed on to us.


One version of the distresses is the “getting even” category. We feel entirely justified in targeting someone because he or she did something first. The argument in childhood was “they started it.” Once it is started, we feel justified in acting out all our distress. They did this little thing (laughter), and we open the floodgates. We can look at all the places where we’ve felt justified in acting out our material.4

Once we get restimulated, we start bringing up other pieces of material, and this is where the sexism and racism and other oppressions get added in. It was a personal disagreement, a snagging of personal material, and then both people start throwing the whole arsenal of distress at each other.


We also need to look at where our male domination patterns are aimed at women. This is pervasive in society, so we all have something of it. Where do you get irritated at women? How easily do you get irritated? How much of your time with women do you spend controlling your irritation at them? (Laughter) You may try to distract yourself, try to put your mind somewhere else, so you don’t seethe uncontrollably.

I want us to look at our relationships with women. How does male domination affect those relationships? Let’s see who gets irritated with women—will you raise your hands? Who gets irritated with women you care about deeply? Who gets irritated with the most important woman in your life? It tells you something, doesn’t it? How much of the time does it get away from you? How much of the time do you think you’re hiding it? (Laughter)

Even if you don’t have ongoing close relationships with women, how do you get irritated with them? Where do you become impatient? Where do you try to correct them? Where do you try to hurry them along? Where do you try to tell them what the real picture is? Where are you dismissive? Where can you not respect them, and their minds and their struggles? Where do their struggles seem trivial to you? Where are the places they are struggling that you can’t even think about?

One place I have had to struggle in this area is in creating beauty and order. A lot of important things are involved in care of the environment, in care of ourselves. It takes organization, resource, and intelligence to make the environment reflect our best qualities and what we want to do. The environment can be a doorway to the future instead of a closet of our past. Many of us men live in a closet of our past. It’s a mess. It’s a mess of old things, and it’s restimulating and we are simply numb to it. We can’t make it pleasant. My confusion is between making my personal environment more thoughtful and attractive, and consumerism—being manipulated by capitalism. Why would I buy that? Because it’s lovely? I think women, in general, have a better sense of beauty and order.

We need to look at all of these things. We need to work on where our restimulations drive us into our material, where we end up trivializing women’s perspectives and struggles. We don’t yet fully understand how male domination and sexism have twisted women’s existence and made everything a struggle, so we often end up not being able to respect women.

1 Picked up means adopted.
2 "Twist of fate" means an unpredicted or random occurrence with far-reaching consequences.
3 Played out means acted out.


Last modified: 2015-02-10 21:53:53+00