Men Fighting for Themselves

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Women and Men Leaders’ Workshop, in Washington, D.C., USA, October 2017

One of our goals is to figure out what being an ally really means. In my mind it means being committed to someone’s liberation to the extent that I do not forget that they are of central importance to me, no matter what my, or their, restimulations are. I get to decide to do that and throw in my life with them [commit my whole self to them], consider the work of liberating them to be just as important as the work I do to liberate myself.

Being allies means that we have to give up catering to restimulations—ours, first of all, and theirs, second. I don’t think there’s any choice about this, and I don’t think we can wait a long time to do it.

In RC we’ve always said that groups need to do their liberation work separately at the beginning and then come together at some point. We aren’t yet fully able to come together as men and women. It isn’t that we haven’t tried. We just haven’t known how to do it. We’ll see if we can figure out something more.

HOW SEXISM LIMITS MEN'S LIVES

This morning I want us to look at what male domination and sexism—not just the massive things but also those that affect our everyday lives—have done to us as men.

I want us to first look at what sexism didn’t let us have in our lives, what it didn’t let us be. All of us were told in a thousand different ways that we were male and that therefore there was a whole collection of ways that we should be, things that we should aspire to or avoid, and so on. We were described by the distresses of the society. Our path was laid out in front of us—what and who we could care about, how much we could show we cared, what we could think about, what we would get to try in our lives. We either tried hard to succeed in the dictated directions, and only secretly rebelled, or we gave up on that and struck off [began to go] in an openly rebellious direction, trying to figure things out.

Who have you been? What has your life been like? Things were a little different for each of us. We come from different ethnic groups, countries, sub-cultures, classes, family histories, and so on. For example, how many boys were in your family? That made a difference. Lots of things set us up to experience life a little differently from one another.

But male domination and sexism weren’t cancelled out by any of our conditions. Our societies used the oppression to inflict distress on us in slightly different ways, but none of our conditions saved us from being vulnerable to it.

I want us to look at what we didn’t get a chance to be. We can try to remember what we wanted early on and how it got taken from us. We can put our minds back there and think about what it must have been like, including all the strange rigidities people acted out.

Now, you are men. Ah. (laughter) I’m not sure what tone to use. It ran thorough my mind to say that I am pleased that you are here. I thought about using the word “delighted.” Naw [No] . . . . (laughter) How long has it been since you were delighted? Well, it’s been a while for me. (laughter) Delighted. (laughter) I couldn’t say it in the way I would like to say it to you. I couldn’t—and that is part of what happened to us. A certain part of being alive and showing it got ripped away very early from almost all boys. So I couldn’t use that word. I couldn’t use it and have it ring the way I wanted it to. I don’t like the fact that part of being alive got taken away. I don’t like that it got taken away from you.

COMING ALIVE AGAIN

We are pretty [quite] bad clients, especially when we’re working on this distress. (laughter) We do it with—you know—tongs. It’s “out there.” In my mini-session I thought of those old pictures of people working with radioactive materials through lead glass. (laughter) That’s like our distress. It’s set up so we can’t quite be there. We can distantly describe it. But can we show what it was really like back there? Can we dare to even remember and feel alive in that place? That’s what we have to fight for.

We have to fight. We are trying to be a fully alive human again. That’s part of our work, and Co-Counseling is our tool. As with many distresses, we have to try things before it feels safe, before we feel like we want to, even before it feels possible.

I heard that the physical counseling went well. In physical counseling we can exert ourselves, be forceful, and show ourselves more. Part of what happens to us is that we are made to give up trying and to hide how much things matter to us. Many of our feelings are still hidden. Anything that gives us a chance to show and notice the long-hidden feelings reminds us of what it is like to be alive and what we could still do.

We have to challenge the things that have stopped us—in spite of not wanting to; in spite of feeling that it won’t work, that it’s impossible. A growing segment of this group feels like it’s too late: “I’ll be fine—you go on. I’ve done what I could. Just let me stand here and not suffer more than I already do.”

Of course almost all of the suffering we endure comes from the distress recordings we carry, and the only way out is to take them on [confront and work on them]. It feels bad and impossible because it was impossible back then. All of us fought as hard as we could, for as long as we could, and there wasn’t enough resource. It wasn’t a personal failure. It happened to all of us. You have no grounds for blaming yourself.

We have to decide to feel and show the things that have been out of our reach, that have seemed impossible. Physical counseling can help us not stay passive. We were forced to act calm and reasonable and be willing to compromise: “Yes, yes, you are right. I was being unreasonable.”

In sessions we don’t have to be reasonable. We get to fight for what we want against the distresses that have stopped us. We are fighting against irrationality. We don’t have to make any accommodation or compromise there. In sessions we get to demand what we want and fight for it. We need to be able to say, “I don’t care. I don’t care what the consequences are. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. This is about me. This is what I want—and it matters. I may be dead wrong [completely wrong], but it still matters. It matters that I get the chance to fight for my mind so that I can figure out for myself if I’m right or wrong and not have society, with all its rigidities, label my thinking as mistaken. If it’s mistaken, I can figure that out.”

So here in your sessions I want you to be unreasonable. Your counselor gets to stand in for [represent] the people in your past that you had to be reasonable with, the ones who dominated you so that you had to shut up [be quiet], who forced you to give up your mind and be left compromised and defeated. I don’t know all the things you went through. But I do know that you didn’t have a chance to fully keep your mind. Now you have to fight to get it back and fully grieve over what was taken from you.

These things happen to everyone. However, a particular version of them comes at men because of the role we are supposed to play in society. Like all of society’s rigid expectations, it doesn’t work uniformly well on all of us. And on some of us it works too well. I lost friends because it worked so well on them. They bravely led their squad in Vietnam and were blown up [destroyed in an explosion] and are gone. They were fulfilling their role. They were the “perfect” males.

PART OF WORKING ON SEXISM AND MALE DOMINATION

So part of why we are here this weekend is to fight for ourselves. This fight is also part of other struggles. The work on men’s oppression and the work on sexism and male domination should not be done separately; they have to be done together.

Let’s do a six-minute-each-way mini-session on where you fight for yourself.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 193, October 2018)


Last modified: 2019-05-22 16:16:00+00