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A Fresh Look at Men and Women

I've just returned from the Australian RC Men's Workshop led by Paul Whyte. Before the workshop, I had feelings that I was not a good ally to men. I have many male friends, but these feelings, and my distress around sex, had gotten between us. I've counseled about this for a long time, ever since I started RC eight years ago.

I am living with a man (who also does RC), with my thirteen-year-old son (a step-son to my partner), and with my nine-year-old daughter.

Although we've done family work, playdays, and special time, certain patterns in our family have been stuck, such as my having to take most of the emotional responsibility for the relationship with my partner. If things go wrong, I ask him for a session and we take five minutes each way until we see some rational thinking. At first I'd act like a victim around this: 'Why do I always have to ask for the sessions?' Then I began not asking him for sessions. I'd get a session for myself somewhere else, but we wouldn't talk to each other. Eventually I decided that asking him for sessions was taking charge. My partner and I take time each way every morning when we wake up, and it can often be the only time we get being really close. We don't use the sessions to attack each other but to notice that we are there for each other. I nearly always discharge about safety and closeness and he about overwork and fatigue, and he rests. This has been so useful in our relationship. I rarely attack him anymore for not thinking about me, and we have more free attention in the morning for our children.

I've tried to be a counselor for my children. In many ways I do this well and am a good ally to them. However, I've been very confused about what to do when my son calls me names. Sometimes I can be 'light' around what he calls me, and he gets to laugh. Other times, like when it's eleven o'clock at night and I've been working all day, I'm tired and my responses aren't as new.

Sometimes when he calls me abusive names, I'll be trying to think about what to do, and my partner comes in and 'protects me' by abusing my son for abusing me. I then go into my 'nurturing' patterns, and to protect my son I start abusing my partner.

We end up in a fight. My daughter then tries to 'look after it all' by trying to stop our fighting. Within all this I haven't gotten to think about what to do with my son's abuse, as I had to 'break up' the males. I fall into the traditional women's role of nurturing, looking after it all because it's not safe. Within this place women don't get to think. We're stopped by the fear of violence. How many of us have been in similar situations when we grew up?

I know women who have left their relationships with men because of patterns such as these. They couldn't figure out how not to 'nurture' in a patterned way. They've had enough and they don't know what to do about it, so they leave men. Other women I know just stay in it. They don't know what to do, but they want to stay and keep the family together.

For a long time I've felt that RC is not very representative of the environment I live in. There are hardly any people in it like the people I know-just sort of average-type families. I've felt like if I wanted to be a real leader I shouldn't be in a relationship with a man because of the sexism. ('Putting up with the sexism is wrong, and I haven't been able to get out of these patterns, so I'm obviously not a leader.') I felt that if I wanted to be a real leader I'd need to leave and be a 'liberated' woman-not necessarily hate men, but not spend my time with men, not have men in my life.

In fact I love men and I can clearly see their goodness versus their patterns. I have lots of men in my life. I felt, 'Oh well, I'll just watch all the other women lead.' I felt I didn't have anything to offer.

Now I've just returned from the Australian RC Men's Workshop led by Paul Whyte. I was asked to go as one of three women allies. I didn't think I should be going. After all, I can't think about these things. I haven't been able to solve my problems at home with my partner and my son. I've got too much sex distress. But I remembered that these were feelings and that I really did want to go. I've stuck in there with men every day. I wanted a hand to be able to think about it better.

Over the four days of the workshop I saw men go from being terrified, to being able to show their terror. It became an extremely safe place for the men to be with each other. They were able to be themselves, show their sexism, and counsel or client their own way. As Paul said, men aren't able to do women's RC. The way women client is different from the way men client. Women have been trying to get men to client like women. This puts men in a hard place, and they get to feeling bad, feeling that they can't do it, and they leave RC.

I gradually realized that the 'nurturing' patterns help to keep sexism in place. Women's victim patterns (either not being in a relationship with any man, or not having men friends, or looking after men because the men can't seem to think or take responsibility, or assuming 'I can lead without men-I'm just going for women's liberation') keep women in their internalized oppression.

The whole tone of the workshop was different than any other workshop I'd been to. Paul led so relaxedly-a complete contradiction to women's 'nurturing' patterns (there was nothing I 'had' to do). Men slept if they wanted to, played if they wanted to, cuddled if they wanted to, etc.

The men seemed different here than at completely mixed workshops. At mixed workshops, I believe they may feel it's not safe to be their real selves, in part because of the women's 'nurturing' patterns. Women feel it's not safe not to nurture ('men aren't thinking or taking responsibility so we have to'). If we don't want to nurture, we sometimes do the complete opposite and don't have much to do with the men at all.

The key point here is how to be in the middle of this with men. I began to learn how to do this by sitting back, relaxing, and giving men lots of space,and when they did approach me it was their decision. Basically they had sessions with me about closeness. I got to feel so powerful as a leader. I got to feel the safest I've ever felt at a workshop, or perhaps ever in my life.

Women need to be able to let men take charge and to trust that they can think.

I now feel free to lead. Before, I could see that women were limited in society by the fear of violence. Now I notice, with men leading, that it is safe. Women need to trust that men can lead without sacrificing our own leadership. Sitting back and listening may feel like sexism and not standing up to it, but I found that if I really did it, I got to discharge heaps of my internalized oppression that I couldn't discharge when having sessions in a victim role.

Men are scared to discharge on their sexism with women as they feel they'll be attacked. But being sexist and discharging on it are two different things. Men got to see this when they had sessions with me or the other women at the workshop. We stayed, we listened, no matter what the men did.

The three of us women became very close. We were able to see our own internalized oppression clearly. We all found it an honor to be at the workshop and saw the huge benefit to women in men's liberation.

I can now see more clearly some things that need to happen in my family and how we've been locked in by these patterns. I also know it's okay for me to be a liberated woman living with a man and a family.

Thanks, Paul, for your courageous, insightful, and powerful leadership in this area. I'm inspired and hope to learn more.

Linda Oxley
Batesman Bay, New South Wales,
Australia


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00