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About gynocentrism

Gynocentrism n. (Greek, γυνή, “female” – Latin centrum, “centred” ) refers to a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this.1 Anything can be considered gynocentric (Adj.) when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.2

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson state that the overriding focus of gynocentric ideology is to prioritize females hierarchically, and as a result may be interpreted as misandry (the hatred and prejudice towards men). Feminist calls for equality or even equity are often, according to them, a subterfuge for gynocentrism.3

Young and Nathanson define gynocentrism as a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around women, a cultural theme that they claim has become ‘de rigueur’ behind the scenes in law courts and government bureaucracies, which has resulted in systemic discrimination against men.4 They further state that gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women- to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women and the innate vices of men.5

Other authors make discriminations between types of gynocentrism, such as individual gynocentric acts or events (e.g. Mother’s Day), and the broader concept of a gynocentric culture which refers to a larger collection of culture traits that have major significance in the way people’s lives were lived.6

History

Elements of gynocentric culture existing today are derived from practices originating in medieval society such as feudalism, chivalry and courtly love that continue to inform contemporary society in subtle ways. Peter Wright refers to such gynocentric patters as constituting a “sexual feudalism,” as attested by female writers like Lucrezia Marinella who in 1600 AD recounted that women of lower socioeconomic classes were treated as superiors by men who acted as servants or beasts born to serve them, or by Modesta Pozzo who in 1590 wrote;

“don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.”7

The golden casket above depicting scenes of servile behaviour toward women were typical of courtly love culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a neck halter, his hands clasped in a position of subservience.

It’s clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in the Middle Ages with the cultural practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. In 12th century Europe, feudalism served as the basis for a new kind of love in which men were to play the role of vassal to women who played the role of an idealized Lord. C.S. Lewis, back in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”8 Lewis states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 9

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Further, unless evidence of widespread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then gynocentrism is precisely 800 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

Gynocentrism as a cultural phenomenon

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.” 10 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the role of Lord in relation to male vassals.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.” 11 I agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, however the phrase ‘gynocentric culture’ more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website ‘gynocentrism’ refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which phrase I define here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we can look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King, God and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, damsels, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminism. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not simply fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem of gender inequity is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. All we need do is look at the circumstances under which gynocentrism first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

La Querelle des Femmes, and advocacy for women

The Querelle des Femmes translates as the “quarrel about women” and amounts to what we might today call a gender-war. The querelle had its beginning in twelfth century Europe and finds its culmination in the feminist-driven ideology of today (though some authors claim, unconvincingly, that the querelle came to an end in the 1700s). The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women, and thus Querelle des Femmes serves as the originating title for gynocentric discourse.

If we consider the longevity of this revolution we might be inclined to agree with Barbarossaaa’s claim “that feminism is a perpetual advocacy machine for women”.

To place the above events into a coherent timeline, chivalric servitude toward women was elaborated and given patronage first under the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1137-1152) and instituted culturally throughout Europe over the subsequent 200 year period. After becoming thus entrenched on European soil there arose the Querelle des Femmes which refers to the advocacy culture that arose for protecting, perpetuating and increasing female power in relation to men that continues, in an unbroken tradition, in the efforts of contemporary feminism.12

Writings from the Middle Ages forward are full of testaments about men attempting to adapt to the feudalisation of love and the serving of women, along with the emotional agony, shame and sometimes physical violence they suffered in the process. Gynocentric chivalry and the associated querelle have not received much elaboration in men’s studies courses to-date, but with the emergence of new manuscripts and quality English translations it may be profitable to begin blazing this trail.13 For instance a text I was re-reading today, Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s ‘In The Service of Ladies’ (1250) provides a treasure trove of emotions faced by a man trying to adapt to the vassal role; texts like this could be included in syllabus and explored for a deeper understanding of male experience and the cultural expectations that are placed on men.

References

1. Oxford English Dictionary – Vers.4.0 (2009), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199563838
2. Oxford English Dictionary 2010
3. Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006 p.116
4. Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006 p.309
5. Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, 2010 p.58
6. Wright, Peter, Gynocentrism: From Feudalism to Modern Disney Princesses, 2014 p.8
7. Wright, Peter, ‘The sexual-relations contract,’ Chapter 7 in Gynocentrism: From Feudalism to Modern Disney Princesses, 2014 p.28
8. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
9. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
10. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
11. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”
12. Joan Kelly, Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes (1982), reprinted in Women, History and Theory, UCP (1984)
13. The New Male Studies Journal has published thoughtful articles touching on the history and influence of chivalry in the lives of males.

Definition of MGTOW

Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) refers to men committed to self-determination, and to voluntarism within relationships. Defining oneself as a Man Going His Own Way (MGHOW) reveals a commitment the view that a man has the sole right to decide what his own goals in life will be rather than accepting goals conferred by others, or by social consensus of peers, or higher social status individuals or collectives. Generally, consensus-conferred male identities or goals are recognized and rejected by MGTOW men as prescriptive, utilitarian, and benefiting others at a cost of socially unrecognized masculine self-destruction or marginalization.1,2,3,4,5

History

The phenomenon of male self-determination goes back millennia under names such as free-man, celibate, bachelor or stag. Sometimes these self-determined or ‘MGTOW’ men formed groups, the earliest known being that of the Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band of 1898.6 The phrase “Men Going Their Own Way,” or variants such as “going his own way,” or “to go his own sweet way,” in reference to men’s freedoms is hundreds of years old.7

The MGTOW phrase was further promoted in 2004 by members of a men’s rights group.8 Two of those promoters went by the online names ‘Ragnar’ and ‘Meikyo,’ and in an online interview Ragnar describes the moment as follows:

You see all the ideas were floating around on the internet. We were frustrated that we couldn’t get men to build an organization, couldn’t get men to come to this damned meeting- everybody was going their own damned way, and the fact that men went their own way, we started to use that phrase and we started to talk about what’s important for men… who’s going to define their masculinity? Well, they actually have to do that themselves, they have to find out what it is for themselves. So, as you have the responsibility for your own actions, well then it’s also your responsibility to define who you are as a man.9

The MGTOW acronym has since enjoyed increasing popularity as a title for male self-determination.

Rejection of gynocentrism

A core tenet of MGTOW is rejection of gynocentrism, the preferential concern for women in both traditional and progressive forms. The gynocentric customs of marriage, romantic love, chivalry and male servitude are wholly rejected by MGTOW as running counter to the goal of men going their own way.

Adaption of visual aid by Bar Bar10

Adaption of visual aid by Bar Bar10

Philosophy and politics

MGTOW is viewed as an evolving consciousness of self-determination and way of looking at the world. It involves making choices in the present that serve ongoing, future self-determination. Conversely, choices made that seriously endanger future self-determination are viewed as antithetical to MGTOW (eg marriage). 11

Unlike the lockstep and dogma of so many contemporary movements, MGTOW is entirely individualistic, even though many men may arrive at the same conclusions from having observed the same phenomena. The MGTOW-symbol suggested by the 2004 promoters shows a path deviating from the main road (ie. individualism), and an arrow (evolutionary potential). The same promoters further suggested that MGTOW is not affiliated politically, and efforts are made to “avoid pulling it to the left or to the right politically.”12 The proposition for political apartisanship, however, carries no moral authority for individual MGTOW who are free by definition to choose any political alignment they wish.

References

The Henpecked Club

The following is an expanded version of an earlier 2014 article. – PW

Many a good man of the Henpecked Club has to be on his good behaviour in order to keep on anything like peaceable footing with his better half – (1860)1

The Henpecked Club is a very real organization, global in scope, that has been in continuous operation for at least the last 200 years. It served the needs of married men who faced domestic abuse from wives, and served young bachelors who might later have to deal with the same issues when they married.

Essentially a project for creating ‘Good Men,’ the Henpecked Club consisted of an international network of meeting-places where men came for support, especially if enduring emotional and physical abuse from wives. In this aspect the club is similar to Al-Anon, the modern support-movement for spouses of alcoholics. The clubs actively encouraged husbands to tolerate wives’ abuse, with the strategy of placating them with any means necessary to moderate abusive behaviours.

The key word there is placate, which the men did in spades.

Henpecked-gClub members, for instance, were expected to take their wives breakfast in bed daily and to do most of the household chores even after a hard day’s work, with the hope that this would place wives in a more amiable frame of mind or – perhaps more accurately – in a less abusive mood. The following are instructions to all members of the club:

  1. That every member of this society shall kindle the fire, set the kettle over, and have the water boiling before he awakes his wife in the morning.
  2. That every member shall take his wife her clothes to bed, after having aired and made them warm and comfortable, or be fined twopence for each offence.
  3. That he shall state to his wife the work he has done, and ask if there is anything more she wishes him to perform before he goes to his work in the morning.
  4. That if any member or members should come home to his dinner, and find his wife gossiping and the dinner not ready, he shall not complain; but cook for himself and family, and something for his wife that will make her comfortable when she does come home, or forfeit threepence.
  5. That if any member or members after their day’s labour come home and find that his wife has not washed the pots, or any other thing he thinks should have been done, he must do the same himself, and not find fault; he must likewise mend the fire, warm the water, sweep the house, mop and scrub the floor, and them make the bed or beds to her satisfaction, or forfeit fourpence.
  6. That when any member shall have finished his week’s work, he shall return home with his wages and give the same to his wife.
  7. That when any member has given the wages to his wife, he shall ask her what she wishes him to do the next, if she wishes him to go to the shop he must go, but if she wish to go herself he must stay at home to clean the house and furniture, and set things in order, that she may be satisfied when she returns, or forfeit sixpence.
  8. That every Sunday morning, each member shall rise at six o’clock, kindle the fire, clean and dress the children (if any) and get them ready for school, before his beloved wife shall be disturbed; but if she call for a pipe of tobacco, a pinch of snuff, or a glass of some nourishing cordial, he shall serve her that instant, or forfeit sixpence.
  9. That peradventure a member’s wife may wish to have some splendid clothing such as a silk velvet bonnet, a fine cap with artificials, a new gown, crinoline, boots, sandals, silk stockings, or any other article of fashionable dress, her husband shall provide for such things out of his over-time money, or forfeit one shilling and eightpence.
  10. That when a member’s wife is sick or in labour, he shall run for the doctor as fast as he can, whether it be night or day, frost or snow, hail or rain, or forfeit two shillings.
  11. That any member refusing to clean the child when it has shitten or bawed (as the term may be), he shall forfeit sixpence.
  12. That every member shall wash the child’s shitten hippins [diapers], when his wife order him or forfeit fourpence.
  13. That every Monday night, each member shall clean his wife and children’s shoes and clogs.
  14. That every Tuesday night each member shall look up the clothes for washing.
  15. That every Wednesday night each member shall look the buttery over, and see whether there be a sufficient quantity of tea, coffee, sugar, butter, bread, cheese, meal, flour, beef or mutton, and if found wanting, he shall provide the same without grumbling.
  16. That every Thursday night, each member shall provide for his loving wife such things as may improve her private happiness, such as cordials or spirits, according to circumstances.
  17. That every Friday night, each member shall look up the stockings, shirts, &c., and such as want mending he shall mend them.
  18. That every member shall pay the strictest observance to the five last-named rules or forfeit threepence for every neglect on conviction before the committee.2

Such instructions, which were typical of most of the Henpecked Clubs, were sometimes couched in self-mocking humor by the members suffering abuse by wives, and this has led to the erroneous assumption that the clubs were merely comedy. But that assumption is incorrect – and perhaps a little driven by denial of women’s violence – for the issue of domestic abuse was a serious concern for the clubs, as were strategies for dealing with same.

Henpecked-cartoon-Yorkshire-Evening-Post-Monday-25-March-1940Men were also advised to absorb any violence or abuse without complaint, stoically tolerating it so as not to provoke or further upset the perpetrator. This, explained club policy, was how one become a ‘good man.’ If the man’s wife continued her abuse after these conciliatory gestures, Club officials would ask the man what he may have unwittingly done to provoke her, followed by “How might you better serve her so she doesn’t become upset again?” The answer to that question was typically for the husband to do more housework, but there was also a novel intervention of ‘rocking a wife to sleep,’ of which I will say more shortly.

Henpecked clubs existed in their hundreds from the 1700s through to contemporary times, and in places as diverse as England, Austria, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Yugoslavia, China, and Japan.

Why haven’t we heard of these clubs – many containing several hundred members struggling to find ways to deal with difficult marriages – in an age when we are so hyper-focused on gender relations? Not even a peep from historians, despite the availability of material about Henpecked Clubs. Why?

Because it doesn’t chime with the image of a ‘dominant patriarchal husband’ proffered in modern interpretations of history.

So in a gesture of redressing history, here is small part of an 1810 book entitled, Some Account of that Ancient and Honourable Society, Vulgarly Denominated The Henpecked Club – showing that the project of creating ‘good men’ has been going on for at least 200 years, and probably more:

“[Husbands] submit to the pleasing bondage of their wives, in as great numbers, and with as much good will, as in any enlightened period of ancient or modern times.

Henpecked-club-title-page“Henpeckicism, which has been graced by ranking as its Members the greater part of the most celebrated men who have appeared since the creation to the present day, whether legislators, philosophers, conquerors, poets or divines, requires no other argument to vindicate and establish its right to the most extensive influence and operation, than the language of every lover, who readily acknowledges himself to be, and swears to continue, the slave of his mistress, before marriage; ergo, he who denies her supremacy, when she becomes his wife, is guilty of the most criminal and unnatural rebellion against womanly authority that God himself have set over him. If other arguments were wanted, however, many might be adduced to prove that the superiority of the female is an ordination of Nature. For example, the noblest or fiercest dog will tamely submit to the snarling and snapping of the most pitiful bitch of the species.”

“For in Henpeckicism there is no distinction: the peerless woman lords it over her vassal even as the peasant: All are equally comprised in the description so happily given by the poet:

“The crouching vassal of the tyrant wife,
“Who has no sixpence but in her possession,
“Who has no will but in her high permission,
“Who must to her his dear friends secrets tell,
“Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell”

“The rules observed by the Members of those Meetings were every way adapted to preserve the existence of the institution. Such Members as had the honour of receiving a black eye from their spouses, were entitled to an allowance of 10s. 6d. per week, for so long as the glorious colouring remained: The allowance for two black eyes was £1 1s 0d. In all cases, proof was required that the contusion was received according to the true spirit of genuine Henpeckicism, that is, without resistance or murmuring, according to the example of that inestimable deceased Member, Socrates, who, together with his Lady, is alluded to by the poet in the following lines:

“How oft she scolded in a day he knew,
“How many pisspots at the sage she threw,
“Who took it patiently, and wip’d his head-
Rain follows thunder – that was all he said.”

Such married men as had not the honour to appertain to the Society, were earnestly requested to attend these Meetings, not as Members, but as visitors, in order that they might be induced to unite themselves with it, by witnessing the perfect happiness which it was calculated to confer. For what happiness can be greater than that of belonging to a spouse who takes upon herself the weighty care of regulating not only her own conduct, but that of her husband and the rest of her family; to a spouse who takes the trouble of receiving and paying all money; to a spouse who kindly undertakes the task of judging for her husband (in every occurence) of what is proper for him to do; of what time he should spend in public houses; of how much money he must expend; of what secrets ought to be retained in his or rather her possession, and of what ought to be divulged to the world? In short, she who takes upon herself all anxiety, all trouble, and leaves to her darling husband nothing to do but the delightful task of executing her commands; well remembering that:

“His proper body is not his, but mine,
“For so said Paul, and Paul’s a sound divine.”

The design and ostensible object of the Institution having always been to preserve, and even, if possible, to extend the just and laudable dominion of the fair sex, the several meetings thought it proper, also, to request the attendance of bachelors, not merely with a view that they might be benefited by witnessing such perfect examples of submission, but that those bachelors who had not yet turned their thoughts toward matrimony, or who might have overlooked so great an inducement to enter into the married state as the existence of out Institution, might be induced, as early as possible, to place themselves on a level, in this respect, with most of the greatest men in the world.

“The most common methods by which females attempt the full exercise of that unlimited power which of right belongs to them, is, at a very early period after marriage, to become extremely noisy and abusive, and to make a point of dealing out blame very liberally to their husbands for every action which they commit, whether they are really of the opinion that their conduct has been reprehensible or not. This method is at some times attended by blows. Though a vigorous and persevering course of this treatment may frequently be successful, yet there is considerable danger of resistance from those brutal fellows injudiciously termed men of spirit, a resistance which may be attended with consequences extremely injurious to female countenance. I would strenuously recommend this method be pursued by women, however, with all those effeminate characters who are more afraid of sustaining a drubbing, than eager to vindicate their title to manhood, as would especially advise it to be practiced on the whole tribe of fops or puppies, creatures possessed of no better proofs that they are privileged to rank as men, than that they have two legs and wear breeches.

“Some women pursue a course quite the opposite of this, and with greater success. They at one time load their husbands with caresses, magnify their own affection, and seem to have no other avocation worth their attention but that of convincing them that the sole study of their lives will be to invent fresh blandishments, and to render them in all respects completely happy. At other times, however, they affect a sulkiness of behaviour: a sudden and sullen gloom succeeds their former cheerfulness; they sigh frequently, and burst into floods of tears; nay, they are even seized with swoonings and hysterics.

The wretched husband of such a wife, alarmed at these surprising symptoms, anxiously enquires the cause. She affects to evade the question–he becomes more importunate–she persists in declining to assign a reason–his importunities are redoubled–till he is at last informed, with gentle reproaches and a burst of grief, that he himself is breaking her heart; that the reward of all her love is his neglect, &c. &c. Astonished at a charge which he is wholly unconscious of having merited, he at first endeavours to ridicule what he terms her childish uneasiness. She affects, however, still to doubt–he makes solemn protestations of his innocence; and they are reconciled. In a few days, however, the same farce is played out again, and again, and again, till the unhappy man is at length almost convinced, contrary to the evidence of his own senses, that his conduct has been criminal. Nay, to pacify his afflicted partner, he is even brought to confess his imaginary faults, and to promise amendment in the future. For fear of unintentionally giving offence, he learns to keep a strict watch over his own actions, becomes afraid to take any notice of those of his wife, and is, for the same reason, cautious of contradicting her, lest his cruelty should cause her to swoon; and, in short, becomes a Member of the Henpecked Society.

“Though the great object of our Society is to extend the domination of the female sex, it is far from being its intention to obtain that end by such reprehensible or unhappy means. The only worthy Members of the Society are those who have become so, as much by conviction of its utility, as by entertaining a due sense of the superiority of their wives. All such Members, however, have been treated in a manner very different from the preceding. They have (and let every wife endeavour to follow the same plan) been first brought to acknowledge that their wives, by their care and economy, were better adapted than Themselves to manage their concerns; have been satisfied, by their attentive behaviour, that they were well qualified to govern their families; and have been convinced, by their mildness and moderation, that the authority with which they were invested would never be abused. In such a family, resistance will never be attempted. Commands from the one party will be met by prompt obedience from the other. Perpetual harmony will be established; and correction, when necessary, will be submitted to, according to the fundamental rule of the Society, without murmuring and without resistance.”3

The Good Man’s Wife Pacifier

Henpeck'd Club's Peace Box - Patent Cure for a Cross Wife

Henpeck’d Club’s Peace Box – Patent Cure for a Cross Wife

The good men of the Henpecked Club were responsible for an interesting innovation: an adult-sized rocking cradle, which was used for soothing nagging wives instead of babies. If you look closely you can see curved feet that allowed the cradle to be gently rocked from side-to-side by the dutiful husband.

The ‘Peace Box’ was invented by a club member named Harry Tap in 1862, and several were manufactured for hire by Henpecked Club members suffering under tempestuous behaviour from wives. If a wife was abusing her husband too much, the husband would entreat his wife to recline in the box, which could be rocked like a child’s cot in order to send the wife to sleep. While she was sleeping the husband would perform all the household chores then awaken his wife who would hopefully have calmed down.

With those juicy historical morsels now in the open, we seem to have come full circle, back to the future. Here we remain, with hat in hand, beseeching Dear Woman for forgiveness for having displeased her, hoping that she will notice how hard we are trying to be good men.

You may at this point be feeling nauseous in the knowledge that men have been kowtowing to such abuse for hundreds if not thousands of years, and yet we’re still being asked to to Take It Like A Man™, Man Up™, and be Good Men™. If you are feeling that way you are not alone, and with the growing army of men and women in the MHRM you can help bring an end to such appalling gynocentric customs.

SOURCES:

[1] Huddersfield Chronicle – Saturday 11 August 1860
[2] This list of duties was in use at the Rochdale chapter of the club and is a condensed version of an earlier official document circulated among clubs: New Rules and Orders Reformation Act (1840)
[3] Some Account of that Ancient and Honourable Society, Vulgarly Denominated The Henpecked Club (1810)

Why men can’t say no. A historical perspective

By Paul Elam

Men are only as mentally and emotionally healthy as their ability to say no to a woman. Actually, that bears repeating. Men are only as mentally and emotionally healthy as their ability to say no to a woman.

Obviously, this does not apply in some areas. Mental health problems won’t be solved by simply finding a woman and uttering the word “no.” Gay men may have a somewhat different perspective about this but they are raised with the same life expectations as straight men so there is no real pass for them either. Quite the contrary.

Still, I will hold to this proposition and do my best to explain it. I can tell a great deal about a man, his boundaries, his values and ultimately his integrity and character with a simple measurement of his obsequiousness with and deference to women.

courtly_love_5To understand all this requires a bit of a history lesson, dating back to the twelfth century and the cultural movement driven by Romantic Chivalry.

At precisely that moment in history the warrior code was harnessed to the emerging culture of courtly love, an aristocratic invention that saw the military principles of honor, gallantry and service placed in the service of a new Commanders in Chief – courtly ladies.

As historian Jennifer G. Wollock summarizes, “The idea that love is ennobling and necessary for the education of a knight comes out of the lyrics of this period but also in the romances of knighthood. Here the truest lovers are now the best knights.”1

While there is arguable evidence that protection of women and children is a basic male instinct, tied to reproductive access, this is likely the first known time in history where that mandate was codified.

Over a period of a few hundred years, Romantic Chivalry spread to all the principle courts of Europe and found its way more broadly to lives of everyday men and women who coveted the lifestyle of the upper class. It also fostered a great deal of female privilege and the inescapable neoteny that came with it.

So went the first known institutionalization of pressuring men into a tradition of male servitude – or obsequiousness – toward women that continues unchecked today. Yet it was only the first of three foundational events that would become the prevailing model of gender relations; one that negatively impacts men’s lives and mental health.

IR-300x233The next developmental watershed in men’s deference to women was the Industrial Revolution. While thrusting humanity into modern civilization, it was the next giant step toward normalizing a standard of mental illness in men where it concerned their relationships with women.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, men largely worked in or near their homes. They worked as artisans, farmers, producers of livestock, tradesman or some other profession that they passed down to their sons through apprenticeship and mentoring. While still driven by the force of Romantic Chivalry, they were as involved in the raising of children as mothers were. Those mothers, by the way, also had laborious duties that were a regular part of their role in the family. With the combined work of both parents and participation of the children, families operated more like business concerns than what you most commonly see today.

Both discipline and nurturing from both parents were immediately present; both male and female influence in the lives of children.

The Industrial Revolution, combined with Romantic Chivalry, accelerated the problem. The mass migration to cities began. Fathers were removed from the home (and the daily lives of their children) to go into factories and work. And of course one of the first products of that revolution was advanced technology in the home, making the lives of women much safer and less arduous. It also created a lot more free time for women, arguably time for them to become fixated on their emotional needs.

The impact of that on family dynamics hit like a tsunami. Women were left to the increasingly softening work of home and children alone, and left in want of adult company. Husbands returning from long, grueling days of labor returned home to be fed and to rest, without the luxury of making up time they had missed with their families.

In this familial void, women quickly turned to their children, particularly male children, to fill their emotional needs. And fathers, consumed by work and duty, largely just enforced the wishes of the mother on the children. This triggered the second wave of privilege and psychological neoteny in western women and where men, due to resentment over their absence, began to be demonized.

All of this greatly increased the likelihood that mothers would form inappropriate bonds with their male children in order to fill the holes in their lives. In other words, we took a step toward a society of emotional incest.

This is difficult to understate. What I am defining here is a culture of emotionally incestuous bonding between mothers and sons. The implications of that are tremendous, and in fact they seem to have been verified by the following 150 years of technological advancement and cultural malaise.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that the onset of the industrial revolution also saw the first formations of what were known to be “Henpecked Husbands” clubs; groups of men who gathered to use peer pressure to induce each other into tolerating more demands and abuse from their wives.

aaaaaaaaa-300x200The Industrial Revolution gave birth to a new age in civilization. It also ultimately resulted in the breakdown of the family unit as it was once known. The late nineteenth century rang in the Tender Years Doctrine, and with it the first legal presumption that younger children were better off in the care of mothers than fathers. The steamroller did not stop from there, it accelerated. The same glut of time and resources that spawned women to create an emotionally incestuous culture also produced gender feminism, the last and final of a monumentally powerful triad of events that left the majority of men in seemingly helpless servitude to women.

Barely one and a half centuries from the first American factory being built and our culture is all but dominated by a woman-first mentality. So rote and mindless have men become that they allow single mothers to effortlessly continue the spread of emotional incest and other forms of child abuse.

Our boys enter an education system completely dominated by female teachers, all of whom are a product of the same forces that created the new paradigm.

Society, especially the female dominated realms of home and early education, produces males that are highly, often terminally dependent on female approval. By the time boys get more substantial exposure to males, the pattern is set. Not to mention the fact that the males they are exposed to are as dependent on female approval as those who might otherwise provide mentoring. They too, as beta enforcers, put pressure on boys to participate in the incestuous bond as expressed in the schools.

This puts us squarely in an age of crippled masculine identity and the consequential impotence. We have legions of men who have stood by silently while their families have been destroyed in corrupt courts, where our young men are being driven out of education and into fields of combat and where men are more likely to support and enable these travesties than to object to them.

Their silence is the mental health issue of our time and you can see it reflected most clearly in men’s interpersonal relationships with women.

When I co-wrote “Say Goodbye to Crazy,” a book aimed at women who were dealing with the devastation wrought in their relationships by mentally unstable and abusive ex-wives, a substantial part of the focus was directed at husbands who lacked the ability to stand up to their former partners.

That problem is not contained to the second marriages of a handful of men. It is a sweeping societal problem that affects all men.

Perseus-1If you read my last article about male space, you will know that when I gave men in a treatment setting the task of focusing on themselves vs focusing on the women in that community, the immediate reaction was fear. That fear was proven justified when the men and women, both staff and clients of that facility, reacted in anger to the men putting themselves first for a single weekend.

What was also proven was the dire need for men to overcome overwhelming programming and pressure.

With a catastrophic gender suicide gap and a plethora of other problems affecting men, at the root of it is men’s programming to sacrifice their interests, well-being and their boundaries in order to take care of and please women.

They have lost the ability to say no. Indeed they have never had it. They are terrified of the loss implied by the very thought of it. The fact that we have done away with all of our rituals to transition boys into manhood does not help but that will be a topic for a future essay.

Correcting this, reversing the trend, is easier said than done. In fact, it is damned hard work for most, and simply undoable for the many who lack the strength to face and walk through fear on such a primal level. It can, however, be accomplished in stages for the dedicated.

The first stage is Simple Awareness and is by far the easiest. It is just education and can be had as easily as grasping the contents of this writing. When men understand the forces that compel them to please women at any cost, they create the opportunity and motivation to imagine it can be corrected. With that, they can rewrite their future, largely by rewriting their history. More to come on that as well.

The second stage is brutal. There is no other way to put it. It requires men to face the fear of ripping the emotionally incestuous bond; the foundational fear of all men, the fear that most resembles the fear of death. It means putting themselves in the jaws of the beast from which they have to scratch and claw their way out.

Once they have emerged they reach the final and unending stage of walking in the footsteps that were determined by a newly shaped history, sans the Romantic Chivalry, sans the emotional incest and sans the gynocentrism.

I realize that the definitions of these stages are cursory and incomplete. There is much more to them. A more thorough examination is next in this series of essays intended to help men free themselves and their sons from the clutches of a path that was chosen for them in favor of a path that they carve out for themselves.

 

[1] Jennifer G. Wollock, Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love, (Published by Praeger, 2011)

This article was first published at An Ear for Men and republished with permission.

The historical role of gynocentrism in societal collapse

By August Løvenskiolds and Peter Wright

Creative Commons - Flickr

MGTOW YouTube producer Turd Flinging Monkey (TFM) recently talked about his theory of how historical patriarchies (real ones, not the faux versions feminists are forever whining about) interact with gynocentrism to produce cycles of societal growth and collapse. The theory, referred to as the traditionalism cycle, has appeared in major civilizations. The traditionalism cycle goes something like this:

  1. Patriarchal traditionalism →
  2. Gynocentric traditionalism →
  3. Progressive gynocentrism →
  4. Societal collapse →
  5. Return to step 1 above.

Here’s the video that describes this in more detail.

The “traditionalism theory” is both descriptive of observed historical patterns and makes falsifiable predictions about how wealthy societies will break down over time if they fail to control gynocentric resource demands.

The theory is a reasonable one; societies start with patriarchs (father-elders) as the controlling class, then move through traditional and progressive forms of gynocentrism before collapsing under their own weight – the inability of resource production to keep up with the unchecked demands of an increasingly indolent yet powerful populace. The theory says that gynocentrism escalates with the advent of abundance if abundance exists in a given culture.

What we appreciate about TFM’s exposition of his theory is that he did some detailed historical research to back it up – something sorely lacking in the discussion of the roots of gynocentrism. Instead of real research we often see pull-it-out-of-your-ass histories or dismissive appeals to biology – “it’s all in the genes.”

The irony that “Turd Flinging Monkey” did NOT pull it out of his ass is not lost on us.

The pull-it-out-of-your-ass kind of history is based on half-guesses, ideology and assumptions with little to no evidence – except perhaps references to items like Lysistrata, a play; Helen of Troy, a myth; The “Rule of Thumb” law authorizing standards of domestic violence (which even feminists admit is a complete fabrication), religious tales, fairy tales, and other fantasy sources – i.e. to assume myths and fables mirror real life has marginal utility at best and is often times just crap: have you ever seen a centaur?

Surely the classical depictions of centaurs must have mirrored real creatures and behaviors or they wouldn’t have mentioned it?! Any thinking person will recognize the problem; relying on ancient mythologies is akin to having future zoologists base the history of equine evolution on episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Mythology’s chief value is in metaphor: when the goddess Ishtar’s love interest Gilgamesh spurns her, she threatens to unleash zombies unless her father punishes Gilgamesh for his impudence. The metaphors seem to boil out of this, the oldest of human stories:

  • Women exercise covert, rather than overt, power.
  • Spurned women will unleash their fury on the men who spurned them, as well as others.
  • Fathers will side with angry, abusive daughters over innocent men.
  • Women in power will give power to the dangerous and unproductive.
  • Zombies are real!

Some of those metaphors are useful; some not so much.

The same goes for reductive biological explanations. Aside from the laziness of such approaches, the error in over-emphasizing biology is that biology is a product of environmental pressures that can, and do, change over time. Where you see biology you will always see a facilitating environment shaping it. Changes in environmental conditions (like over-population and resource depletion) could eliminate the biological “need” for gynocentrism entirely – wombs lose value when reducing the population is the only viable survival option for a species.

Fortunately, TFM breaks with the catalogue of errors and is trying to keep his analysis fact-based and real.

With that said there are some major, unspoken nuances that should be added to the conversation. The first is that there are degrees of gynocentric culture in both its traditional and progressive forms. Gynocentric societies are not cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all. Like hurricane categories with wind strengths of one to five, gynocentric culture can be imagined in a similar way – as differing in reach and packing winds anywhere from dangerous to destructive to catastrophic.

Like hurricanes, which become more intense depending on a confluence of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind direction, likewise the intensity of a given gynocentric culture rests on multiple factors. TFM has named one of them in his video: abundance.

Abundance is a good start, one that, in isolation from other factors, can definitely lead to a (lets call it) ‘category one’ gynocentric culture. But as we add more contributing factors the gynocentrism gets more pervasive and more destructive – factors like

  • male to female population ratio,
  • aristocratic conventions influencing the masses,
  • communication technologies,
  • reproductive technologies,
  • military campaigns,
  • foreign threats,
  • the strength and structure of cultural narratives perpetuating the sentiment,
  • and so on.

As these and many other factors converge the strength of gynocentric culture grows potentially up to a ‘category five’ such as was born in the Middle Ages with the mother of all gynocentric cultures that has spanned over 800 yrs and been exported from Europe to the rest of the world.

Ours.

We don’t intend to give an exhaustive reply here but will end with a general comment about our present culture. At this point the gynocentric culture birthed in medieval Europe is unprecedented in the long path of history – it was only there, and then, that the combination of romantic chivalry and courtly love was born, along with a bunch of other contributing factors that made this gynocentric revolution the mother of them all. But there’s no doubt there have occurred smaller, less intense manifestations of gynocentric culture throughout history along the lines TFM suggests.

Recognizing gynocentrism and how it hurts men, families and society is critical to the process of limiting and perhaps undoing the toll that it takes on everyone.


A version of this essay first appeared on gynocentrism.com.

Dragon cropped

A comment on TFM’s ‘traditionalism cycle theory’

The following is a brief comment on Turd Flinging Monkey’s theory referred to as the ‘traditionalism cycle’ appearing in major civilizations. The cycle goes something like this:

Patriarchal traditionalism → gynocentric traditionalism → progressive gynocentrism → collapse.

The theory is a reasonable one; societies start out as patriarchally controlled, then move through traditional and progressive forms of gynocentrism before collapsing under their own weight. The theory says that gynocentrism escalates with the advent of abundance (if and when abundance exists in a given culture).

What I appreciate about TFM’s theory is that he did some actual historical research to back it up – something sorely lacking in the discussion of the roots of gynocentrism. Instead of actual research we frequently see a pull-it-out-of-your-ass histories, or alternatively dismissive appeals to biology – “it’s all in the genes.”

The pull-it-out-of-your-ass kind of history is based on half-guesses and assumptions with little to no evidence – except perhaps references to items like Lysistrata, a play; Helen of Troy, a myth, religious tales, fairy tales, and other fantasy sources – ie. it’s a huge error to assume myths and fables mirror real life. Have you ever seen a centaur… surely the classical depictions of centaurs must have mirrored real creatures and behaviors or they wouldn’t have mentioned it?! Any thinking person will recognize the problem; relying on ancient mythologies is akin to having having future zoologists base the history of equine evolution on episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Same goes for reductive biological explanations. Aside from the laziness of such approaches, the error in over-emphasizing biology is that biology does not exist, or rather doesn’t exist as a thing-in-itself. Where you see biology you will always see a facilitating environment shaping it.

Fortunately, TFM breaks with the catalogue of errors and is trying to keep it fact based and real.

With that said there are some major, unspoken nuances that I’d like to add to the conversation. The first is that there are degrees of gynocentric culture in both its traditional and progressive forms. Gynocentric societies are not cookie-cutter one size for all. Like hurricane categories with wind strengths of one to five, gynocentric culture can be imagined in a similar way – as differing in reach and packing winds anywhere from destructive to catastrophic.

Like hurricanes, which become more intense depending on a confluence of atmospheric pressure, humidity, and wind direction, likewise the intensity of a given gynocentric culture rests on multiple factors. TFM has named one of them in the video below: abundance. This is a good start, one that, in isolation from other factors, can definitely lead to a (lets call it) ‘category one’ gynocentric culture. But as we add more contributing factors the gynocentrism gets more pervasive and more destructive – factors like male to female population ratio; aristocratic conventions influencing the masses; the presence of military campaigns; and the strength and structure of cultural narratives perpetuating the sentiment (etc.). As these and many other factors converge the strength of gynocentric culture grows potentially up to a ‘category five’ such as was born in the Middle Ages with the mother of all gynocentric cultures that has spanned over 800 yrs and been imported from Europe to the rest of the world.

I don’t intend to give an exhaustive reply here but will end with a general comment about our present culture. At this point I’m still assuming the gynocentric culture birthed in medieval Europe is unprecedented in the long path of history – it was only there, and then that the combination of romantic chivalry and courtly love were born, along with a bunch of other contributing factors that made this gynocentric revolution the mother of them all. But there’s no doubt there have occurred smaller, less intense manifestations of gynocentric culture throughout history along the lines TFM suggests.

caucasian man work at typewriter at home selective focus image

Authoring your own life

Harnessing men’s utility can be witnessed from the erection of Stonehenge to the Roman Empire to the moon landings. Cures for diseases and vaccines to prevent them happened from the intensely intelligent actions of the human male. Exploring new territories and engineering the transport to send people to new places has changed the world, almost all of it through risk and hardship borne by men. Men have driven civilization forward since we first walked away from the African savannah. Men’s blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices are the fuel rods that have always driven the big machine of our society.

Conditioning men, training them to do that, was necessary.

If the world wanted to continue its forward march it needed to entice little boys with fictions of glory that would forge their identities as the architects and the engineers of the world around them. It was an easy sell given the perhaps innate tendency in males to risk and to accomplish more than the man next to him.

We have thus, from generation to generation, raised our men on a steady diet of stories about saviors, knights and world-building heroes. We train them see themselves in accordance with those fables, sometimes brutally. We teach them that their worth is actually their worth to the wants and needs of others. We instruct them to see themselves as worthless for doing or being anything other than what we expect them to be.

This kind of thinking probably had its appropriate place in a world that was driven by constant and immediate survival needs. There is no doubt that without humankind benefitting from male sacrifice, you would not be sitting there reading this over an internet connection in a safe and comfortable environment, perhaps half a world away.

So do we need to continue this kind of dependence on men to sacrifice unthinkingly for the needs of others? Seven billion examples of a species now dominating the planet and traveling the solar system suggest not.

Yet we continue on in the same mode, blinded by habituation and the thoughtlessness that comes with it.

The problem that we glean from this is clear. The labels of hero, savior and other forms of “real” manhood are now just euphemisms for the disposable servants we have become as an entire class of human beings. We proudly retell tales of sacrifice to our sons, even as the story of their own lives emerges – singing paeans to the yoke.

Such are the stories all little boys are raised on:

Book for 2-5 yr old boys, complete with battery-operated button that produces the sound of a damsel screaming

Book for 2-5 yr old boys, complete with battery-operated button that produces the sound of a damsel screaming

The stories seem harmless and even cute in isolation from their real-world implications. As fantasies we delight in them. But it pays to remember our identities consist, as Shakespeare said, of such stuff as dreams are made. The stories we absorb are the stories we enact, and in this case we enact them to the neglect of ourselves and our larger human potential.

The psychotherapeutic world has long understood the equation ‘narrative becomes identity’ – and the field is populated with therapies whose sole aim is to construct new narratives for our lives. Beginning with Freud’s ‘talking cure’ and later archetypal psychology, cognitive psychology (scripts), narrative psychology, cognitive narratology (etc.), narrative therapy leads the way to healing and self-respect.

Men, in particular, are story creatures. Our psyches literally rely on them for existence as much as our bodies rely on food. We create stories about “who” we are; about the world we live in and our place in it; and about how we are meant to relate to others – men, women and children. Without them we lack orientation and are left with an existential vertigo.

Whatever you want to call them–scripts, myths, narrations, schema or stories–we can’t live without them. However, like a bad dose of salmonella some narratives will give you a case of mental dysentery leading even unto death by overwork or suicide – such is their power to direct your behavior. Psychologists, good ones anyway, refer to these as pathologizing narratives and try to weed them out of your mental garden.

But who is to decide what a pathological narrative is? Surely it is not the feminist psychologists who now dominate nearly every part of the therapeutic landscape with pathological narratives.

The problem with all mainstream therapy, which is now nearly synonymous with feminist therapy, is that it doesn’t recognize gynocentrism as a problem or perhaps doesn’t see it at all. So they have no model for guiding men out of pathological (gynocentric) narratives and into new ones that might release them from the old script. In fact what they usually do, despite superfical overtures about therapy that focuses on the needs of the client, is actively encourage men to stay lodged in the depth of the gynocentric mythos.

How many men feel (and actually are) waylaid, ambushed and taken hostage by female-centric ideas when they enter couples counseling? How often do you hear that men are resistant to therapy because they don’t want to express feelings, only to see the same purveyors of that idea rush in to shame men the moment they open up?

How many men would benefit from understanding that they cannot begin to identify who and what they are without first ending the unhealthy reliance on women, and others with a conflict of interest, as sources of approval in their lives?

There is a reason that men don’t trust therapists. It is because there are so many therapists who don’t trust men. Those practitioners are more likely to use men than to help them.

We don’t just make narratives up – in many ways they make us up. So it’s important to not let the culture write the script for us, the script that inevitably leads to the belief that we are rapists and emotional failures, that women are damsels, that we are knights in the Order of Chivalry, and that we must suffer our lives for the principles of gynocentrism. Like the tattered novel you just can’t seem to finish reading, throw it in the trash and hunt for a new book, a better book, one that will bring value to your life.

If you are searching for a therapist make sure and ask one question: “Have you heard of gynocentrism?” If they haven’t walk away and don’t hire them. In fact be prepared to do so much walking away that your steps will number enough to walk around the entire planet three times. Doing therapy with men without a fundamental understanding of gynocentism is like trying to teach algebra without a fundamental understanding of mathematics.

The task of the gynocentrism-savvy therapist is to facilitate the male client’s rewriting of his own story. The (completely imaginary) book will have a beginning, a middle and an end with a compelling plot throughout. It doesn’t matter what the new fiction is, as long as it works for the client. It can be anything the therapist helps the client envision for himself during the course of therapy. They leave the therapy sessions with a new novel in which they are the protagonist, leading a gynocentrism-free life of self-determination.

The above underscores the importance of having a healthy narrative to live by. A good therapist can help you achieve that – if you need assistance at all. Some of us, many actually, can write our novels without help. Just make sure that the narrative you adopt is one that allows you to be a fully functioning human being. If your current story doesn’t achieve that, burn it and dream up something new.

Dream big, but most importantly, dream what you choose.

Laozi_002

Don’t just do something, SIT THERE

“To be or not to be- that is the question.”
Shakespeare

Being is vital to the health of everyman but is rarely given the consideration it deserves: Being at a cafe, being in nature, being with a friend, being at home, being at peace. Smelling the roses. If allowed, these things have potential to replace some of the incessant doing that drives men’s existence too early into the coffin.

We’ve all heard the phrase Women are human beings and men are human doings.1 It’s one of those catchy, hummable lines that everyone agrees with before it slips again from conscious awareness – even as it remains in front of our eyes and in our daily behavior. Even as it slips from awareness the fact remains that doing without being, and being without doing, bespeak unbalanced lives, ones that can and do lead to pathology.

The question we need to ask is what are we doing about it? I don’t mean what are we doing about it as a movement, but what are we, each of us, doing about it in our own personal lives. While some men are already addressing the balance of being and doing in their personal lives, others may still be searching for the right balance, and for a better understanding of what’s at stake.

Pediatric psychiatrist Donald Winnicott contends that not only is being more important than doing in regards to psychological health, but that being must precede doing in order for doing to have significance:

Being is at the centre of any subsequent experience in life. In fact if the individual has not had the opportunity to simply be, his future does not augur well in terms of the emotional quality of his life. The likelihood is that this individual will feel empty.”

“Now I want to say: ‘After being–doing and being done to. But first, being.”

“The ability to do, therefore, is based on the capacity to be. The search and discovery of the sense of self, in the context of therapy, is all to do with finding an identity.”

“It cannot be overemphasized that being is the beginning of everything, without which doing and being done to have no significance.”2

Being, according to Winnicott, is more important to mental health, and is ironically the thing males are most encouraged to forego in favor of doing. You’d better not relax and simply be – there is work to be done!

Be-yourself-barbieThe trend of separating boys and girls along these lines starts early. The boy gets a dump truck and a Bob the Builder toolkit, and the girl receives a Be Yourself Barbie™. Through the person of Barbie girls learn the experience of ‘being’ in a doll’s house, and being relaxed, being pretty, being ugly, being among friends, being at a cafe, being married, or being happy, sad, jealous or vain. That’s the psychological cloth little girls are cut from.

The first question we ask a boy is “What sport do you play,” or “What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?” Men are taught to be action figures who work, do the wage earning, do the repairs, or do their girlfriend. As long as they are doing something, we assume they are in their rightful place.

But doing can only return value if the person first exists. If he doesn’t exist, all efforts in doing have no meaning because there is no ‘me’ doing the doings. In that instance all doing becomes futile because it never leads to a sense of me-ness. Or, if doing does provide a momentary illusion of me-ness, it all vanishes the moment activity stops. When all is still, with no future plans, he is swallowed by an existential void.

With the modern mandate that men do and women be, there’s a dearth of male models for how to be. So for the purpose of this article lets revive a classical source illustrating what men have lost and why we would do well to rediscover it. For our purpose let’s consult the 2,600 yr old sage Lao Tzu, who cultivated a philosophy of non-doing (Wu wei), defined as follows:

Wu wei (Chinese: 無爲) is an important concept in Taoism that literally means non-action or non-doing. In the Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, instead engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.3

Being long aware of the doing/being dichotomy, one of the first books I gave my son, at the tender age of 10, was a children’s version of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. We read it together and enjoyed some interesting discussion about the wise old sage, especially about his contention that the wise man “Acts without doing” — What did it mean? I’m not entirely sure if we got the meaning right, but we decided it meant to ‘act’ in the way you want to act, without ‘doing’ what others demand or expect from you.

Lao Tzu book 3

In another translation the old sage says, Act without doing; work without effort. In each of these phrases he seems to be saying let it come naturally, and not from pressures from the outside world.

None of this is to suggest that boys and men shouldn’t be active in the world. Not at all. The good news for men seeking that greater balance is that you don’t have to sacrifice doing in the process. Most men really MUST do in order to be healthy. But there is a distinction to be made here between healthy and unhealthy doing.

It’s one thing to act from a spontaneous sense of self, and yet another to operate from compliance with the wishes of others because you were raised on a narrative of utility. Those living the narrative of utility must first become conscious of that before giving themselves over to an exploration of being, and if that consciousness is not first achieved then it’s guaranteed that your attempts at being will be interrupted by internal guilt or by shaming from those who have most to lose from you walking off the plantation.

As per Lao Tzu we don’t stop doing but rather become more conscious of our motives so that doing can emerge from a different center – not gynocentric duty, but conscious choice grounded in the ability to be.

One of Lao Tzu’s main disciples Chuang Tzu elaborates the topic:

Heaven does nothing: its non-doing is its serenity.
Earth does nothing: its non-doing is its rest.
From the union of these two non-doings
All actions proceed,
All things are made.
How vast, how invisible
This coming-to-be!
All things come from nowhere!
How vast, how invisible-
No way to explain it!
All beings in their perfection
Are born of non-doing.
Hence it is said:
“Heaven and earth do nothing
Yet there is nothing they do not do.”

Where is the man who can attain
To this non-doing?4

Remaining with our fictional character Lao Tzu a little longer, let’s consider the traditional tea-making ceremony he helped to found. Just as Barbie is famed for her tea parties where she teaches girls the arts of being among friends, Lao Tzu is credited with the first Chinese tea ceremony, a ritual centered in the experience of stillness and presence. We may be reluctant to talk about a ‘Tao of Barbie,’ with her narcissistic overtones, but the tea drinking ceremonies of the Chinese and Japanese cultures deserve a nod to the Tao of Lao Tzu.

Taoism, like most ancient religions, talks about the balance between work and repose. By way of contrast, while Barbie also teaches girls that a work/life balance is possible, it’s not certain that Barbie takes the work part of that equation very seriously.

Barbie bob

To summarize, a common element running through all narratives about men is doing. We hear it in phrases like “All work, no play,” “Don’t just sit there, do something!,” and “No rest for the wicked.” Men slave for gynocentric culture as its saviors, fix-it men, martyrs, protectors, laborers, office-workers, and heroes – all narratives based on doing. But there’s good reason for men to break from the cycle of servitude to enjoy some moments of being – being for themselves. It’s time we stopped for a cup of tea: ritually made, mindfully sipped, with or without friends, and without a need to watch the clock for the next round of work.

References

[1] On Dr. Warren Farrell’s website the phrase “Women are human beings, men are human doings” is credited to his book Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say. Elsewhere he explains: “I think the source here is yours truly. In the late 1960s, when I began speaking in this area, I used to say this. Although I’ve checked a dozen books of quotations and believe I created this, I wouldn’t bet my life on it.” (p.275).
[2] Jan Abrams, The Language of Winnicott; A Dictionary and Guide to Understanding His Work (1996)
[3] Wikipedia: Wu wei (June 5, 2015)
[4] Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965)