When I tell people I “do men’s work” I often get some seriously funny looks. From my understanding, the term “men’s work” originally came into use in the late 70’s and early 80’s as men began to react and respond to the feminist movement. Reactions to feminism sprouted different aspects of men’s work. Largely, men’s work is associated with the mythopoetic men’s movement of the 80’s.
Unfortunately, over time, men doing men’s work got labeled wimpy, new age guys. The stereotype painted a picture of men beating on drums, reading poetry, getting naked, and crying. To this day, some men think this is what I do and while I do participate in drum circles, I do get naked, and I do cry, there is much more to the story.
From my own judgment, “new age,” “spiritual,” “green meme” or whatever you want to call men who are open to personal development work, are labled wimpy and spineless not only because those casting judgment have internalized homophobia and are disconnected from their own feminine and masculine essence, but because sometimes we “holistic guys” do have attributes that lack action, follow through, and practical business skills.
Here is my own definition of men’s work since I couldn’t find one when I googled it.
Men’s work in 2010 is a term used by men to describe “inner psychological work” used to work through and overcome blocks to what men claim they want. Men’s work also challenges and empowers men to be their best. Men’s work is most commonly done in the community of other men in men’s circles and groups and men-only weekend workshops. Men’s work is noteworthy for teaching men to lean on other men, instead of always leaning on women. Men’s work is NOT in reaction to feminism. It is merely one vehicle to help men live the life they claim they want.
Whatever the case, men’s work hasn’t been that cool, nor has it had broad appeal among many men today. Because of this and other reasons, I am calling on men’s leaders to gather in September at the Evolving Men’s Conference Build the Foundation Weekend to vision, collaborate, and brainstorm the way forward. Thankfully, guys like Marc Quinn and Alex Linsley of ManCollective are coming all the way from England! Both in their 20’s, they are stoking the fire of what’s possible with this stuff called men’s work and men’s groups and helping to redefine it.
In fact, Marc raises some really important questions in the piece below which was published in the Integral Leadership Review.
Marc asks a key question: “Why is most of this men’s work about therapy and support?” And even better he asks, “I am curious to know if wilderness retreats, drumming circles or other practices of yesterday’s men’s groups are really the way forward, or if we need to find a new vehicle to engage men today?” While not all men’s organizations have such activities, the stereotype remains. Finally, as Tripp Lanier and Marc point out, even the term men’s “work” can be a turn off for dudes who have enough “work” in their lives already. More “work” doesn’t exactly sound enticing.
I’m with Marc and Alex. If we really want to help men live lives of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, we have to get with the program and reach them where they are using language that is current and appealing. With all due respect, dudes simply don’t relate to archetypes such as King, Lover, Magician, Warrior. They don’t read Iron John anymore. The Way of the Superior Man is even becoming outdated. Men need current information and need to know it will genuinely help them live bigger, better lives.
However, even if the message is current and sexy, each man who genuinely wants to improve his life, still faces the canard of judgment. If men want to gather together in 2010 and get real, outside conventional male activities such as the pub, work, and sports, they face being labeled gay, too feminine, naval gazers, or anti-woman. And, if you want different results in your life as a man and you choose to ask for help, you must make your own personal desire to change a higher priority than what others think of you. Not every man will be up for this.
My response to the onslaught of potential judgment? Who gives a shit. People judge me all the time and they are judging you too. Who cares? Are you really going to let that stop you? I am passionate about my own men’s community and the men’s communities I help create. When men get together in a conscious way, powerful shit happens. It’s not much different than a high-functioning sports team or rock band. When we men gather together we carry the potential of the darkest acts of destruction and the highest, most noble acts of integrity, love, and consciousness.
Obviously I’m inspired to do the latter.
And for the record, I am all about men getting together to raise their individual consciousness and the collective consciousness. As far as what we call it? I think the answer lies in one question we will ponder at the Evolving Men’s Conference in September: “How” will we reach other men and move our collective gender forward in the most fierce, conscious way?
Here is the outstanding piece done by Marc. Well worth the read, seriously.
On March 27th, 2010, a group of 25 people (all but 2 being men) gathered in South London to discuss the state of men in the UK, and what could be done to bring more purpose, power and meaning to their lives.
Man Collective was started last November when Alex Linsley, an economics student at Oxford University, wanted to start a men’s group to gather a close-knit community of men to challenge and inspire him to step up the game in his life. Some would say he was unwise to send out an email to the entire Oxford University Network including the question “Do you have balls?” but I found it incredibly bold. Surprisingly enough to Alex, his group earned the attention of Oxford University’s newspaper “Cherwell.” Then within a week it was featured in a national newspaper, The Guardian, and within 24 hours Alex was sat in the BBC studios in Oxford talking on live radio and TV news about what he intended for the group and responding to a barrage of joint feminist and chauvinist attacks. Had anyone ever united the feminists and the chauvinists in the same camp before?
Seeing all this attention brought to Alex over something as “insignificant” as a tiny men’s group, I became highly inspired by the opportunity that lay before us to make a difference for men in the UK. For me, my stars had finally lined up. My own search into all things integral over the last few years told me that this was really a golden opportunity for us to stand for something much greater than a single men’s group. One day, at London’s busiest train station over a cup of coffee, I told Alex that I wanted to see a men’s group in every single university in the UK, and I asked him to help me. Since then, we have tried to see what an organization that could support men would look like, and how groups could be structured so that they would work well. We wanted to go beyond seeing ourselves as “menimists” (a name we have been called by the woman’s magazine Grazia,) and beyond seeing ourselves as a men’s rights group. We did not wish to outsource responsibility for the state of men in the UK to politicians and activists; we wanted to take full responsibility. To put it integrally, we decided we wanted to support the development of the left-hand interior quadrants in the most powerful way we could without making it look like “self help.”
After much discussion about WHY the British press found his group so news-worthy, we decided we wanted to see where “men’s work” was in the UK. Was there anyone out there working solely for men? What did their work look like? More importantly, we wanted to know why they were so difficult to find. We organized The Gathering as a way to accomplish this, and to connect–in many cases for the first time–the many strands that do exist in the UK.
We started The Gathering by giving everyone present an opportunity…read the rest here.