by Milla — she=he
Some years ago I did a workshop where we discussed gender in separate male/female groups. This is one of three texts written about this. This is from a person participating in the male group.
NOTE: “In one or two of them, some words are missing because i couldn’t read them on the paper version.”
Point of view after the discussion in men-only group / What was said (through my eyes).
(No notes were taken during the discussion, so maybe i forgot some things, or i cannot develop them enough. Also it’s possible that i put more weight on points that were important to me / or points that i raised.)
We’re not used to talking in a men-only group about gender issues.
We talked about the role of opressor. We saw 2 sides that are quite different but also in some way linked together:
1. We’re opressors. We notice it in the way we talk, behave, in the way the society gives us more room, more weight. How to prevent that…?
2. We suffer from the expectations of having to fit in a certain role / picture of masculinity. It can lead to some distance taken from former friends, or from people we meet.
Indepentantly (well, to some extend) from domination attitude, some people expressed something they notice about themselves: “seduction” game/behavior that is linked to a hetero-normative construction, when communicating with women. Wanting to see a person as neutral, as just a person, and to see them less through the filter of erotism/sex/love/seduction/blah. This failure to get completely rid of this thought / attitude reinforces the self-picture of an opressor, and creates a feeling of discouragement and frustration.
On the other hand, another half of the group don’t feel this problem. That point about a too seductive sight says quite nothing to them; on the contrary, they don’t feel able to seduce/attract people. Thus it’s not something they have in mind when communicating with somebody.
A point was raised that it’s OK to let seduction games happen. The problem is:
– when you can’t avoid doing it;
– when it leads to some kind of domination attitude (“conquistador”).
Physical contact between men. There is a strong physical barrier. We have nearly no contact because:
– We don’t try to.
– When we do, we’re not sure how the other man will react. Maybe he’d like more contact too, but nothing is ever said about it, so it just doesn’t happen, unless there is initial confidence on the matter.
My feelings about this moment of discussion (well, some of my feelings probably)
It feels strange, at first, to try to talk in a men-only group about this topic in a personal way. I realize that I’m more used to talking about it with women who are interested in these questions (sometimes also with women who are not so much into this, which is also quite interesting). When I happened to talk with/to other men about gender issues, I was very often the one who was the more aware of them, so it was mainly about introducing “basic” things; no real personal/emotional communication.
When we sat down, during a few seconds the atmosphere became very light and relaxed, it was very strange. I don’t know what it was exactly. A taboo that is so deep that it’s not expressed with silence but rather with relaxed, detached behavior. So I was afraid that the discussion would stay on the surface, that we would waste those 15 minutes showing self-insurance and avoiding saying anything personal, in a let’s-have-a-beer atmosphere. But in fact it became interesting quickly.
One person stayed behind such self-insurance. He seemed pretty much satisfied of his life on the aspect of sexism: there is no sexism in his human environment, they managed to get rid of them. (Of course, this is only the way I understood what he said, maybe I’m totally wrong.)
On one hand, such assertions pissed me off somehow, because I think gender questions are a topic in which our society is pretty much in a prehistoric age. There’s a huge lot to do, partly because it’s very deep inside us. On the other hand, his attitude can be another sign that as men, talking about these questions is very difficult and unusual, that we are “babies” when it comes to this. So maybe he was frustrated too, and would have liked to share more about personal feelings.
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