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Last week in our Weekly email, I share the exchange I had with Joan Dyer about the development of a men focused employee resource group and whether or not we should call it You Matter.  Marti, a MenLiving friend and wife of community member, Harry, sent me this thoughtful reaction to that idea. In response, I wrote back letting her know that I have a wife of 30 years that reminds me every day to be mindful of the issues and emotions contained in her email. In fact, I would tell you the sentiments Marti shares below are what inform the work I do at MenLiving. But I live in the present. We can’t change the past. We can only work to make today better for everyone. Here’s Marti…

Thank you for your thoughts on the complex puzzle of how men and women may be free from ancient social conditioning. It’s taken me a week of reflection and many talks with Harry to send this response to your March 8 invitation to offer feedback on “You Matter” as a possible MenLiving program to address how men show up at work. I can only speak as a straight cis 75-year-old white woman and spiritual seeker here.

I applaud MenLiving’s efforts to support the men in the workplace who want to change sexist patterns and to educate all men in how to do so. No simple task! You are up against 12,000+ years of humans being conditioned to the social system of patriarchy. Just look at the emergence of the manosphere, (a diverse collection of websites, blogs, and online forums promoting masculinity, misogyny, and opposition to feminism.)

If MenLiving leadership is to shift the workplace paradigm and improve productive relations between men and women, it would be useful to take a deep dive into the social system of patriarchy. This will help leaders expand their awareness of how we got here and to understand why women are less than sympathetic to the notion of “masculine anxiety.” The conversation and systemic changes must consider women’s experiences at home and work!

Please understand, Shaun, in no way do I diminish the suffering of men. AND I ask you to please pause and imagine how this story about “masculine anxiety” lands for many women! It seems like another version of All Men Matter and women not so much! I don’t doubt men feel anxious about the new workplace norms, and yet I wonder if this is some new excuse for men to be oblivious to the experiences of women at work and at home. Is this making yet another solid case for male fragility or what?!

A post on quotes American sociologist Allan Johnson: “Patriarchy does not refer to any man or collection of men, but to a kind of society in which men and women participate… A society is patriarchal to the degree that it promotes male privilege by being male-dominated, male-identified, and mate centered. It is also organized around an obsession with control and involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women.”

In her spiritual memoir, “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” Sue Monk Kidd describes the social norms that have resulted from the notion that “if God is male, then male is god.” When I studied this book decades ago, my life as a woman finally made sense! In a brand-new way, I comprehended the constrictive conditioning women and men are born into. This reality is still very much alive in the world in 2024. I realized that regardless of my fierce rejection of religion; my inspiring lineage of feminist ancestors; and the love of a man who has only positive regard towards all women, I was part of a world where all humans breathe the norms of misogyny and patriarchy. These norms center on the agreement that “All Men Matter and women not so much”.

As you might have learned from Joan’s candid response to your “You Matter” idea, even enlightened men like you are sometimes clueless about the reality women live with at home and work. In addition to helping men tend to their patriarchal wounds in Small Batch and Full House gatherings, ML might offer some programs that educate men about the experiences of women who for eons have been conditioned to adjust/adapt/survive/negotiate/accommodate all the Men Who Matter in their lives. A first step in shifting habitual thoughts and behaviors would be to cultivate a mutual understanding of patriarchy’s impact on both women and men. We need to listen deeply to one another if anything is to change.

A good resource for insight into women’s experience in the workplace can be found in this 5-episode/26-minute series, I encourage you to make the time to watch and reflect upon its suggestions.

Over millennia, women have relied upon each other to cope with our ancestors’ patriarchal conditioning. Now, thanks to MenLiving leadership, men are finally able to turn to each other, tell the truth about their suffering, and find ways to break free of their own patriarchal conditioning. I encourage all our men to deepen their curiosity about women’s experiences and to wonder how they might support their women to break free of their own patriarchal conditioning. There is plenty of evidence that today’s men and women can work together to interrupt toxic patterns at home and work and replace them with healthy behaviors.

I feel deep compassion for all us humans who are caught up in the constraints of the patriarchy! I rejoice knowing that MenLiving is bringing men the opportunity to find new ways of being their authentic selves. And maybe in the process to support their women as well…

I trust men who find MenLiving will, like Harry has, come to be surrounded by other men who share an intention to break out the conditioned self and live freely as an authentic self who makes the world a better place.


  • Jonathan Porter says:

    Thank you for sharing that piece. I would recommend a new name as the word ‘matters’ is very charged at this time. As the respondent mention it trigger the opposite for her, that women did not matter in the same way many white people responded to Black Lives Matter. It’s a good word but apparently when we say something matters people will hear something else does not.

    The response was very kind and thoughtful but also reminded me why we have to be wary of doing this work in the larger sphere. There is a lot of anger for past and current injustices and rightly so, but our work has to be on untangling ourselves from this mess which includes understand how men have been limited in our expressions of self. In the same way that ‘matter’ is loaded sometimes men’s work is loaded for women and we get remind of ‘males’ bad behavior rather than just supported for our process of uncoupling from our prescribed role.

  • Jonathan Porter says:

    Just a follow up to my earlier post.
    I wanted to clarified that I found the respondents messages to be very supportive and well worded. I think she took great care in what she said and I find nothing incorrect in her reasoning or process. In talking with my wife she immediately resonated with the thoughts in the response. My wife clarified for me that with long standing imbalances in the work place favoring men it is a delicate position to try to support men in the workplace.

    The challenge is to support men in doing this work in a way that acknowledges the inequalities of the past while moving towards defining a new emerging equality that is hard to envision in our current environs. I.E. neither men nor women yet know what equality is because we are all still imbalanced.

    I would add that the women’s movement had their Anita Bryant’s and we have our Andrew Tates. There will always be regressive movements but we do not need to be held accountable for all men, and women all women. As to reminders of the patriarchy from women. It’s like those who take responsibility in their life’s do not need to be reminded of their responsibilities and it is often counter productive to remind them. Those who do not take responsibility will not alter no matter how many times they are reminded. Being reminded of the patriarchy is like that for me. That is not to imply I understand fully the effects of the patriarchy because I do not, but I’m working on it.

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