Men live in a world of incredible privilege. Unfortunately, we’re like the prisoners in Plato’s cave, often unable to see a world any different from our own. Women may bare their souls trying to show us the advantages we enjoy as men, but – never having seen the world any differently – some men find it impossible to imagine life from a woman’s point of view.
The shootings at UC Santa Barbara picked the scab off this societal wound. Suddenly, deep and festering examples of everything from slight male privilege to disgusting and cancerous misogyny were exposed. “Men’s rights” groups, unable to see that they already enjoy easy access to “rights,” have turned to social media to defend themselves.
The hashtag #notallmen screamed that “not all men” were sexists or rapists and demanded recognition. Women countered with a trend that had already been around, #yesallwomen, detailing the experiences of fear, pain, and marginalization that all women have to sustain, but men never give a second thought to. “Yes all women” feel fear every time they have to go out at night to pick up a carton of milk or jog alone in the park. They have to. You never know which man is the dangerous one.
Modern pagans are in a unique place in this debate. The most visible strands of the movement love and worship the Goddess. Many of us came to paganism to flee from the oppression of a one male god patriarchy. Even men’s groups tend to dislike patriarchy and make an attempt to listen and understand their sisters. Pagan men are at the forefront, necessary allies in the fight against patriarchy.
I asked pagan men from various traditions to give their perspectives in this very important topic. Their answers are thoughtful and hopeful, showing just how far ahead of the gender relations curve many of us are.
“Patriarchy is not about men. It’s about *boys*. It’s about those who are stunted and who cling to a wicked lie that some people are more equal than others. Real men do not need to demonize women… or different types of men, for that matter, in order to gain respect. Real men gain respect by giving it.
The Sacred Masculine treats all women and all types of men as equals. Recognizing the inherent equality in others does not diminish us in any way. Only with the goal of real equality for everyone can we work together to change our culture.
And to change we need to share our stories. And we need to listen to the stories of others who are different than us. *Especially* when they are hard for us to hear.
I have been harmed and shamed by men. I have been harmed and shamed by women. I choose to take that pain and turn it into compassion for all people, in all walks of life. Women are the victims of a systematic problem that results in their physical harm and even death. If women are angry at “all men” for this, well… I can’t exactly blame them. I used to be angry at all men, too, because I grew up in fear of them.
One answer is for men to get together to ask ourselves tough questions… and to mirror for each other what it means to be a healthy, respectful, strong male. We need not own the anger of those who have been hurt by others and then make it all about us. If we *do* make it all about us then that shows where *our* wounds are, too.
Let us all heal our wounds! For there are far too many.”
– Storm Faerywolf
Faery Teacher, www.faerywolf.com
“I believe it starts with asking “how I can help” and ‘what I can do?” By being active listeners and participants, engaging by making the choice to flip the script. Instead of “fighting for…” choose “I am fighting in the stopping of oppression, power, and privilege.” For men specifically, it is also realizing that every man is “that man” because by default society places us, trains us, and lifts us up to be misogynists. We are born seeing misogyny. The default setting, especially in the US is patriarchy. It may not be our choice, but we must accept that unlearning centuries of cognitive dissonance is the path we choose. Women know we will stumble, but by trying, and coming to the table with an open heart, mind, and spirit, making about the problems and not the person, believe true change will manifest.”
“I can never fully understand the day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute lived experiences that most of the women in my life have had to endure. And to be
clear, I and many other men I know have lived through some of the same horrible experiences, but those experiences are often singular acts rather than the daily, non-stop, relentless, often invisible systemic silencing.
So I have chosen to stay silent. I’ve made this choice consciously. I’m staying silent because my voice is not yet needed in this conversation and, frankly, it might never be needed, wanted or welcomed.
Some uncomfortable facts I’ve come to face to face with recently
- Most women I know have experienced being silenced by men
- Most women I know have experienced being marginalised by men
- Most women I know have experienced being objectified by men
- Most women I know have experienced some form of abuse by men
So the paradoxical question becomes how can I show my support to the women in my life and women in general without saying anything?
My support looks like staying out of online conversations, no matter how badly I want to say “me too” or “I know what you mean”. My support shows up as listening when the subject is brought up and rarely commenting. It looks like paying attention and making eye contact. My support says “Please tell me if I ever cross a line” and then actually being present and willing to hear that feedback. My support might mean that I have to own what I’ve done and even own what others have done, even if I never would do that thing. My support will speak up when I see misogyny in action in the large and obvious ways and in the hundreds of micro-aggressions that happen each day.”
– Gwion Raven
Writer at To be a Witch
“One thing I see with everyone that addresses this issue from a Male perspective is that it can be dealt with by just saying something trite. When I read essays by women that kind of throw me for a curve, I don’t know how the issues surrounding the relations between Men and Women around the globe can be treated in such a cursory manner.
I’m not sure where I stand completely because it’s a very large issue and will take considerable time to change so I just don’t care much for the notion of a sound bite answer or dismissal. When a Man dismisses the ideas with a “notallmen” shrug I know everything about him at that moment. I’ve seen it on Facebook when women address their feelings and the facts, it’s a dismissal plain and simple that men are perpetrating.
Dealing with this in a humorous fashion with a joke also does not do the subject matter justice and it’s also a defensive move that gets none of us anywhere, and also tells me that the man in questions just does not want to address it.
For me, I have no answers, so I plan on listening and learning and pulling my head out of the Sand. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know that no matter what I do, it will start with listening and communicating and not running from the truths that it may tell me about myself. We all have the power to stop bad behavior, and change the world. Women have been facing adversity for generations across the world. Young women are facing horrible brutality just to attend school. Women face harassment, Rape, and other horrors on a day to day basis. We men can take a page and be brave ourselves and face these things and the fear that we ourselves are contributing and causing these things and change ourselves. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, but if we are to grow and change it’s essential.
One thing that we can do, is pray to the goddess for help in listening to what she’s been telling us for years that we have not heard. We can ask that the blinders that we have on be removed and we see our Mothers and Wives, and Sisters and daughters for the first time. We can pray for inspiration in knowing how to talk and discuss these things with subtlety and intelligence. We can ask for forgiveness and direction. We can do so much that the list is endless, but it’s time that we come together to make a better tomorrow for everyone. One way to help facilitate listening does not just begin with shutting the hell up. It involves creating an environment of trust where we can talk with women and they can trust us to know that they will be heard. That won’t be easy for us, or them and could take a considerable amount of time. But I believe it’s possible. It’s time. Now.”
Bard of OBOD
“As a Wiccan, the divine feminine and the divine masculine are extremely important to me as they denote balance and equality. The Goddess is the bearer and deliverer of life and life is sacred. As living beings we are a part of that divine gift, contained by and brought forth by our own mother. Without my mother, I would not have manifested into this world; she is divine and she is sacred. All women, whether by birth or by self-identification, embody sacredness; they embody divinity itself. I find them amazing.
So- when I hear about inequality against women, I grow impatient because equality should be a standard available to all people. When I hear of abuse committed against women, I get angry because no one should be abused. When I hear of women being raped, I get enraged because no one should have their bodily autonomy taken from them. The women of the world are our mothers, sisters, partners, lovers, daughters, and friends. They deserve our love, companionship, friendship, and respect. As men, we owe so much to the women in our lives. We owe them our lives. To deny them the same rights as men hold is shameful and to cause them harm in any way is completely blasphemous.”
– Chris Orapello
Host of Down at the Crossroads podcast
It’s strange. While collecting the quotes for this post, I had the chance to interact with some extraordinary pagan men. Yet, in the middle of it I realized that I’m not used to so much interaction with men. I’ve never been particularly comfortable around other men. I’ve always tended to see other men as rather brutish and unapproachable. What I found in collecting this information is that there is a wider spectrum to the male community, especially the male pagan community, than I have ever understood.
There are men who want to be allies. There are even some who understand that they will never understand the everyday lives of their sisters. But that’s OK. It’s the first step to what may be the real answer to this problem, because it leads to the good man dialing down the defensiveness and instead of blathering on about “not all men,” listening with an open heart and responding with perhaps the most powerful question any man could ask a woman: “How can I help?”