Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To the Men of Occupy and Men in General

Dear Occupy brothers, male supporters, and all men interested in a more liberated life,

I feel mostly alone and alienated when I am amongst groups of you. I find myself stopping, looking in each of your eyes, and recognizing the familiar twisted mess that masculinity has become. Sometimes, I don't even want to look. It's just too much to handle.

Sometimes, I have a sense of superiority with this recognition. Perhaps you hear it in my words or feel it somewhere deep inside you. Or perhaps you don't feel it at all because that is what we have been trained to do: not feel. Except anger and it's various friends. Contempt. Irritation. Impatience. Rage. I know you know these, although even they are experiences you have probably never fully had.

I want to apologize for the thoughts of superiority that sometimes take me over. Believing in superiority is also part of the disease. Another way in which our vital, scared life energy has become divided within us. We learn to think we are better than others and then, soon enough, we are participating in oppression, warfare, and brutality.

It's sometimes difficult to accept how twisted male narratives have become. How what it means to be a man in our society - in many human societies - is intimately tied to oppressing others and ourselves. To being cut off from our emotions. To being cut off from our wild, liberated nature because that is the road to power, glory, and respect.

When I look around the Occupy movement, locally and nationally, it's difficult for me to locate myself. There are small, isolated pockets of men who sincerely are looking at themselves, checking how they act, and considering the ways in which their individual and collective actions might impact others. Women. Children. Other men. Trans-gendered folks. The planet.

What we have been doing to the planet is a direct reflection of the ways in which we are wounded, broken, and cut off from ourselves. It's not an accident that the vast majority of environmental destruction comes from the hands of men, and/or is conducted under the leadership of men.

When will it end? When will the tipping point come when enough men have had it with this way of being? When will droves of us speak out individually, stand together, and act collectively in the name of liberation? Liberation from gender constraints, false stories about ourselves, and any and all thoughts that lead to oppression?

I worry that too many of us are caught up in massive social change actions, intellectual discussions about tactics, and all things "big" to consider the ways our gender has been tied to exactly that which we fight against. It's painfully easy to imagine a revolution in which one set of oppressors and systems of oppression are replaced with another. I don't want that. Do you?

On the whole, men have failed to go deep with each other. We readily gather around the big issues of the day, filled with ideas and possible solutions. And that's ok.

However, we are terribly prone to false solidarity. To staying on the surface with each other. To collectively shaping work containers that are devoid of space for play, vulnerability, openness, story sharing, and any and all expressions of love.

We could blame our fathers, who could blame their fathers, but what good would that do?

We could blame feminism, organized women's groups, "uppity" sisters," numerous other things female-associated, but that would mostly be projection.

I have grown up, worked in, and sometimes played in spaces where the majority of people around were women. Or genderqueer. In fact, I believe that I have often gravitated towards these spaces because whatever their weaknesses, the people present have often been willing to be vulnerable, willing to openly question and challenge not only the "big" social problems of the day, but the very structure and function of gender itself.

How many men can handle other men crying in their presence? How many men are willing to speak about feeling hopeless, powerless, confused, or lost in the presence of other men?

In the 1980s and 90s, the Men's Movement started to open these doors. Some of the groups that developed during that time continue to meet today. And certainly, some powerful connections have been made between men as a result.

However, I'm convinced that lure of the status quo, the sweet lull of safety coupled with the loud excitement of power, played a large role in the degeneration of the momentum of the Men's movement. Too many guys, somewhere inside themselves, as well as together, decided they wanted to remain "guys." That the "old boys network" needed to continue, even if in a reduced, more covert role.

More and more, I am learning how to accept where people are at. Where I am at. And at the same time, to take a step towards liberation, and do my best to plant seeds for others to do the same.

I actually don't know what it looks like exactly to be a liberated man. A liberated woman. A liberated trans-person. Occasionally, I meet someone or hear about someone who might fit the bill. And yet, for each of us, it will probably look a little bit different.

And here we are, twenty years later, with another opportunity to examine manhood, masculinity, sexism, and intimate oppression again on a large scale. Both within the Occupy movement and outside of it.

Will we do it? Will more of us recognize that there is no separation between "inner work" and "outer work"?

There is no revolution without both being done. Sometimes simultaneously.

Join me in spirit or in person. Let's get the real revolution started.



  1. this is why we need more females to do the leading, they have right now something men dont. the balance is there, but it is in the foreground right now. the MENS club shit like u say needs to stop. its a human club! period, no more no less.
    and the MENS club have subdivisions, religion, race, black/white. all this shit really needs to stop. but THEY have come up with divisions to replace the others, exampleS are, the drug war, the war on terror.......etc. no need to continue. and if you are not with THEM, then your on the other side of those, "WARS" and the enemy!!!

  2. More women leading could help. However, there are several female heads of state around the world who, in many cases, act similar to their male counterparts. So, it's really important to recognize how the systems that have been set up have twisted the minds and hearts of many people, regardless of gender.

  3. Talking about leaping out of one's comfort zone! As a Buddhist practitioner as well, one of the goals is to let go of the lesser self. How many folks have the courage to do that? It takes so little, but does and mean so much. Thank you for giving voice to such a subject, Nathan!

  4. Thanks for stopping by Pat. Letting go of the lesser self - yes, most definitely!

  5. Thank you for writing this. You bring up a lot of important points and bring forth a very necessary challenge to men. I think it is important to make more space for women leaders. The women you refer to are just mimicking what is expected from men X 1000 in order to be accepted as leaders. We don't even know what female leadership would look like, in my opinion.

    I remember, years ago, listening to a Swedish woman on the radio, perhaps she was a member of their parliament, talking about how it took men accepting that they would NOT get all the seats in order to get more women in there. In other words, men had to agree that they would lose a certain amount of power before real change could happen. It stuck with me because I was applying to an art program that was dedicated to helping artists from minority communities after being rejected twice. I had to accept that my place needed to go to someone else and that was just the reality of it. Of course, I wasn't so happy about it but I could agree that it needed to happen. I think (white) men have to realize something similar.


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