Mythopoetic Perspectives of Men's Healing Work: An Anthology for Therapists and Others

By Edward Read Barton | Go to book overview

Third, as men change and become more emotionally intimate with each other, they may not need women to do as much caretaking and nurturing as women did in the past. Although this is what women say they want, in practice women may feel as though they are no longer needed as much by men. Women may have some trouble in letting go of the roles they have played for so long. In addition, women may still respond negatively, on a gut level, to men who cry easily or cannot change a flat tire. Many women were born and raised in times that taught them that men should be tough, in control, and competent at all times. Openly and honestly acknowledging the difficulty that change poses for everyone, even changes that are seen as positive, would be helpful for both men and women.

Finally, both men and women need to move beyond the zero-sum approach to gender relations. For example, Kingsolver ( 1992) compares men's problems to hangnails and women's problems to cancer and says that women are fighting for their lives, while men are looking for some peace of mind. Although it is undoubtedly true that women are more harmed economically and physically by patriarchy than men are, comparisons of suffering that minimize difficulties that men experience are not useful in alleviating men's pain. We must acknowledge that both men and women have been hurt by a system of rigid roles that has limited each gender (although in different ways). The important point is not to compare who suffers more but to change a system under which everyone suffers.


CONCLUSION

It is of paramount importance that men and women who are concerned about the damage done by rigid and restrictive male norms learn to work together to challenge traditional structures rather than argue about who has the better approach or who is more politically correct. Feminist women, profeminist men, and mythopoetic men are all involved in what should be a shared struggle to change definitions of manhood to include norms for men that are more balanced, humane, and affirming of the feminine than existing models of hypermasculinity allow in contemporary society. All groups seek to find personal and institutional ways of helping men become less aggressive and more receptive, less competitive and more collaborative, less self-reliant and more connected, less emotionally available to themselves and others. This is the common ground that profeminist men, feminist women, and mythopoetic men share. It is essential that they support and respect one another as they pursue different but complementary ways of finding that ground.


REFERENCES

Bliss S. ( 1995). "Mythopoetic men's movements". In M. Kimmel (Ed.), The politics of Manhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Bly R. ( 1990). Iron John. New York: Vintage Book.

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