I remember getting angry once about twenty-five years ago when I heard there was a ‘women’s network’ at BT. I am not sure what I was getting so frothed up about. I’ve always been an advocate for gender equality and I had no personal grudges against the women involved. It might have been that this was a club I was excluded from, which activated a sense of injustice. It might also have been an early indication of a hypothesis that I see more clearly now, twenty-five years later… could it be that women are actually more naturally built to be effective leaders than men in the world we now live in?
I might need a gross simplification here. If it’s true that, as men, we are biologically programmed for hunting and defence then what is our role now that protein is available on a supermarket shelf and we have killed off or tamed all our predators? Could it be that what is required now is less hunting and defending and more nurturing and compassion?
My own personal journey to these questions are slightly different. I would have been hopeless at hunting and defence, and am much more drawn to nurturing and nest building. I notice that, as a rule, I get on better with women than men and I am often told I have a well-developed feminine side! So my interest has been in how I can make more use of my masculinity in my work.
The first step to that is trying to discover what my masculinity is. I don’t have the words for it but feel it most when playing games, when I experience very strong visceral urges to win, which come into conflict with my so-called non- preferential mind and overwhelm my well-developed rational and logical brain. When I am in that fully focused, adrenaline- fuelled competing mode nothing else matters but to win – it’s laughable as I write it but deadly serious at the time. And I am not talking about elite sport here. I am talking about anything – cards, draughts, darts, pool, snooker, football, quizzes, literally anything. At its worse I am even prepared to cheat when I am the grip of this thing.
All of which does not feel very helpful in relation the question of what it is to bring my masculinity to work. So I keep looking. And what I find is other men who have the same question. Good men who do not want to deny women the equality of opportunity but do want to find their own distinctive voice. Men who are afraid of asserting themselves for fear of perpetuating the status quo, which allegedly favours them, but in reality alienates them.
I am a man who favours peace over war, words over wrestling, compassion over competition. I am man who earns a living predominantly through my feminine qualities, whose masculine needs are serviced through sport and meaningless games. In fact I rarely describe myself as a man; I am a person.
So I have an inquiry about what it is to be a man at this time. It comes from a curiosity for learning and a desire to be a more complete and integrated version of myself. And the summer of 2015 feels like as good a time as any to have this inquiry. One of the things I have committed to doing is to run a men’s retreat in the woods in Wiltshire on August bank holiday weekend. You can read all about it here and if you are interested in taking part please contact me.
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