Friday, July 30, 2010

Integral Masculinity Panel: Are Deida & Farrell Integral? Mark Forman, Bert Parlee, Diane Hamilton, Pelle Billing, Gilles Herrada & Me #itc2010

Wow, that was fun. And that comes from someone with social anxiety who watched the room fill up and became increasingly terrified.

I had no idea so many people would attend, but then Diane Hamilton and Bert Parlee fall into the category of integral rock stars, so I should have guessed that might happen. And, Luke Fullager was missed - as he was unable to make the trip from Australia.

We really didn't talk that much about Deida and Farrell, aside from using them as touchstones for various issues. The general consensus is that they are not AQAL-integral, but that they are perhaps working from an integral perspective. In fact, Diane called David before the conference and asked him - his response was, "Of course I am not integral, integral is a map." He basically went on to say that he helps people untie spiritual and sexual knots in their lives - that is his mission.

OK now, time to be brutally honest.

When I am in situation such as that (feeling anxious and a bit overwhelmed), I try to be as present in the moment as humanly possible, which means I end up with very little recall of what happened. There is a way that I have learned to get out of the way and let whatever is going to come out, to come out . . . which maybe takes my short-term memory offline or something.

So, in reality, Sean and Mark should have asked someone else to do this session.

We began with a question from Mark on "Do we need an integral masculinity, and if so, what does that look like?" From there we were off - as I said, I have very little memory for what happened or what was said. But I'll take a stab at it.

Diane made a good point in observing that we had a woman on the panel (her), but that the women's panel felt no need to have a man on theirs. That says a lot about where men are in our development of masculine identity - it's almost like we feel we need a woman's perspective so that we don't piss anyone off, especially feminists.

We talked a little about mentoring - this is a topic I like. Pelle and I agreed that mentoring is good and often important, in that boys do not learn to be men in a vacuum. My perspective is that we do not need to TEACH boys how to be men, but rather, we need to create a safe space for them to discover their own sense of what it means to be a man.

We also talked about how to respond to the feminist attacks on men as dominaters and oppressors. Bert used some humor and an audience poll (I think it was on this question) to suggest that there is a little more openness to talk about the feminine shadow than their used to be, and that it may part of our community. I suggested that we not take a stand on this issue, but that we take a stance, that we remain open and fluid to the criticisms rather than become defensive or go on the offensive,

Gilles - whom I had never met before, or even heard of, but is someone I quite like and feel a kindred sense with - brought a gay man's perspective to the panel, which was excellent - he also brought humor. He talked about being ostracized by the "boy's club" for not being a good athlete and all of that when he was young, so that he learned a great deal about masculinity and agency from powerful women. It turned out that many of the guys in the room, mostly younger, had also had the influence of a strong woman in their lives. As someone who through his teen years in a household of women, with a weak mother, that's interesting to me.

One of Farrell's ideas that we did touch on was the "expendable male," with both Bert (I believe) and Pelle making good points. This is one area where a lot of men resonate with Farrell. We are seen historically as oppressors of women, which is only partly true (there was no choice in gender roles and actions until about the 1,600s or so), but we were dying in wars, in the fields, or whatever to support families, or to pay taxes, or whatever.

We made the income, women made the home and the babies. Women were freed from making babies with birth control (a point Gilles made very well), and from there they had many more options to explore their roles, while men still made the income. This is a main point of Farrell, as well.

In the audience Q&A portion, a young man asked about integral role models, and where we should look. Pelle made the excellent point that working with peers to tease out what our ideal might look like is a good way to go about it. My sense is that we do not one or two role models - what we need is a willingness to figure out how it works best for each of us to manifest our unique masculinity in an "integral" way, whatever that means. We might want to try on traits of various people we admire and assemble an integrated perspective that is our own.

All in all, that was a blast - I hope the attendees had a good time as well.

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