In today’s EVOLVE or Decay episode, Kimberlie Dykeman continues the conversation of WOMEN against MEN in the workplace and how communication is the fix, not taking away the definition of manhood.
Having been at the coaching game in the business world for 15+ years, it’s not until the recent past few years that I truly recognized the mounting battle that men are facing as they grow older. Mind you, men under 30 have their own set of challenges; but gents who grew up having their veins shunted with stereotypical masculinity, talks of “the Good Ole Boys” network, and all things Alpha are in one helluva tailspin trying to figure out who they want to be and if society will accept and praise them… or blindside, bash and bury them. In the workforce, in personal and spousal relationships, in dealing with psychological issues, in facing health curveballs and aging, and in understanding how to be a single parent, men have their hands full.
But, THEY ARE NOT STUPID or WEAK; they are not VICTIMS nor ASKING FOR PITY.
On the tumultuous and (slightly) frigid WOMEN vs. MEN front, too many guys feel caught-up and confused about the apparent battle they have been pulled into, especially at work. Men are taking it in the nuts nonstop, with women shouting that they are stronger, smarter, more innovative, more productive, better communicators and collaborators… and that corporations (and governments) would be better off without men altogether! Their message: Men are about as useful as Homer Simpson! Businesswomen have chosen to pick up arms in total assault against “the masculinity machine”, launching countless groups, conferences, books, and campaigns that aim to negate the value of men while highlighting all their faults, simply as the manipulative male gender.
Men are watching generations of women connect in collaboration to construct virtual billboards on the workfront (which invariably then show up in the personal, family and social relationships) that broadcast a slew of messages, like…
- Men should step back up and allow women to take some of their places of “privilege”.
- Men need to change into something that most closely resemble a woman’s ideal best friend- a fashionable, overly-festive, totally-in-touch-with-his-feelings, and communicative gay man.
- Men need to find other outlets to get their stress out, because aggressive sports, anger, gaming and loud cars/trucks are not acceptable answers.
- Men need to acquiesce and let women take charge, be the protectors, leaders, fixers and providers… (That is, until women don’t want to wear all the hats and just want to be taken care of like little girls).
Beneath the roar of the crusade of women fighting to finally get their fair share and be treated as ‘equals’ isn’t an opposite gender gathering more shells to come back with a second revolution against women. NO! Instead millions of men are actually cheerleading for things to be different as well and jumping in to help.
But they’re not thinking they need to toss out the concept manhood in sacrifice.
In reading articles from folks like Zach Stafford of The Guardian and activist Kevin Powell who stealthily suggest that society consider eliminating the concept of ‘manhood’ because it equates to mayhem and violence and perpetuates inequality, I can’t help but think that this is like tossing out the baby with the bathwater. For each living generation has its own collective definition of manhood, and subsequently each man has his own means to upholding the concept and defending it when feeling threatened. Telling men to completely start from scratch –especially if they’ve been alive for more than a few decades- is like telling them to forget Caitlyn Jenner was ever one of the best male Olympiads who ever lived. DNA and brains are not hard drives to be erased in one fell swoop.
So what do men seem to want? Perhaps a little leniency in the tidal changes of our culture, so they can find their bearings again. I have heard this time and time again from my clients—grown men saying they’re afraid that the things they said or did today will be labeled unfair, illegal, anti-feminist, or chauvinistic tomorrow …and cost them their jobs, their relationships, their kids, or their freedoms. I shit you not. Many feel like someone changed the rulebook midgame and handed them the invisible ink version. So with a cocktail of labor and luck, these frustrated men hope to figure out how to adjust their thoughts, words and actions—to bury the “tribe vs. tribe” agenda—and simply get back to what’s ingrained in their brains and souls as a defined statement of being a man: work, protect, lead, fix, provide, make their dads proud. And not piss off another woman.
So what’s the fix?
To support the evolution of our multi-cultured, multi-aged society of men AND woman in hope of a more level playing field, the answer is not about rewriting blanket rules for both sides. It’s about allowing individuals to research their own current realities and make changes together.
For successful changes to happen here, I propose that two vital things need to happen here. So here’s an suggestion to each side:
Men: Speak up and ask for help in understanding how to balance your concept of “being a man” and women’s expectations of a 21st century man. Try NOT living life like it’s one big “Fight Club”. Take an honest look at the real stress in your life and your reactions to each type and address the human side of how it relates to women. Rebuild your personal village and make an effort to over-communicate, share, show, and ask questions. Get a circle of strong women in your corner and ask to work together to take small, continuous steps toward equality and respect… for yourselves, your families, businesses and communities, and women everywhere.
Women: Drop your weapons. Leaning in a fantastically empowering message for women to digest and emulate. But doing things at the cost of, in battle with, perhaps even in passive-aggressive style (and, yes, you know when you do this) against men does not serve us, let alone our whole fluxing culture in the end! Nor are anti-men, only-women, us-against-them-until-we-get-what’s-due-to-us thoughts, words and actions serving our next generation, your kids, your husbands, schools or community. Net-net: build up yourself and your sisters with unified strength- not by putting down someone else or a whole sector of society.
“You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims.” ―Harriett Woods
2015 is a like a puzzle without the cardboard top to show us the damn picture: none of us seem to know how we all should fit together. But that’s our project to figure out. It doesn’t help any of us to keep pointing fingers. We all need to take responsibility, be disciplined in our two-way communication, and show some damn compassion. Yes, women supporting other women is fantastic. Women supporting men is as well. Men supporting women is dynamite, as is men supporting one another is too. Folks, none of us can get enough of SOMEONE having our backs, conspiring FOR US, or holding a hand out to us.
Net-net: It’s not Us against Them, ladies. Give men the space and time to evolve their thoughts, words and actions at their pace of understanding of what a 21st century woman is. We all stand to benefit if we work interdependently on creating an open, honest dialogue that it’s not Women vs, Men. We don’t need another movement—we need more human to human conversation and a willingness to rewrite just how we can all get along and fight FOR EACH OTHER.
Never Stop EVOLVING. ~ KD
©2016 Kimberlie Dykeman
This is also featured on the global platform The Good Men Project where Dykeman is a regular contributing writer.