Wow, men . . . women? How do we deal with that most complex of beasts and what do they want anyway?
Here’s a simple map to help you find out where you are with respect to them and where you might want to go. I repeat might. The flat map you read in your comfy chair doesn’t capture the half of the challenges. Think LOTR.
There are a million ways to present the map so I’ll imagine an “Avatar” wandering through it. Just an ordinary schmuck. We’ll call him Jake. Jake is 60, almost remembers the start of the feminist thing. At that time he thought immediately that there was a revolution going on and bought into it 100%. He wanted to help all he could, a lot like other guys his age and their older brothers. When he first heard the feminist thang approaching, he knew it would change everything. He just took it all to be true. When the women friends he was with in the bar pointed out his masculine advantage, he did notice they mostly made more money than he did, since he was taking off his clothes to a be a model at an art school and could hardly pay the rent. One worked for a university as a sexual harassment counselor.
So at first Jake was – here I introduce my (ahem, map) – an Accomodator. He made room for every codicil of feminist dogma in his anxious and uncertain brain.
Whatever they said, he figured it must be true. He never met or even heard of anyone who questioned the narrative (That’s how it was once upon a time people.) For him to do so, not that he even thought of it back then, would be a form of suicide. He might as well apply for his golden embossed Incel Lifetime Membership card right away. Course no one had ever heard of an Incel back then.
It was way too threatening to challenge the narrative. Even though he was into all kinds of good leftist progressive causes and even though he was barely clinging to the underside of society like a barnacle himself, he never questioned any of it.
Slowly something changed. He had a strong reaction when the sexual harassment counselor laughed at him when he asked about sexism against men. He read Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power. He was still a most unmanly Accommodator but he was upset at the injustice of it all. It wasn’t just what he saw happening all around and in a million ways: the multitudinous ways that male power really could be seen as the very opposite of the long-standing narrative. He also spent years poring over the information reading about it, studying, letting something form, imagining, learning.
Most his work was informed by a sense of moral outrage so we’ll call him a Reactor. He lived in reaction to the dominant narrative. He identified with men as victims, women as oppressors even though he tried to keep the whole questioning polite. He wasn’t sure he could stand to be hated for his evil views.
Jake also had a ton of other things going on in his life which he didn’t tell anyone about. His depression, anxiety, the crazy risks he took, the daily struggle to not reveal himself as the ruined person he secretly thought he was.
This went on for a real long time as Jake fell in and out of relationships and careers. He got to see and experience just how black and white the story of women and men was compared to the actual murky pool of grey he swam for his life in.
So he did a ton of personal work on himself, to grow up, to take responsibility for himself (start), to say what he really thought more. He found he had a lot to say. Still he slobbered all over saying it right and wrong and doing it right and wrong in a million ways. Slowly he dug himself out of the pit, aware he could fall back any time and sometimes he did.
He realized he was an addict of sorts, so dependent on women’s approval, that he would go on benders of pleasing her and denying himself. Sobriety didn’t come easy. But he studied and learned and gradually came to see that he’d be better off if he didn’t hide any more – if he something like told the truth whatever the consequences. “Something like” because it wasn’t just words but also acting he needed to do. Or not acting but just being more willing. The opposite of his trying to hide all that time so he wouldn’t be thought of as the rotten person he thought he really was.
Slowly Jake turned into the third kind of man with women, a Participant. He showed up as he was more, without trying to look good. He took risks that served him rather than risks that brought an exciting but dangerous rush. He continued to work on himself. He found he was an ordinary man like the others. He could talk with women and about women and men and could even see a way forward.
A woman showed up – as they do in times of crisis like the one we’re in. It was good with her, and it sometimes wasn’t, but he didn’t give himself up and he knew she was as good as he was and that a larger story was already working out.