Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 22 Jul 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Men’s weekends

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When I started my hugely wobbly and desperately erratic journey to faith, I went on a men’s weekend with a church that took us to the Lake District. To clarify this before I start, I respect and honour the members of that church who I got close to and I’m deeply grateful for the time they invested in me, just as I have a deep regard for what the leaders were trying to do.

There is a problem at the heart of men’s weekends. And that is that you take away exactly 50% of how men are socialised. We need to have women around just as surely as we need to have men around, because each person gives us the opportunity of learning something about ourselves. Remove women, arbitrarily, and you remove a chance to learn from half of the population.

It’s not that women teach us one thing and men teach is another. That would be patronising and stupid. There are people who lie between these two hard and sometimes illusory dualities and who show just how stupid this division is. Can we learn one thing from men, one thing from women and a different thing from transgender or intersex people? No. That’d be mad.

And this goes to the heart of what the problem is. Isolating one gender lops off half the population with the reason for it unexplained and unexamined. If you’re doing it because you think women will adversely affect men’s behaviour, then you don’t think much of the men in your church. And if you want to stop them having sexy time, then you clearly don’t think much of either of them. Now, go cover those sexy piano legs.

The final explanation is that you think men will discover something elementary and primal about themselves in their own company. I hate to burst the bubble of this, but they won’t. My best friend at university was female. I had some hugely intense times with her and was helped to learn more about myself. My therapist is female and a Godlike genius possessed of amazing insight. If I insisted that either of them owned a penis, I’d have stopped all that learning before it happened.

As a final point, you can’t teach men to be men by showing them endless clips of Gladiator, Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan. Those show men in a particular context that, unless we fight tigers, liberate Scotland with a claymore or invade Normandy, none of is will ever experience.

The best people to learn from are people who made a more quiet but equally definite moral stand. Dietrich Bonhoffer. Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Or, for that matter, Esther John, Emmeline Pankhurst and Anne Frank. The list goes on. But if you treat men as though they should be people first and forget the deeply stupid values that define them, then maybe good things could happen.

 

DISCLAIMER: As far as I know, I am deeply and profoundly cis. If there are any ways I can tighten up the language I use to refer to people who are not, then please, please tell me.

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