Moving Beyond Patriarchy

We have come far in the last 50 years … technological explosion, advancement of women and minorities, global diversity awareness, economic growth for 2nd and 3rd world nations, Yet the American workplace still operates under the old patriarchal values.

Patriarchy is not about gender. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, and practices that affect both men and women. It is the masculine principle gone astray. We see it in the corporate structures across the world, where decisions and interactions are aggressive, power seeking, defensive, hierarchical, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, competitive, and emotionally disconnected from people and from the earth. The underlying emotion is fear.

Most men imagine they can bypass fear by following the traditional roles and rules of success, namely the quest for power. We have been trained for this since birth, and this complex is the driving force in our lives. Power is not bad, in and of itself … it is the ability to render effective choices. But when our power is misused for egotistical and defensive reasons, when it is not connected to our sacred principles and values, it wounds us, and we wound others. We are disconnected … from women, from other men, and from our own hearts, souls, bodies.

Men are not to blame here, there really is no blame. Men are beautiful, when we live from the positive masculine attributes. We take on challenges, we focus, discern, act. We wrestle with issues to determine a clear course of action. We protect, we serve, we care. We are curious, determined, loving, fierce, spiritual, passionate. We are good fathers, loyal friends, committed husbands … we are the active principle and the initiating spark of life.

But the workplace, with its blind allegiance to the antiquated defensive structures, drains men of our life force, asks us to trade in our souls for some false illusion of power. It alienates us from ourselves, and from our own caring qualities … it alienates men from the Feminine principle. Finally, we … men and women … are beginning to realize that men are in trouble, and the principle of the Masculine is under assault as well.

The patriarchal definitions of gender have always been clear: no tears, no emotion save anger, no weakness, no vulnerability. But today, there is an interesting wrinkle. Many younger men, having witnessed and been fathered by men programmed in this way, have gone in the opposite direction … they are sensitive, caring, emotional, but denying the fierce masculine power that they judge as abusive, disconnected, rejecting, uncaring. These young men have a tenderness that their fathers never had, but they often lack the clarity, focus, will, and determination that comes with access to the deep masculine. They have good hearts, but no real balls.

In our men’s trainings, we see both types come into the work. The older men whose lives have collapsed under the strain of the old program, and the younger men, desperately looking for a way to access their true power, wanting new models of a healthier masculinity. Regardless of what issues drive them, what they both lack is an ability to hold an essential paradox: the direct, penetrative, aspects of fierce authentic power, and the caring, connected, compassion of a tender heart. Ironically, in teaching men emotional literacy, we actually teach them to access their feminine qualities, but without losing access to their deep masculine. Inner harmony … in men and women … is both fierce and tender.

It is difficult for men to embody the feminine principle. Everything in our cultural upbringing tells us this is weakness. In truth, most men are terrified of the feminine, in women and in themselves. The danger to women entering the workplace is that they adopt those very same behaviors. They are asked to relinquish their feminine heart and when they comply, they give up the very core of who they are. They trade in their authenticity to insure acceptance and success. They trade in their emotional/feeling/intuitive nature for power.

In my opinion, these women are the true warriors of our time, for in their hands lies our future. They desire an opportunity to express their creative energies, to accomplish something. They seek recognition, success, appreciation. They want an opportunity, finally, to participate on a level playing field with men. But the patriarchy takes no prisoners. Its misogynistic tendencies ask women to give up the feminine principle as it does to men. Power, control, competition, money over authenticity, caring, cooperation, empowerment. There is little room for real feminine values in the workplace.

The absence of a conscious connection to this principle leads to the everyday decisions, small and large, that separate us from life and from the earth. We stand at a precipice, our very existence in jeopardy. If we do not embrace the Feminine, we are doomed.

The inconvenient truth is not only about the environment and how we treat Mother Earth. It is about the way we build our social, economic, and political structures, as well as our interpersonal relationships. To embrace the life-affirming qualities of the Feminine, in conscious relationship with an active, focused, purposeful Masculine … these actions, attitudes, expressions will transform the workplace, and transform all of our collective affairs.

I have been doing conscious gender work for close to 30 years. In working with thousands of men, individually, in groups, in the workplace, I witness the same unconscious attitudes and behaviors … fearful and defensive. In my work with women, particularly corporate women, I have witnessed a similar phenomenon. Women often act like the worst parts of men, those very behaviors they so abhor. And their relationship to the Masculine is no healthier, for the patriarchal masculine lives in women as much as in men.

Is it even possible for a woman in the workplace to be successful without having to give up her feminine qualities? Must she act like a man, must she adopt the negative qualities of the patriarchal masculine to be successful? This is the million dollar question for many women, and so much is riding on how they choose.

When men become emotionally literate, when they are courageous enough to take the interminably long journey from their heads to their hearts, and create an alignment in the body from head to heart to gut to sex, we will know how to relate to each other, to women, and to the world. Likewise, when women acknowledge their own disconnection, when they join hands with their sisters AND their brothers, when we each stop blaming the other and realize who the true enemy is, then this world will be truly different.