Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: So What?
This article appeared in the Sept/Oct 2001 issue of Health and Healing.
I don’t know about you, but I’m rather tired of hearing about the differences between men and women—how we’re two different “species” and there’s little hope that we’ll ever speak the same language. In my years teaching Women’s Studies at Wake Forest University, I was always happy that men enrolled in the class. After my first semester teaching a Women’s Studies course in which only one male enrolled, I was pleased to find a third of my class was male in the second semester. Evidently, the word had spread that this was not a man-bashing seminar. Rather, this was an opportunity to explore the dynamics of gender and its intersection with other nexes of identity—race, class, nationality, and so forth.
In effect, if we want to look at what patriarchal societies have done to women, we also have to look at what they have done to men. While women have assumed the clothing (i.e. pants, power suits, etc.) of men, along with careers that were male-dominated, how many men do you know who are not Scottish who can wear a skirt or floral dress out in public?
Yes, this is an outlandish example, but it reveals an important truth. Many women have assumed the competitiveness, independence, and work ethics of men, but men have not been allowed by our society to assume the emotional power and nurturing skills of women.
Our society has rendered many men emotionally handicapped, but the situation is reversible. In my counseling and healing practice I have far more female clients than men; however, I am happy to report that two-thirds of the Reiki Masters I am training are male. In fact, when I first trained in the Reiki Method of hands-on healing, I studied under men for the first two levels. One was a retired IBMer, the other a recovered drug addict. Both had dedicated their lives to helping others achieve radiant health of mind, body, and spirit. Both were exceptional, nurturing men. I am grateful that they introduced me to the healing practice that has become my daily bliss.
What can we do—as men and women—to help men develop their emotional faculties and their ability to nurture? First of all, we can support men in being aware of the importance of self-inquiry and development through therapy, classes, meditation, etc. Those men who are emotionally and spiritually awake are being called upon to lead other men and to show that one can be both nurturing and masculine. Women can also help the men in our lives by loving their vulnerability and requiring emotional intimacy and trust in our relationships.
It will be a long time before American men can wear skirts without being beaten up—both mentally and physically—but I personally am impressed by the men I know who are studying and doing healing work, undertaking counseling, and creating emotional balance in their lives. I see a new breed of man coming about, one who is not from Mars at all, but lives right next door, one who wields his emotional power with strength, courage, and freedom.