Hierarchy Dance

SheilaG commented on the conclusion of the Men Without Women series here. Everything she said was spot on:

Lately, I’ve been observing male behavior in groups control. Every once in awhile a woman will bring her husband or boyfriend to a woman’s event. What I notice, is that within a women’s culture, when men are the distinct minority (usually one guy and say 14 women), they sit there in silence. They say virtually nothing, and are seemingly incapable of carrying on any conversation at all in this atmosphere. Why the women bring these men is beyond me, since they contribute almost nothing to the group.

So I think, men have really got to gather on their own and figure out how they intend to end all the rape and mayhem. I think they have to seriously work on their almost non-existent social skills, and really learn to carry on real conversations with women that don’t involve their domination.

In women only settings, the non-violence and happiness is apparent. It’s very easy for this spiritual connection to flourish.

Without women, I think men might have to seriously rethink just about every thing. Without stealing women’s “facilitation energy” they would have to truly converse as equals.
At this time in evolution, I don’t think men have much of a spiritual nature at all. They have succeeded in really making the world unlivable in so many areas. They can’t even converse on women’s terms, and if they can’t even do that, what will they do to end this nightmare of male supremacy world wide?

Hell, we men can’t converse with each other on men’s terms. There’s no equals among ourselves. Men create hierarchy wherever we go, and everything we do, say, and think is within that hierarchical framework. Since we’re so concerned with how our words and actions will place us in the hierarchy relative to the men around us, we can’t achieve sincerity and honesty.

So when faced by a room full of women, with no men around to do the hierarchy dance with, men freeze up. We don’t know how to read women’s language, and without men around as a hierarchical reference, we aren’t having our place in the world affirmed by a “person” (read: male; women do not qualify as persons to men). Even worse, we’re in a room full of women and none of them are telling us how awesome we are. So we have two options: put ourselves at the bottom of the one-man hierarchy in the room and sulk, or jump to the top of the one-man hierarchy and establish our dominance, either by derailing the conversation or asserting controlling body language over the woman to whom our presence in the group is attached (hereafter Girlfriend, because girlfriends and wives are going to get it a lot worse than mothers, friends, and other relatives – though sisters come close).

And we can’t just breathe a sigh of relief when the conversation’s over. No, we’ve been slighted, and such slights must be punished. First, we’ll rectify our unmanning in front of Girlfriend. We put down the things that the other women said, usually with an ugly character assessment thrown in.

Then the punishment begins. Any future interaction with, discussion about, or mere mention of the women present will bring out a gorilla response. “Seriously? Lily said that on Facebook? Just goes to show that she has [personality defect] and [can’t handle a simple situation / always chooses inferior men / will never amount to anything / etc.].” We trot this out at the first mention in order to forestall any expression of solidarity by Girlfriend. Girlfriend understands the unspoken choice: either defend a woman against an immediate, violent response by a man, or protect herself from the same violent response.

And worse is when Girlfriend made the mistake of saying something which might have trod upon our ego. Something small, perhaps a tiny anecdote. Really, all it takes is mentioning Our Holy Manliness without also making sure to mention how awesome we are. Because if we’re spoken of without glowing terms attached, that’s the same thing as being put down and ridiculed. Woe betide Girlfriend if she slips up in that department. We’ll be damn sure to punish her as well.

I spent years refining my techniques at dividing the women I wanted to control from their relationships which were beyond my control. This is usually only talked about when discussing physically abusive men and the reasons women don’t leave them. That scenario is simply the more overt example of men’s relationships with women in general. When my male friends in high school and I talked with each other about women, we were doing two things: reaffirming ourselves as totally awesome, and trading techniques for isolating and demeaning women in order to make them dependent on us. We never came out and said that we were doing all of this, though we were explicit about how bros were to be prioritized over hos, and we had vague ideas about what we should and shouldn’t take from girls and women.

When I read “facilitation energy” in SheilaG’s comment, something clicked. There were times where I was exposed to all-female conversation in school as the only male present, and many of these conversations – pretty much the ones in which I had the sense to stay quiet – had mind-altering qualities. They felt familiar and alien; they opened my head and shut down my conscious mind. I felt hopeful and determined and enlightened. It wasn’t always the quality of the topic. I think it was just the actual conversation itself, conversation between women who were (for a moment) unhindered by dominance-establishing behavior, with all the data flashing by through channels I didn’t even know existed.

I have a feeling that SheilaG was talking about the energy which women deliberately expend on men to prop men up so that we can engage in normal behavior without totally embarrassing ourselves, going on a violent rampage, or staying in one spot and drooling until we starve to death. But I never felt more facilitated than when I was in a transcendent state, and the most reliable ways to achieve transcendence have always been religious devotion or discussions without men involved, whether listening in on female conversation in school or spending hours talking with my wife.

I think that this energy is necessary for male spirituality. I think that men crave it, and because we crave it, we want to control it. Because we want to control it, we have to do violence to it. We crush it, and we wonder why it doesn’t make us feel the way we wanted to feel when we strangle it into pulp. So we blame the pulp for not making us into the people we wanted to be.

Maybe a long time ago, women saw that men could become something really cool when exposed to the cosmic radiation of their energy, something worth keeping around, worth befriending and loving, worth trusting. We took that opportunity away from ourselves when we extended grabbing claws and swinging fists to take what we wanted. We did it collectively by establishing patriarchy, and we do it individually – I do it, and other men do it as well – when we reinforce patriarchy and engage in dominance-establishing and control-seeking behavior.

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  1. #1 by SheilaG on August 16, 2010 - 5:43 PM

    Thanks for this thoughtful article. I actually really wanted to know why men are incapable of conversation in an all women’s space if there is no “female facilitation energy” directed their way. Your comments helped, but it really is a mystery to me still.

    Why don’t they ask questions? It’s pretty simple. Come into an all women’s group, maybe establish good will by cooking food and serving it. Do some work. There are so many subjects you can ask women about. What is your favorite poem? if you sense an academic intellectual type, for example.

    I think I get mildly annoyed at this social incompetance of men, because I had to work so hard in male dominated offices to make a living. I had to study their stupid forms of business conversation, their ways of doing deals, their attitudes towards ethics… heck, I was in all male groups in college– they dominated every part of the classroom, and I was interested in many subjects. They on the other hand were never interested in female outreach at all.

    Example, I’m in an all male group. I can easily ask a million things that I know men are interested in. It’s PC– my definition is “plain courtesy.” But they have no sense of social courtesy obligation to me, none whatsoever. So is my courtesy to men wasted completely? I have come to the conclusion that it has. After 30 some years of observing male behavior in women’s settings, this is what I see of the species.

    Now later in life, I have pretty much had it with male dominance of business, and I really want to use my trade for the benefit of women. I want to be in all women’s organizations, because I finally discovered that trying to talk to men as human beings is all but impossible.
    Straight men that is. Gay men are a little better in this department, and many times, they really enjoy being with women. Straight men don’t enjoy women unless they are trying to get sexual access or trying to sell the woman something.

    Pay careful attention to women in groups, and to whether or not men are actually conversing on women’s terms. The only world I have no access to is how husbands and wives actually talk to each other in private. Men must be better behaved then, because I can’t fathom the attraction based on how men act in all women’s settings.

    Can men actually ask a question and listen? Can they reach out and do this, and then LISTEN and let the woman tell something important?

    I have a new policy… kind of sort of, after over 30 some years of watching male behavior in the world, male behavior controlling my paycheck and my world… I have decided that men can’t converse and don’t intend to learn. That said, I also know that my women’s groups will present some social challenges. Straight women will insist on bringing their husbands to these events now and then. One woman might bring a husband, and we’ll have perhaps 14 to 25 women at an event… something as down home as a backyard bbq, nothing fancy at all.

    Now I think it is stupid to bring men into these situations because of their conversational incompetance. It’s an observation not an insult. But I believe the wives might miss not having the husband along now and then. I get that. To honor the wife, a friend, I will give the man in question five minutes of my time. That’s all he has to develop some sort of genuine line of conservation within a woman dominated context. They fail within about 2 minutes, and then I politely leave them alone and talk to the women who can converse.

    I kind of guessed that the conversational lot of men within all male groups is barren and boring and one-up-manship city. It’s why men are failing in the 21st century economy, because it is about customer service and human interaction, and no longer about steel mills… a simplistic observation to be sure.

    If women were able to get Harvard MBAs and learn advanced Christian theology and become bishops, how about men learning the fine art of conversation with women on women’s terms, with no expectation of reward other than true equality. That’s right, no sexual hidden agenda, no desire to sell something, just the desire to learn about an advanced subject of great interest to the woman, say radical lesbian feminism, or even plain old liberal feminism.
    The key is to ask questions, shut up and listen. Remember, you are in a room full of all women. You might be the lone husband brought along, someone like me is not going to like you being there, but I will be polite for the wife’s sake. How would she know that I am sick to death of men after a hard day’s work with the woman hating idiots in my office?

    I try to spare even straight women’s feelings, because they don’t get that I am not owned by men. I come from an amazon warrior tradition, and I want the tables turned. I want women to rule the entire world, and I want men to stay out of it for awhile, because they have made too big a mess of things. I have assigned men of good will a simple task, a simple test… start learning to converse on women’s terms, and about subjects women might actually care about. By converse, I mean ask a question, then listen, then ask a follow up question, then listen, then say “great idea” about something outrageous… then ask a follow up question. Remember, you are the only man in the room, women are having fun… you could have fun too. Because I enjoy listening to women talk, and I ask follow up questions all the time. I find women’s lives amazing, I find men dull as dust if they are straight.

    Let’s see if straight men of good will can actually create a consersational movement, and learn to not expect or steal women’s facilitation or spiritual power. See how women interact, and what kind of world we create. We have a very separate world; it has nothing to do with the atrocity of human life men create. It’s something very different.

    • #2 by 2nd Wave Man on August 17, 2010 - 2:38 PM

      Thank you for a fantastic, full, and detailed response. :D

      You bring up male expectations getting in the way (specifically straight men’s sex-based expectations of women) a few times, and it definitely hits home each time. The issue of expectations is so, so huge, and every time I think I’m beginning to truly grasp the magnitude, I tilt my head a little more and see just how much bigger it really is.

      Given that the presumption when meeting every man is that he’s going to place sex-based expectations on women, what’s the quickest way for us to start defusing that tension when we’re introduced? What can we cultivate in our behaviors and speech to most effectively neutralize the inherent threat? More than questions and follow up questions, I guess, given that our every movement and word is part of a lifelong training program in objectification and dominance.

      By converse, I mean ask a question, then listen, then ask a follow up question, then listen, then say “great idea” about something outrageous… then ask a follow up question.

      I think part of this problem is the way that people (read: “default” people, i.e. men) are taught to converse with other people (men), at least in the Deep South where I grew up. (This is the only “conversational art” taught. Of course, women are fine so long as they fawn over men, and men don’t really know or care how women talk to other women.) It starts the same way – ask a question, then listen. But instead of asking follow up questions, you’re supposed to “relate back” with something of your own, a personal observation or anecdote which is intended to show that you’re on the same wavelength.

      What this usually means is that the reply starts with the word “I”. This is a problem for me, and obviously for every male in the world. It all has to come back around to us in the end. Sometimes I have to edit the shit I write because half the paragraphs begin with “I”, which is fine in confessional mode but is generally irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      It’s tough to break out of it in everyday conversation, because it’s been hammered into me both implicitly and explicitly that to not “relate back” is to demonstrate a lack of interest or comprehension of the topic. I can recognize when it’s happening; I can usually catch it beforehand. But without any real, longstanding practice in being the listening party of a conversation, I find that half the time I’m floundering for what to say when I’m expected to reply.

      And of course “relating back” is violence in language, because it’s dismissive of the listener, and it further goes to establish hierarchy: the “I” dude is more important than the lesser (and therefore feminized) other member(s) of the conversation. It’s not as direct as other, more explicitly dismissive male modes of conversation, but it definitely counts as dominance-seeking behavior.

      I kind of guessed that the conversational lot of men within all male groups is barren and boring and one-up-manship city.

      One-upmanship if the hierarchy isn’t established (or if there’s the possibility of a shift in the situational hierarchy). Otherwise, it’s a mutual admiration society.

      Men’s conversations are pretty fucking stupid. It’s the NASCAR of interaction. We discuss a common interest or topic. We spend pretty much the whole conversation grunting agreement at whatever the last guy said. If one guy starts talking like an expert, he’s moving outside the line of cars, trying to break away and take a better position in the line. He might succeed, or he might not change position – or maybe he fails, and back to the end of the line he goes, with ribbing and put-downs of varying degrees of humor and seriousness from the other guys. And like NASCAR, it’s five thousand fucking laps, a race with no point and no end and too much beer consumed.

      I like the idea of your five-minute test. I think I’ll take that as a personal goal now: the first five minutes establish the pattern of the rest of the conversation with that individual. Extra vigilance against dominance-seeking behavior during that period can color the tone of the entire relationship thereafter.

  2. #3 by SheilaG on August 18, 2010 - 2:38 AM

    I think what mystifies me is men’s complete lack of interest in the depth of women’s ideas.
    I get a lot of chances to listen to men talking to each other actually. Awhile ago, I thought geez, I’ll just listen to them talk to each other. Here’s what they talk about–sports, gambling, sports-baseball, latest teams.. some work details — did you email to Mr. X about Y million dollar deal. And that is ALL they talk about.

    Women: we talk about non-threatening things… the weather, what we’re having for lunch, weight loss, medical issues… that’s true… straight women do get a bit nervous with me and I do have to put them at their ease. That said, eventually, a conversation can go to books read, dreams a woman had that a husband destroyed — hundreds of straight women often confide in me that they didn’t achieve their dreams because their husbands derailed these dreams. I often never know what to make of these confessions, and I never solicite them.

    Men are often quiet around me. They can feel my disapproval for their conversational incompetance, but they do have chances to hear women talk to each other. The thing is women change as soon as men are present. Men don’t change much when I am present, because they see me as non-human– like a waitor or servant. The slaves always know the masters, but the masters never know the slaves.

  3. #4 by 2nd Wave Man on August 18, 2010 - 8:41 AM

    The slaves always know the masters, but the masters never know the slaves.

    The tragedy of the world in a single sentence.

    I notice that it connects back to something in your first comment, too: “Come into an all women’s group, maybe establish good will by cooking food and serving it. Do some work.” With all our hierarchies and our constant drive for dominance, it’s hard for men to get that if everyone’s taking care of each other, if everyone’s a servant, no one is at the top.

    Simple service is going to be key for us to get over ourselves and start being part of a community, I think.

    I’m grateful that my wife was willing to tell me to my face about her dreams, how they’d been derailed, and which ones were still salvageable. Not that I ever liked to hear it or ever reacted well, but if not for her facilitation ( >.> ), I wonder if and when I would have started listening to women.

  4. #5 by SheilaG on August 18, 2010 - 4:03 PM

    The thing is, I don’t think men are very happy with their lives. We look to the big baboos, but then there are the rest of the men in the world who are rather miserable. This misery in part is because the men at the top of the hierachy don’t know what service is.

    I’m glad your wife was able to tell her dreams and achieve some of them before it became too late. It takes me a very long time to develop friendships with African American women, because of the trust issue, and the sins of white people. Over the years, I’ve found these friendships and solidarity amazing and powerful. There is extra effort involved in bridging gaps to make a true connection. I see men as too lazy to really want to take this step of being the listener or facilitator— learning to speak the language of women, the way I have to speak the language of men out in the world. I believe that if I can learn a second language men can.

    I think it’s one reason that I wanted to concentrate my energy among people who I thought might want this.

    It’s why I advocate at least one country in the world where women own it, run it, and have no men in it. We need a land of our own, to develop our ideas, to see what we want to do with our lives.

    Men need to have a separate country where there are no women. You’d think with the world as big as it is, this hasn’t happened yet. But I’m putting this out there.

    Women’s dreams are complex and nuanced. And the older I get, the more interesting they become. As the world gets closer to economic and environmental destruction, I wonder if the people who brought us to this point will finally say– we no longer deserve to lead or run anything anymore. The game would be up at last, men could retire. Heck, I’d pay the pension myself if they would leave.

  5. #6 by SheilaG on August 18, 2010 - 5:15 PM

    Just an aside here— imagine women not having to deal with men at all in their lives, and seeing how far their dreams could take them. Think of how men hold women back. The sheer exhaustion of even talking to the tone deaf?

    One thing I always knew– no matter how evil men were in the world, how sexist and clueless at the office, I knew when I got home, I didn’t have to deal with any of it at all anymore, and that place of security and serenity made me a much more successful person overall. I fear for the women who fight the battle in the office and then have to deal with men in their own homes! In human history, men gain freedom by being separated from the enemy, not living with them. I really believe women won’t have freedom unless there is a place we can build in a large way on our own. There seems to be no alternative.

  6. #7 by 2nd Wave Man on August 19, 2010 - 8:36 AM

    I think you’re right. On top of running all the countries, women should have a broad geographical location which is man-free, and self-sustainable to boot so that even the most incidental male influence can be avoided.

    I dunno about a separate country for men. I think it’d be like the Democratic Republic of Congo, with roving bands of gun-toting rapists, corruption striated throughout the minimal government, and possibly French as the official language. I think that if men are going to do separatism right, we’re going to have to start with small communities which are loosely networked simply so that the communities don’t “otherize” each other.

    If everyone else is the Other, then there’s no reason to serve them, and they’re always looking down on you, so you have to show them up. You have to put the Other in their place, or they’ll put you in yours.

    Yeah, I think that about sums up men. Even easygoing men have “pride”, which basically amounts to getting shitty when we think someone is disrespecting us. And in that context, “respect” means “deference”. No wonder we can’t be happy; we’re too busy pecking.

    I think men will become a lot more interesting when we’re able to exist within a female context. I think we’ll unlock a lot of ourselves which has been hidden for the past ten thousand years.

    Of course, that’s nothing compared to what will happen when women are able to unlock everything which we’ve forced into chains. I think that’s the key to human existence.

    Stephen Hawking came out again to warn that we have to colonize other planets or perish. Maybe that’s the solution: the men can go to Mars.

    • #8 by SheilaG on August 20, 2010 - 8:14 PM

      And women can go to Venus. Just couldn’t resist that one.

      I’m seeing a return to women’s separatism in new and exciting ways. I’d like to see what an all female and an all man country would do, how each nation would evolve, and of course we’d make it fully sustainable both ways.

      It seems that men get the most crazy because of their overreaction when women are around. Fights break out over women. You rarely if ever see fights in women only bars– but male bars, yikes, they call the police constantly.

      Men have to learn how to be more self-sufficient. And my new psychological study is to watch a small minority of men enter a female dominated group. The gay men can usually make a go of it, but I have never seen straight men succeed socially in this context.

      It seems when power is not involved or dominating others, or bragging about golf games or social status, there is nothing much there at all. It is this supreme emptiness that makes men so addicted to work– their identity dependent on the scripted worlds of “law courts” “ad pitchmen” “doctors” “priests and pray recitations” — it explains the inability to listen with interest to any subject they don’t control. Now that I know this, it makes life more understandable. There is no will on the part of men to ever change, which is why I really love the idea of a women’s country.

      I’m beginning to think that women have made all the most dramatic changes, and that our imagination started the 20th century and will be 21 st century thinking as well.

      The Congo might not be a mess if it was all men. What makes it truly dreadful is the massive rape the men perpetrate on the women. Or maybe the male only country would only last a year or so before all the men killed each other? I’ve never felt unsafe in a group of women ever, but I always feel uneasy with majority male situations.

      Men are really afraid of each other too. It’s why they obsess about terrorists overseas, when women experience men as domestic terrorists all the time. I’m pretty sure men aren’t afraid women will kill them, however.

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