Liberation from being Man and Woman
Article by Peter
Published in ‘Here and Now’, Byron Bay, August 1999
It is with increasing bewilderment that I follow the debates and discussions surrounding the issue of male and female ‘liberation’. Obviously I’m writing as a male, but this is essentially about the sense I have made of the conditioning, beliefs and instincts that have caused the split of human beings into two separate and distinct camps, male and female – perpetually at war, yet forever trying to get together.
I remember the first real indication that there was such a gulf between the sexes came at the first day of school when we were immediately lined up and separated into two groups, boys and girls. Little did I know at the time that this was how it was destined to remain for the rest of my life – or so it seemed.
As a young adult I initially worked for several periods in the ‘gung-ho’ business world where a man was called a good ‘performer’ if he gave his total time and effort to the firm. I found the male business world to be a ruthless cut-throat battleground where any method was justified to get a ‘deal’. Anything went in the pursuit of money, power and prestige – lies, back-stabbing, broken promises, ingratiating behaviour. If this was how it was to be in the competitive, dog-eat-dog world of business then I was a coward. Any idea of becoming a corporate warrior seemed senseless to me. Also I did not play competitive sports, drink with the boys at the pub or have many male friends. In short, I had already gone a fair way towards ‘deserting’ the male camp.
By the time I was thirty-five, I found myself having done exactly what my father had done – career, wife, two kids and house. In fact, I had done a bit better: we had two cars and owned the house (well, the bank did really but we pretended, like most others). But within a few short months separation, and then divorce, shattered my comfortably numb acceptance of this being all there was to life. My world was turned inside out, as was my esteem and role model as a male.
For the next 15 years I was to have several other relationships, but all were eventually to end in failure. And I was left with the burning question: ‘why?’ Why was it that there seemed to be things that both I, and the woman I was with at the time, would not, or could not, talk about? Why did every attempt to do so seem doomed to end in emotional scenes, battle, confusion and final withdrawal? It felt to me that if I ‘surrendered’ on an issue I was dismissed as a wimp, and if I ‘won’, I would have to pay for it later. I hated the battles and in the end hoped they would simply pass, or I would ‘tread carefully’ so as not to upset things. The battles would pass eventually, but then, so would the relationship.
Why did I yearn to be with a woman when I was alone, and yet I felt trapped when I was in a relationship and secretly yearned to be free again? Was it that I had to accept the bad times in a relationship on the basis of ‘this too will pass?’ or ‘that is the way it is – the ups and downs of life’? In the end, like everyone else I knew, I gave up on relationships; it was just that some chose to stay in their relationships on the basis of it being as ‘good as it gets’. Others stayed because the thought of starting again was too much. I chose to give up. I simply wasn’t willing to get to the same place of suffering and compromise, nor did I want to inflict that on anyone else. I also saw that the fault was in me, as well as the other, but the only person I could change was me.
Sitting it out on the sidelines, while very comfortable, was to prove an unchallenging compromise – an admission of failure. With the encouragement of a friend I decided to give living with a woman one final ‘boots and all’ approach. I was determined to find a way to live with a woman in peace, harmony and equity. I approached a woman I barely knew but was attracted to, with the proposition of proving that this was possible. A little surprised she agreed, and thus began an 18-month intense investigation into absolutely everything that stood in the way of and prevented us achieving our aim – total peace, harmony and equity between us.
The answer lay in thoroughly investigating all the beliefs and instincts that have entombed the sexes into separate warring camps.
The collection of beliefs and instincts that are common to all human beings is known as the Human Condition. In seeing and fully understanding the appalling consequences of this Human Condition on both our individual happiness and mutual harmony, we set out to challenge all that was ‘taken for granted’ and all that was said to be ‘set in concrete’.
In undertaking our mutual investigation into what it was that caused the perpetual battle of the sexes that we both knew so well, we put any issues that arose ‘on the table’ to discuss each of them, probe them and make mutual sense of them. By regarding them as the Human Condition – common to all – we were able to largely avoid ‘taking the issue personally’, which had proved the downfall of all previous attempts at discussing sensitive relationship issues. In my case I was challenging and dismantling my very maleness – ‘being a man’ and all that it entails.
I found that the whole of our supposedly civilised world is still, at the very core, based on the primitive instincts of fear, aggression, nurture and desire. They are blind Nature’s rather clumsy software package designed to give one a start in life and to ensure the survival of the species. While absolutely essential in the days of roaming man-eating animals, rampant disease and high infant mortality, these very same instincts now threaten the survival of the species. The instincts only ‘care’ for the survival of the species – usually the strongest, crudest, most aggressive. Further, it became increasingly obvious that ‘blind nature’ gives not a fig for my happiness or well being. We are relentlessly driven, despite our good intentions and moral codes, to act instinctually in each and every situation in our lives and this is the cause of most of our angst and confusion.
Fear hobbles us with a desperate need to belong to a group, to cling to the past, to hang on to whatever we hold dear to ourselves, to resist change and desperately seek immortality. Aggression causes us to fight for our territory, our possessions, our ‘rights’, our family and our treasured beliefs – seeking power over others. Nurture causes us to care, comfort and protect but also leads to dependency, empathy, sacrifice and needless heroism. Desire drives us relentlessly to sexual reproduction, avarice and greed.
However, the actual changing of both instinctual behaviour and societal conditioning required my total self-obsession in order to see what I was doing or feeling at every moment. In this case it would be – what is it that is in me, which is in the road between us? Why am I upset? Why am I annoyed or moody? Why am I withdrawn? What is it now, this very moment, that is preventing my experiencing peace and harmony? I was totally interested in what it was in me. If my companion had an issue she wanted to talk about, fine, and if she was willing and we could look together at something, even better, but it was my being peaceful and harmonious in living with her that I was interested in and focused upon. And she was interested in her being peaceful and harmonious. We were then each responsible for our own feelings and actions and for doing whatever was necessary to clean ourselves up – to question all and everything. Our immediate aim was always peace and harmony now, not off in the future, or dwelling in the past.
Given our intent to clean ourselves up, we delighted in the opportunity to mutually look into any aspect of the Human Condition that was currently an issue with either of us. The success of this approach brought instant, tangible results in our living together peacefully and harmoniously – so much so that an eagerness to bring all our ‘dark secrets’ out of the closet rapidly overtook our inherent fear of exposure. At last I had found a ‘best mate’, someone I could talk to about absolutely everything – without holding back; without any men’s or women’s private stuff. I am able to be naked and honest with her – and why shouldn’t I be? I am able to say anything about myself without that classic fear that it will be used against me later in some future battle – forgiveness never works. This has led us to a level of intimacy that far exceeds anything that is possible when one attempts to bridge the gap between the warring camps with the notoriously unreliable and temporary emotion of love. It is indeed extraordinary! It is so easy, so right, so effortless and so direct... There is absolutely nothing in the way between us: no feeling of separateness – an actual intimacy became evident, not one falsely contrived or synthetically maintained.
As I was disentangling myself from of the male camp, my companion discovered that she was similarly able to leave the female camp. Today, women no longer need to be driven by the blind urge to produce children, to nurture and protect them, and, for that matter, clinging on to a man for survival. No longer is it necessary to provide comfort and succour when the man returns from the hunt. No longer do women need to gather around the fire with the children, telling stories with the other women, wondering when and if the men will return. The modern equivalent is the famed ‘sisterhood’, or ‘having girlfriends’, which now only serves to reinforce the gender battle-lines.
For my companion, a major task was the final dissolution of the issue of male authority – of relying on, or rebelling against, a man’s opinion or presence to guide and protect her in life. Of searching for a strong and powerful man to follow or rely upon. This allowed her to eliminate the pattern of dependency, rebellion, expectation, blame, frustration and withdrawal – and to finally become an autonomous human being in every aspect of life. Now she is free of ‘being a woman’ – and what a joy it is to be in the company of a woman who has done this. I am full of admiration for her courage and common sense. At last equity, with its resulting peace and harmony, is possible between men and women.
A word here on women’s liberation as I see it. It has been essential for women to break free of the slavery that men have used to deny them equal opportunity to exist autonomously in the world. The repression of women has been ruthless and still continues, significantly most strongly in many Catholic and Eastern countries. Women have been frustratingly reduced to exercising covert power, largely wielded emotionally. Feminism, however, with its striving for power, revenge, compromise or surrender, is still ‘manoeuvring’ on the battlefield – it will ultimately do nothing to eliminate the core beliefs and instincts that are the cause of the battle of the sexes.
My companion and I have discovered that, given a relentless obsession to rid oneself of all the conditionings, beliefs and instincts that entomb men and women in separate camps, it is possible to live together in total peace, harmony and equity. Further, an actual permanent intimacy is now apparent between us that far outstrips the fickleness, dependency and emotional bonding that I used to know.
I thoroughly recommend liberation from being either a man or woman rather than blindly perpetuating the battle of the sexes.