Why We Need a New Men’s Movement that is Better for Men, Women, Children and the Planet We All Share


In my article, “Traumatic Masculinity and Violence: Our Moonshot For Mankind Offers Hope to Humanity,” I said,

“We are living in a world out of balance. One clear indicator is our global climate crisis. Another is the violence going on in the world, perpetrated mostly by men.”

I have been working for more than fifty years to address male violence, directed inward in the form of depression and suicide, and outward in the form of aggression and violence. Our Moonshot for Mankind, is a world-wide community, dedicated to healing the trauma at the root of male violence. It is now available for charter membership. I hope you’ll consider joining us at MoonShotForMankind.com. We are creating a new men’s movement that can bring true partnership between men and women and between the human community and the community of life on planet Earth.

Another person who has been working to end violence in the world is systems scientist and cultural historian, Riane Eisler. I first met Riane Eisler in 1987 shortly after the publication of her book The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future. I remember discussing our views on the future of humanity and the healing that needed to occur between men and women. My first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, had been published in 1983, in which I described my own healing journey. At a time when many female writers were blaming men for the problems in the world, I appreciated that Riane understood that the problem was not men, but the system of domination that harmed both women and men.

When I first read these words in The Chalice & the Blade, I was moved by their simplicity, vision, and truth:

Underlying the great surface diversity of human culture are two basic models of society. The first, which I call the dominator model, is what is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy—the ranking of one-half of humanity over the other. The second, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model—beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female—diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.

In her book Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future,written with anthropologist Douglas P. Fry, Riane describes her early influences and insights. When Riane was six, the German and Austrian Nazis took over her native Vienna. Riane’s father was dragged off by the Gestapo. Her mother miraculously obtained his release, and the family fled to Cuba.

They were on one of the last ships before the MS St. Louis, carrying 930 Jewish refugees from Europe, was turned back by Cuban authorities. Because neither Cuba nor the United States nor any other country in the Western hemisphere let the St. Louis dock, it was forced to return to Europe, where many on board eventually died in Nazi death camps.

Riane remembers standing at the Havana waterfront watching when, after long days of waiting and hoping they would be permitted to disembark, the doomed families on the St. Louis disappeared over the horizon.

With her move to the United States in 1946 came further formative experiences. As she and her parents arrived at last to the promised land of American liberty and equality, they found in Miami, their port of entry, yet another disempowered out-group, or “other.” In the rigidly segregated South of that time, they discovered one more variation of the all-too-familiar use of cultural narratives to justify the persecution and subordination of “inferior” beings.

The accumulation of these kinds of experiences brought recurrent questions. Are patterns of prejudice, cruelty, and violence inevitable? Are they embedded in human nature? Or is something else at work? When Riane studied sociology at the University of California, these questions were at the back of her mind. They were there as she became involved first in the civil rights movement and then in the feminist movement.

Riane says that we have seen the domination system historically in the rule by terror of Genghis Khan and the autocratic family patriarch of earlier times. Nowadays, we see it in the despotic rulers, such as the religious heads of ISIS or secular Kim Jong-un, and at the familial level in abusive parental behavior. Whether within a family or more generally within a society, social systems that orient closely to the domination side of the continuum are ultimately held together by fear and force, as illustrated by customs of child and wife beating, persecution of minorities, threats or displays of torture and death, and wars of conquest.

In contrast, the partnership configuration is more peaceful, egalitarian, gender-balanced, and environmentally sustainable. As in the strivings of countless families, businesses, and communities today, the partnership system consists of beliefs and structures that support relations based on mutual benefit, respect, and accountability. Fear and force are not woven into the cultural tapestry of the partnership system because they are not needed to maintain rigid top-down rankings, whether it is man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, or nation over nation.

Riane believes that the domination and partnership of these two systems exist on a continuum, and we can influence which direction things move. On her website, Partnerism.org, she contrasts the two systems, Domination and Partnership.

Domination systems can be characterized as follows:

•          In groups and out groups

•          Hierarchies of domination

•          Power maintained by force and fear

•          Inequality

•          Ignores economic value of caring

•          Violence and abuse

   By contrast, Partnership Systems share these qualities:

•          Everyone matters

•          Hierarchies of actualization

•          Increase in liberty and expression

•          Equality: gender, race, etc.

•          Care is valued economically

•          Human flourishing and creativity

Whether we are looking at the US or the entire world, we see evidence of these two contrasting systems, domination and partnership, competing for our attention. Our future hangs in the balance.

In Nurturing Our Humanity, Eisler and Fry conclude,

“There is strong evidence that over the millennia of human biocultural evolution, most societies were constructed along partnership lines. Yet domination systems—with their inherent exploitation of people and nature, social and economic inequalities, and direct and structural violence—came to predominate on the global stage.”

Supporting gender roles and relationships based on partnership principles have always been a cornerstone of Riane’s work. Most recently, Riane’s Center for Partnership Systems has developed a Toolkit to guide partnership work in the emerging technologies being developed worldwide.

The Partnership Technology Toolkit was developed by the Center for Partnership Systems with support from the Ford Foundation. Its goal is to shift technologists’ thinking, reject false narratives about what is possible, and build technologies that support a more caring, sustainable, equitable, partnership future. Grounded in decades of interdisciplinary research from both biological and social science, the toolkit provides individuals and teams with a practical, values-based framework that connects technology with the real needs of people and the planet.

I feel honored to have been one of professionals who reviewed and provided input for the Toolkit. The men’s movement community that is being developed as part of our Moonshot for Mankind draws on the partnership principles that Riane has developed and refined through the years. I hope you will consider joining us.

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