Men have both inner and outer work to do, including:
- Processing the anger about the parent (mother and/or father) who betrayed you by making you give up vital parts of yourself in order to “be a man.” Grieving about what that has cost.
- Being honest about your life. Acknowledging your secrets and taking responsibility for your actions.
- Finding the lost inner source within yourself and working to reclaim it.
- Feeling genuine remorse about the ways you may have harmed other people and the earth by acting out your pain in unconscious ways, both personally and collectively, while taking empathic actions on a consistent basis.
- Finding community with other conscious men who are on the same path of reclamation and reconciliation.
In the long term, men must commit to the long-term inner work; in the short term, men need to experience real consequences for their actions.
It’s not for a lack of training that men sexually assault in the workplace, says Spokane, Washington, writer Shawn Vestal. In a column at the end of last year in the Spokesman Review, he wrote, “It’s not about what men don’t know. It’s about what men have known too well: That we can get away with it. That it will be excused, hidden, justified and rationalized, and no one will be called to account.” In other words, until men have sufficient integrity to not sexually assault, they must “be called to account—and accept the consequences of their toxic behavior, at work and in their relationships.
To support this process, women have to reject the raging boy within the men in their lives, whether friends, colleagues, brothers or husbands. Women have to withdraw from the ways we have over-mothered men. As Adrienne Rich wrote, we have to “withdraw the breast, the lullaby and the constant attention associated by the infant with the mother.” Only then can men feel the full magnitude of their predicament, which is the beginning of their journey making lasting change. As men feel the painful gap in their lives when women are no longer willing to do for them, hopefully they will experience sufficient motivation to finally step in and fill that gap from within, including themselves:
- Taking responsibility for their emotions, feeling them and processing them. Getting support.
- Seeing sex as a way to connect, not a way to feel powerful.
- Soothing the little boy within when they’re triggered.
- Differentiating between the pain of the past from what’s happening in the present.
- Becoming aware of their projections and seeing the women in their lives as people, not objects.
- Spotlighting and amplifying the voices of those who are marginalized, while listening and learning from them.
At the same time, women must keep using our voices and speaking out about male abuse of power every chance we get; and we must amplify the voices of other women who are enduring male abuse, particularly the voices of women of color and indigenous women. Women must also stop:
- Catering to our illusions that come from an ignorance of our own privilege
- Staying quiet to avoid conflict
- Internalizing their projections from our disowned pain
- Minimizing our feelings in men’s presence
- Accepting crumbs of respect instead of what we truly deserve
- Giving our power away by emotional caretaking
- Giving time and energy to men who refuse to do their inner work