Patriarchy vs Love: Time for Men to RISE




I came across this post today and my heart broke open. I began to cry. I read them again, and I began to weep. I was taken aback by the intensity of feeling. I had no idea I would feel so seen, so understood, so hopeful upon hearing words such as these for the first time in my life from men I’d never met. The chains are breaking.

What I love about this post, is that it happened spontaneously, on the street, between two men who were strangers. And, as they spoke of what was happening, they expressed such grief and love, and wondered how they could change it. Then, they went on their way.

I wrote to the author, Dan Mahle, and asked if I could share the post here with you. He said, Yes.

This post was  originally published at Change From Within, by Jamie Utt, Dan’s friend. Here we go…


Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

This week’s post comes from a dear friend.

Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.



One Conversation: A Call to Men

I had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”

When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.

He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.

Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.

I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”

We talked about how important it would be for more men to have honest conversations about patriarchy and its countless negative impacts on us and on the women in our lives. Both of us acknowledged, though, that these kinds of safe spaces for male emotional expression are few and far between.

I gave him a hug and he said, “I love you, man.” We had met just 5 minutes before, but the moment of solidarity and healing that we shared in that short space was profound.

It got me thinking: Why don’t we, as men, seek out more spaces for truthful sharing about our feelings and our experiences with patriarchy? Why don’t we talk about violence against women, about sexism, and about rape culture? The ‘1 Billion Rising’ movement is based on a single, chilling statistic: One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

That’s 1 billion women worldwide. How can we say that we love the women in our lives, even as we are perpetuating (consciously or unconsciously) a culture of violence against them?” Every day that we are silent, the cycle of violence continues.

The Cost of Patriarchy

This is where shame often comes in. I’ve known it by many names: frustration, defensiveness, anger, aggression, rage, a need for control, etc. But it all comes back to shame. It all comes back to some deep-seated feeling of unworthiness that keeps us from meeting our most fundamental human need: the need to feel loved.

While women in our society are taught that their worth depends on their physical beauty, men are taught that our worth depends upon our performance, our control, our accomplishments. At some point, like so many women, many of us realize that we will never be able to fulfil the expectations placed on us. But instead of questioning the patriarchal culture that has burdened us with these perverse and insatiable demands, we come to believe that who we are is not good enough.

In an effort to avoid feelings of vulnerability, we methodically replace emotional expression with emotional numbness. And so, in our disconnection from self and others, we unlearn what it means to truly love.

As bell hooks puts it in her book, The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, “The reality is that men are hurting and that the whole culture responds to them by saying, ‘Please do not tell us what you feel.’”

When we forget what it means to love, we often desperately search for cheap replacements: we work long hours at work in an attempt to receive praise and recognition; we watch porn or buy prostitutes in a distorted attempt to feel loved and sexually fulfilled; we buy an endless number of things in an attempt to fill the painful void of loneliness within. Until we, as men, face our fear of vulnerability and begin telling each other what we feel, nothing will change.

Right now, there is a powerful, growing movement of women who are rising up all around the world to demand an end to violence. This movement is a struggle for equality, but it is also a call back to love. It is an invitation to all people to transform the dominant culture from a culture of violence to a culture of love, starting from within our own hearts. We owe it to all women to stand beside them as they say “enough is enough!” We owe it to ourselves to finally invite love, in all of its fullness, back into our lives.

Learn more about 1 Billion Rising here.


“This movement is a struggle for equality, but it is also a call back to love.”

Blessings to you, Dan. I bow.


For What?



For What?

These words have been rumbling around in my headspace for a few days now. I’ve been putting words and words and more words onto the page since the Newtown tragedy. Nothing I wrote felt like it would contribute to what was already being said. Until now. Until these two words… for what?

For what is all of this work with women?

For what are we finding our power?

For what are we wanting equality?

For what?

For what?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s all for…the children.

Yes, for the children. For ALL the world’s children.

For us, women and men, to heal whatever it is between us for the sake of the children.

I know this. I know this. And, my mind searches for answers to how to do this, for answers on why Friday’s tragedy happened. There are tons of people looking for answers, and many more readily providing them.

What my heart keeps going back to is this damn system, the system we live under. The patriarchy is rotten at its core. This rotten system conditions us all, women and men, to believe things about ourselves, our gender, and the masculine and feminine, that are rotten at their core. The system denies real beauty. It denies the love that is in our hearts. A system that puts us into a hierarchy, that parcels out value and privilege, that teaches us to fear and distrust each other does all of this in order to keep the system going, to keep the system alive. And it does this through each of us. We do it. We uphold the system.

This systemic upheaval, violence, and pain feeds the broken relationship between the genders, between men and women, between the masculine and feminine, within us and outside of us. And, it is destroying lives.

We, both women and men, must turn, together, side by side, to look at the system itself, to see it for what it is. We, both men and women, must have the courage to do this.

Men are not patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system that says men have the power. And, we all uphold by playing into the system to get our needs met, when we believe we are owed something, when we believe that it is only hard work that has gotten us what we have, when we believe we are better than others, when we believe we must fear and hate others, and when we are too afraid to turn to look at what we are all capable of doing even though it is right in front of our eyes.


So, I say this to myself:

I must realize that my privilege is not real.

I do not deserve anything simply because of who I am.

I am not entitled to anything simply because of my gender, or the color of my skin, or my sexual preference, or my religious beliefs.

And, when I question the system it does not mean I am blaming the ‘other’ for the ills of the world.


I ask myself:

Can I be adult enough to see that it is in the children’s best interest (and in all of our best interest) to be in conversation with you, to find some way out of this system, to heal this fear and distrust between us all?

I hope you will ask yourself, too.


A new time begins tomorrow, a time described here by Evo Morales, President of Bolivia to the UN General Assembly, 67th Session, 2012:

“…according to the Mayan Calendar the 21st of December marks the end of the time and the beginning of no-time. It is the end of the Macha & the beginning of the Pacha. It is the end of selfishness & the beginning of brotherhood. It is the end of individualism & the beginning of collectivism… the 21st of December this year. The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a biocentric life. It is the end of hatred & the beginning of love. The end of lies & the beginning of truth. It is the end of sadness & the beginning of joy. It is the end of division & the beginning of unity.”




The Messiness of Human Love


My last two posts have been about gender healing, feminism, and what it means to come into balance within and without. Balance between the feminine and the masculine. The coming together of two aspects of ourselves, and of life.

I don’t yet know where these issues will take me, us, or our world. There is so much more to come, I can tell.

For the past week, I’ve been struggling a bit with writer’s block. Nothing is flowing. So, I thought I would share with you this poem I wrote to my love, way back when we were first finding our way with each other. As I read it anew, it seems so fitting to our conversation about women, men and healing.

The Messiness of Human Love

Lying here beside you,
I feel you struggling with the weight of this.
I hear your words and feel their harshness,
and experience them as unforgiving of the messiness of your own love.

As I lie beside you,
Your body says something else.
It speaks in a muffled voice of the freedom it longs for
To simply let go and weep.
It speaks of its most earnest yearning
To let go its armor
So it can reveal the supple fragrance of your true existence.

How I long to know you this way,
And long to show you my own supple fragrance.
Supple body to supple body,
Fragrant heart to fragrant heart
Pressed up against each other,
Close enough to catch the fleeting opportunity to become One;
Feeling and felt, sense and sensed, observer and observed.

In these imagined moments,
We are free to explore each other in the ripeness of the present
Where the touch of our souls
Explodes every particle of the Universe
Just as Love intends.

What is the illusion that lies within,
Telling us fibs about our true identity?
What is this illusion that hangs between us,
Stopping us from knowing each other,
In this most sacred way?

My own rigidity flares when I experience
the clear outline of your boundaries,
But I choose to challenge my own harshness,
For something from within you calls me forward.

Feeling my way along your ridges,
I look for an opening, some entrance into that
Sweet, sweet spot I see so clearly
On my heart’s radar screen.
I know there is a way in.

My fear of rejection suddenly voices its objections,
“Not too fast, not too hard.
Be careful.
We’re walking the line between invitation and invasion.”

I sense the opening I know is close at hand.
What greeting do I speak to let you know
I am here at your doorstep?
What is my heart’s invitation to your heart,
One that I know will find the center of softness longing to accept?

We are like two bumbling fools,
Crashing through the dark,
Feeling our way towards something that is already here in our company.
It waits for us to forgive ourselves the messiness of human love.

What if we could just let it be messy?
What if we let go into the unknown, so we might find the place where we can stand side by side, two equals, yet different in our own uniqueness?

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