A Comment by Alan Mooney
In media hype the decade of the eighties was the era of the yuppie. This was characterised by the emergence of a stereotype man and woman – young, ambitious, a high level of disposable income and a desire to acquire the trappings of material success. Advertising made a great fuss about encouraging this philosophy and may even have been the progenitor of the phenomenon.
Being a yuppie was a strong but superficial ego strengthener where what you had or what you could afford determined self-worth and were the criteria for acceptance and approval.
Being a yuppie did not remove the fact of the underlying reality that no matter what you possess in material terms, loneliness and anomie were only around the corner. There always remained the possibility of losing the trappings of success. A job could fold or the size of an overdraft could be curtailed by a bank etc. The yuppie was an unstable species and with his/her designer labels was in fact too specialised to survive in a world which demands flexibility and a facility not to put all the eggs in one basket.
In the late eighties and into the nineties concern for Mother Earth and the recognition that we are responsible not only or our personal survival but also for the survival of the planet grew.
This is also noticeable in the advertising media which are a good barometer of the prevailing marketing forces. Products which appeared to be earth friendly as indicated by the subtle use of visual images e.g. deodorants which seemed to be so natural that the user could blend into the woodland and not be discovered by the sensitive noses of predators.
This type of misleading message has now been replaced by more direct and clear statements. There is a particular range of products for the home now which could be described as “down to earth” and which give the clear message that there is no hype – these products are 100% environmentally friendly.
There is also another change – advertisements for items like food and washing powder or cleaning materials in the home which traditionally were aimed at the housewife in the “married couple and two kids ” home, have been replaced by new messages which have the man and woman co-operating in the running of these tasks. Some even have the man asking the woman for advice on appropriate cleaning meth ods and materials.
There are even ads which give recognition to the fact that not all families are of the traditional type. In a certain ad for gravy the subject family is divorced. In another ad the scene is set by a group of women who have set up home together and are engaged in redecorating their home. They are even shown showing affection for each other in a scene where one woman gently and willingly wipes some paint from the face of another woman.
The emphasis seems to have shifted so that there is a growing tolerance of difference and a broadening of perspective, at least in the world of marketing. The base for the expression of styles of human living and interaction is expanding. It seems that ways of living which would have been unacceptable a decade ago have now emerged as valid. I wonder if this is a real transformation of awareness in people. If it is, it is a quantum leap.
The New Man
There is another quantum leap which also seems appropriate for this decade of the nineties. That is the emergence of the “New Man”. The information about the new man is still emerging and a clear description is not yet consolidated; however the new man is seen as both the possessor of masculine strength and drive and feminine sensitivity. He is connected to his feelings and able to communicate with both men and women in a way which combines both logic and intuition – He is involved in the nurturing of relationship and in the the rearing of children. He does not arbitrarily demarcate “men’s work” and “women’s work”.
During the seventies and eighties here in Ireland there was a move toward setting up groups for men who wanted to explore the issues which were important to them but which had to be contained because of the cultural climate and the basic fear men have/had about showing need or weakness. Some groups are still going and are helping men to explore the taboo areas of their emotional lives, like fear and powerlessness and the discovery of how to manage their boundaries with each other and with women and children.
In recent times however, there is a more global awareness of the men’s move ment. This is largely the result of the writing and work of an American – Robert Blye – who has written such books as “Fire in the Belly” and “Iron John”. It seems that men are beginning to learn that the image of the aggressive, rational and goal oriented man is tainted. It bears the seeds of its own destruction. They are begin ning to realise feelings are OK. And even more importantly they are starting to share feelings with other men. They are talking about sadness and insecurity and their need for love. Every walk of life seems to be represented in the movement from university professors to farm workers. There are no distinctions made. Each is allowed to be present without the trappings of a society status. All can listen and learn from each other.
Men’s personal development groups are springing up all over the United States almost as the next phase following the feminist consciousness of the past twenty years or so. Men are saying they want to rediscover their psychic and emotional roots. Not only are they saying this but they are actively doing something about it.
I wonder what form this new Adam will take here in Ireland? In the States there is a return to the ancient native American tribal rituals to help men recapture the magic and energy of their nature. People will happily swap their computer keyboards for a tom-tom and make a new sound. They raise their voices in the chants of ancient America and the African Continent
The context of ritual has always been important for the expression of individual and communal feelings of joy or grief. On workshops, using all manner of ritual, men are grieving their lost innocence, their damaged childhood. They are express ing feelings of emasculation by our patriarchal culture – a culture for which their sex is largely responsible.
If women have been bound by the ropes of patriarchy then there is a case to be made that men have been double bound by it. Men are the ones who have generated the power structure in the past and men who do not conform to it, i.e. who are unreliable and traitorous, are looked upon with derision – big boys don’t cry etc .
I have noticed in the last few months that there has been a number of newspa per articles and TV documentaries about the men’s movement in the US and I have read some of the reactions in the papers. It has been interesting to note that most of the reviewers of such articles and programmes, both men and women, have taken a sneering stance. They seem to be laughing at the idea of men going off to the woodlands together and getting back to their more primitive and freer roots. This may be as valid as the earlier sneering of both men and women at the burning of bras by the feminist movement. In other words: lacking understanding and perhaps tinged with a little apprehension about what it all means.
Facing the Ghosts
Just as the women’s movement needed to purge its collective history of the pain, repression and guilt it contained and individual women needed to join with other women to form support groups to help clear their personal pain and brutalising pasts, so men have reached a point – probably helped by the example of the women and prompted by the need to re-evaluate their role in the world and in relationship in the light of the feminist movement – where it is important for us to move into that archetypal world which is full of demons and fear. Men need to face their ghosts both collectively and personally if we are to become truly new men.
This century has seen the greatest and the worst of human development and technological advancement. During this time there have been phenomenal shifts in thinking and perception about the earth and the creatures, including ourselves, who live on it. It is entirely appropriate that in the area of personal growth and development that every assumption be examined. Of course there are poor judgements and false starts. In the world of psychotherapy there is a need to respect the tentative “first steps” of men and women in the journey toward wholeness and integration. It is time for everyone to listen to the sound of the drums which call people to deeper understanding of themselves, each other and the world in which we live.
As the millennium approaches there will be many apocalyptic thoughts and fears, however it is not by chance that the Spirit of the Universe arranges that the energy has been right for the transformation of women and the emancipation of men. Hopefully we will walk together in all our many shapes and sizes into the 21st Century.