Offering for April
Feminist Coaching for Men
(in Male/Female Partnerships)
For More Resources:
First, I confess: I am an ironic candidate to end up in a role that looks a lot like relationship coaching for heterosexual couples.
As a heterosexual-inclined feminist theorist, I have consciously chosen to spend the great majority of my adult life 1) studying and teaching feminist history and thought 2) committed to practicing kinship models beyond just privileging marriage and 3) mostly not romantically partnered—a unique experience, a rich and challenging experience in a partnered world.
(Or maybe not that unique. Have you ever heard of the 13th century women's movement led by the Beguines in Northern Europe who resisted the control of the church, set up their own communities, and flourished as single women with rooms of their own and always plenty of girlfriends next door in their all-women villages? You probably have not heard of them because we don't teach women's history, do we? I myself learned about the Beguines from a badass Catholic sister who explained one fine day in class that the Beguines were a 13th century feminist movement. Way before modern day queer movements, women created ways to live outside marriage structures. But I digress to pull us back to the 13th century.)
I am just reminding us that there are many reasons women historically have tried to live outside heterosexual marriage. (And yes, equally important to remember: enslaved Black women and men in the U.S. were barred from being allowed inside legal marriage.)
The institution in a western context does not exactly have the best track record for empowering women's full sense of agency, creative passions, reproductive choices, and freedom. (You say this is ancient news? Not exactly. Consider how recently marital rape was outlawed. Hint: I was in junior high. Women got rights to their own bodies in the early to mid 1990s. That. is. wild. And it took a century plus of feminist labor to make that happen.)
Things are changing, indeed, thanks to the efforts of feminist foremothers.
That said, I still made the conscious feminist choice to live most of my 20s and 30s unpartnered. (Well, it was not one choice, it was a series of choices—a series of ways I chose not to orbit norms that women were coerced to orbit to be with most men.)
I made my choices not as a kind of anti-man stance (I like men!). I made my choices because the men raised in my generation had not begun their own self-reflective work on healing themselves from their socialization within patriarchy. They had wounds—because patriarchy harms everyone— but they weren't taking much responsibility for how those wounds effected others at close range.
In short, I did not want to be partnered to a man who had not done his work. The cost was too high—on my creativity, my emotions, my body, and my intellectual journey.
As it turned out, so many women around me in our 30s were constantly doing our work to heal—we had to! We had to overcome so much, dig down deep into our roots, and bloom. So many women I knew had experienced so many forms of gaslighting, abuse, harm, and minimization from men, that to recover our own spirits and bodies we had to do the work and support one another in this work.
We started unlearning internalized misogyny. We started identifying how we were participating in patriarchy. We aligned with our inner truths. We leaned into creativity and agency, even as we were kind to ourselves and one another in realizing the whole system is set up to manipulate our participation in gender scripts that were not serving us.
We invested in therapy. We helped each other pay for therapy and divorce lawyers and a roof over our head when fleeing violent men. We did countless hours of emotional labor with one another picking up the pieces of not just violent men, but men who were not violent but whose lack of capacity to access their emotional lives harmed us, again and again and again.
And we still have work to do—lots of work. Healing from patriarchy is a life-long process.
But, for the most part we have done much more work than the men we are in partnerships with, who have not had the same reasons and motives for embracing this work of growth and healing and self-awareness and collective change.
So here's the bind: When we are in partnerships with men, we find ourselves unsure of how to balance letting men do their own work, letting them take classes to learn from a professional, letting them navigate their own vulnerability and shame. Then there's the practical side of things: we don't know how to stop doing the 1141 household management tasks that women invisibly do because we are socialized to do those 1141 tasks, including the emotional and psychic labor of trying to explain some basic inequities.
Sometimes we carry quiet rage. Sometimes that rage turns into illness. We swallow our voices. Again. To keep the peace. Because we are too tired. Or when we do speak up, sometimes we get exhausted trying to teach the men in our lives to go deeper, to heal, to do their work, to pick up a book by a feminist writer and study and learn.
Still, I think we are really on the cusp of a changing system.
As a feminist social theorist, this is what I am observing about the possibilities of the cultural moment we are living within: More men are ready to prioritize that they have healing to do. More men want honest and flourishing intimacy. More men want to wake up and dismantle how patriarchy as a historical institution is harming all of us.
It harms the little boy who is shamed for having vulnerable feelings and then can't access his emotions as a man. It harms the nonbinary child who doesn't want to be forced into a gender norm at all, even as society wants to police their joy. It harms the girl then the woman who loses her own voice, who swallows her honest words and those words then die with lack of oxygen, dying words because too many men around her don't know how to hear the strong voice of a powerful woman without trying to make her small.
I don't think I am just an idealistic feminist dreamer to tell you that there is a movement for healing right now. It is bubbling up in small and powerful ways. We might not know how to heal, but people want to heal from a long trauma on this planet called patriarchy. We are in a moment of shifting consciousness.
But—still— so often that labor of shifting consciousness falls on women in ways that tend to re-create the very exploitation of women's invisible labor inside patriarchy.
I am not a relationship coach or a marriage and family therapist. But I am an expert feminist coach. I study how we are socialized. How we negotiate power within gender and race and class systems. I study how our personal stories and early attachments and traumas interact with where we find ourselves situated within these larger systems.
I study how we heal. How we get reconnected to ourselves and our bodies again. How we speak more honest words, as Audre Lorde and so many feminist foremothers taught us to do.
In April, I am starting a beta program, expanding my 1:1 work, to work with male-female couples who want to have the support of a feminist coach. We will be focusing in April on finding more language to name these systems, and ultimately finding more language to heal, to love, and to grow.
Contact me by March 30 if you want to be considered for the beta offering. There are spots for 4 couples. (You don't have to even be a romantic couple. You could be friends, colleagues, kin.) Beta prices start at $650 for a 4 consulting session package, to be used within the month of April.
Badass beguines lived right here.