Gender Workshop

August 10th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

Last night I came back home from the Netherlands, where I’ve attended a leadership retreat focusing on sustainability. I was both a participant and a teacher at the retreat, and one of my two workshops was about gender issues and leadership.

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I presented some of the ideas that I write about here on the blog, especially focusing on how gender roles developed historically, and that the goal was never to oppress either women or men, but to be as efficient as possible in obtaining food and security. In my opinion, it’s tremendously important that we stop shaming men and women for the gender roles we have been handed down.

When we say that men as a group have conspired to oppress women as a group for thousands of years, we are labeling men as evil and women as sheep. Is it really plausible to assume that men have managed to collectively oppress women across all cultures and large time spans? That assumption gives men far too much credit; it is exceedingly hard to maintain an empire, and to continually oppress 50 percent of the population seems like an impossible task. Women also aren’t as meek or weak as the radical feminists suggest when talking about patriarchy having a stranglehold on women since forever. It’s crucial that these historical insights become mainstream knowledge, so boys and girls aren’t taught confusing and incorrect insights about their ancestors.

This is not to say that gender roles haven’t been oppressive, because they have, for both sexes. I’m also not saying that feminism is entirely bad. Classical feminism, the original form of feminism that simply strives for equal rights between the sexes, is an honorable struggle. However, once equal rights have been achieved (which includes any laws about the draft or military service, mind you), then we need to focus on both gender roles, not only the female one. Only looking at the female gender role is far too partial, and therefore feminism quickly becomes outdated the moment a society is fully democratized and has equal rights between the sexes.

I also talked about male disposability and “the missing men’s studies” (hardly anyone studies men’s issues without having a feminist agenda).

All the material was well received by the group and relevant questions showed that the participants were following the line of reasoning without any trouble. People were also curious about my personal experience of growing up in a country where (radical and poststructural) feminism has a strong presence in public policy and the media. My experience is one of having been shamed for being male, so my work on gender issues has a very real personal experience as its starting point.

The feedback after the workshop was the the material and the discussion had been both usable and “fresh”, as opposed to the standard take on gender issues that most leaders and professionals have heard more times than they care to remember. So all in all it was a very positive experience for me, and it fills me with hope that parts of Europe are ready to move on beyond feminism, and into an era where gender roles are looked at with compassion and intellectual sharpness.

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4 Responses to “Gender Workshop”

  1. Danny Says:

    When we say that men as a group have conspired to oppress women as a group for thousands of years, we are labeling men as evil and women as sheep. Is it really plausible to assume that men have managed to collectively oppress women across all cultures and large time spans? That assumption gives men far too much credit; it is exceedingly hard to maintain an empire, and to continually oppress 50 percent of the population seems like an impossible task.
    This does seem to be a grave misconception women’s advocates make. I don’t know if its intentional or not but when it suits them they have no problem lumping the Elite Joes and Average Joes together. You can usually tell one’s actual understanding of men as a class vs. what they read somewhere based on this. The ones that just blindly say things like “men as a class have power” really don’t understand because if they did they would realize that we don’t. Male gender is not the key to the kingdom that they want, no more like need, everyone to believe it is.

    Only looking at the female gender role is far too partial, and therefore feminism quickly becomes outdated the moment a society is fully democratized and has equal rights between the sexes.
    Yes. There are some out there that really do want to address the male as well as the female gender role but there are lot that are just saying it enough to apply for Ally Street Cred. This also reminds me of feminists, whenever men’s issues are brought up, will try to fit men’s issues under a feminist umbrella as if the only label for equality is feminism.

    I also talked about male disposability and “the missing men’s studies” (hardly anyone studies men’s issues without having a feminist agenda).
    Yes and by men’s studies this would go beyond the nonsense feminists whine about when they claim that history is about men’s studies. It’s not.

  2. Mark Davenport Says:

    Clear, logical and oersuasive, Pelle, In a sense, it’s no wonder your theses were well recieved, but thank God there are such receptive groups who have already “read” the earlier chapters of gender history.
    Very encouraging.

  3. Eivind Says:

    Wow, that’s great to hear, Pelle. It would’ve been a lot of fun to see you live again. How long were the workshops and did you do any actual exercises? Why don’t you make the slides available?

    Eivind

  4. Pelle Billing Says:

    Thanks Eivind.

    The Gender workshop was two hours long, and the tango workshop was one hour long. The gender workshop was mostly a lecture/dialogue, with one exercise in smaller groups to discuss the drawbacks of each gender role. The tango workshop had several exercises about leading and following, that connect to your work about masculinity/femininity. Tango is a great way to embody masculine and feminine polarities, and people simply loved doing those exercises. The feedback was that it was some of the most meaningful stuff they had ever done at retreat or a leadership workshop.

    I think the combination of theory first and practise afterwards was a powerful one.


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