If you’ve ever stopped by the Contributors section on this site, you may have noted that there are seven males listed as the Core Contributors of Beams and Struts. What’s with that? Where are the women? Is this project really about collective intelligence? Or is it about a bunch of power mongrels attempting to perpetuate the patriarchy and keep the voices of women tucked away, or at best, in little peeps?
Questions about this have rolled in from time to time, challenging how truly integral this thing can be with only men at the core. Recently a reader suggested that starting with such a power imbalance limits the site and isn’t integral. I jumped at the opportunity to respond to this inquiry and my perspectives on this are what make up part one of this article, answering the question: Should women be added as members of the Core Contributors in order to be more integral? Part two is the beginning of an inquiry around the potential truth that there may be a power imbalance, all things being valid and all. Is this site and what it’s attempting to accomplish being limited by its male dominance?
Part 1: Should women be added as members of the Core Contributors in order to be more ‘integral’?
I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be more involved, so before you get all in a tizzy, do read on. But I think that adding women to that list in order to be (or appear) more integral is a short cut solution to the problems some may have with the male dominance of this project and would only compromise the integrity of what’s being done here. What follows is my reasoning…
Honouring Lineage: First, I don't think anyone should be added or subtracted from that list quite simply because, they are the founders. I don't know the details of how this thing first got formed, but I do know it didn't begin with "Hey guys, wanna oppress some women?" It's a beautiful thing when people can come together with a common vision and make something happen. In this case, it was a group of men. It is what it is. What came after is awesome and women have really added to and expanded the project, but the fact remains, these guys birthed it. This particular experiment in collective intelligence started with them and it's important that that be honoured. This site is still young, but one day it won't be. The writers here look to pass on and credit the minds that have inspired them, who have come before. So it is that we who participate with this site may honour those who have poured their time, money, energy and passions into making this happen. I may be writing and contributing in a full way, perhaps one day you will be as well. But if we don't honour our roots, honour those who came before us, who built the ship and opened the door, well, I think we lose the inclusion we're looking for in holding an integral perspective.
Power vs. Responsibility: Ah, the gender/power imbalance argument. I think this is dangerous. One of the shadows of the push for equality is that we can start making assumptions or generalizations when we think that we are identifying a pattern or trend. I would argue that there is less of a power imbalance than there is an imbalance of responsibility. You see, you and I have a lot of power on this site. Everyone who writes, be it an article or comment, informs where this thing is headed. Points are taken quite seriously. In the case of this article, I'd even say I have more power than any of those guys do, simply because I am a woman. The downfall to being a white male is that it's difficult to not hear 'white male' as they construct an argument and all of these words would have to go through such a filter if any of them were to write this.
What they do have that the women peripherally listed as ‘who we are' don't have is an incredible amount of responsibility. They pay for this site out of their hard earned money. They put hours upon hours into writing, editing, leading and mentoring. You've read some of their work, you should listen to them have a conversation together! As many perspectives as possible are brought in and discussed, every comment, every possible new contributor, all the background design and on and on and on. The power is truly in the hands of the people, the readers and 'peripheral' writers while these guys have the awesome responsibility of filing through all of what is brought to them and making wise and integrally informed decisions about what to do with it all, for the sake of the collective. In fact, I would argue that for me personally, as a 'core woman' the only power I haven't had is the power to post my own pieces through the back-end software. I just learned how and let me tell you, that is a power I want to give back! What a pain in the ass time suck that is, I am already mourning the days when one of those fine gents did that for me.
I didn't post my first article until this past spring. Here these guys had been throwing themselves into building this thing for well over a year, I come sauntering in, throw down some lines about vaginas and suddenly doors start swinging open in every direction. Lots of power. Not much responsibility. I am the most active woman on this site and let me tell you, I have not earned a place in that core list, which brings me to...
The Importance of hierarchy: Hierarchy lets us know where we are. Some perspectives are more valid than others. Some folk here at beams are more core than others. To start to mess with that in order to appear more 'integral' or egalitarian just messes with the power of what's being done. I don't mean 'power over', I mean power driving. The core contributing founders have a responsibility to the collective that they take quite seriously. They are not looking to sit on some throne of how awesome they are, but are looking to take who they are, what they've got and offer it up in service of something greater. There is integrity to
what they are doing and noting who they are and honouring their role honours the rest of us. Trying to bring diversity by putting others in there who haven't yet earned their seat simply dilutes the potency of the project.
Theory vs. Embodiment: The 'integral movement' stands on a great and complex theory. Much of what we have seen in the integral world is great exploration and understanding of this theory. There has often been a gap between the understanding of the theory and the practice of the theory, which leads to embodiment. I think in a case such as this, the argument to have women not just be on the peripheral is about pushing for inclusion and diversity and ensuring that women have the power, voice and influence that brings as much wholeness to what wants to become as possible. This is important. Women are important. I would argue that this is absolutely happening here at Beams and Struts. It is an embodied value. Sure, in the about section we could be more explicit about the roles that women are playing in driving this site, but what for? Do we really limit ourselves by acknowledging the brotherhood that brought this together? I think all too often, organizations espouse equality by hiring or including 'minority' so that they look like they're doing the right thing. But what happens behind the scenes isn't the case. Here we have the opposite. Equality for women, gender/power issues, none of this is relevant here. Oppression, limited opportunity and the like...none of that is happening here. In holding an integral perspective, I think it's important to look deeply at what is occurring and be careful around making assumptions.
Celebrating White Men: Now, if we had an even number of men to women and toss in a few different races for good measure, would that make us more integral? As much as white men rule the world and seemingly have all the power, they also get a bum rap and have a lot of pressure on them. Case in point with these criticisms about ‘not being integral’. It's easy for us to pigeonhole a group of men and focus on a potential power imbalance, but let's look at what's actually going on here. That there's a group of men who are getting together to look at how we might be able to improve this world rather than rape it is something that should be celebrated. To alter this configuration in order to 'appear more integral' is just pandering to a shallow view of equality and seems to place more value on appeasing our sensitive selves than it does on cultivating depth. I think valuing the lineage and honouring this brotherhood is important. A container has been created and as this site evolves, that at the core is a group of men shouldn't be a barrier to entry, but rather a beacon. May they inspire more men to come together and be generous with their lives. I offer than we celebrate this configuration! And lucky us, we get to ride the coattails, get on board, we're going places.
Part 2: Is Beams and Struts limited by its male dominance?
So after I wrote part one, which was in fact a response to a reader (yes, we really do spend that much time responding to you, you are that important) there was something that sat a bit funny with me and the question that kept coming up, that’s bubbling still, that feels a little risky to ask on this here screen is this: Why do I care? Why do I think that having a core of men interpreted as ‘not integral’ is total bullshit? Why do I so fervently want to defend these guys? Is it because I believe in them? Yes. It is because I stand behind all of the above points? Also yes. Is it because I think that the move towards equality can sometimes turn into anti-male which I think is totally lame? Definitely yes. Might it also be because as a woman, organizing myself around powerful men will help to ensure the survival of my offspring?
Patriarchal shadow: Yes, I did just go there. I would love your perspective on this because I’m really just teasing into it. I used to think that I wasn’t all that affected by the patriarchy. I’ve been a self-sufficient-independent-woman in training since I was a girl. I’ve never felt held back professionally due to my gender, nor have I felt that I have missed out on opportunities because of it, quite the contrary actually. Sometimes I’m bummed out that I can’t write my name in the snow with my piss, but other than that, not held down. But through the writing of this, I have become suspicious of my own motivation and the possible impulse to ensure that I have men on my side by being on their side, particularly men who could in some way offer opportunity, advancement or connections, which could translate into security, safety and protection. As some deeply ingrained primal or cultural instinct, could not the drive towards working with, building with and otherwise aligning with a group of men be about power and thus imply power imbalance?
Could it be then that there is a power imbalance? Even if it is only ‘power driving’ and not ‘power over’? As stated above, there is definitely an imbalance in responsibility and so there must be an imbalance in power driving and if this is true, in what ways does this limit the experiment in collective intelligence? Or does it? One of the interesting things with being in this culture in this place in history is that the patriarchy isn’t so obviously felt as it would have been back when we women weren’t persons. Hmmm, this is feeling a bit like a rabbit hole, but I’m going to publish it anyway and see what happens. On to another point…
The female voice: It has been pointed out that this site feels a bit…um…masculine. No shit. It’s being driven by men. Does it feel masculine to you? Does that matter? Does this limit the site? Is there a barrier for people who come by? I do recall when I was first asked to write something and I checked out the site, I felt intimidated. Lots of very educated men, how could I hold my own among them? This may say more about me than about the site, but maybe not. If there were more female voices, would it be more welcoming? If there were rounded edges and pastel colours would you spend more time here? What about the topics? Are they man topics? Are they accessible? Could they be more accessible? One thing I do know for sure, whatever your perspectives on this are, you will be listened to by these core men, and by us little women on the sidelines. That was a joke. But maybe it wasn’t…
Leaning in: Is leaning in a value? It should be. If it isn’t, it is now. If we’re looking to broaden our perspective and push our growth, as individuals and as a collective, it takes a fair amount of leaning in, being curious, being willing to thumb through the edges of what is arising. Man/woman/masculine/feminine/power and the like as a topic to explore is like dancing over hot coals, if you stay in one place or perspective too long, you might get burned. This topic wants to expand faster than most of us can embody a theory. To give another point to the core of men being a great thing, it sure does fire up inquiry. If only we could fill out these topics without thinking we need to tear down the constructs that inspire the inquiry to begin with. In which direction are you leaning?