Sexist Bastards: Are the Beams Men Holding Women Back?

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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?dominant males

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’?

No.

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 canoldschool 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.we the people

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...

hierarchyThe 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 isChicago seven 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?

Maybe…

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 feministheld 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 aboutscreaming 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?

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14 comments

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Wednesday, 07 September 2011 16:53 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Dear Chela, thanks for writing an article on this site that no man could get away with ;-)

    Just thought I'd add to something you briefly alluded to… for whatever it's worth (and I think it's worth something) the women contributors on this site consistently give the men a run for their money. Your article "I Heart My Vagina" has by far been the most read piece on the site, followed by Vanessa Fisher's "Pop Culture & Porn Stars", if I'm not mistaken. Emily Baratta's "In Defence of Chastity" is up there too. These great articles have been read by tens of thousands of people and we're all better for it.

    The site has always endeavoured to be a platform for people with cool ideas and something meaningful to say. It so happens that about 90% of those people have been women (about 90% of guest authors). And by convenient happenstance, the 4 most recent weekly articles posted (including yours) have all been written by women.

    So even despite the evil dominator hierarchy of 7 male founders, the women are kicking ass. Both genders are well represented here and there's ample room for all our different perspectives. Thanks again for pointing it out, Che, you rock! ... And now what's for dinner? (a JOKE people, a JOKE) Thank you! :-)

    I Heart My Vagina
    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/306-i-heart-my-vagina-vaginoplasty-and-the-spiritual-circumcision-of-women

    Pop Culture & Porn Stars
    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/232-pop-culture-porn-stars-and-the-mis-guided-revolution-a-window-into-the-rebellion-of-postmodern-young-women

    In Defence of Chastity
    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/298-in-defense-of-chastity

  • Comment Link Robin Wednesday, 07 September 2011 19:53 posted by Robin

    Awesome article, thanks Chela for having the ovaries to go there and ask the questions. I've thought about patriarchy, feminist shadow, etc a lot myself. I'm a female engineer in a 90% white male environment, and the hierarchy is increasingly white and male the higher one goes around here. First off I want to agree with you that white men don't get enough credit for amazing work they do and the inclusive efforts they do make.

    I think the core group at beams and struts simply reflects a truth about the integral movement as a whole, that it is a largely white and male movement at this time. This is in part due to the geography of where integral started, America, as well as the time period, late 20th/early 21st century. Although society has made great strides in breaking down the glass ceilings in business, there are still many speedbumps. And in my opinion the personal sphere is still far behind the public sphere on gender/race equality. The fact remains that the people at the top in 21st century America are still mainly white men. I don't see it as a bad thing, simply a truth to be worked with. I find it extremely encouraging though that the Beams and struts core actively engages the question of diversity. This does not happen often in my experience.

    Second, I wanted to comment on power. Helping those higher up in the ladder is a common and effective strategy for climbing the ladder, and it isn't inherently a bad thing to do so. So I wouldn't mistrust your motives, although I think asking the question is important. Power, and the desire for it, like white men, also gets a bad rap, especially in spiritual circles. But I know in my own life that if used consciously, the wielding of power can do amazing things to help the people around me.

    And my final thought is about embodiment. I find it difficult to judge embodiment based on writings. The word em-bodi-ment has "body" in the word, and without a body present in front of me I find it difficult to discern. In my experience, embodiment is a slow process. It takes a while for the cognition of an concept to trickle its way down into my body/mind and manifest in my life, sometimes years. The inertia of my habits resists change. Many times I talk a good game, but struggle to follow through. In my experience with the greater integral movement, this is also true. Its a heady movement, many people talk a good game but don't embody integral in many parts of their life. So I'm skeptical of your claim that these men embody integral. However, I've never met the core, so this is merely a my own skepticism, not a judgement. My point is I don't think the medium of the internet is well suited to judge embodiment.

    This article got me to sign up, I've been a lurker for a while. I look forward to more discussion and input.

  • Comment Link Trish shannon Wednesday, 07 September 2011 22:26 posted by Trish shannon

    You beg the premise of part I. To be a core contributor is not the same as being a founder, which is where the bulk of your argument went. If the founders were men,then the founders were men. How core contributor is defined and how makes the decisions about inclusion or exclusion, could present an ethical and integral dilemma, which leads to your Part II inquiry: if one commits to being integral, what ethical principles follow (gender,etc.), and how does those principles apply to this particular situation?

    The particular term being used--contributor versus founder--matters both in the sense of respecting lineages as well as holding a space that is and invites participation across all lines, not just gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

    Your argument about power and responsibility suggests that those who show up get to decide. If we (no matter who the we is) follow that path, then traditional bastions of power will remain unchanged because we will reify existing power both in perception and practice. Your statement: 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 is complemented by still another shadow that we refuse to see or deal with trends or patterns even when we see them. Trends and patterns do exist: sometimes they are healthy, sometimes not.

    The greatest difficulty with the kind of thing we're talking about--how we see and are seen, regardless of which group is affected is that it is rarely seen from within. You made the perfect case for yourself: you don't see yourself as affected or having been affected by gender issues. How would you know or measure those effects? It is very difficult to identify the subtle influences of socialized behavior--for both men and women (or race or ethnicity or status).

    Have they asked women contributors if they would be willing to share in what you called incredible responsibility? And, because of the nature of consciousness, I think it very difficult to make wise and integrally informed decisions when so little diversity is represented within the editorial process. A justification of that lack of diversity using the rationale "I don't want to spend my time that way, and thank goodness they do" abandons commitment to both the process and its results. You can't forfeit a game you're not in.

    Hierarchy lets us know where we are: or where we are being put and by whom. 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.. . doing "it" with care is vital, but if there is not an inclusive and public process for earning a seat, then it really is a benevolent dictatorship. They really are sitting on thrones.

    Theory vs. Embodiment: ..the argument to have women not just be on the peripheral is about pushing for inclusion and diversity... This is important. Women (and all traditionally marginalized peoples) are important. ... It is an embodied value: where does this value MANIFEST, particularly in terms of editorial policy and grunt work. And, while I appreciate that behind the scenes you believe this is occurring, perception is important too.

    Celebrating White Men: full representation of every possible dimension would not necessarily make us any more or less integral. Integral isn't a demographic. However, can we fully embody Integral without a wide range of voices? Moreover, because white men rule and have a great deal of the power, they should be held accountable for the effects of that rule and power. At the same time, those of us who do not demand a place at the table, who sit back and let them do the work, are also responsible for the outcomes.

    I would not argue for making a change simply based on appearance, which is cheap and trivial. Instead, I would argue that a thoughtful engagement with the questions around terms--founder and contributor, the editorial process--who decides what voices are heard, and the work--who does it and gets credit for it is well worth doing. And one test for the outcome of that engagement is this: If, five years hence, a core group of men are still in control, still doing the deciding, and still doing all the work, then maybe there is a patriarchal shadow working here.

    In terms of Part II. First, see above. It is very hard to see when you participate and/or facilitate cultural norms and stereotypes. Second, power imbalances rarely occur in a vaccuum. Most of us participate in our own slavery/victimization (whatever manifestation that takes). However, all that being said: the power imbalances in our world are real and have terrible consequences. You might feel as if your gender has not been an issue for you and that women are persons at this time in history, but global data on this (and race, ethnicity, and status) would show you to be wrong.

    I worry less about the site feeling masculine with accompanying intimidation. (I rarely feel intellectually or masculine intimidated: I am more likely to be intimidated by a feminine feeling site.) The first problem is, as you so clearly stated: Is there a barrier for people who come by? The second problem is how do you answer the first question?

    Leaning in: If leaning in is a value, what is its ethical principle, that is, how does leaning in manifest, specifically in this context?

    Finally, I found it very interesting that your subtitle asked if the "beams" were getting in the way. I've always liked that the name of the site invoked two completely different structural models. Without dwelling on it too much (as this response is already lengthy), both my intellectual training and my experiential insights are completely sure that if only one "group" comprises the beams, even if that's pure perception on the part of readers or publishers, there's a problem.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Thursday, 08 September 2011 01:24 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Trish,

    Thanks for the comment.

    In response to your question about whether we have ever asked a woman to be a core contributor the answer is yes. Vanessa was for a period of time a core member and she asked herself to be taken off the core contributor status.

    I don't totally agree that Chela has begged her point in Pt I. For one reason, we've had discussions/debate between ourselves about the use of the term Core Contributors. Some (I would probably include myself in this category) think we might do better simply to have Founders and Family. Though I understand that the function still remains whether we highlight it or not on the site.

    In relation to the editorial process, all authors on this site (founders and family) have final decisions about the content of their own pieces. Everyone sends their piece out to various authors on the site and looks for 1-3 editors, depending on who has time. If the piece has a specific focus that falls within the specialization of one of us, we try to get that person involved in the editing process. For example, I read and gave some feedback to Rhian's most recent piece as it has to do with religion and that's my focus.

    Our editorial process gives feedback. It doesn't make final decisions. Authors do that. We have a culture whereby people take the feedback seriously. I can't think of a person ever saying the feedback was unhelpful to their writing. But all authors have the final discretion.

    I have a role as content editor for the site, but that basically means I send around emails to various folks to check at what stage various pieces are in and then work on calendaring and setting target publication dates. And i help them with technical questions of uploading. I (nor any of the other Founders) have anything like the power of editors at say The NyTimes or something.

    We've published pieces where people have directly sent us a piece and asked if we would consider it. Others we have encouraged to write a piece for the site. Those who we have published one of their pieces, basically we consider them (as per the name) part of the family and they have a green light (even an encouraging green light) to write more.

    The only time we ever have to make stronger editorial decisions is on the rare occasion someone we don't know submits an article to us via the Beams email. It's happened a few times where we felt those submissions were not up to snuff and we declined them.

    Otherwise the editorial process is peer-led and collaborative as I see it.

    As such the Core Contributors function really has more to do things like: site design, paying for the upkeep of the site. We've made decisions like having Sports Week or Redemption Week. We've formed our editing process. We're working on a comments policy. We think about strategic relationships. The tone of the site--including lots of pop culture, seeking to temper the use of insider jargon. We send notes to folks we think would be great authors, encouraging them to write for the site.

    There's influence/power to be sure, but I guess I see that more as governance/platform issues. I think this problematizes a simple core/periphery argument as well as the critique that there isn't enough diversity at the power centre (if I understood you correctly on that point). My own sense is that the power is much more diffuse than A Core Contributor label actually might indicate.

    All that to say, I think that complicates your point about the power/responsibility dyad--particularly the notion that whoever shows up is who holds the power.

    I see it more as the formation of certain norms that we hold all of us to--all authors on the site. e.g. When a new contributor comes on board, we send them a copy of Olen's piece on Dialogue and ask them to read it and abide by it as it expresses the common ethos we all subscribe to. We ask all contributors to the site (commenters, authors, everybody) to uphold those norms. No author has ever balked at such a notion.

    That, for example, is not going to change to be sure. But it's also one that all of us can be held accountable to--by each other. Same goes for the foundation of this site being a collective inquiry and the tone being one seeking to reach (for lack of a better term) a "popular" level.

    If someone doesn't like those norms, then I assume they won't be interested in our site. I see it more as us founders set some certain parameters, helped create this platform, and then everybody else is encouraged (within those parameters) to plug and play. I see the field as quite open. I see it as bringing out voices that otherwise aren't getting the recognition I think they deserve. My experience is that it has called out leadership in various people. They have to take stands and put themselves out their in public space.

    I see in that way, the Process (to borrow a capital from Rhian's piece) as in a sense the real power. I see that kind of journey as the real alluring force of the site. Yes we have to do various governance things, but I think your are over-emphasizing the strength of those in this particular experiment.

    Obviously I'm biased.

    I think it's good that these issues got raised and I appreciate you raising them Trish, as we haven't always been totally explicit about how we do things. I hope that helps give readers a better sense of of the common intention that birthed and guides the site.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Thursday, 08 September 2011 01:28 posted by Chris Dierkes

    sorry forgot the link to Olen's piece:

    http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/215-unearthing-new-norms-of-conversation-online

  • Comment Link kfkonner Thursday, 08 September 2011 05:11 posted by kfkonner

    I’m perfectly fine with resuscitating the missionary position since it certainly does feel good when a man watches over a woman. There isn’t any need to go into all the variety of contortions to demonstrate that an energetic polarity between the masculine and feminine is always present. What each does for the other though, is important to notice and analyze. I like how Chela takes a good look at herself in order to find this bigger picture, the one that may not have shown up if she wasn’t so well versed with thinking integrally. It isn’t easy being vulnerable to the resistance seeing what we wouldn’t want to own that has the potential for remaining deeply embedded energetically in our way of interacting.

    Collective intelligence is based on a belief system that everyone together creates the highest intelligence of the group. The virtue of the collective as a power is to seek what it can do with what it has available, including setting intentions for providing the right space for what (supposingly) wants to emerge by it’s presence. What emerges is the most intelligent way the group has ground to stand on together without collapsing. Another way of putting it is that the power imbalances previously on auto drive (deeply embedded energetically) prior to the collective intelligence intentional fields are morphed by the collective into test drivers who have been known to ask for directions. Which even with GPS systems is still a useful way to travel.

  • Comment Link kfkonner Thursday, 08 September 2011 18:26 posted by kfkonner

    One point that pops up for me while reading the article is that there is no theoretical, hypothetical or personal experience included which compares working with 7 men and whether deeply embedded power imbalances are similar when working with 7 women. Very likely the dynamics inherent in the patriarchal shadow often transfers as a system itself to any process of power, even if it shows up in different configurations. There are attempts with using systems (ie. Holocracy) to diffuse power imbalances externally.

    A little more about collective intelligence and power imbalance, well, really, my own tirade about using our naturally occurring energy in a way that creates imbalance... What I have seen happen even with the setting of good intentions is that the collective energy of the group itself contains shadow material/energy. This charge can limit the cohesiveness of the group to expand beyond the boundaries of what the shadow material emits unless people use their heart. And even though people say they want to, transmitting love is itself a skill that doesn't seem so naturally occurring in people (as evidenced by the number of people seeking spiritual teachers, therapists, coaches, self help books, etc). I mean, how many people around you can you say at any moment can access their heart and alter the material/energy of shadow? Believe me, I would love the power of the heart to be in balance. Power imbalances exist because we do not honor each other in a way that keeps the energy charged with the quality of love, or sweetness, as I like to call it. I know this is ridiculously over-simplified but really, it's no different than taking a breath of air and having an orgasm. It's that simple.

    I enjoy hearing the details of what I have yet to acknowledge about my own ways of being that are chock full of learned exchanges based on power imbalances. Thanks for keeping these voices coming, because it's making a difference.

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Friday, 09 September 2011 01:10 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Wow, a very interesting and insightful article, Chela. I really appreciate your voice on this and your attempt to look at all sides of the issue. It inspired me to want to leave a comment.

    There were a few things that came up for me, which I felt a desire to put into the space.

    First, I really think your point about not holding tightly to any one position is crucial here. These are very complex issues and I think in general many of the arguments around the inclusion of women (or people of color) in different organizations tend to polarize quite strongly between two counter positions.

    The first position you might call the more traditional hardline feminist critique (and by saying hardline feminist I want to be very clear that I don't mean all feminism. Feminism is an important movement with a lot of important insights to offer to this kind of discussion and shouldn't be dismissed). But the more hardline feminist critique may hold an inherent assumption that if men are running the show, women are inherently being oppressed and the men are controlling powermongering assholes. As a consequence, all the work done by that particular organization or group would be in some way dismissed simply for this fact. That is one extreme.


    The other polar position may hold a view that any critique about the "masculine" nature of the site, or the male dominance of the sight is of no real significance to the content or the power relationships between contributors, and that putting so much emphasis on equality of representation is simply old (and boring) feminist politics that have no real relevance in a "post-feminist" world.

    If we set these up as the two poles, we can hopefully hold the partial truths of each and also hold the endless gradations of perspective that flow between them...

    There is also another set of polar arguments within gender circles that I would say are important to consider in this inquiry. They go something like this:

    Argument 1: "Women don't really want to take the responsibility to be leaders. Women defer to men in regards to power and decision-making because they don't actually want to take responsibility for the consequences that come with real leadership and commitment. Women now have all the opportunity available to them to take positions of leadership in the world, in every sector of society, but they are non-commital, flaky, and often end up opting out to get married, have children and thereby re-create roles that are comfortable for them. Thus, it is women's own fault that they aren't in positions of power."

    This first argument tends to lead to a critique of the "feminine" and a healthy desire to push women out of their traditional roles so as to take the bull by the balls and get involved! Thank God! The shadow side of this though can lead to a devaluation of "womanhood" and a distain for the "feminine" and female ways of knowing and can also lead to an unconscious idealization of men and the "masculine" (either by trying to be like men or by aligning with powerful men) as a way of trying to gain acceptance or power (what you alluded to Chela as one of the possible shadows of internalized patriarchy)

    Argument 2: "Women aren't filling top CEO jobs and taking on major power positions within companies and society because the structures and forms that dictate those roles and responsibilities have been defined by men. It isn't just about whether men and women want or don't want to take responsibility, it is about the very system that dictates how the roles and responsibilities will be carried out and what styles of leadership/decision-making, communication, values, and aesthetics dictate they ways those organizations are run, from the obvious to the very subtle levels. Women opt out of these systems because they can't find their voice within them. It may appear flaky or non-commital on the surface, but the roots of their struggle to "fit-in" and be leaders go much deeper than simply not wanting to commit. They are struggling with trying to fit into a system that they have not equally co-created and which they often feel at a loss for power in understanding and communicating within."

    This second argument tends to lead to a healthy advocation of women being empowered to find their own voice and create structures and forms that speak to their organic nature and ways of knowing. There is a desire to explore more "feminine" styles of leadership and ways of knowing that may be different from men. The shadow side of this argument though is that it can lead to an essentializing of the "feminine" and an idealizing of women that sets up a polarization between the "feminine" and the "masculine"and can end up oppressing men's voices as a reaction to the ways that they felt oppressed...

    Obviously, again, there are truths to be gleaned from both sides, and shadows to be confronted with both. I don't particularly have the answers, but I've seen the healthy and shadow sides of both these arguments in working with women, and in myself, and there is no easy answer. Learning to be flexible with perspective and compassionate with difference is really key to navigating some middle way through the tendency we have to make any partial perspective the WHOLE truth, especially around such emotionally charged topics. So thanks for opening the inquiry....

  • Comment Link Chela Friday, 09 September 2011 16:19 posted by Chela

    Well now, isn't this fun!
    I do love what's unfolding here and thank you all for jumping in.

    Robin...from lurker to signed up? I am delighted :)
    Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your points and could feel a settling in me about the desire for power getting a bad rap. It's really ignited a lot of question for me around power, how it's defined, measured and used and could in and of itself be a whole series of articles and discussions to get into.

    I want to speak to and clarify what I meant around embodiment as I couldn't agree more with what you've said about it. Certainly judging embodiment from writing is difficult as it is the cognitive that gets these words down. I didn't mean that these men embody integral. Even establishing what that means would be quite the feat. These guys, (and the rest of us) have varying degrees of health in different areas to be certain. We humans will always have some areas that are more developed or embodied than others, more filled out one could say.

    What I meant in the embodiment section was distinguishing between valuing the importance of the female voice/presence/perspective in theory, vs. actually valuing the female voice/presence/perspective as being an integral part of bringing wholeness to this site. What I was saying was that these guys don't just agree that this is important in theory, but that this is important in practice, as a matter of course and without thought or effort. Being inclusive of women isn't something they need to be reminded of (at least in my experience) in terms of a concept that they should follow, but that it is simply what is being done. In my experience with taking theory to embodiment, we move from a cognitive holding of a theory, which can feel both stiff and clumsy, to a more fluid, automatic and generative way of expressing what was once theory.

    Trish - Thank you also for your thorough comment. Your point about Core contributor vs. Founder is well taken. As I read it, I could feel in myself that I may feel a little differently about this argument if Founder wasn't part of the equation. I suppose I would be considered a core contributor then, but just don't really feel in myself the need to be recognized as this on the site. I'm not sure why, it just doesn't really matter to me.
    However, I do find your comments about perception being important to be quite valid and I found it interesting to read Chris' response to yours in terms of attempting to correct some of the assumptions it seemed you made around how things are run. I guess when we're really looking to unearth and press deeply into these kinds of issues, being more explicit about what is happening in the background of this site may be very helpful for readers and if, as we claim, we are attempting to be inclusive of perspectives and have those perspectives drive what's being done here, then opening up to inquiry around not only the content of what's being written, but how it's coming into form takes the project of emergence to a whole other level.

    Did what Chris wrote open things up in this regard for you? Or for others reading? Is it helpful to understand how we're currently doing things? Do you as reader feel more included and inspired to engage knowing this? And to add to how women being important manifests here, we do edit, not as many women edit as the core group of men, but that is and will grow and as Chris pointed out, at the end of it, the writers have final say. Also, Bergen's point (which I didn't realize) about 90% of guest authors so far being women would be another example of this. Also, the fact that the articles that the women have written on this site have gotten so much attention also helps to reinforce the importance of women's voices and this is certainly noted.

    I appreciate your point not feeling imbalance from within and the question of how to measure the effects feels very very important. With this inquiry in this article and since posting, I have been feeling into the subtlety of this more and more and much to my surprise I am discovering times when I play dumb, or at the very least dumb down my power when with some men. I've been totally blind to it and it's both fascinating and incredibly vulnerable to face. I have read your comment several times and feel challenged by some of what you're saying, demanding that I look closer at some of these issues, particularly the places in which women (or me personally) don't demand a voice. I don't know that this applies to this site per say, as my perspective and voice is quite strong here, but your comments are stirring.

    I am curious about one thing you said, that you're more likely to be intimidated by a more feminine feeling site. Why?

    In terms of leaning in, how it applies to this context is being willing to engage with the unknown aspects of this inquiry. It's one thing to post an article whereby you feel solid in and stand behind all your points. In the case of part two of this article, there is a real edgy sense for me in writing it, there is inquiry that feels very alive and so the leaning in is being willing to dive into this arena without much feeling of ground. As each comment rolls in, I can feel my own center shifting and expanding. I think in the context of this site, this is what we're looking to do with these discussions, lean in, as opposed to just throwing out opinions, we're wanting to really build with one another, to allow one another's perspectives to expand our own and riff off them, really allowing group mind to unfold. I can feel it happening here in this dialogue, how bout you?

    As for the Beams only in the title. Cool seeing and insight on partiality. We often call the site Beams simply to shorten it, so that's what that was about, but interesting point none the less.

    Will be back later...Thanks to Katherine and Vanessa for coming in here. Chris, thanks for the structural clarification, this felt important.

    Bergen...your dinner is getting cold.

  • Comment Link Paul P Saturday, 10 September 2011 18:04 posted by Paul P

    Nice work Chela. I love how you dive into the muck. Nice work Beams, I like how you openly examine yourself…

    Seems the male founders are only a limitation if you are thinking in linear terms. And it certainly creates something of a certain quality when founded by men only. Yet is one such quality better than the other? Are bananas better than orchids? Are we looking for orchid scented bananas? Or banana flavoured orchids? Is that Integral?

    The discussion sounds pretty theoretical which leads me to the practical question of whether any women have asked Beams to be Core Contributors and been turned down? Does anyone out there want to be a core contributor, who isn’t? Trish? Vanessa? Robin? (Chela said she doesn’t.) Where is the onus here?

    I’m a white guy, and I don’t want to be a core contributor. What does that mean in this context? Does anyone care? Probably not.

    There’s plenty of room on the internet for a group of men and women to get together and found a different site of a different flavour. What prevents that? Nothing here as far as I can tell.

    And not only that, on this site the hard question IS being asked: Are the Beams Men holding the Women Back? Seems the invitation is right there to “be the change” that the readership wants. Any takers?

    I agree with Chris – there’s a platform that has been created here, the field seems quite open and the Process has the real power. Or maybe that’s just another Guys’ perspective…

  • Comment Link Chela Sunday, 11 September 2011 17:35 posted by Chela

    kfkonner...
    Your comments feel very generous and have the quality of heart to them that you speak of. What I love about the dialogue section on this site is getting to read and engage with so many points and perspectives. What's striking to me in what you bring is the feeling presence to what you're talking about. That is, often when we lay down perspective, those points seem to be more on the cognitive side of things. There's something about the way you've shared that I can feel you inside the inquiry and calling less to the answers than you are calling to the being. While reading, I could feel into the moments of power imbalance that arise in my own life and what does happen when I'm actually willing to feel into and lead from a heart space and what this can actually do in terms of causing a shift or actually undercutting a power imbalance all together. From this place a collective can feel less like a group of individuals putting ideas into a space and more like a collective organism, as we engage with full and open heart, what we offer or take from the space can be more like the inhale and exhale, the 'We' space actually breathing...
    Thanks for being here Katherine.

    Vanessa...
    Thank you so much for your contribution, I was hoping to hear from you as you always do offer so much insight, particularly in this arena. I'm enjoying the different threads to this discussion, the topic is vast and can feel quite edgy and even overwhelming to dig into. The arguments you made seem to make a lot of sense, particularly where women have a difficult time trying to find there way within a structure created by males.

    I think that's one of the things that I love about what's being done here is that I don't sense rigidity or a resistance to growth, this feels like an entity hungry for what's next.
    In a broader context, your points have piqued my curiosity, specifically around what the answers may be to what's occurring and how to create more shifts consciously. I think this relates back to Trish's point about seeing trends and patterns, the level of health of these patters and doing or not doing something about them. I suppose this dialogue here is doing something about them, putting them under the microscope.

    As far as the Beams crew being under the microscope, Paul I really appreciate your comment. Direct, clear and to the point. As we dig around and discuss more, 'the process having the power' feels very alive, as in right in this moment, in this process of dialogue is the real power for the unfolding collective intelligence. The configuration that holds the foundation feels less relevant that what is emerging out of it.

    Just to be clear though, I do want to be a core contributor, I just don't care about being a Core Contributor. That is, I'm up for the work, I want the responsibility and leadership, I love this site, what's happening and it feels important to contribute in a full way to driving it. It just doesn't matter to me where my bio and that hot picture of me gets put. :)
    And so if the question around women being allowed that kind of 'power' is up, if the question is are women held back? No. I feel no barrier to entry in terms of how much I am able to contribute and I am certain no other women would find that either if they want to come to play...ladies?

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Sunday, 11 September 2011 18:03 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Hey Paul,

    I appreciate your comment. In reflection, I realize my own comment was quite theoretical, which didn't particularly deal with my direct experience at Beams. That was partly intentional and partly exploratory, due to my own personal journey right now in sorting through all these polarities of perspective, having been immersed in many different women's and feminist organizations for the last 5 years.

    This has also all come up as an even stronger inquiry for me since moving to South Korea and working with feminist activists and organizations here where these kinds of conversations really aren't being had. Feminism is still such a newly budding movement here and those who are self-identified "feminists" (which are few and far between in such a male dominated society), sometimes carry VERY strong and angry convictions about men (and white women I might add :). I've found it interesting and challenging to navigate at times, and I've even been accused of not being a feminist by some of them because I'm not angry enough. But I also respect that their culture is in a different place and thus their own developmental moment is different than mine, which is just more grist for the mill for me to find a way to bridge between different worlds and to try to work with the energy of that anger constructively. And some of the women are absolute sweethearts who love that I get involved and take an interest in their culture, so they make up for the the times I get ripped to shreds by other feminists who think I'm a privileged ignorant white woman :)

    Anyways, sorry for the sidetrack. Back to the point of your question. I personally did ask and was invited to come on as a core contributor to Beams and I didn't feel any barriers in regards to becoming one. The guys were very open to having me and were sad to see me go. My own choice to leave had many reasons, some of which were about finding my own voice, and there were some ways that I felt I couldn't do that fully on the Beams site. That isn't a reflection of the Beams men per se, as much as just being a part of my own unfolding journey and developmental moment. There were some ways I felt limited by the design, organization and values of the site, but I don't fault the men for that per se either, as they did start the site and, as Chela said, have put the blood, sweat and tears into creating and sustaining it. It was more just a realization on my part that I wouldn't fit as a core contributor. Also, it seems Chela is navigating her way fine within it all, so my sense it the whole thing is in constant evolution as well.

    Therefore, my position would be that, yes, the site will probably have certain limitations due to the fact that all the core contributors are male. But that is like anything. For me, it doesn't take away from the content offered, and what's most important is that the team itself is in constant inquiry about its own process. Can't really ask for much more. And if people don't like what's being offered, then I would encourage them to to start a site that reflects what they want to see, rather than expecting Beams to be all things for all people, because it never will.

    That's my two cents

  • Comment Link Paul P Sunday, 11 September 2011 18:44 posted by Paul P

    Chela- When you say

    "I do want to be a core contributor, I just don't care about being a Core Contributor... It just doesn't matter to me where my bio and that hot picture of me gets put."

    I wonder if in this context this is exactly what matters and is worth caring about. Seems there's something to declaring what you want vs abdicating to not caring.

    Vanessa - thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I had wondered where you had gone and your transparency is helpful and adds much to this thread.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Tuesday, 13 September 2011 16:12 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Vanessa wrote:
    And if people don't like what's being offered, then I would encourage them to to start a site that reflects what they want to see, rather than expecting Beams to be all things for all people, because it never will.

    Amen to that.

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