There are few, if any, issues quite as complex or as emotive today as those about who is responsible for the current chaos in intergender relationships, and about what – if anything – we can do to improve them. It’s difficult, for example, to express any criticism of feminism without being labelled ‘anti-feminist’ – and that’s certainly not my intention here. So this has not been an easy book to write; and it probably won’t be that easy or comfortable to read, either. Each issue, each viewpoint has so many ramifications that it becomes all too easy to lose ourselves in arguing about the meaning of a single theme – and in the process miss its relevance within the whole. And it’s the whole that we need to understand: trying to fix individual fragments without that understanding of the whole has only made things worse – as is becoming all too apparent now.
Perhaps the best way to read this book would be to approach it with much the same attitude as was once described for one of the Plains Indian peoples. On any complex, emotive issue, the effects of any decision on the next seven generations, and the previous seven, all had to be considered: no single viewpoint could possibly cover all aspects of the argument. So the decision-makers would sit in two circles, all facing inward: the ‘elders’ on the inside, the ‘grandmothers’ on the outside. The men – and only the men – would each argue, often forcefully, from their own viewpoint; once each had been allowed to state their position, the arguments would rage back and forth until all views had been heard, and a point of silence was reached. Then, without discussion, and sometimes without a word being spoken, the women – and only the women – would decide the course of action: and their decision was final. Each gender had their own place, their own task: one to argue, the other to judge. We might nowadays regard those gendered rôles as restrictive, if not sexist: but it did seem to make use of the strengths – and avoid the weaknesses – of each gender’s societal rôles.
So I’d ask that you approach this book in much the same way. The aim is to find ways to assist in empowering all, men and women, to help this world of ours become a better, gentler, more peaceful place. The issues are complex, emotive. Each thread can be argued about: but to do so too early, before its place in the wider discussion is established, would block the deeper understanding of the problem which we need to reach. So I ask you to allow me to speak, with many different voices, from many different viewpoints; and to continue until all the arguments have been heard, and a point of silence has been reached. Then make your decisions about where these words fit within your view of the world. Those decisions are yours, and yours alone – and must always be so.
Many of the opinions and observations in this book are necessarily my own: yet none of this would work unless many different voices can be heard. (I’ve expressed the viewpoints of others as best I can: but no man can fully understand – let alone describe – what it feels like to be female in this culture, for example, so what I’ve written may not be quite how you might wish it to be said. I can only hope that it will suffice.) In addition to those writers and others credited in the text, Sha’nta Catt, Bob Dingley, Delia Lawson-Hartney, Hanson Jeong, Kathryn Matthews, Bob Pease and others from Men Against Sexual Assault, Cath Murray, Cindy Pavlinac, Don Bruce and Ray O’Sullivan of People’s Equality Network, Emma Randall, Val Remy, Warwick Sayer and Rob Ware all provided comments. Special thanks are due to Frances Howard-Gordon at Gothic Image, who suggested the theme some years ago; to Valerie Graves, who sent me a constant stream of comments and cuttings over many months; to Catherine Caulwell, who read through and argued about the material many times; and to Marina Moss, who didn’t, but who contributed in other, quieter, and perhaps sadder, ways.