A letter to feminists…from a 70-year-old white guy by Peter Wilkes


Peter Wilkes - CopyHello everyone —

I’m new at this, so be gentle…  I’m also aware that some might believe this letter to be “mansplaining” (a term I just learned).  I trust it won’t be.

First, I’m not a theologian, and definitely not an academic.  I’m just a guy, like any guy you might see on the street.

But I believe that feminism – defined as true and honest equality – is the only thing that’s going to save this messed-up world.  I’m also convinced the biggest obstacle to this happening is organized religion.  However, most importantly, I’m distressed that other guys don’t get this.  So, before I leave this life, I’m determined to do something about that.

I didn’t always think this way but, in my fifties, as I was kicking and screaming and going down for the third time, I reached for Merlin Stone’s book, When God was a Woman.  Only then did things start to make sense.  I’ve always been told I’m a late bloomer.  I never realized how late “late” would be.

But really, it’s just logical that early man watching a child grow inside the body of a woman – then seeing it emerge from that same body – must have found something amazing, wondrous, and worthy of great praise and adoration.  And also worship, for something like that to happen was, and always will be, a true miracle. 

So, from there it’s no great leap to imagine that women would proudly and justifiably be at the pinnacle of a society where history tells us these… creators… led their people in an equal, just, and peaceful manner and in partnership with all living things on earth.

That belief is much more logical than any endorsed by organized religion.  And, despite rumors to the contrary, we guys do try to live our lives in a somewhat logical manner.

So if I get it why don’t other guys?  Everything else we’ve believed in has failed us.  More and more we see women covered in burkas, women raped on the streets or on campuses, and young girls stolen from schools and sold into sexual slavery.  It pains us as it pains you, and we can’t find answers.

In an honest and sincere effort many of you try to offer some answers, some comfort.  But how many times have you said, “all that feminism means is equality,” or “the goddess society was a partnership,” or “matriarchy does not mean womwoman called goden are dominant”?  And how many times have those words fallen on deaf ears?

So, something’s not working.  We men are spiritually starving but won’t accept the one hand that is offering sustenance.  And that’s not logical.

When something makes sense but doesn’t work we’ve got to dig deeper for the solution.  In doing that I thought of two possibilities.  The first is kind of basic and, admittedly none of us wants to hear it, but I believe it to be the truth.  We need a more neutral vocabulary.

To guys the words feminist, matriarchy, and goddess immediately raise red flags.  It’s in our bones and in our guts, and no we can’t explain why but those are girl words and we’re not girls and yes we know that’s not mature and no we don’t care how old we are and NO we are NOT listening!…

Or something like that.  As I said we try to be logical.  It doesn’t always work…  In this case these words are threatening to men – and, yes, they shouldn’t be but they are.  And when men are threatened, as the little tirade (and our world today) indicates, rationality evaporates.

The great marketers of this planet we live on (and I include in that group every organized religion) know this.  They also have an ancient and vested interest in making sure the so-called battle of the sexes keeps us apart.  Want proof?  If tomorrow every woman woke up and decided she liked her body, and every man decided that money and power weren’t everything, how many institutions would collapse?  And “God” forbid if everyone decided to question their faith…

But the marketers play the long game.  This separate and unequal stuff has been pounded into our DNA since the first marketer – a guy – wrote the story of Adam and Eve and decided that the image of God should be male… in order to destroy the final remnants of the matriarchal societies.  But we never heard that last part of the story, so, religious or not – and by virtue of some ancient guy’s own self-proclaimed divinity – a man as the ultimate boss has evolved to become part of our identity.

So that identity is what needs to be changed, and that’s a bit more challenging than coming up with a few neutral words.  And the only way that’s going to happen is if a guy discovers on his own – and in a non-threatening manner – that what he identifies with is suspect.

To that end I have written a little book titled, A Woman Called God, and before anyone thinks this is shameless self-promotion, please understand that proceeds from this effort are going to fight breast cancer, a disease that claimed both my mother and my first wife.

A Woman Called God is not a book a guy will pick on his own, but its appearance, simplicity, and brevity – it can be read in five minutes – are all designed for the reluctant reader.  The book doesn’t threaten by declaring emphatically that God is a woman, but what it does do is clearly make guy-God exclusivity highly suspect.  And that’s exactly what’s needed at this stage.

For today, with the world at a spiritual tipping point, it’s time, once again, for feminist thinking to come to the fore.  But guys need to walk before they can run… and they need to crawl before they can walk.  Maybe together we can get them to do that.

In friendship, cooperation, and great hope I remain sincerely yours,

Peter Wilkes

As the son of an Episcopal minister, Peter Wilkes had a first-hand look at the inner workings of organized Religion (with a capital “R”) throughout his upbringing. Now seventy years old he has reached the conclusion that this institution, like many others, has continually done more harm than good. In his recently published book, A Woman Called God, the first in his series of Little books for Big peopleTM, he goes back to the source and examines how it’s possible to leave Religion behind and reclaim your soul. http://awomancalledgod.com, https://www.facebook.com/AWomanCalledGod.

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Categories: Activism, Childbirth, Feminism, Feminist Awakenings, Gender and Power, Men and Feminism, Naming

Tags: , , ,

29 replies

  1. wow – I congratulate you for such beautiful post!

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  2. I own and read your book! It is delightful and wonderful. I look forward to the next one as well.

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  3. Hi Peter, thanks for your blog and your book, which is an important contribution to our discussion.

    Two caveats:

    1. The power to give birth is indeed miraculous, as you say. But it is important to recognized that this was not the only “gift” women had. After birth, there is nurture. I would argue that women were also celebrated for the spirit of generosity mothering (not birthing) embodies. In the Neolithic, women were also celebrated for inventing agriculture, pottery, and weaving, which by any accounting were invented by the use of women’s brains–not their bodies alone.

    2. While it is true that the “f,” “m,” and “g” words raise red flags for some, I would suggest that it is not any particular words that are the problem–by whatever name it is called any theory that questions “male dominance” is going to raise red flags, no matter how it is “sugar-coated.” One of the reasons to use”f,” “m,” and “g” words is precisely their “metaphoric power” to shatter patriarchal assumptions. That said, there are times and places to use some words and times and places to use others.

    Good luck with your book. Hope those old guys and some younger ones too read it and learn…

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    • Thanks, Carol, for your comments. And you’re absolutely right on both points. There was so much more women were celebrated for and still should be. Unfortunately, the restrictions on the length of the blog piece didn’t allow for that type of elaboration but it is certainly important and I didn’t mean to discount it in any way. Additionally, as you indicated, “male dominance” is the issue, so do we fight fire with fire and hope to get to neutral, or do we start at neutral and hope to evolve to partnership? I honestly don’t know. At this juncture I find I have many more questions than answers. :)

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      • Thanks for this blog post, Peter. Your goal of getting more men to become feminist is laudable, and I hope you succeed. My husband is a feminist, so to me it makes total sense.

        However, personally I don’ think “neutral” exists. In a patriarchal society any “neutral” term is assumed to be male until proven guilty. For e.g., in the 1970s feminists began to use the word chairperson or chair. This term was taken over by the mainstream, but only to designate a woman who was the chair. The male chair continued to be called a chairMAN. So our attempt at “equality” made women invisible, which is exactly what patriarchy wants (unless she’s in some relationship to a man, and, therefore, derivative). Another example: In a newspaper you might read a headline that states, “All the workers immigrated from Ireland, leaving only women and children.” The neutral term “workers” is assumed to be male, unless designated as “female workers.”

        The question of language is extremely important in this transition from patriarchy to partnership. But I think the language necessary to “proselytize” among men and the language needed to empower women are different. Feminism, Goddess, and matriarchy empower women, while they scare men. So until we have greater partnership, we may need two languages.

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        • Hi Nancy. Thanks for your comments. I agree most heartily that language of the the story of Feminism, Goddess, and matriarchy needs to be different for men, and I am actually working on a “translation” a this moment that I’m hoping will at least move us closer to that goal. But doesn’t continuing to scare one gender to empower the other just get us back to square one? I don’t know, it feels like their must be a better way.

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  4. That you seem to have derived your title from the brilliant feminist classic by the great art historian, Merlin Stone, does not help your cause in my opinion. The cartoon idea, however, is absolutely delightful.

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    • Thanks Sarah. I appreciate your thoughts. I prefer to think of my title choice as homage rather than derivative. Merlin Stone’s book saved my life.

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  5. Bravo! Thanks for your thoughtful post and good luck getting guys to read your book.

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  6. Peter, I applaud your position and mission to appeal to more men so that they can see the error of their ways. It seems ironic that you are proposing a more neutral vocabulary when that is what feminism attempted back in the 60s and 70s with limited success.

    I like the idea of a partnership society, not a patriarchy or a matriarchy because both imply one or the other gender is in power, and we don’t need more power-mongering between us. We need to live together, respect, and honor each other as both human and divine beings.

    I also found myself thinking, “Get over it!” when you said, “To guys the words feminist, matriarchy, and goddess immediately raise red flags. It’s in our bones and in our guts, and no we can’t explain why but those are girl words and we’re not girls and yes we know that’s not mature and no we don’t care how old we are and NO we are NOT listening!… these words are threatening to men – and, yes, they shouldn’t be but they are. And when men are threatened, as the little tirade (and our world today) indicates, rationality evaporates.” I don’t understand why a man would be threatened by the idea of Goddess any more than he would be by the idea of God other than it means he’s not on top. Get over it. There’s room enough for both of us.

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    • In my opinion, the REASON we have patriarchy is because men feel threatened by and are afraid of women’s power. Why else would they want to keep us under their control? If we can’t figure out a way to make men feel safer, there’s no way we will achieve anything like a “partnership” society. It’s very hard for any of us to understand what “power with” might look like, rather than the “power over” paradigm we’ve been enduring for the past 5000 years or so, but I think sharing is what we should be aiming towards.

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      • And, then really, is it our job to make men feel safer??? Who needs to feel safer in this world of ours, men or women?

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        • I think we’d all like to feel safer, and if we want things to be different, we have to take the initiative to make it happen. Maybe women could start by raising our sons differently. What might that look like?

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    • Hi Saladd. I agree, the words don’t threaten me, and I’m not all that special, so why should they be inflammatory to other men? But they are for the very reason you mentioned, “he’s not on top.” But that’s just the practical issue. The more systemic issue is how our society perpetuates this divisiveness (and these words) between men and women, and if we can stop that by working in partnership with each other. And, if that’s worth trying — since everything else seems to have failed — then how do we best get to that place of partnership.

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      • That truly is the question: How do we best get to this place of partnership? I believe by raising our consciousness, which is our individual responsibility, and healing ourselves we start to heal the world in a ripple effect. And it doesn’t hurt to sound the trumpet and spread the message of hope and healing. There are times when I truly believe it is happening when I see shifts taking place in our collective consciousness and then there are times when I see the old patriarchal paradigm playing out in war, terrorism, and the continued rape and subjugation of women, and I wonder if man will ever give up his power. And, I will say, it’s not just men. There are plenty of daughters of the patriarchy out there who want to keep it so. Yet, I am an optimist who believes in the evolution of consciousness, and that the only way out of this mess is by rising up and embracing love and equality, not hatred and domination. Thank you for being a conscious and thoughtful man who is taking that message out to the world.

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  7. Reblogged this on Feministindian!! and commented:
    Beautiful Post !!!

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  8. If we look upon religions as relative and not absolute, then the attitude of society towards women makes complete senses.
    Religion should be looked upon as a dress for mankind. As the individual grows, a loving father provides a dress to suit his age and size.
    It may be pampers, nappies, shorts, pants, suit or frock for girls.
    It is just the individual growing.

    Similarly, society is growing. The laws of Moses were ideal for his times. No suitable in the days of Jesus.
    Likewise, the teachings of Jesus would be ineffective in the days of Moses.

    Society was very different in the days of Muhammad. His teachings were just right for those times and his teachings went on to build a great civilisation. Women had rights in Islam and polygamy was limited.

    Today, the world has progressed. The Bahá’í Faith, a religion for today and the second most wide-spread religion after Christianity, teaches men and women are equal in the eyes of God and society. “They are two wings of one bird. If one wing is weak, the bird cannot fly”. In education, the female is given priority, because she is the future mother.

    Where we fail is to accept that religious teaching is relative to the Age in which it appears.
    Why blame religion by trying to fit unsuitable clothes on a growing child.

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    • The attitude of society towards women was largely wrought by religion. Religions were organized by and large as patriarchal power structures, to control the message and keep people in their place, particularly women, at a time when men were aggressors, dominators, and threatened by women’s generative power. All of the major religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have shaped the way society has treated women by casting her and her sexuality, the source of her generative power, as the root of all evil that must be overcome, tamed, subjugated and put down. Religion, ruled by men in power, is largely to blame, my friend. If society is a growing child than religion has been the tyrannical father and it is time to break free.

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      • Sorry John Fozdar, I’m with Saladd on this one.

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      • I agree with saladd, too. But, WHY are men so hung up on having power over women? Why is is so important for them to know who their children are? Why are women so scary? I’d like to know what is driving this. How did it start? Did it begin with the idea of private property? And if so, how and why did THAT originate? If we don’t figure out what is underneath all of this, we’re just trying to play “whack-a-mole” and snuff out symptoms.

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        • I certainly don’t have close to all the answers Katherine, but I think that one of the fundamental issues is that the birth of the Abrahamic religions brought about one of the biggest lies perpetrated against humankind, the lie of omission in the story of Adam and Eve. Somebody forgot to tell all of us — men and women — that the whole purpose of that story was to provide propaganda against the existing matriarchal societies, to see to it that a male God replaced the female God(ess). In one bold stoke of the pen, the guy that wrote that story made women subordinate to men, established death as a punishment for being born into sin, and turned the glory of creating life into the fear of living it. As that existing story has been pounded into the brains of so many children for the past 2000 or so years, it’s not surprising — whether one is religious or not — that things are the way they are.

          However, in my opinion, the enemy today isn’t just men or this unquantifiable, and therefore unbeatable, thing called the patriarchy. It’s specifically those within today’s society — men. women, and institutions — who perpetuate these myths and who, for their own very selfish and self-centered reasons continue to promote and ingrain this “war” between the sexes into our collective psyche.

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  9. For the benefit of any other Brits reading Peter’s post, I mention that his paperback boom is available on amazon.co.uk, it does not need to be ordered from the USA.

    I look forward to reading it.

    Like

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