Monday, December 9, 2013
DENNIS: MNO X 3
We had a series of Men’s Nights Out, three of them, all in two weeks, and of course all-women approved. Typically we’re only allowed one night out a month, but the women came up with some events they thought would benefit the guys, so…
The first event was a session on the Japanese Art of Ikebana or flower arranging. The women feel that the men in our group have progressed beyond simply keeping the house clean and need to take a step forward and be better at decorating. It’s this feeling on the part of the women that’s driving a Housekeeping 201: Gracious Living course at the Women’s Center. And the men agree!
We all have a collection of vases and make sure flowers are a part of our décor, but Ikebana goes beyond simple flower arranging. It uses different style vessels, varying arrangements and can display different parts of the plant. It’s an art form! Yoshi, our instructor and a friend of Nancy’s mother, Sue, had never taught men and was hesitant to do so, thinking we wouldn’t be serious students. Sue convinced her otherwise and I’m sure it helped to have Sue chaperone the event.
We saw some demonstrations and got to try a few things ourselves. Yoshi is a “feminist in the making” but has a long way to go as far as her attitudes are concerned. She has a tendency to want to serve and defer to men. Of course, no one, male or female, at our meeting was going to let her do this. Instead the men served her and Sue and cleaned up as the evening ended.
The guys learned a lot, but so did Yoshi. She learned that she liked being served and called ”Ma’am.” She was thrilled to have Sue ring a bell and have one of the guys immediately come to serve them, asking how he could help. And she learned about changing roles that have men obeying their wives, doing housework and, yes, even having serious interest in Ikebana. Sue is going to have Yoshi visit again, not just to teach Ikebana, but to socialize. Sue’s betting that a little more of Yoshi’s being served by men will have her changing things at home.
MNO No. 2—Yes, We Do Windows
Our second recent evening out was also arranged by Sue. She convinced Sandy, her friend and an interior decorator, to host an evening at her shop for the guys. Sandy agreed but wanted to focus on one topic and chose window treatments. Now those of us keeping house realize the importance of window treatments, so we were excited to learn from a pro, and so we all were sent off for an evening at Sandy’s shop.
The guys arrived early and helped Sandy with some things around the shop—vacuuming, dusting, and, yes, doing windows. We served a light meal and some great California wine. Sandy gave us a two-hour course on window treatments—blinds, drapes, curtains, sheers, valences, and rods. There’s a lot to learn and the guys enjoyed learning it. Sandy rarely had men in her shop but enjoyed the guys’ demeanor and attention. As for the guys, we learned a lot and came away with window treatment ideas we’d like to try. Of course we knew that any major purchases required our wives’ approval. Tom was the exception; then and there he picked out curtains for his family room. Let’s hope Tom’s wife agrees with his selection; but the rest of us are betting he got Linda’s approval in advance.
MNO No. 3—A Night at the Center
The theme for our third men’s night out was “Working for Feminism, Atoning for Patriarchy.”
This session was a little different. As men committed to Matriarchy and Feminist causes, the men in our group feel deeply obligated to serve women and promote their interests. Tom and I spend every Wednesday night working at the center. Both our wives are directors at the center, so we worship our wives by working at a place so dear to both of them. It is in this spirit that we encouraged the rest of the guys to join us and volunteer as a group to spend an evening there, doing whatever needed to be done. Our wives approved, so I also called the center for permission.
By their own proud admission, the women there are “angry Feminists” who don’t want men just showing up, supposedly to help out, and then causing trouble. Men have to be recommended by someone known to the center, preferably a woman, although a man with Feminist credentials will do. Sue and i recommended the guys to the center. When men arrive they have to sign in and show ID; the women want to know exactly who’s there. After we signed in, Connie, the woman in charge (wearing a top emblazoned “BITCH”), handed us all pink shirts to wear that identified us as volunteers who’d been signed in. These shirts are left over from past marches and rallies and adorned with a word or phrase.
That was it, no small talk, no welcome, no going around the room for introductions, and certainly no thank you for coming. There’s never a thank you; it’s the women who are doing the men a favor by giving them an opportunity for repentance. We were told what to do and soon we were busy filing, copying, serving coffee, cleaning, vacuuming—whatever was needed, whatever we were told.
The women are demanding at the center, but that’s okay. As men we have to take responsibility for how patriarchy has unjustly benefited men at the expense of women. We realize that men—all men—have to atone for the sins of the past whether we, as individuals, were responsible or not. The women at the center realize that progressive gentlemen want to atone, but that doesn’t mean it has to be easy. To the contrary, atonement has to be hard, so the center makes it hard. They are very demanding. “Get to work,” “No chitchat,” “You call that clean?” and the like are often heard as the women make sure they get the most out of every male volunteer.
Sounds tough, but there’s very little turnover. Most men who volunteer come back to the small church basement on a regular basis and help as they can, doing things in the relative shelter of the center or even doing very public things like participating in Feminist rallies and marches. The public events are particularly important since by men's openly participating, they just may encourage other men to sympathize with Women's causes and even motivate them to participate themselves.