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Speaking of Men

19 Women Leaders Envision the Next Step for the Other Half
by Elizabeth Debold

To paraphrase the French existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, it is not who we are but what we can become that is of interest. WIE asked nineteen daring women what they see as the next step for men today. Where do they think men need to head in order to actualize their potential and transform? What would the enlightened man of the future be like?

Jean Houston

Jean Houston
Cross-cultural researcher in human capacities, consultant to the United Nations on human development, and visionary philosopher who helped pioneer the human potential movement

With the slow but sure rise of women to full partnership with men, there is an unexpected reward, which is the release of men to become fully who they are, quite apart from traditional roles and expectations. What does this release look like? It’s the ability to take on a fullness of roles that are not specifically male or female but are almost “postgendered.” It requires that men tap into deeper aspects of their nature on at least four different levels.

At a sensory level, we find men needing to become not just more sensitive but more sensate. That means being aware of environment, extending not simply the outward perceptions but the internal sensory systems as well—inner sensing, inner hearing, inner feeling, inner knowing.

At the psychological level, it requires crossing the great divide of otherness, which means moving into states of radical empathy in which one almost dissolves in identity. That means realizing  that we are not encapsulated by the skin dragging around our little egos but are organism environments, symbiotic fields within fields within life.

At the mythic-symbolic level, men won’t be caught in any single myth or symbol. Beneath the surface crust of consciousness, we are all redolent with the great stories—of the quest, of the descent into the inner world, of taking on adventures and ideas that have never been known before. The great rising myth of our time is of men and women, boys and girls, and people of all ethnicities working together to save the earth.  Taking on this unique story of this unique time in history brings its own requirements, its own depth, and its own challenges. This, in large part, is what I think is evoking this integral enlightened man.

The fourth level is spiritual. We are citizens in a universe far larger than our personal aspirations and more complex than our dreams. Spirituality for the new man will move into a model in which we are partners with the universal purpose or plan. This new world of cocreation will bring a nurturing dimension to man’s spirituality.


Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco
Grammy Award–winning singer, songwriter, and guitarist 

When I look at any thoughtful person, any engaged person in modern society be they male or female, I think we all need to call ourselves feminists, whatever we’ve got in our pants. We need to talk about things like patriarchy. I think it’s necessary for men to acknowledge the reality of it and engage with women about it in order for a radical shift in consciousness to happen. But I also think there needs to be a great humbling, where men literally sit down and shut up for a minute and stop echoing and expounding on each other’s cleverness. They need to learn to defer—to listen and defer long enough to incorporate a female truth.


Cheri Huber

Cheri Huber
Soto Zen Buddhist teacher and founder of the nonprofit organization Living Compassion

When I first heard your question, What is the enlightened man of the future? I thought, well, this is way up there on my list of most bizarre topics! I am a Buddhist. And supposedly the Buddha said intelligence has no gender. Of course, what he was saying was that enlightenment has no gender. Men have to go beyond cultural conditioning to let go of ideas like “I need to be right; I need to be tough;  I need to have the answers.” We need to see gender conditioning for what it is—its karmic, egocentric limitation and how it creates the world in which we live—so we can open to something larger. We think of gender as being more real because of biology, but biology probably contributes a much smaller percentage to the whole package than we’re generally led to believe. We have to look at what we are not seeing—the deep expectations and assumptions we have that are based on what our physical body is like, where we were raised, what family we grew up in, etc. Each one of us has to see through the karma of all of that if we hope to be free.

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This article is from
Constructing the New Man