Dancing in the Third Circle: Reciprocity and MEN

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by Annette Wagner, M.A., Managing Editor

Lately, I’ve been musing upon the roles of women in culture and what our responsibilities as culture creators means. How does this manifest? What does being a culture creator imply? Weaving into these thoughts is a question that keeps grabbing me – one that is not just TABOO, but almost anathema in some of the circles I move in. The question is this:

How do we bring the men along when we shift culture?

Yes, men. There is a huge taboo around talking about culture shifting and men in women’s circles. This topic tends to raise hackles, which is not at all surprising given the treatment of women in our western culture. Perhaps it is because of this reaction that my Muse has challenged me to pull the threads apart and look deeper – at this reaction, at our responsibility as women and culture creators, at the circles of connection. I invite you along on what I hope will prove to be a journey of deep thinking, discovery, and conversation.

Let’s begin with culture and how it shifts. Judy Grahn – author, poet, feminist lesbian activist, and a dear teacher is one of the people who inspires me to push beyond my comfort zone. She reminds me of my Muse; capable of applying kicks in the butt as needed.  In her work on Metaformic Consciousness, she uses a model of what she calls “braided evolution” to speak about the different threads of culture and how they constantly move and interact with each other. She believes certain threads come to the top as others sink back, and over time threads sinking back will come forward again, in a different context. This process of braided evolution fascinates me.

Why? Because in looking back over the last 20-30,000 years of human development, it is women who create, shape and hold the heart of culture. Women are the ones at the center of tradition, ceremony, religion, family, and this-is-how-it-is-done. Women understand cycles – we live them in our bodies. We are more emotionally intelligent, in general, than men and understand relationships and connections and how important they are – so we pay attention to them and make sure they are nurtured.

Holding Paradox by Annette Wagner, 2012

Holding Paradox by Annette Wagner, 2012

I bring this up because of something Judy tells all her students when we talk about culture and how to shift it into a new ways of being: We must bring the men along. This statement rankled me entirely upon hearing it.

Women’s roles, attitudes, and opportunities have radically shifted in the last 50 – 100 years here in America. More and more women work to heal themselves from the wounds of living in a male-centered, patriarchal, repressive-to-women culture. It is a process with stages, just like grieving is a process with stages. There is the stage of wide open eyed oh my, I never knew that awakening. There is the stage of being pissed off at the entire fucking world for how we’ve been treated. And then, there is the stage of “selfishness”.

Yes, selfishness.
Maybe even narcissism.
Or, perhaps, self-centered awareness.

I really am not sure what the best word is. This is the stage women go through in which we only care about women. We say, enough is enough, if someone (insert “man” here) needs to heal, then they need to figure it out on their own. It’s not my problem. I’ve done my work; they need to do theirs. I know this stage intimately. It is a hard place to move out of because for once I am at the center and I happen to like it here!

Well, my Muse can smell a narcissistic thought pattern a mile away – like a  bee to honey. There is a problem with this way of thinking, a piece of the pattern, thats been niggling at me and asking to be unraveled. I keep coming back to Judy’s statement about bringing the men along – and to one other very crucial detail.

If it is true women are culture creators,
then is this not a responsibility we need to acknowledge and own?

Green Dragon Goddess: She Who Creates From Herself by Annette Wagner, 2010

Green Dragon Goddess: She Who Creates From Herself by Annette Wagner, 2010

We carry within us the power to create from ourselves, the power to hold and shift culture and its time we owned that power – and ALL the implications of owning it. Men are intimately connected to us on too many levels to simply ignore them. It is time to bring along the men. Yes, men need to do their own healing work, you will get no argument from me on that point. But there is more to this weaving than men doing their own healing work. There is an underlying question of engagement.

Women at the Center circle

Women at the Center Circle by Annette Wagner

When I create vision plans, there is one page upon which we intentionally ask: What tribes, communities, or circles of connection are we part of? Then we draw three circles on the panel which overlap just a bit. We muse upon our connections as a way to gain insight and inspiration as we take our work out into the world. You can see my personal musings on the circles of connection between women and men on the watercolor paintings to the right. 

I know all too well what the perspective is in a world in which men are at the center – where their accomplishments, desires, and yearnings fuel culture. Where being female is a detriment, a lesser thing, a place of ‘otherness’. In the last six years, my perspective has broadened hugely to include a world in which women can, and are, at the center especially outside of the USA as well as historically and culturally.

Men at the Center Circle

Men at the Center Circle by Annette Wagner, 2014

I live in two circles – the world of ‘men’ in which men are at the center and the world of ‘women’ in which women are at the center.

There is a third circle I’ve been drawing lately. It connects these first two circles and it brings up questions: What needs to shift in our culture to support the third circle, the circle of connection where women and men meet?

I call this the Circle of Reciprocity. It is the circle within which women and men dance in a balanced power-with manner with each other.

I suspect creating this circle will require deep subtle work from all of us. I invite you to muse and create your own version of these circles. Allow your Muse to wander through as you paint and write. Think of the women and men in your life and how you, and they, dance in reciprocity, and ask:

What if?
What if I could create my own dance of reciprocity?

The Third Circle: Reciprocity by Annette Wagner, 2014

The Third Circle: Reciprocity by Annette Wagner, 2014

Many men of my generation are clueless with regards to how to interact with women like myself who have healed and no longer view the world with a male-centered focus. Think about it. A woman who all of your background and conditioning tells you is going to view the world the way you do, only you find out she doesn’t react that way at all. The ground shifts under your feet like quicksand and leads to confusion, anger, and a feeling of being lost. There is a fumbling to connect.

My personal experience with this is some men simply can’t or won’t even try to connect in new ways. They are too angry, hurt, or confused. They want things to go back “the way they were.” And, then there are others, ones who surprise me, who respond in amazing ways to a hand or a thought reaching out to them. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself?

As women and culture creators, each of us has an opportunity to create our own circle of reciprocity. To write the rules of engagement, to invite men to participate in the dance, knowing there will be accommodations to be made, negotiations to be explored, territory to be mapped. We are responsible for holding the container this circle represents with an open heart and a strong connection to our own power. I am not asking us women to bow down and grit our teeth and drag the men along screaming. When has that ever worked?

There is a new set of rules for social interaction being created here and no one has published the Miss Manners guidebook yet. Which means there is an opportunity to openly own the power that is ours as culture creators, and USE it to create change, to create our very own circle of reciprocity on our terms.

What kind of culture do YOU want to create with men?

What will we  write TOGETHER
in the new Miss Manners guidebook?

* * * * *

To follow our heart’s desire is a path of joy and passion, hard work, and great satisfaction. The first step is to engage with our hearts and ask: What is your calling? How will you take your work out into the world?


Local to San Francisco Bay Area?  Join Annette for her upcoming Vision Plan workshop: Garden of My Heart:Visioning Your Life Saturday October 18, 2014 11am to 6pm.


Annette painting in rocksAnnette Wagner, M.A.,  is a Visionary Artist, Color of Woman Intentional Creativity teacher, Art Doctor, author, and shamanic practitioner.  She paints in the Contemporary Symbolism style and works extensively with metaphor, symbol, and color. She is also the Managing Editor of the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine

Annette studies with American Master painter Sue Hoya Sellars and has a Masters in Women’s Spirituality  from Sofia University. Her background includes over 25 years of hi-tech experience including 21 patents. She is owned by her dancing daughter, two cat beings, the man of her heart, and her Muse. You can view her artwork, visit her Etsy shop, and read more about Annette at: www.annettewagnerart.com

Author: Annette Wagner

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3 Comments

  1. I LOVE this, Annette! So beautifully written and makes such sense. There’s a time for all of our responses and none of them need become armor.

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  2. Though provoking, Annette. For me, it is about time and place. I have circles of reciprocity in my life, usually in sacred spaces, such as full moon ceremony, drumming circles and Shamanic gatherings. And, there are times when I only feel safe with women. Certainly issues of power, trust and respect come into play. But we need each other if we are to have the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible (the title of a book by Charles Eisenstein, who is a man visioning and leaning into the type of culture I want to be a part of creating).

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  3. Thank you for writing this Annette. It is cogent and clear and offers a new perspective which many women need to consider. I have been disturbed for years by the hard line stance against men that so many early Feminists adopted and some still hold. In the end what is necessary is to become a “humanist” and hold space for men and women to live in peace creating a world together in the new paradigm which is being born; weaving the threads of our unique understandings together in a beautiful new pattern.

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