Relationing and Sex––Has Feminism Made Us Happier?

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason continue their discussion about men, women and relationships, male and female archetypes, and sex as a relationship indicator signal––asking the question: Has feminism made us happier?

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Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Okay. Hi,Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi, Anne.

Anne:                                         00:06                       So we’re both outside today for a variety of reasons and houses, houses full of kids and people. So we, we talked about wanting to just start exploring–– I kind of like the way you put it. I’d almost like you to open this up.

Thea:                                         00:27                       Sure. we were sort of going off of our last conversation where we were speaking about men and women and the dynamics and roles. And I was just remarking that, you know, I wanted to acknowledge that everything that we’re saying and all that we’re bringing to this comes from our own experiences of life, our reflections and us waking up and piercing through the, the veil of false beliefs that we had digested and consumed from our culture, from society about what it is to be a woman what it is to be in relationship with a man. And I think that goes where we’re going, essentially.

Anne:                                         01:13                       Yes, yes, yes. And it was important for me when you highlighted that, that we talk about that because it’s, it’s just a process and a journey. I mean, not to get cliche, but this is just all a process of discovery and examination. And that’s part of what this dialogue is, right?

Thea:                                         01:41                       Looking towards, you know, understanding ourselves our life up to this point, our life from this point forward to be able to move forward with more mindfulness, with real clarity about our choices and the ways in which we choose to act and the roles that we wish to inhabit. You know, with the real clarity of mind about it.

Anne:                                         02:07                       Yes. as well as identifying some things that help us, help guide us, help, help guide us in teaching our children and helping our children understand the world and understand relationships and understand each other.

Thea:                                         02:28                       Yeah. I think if I can just jump in with that, you know, I, it’s been extremely heightened for me because I have three sons to raise into the world, and I think that has woken me up to so many of the imbalances and false ideas that I was raised with. Uin terms of looking ahead for my sons and what kind of world that they’re stepping into, what kind of world they’re looking for a mate in and what kind of mate they would be looking for.

Anne:                                         03:04                       As well as, if I can interrupt, based on another conversation we’ve had off-camera, as well as our responsibility in shaping the world that they’re coming into. Right? And our responsibility as women to help direct that. Right? And part of what sparked this idea for this conversation was something I had shared to you, which I had also posted in a comments, maybe about our last conversation about men and women. And the title of that one–– “Let men shine.” Right? And much of the crux of it, I felt was allowing men to be men, women to be women, not expecting them to be other than they are. And to recognize and acknowledge the strength in that, the beauty and strength in that rather than the lacking––that the man doesn’t have enough of the woman in him or the woman doesn’t have enough of the man. And I had reflected on, it’s funny what, whatever that blue jay, is it a blue jay? A crow?

Thea:                                         04:30                       Yeah, there’s crows. There’s a bit of a battle with the parrots up in the tree up here.

Anne:                                         04:33                       With the parrots, right. Yeah. Tough life here in California. I was reflecting on the fact that I now realize that when I was a kid and growing up as the young woman, just even in listening to, reading stories, learning about days of old when men and women were it was much more accepted, I suppose for want of a better word for women and men to inhabit traditional roles and to approach an understanding of each other through an acknowledgement of those traditional roles that we each inhabited.

Anne:                                         05:26                       And I remember kind of feeling as if––and I, and I think because of the culture I was growing up in and the way I was being taught by a feminist, feminist parents really––was that, to kind of throw that out, to disregard that, that that was kind of an archaic way of looking at things, a limited, archaic way of looking at things almost. You know, stories where a woman is being taught the art of being a woman by her mother. Being taught that men are like this and men need this and this is how you can help the man come to understand this, etc. Etc. Without directness kind of, you know a kind of subtle way of guiding.

Thea:                                         06:23                       I would say, maybe, not, not using the word “without directness,” but with an appreciation for that which the man is and that which the man provides and for the acceptance of it. So it’s able to be subtle without it being sticky, right?

Anne:                                         06:45                       Yes. Or Yes. Heavy handed. Because, so that we can still dance with each other, acknowledging these differences, but not throwing it in each other’s faces because that kind of ruins the mystery of it. Right?

Thea:                                         07:02                       Mmhm. So, I was just thinking that this is sort of the, what we had touched upon when we were discussing this beforehand that it’s like we’re in a world where nobody’s happy in the role that they’re allowed to be in. And there’s this sort of constant, seeming battle in, in the broader culture of the way women feel men are or should be or aren’t, or the way that they’re not allowing a woman to be recognized or given due credit for. Or, you know, I’m being a little bit too vague, but, but because, because of this, what, what, what the impulse of feminism, like there was a need for women to be able to step out of being locked into a particular role for sure.

Anne:                                         08:02                       Or being suppressed, right. You know, supressed.

Thea:                                         08:05                       Not acknowledge or, you know, not glorified, not being recognized. You know, and appreciated properly. Maybe. I’m not sure, but it seems like everything got thrown out instead of finding––how can I be then appreciated and loved and cherished, I mean cherished. How can we cherish one another for the work that we do because we do different work, and we can’t do the same because what’s happening right is, is in this world where we’re, it’s like everything’s about trying to do the same work. For a man to show “I can mother just as well as a mother” or a mother to be just as much of a father and no one’s really pleased, it seems. Is anyone more happy with this sort of throwing out the archetypes? You know? I guess what I would try to say is it seems to be, we need to be able to recognize it’s an archetype. That it’s not something you’re limited by. We’re not only that. But that is one in which as a woman I can inhabit when I’m with the man. When I’m not with the man, I don’t get to only be that archetype, I have to do this, this, this and this and vice versa. But it’s, so it’s like, instead of throwing out the archetype entirely, let’s just recognize we don’t have to be stuck in one. Yes. But we can be in one and it can be beautiful and freeing and make us all happier if we’re meeting each other in that archetypal way.

Anne:                                         09:46                       Yes. We all in different capacities throughout our lives inhabit different roles. Just even from the more basic perspective of looking at children. We’ve talked a lot about this and, and the different pedagogies and and, and why it’s important for children to spend time with youngers and olders so that they can inhabit more than one role. Right? They can be the older and the teacher. They can also be the younger and the not knowing and the learner and that humbles them a bit.

Thea:                                         10:21                       And makes them secure, also being able to be secure when you’re able to be in different roles and be held by those in the other roles.

Anne:                                         10:31                       Yes. Right, right. And, and so by the same token, if we can make it more okay to inhabit the archetype of man and woman while we are in that relationship, that keeps things, um to me it seems like it’s…I mean, we’ve worked through this for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. Like let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, right? We’ve established some wonderful dynamics and a dance and a rhythm that works pretty well. A distribution of labor, if you will, you know, in the world. And that does not mean that when we are not inhabiting, that does not mean that when we’re not in that dynamic that we can’t also take on, step in, step in for each other. Right? And experience that, exercise, that and add another string to our bow. Right? So yeah, that’s where I see the issue and, and where, where are we on time?

Thea:                                         12:01                       We’re good. We’ve got another 10 minutes. So I’m not sure what we’ve said yet all the way. We’ve kind of laid a broad groundwork. But I guess the question that comes out of this, this dialogue really that I, I’ve been thinking about is, are we happier? Are people happier? Are marriages better? Are relationships better? Are, you know, are families healthier and happier? Are kids healthier and happier with this, with this movement that we have been in the last 40 years, you know, 50? What year is it? Um you know, what’s the outcome? Where have we gotten to? And from my limited perspective, which I grant is limited, I see that often, relationships fail. Often, there’s this, this struggle that isn’t able to be resolved and worked with. And then, you know, when looking at marriages, it takes a whole lot of courage and commitment for people to really make something continually work and grow and change with the continuous growth and change of each individual. Most often what I’m witnessing is a bitterness after 20 years.

Anne:                                         13:30                       A resentment I’m seeing that we witnessed in our parent’s marriage. Right? as far more resentment than gratitude. And you and I have had the experience really throughout you know, we both, we lost our parents quite some time ago. And so that’s given us an opportunity to have perspective and reflect in a way that one doesn’t have, when the parents are still around and still in that dynamic. And we recognize really what an amazing we had. And yet their marriage was so riddled with strife and resentment. There was a lot of resentment on Mom’s part toward Dad. And, and so we’ve talked a little bit about this and so many friends I know and, and past relationships I’ve had too, right? I mean, I’m almost 50 years old, right? It’s taken me this long to even be able to articulate what we’ve just talked about, about: Wait a minute! Traditional roles, men and women’s traditional roles, there’s some merit to this and, and a relationship, I don’t care how you cut it, does not work with blame and resentments at the heart of it. And it takes two, absolutely two, and and they, they do need to support each other, respect each other, support each other. And want the best for each other. Right? because without that, I know Jordan Peterson has articulated this and many others, but it’s so obvious! Without both people being lifted up, the whole union falls apart and it gets no one anywhere.

Thea:                                         15:33                       And it may fall apart really slowly ,like a slow demise. And the thing that I think I mean just on that, and then I have this other thought I want to go back to is, you know, and if there are children in that relationship, that are out of that union and the demise is slow and steady and unspoken, that for me, I feel like––of course from my own experience as a child in our family and then my own situation for my children––that’s what they’re ingesting, of how relationship is. And you know, if we want to free our children to, to cultivate something more positive and true, we have to have the courage to name our problems, to name our responsibility within those problems.

Thea:                                         16:38                       And that just leads me to––in a marriage, in a relationship, if you’re not having sex, then there’s a problem. And that is like a major signal, right? And it doesn’t mean if you’re having sex, everything’s good either. But if you’re not having sex, then there is a big channel of communication that is not happening, which is what makes you be in a relationship as with a mate, you know? And if that’s not there, it takes courage and honesty to go there and discover why is it? You know, when I think about our dad, as great as he was, there was obviously something missing in the way he was seeing our mom and the way she was able to see him so they could reflect back to each other what was beautiful, which would make them want to be in union. Right? Because we want to be, you know, we want to be getting brighter.

Anne:                                         17:36                       Yes, yes. I think that is key.

Thea:                                         17:40                       Get it? It’s a key.

Anne:                                         17:46                       Well, no, I mean, and, and so, and now what are we, I still, because my eyes are so bad, I can’t see how much more time?

Thea:                                         17:52                       We have five more minutes.

Anne:                                         17:52                       Okay. So just, just to start with this will––this will be continued later. But yes. It’s a big issue. It’s a big issue. We, we, you know, so many friends, so many, so many couples in really miserable situations and the sex, making love, that physical connection, it does reflect on the health of the relationship. It’s also the biggest signal to say stop, take a look at each other and have a very open and honest conversation. Because you cannot keep going on like that and allowing this chasm to get wider and wider. It’s not gonna move toward anything healthy that I can imagine in a marriage. And so you have to figure out why that is. You have to ask for what you need, I suppose, but you have to also equally, if not more, respect what it is that other person is also able and willing in that moment to give. And figure out then how to make it work between those two.

Thea:                                         19:34                       And how to really truly appreciate that which is given, right? That, which is offered and that––but this is such a huge conversation and subject matter really. But in thinking of families and parents, my goodness, you know, when, when children are young, it’s like near impossible to, to have as a, as a mother, you don’t have much force for being sexual when they’re young, right? You’re, you’re kind of maxed out.

Anne:                                         20:06                       You don’t have a lot of extra. It’s true. And so you may not be able to be as present as, as you might have been earlier or later.

Thea:                                         20:18                       Or later. And the thing I guess I wanted to say with that is, you know, that’s a part where it makes me think that so much of what we’re, we’ve been fed through media in various forms has altered people’s real ability to meet what is before them. You know, life is not a 30 minute sitcom.

Anne:                                         20:42                       Nor is it a a porn flick. Right?

Thea:                                         20:47                       Right. And so it’s like, it’s not going to be neatly wrapped up in one, one idea or another. And if we can in relationship be true enough with ourselves to meet the person in front of us, which means we cannot be caught in our own ideas of what reality is supposed to be. Right? So if we can meet what’s really there, then real relationship can happen. And real relating can happen. I like the term and I know it’s not one, but “relationing.” Like it’s a little bit outside of relating and it’s not relationship, but it is the practice of being in relationship to the relationship itself.

Anne:                                         21:34                       Being in relationship to the relationship itself. Yes. But I think I also get from it: Relationing. Really, it is relating. Yes. But it is meeting each other, seeing each other as clearly as we can. I mean, yeah, we’ve got lots of filters that we have to work through, but as clearly as we can and accept––after we establish that each person actually wants to be there––to then accept what it is each one is able to bring to it and be grateful for that. Yeah. And work together to figure out how it then can form the relate the, the, the relationing, right? So yeah, I mean I think we can end it there right. For now. And, and keep working with this, because men and women both need to work on that. Right? yeah. We need to work on getting through those oftentimes where we’re, we’re not quite in the same…

Thea:                                         23:01                       Groove?

Anne:                                         23:01                       Same groove. But both parties are willing to still meet there despite how they’re feeling or that one doesn’t feel that they’re getting as much from the other as they want, but they’re still willing to do it because they care so much about the relationship and each other. Then the focus on being grateful for what that is rather than focusing on what it is not, will eventually get us to those glorious moments when we meet perfectly and synchronously and harmoniously. And I think that the more we do that and establish trust with each other, the more frequent those moments occur. Yeah. Because it is true relationing then.

Thea:                                         23:55                       Truly beautiful. I know. There’s so much more to say, but this was wonderful for a quick one, touch-in.

Anne:                                         24:03                       Yeah. Another, another quick one. Okay. All right. What’d you say?

Thea:                                         24:08                       A quickie if you will.

Anne:                                         24:14                       A quickie. There are many kinds of quickies, and here is hopefully one of them. Hang on a sec and I’ll stop.

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