Saturday, March 10, 2007

Maleness - One Side

In one of my spin cycling classes I had at first liked the teacher, a 51 year old, somewhat brash man. His words at first seemed challenging and interesting and his style was at first appealingly different from the 20 something year old female teachers who are polite and young in various ways.

Gradually I've felt like I've seen this man's dark sides - in small bites - that feels a little less comfortable. Feeling a competition and a need from this man to have him be visibly - "in control" - e.g. - that the class members are - in a sense beneath him - under his thumb, doesn't feel so benign or comfortable. While I don't like "smiley face" pleasantness, direct putdowns and similar aren't helpful either.

Thursday I began talking with the woman next to me, who was back, after some months of not cycling. She told me that she'd been through a depression and gotten divorced. I was trying to be encouraging to her.

Then our teacher intervened and made a Very direct statement asking if we would both quiet down and insinuated that we couldn't talk and work hard in the class. I responded that I would be quiet and got a further snide response from him (which is par for him in any case).

It was obvious to me that the teacher's words had shaken my neighbor. After class she talked with him and then I talked with her briefly. She was upset and angry and quite clear that she wouldn't let his actions get in her way of her mission to continue cycling. She told me that she had told him that he could have said what he did in a different manner that was less offensive. She said that he acknowledged this, but said that it wouldn't have been himself, if he hadn't reacted as he did. I apologized for my part in the matter, since I had known him from prior classes and she hadn't.

This experience brings up a part of maleness that bothers me. I also recognize that I can do similar things at times in my own way.

Part of maleness can be a justification for being direct and blunt and not acknowledging the feelings of others. We aren't concerned about the relationship - that is created and may exist from the perspective of the other person. We are "right" and that's all that matters (in our minds).

This is wrong! I acknowledge my part in this in my past and hope to do less of this in the future with others around me.

Thanks!
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