The Mother Wound as a Missing Link to Understanding Misogyny

By Bethany Webster on Friday January 19th, 2018

Image: Unknown

What's Going on with Men?

With this massive wave of brave women coming forward with disclosures of sexual harassment across many industries, many of us, men and women alike, are grappling with the sobering reality of rampant misogyny. As a culture, we’re left to ask questions like, why do so many men have the impulse to disrespect, hate or violate women? Where does that really come from? And how do we stop it?

As an internationally recognized expert on the mother wound in women, I’m often asked to speak about the mother wound in men. At this time of mass disclosures about sexual assault, I wanted to write a piece exploring how the mother wound is the missing link in our understanding of misogyny. In this essay, I’ll examine how boys develop in the modern world, the unprocessed anger below the surface of the lives of men, the role of privilege and the inner work that both men and women can undertake to transform our situation.

Oxford dictionary defines misogyny as “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.” To understand misogyny we have to explore the first relationship a man ever has with a woman; the relationship with his mother.

For both girls and boys, the relationships with our mothers are one of the most significant relationships in our lives. It’s impossible to overstate just how foundational this relationship is and how it impacts our wellbeing well into our adulthood. In the first weeks and months of our lives, mother is food, mother is world, mother is body, and mother is self. For both women and men, the mother wound itself is a product of patriarchy; of living in a culture with the domination of women at its core.

The mother-child relationship can be seen as the first relationship violated by patriarchy. – Adrienne Rich

The mother woundBoth men and women have a mother wound but men are ill-equipped to heal theirs.

On a personal level, the mother wound is an internalized set of limiting beliefs and patterns originating from the relationship with one’s mother. The mother wound exists on a spectrum, with healthy, supportive mother/child relationships on one end and abusive traumatic mother/child relationships on the other end. Many complex factors go into how one’s mother wound manifests and where one falls on that spectrum. For men, it comes down to the specific dynamics that played out between a boy and his mother, as well as how the father supported or thwarted that primary connection. Because patriarchy—the principle of domination—can be embodied by either a man or a woman, the mother or father may have played the role of the patriarchal parent in a boy’s life. For example, some boys may have experienced their mothers as neglectful or as domineering. Some may have experienced their mothers as victims of their fathers or their mothers as the dominant one and their father the more passive one.

Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male. – Bell Hooks

As a boy grows today in the modern world, he becomes socialized by his father, by other men, and by society about what it means to be a man. The patriarchal culture of media, education, and religion also perform that function. Unfortunately, it’s well-documented that this socialization of the boy involves, to some degree, learning to dominate others, to shut down his emotions and to devalue women. (See resources below.) This constitutes both a personal and collective trauma.

Healing Personal Trauma is Central to Undoing the Patriarchy

Contrary to our modern world, the history of civilization is full of examples of cultures giving boys the initiatory experience of graduating into manhood through a time of physical trials, which helps them symbolically cross a psychological bridge from the relative comforts of childhood into the rigors of adulthood. In this positive context, surrounded by male elders, some kind of physical/emotional wound occurs, helping the boy contact his inner strength, confidence, and sense of responsibility. Today in the modern world, most boys experience wounding but without a positive transformation. There are few official rites, few wise elders and a dearth of male role models outside the toxic status quo.

The socialization of boysBoys learn to dominate, to shut down their emotions and to devalue women.

The cultural expectation to devalue women, including his mother, sets a boy up for cognitive dissonance about what his mother represents in himself, including the ability to express his emotions, to be vulnerable, to express physical affection, etc. In this way, his mother could be seen broadly as a ‘lost source’ to the boy, and the father, as socializer of the boy into the world of men, could be seen as ‘severer of the bond’ with the mother, with his source.

For white men, privilege plays a role. In addition to discouraging their emotions and encouraging domination, society gives them unearned advantages that are denied to other groups, including women and people of color. According to American sociologist, Professor Michael Kimmel, privilege is invisible to those who have it. This leaves white men with a triple wound; an injury to their ability to process their emotions, a blindness about their privilege and a lack of empathy for those they harm. This triple wound in white men has remained relatively unconscious and has caused unspeakable suffering in the world.

Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain a mother’s son, to possess a woman purely for him. These infantile needs of adult men for women have been sentimentalised and romanticised long enough as ‘love;’ it is time to recognise them as arrested development, and to re-examine the ideal preservation of ‘the family’ within which those needs are allowed free rein to the point of violence. Because the law and the economic and social order are heavily weighted in favor of men, the infantile needs of adult males are affirmed by a machinery of power, which does not affirm or validate the needs of adult women. Institutionalised marriage and motherhood perpetuate the will of male infants as law in the adult world. – Adrienne Rich

What’s been happening with the #metoo movement, with women telling their stories of sexual assault and outing their abusers, is that the ‘free rein’ that men have used to dominate women in the home and in the workplace is being increasingly curtailed. Women are less willing to remain the silent projection screen onto which men can project their disowned pain with impunity. And many male witnesses are no longer willing to look the other way.

Love or the desire to be mothered?Is it love? Or is it an infantile desire to be mothered?

Assault as Sexualized Hostility

Sexual assault is not about sex, it’s about power. Alexandra Katehakis, a sex therapist and Clinical Director for the Center for Healthy Sex in L.A. describes it this way:

Guys who engage in this type of behavior are incredibly rageful towards females. It often harkens back to childhood abuse. For example, maybe they had mothers who were emotionally abusive or who didn’t protect them from abusive fathers. As some men get older they act out that anger towards women in the language of sex. They sexualize their emotions because they don’t know any other way of comforting themselves.

It is as if the inner male child is unconsciously caught between his painful longing for the ‘lost source’ represented by his mother and his cultural conditioning to hate her as a woman. Put another way, men are caught between a natural desire for their full humanity (the ability to be emotional, vulnerable and empathic) and their desire to remain privileged and in dominator mode. The thing is that one can’t have both. To hold on to dominator mode (patriarchy) is to increasingly lose access to your humanity. And to be fully human, one has to forsake the dominator mode and all the insidious ways it can show up in oneself. No amount of privilege (wealth, power, fame, prestige) will ever compensate for the devastation, to whatever degree, that patriarchy has wrought on the little boy within him. No amount of power over others will ever make up for that lost part of himself. It can only be found through doing the inner work to reclaim it.

A man can find this ‘lost source,’ not in the form of physical women, but in the form of exploring what it means to reclaim what the mother or the feminine represents within him, such as the feeling function, the world of emotions, the experience of deep connection within himself and a sense of authentic belonging with others. However, in order to access these vital capacities that have been in shadow, men first have to engage with the child within who is angry that there has been little payoff for forsaking these vital aspects of himself.

It’s easier to project rage onto a ‘mother substitute’ or the ‘father substitute’ out there in the world. Male privilege permits men a blindness to their mother and father wounds while the world burns. However, it takes courage to retract those projections and process the anger about the inner patriarch, the archetype of the cruel, unfeeling father, that granted him access to the world of men at the massive cost of disconnection from his true self, the innocent boy who came into this world capable of expressing empathy, emotionality, and vulnerability. The anger belongs with the patriarchal father (personal and/or collective), the ‘severer of the bond,’ who betrayed the boy, who socialized him to give up a vital part of himself to be accepted in this world as a man. The anger also belongs with the mother who was unable to protect him from this patriarchal wound or who may have inflicted it herself. When men can direct their anger there, to where it truly belongs, things will really begin to shift.

Split between humanity and dominatorMen are caught between a desire for their full humanity, and to remain dominator.

Misogyny is a son’s outwardly projected rage on a mother who was unable to protect him. – Gabor Maté

At its core, for men and women alike, the task of healing the mother wound is ultimately the same: to de-couple one’s inner and outer life from the lamination of ‘mother,’ so that one’s full potential can be accessed and actualized.

In his book Under Saturn’s Shadow author and Jungian analyst, James Hollis, brilliantly encapsulates it this way:

When we remember that patriarchy is a cultural contrivance, an invention to compensate for powerlessness, we realize that men, contrary to widespread opinions, are more often the more dependent sex. The Marlboro man, the rugged individualist, is most ambushed by his inner feminine, for he is most in denial. Whenever a man is obliged to be a good boy, or conversely he feels he must be a bad boy, or a wild man, he is still compensating for the power of the mother complex.

I do not say it is a man’s fault that he is so vulnerable, so dependent; that he is merely human. What is his responsibility is to recognize how deeply any child needs positive mothering and how much the pattern of that need sets his psychic life in motion and continues to operate beneath the surface. He may pretend to adult empowerment, hold the reigns of government or the purse, but the lines of stress reach deep down into his relationship with his mother. Men must grasp and accept this fact, and then take responsibility for it, or they will continue to play out infantile patterns forever.

Healing the mother wound for men involves removing their projected rage off of women and processing it towards its true target… with patriarchy itself and to the very specific traumatic events of their childhood in which that played out.

Process the angerMen must learn to process their childhood anger without projecting it onto others.

To do this deep inner work, it’s crucial that men get support from other men who have already done a significant amount of work on this journey themselves, including professional support from male therapists skilled in this area.

Broadly speaking, men’s inner and outer work involves:

  • Processing the anger about the parent (mother and/or father) who betrayed him by making him give up vital parts of himself, in order to be considered a man in this world. Grieving about what that has cost him.
  • Taking responsibility for their emotions, feeling them and processing them. Getting support.
  • Having sex as a way to connect, not a way to feel powerful.
  • Soothing the little boy within him when he’s triggered.
  • Becoming aware of his projections and seeing the women in their lives as people, not as objects.
  • Being honest about his life. Acknowledging his secrets and taking responsibility for his actions.
  • Feeling genuine remorse about the ways that he has harmed other people and the Earth by acting out his pain in unconscious ways, both personally and collectively, while taking empathic actions on a consistent basis. Experiencing real consequences for their actions.
  • Finding a community of other conscious men who are on this path of reclamation and reconciliation.

Shawn Vestal explains that it’s not for a lack of training that men sexually assault in the workplace.

It’s not about what men don’t know. It’s about what men have known too well: That we can get away with it. That it will be excused, hidden, justified and rationalized, and no one will be called to account.

In other words, until men have sufficient integrity to not sexually assault, real consequences must come into play at work and in relationships that halt the toxic behavior. Basically, men need a global intervention, a resounding, societal ‘no’ to wake up to the realities they’ve been oblivious to.

Support is keyA support network of like-minded men will help through the process of healing.

To support this process, as women, we have to say no in every way possible to the raging boy within the men in our lives, be they friends, colleagues, brothers or husbands. Back to Rich’s quote, women have to withdraw from the ways that we have over-functioned or mothered men. We have to “withdraw the breast, the lullaby and the constant attention associated by the infant with the mother.” That way, men can feel the full magnitude of their predicament, which is the beginning of lasting, meaningful change.

Only by men feeling the painful gap of what women are no longer willing to do for them, will they experience sufficient motivation to finally step in and fill that gap from within themselves.

As women, we must keep using our voices and speaking out about male abuse of power with every chance we get and amplify the voices of other women who are enduring male abuse, particularly the voices of women of color and indigenous women.

As women, we must stop:

  • Catering to their illusions that come from an ignorance of their own privilege.
  • Staying quiet to avoid conflict.
  • Internalizing their projections from their disowned pain.
  • Minimizing our feelings in their presence.
  • Accepting crumbs of respect, instead of what we truly deserve.
  • Giving our power away in the form of emotional caretaking.
  • Giving time and energy to men who refuse to do their inner work.

The truth is that women are very limited in how they can help men in their healing. We can hold space but we can’t do the work for them. It is their journey and they have to want it for themselves. In the meantime, let’s expand our awareness of our value outside the male gaze, prioritize our own inner work, and heal our own childhood wounds. Let’s hold strong boundaries with those who are not doing their inner work and spend more time with those who are. True sisterhood is a crucial source of nourishment for these times.

Women have a responsibility tooWomen must stop pandering to a man’s patriarchal patterns.

Harnessing Our Anger as Fuel for Wise Action

The more we contact the truth of our worth as women, the more rage we will feel about the devastation toxic masculinity has caused. Our anger is an essential tool in this time, to sharpen our refusal to be compliant with oppression of any kind, including internalized misogyny directed at ourselves, and for white women, a refusal to be patriarchal to others, and specifically facing how we have facilitated the oppression of men and women of color.

One oppresses what one fears. – James Hollis

Healing from patriarchy requires that every privileged group actively confront their ignorance and cultivate sincere empathy for how their privilege has caused harm to others.

Allowing oneself be emotionally affected by the depths of horrors that have been perpetrated by our privilege is a necessary, but often avoided, step in creating real equality between people. Just as white women need to endure the experience of feeling genuinely horrified about the ways in which we have, knowingly or unknowingly, facilitated white supremacy onto people of color, white men have to do the same about how their ignorance, afforded by privilege, has collectively caused an unspeakable amount of pain in the world to women, people of color and the planet itself.

May this ever-rising tide of female anger be followed by a commensurate wave of brave men, willing to explore their inner terrain, to embrace the abandoned boy within and to process the legitimate anger and grief about what patriarchy has stolen from them: their full humanity. Collective change will occur when enough individual men change. May men take full responsibility and humbly embrace this raw, necessary discomfort as the medicine they need to heal their personal and collective mother wound. And may women refuse to allow the behavior of unconscious men to define them.




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93 Responses to The Mother Wound as a Missing Link to Understanding Misogyny

  1. Thank you. I was just confronting the misogyny inherent in many rap lyrics today. This article is just in time and was the basis of my critique.

    • Thank you David! You hit it on the head! The arrogance of modern woman is astounding. I think finally the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. So many lies in this article.

  2. After reading this article it has saddened and disappointed me how little responsibility is taken by women … they bring males into this world … that world is entirely shaped by women … first at home … then school … and finally in relationships … most men spend their entire life supporting women … and for that privilege they die earlier … have more health problems … 4 times higher suicide rates … in my personal relationships all I ask is to be treated as an equal … something neither myself or any of my male friends have experienced in over sixty years … when women take responsibility for the emotional and phycological abuse they inflict on males and female privilege is acknowledge will there be any progress … we need to remember relationships are a partnership … one person is not always responsible for all problems but this appears to be the view here … I hear Misandry whispering in the hallway …

    • WE have taken all of the responsibility forever. This article is not about blame this article is about how to become a full human even though our society has lived with patriarchy forever. Power and control does not work. This article is talking about the responsibility men must take for their own emotional well being by doing the work. Also, women. Everyone needs to take responsibility to become the best versions of themselves fully in order to be able to create a better relationship and a better society for all. Maybe you should read this again. Become the better version of yourself and take responsibility for yourself while seeing women as equal partners who also take responsibility for themselves. What a great start for a better world.

      • Really enjoyed your response Laurie. The article as you say is not apportiining blame. Your comments were objective and very mature. I just think you can’t collectively blame women David. No one but you is responsible for the choices you make or blaming women for how you feel no one can make you feel anything without your own permission. I have had a few long term relationships which have been wonderful my partner’s have encouraged my growth enjoyed my changes and supported me emotionally. My parents wanted us and we were loved so my relationships have been great and loving.

      • Note that the article does mention that wpmen can also act out the patriarchy but then conveniently ignores it and is never mentioned again.

      • The author does assign blame when talking about male infantilism being to blame for the way in which men act out, because whether you believe its the fault of men or the fault of the environment it is wholly their responsibility to fix and the problem has very clearly been defined as a problem with ‘maleness’ so to speak, and a lot of people are rightly upset that they are reduced to infants when they spend most of their time working to support a woman or a family, at least financially and dont feel, that they are chained to the breast, the lullaby or the unceasing attention given by a woman as the article seems to suggest. Having said that I do think male infantilism has a big part to play, in terms of their emotions rather than some unceasing need for care and attention.

    • I totally agree with you, but unfortunately like everything else, the victims need to step up first – that is the total catch 22 for this. Men are wounded by the mother (not all, but mothers that are personality disordered), and then the victim goes into therapy years later, and then therapy brings to light other problems in society, and then society recognizes the need to punish every abuse from every gender. “Times Up” applies to women and mothers also. Abusive mothers will become accountable just like everyone else in this world hopefully, and when that happens, a new generation of loving and caring people will emerge – love and healing will prevail.

      • cool thank you. This gives me a lot of freedom at the moment. I am at the core of knowing what my wounds about my parents give me. I am not in a blamIng situation. But I do expect my parents to listen what I have to say and that both have done wrong to me. My mother didn’t protext me from my emotional abusive father, herself she also couldn’t give me emotional strength and I see it very clear nowadays and that she is also still doing those things and I always advice her to react different and take on responsibility for her own actions.

    • David, what were you looking for in those toxic relationships that you appear to want to blame women for? Why did you let them happen? What were you getting out of them?

      • David is not blaming women he is merely pointing out what is glaringly obvious in the article. That it is abusive women who are creating the psychopathic monsters and it is not even mentioned!!Hello??

        • Brian, David and all the other men who are courageous enough to express outrage at men being singled out here – think about it for one moment. Most women have been twisted through the ages by what they had to do and what they had to become to just stay alive and have access to food and shelter and it continues to this day. How can you expect any woman who then gives birth to be able to wade through centuries of conditioning to then be able to be the model mother and give a child everything he/she needs? It’s impossible. The simple unbalanced division of labour within most homes also makes it impossible for most women to be everything a child would need to be whole. What is the source of the problem? We need to look beyond one’s mother to the society that made her. Yes, patriarchy is a huge problem – for both sexes. It’s not until we realize that society will continue to feed on itself, leaving everyone wounded and angry, that humanity is a bird that needs its two wings, strong and healthy, to fly; otherwise we, as a society, will continue to go around in a circle until we finally flush ourselves down the drain. (I know it’s an old metaphor but it’s a good one.) We DO need to identify the problems and nothing will be done if we take it as a personal insult. The work will be painful for both sexes and will highlight deficiencies on both sides. But we need to move forward with better intentions and more thoughtful actions.

    • David, from my perspective, you give proof to what the essay is speaking to. Your mother wound has you blaming women for their role in you feeling powerless. The work needs to be done by both sexes. If you are open enough, stay away from any relationship that disempowers you, search inside yourself for parts of you that are frightened, powerless and start working from there.

    • I have to disagree that the world is shaped by women. It is shaped by patriarchy. And patriarchy has affected both men and women.

      • He is completely right. This world is not equal. Altho we have so called patriarchy, it is the women who shape this world. The aggresion from men comes from the frustration of having no real power in the sense of equality. Therefore as a man you can loose yourself and turn this into violence against women because we are usually stronger physically and it is our last resort to fight the inequality. If women want to make this world a better place from their side they need to start treating men as equal partners in the constant play of divine creational energies. Open themselves and give themselves fully into it. Telling men that they are broken is another game of power. We ain’t broken, we wait for you dear women to be your best versions. We tried to do our best to protect you and our families during the hard times of last centuries and milenia with more or less success waiting for you to come back in your divine beauty. So step forward dear beloved.

        • I agree that we women need to step forward into our natural divine beauty and strength. Pointing fingers at each other as to whom is wrong, is not helpful. We women need to see the value within ourselves rather than objectifying ourselves as sex objects and putting all the blame on men. We have our part to change as well.

        • The aggression of men is to be blamed on women? Am i hearing this right? What sex has had power and agression since the beginning?This article is totally about you then. Blaming women for your agreession is infantile. No thanks i dont want to “give myself fully,” into subservience.

    • Actually, all the blame is heaped onto the woman. For eg…your thoughts that women bring males into the world…they can’t make male babies by themselves…they need an other – male. Have you not heard of fathers/males who leave the woman to fend for herself and their kids…this is a worldwide known fact that such does happen…if as a male you want to be treated as an equal, do you treat your other half as your equal or do it begrudgingly?? sounds like you do with all your male friends too? thought about your mother wound…male or female, we all have them. Not properly acknowledged by a mother, a female child can feel unloved, not nurtured and all the foundation problems begin and spiral out of control in adulthood.

    • David, the thing is here that most people have been wounded by their parents. Even well intentioned parents (like mine) screw up big time because they parent the only way they know how, and then add the stresses of everyday life. In my situation should I just hate all men bc my dad did a bad job? But the point is that men have a more difficult time in the self healing aspect of their childhood traumas and instead of facing it or realizing this issue for what it is, they will project all their hurt and rage onto all women, even if father is to blame as well.

  3. Just want to ask if there is a way you could make your articles printable; I know about the overuse of trees, but it is a trade off when the material is so needed in the right places, and sometimes a good page in hand is like a seed bomb or a strategic strike of enlightenment when the person is not online as many of my clients are not; it would seem to be in line with your ethics to share and express positive evolving ideas and knowledge, and would be another way to help the quickening we need…thanks for what you are already doing, and thanks for considering…

  4. Thank you. This feels to me like the missing piece to the articles I continue to read about our “MeTo” movement and to my own reflections on my relationship with my mother. I recognize my own passivity and indeed complicity even though I call myself a feminist and have tried to understand and act upon feminist principles. I encourage others to respectfully join the conversation.

  5. This is a fantastic article and if we ALL pay heed to it and ALL do the work wouldn’t it be a different world and our experience in it?

  6. Wonderful article. Our society has so much work to do. Patriarchal men need to wake up and give it up. #me too is their aeskening.

  7. What’s with all the divisive racial talk Bethany? I thought this was a gender issue. Nice try slipping it in to beat “white men” over the head while you were at it. Clear as day.

    • Yes, that part seemed to have been popped into the article as an afterthought.. I was taken back by it and was surprised so little was written about it. I assume it was a segway to another article. Was it ? Thank you, D

  8. If anyone is offended by this or any article, I would challenge you to read it again. But first I would challenge that you consider your state of defensiveness. Anytime we are mostly concerned with who is to blame or who is being blamed, we are most likely in a state of defensiveness and absolutely unable to read accurately. We already have a number of subconscious biases that color our views. Being in a self-protective state, even if we tell ourselves we’re more concerned for our fellow (whomever), only more greatly narrows our vision. So I challenge you to have the courage to put down your shield, give yourself some kindness and acceptance (we are all struggling, esp with this) and read it again. If you are still upset, triggered, ‘whatabouting’, or otherwise preoccupied with blame, then rinse and repeat: shield down, self compassion, read again. Mrs. Webster is offering a great deal of psychological and sociological truth about human functioning with hopes and advice on how we ALL can help us all to evolve those functionings. It is by ALL of us taking responsibility for our part in a social system, slowly built over millennia, that none of us chose to be born into. You won’t be able to hear the challenges to women if you are hearing the challenges to men as blame (or vise versa). We are all to blame and we are all victims of this oppressive system whether we realize it or not. Have the courage to put down the shields, pick up compassion and glean what you can from this. There are so many gems, pick a few, Be kind, Be aware, Make a difference!

  9. The dominant male patriarchy as proposed in the “chalice And the blade” says that the dominant male patriarchy dominates women, children and OTHER MEN. I now understand this, the dominant male patriarchy did not fight in two world wars they conscripted other men to die for their aims. They DMP supported women’s causes so they could enslave their children in an education system designed to support the DMP. We are now awake to this and men will support their wives, mothers, sisters and partners to end the hold of the DMP over us all. The tide has now turned and will not be held back. Together we stand divided we fall..brothers and sisters unite.

  10. This is a truly supportive piece. I can’t believe that misogyny has come to the forefront of our lives. Had I really thought we made progress? Sad to think not. It is part of humanity from day one. Your telling reminds me of the tale of Beowulf as told by David Whyte in “The Heart Aroused”, “It is not the thing you fear that you must deal with,it is the mother of the thing you fear.”

  11. Bethany is giving us key information and guidance on how to heal ourselves (men) and to heal our relationship with women. I love the idea of create a brotherhood to help our healing process. I am in this process, after 57 years of war. I dont want to die without feel unconditional love for women and men, also.

  12. All I see is just another article that blames women for the ills of men.
    Love them too much, you get blamed if he’s gay. Don’t love them enough?
    You get blamed for their hatred and attitude towards women.

    Honestly for women you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
    The only people who wont be berated for their attitudes is men.

    • We are all connected; so both, man and woman, are responsible in the relationship. Both parents are playing a huge role in a child’s mental health… but same media does….and much harder and longer 😉 ..”me too” should not be about gender problem but about the power abuse… if there is a wiliness to love and respect others, no one would blame the gender impact !! But if you label yourself as a feminist/patriarch (or any other bs), you are the one who separates the world…. it’s like a gender racism …. you see what you want to see.

  13. Alot of great thoughts and points. As a white male, it is a lonely feeling to take responsibility for my anger, rage, fears, and insecurity. For me personally, my mother was the ‘patriarch’ who was abusive and neglectful; this has made it possible for me to ignore my own feelings/thoughts of misogyny out of a sense of victimhood, as the author suggests. It is complex to differentiate taking responsibility for my attitudes, thoughts, words, beliefs that either consciously or unconsciously perpetuate sexism (and all other isms) from how I was harmed, neglected, and made the object of my mother’s rage as an individual. The 2 are conflated internally and externally. So helpful to read this. If I had one itch after reading, it is the mere mentioning of how mothers – whether as the source of harm or the lack of protecting children – perpetuate patriarchal structures. The message to women in this piece glossed over this a bit and focused more on not accommodating male privilege/narcisissm. As it pertains to mothering, however, I would offer the opposite is needed (nurture, curiosity, containing emotions like anger, rage, anxiety, and fear.) If the message that mother’s receive from the current moment and larger movement is, “quit pampering men”, let’s hope this is not conflated to include boys and adolescents. This speaks to the work needed to differentiate sons/boys from Dad/grandad/coworker, etc.

  14. Read half this article, enraged me that somehow again the abuse of women by weak men is again somehow essentially blamed on women!

  15. Too many responders are missing the point that BOTH men and women are responsible for perpetuating patriarchy and that BOTH men and women must work, together and individually, to reverse its domination and damage. If you look at the situation openly and honestly, you will realize that playing the victim only gives away your own power; with power, comes the responsibility to use it for good instead of evil. Don’t deny your power to make a change by denying you played a role in maintaining the status quo.

  16. Regarding Ffnding a community of other conscious men who are on this path of reclamation and reconciliation. You will find this in the Mankind Project. Men doing their inner work.

  17. Please read The Mask of Masculinity — an excellent book in which the author shares interviews he’s had with many men (old and young), delineates the various masks men wear, and gives suggestions for men and for the women who love them on how to take off the masks.

    • “This leaves white men with a triple wound; an injury to their ability to process their emotions, a blindness about their privilege and a lack of empathy for those they harm. This triple wound in white men has remained relatively unconscious and has caused unspeakable suffering in the world.”

      Wounded…. triply … yes ?

      • This triple men “wound” is in your head. You should point out humanity wounds because this world is shaped by both men and women. Feminists have a biased world view but lack view of their own backyard. You see the mote in your brother’s eye, but you do not see the beam in your own eye.

    • I agree Ben (and I’m a woman). The casual racism and continual defaulting to the patriarchy assumes a lot and is completely frustrating. I can look past it to the essence, and looking at the Mother Wound is excellent. But I don’t think women see how unempowering that mindset it… women take power away from women and rob us of important insights into ourselves with this lingo and mindset.

    • People of color do have a higher percentage of abused women in their communities that is seldom mentioned and there is certainly corruption in non-white countries. I agree when the article says that men don’t process pain from the mother/father wound as well as women do. But yes, this article is too left leaning and shouldn’t mention white people if they won’t hardly mention the more extreme abuses of women in other cultures around the world.

  18. Very good article. The author sometimes conflates masculinity and patriarchy – which is common in ‘progressive’ circles. Patriarchy and shadow masculine are the problem, as is shadow feminime to some degree. The wholesome archetypes for masculinity (valor) and feminimity (nurturing) are both important for balance and to energize the drive to do good work. I suggest that some of the passivity shown in countering world wide exploitation is because the positive masculine archetype is being emasculated by overly broad shaming and equating it to patriarchy. By doing that, what are we telling our boys – that they and their innate yearning to be valorous is inherently bad? That they should only embody feminine virtues? In the same way that both men and women are more complete by honoring their feminine, I believe all of us would be more complete by honoring the masculine within us and directing the energizing force of valor for the greater good. Boys need to be told they are good, and be told archetypal stories that honor who they are in their DNA – valorous. Yes, there is a lot of shadow masculine work to do. I believe it will be easier for men to embrace this shadow work if they have something masculine to be proud of.

    • “Masculinity is tied to the body: attributes such as valour, violence, aggression, confidence, composure and deference are inscribed upon the body and its demeanours. … Bodily violence becomes the repertoire of thugs, marauders or underlings who bloody their hands on behalf of their betters.”

      When you wrote ” masculinity (valor)” you did not include the negatives … Are we programed that Masculinity can only be exercised as control and domination ? When a mother is the “controller” in a family unit , is she automatically looked at and experienced as ” domineering and abusive” ?? I would like to hear some examples of the commenters who are claiming their mothers were domineering and abusive.. Just trying to wrap my head around all of this.

  19. I’m a bit angry over this one. I’ve endured two abusive marriages, had a shot gun pointed at my belly by a man I didn’t know trying to force me to have sex with him, and been raped by someone I loved. Then you go and blame white women for this? The same white women who are still, to this day, being sold as sex slaves in Arabic countries? But you would rather hear from colored or indigenous women? Well, alright then.

  20. Dear Bethany, how come you say that the Mother didn’t protect the child from the Father’s actions? More mother-blame! If the Father behaved badly, that is fully his responsibility. Nowhere do you write that the Father is to blame for the Mother being abusive, for instance. See how hard it is to shake the “blame-the-mother” game?

    • Side note… in divorce situations today , custody battles, if a “protective mother” acts in a way that she tries to protect the children from the abuser , she stands to lose the children all together. The custody will be given to the parent “who appears” to be the one most likely to foster a relationship with the other parent. Courts are FORCING co-parenting even when abuse is well documented. This needs to be FIXED. But “he said / she said” how do you determine the truth in court ?

  21. I generally agree. BUT, it is unreasonable to expect the current 4 or so generations of men alive on the planet to right the wrongs of thousands of years and resentment will not get the desired result. Rather, a new human path needs to be worked on. BUT, how did we get to this place? What changed from the supposed peaceful connected Mother Earth culture of original Europe? Perhaps the Kurgan hordes that destroyed that culture easily explain the problem, but what to do? I guess the industrial world of today is largely in the image of those Kurgan hordes. You will likely have to give up that Subaru you love to drive, and those jet flights to your vacation spot to live again in a Mother Earth culture. Ready to do that too?

  22. This article is so true. I had felt these things, intuitively, when my husband started lashing out at me (verbally) out of the blue. Now I understand more fully what is going on. He does have internal pain from childhood – I got that part. But what I now see is the role that our male-dominated (not men’s fault that it is!) society plays. I don’t think most men want to be in the position of privilege that is theirs to claim, actually, but they don’t have alternative. How to make men not feel under attack as this feminine drive towards the truth emerges, that’s the question.

    • Yes, what is included is predominately true. The male, by default, drifts towards the Patriarchal position (at least, in the past). But, what I perceived (far too late in life!) is that women don’t (didn’t) feel a sense of agency – the ability to direct good outcomes in their own life – and the male by default takes up the rest of the space! I know it now, but am still puzzled as to why the female feels so (naturally) unassertive – I guess Patriarchy has it’s opposite number in Matriarchy – a change in one produces a change in the other.

  23. Wow. I don’t often use that word as it is often over-used..but just Wow. A tremendously insightful, pragmatic and genuine insight into many of society’s issues. If Governments of today accepted, confronted and dealt with these themes, the world would be a much more positive and happier place, for all genders and ages

  24. I agree on the boundaries but not to just watch them feel the discomfort.Tough love can backfire, traumatize and that is cold.. how the discomfort is held by both the female in acknowledgement that there is a realization going on by the male that he must account for himself and her.. it is significant.

  25. As a therapist who works with domestic abuse, I found most of this article resonating with the resocialization process that I do in my groups. However, I think that your title is misleading; I would have given it The Patriarchal Wound. You recognize that it’s partriarchy behind both men and women’s behavior, but your title may lead some to believe that mothers are the primary problem.

    • Yes! The name does lead to more blame of women, which leads to more misogyny, as David portrayed by “jumping on the band wagon” of the phrase “Mother wound”. Perhaps re-write it with a different name on the title and within the article. The message of your article is something that my boyfriend has been telling me for years – he has felt the pain of having to ” be cool, be strong, be tough and cold”. Thank you

  26. Not necessarily wanting to light fires here, but… all this has been about white men. How would the author go about rectifying the toxic masculinity in so many deeply religious and/or third-world societies? We’ve got work to do in the west but most of the world is centuries behind us.

    • I disagree with You Ian…. in my mind the correlations of this article are of the poisoning, rape and pillage of our Mother Earth and third world countries are more inclined to celebrate and ritualized the nourishment and nurturing that is the source of our existence….We are all in a state of disconnection and blame and the sooner we place love in our hearts the better..

  27. I liked the article, but it seems like there is so much personal work to be done, so many layers, not to mention all the 3D life stuff, that it feels overwhelming. I suppose I could just sit still and cry and sob for a while about how hard adult life is, especially when one has been so badly programmed and experienced so much trauma, but that would require hard work because so much of what I do from the moment I get up in the morning is very likely chosen to calm whatever emotions or anxieties are lingering from my dream state. I guess if I am truly committed to my healing and growth, I need to work hard to fully experience the misery that I am mostly in the habit of running away from. So I find myself thinking with my programmed mind about how to go about un-programming myself… Is that gonna work?

  28. I do believe in some aspects the article is right but not in every case. To understand one has to start from the beginning. My feelings on this is. If one reads the bible the thought of men having rule over women stems from genesis.For 100 of years men have used this excuse to rule over women. How could this be wrong Right?The bible says it should be?Since the 17 too 1800’s and on men by law had the right to rule over their spouses. It did not matter if they were a good husband or not. The most a women could hope for was to marry a man, have children,stay at home and nurture the husband and children. Women had no rights. Men could beat them, cheat on them, not support them and his off spring and by law this was fine. Women for years have fought for the freedoms that the men had privilege to. Only to be thrown in jail, divorced, their children taken away. By their abusive spouses and by the laws that protected their spouses no matter what.In the 60’s and 70’s and up until even now we as women had to fight for our rights to have the freedoms and privileges that the men in society had.Many of us were told if you got married you were expected to quit your job and stay home and take care of your family it was frowned upon by society at that time that if a women wanted to continue to work.Well we got our freedom. But then It took a whole different turn in our society.Men did not know how to react towards what they called back then this new independent women.Most men were raised by the father figure in their life to be the more aggressive in the world because they were to be the bread winner in any relationship. The men that were their father were raised to be the same way by their fathers. You see the generations of disrespect for women was passed down from generation to generation by men raising boys to be men.Because society back then and laws made women less important. Well of course it is not that way anymore.But we still have not reached the goal of being equal to each other. Much of what was taught is still running through our society. It has not been stopped in certain aspects. But what I have seen is women returning sexual disrespect as well to men.I cannot blame the mothers in this world for what has happen any more. Then I can just blame the men. Our society has to pull together and for get the old that was taught and concentrate on the new we are all just learning. Treat each other as equals stop the finger pointing and blaming each other and work on solutions to fix this.

  29. The article, notwithstanding its psychobabble title, touches upon some valid points. Its fundamental flaw is that it has a “one size fits all” demeanor. We know that is simply not true. Furthermore, using the current wave of media driven sexual scandal as the basis for analyzing the extremely complex nature of the relationships between people as a source of information is of dubious value. At present, the for-profit media is in a schizophrenic tailspin, whipped between salacious news about stars misconduct and Donald Trumps dismantling of the federal government. When the dust settles, the issues raised in the article about behavior deserve closer study and, as usual, better laws to protect victims of these sometimes brutal, and always misogynistic actions. As for the “Mother Wound,” I suspect I’m simply too dense to fathom its undoubtedly profound meaning. I’ll have to work on that.

    • Hi, I assume you are a writer. Where else may I read your work ? Loved ” the for-profit media is in a schizophrenic tailspin” D

  30. <3 Thank you from my heart for this article. It touches me deeply and makes me feel like the world can be transformed into a peaceful paradise, where men and women live together in self-responsible, truly supporting, loving ways <3.

  31. In the USA, men were routinely circumcised at birth (the rate is falling), which is a brutal assault on their sexual organs. How can we expect men to grow up understanding consent and boundaries when they are imprinted (google: circumcision brain damage) with such a brutal assault without consent?

  32. When the Aryans invaded India, they were the BLOODS & the Indians were the CUMS.. spill blood vs shoot cum… One would think it would be no contest… but the Indians shot so much cum that the Bloods just ended up slipping and sliding all over the place. They couldn’t fight worth a damn… so it was a draw.

    Thinking about all that seed all day caused Indian farmers to copulate with their wives more frequently than Aryan hunters who copulated with animals mostly and seldom with their wives. Hunters/soldiers mainly copulated for pro-creation and saved animals and other men for passionate erotic sex.

    For example at the famous Thermopylae– where 300 Spartans defended inland Greece from the Persians… all of the 300 were gay… which was normal in those times… in fact if U were a general u were expected to have sexual relations with young boys… part of the marriage ceremony for Spartan warriors was to have his wife cut her hair short like a boy so that on his wedding night he could mount her from the rear in the dark and then return to his barracks. Sparta’s gay defenders could have learned something from the Indians about fighting on fresh cum!

    Farmers wives were getting ‘boffed’ so frequently that they began to think they were something special… and wanted to be called goddess and stuff… and for awhile women ruled the roost.

    But then men found out they could urinate on a woman’s fire… and put it out without hurting themselves… and they have been doing so ever since.

  33. As a woman, I think we should focus on what we ourselves can do to become resilient to any oppression we must face but also realize our own privileges.

    Telling men how poorly we feel they have treated us and trying to force them to respect us is pointless. Especially when we fail to recognize the struggles men have to face that we women do not.

    We are no more innocent or infallible in our morals than men are. We just tend to have different vices and strengths then men typically do. We also exploit the weaknesses of men for our own perceived gain. When In doing so we gain nothing and we lose right along side the men we are mistreating. All the while claiming that the men are fully to blame.

    I think men do this too, and whose to say who is the most to blame. Anyone claiming to know is probably full of shit.

  34. Too bad the title implies mothers are responsible for misogyny. Is this to get more readers? Why not “Patriarchy’s Imposed Mother Wound Needs Further Understanding”? As is, it’s like saying a woman was raped rather than a man committed rape. Huge difference.

  35. “As a boy grows today in the modern world, he becomes socialized by his father, by other men, and by society about what it means to be a man. The patriarchal culture of media, education, and religion also perform that function. Unfortunately, it’s well-documented that this socialization of the boy involves, to some degree, learning to dominate others, to shut down his emotions and to devalue women…”. Yes this is what turns men into misogynists. But WHY call it a ‘mother wound’ which implies mothers are responsible for creating this mess??! The name ‘mother wound’ is misogynist in itself!

    I think the author has a major blind spot about her own biases.

  36. Love how they say “White priviledge”, yet, certain countries beat women in public and it’s OK. I mean, yes, it happens in the West as well but is viewed as a crime, not a right. Certain cultures move to the West and still think it’s OK to beat women and kill for “honour”. If you’re trying to blame someone…Why not blame the corrupt Governments that take the money destined to help their people and waste it. Therd’s enough money to “save” the world. Problem is, the idiots that have it all don’t like sharing. Also, with the influx of migrants that have more rights and money than retirees whom have been paying into the “system” all their lives. They claim “racism” etc… It’s not a matter of race, gender, religion. It’s a matter of injustice. You can’t give to certain people and expect the ones getting the short end of the stick to be happy about it, regardless of any other factors.

  37. I find this article engulfed in emasculation, though it tries to empower men. There seems to bit of shadow work left undone by the author; deflecting that it is the disconnect from Mother to son that seems to be the root of the wound, along with the lack of support from the Father. Yet, and articulately, it addresses the fundamental responsibility of The Divine Feminine role at the critical development of the man. Also, highlights supportive responsibility of the Divine Masculine, as it deals with The Patriarchal relationship of son and Mother. In all, I agree, men must feel the wound to heal the wound and deflect all energy inward – then realize there is no infantile, soft place to fall, that is not clean. Wound healing is messy and Men should have the space and provided the respect, support to push thru that constriction.

  38. The long fruitless arguments here between men and women illustrate how unhelpful this kind of distorted myth-making of pathology is, piling deficiency on deficiency, blame on blame. There is no doubt of the harms that men have perpetrated abetted, encouraged or silently witnessed by the women in their lives. Women and men have strengths and beauties that should be honed for a new world. Invent a mythology about that instead.

  39. I’m almost 10 months late now, but anyway…
    Congratulations, Bethany Webster.
    Very nice thoughts and words on how inner psychological events/processes contribute to little consciousness of feelings and deep needs, which, down the road, derail in violent, abusive, indifferent behaviour towards others.
    I agree with most of the text (except for a minority of statements and thoughts), and I do believe that this kind of Understanding, of deep Comprehension, is the most helpful thing we will find in our path towards improvement.
    However, there is a gap in the text that really bothered me, and about which I’d like to ask you, Bethany, and other women and men who might wanna answer…
    – Where does the patriarchy come from?
    – Why does the shift from mother-only care/contact to mother-father-others happen the way you’ve described it?
    – Why do boys grow up to be men who are disconnected from their feelings?
    – Why do their fathers/models in the adult, masculine world do stuff the way they do?
    – What are the foundations of the patriarchy? What are its causes, the explanations for what it is?
    – And, further down, what other factors/mechanisms might play a role in fuelling misogyny, other than the mother or father wound?
    Much like I believe your answers brought great enlightenment to the topic, I believe that answering these questions might deepen our understanding of stuff we face inside and outside of us; and I’m completely certain that deep(er) understanding is the only thing that can guide us to better/real solutions to these problems.
    Thanks for the great text, and hope the discussion goes on…

  40. The first thing most boys experience in our culture is sexual mutilation perpetuated by the mother

    Infant circumcision is worse than rape

    Women who circumcised their sons are worse than rapists

  41. “As a boy grows today in the modern world, he becomes socialized by his father, by other men, and by society about what it means to be a man.”

    Um, no he becomes emasculated by his feminist mommy who was taught the male expression of being human is a crime against humanity.

    As such, you have an entire generation of young men who failed to launch because they had ABSOLUTELY NO POSITIVE male role models in their lives. The feminists lied. Women can’t do it all, alone. For one thing, they CANNOT RAISE BOYS INTO MEN.

  42. The premise of this whole article blames women. (Mothers.)

    The patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia work in tandem to ridicule men’s finer feelings and to subjugate women.

    Capitalism fuels the dynamic by creating inequality and deprivation which in turn creates stratas of society. Men become default and women secondary. An unemployed man is still a ‘man’ (superior) and not a woman. That’s capitalism’s reward system.

    Capitalism denies us our natural human state and the relationships that organically form.

    The starting point is tackling poverty (capitalism). This teaches us that class is the most defining issue in our lives.

    From this we need to realise men and women are equal but since the reward system of capitalism defines men as the default gender it’s difficult.

    Equality feels like discrimination when all you’ve known is privilege.

    Next misogyny and homophobia need to be tackled. They are the weapons used by men and by women to ridicule men, which in turn is creating toxic masculinity.

    Celebrate men being fathers. Celebrate men being house husbands. Let men wear make up and any clothes they want.

    When we think about cultural gender roles it becomes clear that they are inhuman and artificially enforced. We are controlled by structures which are as repressive as prisons.

    Men are repressed as women but in ways that aren’t acknowledged.

    Poverty doesn’t discriminate.

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