I was born into our patriarchal world as a white male. My family was relatively well-off. My dad owned a moving company, so he was the one in charge. I grew up knowing I would be successful. I did well in school and was given an opportunity to attend Columbia College, an Ivy League college in New York City. I was doing very well in the patriarchy. When I applied to graduate school, I was accepted into my top-choice programs. It was 1970, and in the United States, acceptance into a graduate program was not easy to achieve if you were not a white male. I believed I could succeed at whatever I chose to do.
Being a male with a position of power, I didn’t pay much attention to what women wanted or needed. I simply did what I thought was right. So, when my first wife became pregnant and I thought she was gaining too much weight, I virtually forced her to eat less. She would stop eating whatever she was snacking on whenever I told her to. This was a huge mistake as our baby was born underweight.
Because we men are struggling to find ourselves, and usually are not interested in finding ourselves, we lose the ability to connect and empathize with others. This allows us to easily control people without caring about or considering the impact of our actions.
My dad’s behavior was another good example of this. Whenever things did not go his way, he would become angry and yell at my mom. So, when I did something I knew my dad wouldn’t approve of, I would call my mom at the moving company where they both worked and ask her to tell him. He would always yell at her when she told him what I had done. By the time they arrived home, he had moved on, and he wouldn’t be angry with me. But my mom always suffered. By manipulating my mother, I could hide within the patriarchy.
I spent a number of years training to get a black belt in the martial art Aikido. In the beginning, it gave me even more confidence in a male-dominated world, but as I continued I realized that to truly learn Aikido, I needed to get to know myself.
To move away from the patriarchy, men need to take time to learn how to connect with themselves before engaging with others. Once we can feel genuine empathy for another person, we can begin to embrace them and create a relationship as two equal human beings.
The discoveries that Sisa and I made in New Equations added a new dimension to my life. They have helped me see the patriarchy more clearly and constantly provide me with a pathway to move away from it. I get to explore someting much bigger than our patriarchal, male-dominated existence.
Alan Sheets is a Cofounder of New Equations and New Equations Music.