4 min read. Awaken is a new kind of meditation app, combining traditional mindfulness practice, contemplation, and journaling to explore and transform ourselves and our world. The leaked Google employee’s memo highlights the necessity of this sort of practice, as it points the way to undoing toxic masculinity by calling ourselves into self-examination and conversation rather than calling each other out and triggering shame and guilt. You can check out our Kickstarter pre-sale to learn more, and browse the site to read about what makes our organization unique.
This blog post was written in response to the anti-diversity internal memo written by a Google engineer. Give it a quick read to get up to speed.
First and foremost, I strongly and unequivocally believe the author's points of view not only lack awareness but, when acted upon, are extremely harmful. It’s clear he just doesn’t see that in most situations and over the course of their entire lives, women have to navigate a male-centric world. Our culture and institutions tell them to take up less space, cater to the desires of men, and be afraid (rightfully so) of what might happen if they don’t know their place - or even if they do. He makes a number of statements deeply ignorant of these realities. I’ll refute only a few, given their similarities:
Women are gregarious rather than assertive? That’s not a women thing, that’s a power dynamic thing. You’d develop your gregariousness and under-assert yourself as a social strategy if it’s more likely to keep you safe.
Women can’t lead? If the model for leadership is based on toxic masculinity - the repression of emotions, cultivating a competitive rather than cooperative approach, and dominating others - then, yes, men will be better “leaders” on average (because women are less willing to sell their souls).
Women are more aesthetically oriented? Maybe - but if so, because we objectify their bodies from an early age.
But close to the end of the memo , my mind was blown. The Google author writes, “The male gender role is currently inflexible… If we, as a society, allow men to be more 'feminine,' then the gender gap will shrink.”
This person - who I think I share no common ideology with - feels and can articulate the pain of toxic masculinity. What?! Can we recognize the utter tragedy that is occurring inside this human being? Despite a mindset and internalized worldview that actively supports and propagates toxic masculinity, he is being harmed by it - and he knows it. Wow. It makes me take a step back, shake my head, and marvel in the vast complexity of the human mind. (Seriously. That’s not written with an ounce of condescension, only a staggering and awe-inspiring respect for the human condition and the universality of suffering.)
Toxic masculinity harms all of us, even men. And despite his many problematic opinions, even our misguided author sees this!
But what keeps him from being able to see beyond his own sphere - how the exact same system that cuts him off from himself and a deeper expression of his being oppresses others?
Guilt and shame. He’s already in touch with his own pain and is constantly being confronted with how his presence and his way of dominating space creates that same pain in others - can you imagine how much conscious and subconscious effort it must take to not connect the dots? And to not see his complicity in the system?
But I actually empathize with him. Because the reality is that, if I’m honest with myself, I have to acknowledge my own continued complicity in patriarchy. And not in some abstract way: As I’ve developed this app, I know I’ve acted out in ways that prioritize aggression and combativeness over understanding and cooperation in moments of stress and frustration. I’ve made the space less safe for my female co-founder - and I can feel my resistance right now, in this moment, from fully owning up to that fact.
In fact, I’ve been acting out toxic masculinity while writing this article! I know that despite the vulnerable direction this essay has gone, the reason I started writing was because I was sure I could write a juicy, humiliating takedown to put this ignorant Googler in his place. My sword of intelligence, empathy, and reason was longer than his, and I was going to put it on display for all to see.
(Yes, that’s a penis joke.)
Patriarchy is in the air we breathe, and it has spent a lifetime conditioning us on how to assign value and habitually behave to get what we want.
So what do we do about it? The beauty is that if toxic masculinity exists, healthy, awakened, and feminine-nourishing masculinity also exists. The un-oppressed and liberated feminine exists.
The work to uncover our own liberated masculinity and femininity is growing our awareness and cultivating spaces safe enough to connect, share, and help each other process our deep, repressed emotions.
That work and this journey is the path of mindfulness. It’s learning about the effects of patriarchy - not just intellectually and systemically, but emotionally and intuitively, in our own bodies. It’s courageously exploring our own minds and hearts to see where patriarchy still has sway over our consciousness. It’s tasting and enjoying the liberation that comes from being free from the toxicity. And, of course, it’s holding space for others to undo patriarchy in their lives and our communities.
This has been my journey so far, and this spirit was one part of the founding of Awaken. We aim to bring mindfulness practice to all aspects of our lives, exploring what transformation looks like in ourselves and in our world.
If this approach resonates with you, check out our Kickstarter pre-sale to get discounted membership to the Awaken Meditation app and learn more about how we’re building a revolutionary startup.