Recovering From Whiplash

"Feminist theory has dominated political and social life for the past three decades, with enormous repercussions on the lives of both women and men: but just how much can be considered an improvement is open to doubt."

This unpublished book, which I wrote during late 1993 and early 1994, argues that some of the fundamental tenets of feminism - especially its emphasis on blame and the concept of the 'patriarchy' - are lethally flawed; and that the direct result has been an unnecessary and escalating 'gender war' which, for everyone's sake, we urgently need to halt. The book outlines one possible theme for a truce in this gender-war.

Some background to the book

The fundamental theme of all my writing is empowerment for people to do and be what they choose - and to face their own responsibility for that power. In the early days, this theme came out in areas such as dowsing - so much that I became somewhat typecast as a writer on 'earth mysteries' and the like. It's also come out strongly in my later work on self-development, particularly in the Wyrd project. But from the mid-1980s onward, I've also been actively involved in and researching the gender-issues area, because this has had such a fundamental impact on individuals' empowerment in the past few decades.

As a child of the early 1950s, I came of age in a milieu which was dominated by the claims and excitements of what was then called 'women's liberation'. Like many - perhaps most - of the young men of my generation, I actively supported that 'liberation', particularly because of the promise that was held out that women's liberation must also be men's liberation too. But that promise was never kept: in fact, it was a promise that was and still is systematically betrayed. By the time of the Greenham Common women's Peace Camp, in the early 1980s, I was living in the Glastonbury area in south-west England, and was acutely aware not only of the almost fanatical anti-male attitude of the supposedly 'alternative' community in which I lived and worked, but also of the double-binds and self-dishonesties of so many feminist concepts: for example, forbidding any man to be present at Greenham, and then accusing those same men of supporting militarism because they weren't there. In early 1986 I was intentionally attacked in this way by a self-styled 'eco-feminist', at a time when she knew I was particularly fragile, causing damage so severe that I was unable to work for many months. It was not a happy time... My various attempts to recover sent me on a long and largely tangential drift, steadily losing any connection with my work, my business, my family and my home, and perhaps even more my sense of self. I spent several rather aimless years shuttling back and forth between Britain and the States, but eventually settled here alone in southern Australia, and slowly started to rebuild something resembling a life.

But although I was physically separated from the source of those attacks, the need to understood and resolve those issues never left me. I slowly came to realise that this was part of a personal pattern which, for me, had actually started in earliest infancy; and that it was a pattern which was not mine alone - as I had originally, and forcefully, been taught - but one which affected many, many people, both men and women, and hence one which was best addressed in a generic and genuinely holist way. During 1990-91 I reframed some of my understandings on this into the interpersonal tools in Positively Wyrd.

Even so, I could not ignore the gender aspects of the issues: for example, I became actively involved in several men's groups, particularly on a Pegasus email list - but always searching for a 'gender-neutral' solution, when so many others were so often searching instead for a new way to indulge in the dishonesty of 'other-blame'. A year or two later I started looking much more closely at the violence issue - particularly the very strong social taboo on acknowledging (let alone facing) the reality of women's violence - because two of my lesbian friends had ended their relationship with a knife (fortunately without puncturing each other) and had then been told to "shut up about it" by the domestic violence service. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that by asking for help as lesbians they were "rocking the boat" of the current gender-politics - most of which depended on creating and maintaining an illusion that violence was emphatically and exclusively 'male'. The fundamental dishonesty of this, and of most 'pro-feminist' public policy of the time - such as that of the federally-funded 'National Committee on Violence Against Women', who told me in writing that only blame-based 'feminist' theory was to be permitted as the basis for law on gender-issues, and that any and all facts (such as my own personal experiences) which contradicted such theory were to be defined as inadmissible in law - was for me the final straw, and I started work in earnest on researching and writing about the issues. One result was this book, "Recovering From Whiplash".

I do know that for many people - particularly women - 'Whiplash' is not an easy book to read. It was not an easy book to write, either - not least because of the circumstances under which I wrote it. I'd actually started work on 'Whiplash' with my then partner, but soon discovered the hard way that she could not actually find the courage and self-honesty which that kind of work eventually demands of everyone - female or male. Few people find facing their own 'stuff' easy, and I'm certainly no exception in that; but the strain of facing the reality of women's violence and self-violence - including, or perhaps especially, her own - rapidly became more than she could bear. With the 'assistance' of a decidedly unstable lesbian friend of hers, who insisted that the more she viewed herself as a victim, the more powerful she would feel, she retreated further and further into that more comfortable - or at least more familiar, and 'politically correct' - role of victim. The 'need' to create and defend an imaginary role for which there was no evidence whatsoever - and for which, increasingly, she knew there was no evidence whatsoever - put impossible strains on her sanity. Somehow - I still don't know how - I managed to stay sane whilst she descended to a point just short of clinical paranoia, and stayed that way for several months. The living nightmare of living with someone in that state is almost impossible to describe... wallowing deeper and deeper into what can only be described as fantasised 'feminist' fear and the shallow self-centredness of self-created 'victimhood', she savaged us both incessantly with that whiplash of words that I'd come to know all too well. I took on her torrent of blame as best I could, but still ended up seriously damaged; the damage she did to herself was even more severe, because any help only increased her need to prove herself 'the victim'. I finished the book alone, some months after she'd left, but under the circumstances it's hardly surprising that in some places the anger and pain of that period still shows...

Once I'd completed the first draft, I started looking for a publisher. Of those to whom I sent the manuscript, only one even bothered to reply: a courageous woman from Penguin, who commented at one of our meetings that the book had triggered enormous - and blatantly dishonest - anger amongst her editorial colleagues. She said that she'd essentially agreed with everything that I'd said in the book, and that she wanted to see it published: but then admitted rather sadly that she could only publish it if it had been written by a woman - not least because her colleagues had made it plain that no man was to be allowed to publish any opinion on gender issues. So that was that. I used a few of the ideas in Wyrd Allies, the interpersonal part of the Wyrd series, but otherwise I just abandoned the project. "Whiplash" itself went quietly back onto the shelf, and gathered dust.

I think I can fairly safely assume that no mainstream publisher will bother - or dare - to look at it. Even so, it now seems worthwhile to revive it - if only as a piece of personal history. It's still only a first draft, in places it's a bit outdated, and a few of the ideas never really worked - particularly the clumsy and ugly term 'puellism' (for which I now use the cleaner and more generic term 'cuckoo', 'a parasite which lays its eggs in others birds' nests') - but it does still have some useful things to say. And now that the gender-issues pendulum has started to move once more - with some attention at last being paid to the appalling scale of state-funded discrimination against males in general in 'western' societies - it's perhaps even more relevant: because if these issues are not faced now, the situation for women is likely to become worse and worse as the pendulum moves in its swing. If we want the 'gender-war' to end, we must work to bring the pendulum to a halt somewhere closer to the centre: and the only way that will happen is if everyone works to find within themselves the honesty that that demands. That's what this book is about. I've played my part, as best I can: the rest, if you wish, is up to you.

Tom Graves
Malmsbury (Victoria), 2000