Originally published at: Reflections from the Dojo
By Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei
Defenders of Donald Trump’s recent predatorial comments about women as “only locker room talk” fatuously excuse these remarks as a justifiable way for men to talk. What is entirely missing is that however you spin it, it’s humiliating, objectifying, and ultimately dehumanizing women. There’s no free, “Get Out Of Jail” card that can minimize the impact. This kind of talk is never acceptable; it’s appalling and should be interrupted post haste. Objectifying women to feed male fantasies and to promote manhood drags everyone down. These women – all women – have names, they have lives, and they seek a fulfilling life for themselves and their loved ones. They deserve dignity.
More fundamental is that this view sees language, words, and stories as being separate from ourselves, just as it sees thinking separate from the body. This is the legacy of the Cartesian model that divides mind and body, nature and humans, emotions and thinking, actions and words, and so forth. This is a deeply flawed view of the mind/body process and dismisses how language creates identity, power, and reality. From an embodied somatic perspective we come to see that we are language, we don’t have language. Just as we don’t have bodies, we are our bodies. Our body, our soma is not a thing, our body is who we are as a process. Just as we don’t havestories, our stories are who we are as a living process as well. Over time the stories we speak will be coherent with our actions, just as locker room talk will become an enacted behavior as exemplified by Trump’s actions. As we embody these stories, we become these stories. For example, our bodies reveal our lived stories of grief by a sunken chest, hope by a radiance in the eyes, confidence reflected by an upright posture, over striving by a leaning forward, compassion by an open, unarmored body. A trained somatic coach is able to see this in bodies. From this perspective language is not only a tool that describes reality: it also creates reality.
As in any story we repeat over and over our muscular, organ, and nervous system will organize around the story, just as men who repeatedly speak maliciously about women will embody a character trait that is predisposed to enacting this story. Our somatic shape becomes our character, an identity that matches the words and narratives spoken. What we say shapes us and it shapes those around us. When Trump supporters dismiss this kind of banter as “only locker room talk” it implies the speaking, and the stories it tells, are insignificant and harmless. This leads to accepting that men talk this way, and are forgiven for doing so. In other words, there is no threat of action, since they are only words. But it’s a small step after dehumanizing someone linguistically to terrorize them physically and emotionally. Let me explain.
Our narratives reflect our beliefs, beliefs form character, character is embodied, and the body takes action proportionate with the narrative. The character (or as we would say in somatics, “the shape”) of a man like Donald Trump who denigrates women is predisposed to taking the action commensurate to his narrative; that is, violence and assault. Just as a person who sincerely speaks the virtues of women will be predisposed to treating women with dignity and positive regard. Or when you pull back the hammer on a pistol it’s prepared to take the action it was built for; or when the minister says, “You’re married” the world changes for those being married as well as their community; or when the judge declares, “You’re divorced” the world changes for that couple and their children. We act according to the narratives and beliefs we’ve embodied. When we speak we set things into action.
At Strozzi Institute we teach leaders and teams how to develop a somatic social ethic of mutuality that is built on the integrity of our thinking, emotions, actions, and speech. When we interact with others from this unity of being, the individual body joins a larger body we call a social process. This is a social body that is constantly transforming itself without exploitation, domination, or bigotry. Expressing our deepest values through the unity of language, actions, and emotions is a first step in treating all human beings, all life, with respect, equity, and kindness. Let’s make it so.
Take it Easy But Take It