Recently someone asked about men attending the Cakes classes. Here is Shirley's recommendation, based on the years of experience with the original curriculum since it was published in 1986.
Regarding the teaching of Cakes to both men and women, it has been done successfully many times. In one congregation, many years ago, the women took the course; then their husbands and significant others wanted to take it, so two women taught it to a class of men; then they ran another class for both men and women! I have taught it mostly to all women classes, but a few times men have asked to participate. What I say to them is that if there is more than one man who wants to participate, fine. But not if there is only one man. When we break into small groups for discussion of some very personal issues, the men need to have a group of their own and the women need groups without men. I try to consult with women leaders ahead of time to find out how they feel about having men in the group and often they prefer to limit it to women.
The main thing I would say is that if there are men in the class, it will be a very different class from what it would be if there were only women. It will be valuable in other ways, but women will not be as free in their discussions with men in the class. This is a course that is not just about history and archeology; it is also about women's issues in a patriarchal society. Men have some issues with the society too, but they are different from those of women.
If I could bold or underline the next to last sentence above, I would. In fact if I were re-writing, I would put that sentence first: This is a course that is not just about history and archeology; it is also about women's issues in a patriarchal society. I'd like men to understand those issues, but I think generally we women need to be clear about them first.
-- Rev. Shirley Ranck
Melinda Perrin said: Years ago at the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, we did an adjunct course for men (and women who were curious but did not have the time or inclination to take the full course). It was affectionately known as “Cupcakes” or more appropriately perhaps, “CUUPScakes”. It involved screening the three Donna Read films followed by discussions. These were well attended and the follow-up evaluations were very positive and led to further family discussions about raising children in a more power-shared environment.
Another issue to consider it whether there are other forums within the congregation for men who find the divine feminine to be an important part of their spirituality. When I first came to my congregation, there were no places for men to explore either the divine feminine or ancient earth-based traditions. In that situation, a course open only to women can feel exclusionary (and I hear the argument too that some exclusion may be necessary to counter the hundreds of years of exclusion by men).
I also feel that it is especially important for any gender exclusive group (men or women) to be very involved in dialogue with other groups within the congregation. I think that dialogue can help show that really it is about creating a place for woman, not a place without men.
Marnie Singer said:
The next step we need to take is to get beyond thinking of gender as a binary division. There is a colorful spectrum between the poles of macho and femme, and a number of people have gender identities that are neither male nor female.
We must keep this in mind if we are to be inclusive. When dividing people into caucus groups by gender, please allow for flexibility in gender identity. If a person you believe to have XY chromosomes wants to be in the group of women, invite her and include her!
Starr King student
I know that men have participated in Cakes for the Queen of Heaven classes. The question becomes not whether men are “allowed” but when and how men are included. The content and scope of this course have proven to be invaluable for women over the years. The fact that it is still in demand tells me the material in “Cakes” and the space it intends to help provide are needed even today, after decades of consciousness-raising about the status of women as second-class citizens in a patriarchal society.
Feminism at its best is not about women climbing a ladder over men to get to positions of power in the patriarchal system. It is about women and men having equal opportunity to become their own, authentic, whole selves and participate fully in the process of life. In that process, people of all genders can be freed, that is a goal of feminist activism. As Rosemary Matson said long ago, “We don’t want a piece of the pie. It is still a patriarchal pie. We want to change the recipe.”
In my opinion, I would say that including men as participants in a “Cakes” course depends on the facilitators and participants and their level of comfort with discussing personal issues in a mixed-gender group. A certain level of trust, openness and confidentiality is expected of participants in this curriculum and I believe that groups at the local level know best how they wish to proceed.
There are great resources for the study of gender in history and archeology. For example, read anything by Riane Eisler, especially “The Chalice and the Blade,” and “The Partnership Way.” There is an adult RE course called “Unraveling the Gender Knot,” which is a group study guide to go with the book of the same title by Allan G. Johnson.
Gretchen Ohmann, UUWR co-convener,