Thursday, 6 March 2014

Theme Announced For International Men's Day 2014

For those interesting in celebrating International Men's Day this year (19th November 2014) the gloabl theme is "Working Together For Men and Boys".

This year's theme is designed to encourage greater co-operation in addressing in addressing the issues that affect men and boys all over the world such as men’s shorter life expectancy, the high male suicide rate, our collective tolerance of violence against men, the struggles that boys can face in getting an education and the unique challenges of father-child relationships.

On International Men’s Day on Wednesday, 19 November 2014, people all over the wolrd are invited to host events and initiatives that involve:

  • Like-minded people finding ways to work together for Men and Boys
  • People from diverse perspectives finding ways to work together for Men and Boys
  • People in different countries finding ways to work together for Men and Boys 
  • And Men and Women finding ways to work together for Men and Boys 

In particular, participants are invited to find ways to work together that reflect the Six Pillars of International Men’s Day which means:

ONE: Working together to promote positive male role models

TWO: Working together to celebrate Men’s positive contributions

THREE: Working together to focus on Men’s health and well-being

FOUR: Working together to highlight discrimination against males

FIVE: Working together to improve gender relations and improve gender equality

SIX: Working together to create a safer, better world.

Founded in its current format in 1999 by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, Ph.D, the event is observed in over 70 nations each year. Details of last year's event in the UK can be found at

Monday, 3 March 2014

Helping Men helps to develop a new approach to gender

Glen Poole of Helping Men has published a paper on Integral Gender Theory that will be of interest to anyone who is committed to tackling issues of gender inequality whether they affect women and girls, men and boys or people of different gender identities.

The paper is published in the New Male Studies International Journal and its primary focus is on the male of the species, but Integral Gender Theory provides a framework that is applicable to all gender issues, not just the many issues facing men and boys.

Gender politics play a huge role in shaping the problems that men and boys face. We all have gender politics. People who are in the business of helping the public rarely stop to consider that both service providers and service users are shaped by our beliefs about gender and this impacts both the way we provide services and the way people access services. Most of us are either unaware of the influence of own gender politics, or have an awareness of our gender politics but have make the mistake of thinking that our gender political views are the objective truth, rather than a subjective worldview.

Integral Gender Theory is a useful framework for understanding and addressing gender issues that helps cut through the limitations of our own gender political views of the world. Integral Gender Theory is based on an existing “theory of everything” called Integral Theory which is described as “an all-inclusive framework that draws on the key insights of the world’s greatest knowledge traditions”.

If you’re committed to inclusivity and diversity in your work helping men or promoting gender equality more broadly, but struggle with the challenge of how to reconcile conflicting experiences and perspectives, then Integral Theory could help you.

People who are committed to addressing the inequalities that women and girls face, for example, often struggle to deal with the fact that men and boys also face inequality. The integral framework may help you address this question. In our training “Helping Men Get Help”, for example, we train professionals on using one of the basic tools of Integral Theory called “the four quadrants”. We consistently find that using this model helps practitioners to identify the barriers that men face to accessing services and helps them to offer a more inclusive service in future.

This simple and effective tool barely scratches the surface of what Integral Theory has to offer to those working in gender equality. With this in mind Glen’s paper offers a first solid step towards developing a detailed integral approach to gender theory.

To read more see our post An Introduction to Integral Gender Theory.

If you're interested in training on Helping Men or applying integral gender theory to your work or practice then please get in touch via our Helping Men contact page

An introduction to Integral Gender Theory

The following post provides an introduction to taking an integral approach to gender issues and is based on a paper on Integral Gender Theory written for New Male Studies international journal by Glen Poole of Helping Men. 

Integral Theory, according to its creator Ken Wilber, is an approach to understanding the world that uses “all known systems and models of human growth” and “distills their major components into 5 simple factors that are the essential elements or keys to unlocking and facilitating human evolution”.

To date there have been a small number of notable attempts to apply Integral Theory to the study of gender and gender issues, but no-one has developed a fully-fledged Integral Gender Theory. In a sense, lots of Integral Gender Theories already exist because lots of people are applying Integral Theory to gender issues (possibly in the same way that lots of different feminisms exist).

What distinguishes an Integral Gender Theory is that it is opens your mind to considering all known systems and models of human growth and distilling their major components into 5 simple factors that are the essential elements or keys to unlocking and facilitating the evolution of men, women, girls, boys (and people of different sexes and gender identities).

Because there are so many different systems and models of human growth, an integral approach to gender will be limited by the expertise and effectiveness of the individual applying the theory (and the breadth of their knowledge and experience). However, if you take on the practice of repeatedly bringing your awareness to the 5 key elements of integral theory, you will begin to develop a mastery of taking an integral approach to gender issues.

So if you want to understand what Integral Gender Theory is, the first step is to become familiar with the 5 key elements of Integral Theory. According to Ken Wilber:

“All of these elements are, right now, available in your own awareness. These 5 elements are not merely theoretical concepts; they are aspects of your own experience….if you learn to spot these 5 elements in your own awareness---and because they are there in any event---then you can more easily appreciate them, exercise them, use them…..”

These 5 factors are captured in the AQAL model which is pronounced “ah-qwul” and is an acronym for “all quadrants, all levels,” which in itself is short for “all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types.”

To help you remember the five basic elements of the AQAL model here’s an analogy borrowed from Sean Esbj√∂rn-Hargens of the Integral Institute:
  • The quadrants are like four maps of different terrains
  • The levels are found in all four quadrants and are like contour lines on a map
  • The lines of development are like pathways that run across the contours on our map
  • Many different types of hiker could use this map (eg male hikers)
  •   A hiker using the map to go for walk would experience many different states (eg changing weather conditions)


The four quadrants in the AQAL model refer to everything which is internal (subjective); external (objective); individual and collective:
  • The upper-left quadrant represents the interior world of the individual (eg male and female psychology would be found here)
  • The upper-right quadrant represents the exterior world of the individual including biological factors we can measure external (eg male and female differences in hormones, chromosomes, brain structure etc)
  • The lower-left quadrant represents the interior world of the collective (eg cultural values and views about men and women)
  • The lower-right quadrant represents the exterior world of the collective (eg the economy, technology, laws, systems etc)

In terms of understanding gender those four quadrants map onto:
  • Our gender identity (upper-left)
  • Our biological sex differences (upper-right)
  • Gender stereotypes and dominant gender discourse (lower left)
  • Gender Roles and Gender Rights (lower right)

Put another way, the quadrants take account of the bio, psycho, social and cultural aspects of gender.

Upper-Left quadrant

Interior Individual

Subjective Experience

Psychology etc

Gender Identity

Upper-Right quadrant

Exterior Individual

Objective Behavior

Biology etc

Lower-Left quadrant

Interior Collective

Inter-subjective Experience

Cultural factors etc

Gender Stereotypes/Discourse

Lower-Right quadrant

Exterior Collective

Inter-objective Behavior

Social factors etc

Gender Roles/Rights

Taking an integral approach to gender means bringing your awareness to how all four quadrants are at play. As at starting point it is useful to consider how your own gender identity (upper left quadrant) and your own gender politics (lower left quadrant) influence how you view  he information you draw from all four quadrants.


Within each of the quadrants there are many different levels of development such as biological development, psychological development, social development and cultural development.

The economy, for example, progresses through different levels of social development based on the technology that is available. Societies generally pass through distinct levels (or ages) from foraging to horticulture to agriculture to industrial to informational. The shift from the industrial age to the informational age, for example, is often linked to a “crisis of masculinity” as male dominated industries disappear and softer “feminine” qualities like co-operation and relationship building carrying more value in informational age.

There are different theories on the levels of human development at cultural level. One such model is Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan’s spiral dynamics which is based on Clare W. Graves’ biopsychosocial model of human development.

Graves asserted that human values typically occur in systems that are now called value memes (vMemes), which are coherent sets or clusters of values. These values are not fixed but a consequence of an individual’s evolving worldview, which are informed by the prevailing life conditions.

Graves identified eight different value systems that describe how humans as well as cultures evolve. Most cultures and individuals will be predominantly characterized by just one of these eight value memes, though more than one can be at play in any individual or any community at different times.

A list of the eight key colour-coded v Memes from Beck and Cowan’s meme in the Spiral Dynamics model is shown in the table below:

Holistic, global concerns, collective individualism
Independent, self-sufficient, functional, knowing, has personal value system
Collaborative, community-focused, concerned for the ‘have nots’ 
Goal orientated, success driven, out to achieve
Absolutist, conformist, follow rules, obey higher power
Egocentric, exploitative, dominating, seeking power, survival of the fittest
Living according to tradition and ritual
Living in self survival mode

Taking an integral approach to gender means bringing your awareness to the many different levels of human development that are at play in all four quadrants of the AQAL model. One good starting point is to become aware of Beck and Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics model and consider which vMeme your operate from and how that shapes you worldview of gender issues.


Lines of development refer, in simple terms, to how well an individual or a group of people can do something. One of my favourite lines for development is the Five Stages of Competence which defines the four key steps in learning any new skill as follows:
  • Unconscious Incompetence (you can’t do something and you don’t even know you can’t do it)
  •  Conscious Incompetence (you can’t do something and now you know you can’t do it)
  •  Unconscious Incompetence (you can do something at a basic level but have little awareness of why you can do it)
  •   Conscious Competence (you can do something well and you are aware of why you do it well)
  • Mastery (or Conscious Competence of Unconscious Competence, put simply you can something really well without having to think about it)

Another line of development popular in the world of behaviour change may be familiar to your if you work in an area like public health, with stages of change defined as:
  • Precontemplation (Not Ready)
  • Contemplation (Getting Ready)
  • Preparation (Ready)
  •  Action (putting new behaviours into action)
  • Maintenance (maintaining new behaviours)
  •   Termination (new behaviours integrated with no risk or relapse)

With behaviour change people will either progress along the line or relapse, with relapse potentially returning people to the point of precontemplation (eg they start smoking again and have no intention of trying to stop).

As you take on applying an integral approach to gender you may ask yourself where are you on the line of development from being unconsciously incompetent to being a master? As you read this post there’s a good chance you could be moving along the line from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence.


In integral theory a “type” is generally something which may be found or in different quadrants, levels, lines and states but is still the same “type”. So a male smoker, for example, may move along a line of development from smoking to trying to stop smoking to being a non-smoker and he was still a male, every step of the way. So male or female can be a type.

There are some people who think that male and female are types of brain. This view is popular with biological determinists and considered heresy by cultural determinists.

According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen who has studied sex differences in the brain “some people say that even looking for sex differences reveals a sexist mind”. As a result of this worldview, he postponed finishing his book on essential differences in male and female brains as “the topic was just too politically sensitive to complete in the 1990s”.

The thrust of Baron-Cohen’s Empathizing-Systemizing (E-S) Theory is that while the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy, the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.

In terms of the Integral Approach, this points to different brain types (types being one of the five elements of the AQAL model). However, from an empirical Upper-Right quadrant perspective he is not making a binary, reductionist distinction between a male brain type and a female brain type.
What Baron-Cohen’s research revealed is that there are three main types of brain (plus two “extreme” brain types):
  • The predominantly female E>S brain type, where empathizing ability is greater than systemizing ability
  • The predominantly male S>E brain type, where systemizing ability is greater than empathizing ability
  • The S=E brain type found in men and women where empathizing and systemizing ability is equally balanced

In addition there is what Baron-Cohen refers to as the “extreme male brain” type, S>>E, where systemizing ability is hyper-developed and empathizing ability is hypo-developed. Baron-Cohen proposes a link here to people with autism, which is a predominantly male condition.

The fifth brain type is the “extreme female brain” type, E>>S, where empathizing ability is hyper-developed and systemizing ability is hypo-developed.

Baron-Cohen’s findings highlight an important shift from the nature versus nurture debate about gender to an understanding that gender is a function of both nature and nurture. When interviewed about that nature versus nurture debate in 2010, Baron-Cohen said:

“My own position is that biology and culture interact to create this sex difference. There are some people who would argue that its just biology or just culture but I think the moderate position is both are at work.”

What Baron-Cohen is expressing is an integral view of gender which takes us beyond the Nature versus Nurture and allows for the fact that both perspectives offer moments of truth that help us develop a better understanding of the sex and gender differences between men and women.


In Integral Theory “states”, unlike types, are generally transient, with emotional states being a good example. In terms of gender it is interesting to consider different hormonal states.

As with sex differences in the brain and genetic research, discussing the different impacts of hormones on men and women can be politically sensitive. For some radical feminists, for example, “Estrogen is the Goddess, testosterone is the Devil” while the “dissident feminist” Camille Paglia recalls that she “nearly came to blows with the founding members of the women’s studies program at the State University of New York at Albany when they categorically denied that hormones influence human experience or behavior"

Despite its bad press, the positive impacts of testosterone, such as its ability to boost self-confidence and assertiveness, have been tested by researchers at Harvard Business School. One study found that adopting a “power pose” for two minutes could not only increase testosterone by 20% and decrease the stress hormone cortisol by 25%, but also improve an individual’s chances of performing more effectively in a job interview, for both male and female subjects.

Men’s lower levels of oxytocin have also been linked to male aggression with regular massage and exercises to increase bonds of trust proposed as an antidote as these interventions have been shown to increase participants oxytocin levels by 243%.

What these so-called “life hacks” demonstrate is that at a hormonal level males and females can not only be measured as being hormonally different and diverse (ie men’s hormone levels differ from other men and women’s hormone levels differ from other women); but we are also adaptable and have some choice in whether we want to change the levels of different hormones either through medication or through specific “life hacks”.


Integral Theory is a fantastic tool that can a few minutes to learn and a life time to master. Only by applying the integral framework to the way you think about gender can you begin to make your journey from unconscious competence to mastery.

If you’re interested in training on Helping Men or applying integral gender theory to your work or practice then please get in touch via our Helping Men contact page.

To read more about Integral Gender Theory see Glen Poole's paper on Integral Gender Theory at New Male Studies