This paper was originally written in 1994 for Narrative Ideas and Practices, a conference in Vancouver, BC. My idea was to later publish it in Family Process, a journal focusing on research, theory, and practice with couples and families. However, at the time this paper was written, ideas associated with narrative therapy seemed to make some people excited and others irritated. This paper evoked radically different reactions from the two Family Process reviewers : Reviewer One was very positive about it and the Reviewer Two was quite negative. Additionally, the parts of the paper Reviewer One really liked were the same ones that Reviewer Two found most annoying. Peter Steinglass, the Editor of Family Process at the time, acknowledged this dilemma in his letter to me and (additionally) suggested that I edit out much in the paper that was unnecessary (and there is a lot of this) and send it back. I think his comments and suggestions were excellent and excising a good deal of the paper would have been a good idea. However, by then I had lost interest in the thing and was off to other projects (See Neal, Zimmerman, and Dickerson, 1999).
Over time, many people have asked for copies of the paper and have expressed appreciation for my willingness to make it available. As a consequence, I have made it availalbe here. It is repetitive, needs substantial editing, but, if you download it, hopefully you will find things in that are helpful and/or interesting to you.
Finally, I would also like to emphasize what I would do differently if I were to edit this paper at this point in time (10/98). First, the focus on gender in the paper is based on the context in which my practice, teaching, and supervision occur: Couples therapy with (mostly) heterosexual couples who are also (mostly) middle and upper-middle class. In the paper I emphasize gender and power as discourses that are more relevant than others for the purpose of making their influence visible. I think now - as I did when I wrote the paper- that threads other than gender and power are often more important in the experience of particular individuals in couples therapy. Thus, I wish to emphasize the importance of the therapist to both be aware of and subordinate his or her own ideas about which discourses are most releveant, and to assume the "not-knowing" position of which Harlene Anderson has eloquently spoken and written. I do not emphasize this enough in the paper and, as a consequence, some readers have interpreted the emphasis on gender and power as reflecting some kind of assumption that I believe gender and power to be usually the thing that should be addressed. This reflects a misunderstanding to which I have contributed by not emphasizing that the influence of gender and power are examples of a way of thinking and working rather then the way to work with couples.
As I (and my co-authors) said in the chapter on couples (Neal, Zimmerman, & Dickerson, 1999), I think it is more consistent with the original ideas associated with narrative practices to subordinate the therapist's ideas about what discourses are relevant to the experience-close discourses of the clients. This paper is an attempt to discuss how some of the discourses (that specify how we men) perform masculinity operate as forms of power and sometimes exert negative and unhelpful effects upon ourselves, women, and couples relationships. Hope you find it interesting and helpful.