To listen to those who speak of men as being the “head of the household,” you would think that hierarchy is built into the very fabric of the relationship between men and women. But this does not represent the common value of our many religious and cultural traditions. Mutual respect, partnership, and understanding between men and women is the way we need to live and work.
My wife and I were married almost 28 years ago, on August 21, 1976, in the redwood forest north of Santa Cruz, California. Because friends and family were coming from all around the country, we wanted more time with our guests than just a ceremony and a reception. So we arranged to have a wedding weekend, including such extra treats as free time at the beach, square dancing, and a Sunday-morning worship service.
From there we took off on our honeymoon, driving 2,000 miles to Chicago, Illinois, stopping off along the way for some much-need rest and relaxation, including a backpacking trip in the Grand Teton National Park. Given our continuing love and affection for each other after all these years, we must have done something right. The secret, I submit, lies in the curiosity of our last name, “Tschannen-Moran.”
We have been explaining that name for 28 years on a more-or-less weekly basis. Call customer service, spell our name, and a conversation ensues: “I thought my name was bad! How did you get a name like that?” And so the explanation begins.
Some people assume that the surname came from my family of origin or from some odd tribal tradition. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. My family was, in fact, just as perplexed as everyone else when we put forward the proposition that our marriage was a partnership and should be fully represented as such.
Since I was “Tschannen” • a Swiss-German name originating in the district of Bern • and my bride was “Moran” • from a French immigrant who fought in the American revolution with Lafayette, it made perfect sense to become “Tschannen-Moran.”
That’s the way two men do it in business. Mr. Sherwin and Mr. Williams form a paint company known as “Sherwin-Williams.” Mr. Sears and Mr. Roebuck form a retail operation known as “Sears-Roebuck.” And lawyers, of course, allow their partnership names to run on ad infinitum.
So why not husband and wife? The discomfort, at least 28 years ago, involved both breaking tradition and sexual politics. The two are inextricably linked. The tradition of the bride taking her husband’s name is not just a matter of convenience; it’s also a matter of dominance. In most cases, the woman goes from having her father’s surname to having her husband’s surname, with maternal surnames getting lost in the process.
Some cultures, of course, turn birth certificates into genealogies. Every surname of every ancestor rolls forward from one birth certificate to the next, with only the last one or two being used. But in our culture, the predominant pattern jettisons the female surname the moment she says, “I do.”
We decided on a different course. By hyphenating our surname (the order was determined solely on the basis of phonetics), we gave each other equal time to represent the relational partnership we hoped to embody. By taking the same surname, rather than keeping our individual surnames or having the woman be the only one with two surnames, we represented the mutuality of our commitment.
That mutuality has certainly been an important part of our success as a couple; it is also an apropos introduction to the next core value identified by the second Parliament of the World’s Religions and cultures, which met in Chicago in 1993. Contrary to the traditions of male dominance which abound around the globe and have led to the profound degradation and subjugation of women, the Parliament found in every religion and culture an ethical basis for equal rights, partnership, and mutuality between men and women.
“In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind,” they note, “we find the directive: You shall not commit sexual immorality! Or in positive terms: Respect and love one another! The consequences of this ancient directive are clear: No one has the right to degrade others to mere sex objects, to lead them into or hold them in sexual dependency.”
“We therefore condemn sexual exploitation and sexual discrimination as one of the worst forms of human degradation. We have the duty to resist wherever the domination of one sex over the other is preached • even in the name of religious conviction; wherever sexual exploitation is tolerated, wherever prostitution is fostered or children are misused. Let no one be deceived: There is no authentic humaneness without a living together in partnership!”
“Young people must learn at home and in school that sexuality is not a negative, destructive, or exploitative force, but creative and affirmative. Sexuality as a life-affirming shaper of community can only be effective when partners accept the responsibilities of caring for one another’s happiness.”
“The relationship between women and men should be characterized not by patronizing behavior or exploitation, but by love, partnership, and trustworthiness. Human fulfillment is not identical with sexual pleasure. Sexuality should express and reinforce a loving relationship lived by equal partners.”
“The social institution of marriage, despite all its cultural and religious variety, is characterized by love, loyalty, and permanence. It aims at and should guarantee security and mutual support to all family members, including children. All lands and cultures should develop economic and social relationships which will enable marriage and family life worthy of human beings, especially for older people. Children have a right of access to education. Parents should not exploit children, nor children parents. Their relationships should reflect mutual respect, appreciation, and concern.”
The Parliament concluded that “to be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions,
- We need mutual respect, partnership, and understanding, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are expressions of violence and engender counter-violence.
- We need mutual concern, tolerance, readiness for reconciliation, and love, instead of any form of possessive lust or sexual misuse.
- Only what has already been experienced in personal and familial relationships can be practiced on the level of nations and religions.”
Now that sounds very much like the inspiration behind “Tschannen-Moran.” It was a youthful flash of brilliance, as we sought to express an idea the reality of which we would be living into and, at times, struggling with for the rest of our lives. “Mutual respect, partnership, and understanding” are not easy! But they are essential if we hope to express the true measure of our common values and build the full measure of our common heritage as men and women.
Coaching Inquiries: What is your vision of the relationship between men and women? How do you express mutual respect, partnership, and understanding? How do these play out at work? At home? Where could you turn for honest feedback and transformational coaching?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I totally agree with your opinion of the value of truth. Without it, one’s life becomes muddled, disconnected, aimless and hapless. This says nothing of what lies do to those who are deceived. The TV show The Sopranos, which is ostensibly a drama of mafia power and depredation, is for me, a psychological study of the deleterious effects of lying and cheating. In such a world, ultimately nobody is safe, especially those who promulgate its nefarious tenets.
I’m sad that the Parliament of the World’s Religions and Cultures in Chicago in 1993 has not received more attention. I had never heard of it before reading LifeTrek Provisions. Their tenets on truth and those institutions that are particularly responsible for its promulgation are great and should be publicized and enacted everywhere. However, I do run into a roadblock when they talk about representatives of religion.
The Bible in particular (Old and New Testaments) make numerous references to intolerance and violence. If the Bible is the word of God and therefore the ultimate and sacrosanct Truth, then tolerance cannot be consistent with it. Such organized religion in a way suffers from the same problem as The Sopranos: it is built on a faulty foundation and followers are admonished to keep the faith and stay the course and who can question God’s vast eternal plan should they have the audacity to question anything that seems to be nonsense. (Ed. Note: Apparently the Parliament found a basis for tolerance in the Bible itself. Read on to our next Reader Reply.)
I was reading the Reader’s Forum on Tolerance and it struck me that what so many fail to recognize is this simple truth: we do not all recognize or serve the same God. Now if someone serves a different God how then can they be made to practice the rules of the Christian God. We seem to forget that the apostles were chastised, and instructed “Do not teach your ways to those whose God is not the same or to whom the Holy Spirit or God has not revealed this too!” Rather than forcing our ways onto another we’re called to serve by example. My question to each Christian or God-Believing person is “Why aren’t you hearing and listening?” Tolerance is preached over and over throughout the Bible.
At mid-life, what the truth sets us free from is good job references, and that’s a financial blow from which one can never recover. Which would be why most people lie and/or say whatever will get them whatever they want at a given moment. “Fitting in” is always what’s rewarded on a social behavioral basis (in the everyday world below the level of mega-stars, that is.) Maybe what would be helpful, in addition to telling us how to behave as individuals, would be some lessons on how to adjust the world to accommodate truth telling without destroying the messenger. Start a world wide Web movement to establish an ethical plane for corporations, media, churches and schools so truth-telling individuals would have a framework in which to live safely.
I enjoy every issue of LifeTrek Provision that you put out. Talk about words of wisdom! You ought to send these to the White House!!!!
While I don’t agree with the abuse in the Iraqi prison, is the abuse there any worse than what the Iraqi army has done to U.S. captives? (Ed. Note: Just because “war is hell,” we need not sink to the lowest common denominator.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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