In this world where we are bravely beginning to embrace the non-binary nature of existence, especially around gender, words like masculine and feminine risk getting a bad press. There is much misunderstanding and controversy about the meaning of these words. As a result, some suggest moving away from such terminology and using alternatives such as yin and yang. I believe that this would be a missed opportunity fuelled by fear and that these terms need to be central to our collective conversations at this time. By masculine and feminine, I am referring to the energies that exist within every living being and need to be balanced for life to thrive.
By masculine and feminine, I am referring to the energies that exist within every living being and need to be balanced for life to thrive.
Recognition of these two interconnected and complementary energies at the heart of life has existed in cultures worldwide for as far back as history records. Within the patriarchal paradigm of recent centuries, our understanding of masculine and feminine principles became distorted in the western world. Aspects of these two principles, particularly the feminine, became subjugated and cast into the shadows. This led to increasing divides within our inner life as we denied aspects of who we are, which has been mirrored back to us in ever-increasing social divides and acts of aggression in our outer life. We lost our appreciation of the need to embrace all of who we are in order to keep life within and around us balanced.
Aspects of these two principles, particularly the feminine, became subjugated and cast into the shadows.
The 'power-over' patriarchal paradigm has placed the masculine above the feminine. With aspects of the feminine predominantly projected onto the female sex, generation after generation of people who identify as women have been treated as 'less than' in a multitude of ways. The paradox that these aspects of the self are nothing to do with gender yet inextricably linked with gender compounds our confusion about them. It is a complex and messy issue to talk about for sure, and we tend to struggle to sit with our dis-ease around it. But sit with it we must if are to find a new way forward.
It is a complex and messy issue to talk about for sure, and we tend to struggle to sit with our dis-ease around it. But sit with it we must if are to find a new way forward.
Inserting terms like yin and yang into these conversations may feel more comfortable and less emotive, but would this really get to the heart of the issues? And what we are talking about here are issues of the heart. We are beginning to face the long history of collective trauma and social inequality that has occurred in the place of humanity's blindspots. The imbalances between the masculine and feminine principles form a core part of what is being revealed. We each have our own story to tell about how these imbalances have impacted us, and we need to bravely engage with the emotional truths surfacing in these conversations rather than skirt around them. It is time for us to take responsibility and address the various kinds of historical and present-day suffering experienced due to the repression of aspects of who we are or what we represent. Imagine if we were left traumatised following a terrible car accident, and we and those around us avoided using the word car, yet we continued to walk along roads full of them and travel within them. Would we have dealt with the trauma? Dealing with the root of trauma is where the real opportunity for transformation in our individual and collective lives becomes possible.
Dealing with the root of trauma is where the real opportunity for transformation in our individual and collective lives becomes possible.
Our collective understandings and appreciation of the impact of trauma are getting louder and clearer. Last night I watched a great film called The Wisdom of Trauma, in which Gabor Mate spoke of this widening perspective, and I was struck by how rapidly the narrative around trauma is changing. I also reflected on how much of our trauma experience can be directly and indirectly influenced by our relationship with the masculine and feminine in any area of life, from our very early life experiences with our primary caregivers all the way through into old age. For example, you may not have been allowed to express a full range of emotions as a male child if taught that crying was too female. This repression of your inner feminine then contributed to you suffering from depression, which led you to abuse substances as a form of escape. Or you may move anxiously through life in your female body, fearing the heightened threat of sexual assault towards women because you were objectified and assaulted by someone who had not resolved their relationship with their inner feminine. You may feel bullied and looked down upon for being more creative (considered more feminine) than academic (considered more masculine) and find your educational and professional opportunities more limited as a result. There are endless examples of these experiences, with varying degrees of impact. So much trauma stems from beliefs about differences that fuel 'othering' behaviours. Many of these beliefs form the foundation stones of the patriarchal paradigm, such as those that place the masculine above the feminine. If we don't address the influence of this as part of our trauma processing, don't we risk further wounding? It's time we started to opening up to the breadth and depth of these conversations.
It's time we started to opening up to the breadth and depth of these conversations.
Right now, things are shifting, and the feminine is rising, make no mistake of that, and yet it is clearly a complex process with lots of kickback. I noticed last weekend, when the British Prime Minister used the word feminine whilst talking about ways to move forward in the future during his opening speech at the G7 Summit, that there was much derision in response to this in both the mainstream media and on social media. There was a mocking tone by many men and women, which appeared to me to reflect the patriarchal perspective and left me wondering whether simply saying the word feminine was a revolutionary act. I wondered how the word ended up emerging from his lips and what it meant for him, of course, and there seem to have been many assumptions made about it. Whatever the background, I was excited to hear the word 'feminine' spoken within such a context. There is a growing recognition of the need for a more feminine approach to leadership, expressed by people like a mentor of mine, Scilla Elworthy. Such an approach is becoming increasingly visible amongst a new style of female and male leaders in some parts of the world. It is an exciting time of change with the reemergence of the feminine in all walks of life.
My children are of the courageous and bold generation shaking up the fundamental belief systems that we've lived by for so long. I hope that they see a lot more feminine energy in leadership, business, education, and all walks of life.
My children are of the courageous and bold generation shaking up the fundamental belief systems that we've lived by for so long. I hope that they see a lot more feminine energy in leadership, business, education, and all walks of life. I hope that we can embrace a movement towards a more balanced way of being as a human race, which the future of life itself on this planet so clearly depends on. On the way to drop my teenage son at school this morning, we talked about the challenges of using the terms feminine and masculine in the current controversial climate around gender. He felt that some people wouldn't like me using these terms because of all the misunderstanding around them and the current movement away from binary thinking. I believe that this is precisely why these words are needed in these conversations right now. We need to use these words to explore them and to understand them better; we need to acknowledge the impact that they have had and continue to have; we need to be challenged by them and to challenge them. We can better address what needs addressing through this process, and unexpected changes may even emerge with new words to accompany them.
We need to use these words to explore them and to understand them better; we need to acknowledge the impact that they have had and continue to have; we need to be challenged by them and to challenge them.
We are in a time of great change with so much coming to the surface and shifting in society, and with it, there can be much sensitivity as these issues are often raw and still unprocessed. Consequently, many currently fear speaking up, wishing to avoid any potential backlash. But we desperately need these conversations, and we need the words we now have available to us to have them honestly. We need to be bold enough to join the discussions, offer our current truth, welcome the truth of others even if it doesn't chime, recognising the possibility for multiple realities to exist. We need to be brave enough to allow ourselves and others to be impacted by these conversations and for them to change our behaviours and our views. I acknowledge that these words I write are simply coming from where I stand today, and I hope I am robust enough for this to shift. Maybe you have something to add that could help me see something I currently can not? Let's have a conversation.