“Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” ― Napoléon Bonaparte
There is a great movement afoot, a rumbling we can no longer ignore, as sparks fly off the heels of #resist, #metoo and #timesup, a new dawn lighting the way toward greater equality, justice, compassion, and dare I say…harmony.
Yes there is anger—an appropriate response to injustice. Systemic change is long over due. Wrongs should be made right. But there is also hope. Women are tired, and women are resilient. Women are finding their voices collectively silenced so long ago. We can see now what has been missing—as nearly one half of what makes us whole has been marginalized for centuries—the feminine.
It may appear to be about gender, and no doubt women have had to bear the burden of patriarchy— a power imbalance that favors men and withholds equal rights for women (to put it mildly)—but this is much more than a march toward equality.
This is an understanding that the feminine has been squelched in both men and women, limiting all of us from being whole human beings, equally worthy of opportunity, expression and respect in the world. As iconic author and teacher Marion Woodman proclaims, “When I say feminine I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living or suppressed in both men and women.”
And Woodman is not alone—feminine power is gaining momentum around the globe. The women’s march in January 2017 wasn’t for women; it was for humanity. Unlike the traditional masculine model to divide and conquer, “the feminine principle attempts to relate,” Woodman argues. “It asks, where are we alike? How can we connect? Where is the love?”
There is nothing inherently wrong with the masculine or the feminine. One is not greater than the other. They are meant to be complimentary, combined to create harmony within us and between us.
Where the masculine is competitive, the feminine is collaborative; where the masculine is exclusive, the feminine is inclusive; where the masculine is logical, the feminine is intuitive; where the masculine is active, the feminine is receptive. However, “the great container, the Self, is paradoxically both male and female and contains both,” Woodman says.
A balance of both the masculine and the feminine is good for all of us. Masculine and feminine traits or characteristics are in everyone, in varying degrees. Following extreme gender norms and roles is inherently limiting because the bulk of the population falls in the middle of the bell curve, not at each end. Forcing us into extremes is not natural or healthy.
With such a long history of patriarchy, we have seen—and are seeing now more than ever—through a general disregard for the feminine, a dangerous imbalance, what we can call the toxic masculine—where power is turned into force, abundance into greed, and creation into destruction (more on this in my next blog).
Why is this so important you ask?
First, because the imbalance is killing us. And we know it. Our bodies and our earth are battered, crying out, Enough! We have built a world where authority is bestowed primarily to men. A world based on the assumption of power as a vertical line, therefore exclusive and limited, rather than a horizontal one where mutual empowerment is possible. A power that must be protected rather than shared creates an “us versus them” dichotomy that maintains adversity. It doesn’t take long to see evidence of masculine power gone awry.
Second, because the feminine has also been marginalized in men through patriarchal conditioning, it tends to be rejected by men internally. Boys and men are inundated with messages that reject the feminine: “You throw like a girl… Boys don’t cry… Don’t be a pussy… You son of a bitch… Be a man (not a woman).” There is little encouragement for boys to embrace their feminine side, to say the least. My heart breaks for children everywhere who learn they must hide important parts of themselves traditional society deems inappropriate.
And third, because basic psychology tells us that what we cannot own or tolerate in ourselves is unconsciously projected onto others, a subject/object split is inevitable: To make me right I must make you wrong. Objects are easy to ignore, abuse, discard. And so we have a male dominated culture that is not allowed to embrace its feminine side so much so that women have been subjugated in myriad ways throughout history.
Of course there are many more reasons to count and arguments to make in the larger tapestry of patriarchy—in order to understand how we got here—but I think this is a thread worth following. Those of us speaking up in favor of a kinder, more equitable world are not anti-men or anti-masculine. We’re simply holding up a mirror and saying, take a look.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the masculine or the feminine. And one is not greater than the other. They are meant to be complimentary, combined to create harmony within us and between us. Society slowly seems to be loosening the knot that ties together men and masculine, and women and feminine, and extending its reach beyond a limited binary. The capacity to love is universal.
Most of all human beings need connection, a place to belong, a witnessing to our shared humanity. “Your presence is your power,” Woodman says. “It’s not power over anybody else. Power in the sense of controlling somebody else is different from personal presence. That kind of power—patriarchal power—does not value other people. Love is the real power.”
Indeed a day of reckoning is upon us. Women are speaking up now more than ever, as they should. And, gratefully, good men are listening. A call for genuine care, dignity, respect, kindness and inclusion is the feminine rising. Let this not be a battle of the sexes, but a coming together as whole and healthy human beings working to create a safe, prosperous and sustainable future for generations to come. Let the reemergence of the feminine give you hope.