Tag Archives: masculine

Gender Equality and the English Language

If we consider how most languages other than English ascribe masculine and feminine articles to all their nouns, consequently linking those things with gender…perhaps we can realize how ingrained beliefs about gender roles are in other cultures.

Take some time to examine what qualities are associated with each gender in another language, and try to imagine the effect of growing up with that gender association.

Be thankful for English’s neutrality. It is contributing to the spread of gender equality throughout the world. But also be patient and understanding that disparity can begin in language itself. Change is coming, and cannot be forced to come faster.


A History of Problem Solving: A Selection from The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

“Long before there were cities, books, and inkwells, there were clans, caves, and middens. Human societies were shaped by the exacting rules of evolution: losers became extinct, winners survived. The crucial module guaranteeing the tribes continuance was the family unit. All members prospered under this arrangement. A man was cared for by a solicitous woman and learned about the pleasures of playing with small children. A woman enjoyed the security she needed to devote her time to her offspring. Each gained a friend, lover, confidant, and helpmate. Children matured in a safe atmosphere guided by two caring role models. The tribe as a whole could count on the steady replenishment of both skilled hunters and pregnant mothers. This system works better than any alternative ever tried.

A husband and wife, over time, begin to resemble one another in physical appearance. The melding of their physiognomic features is also reflected, to varying degrees, in their souls. A woman’s presence in a man’s life tends to soften his hard edges, just as her proximity to him tends to stiffen her central core. A mate increases the possibility that each member of the couple will exhibit that difficult-to-define quality called common sense.

Men and women often arrive at conclusions and plans of action differently. Some situations are best addressed by focused, step-by-step “masculine” logic, while holistic, “feminine” intuition comprehending many components in a complex whorl is better in others. Couples benefit from having access to each other’s major hemispheric processes, which over time also strengthens their own personal minor mode. The blending of feminine knowing and masculine reason in each individual and each couple generates good sense. The wisest figure in the mythologies of ancient cultures was often a hermaphrodite- a male-female- such as Tiresias, a blind seer.

Humans belong to that class of animals called “social predators.” Their hunting strategy resembles that used by wolf packs and lion prides; all members of the social unit hunt in concert to kill prey. The protracted childhoods of human young made female participation on these forays unfeasible. The all-male hunting party came into existence in only our species and with it the ethos of the left brain.

The template for all subsequent male projects remained the original hunting party, the ultimate purpose of which was to kill. Therein lay the problem. When men began to spend extensive time in each other’s company, they amplified each other’s hunter-killer instincts. When the hunting party became an “army,” the prey became other humans. The result has been a historical record pungent with the acrid smell of fear, havoc, and death.

The greatest counterbalance to men’s death-dealing inpulse is to engage them in the lives of women and entangle their legs with children. The most dangerous result of these all-male cultures bereft of the input from women is the loss of common sense. The phrase “common sense” has several meanings. In one, it is the wisdom of all the senses, a holistic and simultaneous grasp of multiple converging determinants. In this meaning common sense is intuitive and is often the opposite of logic. In another meaning, it is the wisdom of more than one person. It is the result of the give-and-take of face-to-face conversation with another, which allows one to ‘hear oneself think.’ In this second meaning, common sense is wisdom generated ‘in common.’

Confronted by a knotty problem a person of turns to a trusted adviser, not so much to receive the solution as to engage in a problem solving dialogue. A man can resort to two entirely different advisers: his female significant other or another man. His interactions with these two most likely will be quite different.

There are certain conventions men generally obey when talking to each other. Dialogues occur in the light, with no physical contact, and both men are dressed, facing each other vertically. When a man consults his woman, it is often at night, in the dark, while both are horizontal in a position of repose, and there is frequently skin touching skin.

In both these colloquies, he talks in order to bounce his ideas off his listener and evaluate his or her response. The male adviser or woman confidante serves as his sounding board. Men, over many centuries and across a diverse range of cultures, would concur that in interpersonal matters, the best “sounding board” is often a soft pillow with a woman’s head on it. Further, this syzygy of skin, night, and goose feathers is conducive to sleep. A thoughtful person when confronted by a difficult dilemma for which others demand an immediate answer will frequently withhold his reply until after he has “slept on” it. By using this common saw, he tacitly acknowledges the vital importance of talking over the problem with his mate before falling asleep and then letting the right hemisphere dream its wisdom into his response. Come morning, horizontal thinking has worked its magic and the individual has arrived at an answer that makes common sense smile.

Men need the counsel of women to help them sort out what is important from what is folly. This need is particularly acute if the man is the head of a vast enterprise. In such situations the other men to whom he might turn for advice-those under him-will often have their own personal agendas, which may influence the opinions they give their alpha male. The wife of the alpha male is often a truer resource-sharing his life, her fate is intimately entwined with his. And the alternative kind of wisdom she brings to his problem make her counsel so uniquely valuable to him.

Few men who have enjoyed a good relationship with a woman would disagree with the proposition that a woman’s assistance in male problem-solving is indispensable. Eliminating her from the process greatly increases the possibility that a man might make a wrong-headed decision about matters of import. History books are filled with such examples.”

~Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess


Learning to Receive

Lately, I have been on a quest to discover what authentic feminine energy is, and this is harder than I expected. I found a lot of advice about how to dress more femininely, or how to use some feminine wiles to get a man, but I don’t think that is what I was looking for. 

One piece of dating advice that I do believe is important, is that “alpha” women should learn how to receive from a man, not just give or take. Feminine energy has been described as receptive, so this is something I am trying to practice. Some examples of receiving that can be practiced include accepting a compliment (no modesty needed), fully following a plan not laid out by yourself, allowing acts of chivalry (women are partly to blame for its near death) and waiting for him to ask you out (what’s your hurry?).

Since I am trying to live what I am learning, not just write about it, I am trying this out too! I do not want to be considered insane, for persisting to use masculine energy to “chase” men, while expecting them to also chase me. We both cannot do that and get together; we would just be running around the mulberry bush!

Right now, I am trying to wait for the men who said they were interested in me to remember I am back in NYC from a week away and contact me themselves! This is very, very hard for me to do! I was ready to make a plan last week with one of them so we could get together this week and…boy, do I sound impatient! There is no urgency, no rush. I have never paid attention to the fragility of a not-yet-started relationship; my passion (and desperation?) demanded something happen as soon as possible, now if possible. I have to stop that.

Yesterday, I told myself that I would give him (the one I am most interested in seeing) until Wednesday, then I would contact him myself, but today, I am telling myself to keep waiting. Try it! Let go of the attachment you already have to the outcome of this encounter and just live life as you would without men in your life. Remember, Self, you have dance tomorrow and philosophy class on Thursday, so this will be easier when you are actually busy. Tonight, write some more, work on that project you keep neglecting…let’s try to embody femininity tonight! Remember, what you put your attention to grows…


A Gestalt Update

I have picked up The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain again after finding it in an old box of my books. The book explores how the transition from images to words has caused masculine energy to be favored over feminine energy.

Here is a quick thought to consider for this blog: seeing the whole rather than the parts (i.e. gestalt) is a feminine principle…when I break my gestalt into Body, Heart, Mind, and Self…I am not using a feminine perspective. Knowing this, I may now take a more holistic view and explore how to write more femininely?


For Love of the Effort?

The behavioral economics lessons from my online course this week centered on motivation. This lecture mainly looked at motivation in the workplace, asking what, besides money, induces people to work, because the reward of money is not enough for an employee. The conclusion was drawn that people become more attached to things, tasks, ideas into which they put some effort into creating. Wow! I, being metaphorically inclined, immediately saw a connection to feeling invested in relationships.

Dan Ariely, my professor, describes this phenomenon of increasing fondness and attachment for an object through being involved in the effort of creation as “the IKEA Effect.” He has shown that people tend to value and esteem things they made even when the process is perceived as negative or the created product is of poor workmanship. Through effort, value and meaning increase.

This idea of effort leading to attachment does ring true to me on many levels. I felt like I put a lot into my relationship, so when we broke up I felt all sort of pain. I thought things like: “What a waste of time!” “I gave him so much and look what he does!” So much of breaking up was about detaching myself from the relationship, letting go of ideas, thoughts and attachments of all kinds. I had been willing to work, to put in effort and so I was the one who was most attached…I was willing to love that imperfect man and nourish our imperfect relationship because I was invested in a relationship I was helping to create.

Did I put too much effort into my relationship, leaving not enough for my partner? Am I too independent and self-motivated that no one perceives how to put effort into me? I ask these questions rhetorically, knowing they are not exactly the right questions…but intriguing to consider if that is possible.

When Ariely casually made a glib comment that tasks should “play hard to get” to keep us motivated to work on them, I had a shocking realization. I finally had a clear explanation of that little relationship game of playing hard to get which I have often refused to do! When someone “plays” hard to get, the other has to extend more effort to win a date or a kiss! Hence, the love of the chase!

Now, as I wrote this, I wanted to put a woman and a man in those roles respectively because this is how it has been described to me…men love the chase, so women have to play hard to get. But here are two questions; (1) If men are motivated by the effort of the chase, what is the great motivating effort of the women? and (2) how does this play out in homosexual relationships? During my recent break-up, my mother, in an attempt to help me, asked if I had ever considered if I were a lesbian. And (alas?) I am not. Perhaps if I were, I could be the chaser, and it would not be to my detriment. This is not about men and women, but it is about masculine and feminine.

So let me throw a wrench in the equation. This way of looking at things conflicts with some of my newly-tapped-into philosophical wisdom. From reading the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, various Buddhist texts, and the material from the School of Practical Philosophy, I am learning how attachment leads to suffering! As I just mentioned, breaking up was painful, and probably because of my attachment. 

So, now my challenge, my journey seems to be to learn to love while remaining detached; to be attached only after becoming conscious that I am already detached; to be yin and yang, feminine and masculine, both the receptive and the pursuing!

Playing hard to get intentionally to tease and entice a man seems incredibly manipulative. This is not the way for me. I do not believe all men require the chase, nor do I believe women must act demure in order to find love. However, I am a go-getter in many ways, tending to take charge and lead. My dad taught me to just go ahead and do something when you see it needs doing! In this modern world, women are losing touch with their feminine qualities and men are being emasculated as we all try to balance these two elements. It would be a game, a trick to simply act demure, whereas being demure could be honest if we have reclaimed the feminine principle truly. Setting out to accomplish a goal, even bagging a man with “feminine” wiles, is still, at it’s heart, accomplished with masculine energy. As long as I am trying to get something from a man, I will be competing with his masculine energy and negating my own feminine side. How do I remember my femininity? What form can effort take that draws on this more gentle, receptive energy? There is more to The Feminine than I realize, than we realize- so, let us all open up to how to reclaim the yin in this yanged-up world. Cheers!


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