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“The separation of feminine and masculine has torn us into pieces. The balance of feminine and masculine will bring us back to peace.”

-Reena Kumarasingham

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About
The Archetypal
Feminine & Masculine

Feminine and Masculine is gendered language. But while these archetypes may be socialized and raised into us based on our gender, they are inherently transcendent of the construct of gender.

These are spiritual symbols, ancient archetypes, sacred polarities that we inherit through the collective unconscious; a psychic structure shared by all humans filled with memories, impulses, and symbols of which we are not implicitly aware. 

They move through us without ever becoming our literal identity, though throughout our lives we may have found comfort in adopting certain habits, behaviors, values, and ways of seeing ourselves that pull moreso from one pole or the other.

As with any polarity, it is the middle that is most level. Two sides of the same coin, masculine and feminine rely on each other in order to be whole, in order to remain in the light.

chart

Feminine Nature

  • Spiritual

  • Felt

  • Emotional

  • Being/Presence

  • Unmeasurable

  • Inner world

  • Circular

  • Process

  • Unconscious/Psyche

  • Receiving

  • Nurtures

Feminine Light

  • Vulnerability

  • Compassion

  • Intimacy

  • Creativity

  • Imagination

  • Abundance

  • Nourishment

  • Collaboration

  • Receptivity

  • Intuition

  • Forgiveness

  • Empathy

  • Devotion

  • Patience

  • Flexibility

  • Nature

  • Listening

  • Faith

  • Trust

Feminine Shadow

  • Apathy

  • Criticism

  • Manipulation

  • Seduction

  • Codependency

  • Desperation

  • Disempowerment

  • Emotional overwhelm

  • Resignation

  • Passive Aggression

  • Depression

  • Weaponization of affection

  • Self-deprivation

  • Guilt

  • Over-identifying w/ roles

  • Martyrdom

  • Withdrawn

  • Lack of boundaries

  • Feeling victimized

Masculine Nature

  • Material

  • Seen

  • Rational

  • Doing/Action

  • Measurable

  • External world

  • Linear

  • Outcome

  • Conscious/Ego

  • Giving

  • Secures

Masculine Light

  • Boundaries

  • Authority

  • Protection

  • Groundedness

  • Responsibility 

  • Self-Control

  • Provision

  • Leadership

  • Pursuit

  • Confidence

  • Individuality

  • Courage

  • Discipline

  • Initiative

  • Decisiveness

  • Assertiveness

  • Concentration

  • Strategic thinking

  • Resilience

Masculine Shadow

  • Jealousy

  • Insecurity

  • Violence

  • Entitlement

  • Greed

  • Theft

  • Antisocial behavior

  • Rage

  • Competition

  • Rigidity

  • Exploitation

  • Aggression

  • Narcissism

  • Hatred

  • Scarcity

  • Ruthlessness

  • Stubbornness

  • Perfectionism

  • Impulsiveness

Archetypes & Gender

The language of Feminine and Masculine implies a connection to gender. Let's explore what that looks like.

There may be biological connections where cis-women and those assigned female at birth have more inclination to nurture in preparation for their primal role as mother, while cis-men and those assigned male at birth may have more inclination to provide in preparation for their primal role as father.

But humans have evolved so far beyond our primal roles that, in most cultures, those with the means to do so no longer engage in most of our survival activities (e.g. food, sex, sheltering) for only that function. Indeed, food, sex, and real estate have become acts of authentic expression, pleasure, connection, comfort, social status, pride, luxury, and income-earning.

 

Our relationship with feminine and masculine expectations have evolved similarly.   

 

A cis-man can be dominant in feminine traits just as easily as another may be dominant in masculine traits. A cis-woman can be dominant in masculine traits just as easily as another may be dominant in feminine traits. The same can be said for trans-men and trans-women as well as gender non-conforming individuals, regardless of sex assigned at birth.

Where we uphold gender roles in society, we socialize young children to embody traits of the archetype most aligned with their gender. Which also means we see each gender as a representation of these archetypes. Historical treatment of women aligns with the historical treatment of the feminine in that both are seen and treated as less than.

The same can be true for others who embody feminine aspects out loud, for example:

  • Indigenous peoples whose tribal principles are rooted in nature, community, spirit, and balance

  • LGBTQIA folks for understanding themselves authentically and celebrating community even if it goes against the rigid rules of the masculine's expectations

  • Black women for their feminine leadership and assertion of equality which breaks the masculine shadow's white supremacist hierarchy and leaves those beholden to it fearing that they will be dominated they way they have dominated others

Whether the primary archetype or not, we all embody the feminine, and we all need feminine aspects in order to have a full human experience. But living in a masculine-dominant culture means we've had to silence our feminine instincts, imagination, and intimacy in order to assimilate, succeed, or survive.

 

For many reasons -- socialization and early trauma included -- there may be an incongruence with the archetype one feels more strongly connected to and the archetype they feel they ought to embody in order to gain a sense of belonging or safety in the world.

All of this is to say you would be forgiven to literalize masculine and feminine into gender. To literalize is an inherently masculine trait, and Western society has done its job to teach us to value only what is concrete and measurable and to fear what is more fluid and less able to be controlled.

But here is where we challenge that.


Where we have struggled collectively is...

the staunch continuation of Enlightenment-era principles which center rationality, empiricism, and objective measurement to the devaluation of emotion, imagination, and subjective experience in the collective.

To be clear, rationality, empiricism, and objectivity have their purpose. But they have become the only channels through which we trust.

 

Cultures that center reason and disregard all else reinforce an imbalance of the human experience and reward only one half of what makes us whole. Masculine aspects are compensated with wealth, power, and influence while feminine aspects are called weak, silly, shameful, or sinful.

But feminine aspects are the aspects at the root of meaningful relationships, spirituality, empathy, community, communication, love, art, care and wellbeing.  

Measurement and structure are valuable, but not to the eradication of that which cannot be seen or contained. Both have different value to add, but we have not considered the latter to be trustworthy for some time.

When only one of these archetypes is valued, shadow prevails.

Masculine's protection without feminine's community becomes violence. Masculine's authority without feminine's collaboration becomes domination. Masculine's provision without feminine's nourishment becomes greed. Masculine's individuality without feminine's empathy becomes entitlement.

Likewise...

Feminine's intimacy without masculine's individuality becomes codependency. Feminine's forgiveness without masculine's assertiveness becomes resignation. Feminine's trust without masculine's protection becomes disempowerment. Feminie's receptivity without masculine's boundaries becomes self-sacrifice

Both feminine and masculine are needed to create a sense of balance and harmony; to represent the full breadth of the human experience which is that we are analytical and capable of innovation, reason, order, and security, but we are also emotional and capable of empathy, communication, creativity, and relationship. Business and modernization, art and love.

 

For the sake of balance, a new way of being emerges.

We tap the feminine to pause literalism, and return us to metaphor and symbol where the archetypes came from in the first place.

 

Instead of seeing archetypal masculine and feminine aspects as being literally related to gender or any kind of identity we may wear or become, we try getting curious about:

  • our natural strengths and interests

  • how we feel about those natural strengths and interests

  • what loving relationship, relational wound, and/or trauma reinforced or damaged those natural strengths and interests

  • and what kind of bliss, suffering, and/or incongruence may have developed from being socialized to conform to:

    • the traits society expects of your gender or sex assigned at birth, or

    • the expectations of a masculine-dominant society

We invite ourselves into an exploration of what unconscious reactions make us shun the parts of ourselves we love in exchange for the over-development of parts we never felt very connected to but were convinced we were "supposed to" have in order to be accepted and valuable.

We feed the feminine
because she’s the one that’s been starved, shamed, and called a sinner.

We feed the feminine
because in her revival we begin to remember ourselves, seeing truthfully all the controlling conditioning of our culture.

We feed the feminine
not because the masculine doesn’t also need nourishment, but because there is no nourishment without her. 

 

We feed the feminine
because there are people of all genders who have cut off their intimacy, imagination, and intuition just to survive under reign of his shadow.

 

We feed the feminine
because her equal partnership with the masculine makes us whole again.

 

We don’t stop at feeding the feminine,
but I do believe we must start there

How we eat, express, and relate

The Hungry Feminine origin story began with an inquiry about disordered eating patterns that arose during my graduate school research in 2016.  I became interested in the unconscious cravings of women with binge eating disorder while writing my master's thesis, The Hungry Feminine and a Patriarchal Gag Order: Binge Eating in American Women.

Even after it was published, I couldn't put a cork in my curiosity about food and body and the feminine in Western culture and how, even for those without a diagnosed eating disorder, those relationships are impacted by a culture that fetishizes food, celebrates consumption, and yet shames bodies loudly and often.

Broader perspectives opened up once I realized the more I was talking about food in the context of Western culture, the more I was, in fact, talking about everything. ​

Challenging the social narratives of the archetypal masculine -- what's become the "status quo" for generations -- is important.

 

With only one side of a whole coin in charge, the shadow emerges and takes control. The masculine bestows unchecked authority onto itself and condemns the irrational, soulful, beautiful feminine and that must not be so.

However, condemning the masculine in return is just as dangerous.

Both feminine and masculine hold great value, but neither of them alone are as powerful as they are together. The Hungry Feminine seeks to revive the repressed feminine so that it may live as a partner to the masculine, not as its ruler nor its submissive.

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