Those who follow The Hungry Feminine or listen to the Feed the Feminine podcast have heard me say, perhaps ad nauseum, that my discussion of the feminine and masculine here is not about gender but rather archetypal qualities that exist in all genders.
I find this incredibly important to repeat for an assortment of reasons. One is that the language can simply get confusing as we typically equate the terms feminine and masculine with behaviors of women and men, respectively. Another is that we are living in a social climate where gender is currently in the hot seat of debate, both from a non-binary standpoint but also in the frame of such movements as #metoo and #timesup. Another is that, while there are bad men, it is not the whole of the male population that created the unconscious dominance of masculine principles in our culture, least of all modern men who came into this world being asked to assimilate to it just the same as modern women. All of these reasons have strong implications on our storytelling and the way we bring our awareness to the archetypal presence of the feminine and masculine in our collective, so forgive me my incessant clarifying.
The Feminine, Repressed
When I say the feminine is repressed in our culture, I mean that light (positive) qualities of this archetypal feminine are kept at bay, devalued, dismantled, and overrun. These qualities include vulnerability, nurturance, imagination, creativity, nature, spirit, being, things that are non-linear and relate to the unconscious rather than the ego. They have been disregarded in exchange for qualities of the masculine light (positive) which include protection, provision, acquisition, leadership, structure, self-control, action, things we can see and measure, and the ego.
Except that without the balance of the feminine, those positive masculine traits have gone dark. They've devolved from light to shadow and have thus become aggression, exploitation, force, greed, narcissism, violence, and war.
There is no doubt there are men in power who perpetuate the dominance of the masculine and revel in the unbalanced dynamics that bleed in their favor at the cost of others. For all we know, those men are suffering, too. Think of how much a man must hurt inside in order to find his fulfillment in the destruction of others.
The ethos of The Hungry Feminine always comes back to one thing: consciousness. We cannot own our shit and cease projecting it onto others if we can't name it. And I believe the dominance of the masculine and how pervasive it has become in our culture is something most of us are very unconscious of. So we have to start with awareness. And a critical component to awareness is communication. Effective communication. Avoiding attacks or dismissal so that others can hear without becoming defensive, see without shutting down, feel into a new experience without putting up their armor.
Typically, the repression of the feminine impacts women in different ways than it impacts men because of how we are socialized into our gender roles and what that does to our natural instincts. Additionally, women represent the qualities of the feminine and therefore, with an unconscious bias toward the masculine in our culture, that informs our collective view of women being weaker and less important. But that is not because women are the only folks who hold the archetypal feminine.
The masculine and feminine are in us all, typically with one dominating. A woman can have a naturally dominant masculine, as a man can have a naturally dominant feminine. Likewise a woman can have a masculine that isn't naturally dominant but that was forced into domination purely so that she could survive in this culture whose values don't align with her own. The bills have to get paid and the world has to keep on spinning so what do you do when the qualities so abundant in you are not only ignored or disrespected, but often flat out told they're wrong, silly, sinful, or weak? You adapt.
But what we forget to discuss is that many men fit into this category, as well. Men who are dominant in their feminine and had to adapt their values to survive in the masculine world, while also having their place among men challenged. Men face the added stigma of not being "man enough" for lamenting their lost, disconnected self. Some may call a fear of that "toxic masculinity," and yet I find too loose an application of that term to be a form of gaslighting. Healthy women seek out community and acceptance from other women, as can healthy men. The pursuit becomes toxic only with great rigidity, no awareness, and disregarded consequences that reveal themselves as abuse.
The Impact on Men
We often overlook men in these modern conversations because we feel as though they've had enough of the focus and power for a lifetime. And what we miss in that sweeping generalization is that there are many men who have made no powerful decisions about what direction the values of the world would go in; there are many men who suffer while juggling their true self in the face of what our culture asks of them. There are many men who fight to create balance where their privilege exists. There are many men who are victims of the repressed feminine, whether or not their feminine is dominant.
That the masculine rules us at a cultural level doesn't mean it actually works in favor of all men. And again, without the balance of the feminine, the masculine as we know it grows dark. The masculine that rules the collective is not a pleasant one, it's one distracted by greed and consumption and power and violence.
In previous posts and podcast episodes, I've made points about gender starting in the toy store, noting that little girls getting Playskool kitchens and baby dolls with dirty diapers to play with, molding them from an early age into stay-at-home-mothers. Meanwhile the boys get monster trucks and superheros and invitations to adventure. What's missing from that comparison is that little boys also get the police cars, fire trucks, construction hats, and military tanks which creates a specific narrative for them, as well.
Boys have been told they have to be tough, to "suck it up and be a man." Boys have been told they have to be strong and protect those they love, even if it means heading into danger alone. Boys have been told rage is their right but sadness is not. Boys have been told that being caring and affectionate is a sign of weakness. These limiting narratives lead to men who feel that they are no one if they're not fighting; men who become first responders, laborers, or soldiers, taking on dangerous and traumatic roles in order to become who they were told to be. This leads to men who feel they're unworthy of love if they don't have enough zeros in their bank account. This leads to men who communicate with their fists before their words. This leads to men who believe themselves to be broken for feeling.
As much as we aim to support women for the ways in which we were socialized to be acquiescent servants who hardly take up any space, we should support men for the ways in which they were socialized to be emotionless providers and problem-solvers whose main power is their anger.
We cannot judge all men by the ones who have abused their power and privilege. There are men who rape, men who justify encroaching behaviors, men who take what is not theirs. There are patterns of this that we've seen for generations. But there are more evolved men, too. Men who don't believe this world is theirs for the taking; men who have respect for nature and those who occupy it, men who are open and willing to make corrections for other men's transgressions. There are men with healthy feminines burrowed within them, and the more we culturally repress those qualities, the more we repress those men. We can begin to foster more of these men by loving them wholly, not just for the light masculine qualities we prefer them to have but for their feminine qualities, too.
We have been measuring the worth of men by their physical prowess, intestinal fortitude, and bank account figures for too long. And yet we make no room to account for their souls, who they are as people underneath those masculine qualities that we hold so high up on a pedestal we forget to embrace their inherent feminine, too. And while they may be struggling to assert those qualities themselves, likewise under the influence of the dominant masculine, those of us who see it can certainly help.
Many people will argue that the time is now to raise up women from the ashes of a lifetime of men being in charge. Many will say the patriarchy never held men accountable and that those day are over. Many will say that the sufferings of men don't compare to the sufferings of women and that my point here is moot.
To those critics I say hell yes! - and we can raise up women without restraining men; we can use our voting power to give women more control and the change in momentum will be slow but the change will happen, indeed. I say we have to know the difference between a privileged man who abuses his influence in a lopsided system and a man who has hardly any power and suffers alongside the rest of us. To that I say anytime we commit the same harm that was committed unto us, we are not as righteous as we believe ourselves to be. The response to repression should never be more repression.
The goal of this writing isn't to say men have it harder than women, or vice versa. The pursuit of comparison is where we fail each other, and ourselves. This is merely a portrait of how the repressed feminine harms men, specifically, based on the same set of gender-based social assumptions we make against women. If we're going to tell a story, let's tell all sides of it.
The Quest for Nuance and Balance
We ought to be holding space for women, most specifically women of color, to tell their stories for once and for all. Because they have been silenced and stepped on for centuries. And doing so doesn't mean tearing down men and perpetuating the same harmful narrative men have always dealt with which is to "suck it up." To achieve the peace we claim to seek, we should be conscious to avoid over-correcting, forcing the pendulum to swing from one extreme to the other.
As with all conversations at The Hungry Feminine, this one comes down to nuance and balance; having deeper conversations rather than making sweeping generalizations so that we can find some semblance of harmony. I don't seek to overthrow the patriarchy with a matriarchy, but I intend to highlight how we have beaten ourselves silly with the stick of the archetypal masculine to the point of its own wretchedness, regardless of our gender or world views, because it's all we've known and it's the filter through which we have learned to hear our instincts. The masculine being the sole ruler of our values is dangerous, not just for women, but for men, too. And the more we blame men for this imbalance without also recognizing the wounds they carry from it, the more we stay stuck in the masculine shadow, harming each other rather than healing each other. Imagine how much more connected and peaceful the world could be if it was not only women we saved from the feminine repression, but men, too.