Tuesday, June 1, 2010

False Images and Ideas of Masculinity and Femininity

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I wrote this blog post a long time ago, and I originally entitled it, "Authentic Male Energy." I was offering some of my perspective at the time about the journey of men towards wholeness. In truth, this is where we all are going--men and women--and I have little interests in creating new dualities around this topic. It's time for the battle of the sexes to be done with, don't you think?

My interests are in the authentic integration of all of our aspects. If you find usefulness in labeling something masculine and something else as feminine or masculine, that is fine. But do not get to caught up in this. Otherwise, you will quickly become mired in new levels of unconscious ego as you define your identity and define everyone else in your life in terms of how they do or don't relate to this identity. In many ways, embracing "masculinity" or "femininity" can become a divisive process instead of an inclusive one if you do so to make yourself feel good. If some part of you does not feel good as a man or woman, don't take a pain pill. See where that pain is coming from.

What Men Are Not

Men and women are not ideas, but we certainly have been taught to try and conform to a lot of ideas anyway. The idolized image for being a man is often controlling, oppressive, violent, power-hungry, rich, handsome, and dominating. Because so many guys have had these attributes and been in places of social prominence and visibility, they've become heavily associated with guys. Consider the types of men idolized in business, politics, comic books, TV, and so forth. There are also the idolized traits around what kind of lover men should be (someone who can endlessly have sex and please countless women). It's kind of the James Bond image who is a great "idea" to dissect in your journal.

Gentlemen, I encourage you to pause and write down the men you idolize, and then start to look at traits they have. See how you may have aspired or wished to have these traits yourself. Because ultimately, these ideas are just caricatures. They're not real, and men are exhausting themselves trying to fit these ideals.

What Women Are Not

On the other side, women have their own set of ideas and ideals they've bought into. And it is important to remember that we are buying into these ideas. For whatever peer pressure we experience, on some level, we believe in these ideas and cultivate them. We are responsible for the ideas we act out. As such, women have ideas around motherhood, beauty that generally relates to how to attract men and their resources, ideas about their sexuality (which is usually leaning towards abstinence and self-denial), submissiveness to men, and plenty more. So, ladies, just as I suggested to the men, I encourage you to write down the women you idolize. What traits do they have? What traits do you think you should have? What traits do you think you shouldn't have?

While the image of the Super Mom who is also a successful businesswoman is fairly new, it is becoming an increasingly powerful one. It's taking much of the idolized "male" traits and handing them to women. And while financial independence is an important part of women becoming whole and in their power, too often women are simply acting out the insanity that many of us men are having to undo in ourselves.

Peeling Away False Ideas of Masculinity and Femininity

The layers of false ideas about masculinity and femininity are many. They can be found even in spirituality. Many women have embraced these ideas of "the Goddess," and now they are defining themselves against that idea, which isn't really any better than the Happy Housemaker or the Super Mom. It's just a new game for the ego to hide in.

As such, the encouragement on the spiritual path is to look at why you've bought into an idea about how you should act as a man or woman, and then determine what you think this will get you. Is it money? Is it social approval? Why do you think you need these things? The deeper you go, the more you can undercut the whole story. It's like going down to the root of a weed. If you just chop the top off, it will grow back.

And it is likely to grow back multiple times because you'll notice how committed you are to having a gender identity. Many people get stuck on the fear of not knowing who they'll be as well as a fear of being abandoned by others who cannot accept them as they are. As such, they keep playing the game of being manly or acting femininely. On and on, it goes.

Coming Into Wholeness as Men and Women

I could outline all the false images and ideas of femininity and masculinity all day, but it's enough to say that they're there and we've been committed to them. To come into wholeness is to embrace all aspects of ourselves. You can say that you are embracing your masculinity and femininity, but I still find this too cumbersome of a delineation. Typically, women are categorized as the "receiving" energy and men as the active or "giving" energy. But we all have both aspects outside of the procreation paradigm, which is where a lot of this has its roots. So embrace your ability to receive and give, and I encourage you to embrace choosing how you want to act. Whether something is manly or something is feminine is almost totally a social contrivance, and those of you who are in the LGBT community already know this. So act how you want, and don't worry about what others think because others are going to continue to have thoughts and judgments regardless of how spiritual you are. What matters most is that you act and live from a place of love and not trying to create a new set of somehow better definitions about being a man or a woman. You already are what you are. Embrace it. Enjoy it, and let others worry about their own definitions while you live the life you really want to live.
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