Uncovering and Debunking Cultural Gender Stereotypes

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One of the truths of the spiritual path is that we are all One. We are that which simply IS. From that space, the whole gender identity thing doesn't make much sense. Traits that are associated with men or women are completely made up, and yet people cling to them rather ferociously. It's not that we go into a denial of the sex we are. I am male; I'm very clear about that. But much of the rest is completely up to us, and so for many people as they delve deeply into themselves, at some point or another, you will become confronted with the social and cultural lies of how you should act as a man or woman.

Being Everyone, Anyone, and No One

There is immense freedom in not having to act a certain way and conform to certain rules.
This isn't anarchy. The divine will that flows through all of us is immensely intelligent. But many of the prison cells that we live within are defined by the social rules of what it means to be a man or woman in society. I can list a few that apply to being a man:

  • Men should be strong physically
  • Men should never show weakness (the inverse of the first stereotype)
  • Men should be strong financially (have lots of money)
  • Men should always be in control (which is considered a type of strength)

The list is much longer than that. It's just a start for you gentlemen. I encourage you to journal out some more.

And lest you felt forgotten, ladies here are some of the nonsensical programs many of you are operating from:

  • Women should always be beautiful
  • Women should do whatever the man wants (I think this has eroded in some ways, but in other parts of the world, it is still very strong)
  • A woman should have a man (This is the relationship program)
  • A woman should have children 

There are, of course, plenty more. Some will resonate more than others, but the point is to simply illuminate that these social programs are at work. And they're not true.

Breaking Down Your Gender Stereotype

When things that aren't looked at, they fester. Consequently, we have to look at everything. Nothing can be left to the darkness of our own ignorance. As you look more closely into these core stereotypes, you may suddenly realize just how few conscious decisions you're actually making. I feel like picking on men today, so let's look at an example.

  1. A man is defined by strength in all things.
  2. So he learns to build his life around his strengths and to avoid his weaknesses or attack them until he feels proficient.
  3. Consequently, a lot of new experiences may be shunned in favor of what he is good at.
  4. This reduces the breadth of life that he can experience.
  5. This creates a shadow of fear around things he doesn't know.
  6. Depending on the length of that shadow or fear, a man may become more aggressive or violent when he is confronted by things that he isn't capable of dealing with from a place of strength.
  7. This can create turbulence in his life and ruin relationships around him.
  8. This may in turn cause him to shrink even more deeply into the things that he feels strong about and avoid difficulties more/or be even more aggressive to overcome things.
  9. If the latter, he is always in a hunt-attack mode that drives away certain circumstances and relationships (consider the man who always has to win as an example of this final scenario).

Obviously, there are other core messages that different men deal with. So this won't apply to all of you. As I said, it's a starting point to help you think about the messages you are dealing with as a man or woman. From there, outline the resulting actions, ideas, and patterns that have defined your life based off of these lies

Freeing Yourself From the Fear of Social Rejection

The reason we buy into these lies is generally rooted in a fear of social rejection. Deeper still, we fear our own rejection, but depending on where you are in your self-discovery, this may not seem readily apparent. So the woman who stops putting on make-up fears that she will be considered to be ugly. In being determined to be ugly, she fears the loss of value in society. Beauty in many ways is about social value. That social value is thought to buy her relationships, especially with men (this is another lie).

Another cultural stereotype is that women need to get support from men. That is usually in the form of money. Obviously, some of that is changing in Western Culture, but not as much as some people might think. So if a woman isn't pretty, she can't get a man, and therefore, she won't be supported financially. Here you see that we've dropped down to a core survival issue that is at play in the scenario.

The gender stereotype is a method of control. It acts is if it is bringing you safety. By conforming in a certain way, there are certain benefits. If there were no benefits, then no one would do it. So the beautiful woman does get attention and approval (because of how people are trained by cultural conditioning as well), and the powerful man gets attention and approval (presidents, star athletes, and others who have achieved a certain level and type of power). But if you want to be free, you have to let that go. You have to turn inwards to find your love, and you will face social rejection.

The Messiness of the Spiritual Path

I am probably becoming a broken record player on the topic of the spiritual path being a messy path. A lot of people thinks its a clean, clear-cut thing. It's not. Because life is not that way, and the spiritual path embraces all of life.

As I've said, different stereotypes will apply more or less to you, but the real work is coming back to self-love. The more you move from that space, the more it doesn't matter how the external world responds to you. You will naturally create what you want in the world.

When you really look at the cultural gender stereotypes you are operating from, you may not know what to do. "If I don't act according to these rules, then how do I act?" you may ask. For those in awakening, this may be part of many big questions arising for you because awakening illuminates this and countless other lies.

But don't worry. You actually do know what you need to do, and you can take it a little at a time. You don't have to throw out your whole wardrobe immediately. But maybe you start to get rid of clothes that don't feel good to your body (typically I am speaking to women, but this can just as easily apply to many men). And if you don't like your high-paying job, maybe now is a good time to explore things that you love, but aren't good at. Or maybe it's just a good time to practice exploring and failing before saying, "Screw you!" to your employer. See what happens with a little exploration.

Maybe others of you are ready for bigger changes. Only you can know that, and if you do take a big plunge. Trust yourself. It often get unclear for awhile, but then you find your way through.

The Freedom to Be

Ultimately, releasing gender stereotypes and every other stereotype that you confine yourself with (because it's you who is really keeping you in the jail cell) is about becoming free to just be. You don't need to try to act like a man, woman, anything, or anyone. Just allow yourself to come into this relaxed space inside. Let go of the fear of external and internal judgment. You will be okay. You will be okay if you don't "act" like a man or woman. You will be okay if you take on the opposite gender role if you felt like it. It's all just a game anyway. It's all made-up, and the more you relax into that wisdom--a wisdom which you already know--the easier your life can become.

This picture is gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her photography on this Flickr link.


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