There is no difference between “you need to harness your sacred masculine energy” and “man up, bro.” None.
Your energy, whatever that is, is neither masculine nor feminine. Sorry. You can yell, scream, fight, cry, sing, dance and build all you want, your energy still will not have hormones, chromosomes, self-identity, or anything else that will give it a gender.
If I hear one more person telling someone else to summon their feminine energy, or harness their masculine energy, I’m gonna throw something at them. Like a girl. Your energy does not have a gender, it’s just a series of attributes – adjectives, if you will – that make you who you are, in all of your complex and unique humanity.
Your energy has no gender. That idea is a manmade construct, and it doesn’t serve anything.
In my last days of online dating, before meeting the man I would eventually marry, I sat across from a young scientist who was my kind of “hot.” He was geeky, really smart, funny and fit.
We were discussing gender roles, and all was going relatively well, until he said something general about how, even in botany, the female flowers are, by nature, receptive; the nurturing life force. Even though he somehow seemed not to grok that they were only female because some botanist hundreds of years ago had assigned them that gender, using nomenclature that was manmade and steeped in gender, I could have given it a pass. Until he tried to convince me that there was some larger meaning in the nature of the feminine that arches over plants and animals alike, unfurling tendrils of gendered specificity around humans and their precious sexy bits.
Were it not for my second or third cocktail, I would have turned into a Venus Flytrap.
I mean, someone could have just as easily decided that those with the long, fleshy, goo-squirting parts were called “women” and the ones without them were called “men” and nothing would really have changed. We could have all been Flergubbings, differentiated only by a few specific biological functions, for that matter. Flergubbings that each play a different role in perpetuating the species, or don’t, but are otherwise pretty much the same in their capabilities. The label is arbitrary. And it is NOT consistent across the plant kingdom, or the animal kingdom or the people kingdom. (And yes, I know that’s not a thing.)
It certainly isn’t consistent across human cultures throughout time and space. This idea we have of delicate and nurturing female energy is a blip on the scene. (And don’t try to tell any woman that the act of gestating and birthing life is in any way delicate.)
There were the Berdache of Native American cultures, revered for their gender fluidity and bisexual orientation. In Indonesian culture there are the Waria, the Middle East gives us the Xanith, in Africa you can find the Ashtime, the Mashoga, and the Mangaiko. The Balkans have the “Sworn Virgins,” a group of women who live as men. Throughout time and in nearly every culture and religion there is space to celebrate those who do not conform to a gender binary. Just not here. And not now.
And I’m not even talking about getting all third-gender on things, though I love all of the above illustrations as a way of clarifying that our idea of the binary is an anomaly. I’m just talking about accepting that all people – regardless of sex, sexuality or gender – are capable of feeling all the feelings. Love. Fear. Generosity. Rage. All of it.
This idea of the binary, with it’s rough and tumble males, and docile females, wasn’t codified until stationary civilizations had a need to create a predictable order for people to be confined within. Not until, really, modern organized religions needed a power structure, and a way to both support and perpetuate it.
Even our beloved archetypes didn’t really happen until we had the luxury of nervous breakdowns and someone to try and figure out our problems for us. And what were their answers, typically? “You are not fitting into society’s role for you. The problem is you, not society.”
Really. We’re still falling for this?
Think about the energy that we so lazily describe as “masculine.” What are the adjectives you would use? Aggressive? Courageous? Industrious? Combative? If you didn’t have the luxury of using the word “masculine” as a shortcut, would anything about those adjectives change? Would anything about that energy change? No. It wouldn’t.
Do you see as many of those qualities in women as you do in men? Yes. You do. Even in nature. Have you even heard the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” It’s not “hell hath no fury like a woman acting like a man.” How about the phrase “worker bee?” That’s nature, and those are all female bees.
There is nothing inherently masculine about “masculine” energy at all. It’s just a lazy way to not really think about how we’re describing someone. It’s a way to avoid using adjectives. Think about the energy that we so lazily describe as “feminine” energy. What are the adjectives that you would use? Kind? Nurturing? Calm? Soothing? If you didn’t have the luxury of using the word “feminine” as a shortcut, would anything about those adjectives change? Would anything about that energy change? No. It wouldn’t.
Do those qualities not exist in men as much as they exist in women? They absolutely do. Though with men, more so than women, there is great societal risk in letting those “non-conforming” sides of yourself show. Why? Because then you become “feminine.” And that’s, well, that’s bad.
Mind you, being calm is good. (“He’s solid as a rock.”) Being kind is good. (“He has such a big heart.”) Being nurturing is good. (“He’s the kind of guy that just makes you feel safe when you’ve had a bad day.”)
Those are some blurred lines.
There is nothing inherently feminine about “feminine” energy at all. It’s just a lazy way to not really think about what you’re calling someone. And it’s a great way to enforce a code that is not only unnatural, but also harmful.
What if the words “masculine” and “feminine” didn’t exist? We’d have to think a lot harder about how we describe people. We’d describe them by what they do, how they behave. We’d have to pay attention to our behavior, not our genitals, and wardrobe.
We’d actually communicate something real.
That sounds so nice.
I am always amazed by the similarities in the two groups of people who I see use this gendered language as a crutch the most often. There are the Neocons who refer constantly to the proper roles for men and women, expecting each to stay in their place. Then there’s the SNAP (Sensitive New Age People) types who are constantly talking about the inner goddess, sacred masculine and sacred feminine. As far as I can tell the only difference is that the Neocons use “divine” and the SNAPs use “sacred.” But it’s all the same shit.
I got into a Facebook kerfuffle the other day with a guy who insisted that masculine energy is the energy that is directional and aggressive. Feminine energy is nurturing and passive. (My aggressive feminine energy wanted to flow fast in his direction, but I had better things to do.)
The problem with that, besides its inane fallacy, is that such language is what lays the groundwork for phrases like “man up.” There is no difference between “you need to harness your sacred masculine energy” and “man up, bro.” None. The words “sacred” and “masculine” don’t lessen the bludgeoning by binary any more than the words “no offense” make whatever it is you just said less offensive.
So, let’s get to those archetypes that we love so much. Whether they are from Jung or the Tarot, people love to refer to people as “the Warrior” or “the Thinker” or what have you. Let’s remove gender altogether from them, instead looking only at the adjectives and verbs.
If someone says, “summon your inner warrior” they don’t mean to throw on a loin-cloth and sharpen your spear, right? They men be courageous, come up with a plan, know what you’re fighting for. That is a methodical and reasonable approach to facing a challenge. It’s not gendered and it’s not a prelude to a pub-fight. It’s not “act like you’re Mel Gibson in Bravehart,” it’s “get serious and solve this.”
I have no idea what someone means when they say summon your “inner goddess.” Fifty Shades of Grey forever ruined that phrase, though it was always an eye-roller for me. Make people worship you? Believe you are better than others?
Maybe it means be open and receptive to pleasure that you deserve. Surrender to feelings that come from some “divine” origin that defies logical explanation? I can get behind that. But let’s say that. You do not have an inner god or goddess. I promise. Even as a metaphor, it serves to separate us from our humanity, and that is counterproductive at best.
Think of the archetypes as a collection of attributes that might be useful to hone and harness in order to get to the next stage of the rather long role-laying game that is life. A way to figure out how to get through a tough spot. A way to think about your behavior.
There was a time when I would have told you that I like a “manly man.” But as time passed, I was forced to look at what that meant, because going after the men who I though were “my type” was leading to exactly the same unpleasant end, time after time. I eventually made a list, but it was simply a list of attributes: kind, funny, honest, fit, smart, brave, generous, nurturing and strong; both emotionally and physically.
The funny thing is, those are the same qualities I look for in friends. In business partners. In both men and women. They have nothing to do with gender, or even whether I am looking for friends or lovers. These are simply the qualities I look for in people because my life is better – more fun, less dramatic, safer – when the people in my life possess these qualities.
Turns out the “sexy” thing is something different altogether. We’ll call it “chemistry” and leave it for a different article.
Look. I am okay with the existence of gender. I really am. What I am not okay with is our obsessive need to genderize things that have no gender. Especially attributes of our humanity that get used against us.
It is that need to genderize human attributes that has led to women being largely shut out of engineering and politics until recently. Men being marginalized for pursuing the arts rather than sports or business. Men and women alike being beaten or denied opportunity for being too…. Your thoughts, your emotions, your energy do not have a gender. How you use them to express yourself is your choice.
Anyone who tells you to “man up” is not interested in empowering you, they are interested in helping – or coercing – you into conforming to societies expectations. Same goes if they tell you to “summon up your sacred masculine energy.”
What we need to start doing is looking for the adjectives and attributes that describe what we are feeling right now, and what we want to be feeling. Getting real and owning our behavior as a series of choices we make, not a divine dictate. A buffet, not a prison. Being liberated and enlightened isn’t about better performing that act that is expected of you, it’s about figuring out who you really are. What you really want from yourself and others.
So unpack the messages. Don’t think about being more feminine, think about being nurturing, compassionate, and gentle. And know that those are as innately natural in men as women. Embodying those things doesn’t make you feminine, it makes you human. Don’t think about being masculine, think about being brave, focused, and protective. And know that those are as innately natural in men as in women.
Learn how to harness your full range of adjectives and verbs, in the right way at the right time to achieve your full potential, as you define it.
Know that although you are not a god, you are capable of feeling all the things. And it doesn’t make you less of a human, it makes you more.