In the May 2019 issue of the National Geographic magazine, there is an inspiring article, “A New Day in Mozambique”, about the turn-around of the wildlife and jungle in Gorgongosa National Park in the country of Mozambique. Once devastated due to civil war, the animal population and environment have been supported and nourished and they are now thriving once again.
One of the leads on the project, Gregory Carr regards the success of this project as directly correlated to the attention to projects that promote the health and well-being of girls and women. Girls are educated and supported by “godmothers” – women who help protect them from forced marriages, frequent pregenancies, poor health, and encourage educational opportunities. As the women begin to thrive in their environment, the men thrive too. If women & men thrive, then the environment and wildlife can thrive too. They are all connected.
“Rights for women and children, poverty alleviation – is what Africa needs to save its national parks” Gregory C. Carr (p.112)
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the balancing of the masculine and feminine in our world and this article provided some physical evidence of what happens when both the masculine and feminine are valued in our world. Both the feminine and masculine aspects of our world need to be valued in order for our world to heal and thrive. When one is valued more than the other, imbalance happens and this impacts the health of everyone.
Everyone has masculine and feminine traits in themselves of varying degrees. Men as a whole have more masculine traits, which is why they are labeled as masculine aspects, BUT this is not a rule for all men. Many men will have more feminine than masculine traits too. Women as a whole have more feminine traits, which is why they are labeled as feminine aspects, BUT AGAIN, this is not a rule for all women. Many women will have more masculine than feminine traits.
You will find that there are different interpretations about what is encompassed in masculine and feminine traits. My understanding is that the masculine traits fall under a very grounded and centred lens with a focus on reason and will. Intelligence, courage, strength, leadership, and assertiveness are a few traits that fall under this lens.
My understanding of the feminine aspects is that they are more centred in flow and in the realms of the heart. Some qualities include emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy, passion, and creativity.
The Current Imbalance In Our World
We live in a world that has highly prized the masculine traits. The largest religions in our world value the masculine more than the feminine. Civil rights have favoured the masculine until the last century when women were given the right to vote. Capitalism often favors the masculine in valuing money over the health of people and the earth. School systems often prize the mind over creativity and emotional well-being. The toxic masculine conquers, rapes, and pillages and ultimately destroys itself.
Masculine qualities are needed in our world, however when they are not used in balance with the feminine qualities, they become distorted and sometimes toxic.
The Distorted Masculine
The distorted masculine shows itself when reason and will are used without connection to the heart and emotion. The phrase “It’s just business, it’s not personal” is an example of the distorted masculine.
Sharon Blackie writes in her book If Women Rose Rooted, “The masculine striving towards achievement, production and domination takes hold and spirals out of control, while the feminine qualities of relatedness are suppressed: relatedness to other humans, to the non-humans who share the planet with us, to nature and the rhythms of nature, as well as to the rhythms of the physical body and the stages and passages of our lives”(p.237).
The Distorted Feminine
The distorted feminine is the opposite of the distorted masculine. When decisions are made in a highly emotional way without connection to reason or groundedness, or if we spiral into over-identifying with being a victim and no other aspects of our personality, then we fall into the distorted feminine.
Sharon Blackie also writes, “The pathological or ‘monstrous’ feminine which is not balanced by the masculine principle can manifest itself in an excess of emotion and neediness, a tendency to manipulation, an over-focus on relationships, and a refusal to apply reason to a situation” (p.237, If Women Rose Rooted).
If you reflect on the healthy and distorted masculine and feminine qualities you may see that you have ventured into each category at some point during your day, month, year, or life. They again are not limited to gender.
Society’s Slow Shift To Value The Feminine
In North America, I have SLOWLY seen society start to shift in valuing the feminine, but there is fear in change. If you examine your country’s leaders, notice whether they exemplify more masculine or feminine traits and values. In Ontario, currently we are swooping into the distorted masculine once again with a focus on cutting out all things feminine – care for women, children, health, the earth and those most vulnerable have services being cut in dramatic fashion in the name of balancing budgets. Balancing budgets are important, but when the decisions are not made in a heart-centred way, this is an example of the distorted masculine.
Most leaders have their own distortions, indeed I don’t want to set a tone favouring conservatives or liberals or any other party. I would guess a book could be written analyzing past leaders and governments and their relationship to distorted masculine and feminine traits. In Ontario we often swoop from parties that are distorted in either femininity or masculinity to the distorted masculine and then back again. Often times there is a swing from,”We’re spending too much money on services and we don’t have the money” (distorted feminine – bleeding heart) to the opposite, “We’re going to cut all the programs related to supporting children, women, health, and the environment, and focus on the economy” (the distorted masculine – “it’s business, not personal”).
Shifting to a society where the feminine and masculine traits are balanced in leadership is new territory for most of us. What does that look like? How to balance budget needs and a heart-centred approach? Good question.
Dare To Lead
Brené Brown’s book Dare To Lead is a beautifully written book about how to integrate heart and courage. Brené works with many CEOs and many big organizations to help them combine both feminine and masculine traits. Balanced leadership is possible, but it is not as quick as disconnecting from hearts to make a decision. Balanced leadership involves courage and connection.
Brené shares a quote about vulnerability armour in this book (p. 78). She never directly talks about masculine & feminine, yet the process she shares she is exactly about balancing the masculine & feminine. Her message over and over again is that vulnerability and courage are the SAME thing.
She is also a strong advocate for setting boundaries. Becoming vulnerable doesn’t mean sharing everything with everyone. Vulnerability without boundaries is an example of the distorted feminine.
“As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person who we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen”
I haven’t gone out and scoured the research and all the books for what books there are available on the topic of balancing the masculine and feminine. If you have any you’d recommend please share! Here are a few books to get you started.
- Sharon Blackie‘s books “When Women Rose Rooted” and “The Enchanted Life” (mainly a focus on the feminine)
- Brené Brown‘s book “Dare to Lead”. She also has some excellent TED Talks and a Netflix special. If you like audiobooks, friends have highly recommended any of Brené’s books on audio. She is an excellent speaker. (focus on balancing the masculine & feminine)
- Becoming by Michelle Obama is an example of person who tries to balance both the masculine & feminine in her life. Vulnerability and courage galore. She shares many of her struggles and successes. (focus on balancing the masculine & feminine)
- Crossing to Avalon: A woman’s midlife quest for the sacred feminine by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. (a focus on the feminine)
- One book that my husband enjoyed was Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette’s King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine. (a focus on the masculine)
My own personal journey has been one of re-learning to focus on how to balance the feminine and masculine in myself. I grew up learning to value my masculine traits over my feminine ones. My journey has been one to re-connect to my heart, body, and spirit.
In private practice, my approach is often to help people connect to their heart and inner wisdom after being saturated in a mind-loving world. Often times there is so much noise in our heads that we forget about our ability to connect to our hearts.
Energy healing often also focuses on balancing reason, will (both masculine traits) and emotions (feminine traits). Energy healing also helps with individuals who struggle getting out of their head and into their bodies. If you feel like you have “talked something to death” without changing much in your life, then energy healing can often help.
Who do you know in your life who embodies the balancing of the masculine & feminine, courage & heart? If you can recommend any public figures, I’d love to hear your recommendations about who has been inspirational to you. Until next time…
- Blackie, S. (2016). If Women Rose Rooted. Denmark, September Publishing.
- Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead. New York, NY, Penguin Random House LLC.
- Quammen, D. (2019, May). A New Day in Mozambique. National Geographic. pp. 94-119.