There’s an ongoing trend in recent years, which is becoming more mainstream these days. A call for women to embrace their femininity and for men to step into their masculinity.
I used to think that this advice is generally good, and it made a lot of sense to me. Finally, a concrete advice in our confused post-feminist-revolution era.
However. Recently I’m starting to think that this general advice, and especially when it comes to relationships and to sexuality, does more harm than good.
It’s based on a labeling system (the male-female dichotomy) that is simply wrong. Apart from reinforcing the stereotypes of what being male or female in our society means, it has little to no value.
One very common example is the advice given to women who are having issues with enjoying their sexuality – to be more feminine – and to surrender. Let go. Follow the lead of a man.
While this advice might be true for some women, it can be given to men, too. Many men need to learn to let go and surrender in order to fully connect and be present while making love with their partner. They might need to let go of different things, but the fact that there is such a labeling of “letting go” or “surrender” as feminine qualities is not all that helpful.
There are many more examples, by the way, but I won’t give you all of them here.
Instead, let me present my case more thoroughly.
Shifting our thinking of what gender dictates:
Sometime around halfway through the previous century, feminism started becoming a thing. And with it, millennia of patriarchal society have begun to fall apart.
First to shift were: gender equality (giving women a voice to vote, be elected etc) and gender roles (both men and women were gradually allowed to enter positions that were traditionally reserved for only one of the genders – things like certain professions and certain household chores).
Later, the entire view on gender has been questioned. Gender identity has become more fluid, with a scientific research backing the understanding that people can identify themselves as a different gender than the one their genitalia prescribe.
Only a few generations a go, there was absolutely no confusion. A woman was a woman and she had to look, act and strive to become an ideal representation of what was expected from her. A man was a man and he, also, had to adhere to the strict rules that applied to him as being one. And now, through the transitioning phase – which is far from being over yet – there is also a lot of confusion.
Rethinking the entire male-female paradigm.
In some areas of our lives, we already moved forward and have embraced the changes, but there’s still more we need to figure out. Most of us still don’t accept men that display their emotions. Most of us still believe that a woman is naturally better as a caregiver.
When it comes to sexual behavior, things are even more conspicuous.
The same behavior is judged differently for men and for women. There’s the traditional description of men with lots of sexual experience as studs, which has a positive connotation to it, as opposed to women who had many lovers which are referred to as sluts (not so positive connotation).
And then, in the midst of it all, we hear calls from different groups (both traditional and new-age ones) for men to reclaim their masculinity and for women to reclaim their femininity.
I see people advocating for women to get more in touch with their feminine nature, and I think I know what it means. In our society, we tend to see the following attributes as feminine: peaceful, calm, receptive, cooperative, tender, social, left-brain. And these attributes as masculine: powerful, strong, active, competitive, tough, independent, right-brain.
However, I have my suspicion that this classification is not some universal or biological truth, but instead that it originates from the way our society is structured. And in case my suspicion holds true, I would really like us to stop using these classifications. Because these classifications are holding us back in our progress to accept gender fluid concepts.
Male-female concepts in the animal kingdom.
Let’s examine the notion that there’s a biological reason to identify some characteristics as male or female. I’m not a zoologist, and I could be totally wrong, but I’m pretty sure that this categorizing of male-female characteristics is not prevalent in the animal kingdom.
For example, have a look at a multi-layered approach to the sexual behavior of insects, in this funny yet insightful 12-minutes TED talk by Marlene Zuk, you will see that gender behavior in insects has nothing to do with what we expect a specific gender to behave. So we could easily conclude that nature has not intended for all females to be unified under some gender qualities.
How about becoming more selective, by looking only at animals that are closer to humans. A pattern might emerge: the Alpha-male concept of a dominant, powerful male and subservient, young-rearing females is prevalent in some mammalian species. Perhaps this is where our feminine-masculine concepts are derived from. And I still doubt that in those animal groups you’ll be able to classify females as being more of a feminine nature and males as generally having more masculine nature.
Male-female concepts as represented by human’s anatomy.
Next, perhaps we should be looking at the physical differences between men and women to gain some insights into the male-female grouping of traits. Men have stronger muscles than women, hence it makes sense to say that strength is a male attribute whereas softness is a female attribute. Women have a receptacle type of genital (vagina) as opposed to a protruding type of genital (penis) in men, hence we say receptiveness is a female attribute whereas being dynamic is considered to be a male attribute. But I still think it’s mostly arbitrary. I could have as well decided that women are the ones who give birth thus they are the dynamic ones, or that the testicles are extremely tender which makes men more gentle. See how ridiculous it is? Very arbitrary.
Surely there’s some logic in the male-female categorizing system of attributes… No?…
I can almost picture you pulling your hair out by now. How can that be? And I can totally relate to how you might be feeling. I have listened to many great teachers that say how important it is to embrace my femininity in order to find my true nature. In order to attract a masculine partner. In order to fully enjoy my sexuality.
I think that there’s some truth to it. Because we’ve been conditioned by our polarity-oriented society. Because we are merely starting to understand, and to apply the knowledge that, traits don’t have to be attributed to a specific gender. And these days and age, if I want to attract a compatible man into my life, learning how to be more feminine will attract the masculine.
What if we stop using the male-female concepts?
I want to live in a society that doesn’t need those gender-based polarities. I want to be soft when I feel it serves my highest good, and tough when it serves my highest good. I want to be powerful and peaceful. Receptive and dynamic. Social and independent. All to be displayed whenever the timing is right, taking into account who I’m interacting with.
Telling me to embrace my feminine nature is a very broad generalization. And using these terms only perpetuates the concept that females “should” act/feel/behave a certain way.
I hope our society will keep on transitioning and allow every single individual to embody the positive traits that suit them specifically, regardless of their gender. In my mind, this is a part of the Make Love Revolution.
A day after I finished writing this article, I came across P!nk ‘s video as she accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. A speech about gender expression (which is the way we present ourselves to the world, which doesn’t have to correlate with our gender identity…). I thought it would be a nice ending to this piece and I decided to edit it in:
What do you reckon?
Do you think talking about male-female concepts is helping or diminishing our efforts to create an evolved, accepting society?