For a long time, I’ve pondered the need for femininism. Yes, that’s right, there’s an extra ‘in’ in there. I began to wonder whether feminism had got a bit stuck with some masculinist ideals and all of us, women and men, may be shortchanging ourselves.
Cracking glass ceilings may be all very well if a bit painful, but what about helping us all to stand together with our feet on the earth and our hearts open. Yes, we definitely needed, and continue to need, to transform injustice and enable equality. Yet we can’t lose sight of what each way of being offers the world. Yes, we are female and male but within our gender we also have masculine and feminine tendencies—all of us—tendencies that we need to honour. And we’ve been honouring masculinism rather too heftily lately and it’s definitely time for a shift in consciousness.
In the US presidential campaign, that unmissable candidate for Republican nomination seeks to take advantage of electoral fear with hyper-masculine policies. In Australia, masculnism is also prevalent. We have witnessed a government where a male prime minister and his female chief of staff lacked any familiarity with the feminine as an exposé published today explores. They were both mired in the masculinist and oppositional approaches which ultimately destroyed them. It’s not just in politics that we need a shift away from unremitted blokiness. The colour supplement of the Saturday Age mourned the high suicide rate amongst tradies. Jorgen Gullestrup, CEO of Mates in Construction, a suicide prevention charity, warned, ‘In the construction industry we have a male culture on steroids.’
And right now, with the current situation of the world, we really need to value the feminine. Not just in women but in everyone—in politicians, in workers in the construction industry and in all of us. As well as striving for justice in pay, in politics and in all aspects of life for all people whatever their gender, we also need to value what is nourishing, caring, receptive, patient and full of heart as much as we value what is assertive, striving, world-oriented, dominating and full of will.
Our lack of capacity to pay attention to femininism means that we can end up striving only towards masculine goals. As a consequence, we risk neglecting the earth, the heart, the soul, and our social connections. We see the problems that a highly masculine culture can engender. Domestic violence, suicide, depression, addiction and bullying are symptoms of our inability to value what is feminine, heartful, full of feeling.
Entering the zone of the heart that is the territory of the feminine is perilous. It’s not always comfortable. It requires our capacity to sit with all that is dark and difficult and often to find our individual path through a morass of neglected feeling. On an individual basis, we may need support to enter that space, to encounter the emotional reactivity, the negative thoughts and the unhelpful patterns that have become our modus operandi when we have neglected what is feminine, what is soulful in favour of trying to work it all out intellectually or by ‘just getting on with it’.
As a society, we need commitment, compassion and patience. We need to avoid stridency, bullying, and a focus on economic solutions at all costs. Instead we need to embrace collaboration, consultation, care and respect. And story, metaphor, image, poetry.
So, for international women’s day, I am encouraging patient time, curious time, time to explore imagination, receptivity and femininity whatever our gender. Our contemporary Australian culture, founded in a battle against what we perceived as a tough landscape and leading to a blokey culture, can afford to take on some of the feminine values prized in earlier cultures. The Indigenous people left a template of care for the earth, and for social and spiritual connection in our land for tens of thousands of years. We need to find our own way to engage with that template of care. Patiently, compassionately and empathically. But we definitely need to prioritise not just a little but a whole lot of femininism.
Images: Parents and child, statue Bratislava (photo courtesty of Kelovy on Wikimedia Commons). Mother and child, by Karol Kucera (Wikimedia Commons). Uluru by Clare.