The feminine and masculine polarity is one of the great drivers of evolution. Contrast of opposites is fundamental to life and to our evolution. Sexual reproduction ushered in the possibility of much greater genetic diversity. We’re the products of sex and of the polarity of the feminine and the masculine. This polarity exists within each of us, regardless of our gender or our sexuality. As a heterosexual male I have a certain perspective on all this and I cannot fully understand the perspectives of women or homosexuals, but we all carry within us the same poles of the masculine and the feminine. And that polarity exists in all of our relationships, whether they’re romantic or not, but most acutely in romantic relationships. Our society and culture work with those two great poles as well. Our psyches and our culture are a product of the interaction of those poles, and others.
It’s pretty obvious that this doesn’t come without issues and problems, but if everything was nice and easy, with no conflicts or drama, we’d be stuck in an unchanging universe. The two genders are here to serve our growth and evolution, along with other polarities. But the feminine and masculine polarity is enormous in its importance and its pervasiveness. We are constantly reminded of gender in our interactions.
Regardless of our own identity, we all face the feminine and the masculine from our first days and for almost all of us, our first intimate relationship is with our mothers, a mixture of the feminine and the masculine as is everyone else, but fundamentally female first. Boys and men have the challenge of depending upon and identifying with a mother as their first caregiver and source of life, and then having to separate from that, to establish a masculine identity. As a man I’m in awe of feminine power, both divine and mortal, yet I must establish my masculinity and integrate my feminine – I’m finding that’s a lifelong process. Woman have their own challenges.
I see much of the misogyny and aggression toward women and the feminine as men’s fear of feminine power – the feminine power found in women outside of the man and that same feminine aspect within the man himself. How could a man possibly see a woman as being fundamentally weak? Virtually every man had his first confrontation with life and death power in his own mother. No. Men are all too aware of feminine power, either consciously or denied, but living and vital in their unconscious. And the more a man denies that great feminine power, the more he is driven to compensate and project in some way. A man cannot fully come to terms with his own masculine and feminine nature without consciously processing his relationship to feminine power. He has been imprinted with that since birth. I don’t want to further complicate this, but I also have to mention the collective unconscious and archetypes, which further affect our psyche beyond our ego and conscious experiences. Archetypes exist in both the feminine and the masculine spheres, but we’ll stick to the primary gender poles now.
Men in denial of this feminine power, are afraid of this creative and destructive power they sense so clearly in women and many compensate by acting and treating women with such disrespect, as these misguided men seek to preserve and put forth their own power in the face of the threat they perceive in the feminine. These men often use sex to demonstrate their power, which is a potent arena for the dance of gender that calls us. Sex may be the field of play, but power is the game. The path to your own power is never found in denying others their power, but if, deep down, you are terrified of the power of the other – in this case the feminine – you will not move beyond your own compensations, until and unless you face that fear within you and stop trying to deny it and cover it up with your hostility to the other.
This is the reality of human life that faces us all. Many cultures, including our own, have become dominated by largely masculine values, at least on the surface, that are neither inferior nor superior to largely feminine values, but it is the asymmetry of gender power that is so destructive in our society. But out of destruction, comes renewal, evolution and creation. And even in male dominated cultures, women are not without their ability to use their feminine power and they also call upon their masculine side, as men call upon their feminine.
I don’t see this male domination so much as a conscious male strategy, but it does come from our collective unconscious, as well as from within our own psyches, and is a large element of our evolution as a culture and a species as it takes place within each of us. This rise of the masculine over the past centuries and millennia has been an emergent property of our evolutionary processes and of the angst that men feel in the face of the feminine. Humanity requires both the feminine and the masculine. This is part of our human evolution and in that way it has been a positive development, even though the effects on individual people and cultures has carried with it lots of negative consequences and outcomes. That’s the messy evolutionary process at work. Sometimes the way forward can appear to be a few steps back.
Here is the sobering, sad, and uplifting story of Salma Heyak and Harvey Weistein, which inspires my title here – gender, sex, power and evolution. It describes Heyak’s experiences with Harvey Weinstein in making her movie Frida. It is the story of an artist, Salma Hayek, working with Weinstein, trying to tell the inspiring story of another artist, Frida Kahlo. It is the story of a present-day female artist coming up against the shadow of a powerful and dysfunctional man who, I would suggest, is so terrified of the feminine, and his own shadow, that he feels compelled to act out in the most disgusting and bullying ways. I am sure he treated many men poorly as well, but not nearly to the same extent as when he faced women. You might say Weinstein treated women much worse, because the culture allowed that to happen. I don’t disagree, but I think that Weinstein likely was also much more motivated to treat women so poorly, because of the gender issues within his own psyche. Heyak comes across as a powerful figure and I believe that Weinstein was even more encouraged to project his power over her as a result of her strength, and was particularly enraged when she resisted his attempts.
Not a nobody … Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in Frida, which she also produced for no payment. Photograph: Allstar/MIRAMAX
This photo is from a piece in the Guardian.
Stories like this about a bully treating another human being in a despicable way is sad, but it’s also an inspiring story, because things are changing – humanity is evolving. Hayek held her ground, as much as possible, and she was able to complete the movie, largely in the way she intended.
We have more signs of evolution in the defeat of Roy Moore who ran for the American Senate in Alabama. Despite being accused by three women of having sexually assaulted them, when they were younger than eighteen years old, Moore continued his election run and denied the claims, even though other Republicans considered the accusers to be credible and a number of future potential colleagues asked him to withdraw from the race. Earlier, Moore had a checkered career as a judge who was not afraid to ignore laws that did not meet his views on religion.
Moore lost to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, in a state that leans decidedly to the Republican Party and has done so for decades. This election and defeat of Moore is widely seen as an important turning point in American politics, at least for now. The long-term consequences can only be guessed at, but I’m certain that this points to more evolution in the future.
The times are changing and the messiness of evolution will no doubt continue in anything but a straight line. I believe we just have to trust the process and not agonize over the apparent negative developments, and likewise, not get giddy or too over-confident at the positive developments. Overall the thrust of evolution is positive, but it will continue to lurch forward, this way and that. My favorite Zen story points to the impossibility of freezing any moment in time and considering it to be good or bad – “maybe” is always the ultimate analysis for a world of constant change. At the ego level, where we are most aware of our lives, there is the temptation to constantly judge events and things. From a deeper and broader perspective, that becomes harder and harder to do, because the context is always expanding.
I will leave with this wonderful telling of the story by the late, great, Alan Watts. My advice? Trust the universe and evolution.