Battle of the Sexes - Part one
Many of you know that I have been an advocate for female rights and equality between the genders for a long time. It is my hope to do my part in the healing of the wounded feminine/masculine by facilitating the Sacred Women’s Circle and the Divine Feminine Retreats. These offerings assist women to awaken to the expression of the beauty and power of Consciousness that they are, within the patriarchal constructs of our society that suggest otherwise. Recently, through my study and experience, I have become saddened by the continuing strains between the genders that we experience due to these constructs. It saddens me that men and women lack an understanding of one another’s needs. It saddens me even more that the denial of the divine feminine has lead to so much suffering in our personal relationships; that both men and women are still being hurt so much by the patriarchal status quo.
The above quote is important. Dismantling patriarchy isn’t a movement that is anti-men. In fact, it’s a movement that supports the evolution of men as much as it does the empowerment of women. We can’t have one gender that thrives and another that doesn’t. If one is oppressed, the other is too. Just in different ways.
The Feminine has been attacked for a long time. This is not a new realisation. For centuries it has been deemed inferior to the masculine and its manifestations have been rejected by women and men alike. Honouring our vulnerability, expressing emotion, allowing for softness and stillness and being open to authentic sharing are qualities of the feminine that are still not revered. On the contrary, they are often knocked out of us as children as we have collectively been told to suck it up, dry our eyes, and put on a brave face. Meanwhile our inner selves are screaming for the deep connection. But connection cannot happen without the feminine. It IS the feminine.
Presently my deepest sadness is what patriarchal expectations have done to our men. In most cases women have been able to keep some access to our hearts and our emotions but often our men were taught to shut down at an early age. As my kinesiologist said to me recently, “A lot of men get their hearts taken away from them very young”. These boys, usually around the age of seven, are told they shouldn’t cry and the only way to be a man is to be tough and strong and stoic. To be “like a girl” becomes the worst insult that could be hurled at them in the playground. They are taught to be locked down and keep their feelings IN. In fact, they are taught to deny that the feelings are even there! The detrimental ripple effect of this is seen in the increasing statistics of male suicide. This toxic programming means men are less likely to talk about what’s going on for them or seek help. This is a devastating issue in our culture as we witness our men quite literally dying to be men.
Above is where I wanted to put a quote around looking after and nourishing our men and their hearts. But I couldn’t find one. Case in point.
Our young boys are taught that any expression of the feminine is the very worst thing they can be connected to, they then grow up - and, I would imagine, quite unconsciously - pour this toxicity into their intimate relationship with… the feminine. This makes a lot a lot of sense. Because men are taught to disrespect the feminine expressions within themselves, they naturally start to disrespect it outside of themselves too. It is from this place, within that programming, where the world just got a lot less safe for women.
When I facilitated the Divine Feminine Retreat last year my beautiful assistant Tina had just participated in the five day event, Date with Destiny, with Anthony Robbins. She shared with me her experience of a very powerful session with him. Tony asked all the women in the room to put their hand up if they have every feared for their own safety. All of the women in the the room put their hands up. He then asked the same question to the men and there were only a few who put up their hands. Then he said, “Hear this men. Women live in a different world to you. And theirs is much less safe”
Safety is the big issue for women. Only this Christmas morning I woke upto the news that a woman had been sexually assaulted down by the beachfront in Perth while she was going for a run. Our lack of safety stems from the very real fear of an event like that happening to us at anytime and place. It is felt when we receive the seemingly harmless comment about our body parts. Or a when a stranger presses up against us from behind when we are trying to order a drink in a bar. We even feel it when we are met with eyes rolls or dismissal from our partners when we are simply trying to make our fears known. If we are to create a world where women thrive and are considered equal, we must first look to these very basic needs of all women. We must start to feel more safe.
So men have been stripped of their feelings and women feel unsafe. See how both are not winning? And the reason for that is simple. It’s not about winning!!!! We are meant to live in balance and harmony with each other. We are two sides to the one coin. You wouldn’t just shine one side of the coin and discard the other. Both sides create the value.
From an evolutionary standpoint men are much more physically strong than women because they adapted in order to provide protection while women did the the glorious work of creating life within their bodies. That physical strength was never designed to be used against us! Not in the model of healthy balanced masculine/feminine. And even though this dynamic has become less clear over the years as women have (most wonderfully) been able to do a lot more in the world than just have children and keep the home, the desire to feel protected and safe is still there in the undercurrent of relationships. Because, as Tony Robbins pointed out, feeling safe is not a female privilege.
We can start to see that the present day gender imbalance creates a Catch-22 in many intimate relationships between men and women. Deep down we want connection but don’t know how to get there because we both, our partners and ourselves, have collective wounding that we are holding within our bodies. Because most men have not been taught to deal with expressions of emotion or vulnerability they tend to judge it when are met with it. This creates disengagement in the very moment that their partner needs them to stay engaged. In the times when they are crying, or sick, or begging to be held this shutting-down makes women feel deeply unsafe. So, in a world that is profoundly less safe for women than it is for men when that innate need to be supported isn’t met within a relationship the wounding is palpable. It feels like, if not here then where? Isn’t this meant to be my safe haven?
* Please note that I am speaking generally about certain issues that we are facing as a collective that may not apply to your current relationship. I can appreciate that everything situation is unique. I am not saying ALL men have this pattern. Nor am I saying ALL women fall into this paradigm.
Moving on, Brene Brown (my friggin heroine!) talks about the effects of disengagement in her book, ‘Daring Greatly’:
“When the people we love or with whom have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing, and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and the hurt seeps in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears - the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unloved. What can make this covert betrayal so much more dangerous than something like a lie or an affair is that we can’t point to the source of our pain - there’s no event, no obvious evidence of brokenness. It can feel crazy-making”
Crazy-making indeed. This leads me to my next point. The natural reaction for a woman who has felt unsafe for too long is to move into hysteria. This is not easy for me to write there as an independent modern woman. I don’t like to admit that there are certain situations where I have been hysterical. But to not own that would be a mistruth. So here’s the thing, any hysteria that I and other women have expressed in their lifetime is not because we are just “crazy women”. This reaction is absolutely woven into our evolution as a gender. Throughout history women haven’t been able to physically overpower anyone or anything that has threatened their safety so hysteria is triggered in times of threat for our self protection.
In other words, and I’m going to put this bold because its important… Female hysteria is valid. It’s a survival mechanism that comes up when we feel unsafe.
From the yogic tradition this is where Goddess Kali comes into play. She is undoubtedly the most fierce of all the Goddesses and exercises her might by chopping off the heads of the ego demons of the world in order to bring the world into balance and harmony. She is one kick-ass force of nature. So men, we know that when we seemingly lose all control and bring about our Kali rage and hysteria it can be as scary as all fuck. Just know that it scares us too and we don’t pull her out just for kicks. She’s there to look after us in times of crisis.
There is much more to say regarding these issues so I am creating two parts for this blog. But for now I’d like to invite you all into the place of compassion for the other gender. It can be easy when we are feeling both individual and collective pain to point the finger at the other and say, “It’s your fault!” But remember we are in this together. We are here to evolve towards balance, peace and oneness.
Women, please open to the fact that our men are greatly suffering in this present day set up that in many cases creates the toxic masculinity by which we have been so wounded. If there’s disengagement going on, that behaviour has its roots in a lot pain. And men, please be open to that fact that women are crying out to be heard and held. We are not crazy, or drama queens. As a gender we have experienced thousands of years of disrespect and abuse that is fully felt by the collective. If there’s big emotion happening, that behaviour has its roots in a lot of pain.
In part two I want to talk about how we can start to create some healing in our personal relationships and start to heal these wounds that we all feel on varying levels. The work that I am doing in this arena is my absolute passion and I will be coming together with wonderful yoga teacher, James Gill, in 2020 to further extend this offering. James works with boys and men to create space for deep connection and more skilful communication around the magnificent complexities of striving to be a caring, conscious, courageous man! Together we are pooling our skills to offer a retreat that brings about balance and awareness of the Divine Masculine and Feminine. This retreat will be for women and men alike and fantastic for partners and singles alike. Date will be announced soon!
Until next month, let’s open our hearts and pour our goodwill toward the opposite sex. It is time to lay down our weapons and cease the battle. It is time to grow in compassion and love.
Yours in Yoga,