Balanced Feminism

By Anja Beerepoot, via the author’s blog

How can we save mankind and our planet, improve the position of women and abolish financial, social and cultural inequalities between men and women, and live a joyful and fulfilling life?

A better world is a balanced world

A balanced world embraces multiplicity of perspectives and ‘ways of doing things’ and is informed by the diverse histories, cultures and experiences that people bring. Individual differences and similarities are welcomed, valued and used at all levels across all formal and informal systems. Everyone matters, everyone’s needs are considered, decisions are made together and everyone takes responsibility for his or her input. In a balanced world culture and nature are one and in complete harmony.

Yet, Western civilization, beginning with the ancient Greeks, is patriarchal, based on male power and expansion. It is a world of domination and authoritarianism where one part of humankind is put above another.

Before the Greek God Zeus ruled from Mount Olympus, there was Gaia. Goddess preceded god. In her book  De Kelk en het Zwaard: onze geschiedenis, onze toekomst (1987/1997) [The Chalice and the Blade: our history, our future (1987/1997)] researcher Riane Eisler shows, using a lot of available data, that 5000 years ago a whole other culture, that lasted for a long time, emerged. This was a culture characterised by peace and equality between men and women. Historians call this culture ‘The Old European Culture’ and as of 4500 BC it was overpowered by the Indo-Europeans and their expansionism. The Indo-Europeans had a completely different culture, characterised by hierarchy, patriarchy and war.

 Left Brain/Right Brain

In this RSA Animate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behavior, culture and society.

The arrival of the Indo-Europeans brought an end to the Goddess, caused the decline of women’s social and political status, and encouraged patriarchy and misogyny by reinforcing left-brain dominance. Linear thinking was now more highly valued than feeling and intuition, word more highly valued than image, and hierarchy more valued than the natural order.

The economic crisis, the environmental crisis, the Euro crisis, the current terrorist violence – what all these crises have in common is that they are the visible result of the imbalance in our human cultures and in ourselves.

I believe that today, in Western society, the patriarch is losing power due to a growing awareness of its detrimental consequences. A new world is revealing.

What are masculine and feminine strengths and values?

(image) ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are opposite and complementary elemental forces that we find in many major philosophies and cultures. A well-known example is the Yin and Yang of Taoism. According to ancient Chinese beliefs the movement of the all-encompassing nature (Heaven, Earth and everything that is found and lives there) is guided by the forces of Yin and Yang. That means humankind as well.

Yin is the feminine, passive, receiving and introvert principle. Yang is the masculine, active, external and extrovert principle. Yin is connected with the here and now, accepting and trusting, in the knowledge that growth is taking place. The feminine is focused on emotional contact and connection with the other. Yang stands for action, decisiveness, courage and getting results. The masculine wants to stand out and experiences itself as an autonomous being.

In the Taoist yin-yang symbol, the complementary pairs work together in a constant rising and falling and so create a dynamic balance. From this dynamic and harmonious balance of feminine and masculine new life is created. The interaction between the two gives life to everything and together they form the circle of life.

Both men and women have a masculine/extrovert and a feminine/introvert part in them. In Western science we come across the male and the female principle, for example in the work of the Swiss psychiatrist, Professor Carl Jung. According to Jung, besides their conscious feminine personality, women also have a subconscious masculine component, the animus. In addition to a masculine consciousness, the man also has a feminine pole, the anima in his subconscious. For women, the feminine is the beginning of her natural nature; with men that is the masculine.

(image) How do we create a balanced world?

In order to restore balance and change the relationship between men and women towards complementarity and equality of the sexes, it is necessary that both men and women strive to connect the different, opposing masculine and feminine aspects in themselves. Wholeness, an inner partnership, is possible when human qualities, now usually designated as masculine or feminine, are seen as part of the spectrum for everyone. In the male world, intellectual development (rational thinking, data-based information, objectivity, the realm of the mind) is fostered and rewarded; emotional development (feeling, intuition, aesthetic appreciation, subjectivity, the real of the heart), usually not. When both are important, both sides of the personality develop and both hemispheres of the brain are used.

At the peak of our abilities, flow arises as the coming together of doing and being. Or in other words, as action that flows effortlessly out of being. –Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Only after people have experienced flow in their lives and have therefore felt that energy, is it possible for them to really and consciously feel their existence and know what the goal and purpose of their life is. When we create from the heart and our Higher Self we can overcome duality and that which we create will be in balance with ourselves and with the bigger picture. We move with the wind in our backs.

Personal healing, clearing our personal unconscious from rationalizations and limiting convictions also opens the way to embracing the feminine principle in our collective unconscious. With the decline of women in patriarchy the feminine principle and female values didn’t disappear but moved to our collective unconscious. Welcoming our feminine side in our collective conscious is essential for both women and men. After recovering inner balance, outer balance is possible.

Balanced Feminism

Feminism came into being in the 19th century in response to the need to act against the unequal (power) relationship between men and women. In legislation in particular, a number of issues changed for the better in the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of feminism. A first and second wave gave women the right to vote, more control over their bodies, and more career choices.

Twentieth century feminism, however, has not provided an alternative for the ruling patriarchal culture where women are dominated by men. Because of the lack of alternatives, equality and freedom (two promises of the feminism) translate as situations where women exhaust themselves to satisfy the standards of the powerful patriarchal system.

(image) To create a new system, both sexes are needed so that each can transform their own part in the patriarchy. A well-known quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is: ‘No one can treat you as an inferior without your permission’. I believe it is time for women to retract that permission and to provide an alternative for the current system. Feminism can then enter a new phase, from equal rights feminism to balanced feminism; committed to balancing male and female energy in ourselves and in the world; feminism for men and women.

It has been said for quite some time that the 21st century is the century of women. It certainly seems like it. In the Netherlands there are now three times as many women as men who start their own business. Society is feminizing and feminine values are becoming more important. We live in an era where attention for each other, emotion, honesty, sustainability and inner growth are now on the rise.

Men too have a lot to gain through restored balance. A male image that covers the entire spectrum of maleness offers men the opportunity to be themselves, to be complete and not have to pretend to be something they are not.

A global shift is happening around the world. As the established economic, political and cultural institutions of our planet encounter increasing upheaval, humanity is moving toward the next stage in its history. Changing the patriarchal pattern to an egalitarian principle, and a culture based on balance between masculine and feminine qualities, are part of this. When enough people accept the egalitarian principle it becomes the new standard. This new stage requires us to see ourselves, our world, each other and the practices and actions we can undertake to heal ourselves and help the planet differently. An exciting and hopeful future.

Anja Beerepoot is the founder of Art as Mirror and FemaleFactor. At the moment she is working on the documentary ‘Earthmothers’ about our current choice for a balanced society with an egalitarian partnership between men and women. Anja is registered with Speakers agencies for subjects such as: cultural transformation, the bigger picture and feminism.

Do you want to read more about this?

Jean Shinoda Bolen – Urgent message from mother: gather the women, save the world
Marja de Vries – The whole elephant revealed en Samenlevingen in Balans (no Eng version)
Riane Eisler – The Chalice & the Blade; our history our future