So many times, standing on the street corner, I would experience someone walking up to me saying hey girl! I love you! I hate men too! High fives!!!â€ť I would smile a wan smile and i would be rendered speechless. While I knew many of my songs spoke about love, awakening, responsibility-taking and man adoring, I also knew answering but I don’t!â€ť would have been somewhat of a lie. I had allowed my subconscious rage toward men to be written and sung about around the planet in a way that I knew I would be asked to comment on and stand behind in my day to day life. I knew that the singing of these songs had helped validate and comfort many people who had been in the same place I had been. And yet there I was, being repeatedly and directly asked about something that was still too painful and confusing for me to have come up with any answer other than, well, not reallyâ€ť. The person would often awkardly say oh. Well I love you girl!â€ť
It is only lately that I’ve begun to truly understand the journey of my rage and pain with regards to men into the gratitude and deep respect that I’ve now begun to feel.
Having been born at the beginning of the post-feminist era, it was hard for me not to feel the effects and strain of patriarchy everywhere I turned. Whether it was on a volleyball court, in an improv class, in a studio, in the streets in different countries, in the pages of magazines I read or in the brilliantly written but decidedly woman-hating episodes I watched on television or on the silver screen….there were three perceived messages I received that were most pervasive:
1) women are inherently less important than men
2) women’s power and value lie in how they look, and how much sex appeal they have
3) there is no room for vulnerable emotionality in this world
At the time the only way I knew how to deal with this affront to my life force, as I saw it, was to blame someone, and that someone was the entire existence of men. I didn’t know then what I know now, and I felt I had no other way to channel this pain than to attack the very gender that I believed was the source of all this oppression I felt. When I am very quiet and I think about being a female in my youth, I am touched with a deep sadness about the disempowerment, helplessness and anger I felt. The thought of taking on a planet that demeaned women in the way it seemed to felt overwhelming to me.
The one thing that kept me baffled and stuck was how deeply I LOVED men, and how I knew on a spiritual level that I was part of them, that we were one. There was nothing more confusing that my continuing to fall in love with the enemyâ€ť. I read countless psychology books while holed up in my hotel rooms and on airplanes, to understand why god would create a world where women seemed undervalued, overlooked, objectified and invisible and for them to then fall in love with the very people they deemed responsible! A cruel hormonal joke! A terrifying existential imperative! A subconscious tendency fueled by the desire to self-annihilate! Get me to the nunnery!
I remember my father telling me as I grew up that my masculinity was a little overboardâ€ť and that he wondered where my femininity had goneâ€ť. I imagine that what he was seeing was my compensation and adaptation to a society that only heralded stereotypically masculine qualities as valuable and powerful, and that my femininity, as such, had taken a backseat in order to survive. I also see that I was challenging roles from the past in both my house and in the world at large. my generation and i were growing toward a more androgynous and integrated state of being, and the apple cart of defined roles was being upset at best, altogether flipped over at worst, in the eyes of my father. where does this leave men?â€ť was his question when we talked about this years ago. if women are growing into such power, what of the men? What is left of their role?â€ť my response then is something I still feel today, which is that as women evolve into the fullness of their being, so too are men invited to, alongside. And that my goal (and I think the goal of most women I’ve spoken to) is not to have the pendulum swing to the other side toward matriarchy, in order to punish men, but to have the pendulum dangle somewhere in the middle. Where both genders grow toward wholeness by embracing parts of themselves that their sexual counterpart embodies (both the qualities we hate AND love in them!) that the goal, in today’s supposed enlightened age, is to move toward wholeness, rather than goodness and righteous imbalance.
That the very act of life providing two genders to begin with is a call to both genders to become whole ny moving toward their counterpart (and that this applies to same sex couples as well, with the opportunity to claim both their masculine and feminine qualities equally available).
I see the many gifts of my having had such struggles and pain as a young girl in a perceived man’s world. To compensate and survive in that world I grew into all my stereotypically masculine qualities (my assertion, my leadership, my self-reliance, my ability to solve problems in a heartbeat etc). The very same qualities that my father had said I’d gone overboard in were the same qualities that have helped me live my life purpose and survive in the world. And it has become my goal now to get back to a place of balance and choicefulness with regards to which of my masculine or feminine parts I access in any given moment. I am free in this choice now.
I see the fear in both genders and in myself of having to navigate in this new climate of integration, a context in which there are no predetermined, easily defined roles. I see us all as cross-country ski-ers moving into virgin snow with no trail map. I myself prefer the unfamiliar and terrifying promise of wholeness to the familiar and safe fragmentation that is required to continue to play out these rigid and confining roles on this planet.
In no small part due to the love I feel for the most amazing men in my life, I am slowly growing into a feeling of deep gratitude for men and the patriarchal society that compulsively and rebelliously drove me to become all that I am today (although at times, I twitch from the ptsd of it all).
I am grateful for the choicefulness that has come of my journey into the wholeness of claiming both my masculine and feminine qualities. (All of us, doing this in the face of biological and historical predispositions to remaining half the being we were born to be! Kudos to us!) And I am growing into the awareness that my true peace comes from working alongside men as we all journey this unfamiliar terrain. That partnership speaks the real truth about how this all works. And that power struggle and us-vs-them speaks the ultimate lie about how life really works. I know that the feminist movement may have given us a (false?) sense of power. But it did not give us peace. I now see that joining hands with them makes this journey less terrifying, less arduous, and less lonely. And ultimately, a choiceful one, that leads directly to this peace.