Equality. We hear this word quite often in the media today. Although it’s been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States, there is still a lot of effort by various organizations to demonstrate that women are capable of doing whatever men can do. Just this year, the United States Navy promoted its first woman to the rank of Four Star Admiral. There are also 54 women who hold the title of CEO for such major corporations as HP, IBM, Pepsi, and DuPont.
But, while the perspective has shifted about the role of women, so too has it shifted about men. Popular media from morning news talk shows to Oprah and Dr. Phil have promoted the need for men to be more feeling, more caring and more sensitive. Men are taking on more child rearing responsibility and some are choosing to be full time stay-at-home dads. While these shifts in perspectives and roles are allowing many men and women to lead the lives they have always wanted, there has been an unforeseen side effect for many people: tremendous gender role confusion.
It’s not surprising that this confusion exists. With a push for equality between men and women, we have become so focused on being the same that we have neglected to understand how men and women are different. There are of course apparent physical differences such as men being generally bigger and stronger than women. But there are also less obvious differences such as women generally being better communicators and having the ability to understand what others are saying beyond the mere words being said.
Put another way, our pursuit of equality may have caused us to miss a very important point: the differences between most men and women originate not due to their physical attributes but more so from their differences in spiritual energy.
The Yin & Yang framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine explains this energy difference well. Masculine or Yang energy is Active energy. It is the feeling of doing and accomplishing. Feminine or Yin energy is Passive energy. It is the feeling of allowing and flowing. We must realize the importance of each of these aspects in ourselves, our relationships and our surroundings. As an example, if we are always in our masculine/Yang energy, we would never cooperate with others to achieve something. It would be “our way or the highway.” Conversely, if we are always in our female/Yin energy, we would always go along with what others want without ever expressing our need to follow our own path. As with all things in our lives, the truth of what we should do in any given situation requires finding balance between those two extremes.
Biology teaches us that men and women have levels of both the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone estrogen in their bodies. What distinguishes a male from a female in physical form is the level of each these hormones. Similarly, each male and female has a different degree of the Yin & Yang energies. A woman who works to become CEO of a corporation undoubtedly has more masculine energy than a women who desires to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her children. In the same manner, a man who chooses to run a nursing home has more feminine energy than a man who chooses to operate a construction business. Furthermore, there are women and men who have fairly equal amounts of masculine and feminine energy and pursue careers while simultaneously being focused on raising their children. The emphasis on equality has helped us realize that all of these choices are valid and are a decision that should be left to each individual. Nevertheless, that emphasis still puts a lot of societal pressure on individuals to “hold back” their uniqueness and conform to the “new rules.”
Today, few would argue that the “tom boy” female should have the opportunities to pursue the life and career that brings her joy and fulfills her purpose. It is also now more “acceptable” for young males to show interest in what have been traditionally female oriented careers and they should receive the same encouragement. But the pursuit of equality cannot allow us to forget that the reverse is also true. Boys who show interest in becoming “rugged men” should not be discouraged and told that they need to be more like girls and girls who want to focus on their families and children should not be chastised for not focusing on a career for themselves. Essentially, as children grow up, it is crucial that we identify their predominant energy type and encourage them along their individual life path and purpose.
The emphasis on equality and the resulting gender role confusion has caused many men and women today to struggle in their relationships with their partners. Men have been instructed to become someone who is more like a women to be more appealing to women. Women too have been told that they need to become more like men if they want to be “successful” and “worthy” of respect. These reverse stereotypes (as compared to the traditional male and female roles) have made relationships for many men and women extremely complicated; it’s no wonder so many do not know how they are “supposed” to act or who they are “supposed” to be. It has also caused men and women to select partners based upon who should be rather than who is best suited for a relationship with them.
While a “more” feminine woman may appreciate a man who is kind and caring, she loses interest quickly if he does not embrace his masculine energy and “lead” the relationship. So many women have been drawn to the book 50 Shades of Grey because they yearn to experience the strong attraction created when their partner leads the relationship as Christian did. By the same token, a “more” masculine man may find a very assertive woman attractive in the beginning only to become overwhelmed later by what he sees and her nagging and lack of confidence in his ability.
We have to be careful not to try and make ourselves fit into any predefined roles that society has created. Instead we should explore our life path while being true to ourselves so that we attract the relationship that is best suited for us. If we are not aware of nor acting in alignment with who we truly are, we will attract intimate relationships based upon what others (i.e. society, friends, family, religion) believe is “best” for us but which may not be in fact what we truly need or desire.
Looking around at other couples may give us some understanding of what we want, however, that should still not be our final guide. Our true partner is someone who enhances our ability to grow along our life path journey; their energy compliments ours and the two are “more” together than apart. This type of Spiritual Partnership (as described by Gary Zukav) can take many forms. We should celebrate each and every intermingling of two souls with opposite energy polarities, in a way that works for them, without judgement from our own relationship paradigms.
A good example of this is the controversy that emerged after the release of Candice Cameron’s book Balancing it All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose. In the book, Candice mentions how she has taken a more “submissive” role to her husband in their relationship. Even though she spent much time explaining what she meant by that, many people were still upset that she was not acting as a “stronger” woman in her relationship. She was criticized for promoting a relationship that many felt undermined women’s equality. However, for Candice and her husband, nothing could be further from the truth. They have come together and developed a wonderful, happy relationship that has lasted for many years. So why has their relationship been so successful?
Val and Candice understood this simple point: For us to find our best romantic relationships, we must first understand and embrace our personal energy type and look to find a partner that compliments it. If we are primarily masculine/Yang, regardless of whether we have a male or female form, we must act true to ourselves and not try to make ourselves more feminine just to “fit” into the current stereotypes of our society. The same is true for those with primarily feminine/Yin energy. In addition, we must recognize the dominant energy type in each of our children and find ways to help them to develop and grow with it rather than encouraging them to be someone they are not. This is one of the single most important things we can do as parents to help our children have successful, love filled and enduring relationships.
Males and Females are different due to their anatomy; masculine and feminine are different due to their energy. If we are celebrating our differences and the spirit of every individual with love and support, everyone can find the partner they are seeking…who undoubtedly has been seeking them just as vigorously.