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October 19, 2018

1/24/2018 3:10:00 PM
Room for a View: the Masculine/Feminine Self
By Charles Wilkinson

#MeToo. The voice right now may belong to women but the larger problem belongs to all of us, a problem that is biblical in its roots, even earlier. The stereotypes of Adam and Eve in Genesis continue to this day. They may be a giant step beyond the Neanderthals but male dominance is a consistent thread if not theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Can we ever solve the problems which that attitude creates and encourages?

To begin to do so we need to realize that down the ages our sexual misconduct (too nice a word) is merely a symptom of what is wrong in our thinking. The belief that we are all created equal, not alike or the same requires respect for one another; and a mature acceptance rather than the myopic abuse of our differences. Our culture’s fixation on sex, the distortions of its purpose and meaning, creates and feeds an attitude that degrades us all. Thus the problem lays in all of us; but so does its solution.

Psychologically, in every person there is a masculine and feminine self. From birth we are taught, based on physical differences, what it means to be one or the other – baby boy blue, baby girl pink for starters. From early childhood on expectations for boys and girls are very different: dolls and homemaking skills versus boy toys and career tools. Simple enough until one’s person emerges on the continuum of human complexities. From macho man to girly girl and everyone in between, we need to respect both our own and every other person’s differences. It is easier to respect in others what we know and respect in ourselves, realizing that respect begins with acceptance.

The most masculine among us (competitive, aggressive) have a feminine side, the most feminine (sensitive, nurturing) a masculine side, and all in between a masculine/feminine self.  Therein lays the potential to confront the perennial problem of sexual harassment and abuse. But obviously and unfortunately there will be no quick fix.

As noted earlier, male dominance and female submission (conditioning, intimidation, fear, need to please) have a long history, possibly longer than racism. Like racism, sexism is a power-based aberration. True power is shared power, which few, especially the powerful, realize.

#MeToo is the latest shout-out from women for their fair share of power over their own lives. They are too slowly finding voice to claim equality, as everyone deserves (on many levels), despite differences. Power abuses when it exploits differences rather than respects them. The awareness of one’s masculine/feminine self makes possible that this and other shout-outs will be heard if we can understand the psychology of the whole person.

But change will continue to take time. Confronting and undoing the long history of sexism and its abuses, like racism, require first of all personal enlightenment, then individuals coming together to claim their share of the power that is their birthright. That is what today’s #MeToo is ultimately all about.

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