It is a word that has incredible powers. You just need to casually drop it into a conversation, and immediately you expose yourself to a litany of insults, regardless of what you actually say about it.
The word in and of itself is enough. It needs no additions. It has been beguiled by some and celebrated by others. It stirs up passions, be they outpourings of rage, or the kindling of newly-found courage. It can move crowds. And it can give hope.
But perhaps, just perhaps, it is time to revisit it. As well as its declinations.
It starts with F, but you’ve guessed it, it is not a 4 letter word. Hold on tightly, perhaps you may even need to sit down. Here it comes:
Since I first dared utter this word, I was advised to banish it from my vocabulary. It would be bad for my image. It would expose me to criticism. It was outmoded. Only angry white women fighting for equality in the late 60s were entitled to use it. Those were the arguments.
I had even thought about describing my blog as an eco-feminist exploration into the nature of reality, but my close circle rose up in arms against it.
Fascinating, isn’t it? How many words do you know that have that kind of power? That kind of “please don’t” knee-jerk reaction against it? If you think I’m exaggerating, try declaring yourself a feminist. And you’ll see for yourself.
Yet, far from discouraging me, all this excitement around a harmless word simply prompted me to look deeper. To understand it better. And ultimately cleanse it from the countless projections and fears thrown at it from all sides.
To be or not to be a Feminist
Feminism is, very simply, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Seems pretty reasonable, don’t you think? Something most people should be able to identify with. Why is it such a problem?
Perhaps because, as I explain in detail in my TEDx talk, our deepest beliefs may not match what we want to believe. In other words, we may have subconscious biases that contradict the ideals of equality we think we stand for…
Perhaps because feminism also refers to “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”, which has often been interpreted and experienced by many as not being on behalf of women, but rather against something else – against men, mostly.
Thus we have an explosive mix. A word that forces us to confront the mismatch between our ideals and our biases. A word that calls into question our role and identity, as women and men in a changing society. A word that triggers our deep-seated fears and feelings of inadequacy. In short, a word that makes us feel very uncomfortable.
So… what should we do with this wasp’s nest? One option is, of course, to face our discomfort…
Another somewhat easier solution is to shift our focus. To move our attention from the external aspects of equality to the internal reflection thereof, namely the feminine and masculine aspects of our being.
The Sacred Feminine
So let’s talk about the word feminine. And let’s be clear about this: feminine is not the same as feminism. Feminine does not mean: a woman. Indeed, feminine does not refer to women exclusively.
The feminine, and we could even go further and talk about the sacred feminine refers to a certain quality of existence. A facet of our being, which I describe at length in my recent online talk.
Pragmatically speaking, the feminine is our intuition, our empathy, our capacity to feel and connect with life. It is our capacity to bring new life into the world, literally or metaphorically. And that is why it is sacred.
The reason we need to talk about the feminine is because we have collectively neglected and undervalued that part of our being, at best. Suppressed and beaten it out of existence, at worst.
I invite you to think about what the feminine means to you, in your life. What is your relationship to it? How can you connect with that aspect of your being?
By talking about the feminine, we shift the dialogue onto something that is relevant to each and every one of us, as human beings. The ultimate purpose being to explore what it means to be a human being, and to find and embody the inner balance we wish to project out in the world.