Author: Nicola Darke
I’m done with patriarchy and I’m done with matriarchy. Can we please co-lead? In order to do this, we need to accept the difference between masculine and feminine approaches, and that they complement each other. We’ll also need to accept that we all have work to do on being our most authentic and empowered selves.
Despite all the investment and posturing, a lot of people are currently unwilling to accept these differences. In addition, there has been an abandonment of the feminine from both men and women. Society has pushed us to lose track of the beautiful and innate qualities we each have and encouraged us into one end of the spectrum.
Whilst we’re willing to hire more women, we’re still not encouraging feminine qualities at work. There are focussed efforts to hire into senior positions, to show we are working on reducing gender disparity (call me cynical), and an acknowledgement that broader diversity improves innovation and revenue. We might even accommodate feminine function with, for example, lactation rooms, but the diversity and inclusion model is broken because we’re not really working on the cultural makeup. Having women present is one thing, seeing feminine attributes as positive is another.
The somewhat cut throat drive for power, money and ‘success’ has pushed us into the ‘wounded masculine’.
What is this? Well, there are lots of conversations about ‘toxic masculinity’ at the moment (just search engine it for news items). I prefer to call it wounded or disconnected masculine because it helps bring more understanding to the topic. Judgement laden labels aren’t helpful and lack understanding, without which we can’t learn or shift things. There is also confusion over what toxic/wounded/disconnected masculinity is. Furthermore, little is said about how the lack of women embodying their empowered feminine helps to perpetuate this in society. Little is also said about how men and women have both masculine and feminine energies within them. And finally, almost nothing is said about how we fix this; about the work we all have to do for each of us to stand in our own self-sovereignty of empowered masculine and feminine – whether you are a man or a woman embodying more of one or the other, or trying to balance them within yourself.
So, to be positive and know what we are aiming for, let’s start with the empowered side of things, shall we?
- The healed and empowered masculine qualities include those of consciousness, leadership, holding space, providing structure, planning, assertiveness, right action, supporting and coaching, and penetration.
- The healed and empowered feminine qualities include those of embodied wisdom, owning and processing emotion to articulate and use it, sensuality and feeling, receptivity, vibrancy and creative juice, empathy and nurturing, connection to wild nature/energy.
Not everyone will like reading that but tough. The biological epitomisation of this is the sperm and the ovum. And as a reminder, you can have both attributes within you. These polarities are present in centuries of eastern philosophy and yogic teachings that ripple through many cultures. Indeed this polarity is as old as the universe itself – they are two necessary halves of the whole, equal and complementary forces. The reason why we have the conversation about equality, that we have women’s groups, forums, clubs etc all talking about how women can thrive in the workplace, is because there has been an abandonment of the empowered feminine from both men and women.
Now don’t get me wrong, over the centuries people have fought for women’s rights to reduce and remove many injustices. But along the way we’ve taken some wrong turns – no blame, it happens, we’re human. As such, sadly, a lot of the narrative – indeed sometimes fed from the misinterpretations of various waves of feminism (i.e. ‘second wave’ proclaiming women don’t need a man) – has not been about embracing the feminine, and in a quest for ‘equality’ women have taken on the task of trying to become the man. To win at someone else’s game rather than stand in our own uniqueness. In so doing, we’ve censored ourselves from being all we can be, and from sharing our empowered femininity. The reasons why there is so much prickliness and difficulty in dealing with this issue are, unsurprisingly; because some men feel threatened that women are taking on their attributes and not softening into their femininity – which the masculine will likely intuitively think they should be in; and that many women are not feeling comfortable in their own skin or being who they truly are by trying to be the man.
Women learning to develop their masculine side well is a fantastic thing, but most women, when they swing too far down the masculine spectrum, are not being all of their authentic selves. They’re missing their femininity. Neither are they then using all the, quite frankly epic, skills and capabilities that women have when in their true empowered feminine. Their creative energy and power to drive things forward with passion rather than fear or force, focus on building connection and community (with customers, employees and partners), sensitivity and insight to situations needing to be navigated, a feeling of juice and vibrancy in the workplace, are to name a few which would benefit corporate culture.
So how do we pick this apart and what am I talking about?
Well, that brings me to the double rub of all this, which is that the masculine that most women embody, and indeed the masculine that a lot of men embody, is not the empowered and healed version of masculinity, but in fact the wounded, disconnected version. So there are women out there complaining about toxic/wounded/disconnected masculinity in society, all the while trying to be it. Ouch. What does this look like?
- The wounded, disconnected masculine has qualities of avoidance, compartmentalisation, control and ‘power over’, rigidity, immediate gratification/short sightedness, being judgemental, righteousness, selfishness/greed etc.
See this at play in our society? See it at play at work? Spoiler alert – do you see this as a barrier to innovation and adaptability? Or how years of these qualities layering on each other could lead to the financial collapse of 2007/8. Ah, how an empowered feminine and masculine would have avoided that one. How about how we treat our planet?
What this looks like is men and women not being able to hold or process their own emotions – to be in their own empowered feminine – but to ignore, avoid and push them away. To do all those things I’ve just listed. This plays out as judgement of emotion in the workplace. Embarrassment from someone who cries and then a labelling of them as weak. Women judge other women for being feminine, for not being hard enough. I’ve heard it from the mouths of women in those environments, “I don’t want to be seen as being a baby”, “ugh, I guess I just need to man up”. It’s a complete denial and squashing of the empowered feminine. Furthermore, this is encouraged through what we reward at work. Those women know (subconsciously or consciously) that to advance they must ‘act tough’ and fight to get to the top, or take on roles which require more masculine traits. They are the ones rewarded with pay and voice heard.
We are hiring more women and then rewarding them for being masculine. What an abandonment of women and femininity that is.
This is hugely problematic and we have such a big journey ahead of us because we are so out of touch with how to own this within us that we have to move through a number of stages in order to get there. If men are in wounded masculine mode, they need to step themselves back into their empowered masculinity. Their home of self sovereignty where they can hold space and create structure for the feminine in women to heal, and to boot, where they can hold space for their own feminine to heal. Returning to my initial statement that ‘toxic masculinity’ is misunderstood – those anger outbursts from men are not wounded masculine but in fact wounded feminine.
- The wounded feminine has qualities of emotional flooding and volatility, lacking in self responsibility, insecurity, martyrdom, manipulative, clingy, obsessive, critical. You all know those.
Here, women can help men by setting the example of being in their empowered feminine. If we want men to be in their empowered masculinity women must also be able to set a good example of empowered femininity. It’s a ‘chicken or egg’ situation.
This journey home is tough for both men and women. Women need to step themselves out of the wounded masculine, they are then likely to move into their wounded feminine before being able to step back into their self sovereignty of empowered feminine. Because most people, men and women, have not been well equipped to hold, process and own their emotions. The minute emotion raises its head we all jump into our wounded masculine – avoidance, control and judgement. Men and women often don’t like women crying in the workplace because it’s a signifier/trigger of their own ‘soft spot’, their own feminine they’ve not learnt to integrate into themselves. Imagine the improvement in relationships and performance if we brought compassion instead.
It’s a big step, but a very necessary one, to just accept emotion, for our empowered masculine to hold space for it and let it roll through. Then for the empowered masculine to bring structure and support for it to heal and shift into being integrated by the individual – who can then own the emotion and not be overwhelmed by it but rather use it to more deeply understand a situation and themselves in order to better act. Emotion is an incredibly rich source of information and a teacher. In the workplace this is critical. This is where we shift out of being reactive to responsive. This is where we move ourselves from old behaviour patterns to new ones – by equipping people to better understand their own beliefs, assumptions, past experiences and how they communicate (key influencers of culture). This is critical to how we meet change, adapt and create the future of work and society. This is where Instinctive Meditation can play a huge role (but that’s another article), differing from mindfulness, or any other approach which doesn’t encourage emotion or integration.
So this might be a relief to those who think ‘when you’re being a hard bitch we’re not allowed to question you because it’s seen as quashing women’, or ‘you can’t be crying one minute then a tough bitch the next’. Because the goal is not to be a ‘tough bitch’, but a firm and nice person. To stay connected to self, others and your values.
Likewise, for men, you cannot then set the example of ruthless, aggressive leadership and expect women to feel safe enough to be feminine, or not to follow your example and become the ‘tough bitch’. The ruthless business mentality of wanting to ‘kill’ the opposition is what women have learnt to do from your example. In the same breath, women can’t be critical of men crying at work who want to learn how to heal and hold their own feminine. Instead, encourage men to use their feminine skills to foster deeper understanding in business relationships.
Can we do this in the workplace? Can we be allowing and accepting of each other? Radical and deep self awareness which goes far beyond mindfulness or sensitivity training. No ‘doing a training session but then criticising it and other people by the water cooler’, but conversations to hold space and practice, to have gratitude for each other. It calls for unification across men and women to inhabit their own self sovereignty, not to encourage disconnected/wounded masculine or feminine behaviours as the norm, but see them as part of a growth and healing process to return to our empowered selves. Can you see how hugely powerful it would be to pair the massive creative energy of the empowered feminine with the structure of the empowered masculine? I remind you of sperm and ovum – a powerful combo. And simply, how about we just let people be their authentic selves? To come back to my title, the greatest gift a man can give to himself and to a woman is his empowered masculine – to hold space for femininity to find its feet.
So, is crying at work the new normal? It would be different, progressive, even innovative to not see it as a problem, and it would speed up the process of getting us all to self sovereignty.
As a woman who has ‘been the wounded man’ and has done and will continue to do the work to heal, I know the journey and how it impacts on your performance, wellbeing and relationships. If you want to explore this one on one or look at workshops for groups, and/or explore instinctive meditation, please reach out. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is an increasing focus on diversity and equality at the moment. We have to remove the blame laden ‘toxic masculinity’ narrative, and we have to empower the feminine. I’m here to move the dialogue toward one of self responsibility and authenticity, which we all need to work on if we’re to get the shift we need. The way through is for us all to acknowledge we are all a work in progress and take action.