We Westerners have made unprecedented progress in our attitudes toward gender over the past fifty years and we’d like to believe we’ve overcome the old stereotypes and double standards. Some of us have, but we all know that prejudice against women and feminine qualities is still with us — even if kept mostly undercover. This is especially true in male-dominated fields like the military, upper echelons of certain businesses, and some professional sports. Why do so many people, male and female alike, still devalue femininity? Why do so many women still fear to act on our differing values and stand firm on our personal truths?
As you might guess, I have a psychological theory about this. For millennia we humans followed our natural drives and instincts and were as unconscious as any other mammal on the planet. But at some point we became aware of ourselves as separate from others and the world around us. We didn’t just exist. We knew we existed. Moreover, we knew we would die. Our self-awareness marked the birth of the ego, the thing which makes us different from other animals.
Once the ego stepped out of the maternal womb something radical happened: instead of behaving instinctively our egos began to choose how we wanted to act. We cemented our separation from the natural world by choosing to identify with our minds and the masculine principle of clear-thinking, upward-striving and forward-moving. And while we obsessed over all the magnificent philosophical and theological edifices we erected to justify our preferences, we anxiously tried to repress as much of the feminine principle — and the women who reminded us of it — as we could, including physical and emotional receptivity and intimacy with our bodies, each other, and the physical world. Since then we’ve never looked back. Why? Because from the ego’s newly conscious perspective, the feminine matrix from which it emerged felt like a regression into darkness, the void, and the big D: DEATH!
With no idea of what we’ve done to ourselves or why, the egos of both genders have identified primarily with left-brained qualities ever since because they help us make distinctions between ourselves and the rest of the world and allow us to believe we are invincible, in control, and eternal. Meanwhile, we have lumped together all our right-brained qualities with our instincts, emotions, and so-called feminine values, tossed them all in a box labeled “Danger: Do Not Open,” and stowed them away in the farthest caverns of our collective unconscious. Understandably, after thousands of years of glorifying the masculine ego and repressing the feminine unconscious, we still have difficulty understanding and valuing our feminine sides.
The only problem with femininity is that our egos don’t understand it yet! Moreover, we don’t want to because that would require us to explore the unconscious and face our worst fears. While there have always been a few rare authentic spirit persons who opened to their non-egoic selves, the degree of consciousness most of our species has acquired through the ages is very small compared to the expanded awareness of which we are capable. This is why I keep writing about the ego. We need more self-knowledge because our ego’s ignorance and fear is the true source of our problems — not only those related to gender, but all of them.
Isn’t it time we evolved past egocentricism into integration? A divided psyche cannot build a united world.