A HUGE Thank you to Bob Russo, a loyal reader of this blog in whom I have found a kindred spirit and spiritual brother and friend. Below is Bob’s beautifully articulated response to my recent blogs inviting the men to speak to the ongoing question of gender roles and how we understand the flow of the masculine and feminine within us. Bob beautifully speaks what I could only hope to have the words to say. THANK YOU BOB! Following Bob’s words is my own response (warning: transparency and feeling alert):
I have been meaning to respond to your article on “Inviting Men to Join Us”. So, it feels good to finally get around to it. I tried to post this on your blog but was unable to. Hope you had a relaxing Thanksgiving.
My response may come across as “politically incorrect”. But, my intention is not to be insensitive to anyone but speak from my heart. And, I don’t claim that what I am about to write is correct – but only as I have perceived things over the years.
IMO, both the feminine and male energies are being compromised by the current attitude that exists in America. The women’s movement in the early 1970s was an effort by women to gain recognition for the gifts they have and can contribute in a male-dominated society. It was a comprehensive effort by women to gain the recognition and equality as human beings that they deserve, and an effort to assert control over their own lives.
Unfortunately, this movement encouraged women to become more “masculine” in order to be accepted in a “man’s” world. And in so doing, many of the graceful feminine qualities that are uniquely part of a woman’s makeup have been significantly discounted. Some of the qualities that I am referring to are motherhood, nurturing, protection (of children), intuition, feelings, space, receptivity, inwardness, softness, communication, compassion, and so on. I’m not saying that these qualities are only in women, no. But, it is my belief that they are more pronounced in women than men.
Regarding men, the current attitude in our society as to what it means to “be a man” has undermined the male energy as well. Society often equates “manhood” with such qualities as aggressiveness, overwork, materialism, strong egos, and war. This has caused a lot of confusion and disruption for many men today who are trying to find their place in this chaotic world. What’s been lost in this definition of manhood are many of the positive inherent qualities in men such as protection (of the feminine and family), provider, warmth, giving, consistency, vision, clarity, activity, analytical, and so on. Again, most women share many of these qualities with men. But IMO, they are more naturally a part of a man’s makeup than a woman’s.
We are witnessing a breakdown of both the masculine and feminine energy in our society, and consequently a major collapse of the family unit. Women are no longer honored for being mothers or care givers, for example, but are given high strokes when they are CEOs of a large firm or working 12 hours a day along-side their male co-workers. And, men are no longer praised for being good providers and consistent in their lives but given strokes for being more feminine and passive, or at the opposite extreme, for being aggressive and survivors of war. No wonder we’re so confused and messed up. We can only deny our inherent nature for so long.
As you know, each of us is comprised of both feminine and male qualities. It is this integration that make us the unique person we are. We become a fully-functioning man or woman when these qualities exist within us in a balanced way. As a man, I need to know when to hit the gas or put on the brakes. My long-term vision in combination with my wife’s intuition have provided us with a reliable road map during our marriage. When the natural qualities of both sexes work together, good things happen. It’s that simple! But, when they are out-of-balance or one dominates the other, like we are witnessing today, suffering and war result.
Bob, YES YES YES YES YES! You eloquently articulate the feelings that are living in my heart, that have been part of my own lived experience and exist in my deep inner knowing. Thank you for speaking what I could not find the words to express. This is one of the many reasons I appreciate your presence so much in my life! Thank you!
As for being “politically incorrect,” the world in which we are currently living is humanly incorrect and our politics simply support this incorrectness. Our job as prophets is to shine the light on what is no longer working so that something new may come into being. We need to speak our truth for this to occur….so speak away!!!!!! (Besides, I don’t find your words to be politically incorrect in the least, in fact they reflect a politic we SHOULD be embracing – IMO).
At the risk of being “politically incorrect” myself, I want to speak to what you wrote from my own lived experience. When you speak of the devaluing of what have traditionally been considered the inherent gifts and calling of women, I agree there seems to be a correlation of this devaluing to the women’s movement. I have often said that while the women’s movement was necessary (critical, in fact), there has been a damaging effect on both women and men because of it – for exactly the reasons you stated. In my own lived experience, I have really struggled with this. My deepest drive is to love, nurture, care for, heal, support, build connections, teach and form – tasks we traditionally associate with the feminine. I have lived this out professionally and most joyfully in my role as a mother. But NEVER have these gifts been valued. Neither have the masculine traits that reside within me.
First, we live in a culture that doesn’t value the work I do. I have been expected to do this work for free and criticized for daring to charge for the services “their priest gives them for free.” Because of the structure of our society, most people don’t see value in the inner work of coming to know themselves. Instead they would rather spend their money on things. When in the Church I was condemned for daring to think for myself, stand up for my truth and for not being silent and obedient (the expected feminine role). In my marriage none of what I did in my role as mother, running a household, managing two businesses, taking care of the details of medical appointments, bookkeeping, etc. etc. etc. was valued – it was simply assumed that I would and should do it because it was my job as “the wife.” When I asked for help I was told, “It doesn’t bother me. If it bothers you, you do it.” While doing all of this I was also expected to be provider but the work I did outside of the home wasn’t a “real job,” and therefore had no value and neither did the money I brought home from that job. To say that I felt resentment for not being valued would be an understatement. (I have a deep scar on my forehead showing the effects of resentment not tended to.) Now as a divorced, single, working mother of two, I find I have to do all of it and quite frankly I am frickin EXHAUSTED. I am finding I can’t do it all and I don’t want to do it all!!!!!
I know I am not alone in this. The current structure of our society does not value the inherently feminine as you so eloquently described: motherhood, nurturing, protection (of children), intuition, feelings, space, receptivity, inwardness, softness, communication, compassion, and so on. Neither does our culture seem to value the masculine as it resides within women. As a woman, I long for the feminine and for the traditionally masculine qualities I embody (courage, strength, risk taking, independence, etc.) to be valued. At the same time, having to take on too much of the masculine qualities (provision, protection, etc.) is killing me. It works against my nature. It has caused me harm. When I am too much in the driving, striving, trying to succeed mode, I become ill. So I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place – longing to fulfill the feminine longings within me while exercising meaningful and fulfilling work in a healthy and balanced way that does not do harm to myself, while trying to provide for myself and my children. UGH! The cost of caring for myself in a disasterously dysfunctional and imbalanced world has been staggering.
And I feel for the men – for exactly the reasons you stated:
the current attitude in our society as to what it means to “be a man” has undermined the male energy as well. Society often equates “manhood” with such qualities as aggressiveness, overwork, materialism, strong egos, and war. This has caused a lot of confusion and disruption for many men today who are trying to find their place in this chaotic world. What’s been lost in this definition of manhood are many of the positive inherent qualities in men such as protection (of the feminine and family), provider, warmth, giving, consistency, vision, clarity, activity, analytical, and so on.
I have also seen the demonization of what we have been conditioned to think of as feminine in men – nurturing, caring, giving, healing, intuitive, etc. I believe this demonizing has done great harm to men and caused them to ignore or suppress these traits as they find them within themselves. I have seen the inner struggle this creates in men, especially in those who have been raised to be “manly men.” This makes me sad. We are clearly in need of a cultural overhaul…the likes of which we have never known!
As much as our culture wants us to believe we can and should be able to do it on our own…..WE CANNOT. As much as our culture says that women and men should be able to do the same things and be equal in them, we cannot if we want to be healthy. Looking at the current state of our culture we are anything but healthy. We are doing a terrible disservice to ourselves and to each other in the values we have embraced as a culture and quite frankly, it is killing us. Something’s got to give!
Or rather, everything’s got to give! Every single way in which we have defined ourselves as a culture is currently up for evaluation – IMO, especially how we know ourselves. I believe that in order to arrive at a healthier balance within our culture we first have to come to know ourselves. As it relates to the masculine and feminine we need to come to know how those qualities are present within us and how those qualities are helping or harming us. In order to do this we need to be REALLY HONEST with ourselves. Are we (male or female) called to be provider and protector? Are we (male or female) called to receive, allow, nurture, etc? How are we called to do these things in a way that is healthy and supportive for ourselves and for those around us? In this, it is not about male or female, masculine or feminine, it is about understanding what is unique within us as human beings, owning and valuing it…..both for ourselves and for others. Maybe in doing this for ourselves we will begin to see the transformation in our culture that many of us long for. And Oh My God…on some days it is sooo hard trying to live ahead of the curve. 😉
I know this doesn’t even scratch the tip of the iceberg of the healing we need in our culture and in our world……and THANK YOU Bob for your beautiful contribution to this conversation. As ever it is unfolding.