What is Masculine and Feminine?

Instead of thinking of masculine and feminine as some gender stereotypes, I like to think of them as energies like in the yin and yang principle.
The yin and yang is a concept in taoism, that attribiutes certain aspects to the yin and others to the yang. They are not apart from one another, but interdependent. In every yin there is a yang, and in every yang is a yin aspect of it.

Attributed to the feminine energy, the yin;

  • The moon (little side note; Just like a womens menstrual cycle, when regular, the moon has a 28 day cycle). Many women have their period around new moon and ovulate around Full Moon. There is also women who their period around full moon, we call them red moon women, it is said that they are healers and have special psychic abilities. I started paying attention to it a couple of years ago and am very fascinated on how my mood and energy really is in tune with the moon.)
  • night
  • cold
  • passive
  • receptive
  • softness
  • stillness
  • earth

Attributed to the masculine energy, the yang;

  • Action
  • Day
  • Sun
  • Heat
  • Fast
  • Dryness

In traditional chinese medicine, the yin and yang are also associated with certain bodily functions and parts of our bodies, so the heart and the liver are part of the yin, wheread the large intestines and gall bladders are part of the yang.
Who is interested in more details about TCM and the yin and yang in (psycho)therapy can read more about it in the wonderful book „Dancing with Yin&Yang“ by John Chitty.
Important to remember is that everything is in interplay and always changing. In TCM the belief is, that when energy is stuck and moving is restricted, is when illness is caused. The goal is to keep the movement going and work with the elements in interplay.
“The motion of yin/yang is a circular one – more a spiraling one – ever changing between one phase and the other. As yin fulfills itself, inherent within it are the seeds of yang, and visa versa.”
– Rodney L. Taylor.

Shiva and Shakti – another interpretation of the masculine and feminine energy

We find feminine and masculine energies also in Yoga and Tantra. Here it is called Shiva and Shakti.
Shakti (also Prakriti) is the feminine aspect and is energy, power, movement and change and nature.  Shakti is associated with our left side. In Yoga, when we do Pranayama (breathing exercises), we start breathing in on our left side, which is the receiving side.
Shakti is the Divine Mother of Creation.
Shiva -also called Purusha- is the masculine aspect and is pure consciousness.
The whole cosmos, unchanging and unlimited, is Shiva.
It is direction, purpose, awareness and freedom.
Shiva, as pure consciousness is empty and pure potential. Only with Shakti, who is creativity and fludity, “he” can be awakened.
Therefore, Shiva might be seen as the container and Shakti as the Fluid. One without the other is not complete.
This is just a very, very brief summary on Shiva and Shakti. In Yoga and Tantra, Shiva and Shakti are God and Goddess energies manifesting in many forms;
for example are Durga, Kali and Parvati manfiestations of the Shakti Goddess. These Goddesses are completely differnt to one another, they might be fierce, loving and/or nurturing and show how versatile the aspects of the Godly in the Hindu traditions are.
I will dedicate the Shakti aspects a different article since there is so much to talk about.
When I work with Goddess energies, I feel myself empowering without limitations. It feels so nourishing to allow all aspects of a Goddess, also the cruel parts, to manifest themselves.
Who is interest in deeper understanding of Yogic and Tantric philosophy might want to check out one of these Books:
Tantra Illuminated
Light on Yoga
Light on Life ; both by B.K.S. Iyengar

Masculine and Feminine does not translate to male and female

When we think of masculine and feminine, we sometimes run into gender stereotypes.
In an article I have posted on Medium (read it here), regarding „toxic femininity“, I have raised the question on what „femininity“ in fact is. There is no general definition on femininity we could apply that would help us to interpret feminine behaviour on women.
When speaking of toxic masculinity, we generally have a good idea on what this is;  aggressive behavior that is harming others. The yang principle agrees on this point. Active and aggressive is part of the masculine attribute.
When speaking of „femininity“, the picture is not so clear and oftentimes we use the words women and femininity interchangeably.
This generalization is flawed.
Women can be aggressive, yet it is not „feminine“. We would not say a woman is toxicly feminine when she is aggressive and speaks out for herself. Instead, she is in her yang elements. We may call her a „bitch“, because she does not apply by a gender stereotype in which women are expected to be caring and passive. Not expected to speak out for themselves.
Oh darling, they do. Women can be in their yang and oftentimes are in their yang, since society values the active yang characteristics more than the yin part.
We really need to make a difference when we talk about women and femininity.
This does not mean that women being in their masculine behavior are not women anymore; again, it is about the energies that we all have within ourselves.
So, when we think about feminity, we think about receptivity, nourishing and compassion. These are yin attributes.
When these feminine characteristics are excessive in a woman, they may turn into harming oneself.
A commentator on my Medium Blogpost has made an excellent evaluation;
Women with excessive yin tend to forgive unacceptable behavior of another person, they have the tendency to not cut strings when necessary. They make themselves vulnerable when strength is needed.
This is toxic femininity.
Having said that; There are men with excessive yin who do the same things. They let others hurt themselves. We do not call it „toxic masculinity“ though.
Neither is an aggressive and dominant woman a „toxic feminine“.
There are toxic people, everywhere in the world. That is why we need to be careful with attributes as feminine and masculine. And that is why we need a general and consensual interpretation of these attributes.

Speaking of toxic masculinity and the patriarchy

For thousands of years, there has been a huge emphasis on yang attributes and the yin principle got nearly eradicated. Just thing on the beginning of a Christian prayer „In the name of the father, the son and the holy Ghost“.
Well, I would dare to say that Mother Mary deserves a mention in here, too, no?
Or think of the burning of the witches in the medieval times. Victims were almost only women, oftentimes healers (nurses or midwifes) or independent women without a husband, sometimes old women.
Women have become attacked for their powerful female attributes. For their intuition, their wisdom and their ability to heal. But we do not even need to stay in the medieval times, a quick look to Afghanistan and other countries shows how the feminine is neglected and under attack.
That is patriarchy abusing its power, manifesting in raw violence.
Some might not want to hear the words toxic masculinity and patriarchy – I am one of them by the way.
But we need to address this construct and break it down to what it really is; It is a societal construct harming both men and women at the same time.
Patriarchy should not turn into some form of „men bashing“, instead, there is many women keeping this construct very much alive.
In a fatal manner, think of the Epstein Island and the female Pimp contributing to this cruelty (by the way, no one ever found guilty any of the men visiting this island…)
In more subtlety; Our Grandmothers may, unknowingly, contribute to this construct by telling us as little children that we may „serve our husband“. Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong in „serving“, and in a loving relationship, we hopefully find ourselves serve our partners with all the love we have to give. The problem only arises when our men are not being taught the same values by their grandmothers. If instead they learn to compete and be tough but not caring and loving.
This emphasis on the yang characteristics hurts men, too.
It hurts the yin and yang in the microcosmos of a man, and it hurts the yin and yang as an interplay of the macrocosmos; our relationship between humans of different genders.

“Yin and yang, male and female, strong and weak, rigid and tender, heaven and earth, light and darkness, thunder and lightning, cold and warmth, good and evil… the interplay of opposite principles constitutes the universe.”
– Confucius.

How to find Balance

Balance takes time and we will often find ourselves switching from masculine to feminine energies in extreme shapes and forms. That is totally fine and part of the process.
Just like the seasons; summer, autumn, spring and winter are switching and have more yin or yang – the energies within us will rarely be in total Balance.
In my next article I will introduce you to some of the techniques for balancing out excessive yang energies.

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