The Feminine Corollary
Continued from Part 1 of the Masculinity Revelation series
A solid definition of masculinity goes a long way to helping men live masculine lives. Men are only half of humanity though. How does the other half define their lives? What is femininity?
I Don’t Know Much About Femininity, But I Know What I Like
You don’t need a degree in women’s studies, psychology or anthropology to understand femininity. Femininity might be difficult to pin down, but people tend to recognize it without a formal definition.
It’s common to view femininity as the “opposite” of masculinity. But if masculinity is mastery, what is masculinity’s opposite? To explore that, we have to explore the meaning of “opposite”. Seriously.
Understanding Complementary Opposites
Western society has a scientific view of the world, a strictly logical view. This strictly logical view can lead to some flawed outcomes. In one view, if a thing with the simple name, A, has an opposite thing, named B, then we can say that B is “not A”. If we combine B and A, we’re combining A and (not A) and the logical result is null, or nothing. A and (not A) negate each other. This is fine in the pure world of mathematics, but this is a flawed result in the real world of people, ideas and concepts. It’s easy to say that (-1) + 1 = 0, but what cancels out love? Is it hate? What cancels out happiness? Is it sadness? Does femininity cancel out masculinity? Some people actually believe this.
Eastern philosophies have embraced a different view of the world, a much more flexible and sensible view. Eastern societies seem to be more comfortable dealing with flexible views. Some definitions are different from the mathematical / scientific definitions. One example from Eastern philosophy is the Dao, or the yin-yang symbol. I talk about it here. Yin and yang are complementary opposites. They do not negate each other; they do not cancel each other out. They are different from each other, yet they fit together, complement each other and form a perfect whole. Where the yang is small, the yin fills in the space, Where the yin is small, the yang fills the space. They both carry some of the other inside themselves.
The Dao, the way of the universe, is defined by the interaction of the two, to create one-ness. Without both, there is no unity of Dao.
Masculinity and femininity are examples of yang and yin, the complementary opposites that interact to create a whole of human relationships. Without both, there is no human society.
From the previous article:
“Using the concept of complementary opposites, masculinity exists in relationship to femininity; femininity exists in relationship to masculinity. We can only understand the concept of masculinity when it is compared to femininity, and understand femininity when it is compared to masculinity. “
Masculinity and femininity do not cancel each other out; that’s an embarrassingly flawed view of the world. Instead, consider this view: where masculinity is weak, femininity fills the gap. Where femininity is weak, masculinity fills in the gap. Both carry some of the other within themselves. This is the postulate behind the rheteric.com interpretations of femininity and masculinity.
The “Opposite” of Masculinity
Because both femininity and masculinity are intimately related, a person can find one by studying the other, It doesn’t matter which one is the starting point. This explanation started with masculinity, because these articles are oriented towards men. Defining femininity begs the question, “What is the opposite of masculinity?” As tempting as that is, that’s the wrong question.
An alternate question is much more enlightened: What is different from masculinity, yet fills in the gaps of masculinity to finish creating a whole? If masculinity is weak in one area, what balances masculinity in complementary areas?
The conclusion from part one is that masculinity is about mastery, or making stuff happen. Instead of “making”, femininity would be about allowing, experiencing and encouraging.
Instead of “stuff”, inanimate things, or impersonal goals, femininity would be about people and experiences.
Instead of “happening”, femininity would be about experiencing what already exists.
Instead of the non-emotional, externally motivated actions and “stuff” that masculinity revolves around, femininity would be less goal oriented. Femininity would revolve around connections, feelings and emotions.
Femininity complements the weak parts of masculinity by creating and sharing emotional experiences with other people to allow, or nurture, people to grow.
As Doctor Glover would say,
Femininity equals loving connection.
How to be Feminine
If you want to express femininity, you need to be the reflection of masculinity. In order to express your femininity, you first need to learn how to create connections and experiences. You need to embody loving connections and emotional experiences.
Addendum May 2018
As I discussed in the addendum to the prior article on masculinity, people often balk at this equality relationship. I can see where this is confusing for them. It might be better to say that femininity is strongly linked to loving connection, but loving connection is loosely linked to femininity. As we’ll see later, loving connection is not restricted to femininity.
The feminine is expressed by making connections and establishing relationships with other people. No, this not simply sharing business cards or phone numbers. A person makes connections by establishing common ground with other people, through shared experiences, shared knowledge and shared needs. People make connections by helping and nurturing each other in common areas of experience.
Acceptance of Others
A person can’t make connections with others unless he or she chooses to accept the other person for who they are. Connection isn’t a matter of changing people (that’s a masculine approach to making stuff happen.) Connection is nonjudgmental and allows people to continue to be themselves.
Acceptance of Many Outcomes
When a person is nonjudgmental, the person doesn’t try to move the relationship into a specific direction. The person expressing femininity is willing to acknowledge and accept whatever comes about from a relationship.
Flowing a Path Around Difficulties
A feminine approach to dealing with difficulties is not to break through them, but to flow around them. When difficulties arise, the feminine approach is not to hammer out a solution to the problem, but to accept the problem for what it is and find other ways around the difficulties.
Sharing and nurturing are key to femininity. A person expressing femininity actively seeks advice from the other people they have relationships with. For example, mentoring is a feminine activity, no matter which sex is involved.
Who are the Feminine Role Models?
Being a guy, I don’t know the feminine role models in society. Instead, I turned to Google to see what the master of search could come up with. First, Google tried to switch the search to female role models. Sorry, no. I want to learn about femininity, not females. After making Google search for what I wanted, I was pretty surprised by the first 2 pages of search results.
It seems that feminine role models are difficult to find nowadays. Instead, the predominant concept of female role models seems to revolve around women who make stuff happen. The female role model is a woman who expresses masculinity!
Society has come to value the masculine ideal of making stuff happen over the feminine ideal of nurturing and connections. In a world that requires a balance, society has skewed our culture far to one side. This doesn’t bode well for society.
For a moment, let’s forget about society’s preference for masculine characteristics and look where femininity won out.
Oprah has been called the most powerful woman in the world, but she didn’t come to fame and fortune by just making stuff happen. Oprah’s fame comes from her ability to host and interview people on her Oprah Winfrey Show. She didn’t just connect with celebrities and get them to share their secrets, but she also connected with the average person and hosted guests that could connect with her viewers. Making these connections is a feminine characteristic that Oprah excelled at and which propelled her to success. The same could be said for other talk show hosts like comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen was successful not just for her comedy talents but also for her ability to interview people and connect with her guests and audience.
As First Lady of the United States during her husband’s presidency, Michelle Obama was not as powerful as Oprah Winfrey. Still, Michelle Obama provided the feminine balance of connection while her husband Barack Obama had the duty of making things happen. She was an advocate for poverty awareness, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating, and LGBT rights.
Michelle Obama encouraged people to be more politically aware, She promoted the idea of learning about the moral issues involved in politics and participating more in communities. Her efforts did not directly make political ideals come to fruition, but were alternate actions to make politics better serve people through increased participation.
One of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiatives included support to military families and military spouses, which she took personally. She also promoted women’s family and career balance, and promoted education in the arts. One of her more controversial efforts was an initiative to reduce childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move!,” health campaign. (It was criticized for supposedly using the government as an agent to control food choices.)
Like many First Ladies and other wives of politicians, Michelle Obama used her influence indirectly and behind the scenes to encourage growth for people and the natural movement towards an outcome, rather than manipulating a specific outcome.
Diana, Princess of Wales, was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British Royal Family. Nowadays Diana is most often remembered for the fatal car crash that killed her, her companion, Dodi Fayed and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, while fleeing from aggressive paparazzi. While alive, Diana actively supported over 100 charities, although she reduced her activity after her divorce from Charles. She supported charities in the arts and health areas, as well as being active in the campaign to eliminate land mines from war ravaged areas.
She did not actively try to find cures for many of the health issues and diseases her charities works towards. Instead, she used her notoriety as an alternative route to bring attention to the charities and obtain money and support for them. She made connections and found routes to help the charities indirectly. She also led by example and tried to destygmatize the diseases and conditions. She accepted the people for who they were, and didn’t judge them for their diseases.
What is femininity? I’ll assert that femininity is a set of observable characteristics of a person who embodies the mindset and behavior associated with forming connections with other people, even loving connections, oriented around nurturing and growth.
But wait! It seems that anybody can make connections. These can’t be just a feminine characteristics, can they?
Indeed, anybody can choose to embody either feminine or masculine characteristics. The trick is to individually choose a balance that’s appropriate for you. Part 3 discusses that balance.