A reader from an Eastern society asks:
I understand that at the level of soul we are both masculine and feminine. What I need clarification with is as to how to relate to this at the human/physical level. I have imbibed set ideas through the society that I have been raised in, of how a man should be or a woman should be, which are extremely rigid in their outlook.
Although I am working on them at a personal level, I am very interested on how to relate to my masculine self without losing touch with my feminine self. The society has focused so much on how a woman should emulate the men in society, which for me at a personal level, does not hold true. I, therefore, would like to understand how I can strongly stand within my feminine self, and not feel vulnerable in doing so, and/ or feel as if I am undermining my feminine self in any way.
I have no expertise in this area and little right to speak on it. But I do have opinions and I post these in case they help. I may be stepping into a controversial area, but, if it begins a discussion of the subject, despite its deficiencies, I’ll be happy.
Again I’m not a spiritual teacher and make no claims to being such or having any ambitions to be such.
Actually, X, at the level of the soul, there is no gender, not even feminine and masculine combined, so to speak. The soul in its purity (sometimes known to the West as the Christ) is the Atman; the Atman has no gender:
“[The Atman] is sexless [genderless]. The conception of sex pertains to the body, but the Atman is not the body.
“The Svetasvatara Upanishad says, “Thou are woman, Thou art man; Thou art youth and maiden too. Thou as an old man totterest along on a staff; it is Thou alone, who when born, assumest diverse forms.” (Dattatreya in 1)
“There is no sex [gender] in the Self.” (Ramana Maharshi in 2.)
Some eastern countries seem to combine hierarchical views, such as are reflected in the caste system (or class system in the West), with gender biases. The woman emerges dominated in and by this worldview.
At the level of an ascended master (Fifth Dimension and higher), as far as I know, there’s no differentiation between a male and a female master. It’s true that some masters offer a message that’s designed to assist people in Third Dimensionality, based on biological distinctions. But these are, I think, the equivalent of introductory distinctions, with little or no relevance to the higher dimensions.
Sooner or later, there have to be those arising who are courageous enough to say that there’s no reason why a woman should emulate a man. I can however say that, as matters stand today, there are a great number of reasons why today’s men, corrupted by the violence and prejudice associated with maintaining patriarchy, might wish to emulate women.
Women are “kept in their place,” particularly in Eastern countries, I believe, by an elaborate system of economic inequality and the holding out of a carrot (a husband, financial security, etc.) associated with being a cynosure (object of gaze, object of beauty). Years ago as a Sociology graduate student, I used to call this “the beauty trap.”
This system depends on women buying into it; hence the carrot. Patriarchy has to go and women, for their part, have to reject the carrot, the bait in the beauty trap and demand the economic equality and security which by right is theirs.
I think particularly of the harsh fate that awaits a widow in some Eastern societies as an example of the patriarchal system’s worst price that women pay.
So there may be some sacrifice involved, some willingness to make demands, and a firm intention to keep whatever is cherished by you, even if assailed (eg., your femininity). A typical way of squelching protest, for instance, is to say a woman who stands up to the system has lost her womanhood or femininity. This kind of blatant taunt has to be faced, tossed aside, or surmounted, I believe.
My sense is that the only way this delicate dance of withdrawal from a patriarchal system can be accomplished without losing the qualities one loves is through an attitude of total service to the whole of the human race – women and men – without distinction. That’s the end goal anyways, I believe.
As with vasanas, some part of the situation of refusing to abide by that worldview is regrettable but the situation itself does bestow some gifts on people such as fortitude, self-confidence and persistence. There are always two sides to a situation like this: one side is the cost and the other side is the skills we gain by dealing with the situation. I can think of any number of women who exemplify the benefits of taking the system on, including women in Eastern countries who have stood up to being judicially raped (by order of the local jurga) and shot at. (3)
I’m not a woman so it ill becomes me to comment more on the situation than I have here.
Perhaps I can open comments and invite other readers to respond to our questioner as well. I also invite others to write a column in response, if even in rebuttal. I apologize if I have unwittingly said anything that offends.
(1) Swami Chetanananda, Avadhuta Gita. The Song of the Ever-Free. Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1988.
(2) Paul Brunton and Munagala Venkataramaiah. Conscious Immortality. Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Rev. ed. 1996.
(3) For any number of instances of this or other forms of persecution used to hold women in a subordinate position, see Ending the Global Persecution of Women (2007), at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/women/index30.html.