Gender, Tantra, Parenting and Liberation
I didn’t mean for it to be so long since I’ve posted, but I have a bunch of different topics rolling around in my head, and 10 draft posts to match, with none of them **quite** coming together. That happens sometimes to all of us. Knowing how energy cycles work, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all suddenly come together at once, and I post 10 days in a row (you’ve been warned!) But for today, I decided to put this one out there, although it still feels a bit unfinished to me, because maybe you all can finish it in the comments…
I’ve been thinking a lot about gender in the last few months, in relation to all my favorite topics – spirituality, parenting, the shifts occurring in the world right now, etc. It started with the excellent comments discussion that resulted from my interview with Jan Lundy a few months back, about women’s and men’s spirituality – whether there is value to such a distinction, and whether it’s a useful idea. Recently, it’s popped back into my head after my boy/girl twins’ four-year old birthday party, and an old post that I came across from Ken Wilber entitled The Need for Men’s Liberation.
That’s right, men’s liberation. The basic jist is, men need as much help redefining themselves for the modern age as women, and that in terms of social expectations, men are often as limited as women, with such a focus on the ‘public sphere’ that they do not feel they can explore the ‘private sphere’. Just as whole worlds of experience and public power have been denied women, so a whole realm of experience and power on the personal front, in terms of parenting, emotional range, etc. have been denied or suppressed in men. It’s a little more subtle than that, read the post for his full view (if you’re not familiar with him, Ken Wilber is the founder of the Integral Institute, the author of several related books, and wrote one of my favorite essays in Kundalni Rising, a book I recently recommended here.) Here’s a quote I loved from his post:
As long as men do not rise to the challenge of redefining themselves for today’s world, women continue to be pressured to learn how to “row on both sides of the boat,” while men keep to their own side. The result? The boat just keeps going around in circles….
Rowing around in circles, that feels about right. Now, what does all this have to do with my twins’ fourth birthday party? Ever since becoming a parent (my elder daughter is 19 months older than the twins), I have been somewhat stunned by how genderized clothes, toys, and just about everything else, still is. I live in Los Angeles, theoretically one of the most progressive, liberal areas of the country, if not the world, and certainly everyone I know talks that talk, but I was really surprised at the presents the twins got at their party (this was the first time we had a ‘kid’ party with their preschool friends, i.e. not just family):
My daughter: Nail polish, 2 Barbies, clothes, Strawberry Shortcake ‘fashion’ boutique, and of course, a slew of Disney Princess paraphernalia
My son: A Star Wars destroyer, a remote control car (designed to crash, mind you), a Lego knight/dragon slayer, and various Transformer and Spider Man paraphernalia
They loved all of it, of course. And I’m not a purist, my kids are exposed to some mass/pop culture (but Spider Man, Star Wars, and Transformers at 4? Aren’t these PG-13/R rated movies? Do four-year olds really watch these??? At least Disney movies – although often gag-worthy – are rated G! But I digress.) Really, this was a little over the top. Could we make the gender lines any more extreme? Girls: practice looking pretty. Boys: practice crashing and fighting. (I was cheered that after the party they mixed all the toys as they always have, combining Barbies, the remote-control car, Legos, dolls – which they ALL have, in both genders – and a slew of plastic animals to create a massive safari scene…)
Anyway, you get the idea. Although there is a twist to this theme when I look at the various classes my children take – there are plenty of girls in soccer and karate these days, but almost no boys in ballet. We’ve placed a lot of emphasis on girls getting to do all the things only boys used to do – while still practicing being princesses of course – but our boys’ options are still pretty limited – geek or athlete, brain power or physical prowess.
It makes me sad. I am sad to think that my daughters would ever be denied anything or think themselves less capable of anything they wanted to do based on their gender. But I am equally sad to think that my sweet, sensitive son might ever feel pressured to give up or deny that sweetness and sensitivity. Both would be a travesty.
It’s all about rebalancing. It’s not about men rowing on one side of the boat, and women on the other, or about everyone getting to row on one side, it’s about everyone getting to row on both sides of the boat. We still have a lot of work to do there, on the social level.
But I think what really got me interested in this, is the metaphysical component (of course!) In my Polarity vs. Spectrum post, I was kind of trying to get to this, but never quite got there. Historically, we have taken various human qualities, experiences, emotions, and energies, and divvied them up between men and women, under the headings ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. And when we do that, both genders end up being limited, both internally and externally. The spiritual journey is partly about reclaiming the other side, so that an internal rebalancing and totality can be found. A wholeness. This is what the tantric images of men and women in consort are meant to represent. And we are still not quite there, in our approach to it, either internally or externally, I think.
I do think this is one of the most important parts of the shifts in consciousness going on right now on this planet . Getting this rebalancing right is critical, and we’re all a part of it, in our parenting, our spiritual journeys, our social choices, and more. And it is about much more than gender equity or a union of energies. It’s about our ability to co-create our world, co-create with each other, and with the universe. Creation is always a union – that’s also what tantric consort images (called yab-yum) represent – the act of creation, and what’s involved in creation of any type, not just procreation. We talk so much these days about creating our own days, creating our own life. But what does it really take – on a global level – to recreate our world? Isn’t that what so many of us feel we are being called upon to do these days? I think redefining gender, and freeing ourselves from these limiting barriers on both sides, internally and externally, is a very big part of it. A modern tantra, on a global scale.