Yin your yang and yang your yin

“Sexism bifurcates human qualities into masculine and feminine. It imposes a gender binary where being a man means not being like a woman and vice-versa. Sexism is often another name for patriarchy, meaning a hierarchy or a rule of priests where the hieros, the priest, is a pater, a father. It designates an order of living that elevates some men over others, separating the men from the boys, and all men over women. It creates a gender hierarchy where human qualities gendered ‘masculine’ are elevated over those gendered ‘feminine.’ As such, it is an order of domination. But in dividing human qualities into masculine and feminine, sexism separates everyone from parts of themselves, creating rifts or splits in the psyche. This fragmentation of the psyche links patriarchy with trauma and explains its deleterious effects on everyone. Boys in becoming men or men wanting to be seen as ‘real men’ will separate their thoughts from their emotions, which are regarded as weak or feminine. As in ‘boys don’t cry.’ And girls will be torn between wanting to be seen as ‘good girls’ or ‘good women,’ meaning not masculine or self-assertive, and wanting to align themselves with the so-called masculine qualities that are privileged and socially valued. In sexist families or religions or societies or cultures, both men and women are pressured to render themselves half-human.” – Carol Gilligan (interviewed by Eve Gerber in The Browser)

4 thoughts on “Yin your yang and yang your yin”

    1. Averil, I was not completely on board with what Gilligan was saying, either. She’s following a “party line” in some of what she says. I think I think more like you do on this. The physiological differences between men and women cannot be denied. Their effects should be understood and not ignored. Where I found what she was saying worth repeating was with regard to how social pressures on what are acceptable and unacceptable forms of gender behavior can have unfortunate consequences. People repress parts of their very selves that they are taught to fear and loathe, parts that if they were more fully and healthily expressed could be enriching for themselves and for society.

      When I was a young man, I had the rare privilege as a heterosexual of being invited deeply into what was then the gay demimonde. One of the first epiphanies I had upon entering this world was the realization that there were as many sexes (nowadays I would say genders) as there were people. While many people fall within larger categories, everybody rolls in their own unique ways when they’re rolling between the sheets (or wherever they want to do the deeds). Many of the people I knew during this time (late 70s to early 80s) were constructing their own sexual identities out of a mixture of physiology and social construct. What society had told them they had to be was not who they were. They exploded free from these confines and reconstructed themselves, using whatever fragments of the ruins were of use to them. What results from such transformations are often of much greater creative and humanistic fertility than could be imagined within the confines of what is nicknamed “the patriarchy.”

  1. This is the community that will teach us how to evolve. Evolution is a slow process, unfortunately, but we’re getting there.

    The other day I was walking past a T-ball practice. Three little boys were playing catch with their coach, and one of the throws went astray and rolled down the hill toward me. I picked it up, gave it an awkward toss, and laughed with the coach that I throw like a girl. As I was walking away, one of the children said, Girls can play T-ball, too.

    Yes, I said, you’re right. And I was embarrassed for perpetuating the stereotype.

    But after a few minutes, I found myself irritated. The correction felt unfair in some way. I mean, no one taught me to throw but no one taught my husband either, and I once saw him throw a rock so high and so far that it seemed almost magical, superhuman. It would be a rare woman who could match a throw like that; maybe not impossible, but sufficiently rare that I think we can safely allow the stereotypical joke image of me trying to get around my own tits to throw a baseball. I throw like a girl.

    I think it’s a mistake to feel we need to match each other lock-step in every proclivity and achievement. Imagining that I can and should compete against a man at his own game is to devalue the things that are part of my feminine nature. It’s not a game I’m remotely interested in playing.

    Of course the child was right to correct me, in a Lifetime movie sort of way, having been properly conditioned by his parents, god love them, but I can’t deny that it felt patronizing. (You CAN play with the boys! Take my mitt!) I thought it was interesting that my joke drew an immediate sympathetic laugh from the coach. Jokes only work when they’re true.

    Someday I will visit you in Chicago and we can drink coffee all day and come up with a plan to get the yins and yangs in synch and save mankind. I’m buying.

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