As a child, I was often called a “tomboy”, and I secretly enjoyed it. I wanted to be as tough, as fast, as respected as the boys. Plus, their games were way better. The boys were expected to climb trees, race down the street, and sword fight. It was very clear to ‘five-year old me’ that no one expected me to do any of those things, which is why I was always forced into a dress with a giant bow to match. Do you know how difficult it is to climb a fence in a giant dress with crinoline? Well, not very, if you don’t worry about wether or not the dress will remain in one piece. These are the first memories I have of this battle between feminine and masculine, Shakti and Shiva.
According to yogic philosophy all of us have both masculine and female energies. The masculine energy is known as Shiva and is represented by the Sun, and the female energy is called Shakti and is represented by the moon. The goal of the yogi is to keep these energies in harmony.
It’s not often we speak of this duality, but let’s just look at it from a biological perspective. We can all agree that males and females produce both testosterone and estrogen, just in different quantities. And actually the amount produced by each sex is really not that different, as explained more thoroughly in How Stuff Works. Throughout our lives the levels of these hormones also change. For instance during menopause, the female body ceases to produce eggs and therefore, produces less estrogen.
Then, why do we view the sexes as so separate? Furthermore, why do we seek attributes pertaining more to one of the energies and not the other?
I’ll venture to say that it’s because one of the energies is more respected in Western culture. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that in this part of the world we worship the sun. As a culture, we value the acquisition of things and ideas, creation, and autonomy, which are all attributes of Shiva or the divine masculine. Women like myself who wish to play at “boys’ games” must showcase these virtues sometimes to the detriment of their female energies. This becomes spectacularly apparent in the corporate world. It’s no secret that when women call upon their Shiva side they are called the “bitch in the boardroom”, among other things. In fact, I once asked for more responsibility at work after the birth of my daughter and I was told that “maybe during this part of my life, I should really focus on my family”. I’m willing to bet no man has ever been told that piece of advice.
Granted, I’m not in the majority. I’m headstrong and idealistically determined. My therapist actually told me I had a Mother Theresa complex, so all my crusades are taken with almost religious zealousness.
There are also women who achieve by calling on the moon. Their feminine attributes make them more likable. They ‘get more bees with honey’- a skill I’ve never really honed. For these women, I’m willing to guess, their masculine energy has gone unused for so long that they are unable to access it. They may be looked over or not taken seriously when it really matters the most. Sometimes likability gets you only so far, just like being bold and determined doesn’t always get you what you want. There must be a balance.
How about men, men that have never had the honor of accessing their female energy, those that feel conflicted by how they feel inside and what the world expects of them?
The divine feminine is characterized by intuition, empathy, and collaboration. A man in our society is expected to provide, never back down, and also never cry. Is that realistic to expect from any human or any creature on earth for that matter? I have great empathy for men in the West. For how lonely it must be to not be able to access the myriad of wonderful and complex emotions, to go against one’s natural instinct for compassion, and to essentially be a man on an island unto himself.
This solar fanaticism is representative of our country as a whole. How many wars have been fought because we couldn’t see ourselves in our “enemies” or because we have a relentless desire to conquer, create, and expand our dominion?
I believe simply acknowledging these roles we’ve forced on ourselves and each other is very powerful. To know that we are of both these divine energies is very comforting to me. It means that peace within ourselves is possible, peace between the sexes is possible, and yes, even world peace is possible. Because we are simply a microcosm of the greater whole.
I’d love to hear your views and experiences. Please contribute below.