After graduation, after a divorce, after an election
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When I fell in love a few years ago — a disastrous event, since the man did not return the feelings — I searched for psychological theories of love which might help me understand my predicament. It was then that I discovered C. G. Jung’s theories on the animus (the man in every woman) and anima (the woman in every man). To this day I feel that this interpretation is a rather sexist one — why are strength, assertiveness, and rationality considered “male” qualities even when found in women? Nevertheless, Jung’s theories did offer an explanation of why we fall in love “at first sight”. Because we are essentially forbidden to express characteristics of the “opposite sex” (assuming you accept such sexist definitions of masculinity and femininity) we segregate these qualities from the rest of our soul and project them on the first pretty (or handsome) face we see. We then embark on a desperate struggle to possess the loved one, and is this not understandable? For it is a part of our own soul, without which we cannot live, that we see in the desired person.
After pondering all of this, I realized that I could prevent such indiscriminate falling in love by accepting the so-called “masculine” qualities of my personality. I am a whole person — not a half who “needs” another half, like an addict needs his/her drug. I no longer search the world anxiously for “Mr. Right” because I already possess him — he is a part of my own soul (is that not the ultimate union?) What is the man in me like? He is very much like me.
Ruth M. Shipley
The woman in me is a vampire, she shows her teeth and sucks the blood from flowers. she wears makeup and rosewater and when she shakes her hair I see she is really after all only the man in me. the woman in me is a gardener, living in a primitive italian village, alone, with five cats, who teaches the starlings to talk like Rhiannon of the Birds in ages past. she has black hair and gray eyes and when she breathes water oozes from her genitals. when she walks through the village everyone stops, turns to look at her, she mutters, they have never seen a man with such strength and virtue!
the man in me is delicate and iron. he rises in the morning and enters the forest other men have built and chops wood. he chops forever and his beard is feverish and melon. at night, when he returns home, a man waits for him with red eyes and arms like water and the water flows across his belly and the all day illusion of manliness becomes a fable and he lets his hair down and his voice simmers in a pot in the kitchen.
the man in me is greedy and eats everything! he never stops eating! and he keeps in each pocket a secret voice and certain magical boxes received from midnight horses and a white woman who is voiceless and speaks through her jewelry. the man in me constructs towers of babel and mixes language. the woman in me invents pottery and bread and births children in the form of poetry.
the man in me starts wars and the woman in me ends them. the woman in me starts wars and the man in me ends them.
for a long time i suckled confusion’s breasts. the world described to me the circumference of woman and the perimeter of man. i fit neither. i gave myself to one and then the other. i would stand in front of the mirror and trace the contour of my body, sharp black eyes, soft hair, angular jaw, the broad shoulders, the sinewy belly, the narrow hips, cinnamon cock, the lean strong legs, ripe feet, and i would desire woman as no man has ever desired her. then i would close my eyes and feel my womb swelling and open my eyes and they would butterfly, my hair would redden, my lips moisten, breasts heave, my legs and hips undulate, i would dance and gyrate and desire man as no woman ever desired him.
and i gave up that battle. i looked for a word that neither man nor woman gave, a word i knew from my first sexual quiverings but did not know how to speak, androgynous, balanced, the great mysterious one, the dark light, and lighted darkness. and sometimes i fail and those old descriptions come back like old friends and lock my hands tight and i play man or woman, forgetting the one, forgetting the woman in me is myself and the man in me is myself, the woman in me is man, and the man, woman. this is a dream i live, a dream i dream. when i wake i cry out to the Mother, o Mother! today this is the name i give you! and to the Father, o Father! today this name is yours.
Sexual behavior is often the product of attitudes which lie between two extremes on a continuum. At one pole we think lies the ultra-feminine stereotype, the macho male at the other pole. Early in life, the socialization of children directs them towards one of these extremes. At the center of the continuum is androgyny. We define androgyny as attitudes and behaviors that incorporate what are traditionally labelled both the male and female strengths and attributes. Young children often display androgynous behavior, but are socialized away from behavior associated with the opposite sexual extreme, and away from androgynous behavior, toward the accepted stereotypic role.
With the upheaval in the 60’s and the feminist renaissance, society has allowed behavior that leans slightly toward androgyny, what we are calling the center of the continuum. Society now accepts sensitivity in males, but only to a certain degree; assertive females are accepted also, but with similar limitations. We believe that the individual who falls between the two stereotyped extremes often exhibits the highest degree of integration and personal adjustment.
We are two women who share a similar philosophy about sex roles and attitudes and discovered this early in our friendship. Although we moved to Chapel Hill separately, we had both heard prior to moving south that Chapel Hill was a progressive small town — an enlightened-feminist haven. However, here in the midst of a community with much exposure to feminism, many of the young people we came in contact with seemed caught up in traditional sex role stereotypes and expectations. This was compounded by the discovery that we both (separately) were facing entry into nursing school. Our feeling about sex roles and stereotyped behavior have not been easy to reconcile with the traditional nursing philosophy.
Our feeling about androgyny is that the greatest personal adjustment and fulfillment exist in the individual who combines “high masculine” and “high feminine” characteristics. Although the profession of nursing and the education of nurses is undergoing tremendous change, nursing school and society’s overall concept of nurses still emphasizes the high feminine traits. Nurses are encouraged to behave in a nurturing, supportive, often subservient manner. Ambition, decisiveness, emotional distance, all “high masculine” traits are discouraged. Perhaps, rather than an either/or attitude, we need to select and cultivate the best of both masculine and feminine traits. Nurturing and support are positive high feminine characteristics but need to be integrated with high masculine characteristics such as assertiveness and independence. The traditional roles of nurses and doctors epitomize the societal view of men and women — that together they form a complete entity. In addition to minimizing the wholeness of each as an individual, this is an extremely heterosexist viewpoint. We support and are struggling with (particularly as student nurses) the synergism of high masculine and high feminine traits. Like the eastern philosophy of yin/yang, high feminine and high masculine characteristics integrated in one person help develop wholism and balance within the individual.
Andrea and Shotsy
About two years ago I had an unusual opportunity to find out more about the woman in me: for a year I was a full-time “house-husband” (I think the word “mother” is better). I took care of Paul, aged six, and Laura, aged two, while Jane worked full-time. The whole thing was not (consciously) planned. I was working at a very stressful job in the Finance Department of Stanford Medical Center, one of the most inhuman places I’ve ever worked. One day, after working about twelve hours, my heart sped up, and didn’t slow down for three days. I quit, giving two months notice, thinking I’d find another job in that time (not conscious of the fact that I didn’t really want to). At some level (I see now) I knew exactly what I was doing, but outwardly I was frightened, depressed and confused.
When the two months went by and I hadn’t found another job, Jane and I began to make some necessary economic changes. We decided, to save money, I would take care of Laura all day, and Paul after school, at least “until I found another job.” It soon became clear that one thing I could get was substitute work at Thacher Children’s Center. Soon the board decided to hire me for the summer as a replacement for one of the regular staff members. The week before I started, I went over to visit the school one day. In the period of about half an hour, everyone on the staff came up and gave me a hug. Later that day, when I tried to tell my friend Marian about this welcome, I started crying uncontrollably.
After working at Thacher for awhile I began to see what it was that had overwhelmed me that day. All my (working) life, I had been used to being with people without touching, or being touched by anyone, without caring for or loving anyone. We had always maintained an air of superficial affability, to cover our deep violence and hatred. Now suddenly I was touching and being touched. I’d had a deep hunger that I wasn’t even aware of! One day I was reading a story to Benjie and Cheyenne (“Shiner”). As I read, Benjie ran his hand unconsciously back and forth across my knee, while Shiner, totally absorbed in the story, gently wrapped a lock of my hair back and forth around her forefinger. At first I stiffened. Then, suddenly, I let the blessing of that closeness, so taken for granted by my young “teachers,” wrap me round like a warm blanket.
It took me about six months, after quitting Stanford, to begin to feel good about myself again. I began to see that all those things I thought were failings (“Why can’t I be more hard-nosed?”, “Why can’t I be more decisive?”) were really my virtues! Everything had been upside down. About this time I “coincidentally” went to see a film called “Men’s Lives,” a documentary about the tough socialization of men in our culture. As a result of this event, I met a group of men putting together a men’s center in Palo Alto, around feminist principles. I helped build the Men’s Center, did workshops, spoke at local schools, helped facilitate the formation of new men’s groups, and so on. For awhile, my work with the Men’s Center was a matter of survival; I needed it to feel good about myself. I was moving inward and outward at the same time.
I was learning how to be a human being, starting over with the basics: how to touch, how to feel. During this time I had a dream which seemed to affirm the validity of these changes:
I’m with Emily Harris, the SLA fugitive. I’m some kind of official escort for her. We approach a black limousine surrounded by black people. Suddenly she and I both realize that the black people are trying to take her back into the underworld. We both run and get on an escalator together. The black people chase us and try to shoot at us from the bottom of the escalator, but cannot because there are so many people around us. The people help us escape. When we get up to the top we are on a kind of mezzanine. It is very peaceful. I look up and see a giant melon-shaped full moon just rising on the horizon.
Emily Harris! The fugitive feminine! The feminine is the fugitive within me! Always outlawed. But now, there is this possibility of escape, of freeing the feminine from the dark forces of the unconscious. The dark forces are prevented from taking her back into the underworld by the helping power of the others (the men’s group, my family) who take this journey with us. The full moon, the Moon Goddess, blesses us in the upper world of consciousness.
After about a year I began to worry about our mounting debts, and so I started to look for a new job. I kept interviewing, and kept getting turned down. When I talked about my new feelings to prospective employers, they would sometimes turn cold. One high school principal, with whom I was interviewing for an aide job, suddenly stopped looking me in the eye. “Well,” he said, “thank you for visiting us today, Mr. Pelton.” I was struggling to find a job, but it also seemed to me that I was I struggling inside to figure something out. What was it? It was as if, if I could just remember this thing, the whole complex problem would open up, the struggle would be resolved.
And then I ran across a statement about shamans in a book by Mircea Eliade. It was something about how sometimes these witch-doctors would dress up like women, for the symbolic purpose of integrating the feminine side. Suddenly I knew that that was it! That’s what it was, what I had been doing the year I was mother. “Dressing like a woman,” so to speak. The point was to accept my inner woman.
Realizing this consciously was an incredible experience. Suddenly I felt total inner peace, a great sense of completion, as if it were clear that what I had been doing was now finished. (It never is, really.) And the weird thing is, as if it were a consequence of this new knowledge and this new power, the very next day I got two different offers of work!
How to honor this realization and stay true to myself, I should say “myselves,” while continuing to survive economically, is a question I’m still struggling with.
First, there is the secure knowledge of my self as a person, and then as a man. This is something I don’t have to prove to myself or others. With this security I can feel at home with the world. It is this security upon which my objectivity relies. Also here rests my openness to confront the duality of my feelings.
When making love to a woman I can loose my identity and, on a cosmic plane, feel myself as the one being loved, as the one my love is entering. I find myself wishing I could experience this same rush on a physical plane as well. Alas, I cannot. Nonetheless this awareness of a part of me that wishes to be loved like a woman carries over into my daily actions of business and pleasure. This awareness seems to give me insight into the scheme of things. This female awareness (or what shall I call it?) affects directly the manner in which I respond to any given situation.
I observe the sexes and some of the qualities each has attributed to itself, though I will not judge here the pros or cons of these attributes: man is typically considered more forceful and dominant; at the same time, of the two sexes. man is usually considered the more objective or rational; women, on the other hand, are usually considered the weaker sex; and, as opposed to being objective, women are considered, if not outright emotional, somewhat less objective in making decisions.
Like a man, I am obsessed with objective evaluation (no matter how objective or unobjective the evaluation may be in the final analysis.) This for me is the extent of my manly attributes excepting, of course, my continual search for satisfaction of my physical needs; and this, I have convinced myself, I would search for even if my sex were female. The other predominant traits of the creature man I find of no benefit. Of what good to me as a person is it to defend the indefensible, to dominate, to force? The woman in me could not see.
Now as for the woman in me: I love her the most. She is my heart though she shares my soul with the man. With my father’s objectivity I was able to see the vastness of my mother’s love; and of all this vastness I inherited more than my share. I believe it is more than just assimilation that has given me my emotionality. As for all persons, trait inheritance must play a part in creating some portion of my/our individuality.
The male that makes decisions for my future accepts situations that would otherwise be intolerable. The female aids me in my response to all around me. With this combination in my make-up I press from day to day with great concern and little worry; more give than take, on an individual basis; and unceasing love and understanding, excepting when “the other” gets in my way.
And of the other, I love them both.
What a challenge it is to be a woman or a man. In these times one can’t be content to be just a woman. Or a man. One has to be both. I have a need to be in-the-world active. Yet I must have my home, my womb, my nest for rest, relaxation, nourishment. Home is the space that allows the receptivity which fosters creativity.
For a while now I’ve had this dream of building a house. It would be an undertaking which would incorporate the highest values of the male and of the female. To dream and build a house. To know it thoroughly from the inside out first, having to design it, having to know what is needed to support most gracefully and economically my particular life. A house designed according to mine and my family’s personality. Then to build it from the outside in. Vigorous, difficult work. Then softening it into a home through the arrangement of personal artifacts. A house, a home, a place to love and to live. A place to play and to work. A place to watch and to bear births, deaths — both the minute and continuous psychic ones and the physical ones. A place to dream, to create, to bear sadness and pain, to have fellowship with others. A place of peace, of thriving growth, of happiness, cheer, a place where you relax as you confront the mysteries. A house and a home, a man and a woman.
Staying Faithful to the Woman in me
In my mother’s house were many rooms,
an organ in the parlor
waiting the touch of her hands
She knew the way to go
on the updraft of a flame
at the kitchen range
Only her given name remains
rough-hewn in stone,
Muriel. Myoor-ee-el —
How lovely like a church bell
responding to the wind,
the salt-sweet breath of the wind
This white silent space
surrounding these dark wordsounds
I leave for communion with her
When I stay faithful to the forgotten
I hear her whisper my name —
She does. She always will.
— John Harold