Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Efemination: A Female Parallel to Emasculation

When I started interviewing men for my book Healing the War Between the Genders: The Power of the Soul-Centered Relationship, one theme I heard frequently from the men I interviewed was how women, on the one hand, complained that men never talked or shared their feelings, yet on the other hand, if they did take the risk of talking, interrupted them, judged them, and got angry at them rather than just listening and honoring them for speaking. The issue of men feeling emasculated by the women in their lives surfaced as an important theme. Men need to be trusted and feel honored by the women in their lives. Men want to make women happy and they need clear targets to succeed in doing so. If rather than giving a man a clear sense of what will make her happy and then appreciating him when he does exactly what she asked, a woman just complains and focuses on all the things the man isn't doing right, the woman undermines the man's innate sense of power and masculinity. Recently, I have begun to realize that just as women can emasculate men--meaning, undermine the man's innate sense of power and masculinity, men can undermine a woman's innate sense of power and femininity as well. However, I have never encountered a word for this. So, I am choosing to coin one: "efemination." Just as a man needs to feel trusted and honored and appreciated for the ways he tries to make a woman happy, a woman needs to feel that a man is really there for and with her, making sure she is safe, and taken care of enough to surrender into her receptive feminine essence. David Deida writes about the masculine-feminine polarity--and to the degree a man embodies and acts from a rootedness in his sense of masculine energy, a woman can surrender into the softness and vulnerability of her feminine energy. If a man asks a woman to always take care of him, clean up his messes, and lead with her masculine side, there is no room for her to surrender into her feminine energy. This kind of behavior "effeminates" a woman. I can think of several experiences I have had repeatedly in my life where I have felt "efeminated" by the men around me: The simplest one is when a man says he will do something: call me, make a restaurant reservation or do a project, and then he "drops the ball," and does not keep his word, I am put in the position of being "the bitch" who has to hold him accountable, since he is not holding himself accountable. Having to remind a man that he did not keep his word or do what he said he would do is NOT fun to have to do. And the response, no matter how gently and graciously the message is given, is rarely positive. Men don't like to disappoint women. They don't want women "angry" at them. Yet, if a man does not keep his word and a woman follows up to ask what happened, it sets the woman up to be "disappointed" or perceived as "angry." Another example has happened on several occasions. Me and several other men need to drive a long distance to a meeting or conference. Somehow, my car is the one that is selected for the journey. And each of the three men driving with me comes up with a reason they cannot drive the long distance to the event. I remember vividly when I was driving 3 1/2 hours to a conference in NY more than 20 years ago, and had offered a ride to one male colleague. A second male colleague then asked to join us. And the organizer of the conference asked if I might also include a third male colleague, one who knew my other two colleagues, but who I did not know. I do not particularly enjoy driving on highways long distances. And at times in my life, I have even been "highway phobic"--getting panic attacks when driving on the highway too long, or with too many large trucks or speed demons on the road. I voiced my feelings about driving on highways long distances to my three males colleagues, and asked for some assistance. The responses were: "My back hurts. I can't drive," from the first colleague. "I'm sick. I don't feel well," from the second colleague. And I did not even know the third colleague. He was a total stranger. So, the whole situation felt very awkward indeed. We set out on the road with me driving the three male colleagues, feeling very badly about the situation. Why did their needs to be taken care of trump my vulnerability? What would have happened to these three men if I was not there to drive the car? Would they have not made it to the conference? Or would they have had to rise to the occasion and come up with another solution? I found myself feeling "efeminated." I was being asked to "take care of" these men. And they had little regard for my vulnerability or need, in spite of the fact that I stated that it really wasn't okay for me to be driving for 3 1/2 hours. In situations like these, when men just take for granted that a woman, in this case, me, will pick up the ball and take care of things, to push back is very uncomfortable and often does not end well. I have learned to set my boundaries. I can very gently say, "this is how I feel" or "this is what I need" or "it would be very helpful to me if you could ......" But if my listener misses the message, and just wants to hook up to what my friend Brenda many years ago called "the cosmic tit," my voice is not heard and my attempts to be considered are in vain. If I am fortunate enough to have a listener who believes relationships are a two way street, and mutuality and balance are key--including between men and women, the result is a much more comfortable solution. If in the driving situation, a man says, "I understand. Neither of us really like to do this. How about I drive one way and you drive the other?" I feel more space to surrender into my feminine core. If the men say, "You should not have to take on the burden of driving us. It is our job to help you too," there is even more space to surrender into my feminine essence. When women talk about men as "big babies," perhaps what they are saying at a deeper level is that they feel "efeminated" by the men in their lives. They do not feel the men are bringing masculine energy to them, and they feel forced to move into the masculine for things to get done. Being able to shift our consciousness as men and women and realize that no one wins if we emasculate men or effeminate women. And everyone wins when we are able to support both men and women in coming from their true essence and power. Copyright 2013 Linda Marks

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