This article might be more accurately titled ‘how to honour the feminine’ or maybe ‘redefining feminism as a set of positive intentions’. I think labels can be unhelpful. I mean fine, stick labels on a buffet, I’m not against letting people know which bowl is the veggie curry.
However, applied to the smorgasbord of human experiences they are usually vast over simplifications, or else they are loaded with conflicted meaning and become misleading. The word ‘feminist’ is no exception.
In our world of vast and constant media, the notion of what it means to be a feminist is added to daily. Somewhere inside the world of your consciousness is big Lake Feminist. A few drops of meaning are added to it every time you hear or read about the word and at this point that lake is almost bursting its banks. Even if you identify as a feminist and define the term cleanly as ‘a person who desires equal rights for women’ the murky depths of that lake are no less polluted for you than they are for anyone else. Is desired even the right word? Can you be a feminist if you don’t actively campaign, even fight, for equal rights for women? If not, are the people failing to strive for this somehow against you? What does the loaded term ‘equal rights for women’ mean to you? If someone disagrees with you on this point are they still a feminist?
When you label a dish on a buffet as hummus, people know what to expect when they stick their celery in there. When you label a person as feminist, you attach a world of connotations and questions. Perhaps the most damaging thing is that by defining a person as a feminist, you define anyone who doesn’t fit your view of that role as something ‘other’. You create separation and difference. Isn’t that exactly what a feminist, in most definitions of the word, is opposed to?
Can we create equality by starting with separation?
Labels separate. That is exactly their purpose. Labels with any level of ambiguity, let alone decades of academic and media exploration and scrutiny, are completely unable to unify even the group that they identify. Not all feminists agree with other feminists about what it means to be one. So can it ever be helpful to identify as a feminist? I’ll leave that question open to individual consideration.
Of course, wherever you land on that question, I think we can all agree that valuing someone less – in monetary terms or in any other way – because of their gender is fairly ridiculous. I believe in reincarnation. I know I have seen from the perspective of man, woman, gay, straight, rich, poor… and I will again. By virtue of that I could be any one of you and any one of you could be me, so we are all equal. Whether you follow that belief or not we all started out with the same cells. We were all equal once. Biology and theology lead to the same conclusion. For this lifetime I happened to choose the angle of ‘woman’. Does that mean it’s ok if I am treated with less respect and valued less than the man I could have become?
Honestly, if we consider this existentially the answer could be that it really doesn’t matter. I decided to live this life, in this way at this time. I’ll get to experience existence from all angles, if I so choose. If I experience marginalisation this time around it is because I chose, before I was born, when I set my life path, to face that challenge. What does matter – what really matters to the journey of every single individual – is that they choose to meet life and everyone in it with love and respect. It is in that practice that spiritual growth happens. It is there that we create unity and it goes way beyond being a feminist. In the vast majority of situations, we can affect more change in those around us with compassion than we can with an argument.
If we all met every moment as a fresh experience and, in that moment, treated everything and everyone around us with love and respect there would be no need for feminists. In that utopia, people would naturally choose to do their best for others in every given situation. We will only ever come close to that dream when more of us as individuals choose to live that way.
Honouring the feminine
The feminine is a powerful strength that exists within each of us – male and female. Those of us who chose the female form are currently embodying that feminine strength more strongly. That should be honoured and with it, so should women. This is what I mean when I talk about redefining feminism as a set of positive intentions. We can all connect with and honour women – and by women I include all who identify as such. They are our mothers. They, when we include Mother Earth as we absolutely must, gave life to all things. Reverence of this fact does not diminish men and their role within it.
The intention to honour Mother Earth and the process of creation is central to honouring women and the feminine. If you are a woman, treating your own body with love, respect and reverence is the most powerful place to begin. How many of us, feminist or otherwise, truly do this? How many of us honour our periods and our body’s ability to create life? It is one thing to do this when you decide to have a baby but quite another to be grateful for your body’s abilities on monthly basis when perhaps you find yourself with cramps. Taking the time, in the more difficult moments, to tune into what your body is doing and how you can best support it is a wonderful practice to uphold.
Women have a special relationship with the Mother Earth. Time in nature is another wonderful way to honour femininity and creation, as is surrounding yourself with flowers – complex and beautiful natural creations. Earthing (walking barefoot outdoors) is a way to plug yourself directly into the earth’s energy and incidentally it can also help to reduce period pain. There are many other ways, lots of them routed in how you treat the people around you.
All of creation takes on different forms. None sits below the other but, instead, makes up part of one perfect whole. When we approach life from that standpoint we can all honour women and the role of the feminine in our lives. We can hold it in our hearts and approach every moment anew with this intention, finding new ways by flowing with what intuitively feels right. Call that being a conscious feminist if you like but practice it and you will probably find that it goes way beyond that.to edit.
By Gillian Torres
Originally published in 2016 by spiritualbliss.com
This short writing practice can be really cathartic and is a great way to put positive, loving energy into an otherwise difficult situation. You don't need to be ready to forgive anything in order to practice what it might feel like to do so.
If there is a person in your life that you feel has wronged you in some way, then thinking about them or what they did probably carries a charge. This person might even be you! Maybe when you think about them or the situation you feel a tightening somewhere in your body, or you think negative thoughts. Practising forgiveness, even if you tell yourself that you absolutely don't mean, may well make you feel a little better. This exercise isn't about them, it's about giving yourself a bit of loving care.
To try it, grab a piece of scrap paper. Tell yourself that you are going to tear it to tiny pieces after you finish writing - nobody will ever know what it said. You don't even have to read it back to yourself if you don't want to. You may choose to write the person's name at the top of the page or not. Then write them a letter of non-forgiveness! There are many different ways to begin but my favourites are:
'I don't forgive you but if I did I'd say....'
'I forgive myself for not forgiving you for....'
Those openings give you total permission to write whatever you like, don't they? Nobody's going to read what you write. You don't even mean it, so go to town! Practice the language of forgiveness and see how it feels. If you can, write quickly. Keep your hand moving, without giving your head time to think too deeply about your words. It can be messy. It can even be nonsensical in parts. Who cares. Just let whatever wants to come out, out onto the paper.
Observe how you feel afterwards. Has anything happened to that charge? How intense is the tight feeling in your body? How do you feel about the situation, the person, yourself and the subject of forgiveness now? You might be surprised. Words really are magic you know?
Just a little bit of what's going on.