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4. Men and Femininity
Femininity in males is about feeling like a woman, being endowed with feminine energies, a true appreciation and understanding of femininity in others. It is a need for relating with and bonding with the feminine or the female.
"The ideal relationship between the two aspects of a man should be that the male part is dominant with the feminine side supporting and co-operating with it." ~ Michael G Millett, PhD
We are all two-spirited people, whether men or women. We all have masculine and feminine energies within us. All ancient cultures recognised this fact, whether our own Hindu philosophy which talks of ardhnarishwar (Lord Shankar), i.e. the concept of male and female within the same person, or the ancient tribes of America (Indian Americans) which believed that every woman is born with a small penis (clitoris) and every man is born with a small vagina.
It is only that men have more masculine energy and their biological make-up is designed to make the best of that energy. But they also need their feminine energy, without which they will be crippled in dealing with many aspects of life and will not be able to live it to the fullest. True and positive masculinity is not afraid of the small streak of femininity within. It doesn't run away from it or avoid it, but rather embraces it.
"Nobody knows how we struggle for a living nor how we feel when people insult us" ~ Jereena, an Indian Hijra
There are some males whose feminine energies far exceed their masculine energy. Such males combine physical capabilities of males with the powers of the feminine. This gives rise to a unique form of power, which neither men nor women have. Nature has given them an important role in human life. They are the link between men and women by being both men and women.
All ancient cultures respected and valued such people. They were supposed to have unique spiritual and healing powers. The original god in most cultures is seen as a hermaphrodite having both male and female energies. In the beginning, they say, there was only one god with both male and female energies within him with which he created other gods and the world.
In the ancient world, such males were valued and given a special place in society, often as priests, healers, astrologers, etc. They were the link between men and women, who otherwise lived separate lives. They participated equally in the reproduction process. In North American Indian tribes, they were known as the 'two-spirited' people.
The way our society has evolved, it has tried to suppress femininity in males. The earlier two-spirited males have been persecuted for centuries as the 'abnormal' and 'sick' third sex. This has affected the lives of men and how we think, feel and behave today. Men in general have become hateful and scared of femininity inside them and in other men. The society has manipulated this fear by artificially defining what is masculine and what is feminine. And men have lost an important source of natural power.
The worst victims of this social oppression have been the two-spirited males of the ancient world. After centuries of persecution, society has rendered them useless. The earlier two-spirited people, who were both male and female, have now become 'neither male nor female'. They are abused, exploited and thrown out of the society. Their unique inner power has become extremely negative and self-destroying. In our country, such people are known as hijras. In the heterosexual West, they are the gender and sexual minority which includes transsexuals, transvestites and homosexuals.
The society holds hijras as an example of what will happen to men if they don't comply with the social and sexual roles of men fixed by the society. Men instinctively fear this destiny. They quietly comply with the social masculinity imposed upon them without questioning it. And they fear the hijra within.
Men will never be able to liberate themselves from their oppression unless they overcome this fear of the social namard label. Only a respect for and acceptance of one's femininity and those in others, plus a respect for the feminine males (third gender), can take them towards being a complete man.
"Larger freedom implies that men and women everywhere have the right to be governed by their own consent" ~ Kofi Annan
Men and women have both been victims of the same social mechanism, which has very rigid roles for both of them, harming both the groups. The idea earlier was to bring man and woman together into a social union called marriage. The ultimate aim was to raise populations beyond the natural rate to make civilisations possible at a time when child mortality was high, life-expectancy was low, mating between male-female was low and people were settling in remote, uninhabited areas. Both men and women had to make immense sacrifices under this mechanism and this gradually resulted in their oppression.
While men's oppression was silent and invisible, women have been openly persecuted for thousands of years. For centuries they have been confined within the four walls of the marriage system, where they were only good for procreating and raising children. For long society has considered them the property of men, with no identity, desires or needs of their own. Especially in the middle ages, her condition deteriorated considerably and the society was unconcerned.
Even though reproduction and raising children are the primary drive of women, they too want to go out and experience the world. They have talents and qualities that they too would like to develop. They are intelligent and capable people who would like to take their own decisions and control their own lives, including decisions like marriage and children.
Because it is visible, society has for long recognised the oppression of women and has taken steps to correct it. But the attitudes of men have not changed significantly, hence not much has been achieved. Men, on their part, are so insensitive to their own needs, that they cannot be expected to be sensitive to the needs of women. Women's programmes need to stop looking at men as oppressors and start looking at how men too have been the victims of the same social mechanism that women suffer from. Men and women have to work together to subvert the oppressive system. We no longer need to increase our population, so we have no need for the oppressive social mechanism of rewards and punishments. We should now start thinking about redressing the damages. It is high time to talk about destroying old oppressive mechanisms and build new institutions suited to today's ground realities.
"Women who seek equality with men lack ambition" ~ Timothy Leary
The women's liberation movement has, at places, diverted from its basic goal. The modern heterosexual society wants women to be just like men: doing what men do, behaving like men behave and being wherever they are.
Equality should not mean being the same. It should not deprive men and women of their separate spaces. Women and men are not the same. They have been endowed by nature with different capabilities and aspirations. We should respect this difference and not try to subvert it through social maneuvers. Every individual should be able to live up to his or her full potential. The society should not force him/her to be like the other. They need to respect each other with their differences. Men who are in touch with their inner masculinity become sensitive and caring of themselves and other men, and are also naturally inclined to treat women with respect.
Perhaps the best social system would be where women decide on issues regarding women and men decide on issues regarding men. Otherwise, both will continue to try to subjugate each other, since their needs differ too much from each other. And then politics, abuse and exploitation of each other is inevitable. In such a situation, the third gender/two-spirited people can resume their natural role of coordinating the relations between the two groups for proper functioning of society.