The older I get, the more aware I become of the pain and suffering caused by gender roles. They seem to cut both genders off from true power and the ability to experience the joy and beauty of life. When I was younger, I was too busy trying to live up to these expectations to question them. As I’ve gotten older, I just don’t have the energy to live in the box anymore – it’s my favorite thing about the aging process.
The males in our culture (and many other cultures) get socialized to be invulnerable. We are supposed to always know what to do, and never show weakness. The females in our culture are socialized to be “sugar and spice and everything nice”; to cheerily cater to the needs of others while ignoring their own needs. Men get to show anger. Women get to show vulnerability.
While it may seem like men have the better deal – after all, they can access their own power – the power they have access to is only shallow power (many women seem to know this about us). The deeper forms of power don’t come from us, they come through us. To allow this kind of power to come through requires that we surrender and become vulnerable to something greater, which men are prohibited from doing. As an inventor, artist and dancer, the most powerful expressions I’ve experienced have come from surrendering to something beyond myself.
Women have permission to be vulnerable, but not to express power, because power is not “nice”. However, because women can access vulnerability, many feel the deep power moving within, but feel prohibited from expressing it; like their spirit is in chains. Women have been given half the key to accessing deep power; while men have been given the other half. Women can feel it but don’t have permission to express it, men have permission to express it but can’t feel it.
The recognition of this deep power is encoded into our guts and into our bones; we know it when we see it; we write stories about it. To access this deep power requires that a person step out of their gender role, even if only temporarily.
Our ability to feel sadness and our ability to feel joy come from the same place inside: they arise from our ability to be moved by life. Men are not allowed to feel sadness because it’s seen as weakness; a weak man is no man at all, and ‘unworthy’ of love. Women are not allowed to feel sadness because it’s not nice; it’s seen as selfish and not feminine, and makes her ‘unworthy’ of love. But to avoid sadness requires that one shut down the ability to be moved by life, since that’s it’s source. We thus cut off our ability to experience the joy and beauty of life. Sadness and joy are two sides of the same coin.
The tragedy of these gender roles is that we are told we must comply in order to be loved by others. We all want to be loved, so we comply, and in complying, we cut ourselves off from the very things that people actually fall in love with. We don’t fall in love with cardboard gender role simulations, we fall in love with the living, breathing, vulnerable and powerful reality of our beloved’s deeper being. It’s time that humans of both genders team up to create a freer, more powerful, more joyful world.