We live in a patriarchal world. Many would protest this generalized statement or discount as a flagrant expression of the “f” word (feminism). In order to support such a bold statement, it becomes necessary to objectively define masculine vs. feminine values, but how does one assign a value to gender without generalizing or seeming stereotypical? Of course, exceptions always exist within every rule, but certain universal truths reveal themselves across cultures and time. In almost every culture on Earth and as long as archaeologists can study back in time, the female of our species cares for and nurtures the young, while the male hunts.
Carl Jung, noted 20th century psychiatrist, wrote extensively about gender archetypes. To the female, Eros, Jung attributes fertility, intuition, intimacy and relatedness. The male, Logos, embodies authority, reason and discrimination. The care received from one’s mother as a helpless infant provides the basis of the closest relationship in life. The mother/child bond is also one of complete unselfishness. From a personal survival standpoint, mothers have little to gain in caring for an infant but much to lose. She will share her food and everything else she possesses with her child often at her own expense. The connection fostered between mother and child is universal, and women, mothers, are the facilitators of inter-human connection. The female bond to her community is not one that is rationalized. She is drawn emotionally and intuitively and instinctively seeks connection in all her interactions.
Eros’ logical antithesis, Logos does not rely on intangible feelings to make his way in the world. Every liaison is carefully analyzed, judged and weighed for costs and benefits before commitments are made. The male is cool and rational. In a world inhabited by constant danger, his very life may depend on the quality of decisions he makes. Enemies who lurk in the dark compete for resources, steal your women and stab you in the back. Self preservation depends upon being able to discriminate and make judgments about people and the hostile world, and if necessary, violence will keep the adversaries at bay.
The Jungian Eros and Logos would seem to be fundamentally at odds with one another. On the one hand, the feminine connects, loves and nurtures, and on the other hand, the masculine thrives on discrimination, judgment and aggression. But the two are in reality interdependent halves of a cohesive whole. The nurturing feminine cannot survive in a hostile world without the protection of the discriminating masculine. And the aggressive Logos would implode upon itself without the buffering love of Eros. We know this truth to be universal. Without the union of male and female, complex life would not even be possible.
On the other side of the world in the Far East and as early as the 14th century B.C.E. the ancient Chinese noted the essence of the universe could be described as a unity of opposites and everything in nature, on Earth and in the cosmos could be designated as ‘yin’ (feminine) or ‘yang’ (masculine). The polar opposites do not exist independently but together form a union that forms the essence of the entire universe.
The Chinese do not ascribe qualities of good or evil to either yin or yang, as the two entities are simply opposite sides of the same whole. Neither is better or worse than the other. Furthermore, they believe that the two forces need to be maintained in balance. When either yin or yang overwhelms the other, disaster strikes in order to shock the system back into stability.
If the Chinese are correct, a massive correction awaits us. In modern Western society the accepted mantra is that women enjoy equal rights to men. We have the right to vote, the right to work and drive and choose whom we marry, unlike many women living today in other countries. Yet we do not live in an equal society. To realize the truth of this statement, one only has to look at the way our society is organized. Go back to the basic archetypes. Women nurture, love and relate. Societal institutions based on feminine values include all those involved with care and collectivism, childcare, eldercare, healthcare, caring for the underprivileged, caring for the environment, feeding the hungry and working towards a peaceful global community. Archetypal male values revealed in society include defending the turf, securing resources and facilitating industry.
If spending reflects values, the U.S. Federal budget is telling. In 2010, the federal government allocated $671.1 billion dollars for defense, by far the largest line item in the federal budget. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, arguably wars that were unnecessary and may prove to have been futile, will probably cost as much as $3 trillion by the time they are truly over. In 2008, politicians from both political parties rushed to bail out America’s excessive risk-taking banking industry to the tune of $700 billion. In the latest, mid-term elections, while politicians fall all over each other to boast who will cut the most taxes for the wealthy and reduce spending for the underprivileged, nobody is recommending reducing the size of the military elephant in the room.
Although we spare no expense for our military, social programs carry an air of pariah. Ronald Reagan famously maligned “welfare queens,” who in his opinion chose a decadent, lazy lifestyle over an honest day’s work at the taxpayer’s expense. Reagan’s sentiments ring true for a large proportion of the American public, who believe the poor have only themselves to blame for their unfortunate predicament.
Timeless battles between individualism and collectivism, yin and yang, dominance and submission, masculine and feminine punctuate the history of humanity. The powerful usually win. The Imposition of American will on foreign lands by military force, the unsustainable consumption of natural resources, the battle for control of feminine reproduction and predatory capitalism are all patriarchal in nature. As the masses of humanity organize and find a voice to exercise their collective will, the powerful merely find more insidious ways to maintain their stronghold. The spoils go to the victor, and the Earth loses. We all lose.