Listening into Liberation


Yesterday, I met a man – one man of many.

He was smart, educated, friendly. He was young. He asked what I do for a living, as we were in a somewhat business setting.

I told him I am working to empower women, that I coach and teach courses about creativity, and that I’m writing a book about women, creativity, sensuality, pleasure and power.

He smiled back and seemed interested. He then asked why the book wasn’t for men, too. He said, “You’re losing half your audience if you leave men out.” or something to that effect. I smiled and thought about that for a moment. Yes, that would be half the population. It could be half my audience if the book spoke to both genders.

I asked him to elaborate. I asked him to share what he meant.

He then told me that when he first heard me speak about what I am doing, his first thought was that this was about Feminism and he felt himself recoil, feeling that he didn’t want to hear it. But, he stayed with me.

At first, I was so surprised that he felt this. I told him so. I felt into what I had said, looking for where I might have interjected any sort of rejection. I couldn’t find anything, but then so much can be unconscious.

I then spoke to him about how I see things. That feminism isn’t about rejection. It is about honoring.

Feminism is  about women being recognized, witnessed, honored, respected, and treated as full human beings by all. It does not reject, it honors.

He then said something to the effect of, “You know, I ‘d love to talk to you more about this. I have a group of friends, men, that would love to talk about this.”

We continued to talk about women and men, and about how things can be generational – how women and men from different generations see this all differently. Makes total sense. And then our conversation ended.


My Heart Knows

As the day came to an end, I continued to consider our exchange. I became very curious about this sense of recoiling, rejecting, ‘othering’ that happens between many men and women, even women and women, when we speak of feminism.

How do we work to end the institutionalized forms of discrimination in the world that so inhumanely treat women and children when there are so many tender feelings that get triggered between us?

I’ve been working to separate out my anger at how things are from the desire of the mind to reject, to separate, to make wrong. Anger can be a fiery force that fuels change. It’s not bad. If anger is here, it must be felt so it moves through. And as it moves through, it can fuel my work to make things better. But anger projected onto others just pushes away. It rejects. I know it because I’ve done it over and over and over. It doesn’t feel good.

My heart certainly doesn’t reject. My heart knows this is about wholeness, about the basic goodness of all beings. My heart doesn’t fear. It longs to connect, to heal, to create something new where all are honored. My heart knows this fiery force of anger can be a positive force, bringing forth a creative power from within.

My mind tends to ‘other’…meaning, it sees other people as something separate. When it fears, it wants to compare pain, compare injustices, compare anything just so it feels separate and better, and therefore safe.

Finding balance within ourselves

I looked in this man’s eyes and saw such a willingness to listen, to hear, to consider, to talk. He came back into the conversation, after feeling the quick pangs of wanting to reject. What a beautiful moment that was.

I know our hearts were listening to each other. Somewhere inside we actively chose to stay in it, to listen, to hear, to witness. And in this moment, my mind softened into my heart. I could see the humanness in him and his desire to know and understand, and his desire to be heard.

Somewhere inside of me, I reject my own masculine qualities. And, I reject that I am capable of heinous acts as well. Somewhere inside, I don’t want to see. This man’s gift to me was just this…he didn’t reject me. And in this act, something inside me was healed. I can’t speak for him, but I hope he felt a similar sense of acceptance and experienced being heard, witnessed, honored and respected.

Listening into Liberation

I’m going to take him up on his offer to meet with me, to hold conversation, to listen without separating and rejecting, to hear with an open heart.

Somewhere within, I know, we women must make the move to liberation – a liberation that begins from within, disentangling ourselves from the beliefs we hold that keep us snared and entangled in the old thought structures and paradigms that required the word feminism to come into being in the first place.

The real question is, how can we move toward this liberation, reclaiming the feminine inside and the feminine out there,  without rejecting the masculine out there and the masculine within?

Your joy is my joy. Your sorrow is my sorrow. Your success is my success. There is no separation. There is just One.

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17 Replies to “Listening into Liberation”

  1. Julie,

    I LOVE this post. I struggle with this split within myself. How do I claim the feminine without rejecting the masculine. Can I see the light and dark in both? I’m drawn to the sacred feminine – partly as a reaction to the patriarchal masculine form of the divine I’ve had fed to me all my life. But the whole is all encompassing – so how do I embrace one without rejecting the other?

    And globally, beyond my own individual split, I see the same thing in our social circles. So much damage has been, is being, done to the feminine. But sometimes, I’m hesitant to embrace the title feminist, because I know the recoil it causes, because I feel it within my own soul.

    A liberation to WHOLENESS — to honoring the oneness of us all — that would be freedom.

  2. My very best friend is a man. He is sensitive and kind and believes that women should do whatever they feel that they should do.

    And yet, he is a man. He is very manly. His masculine qualities are beautiful, and I celebrate that.

    And he celebrates my feminine qualities.

    And my masculine ones.

    I don’t know how we got here.

  3. Julie, I’m so glad you wrote this!

    I went on a journey this week.

    Lately I’ve been reading wonderful posts by you and the other bloggesses I’ve met, and I’ve been pulled along by this loving, sweeping, inclusion in the feminine.

    And it was new, and felt good, and felt right.

    And I wrote a post in my strange free-form manner, while still in the afterglow of all of this woman-love, and spoke of this newfound sisterhood….

    But when I read it later I wanted to recant (I still haven’t). It seemed so exclusive. So excluding. And very much not me, even though it was me in that moment.

    The thing of it is that I am much more at home with the masculine parts of me than the feminine, that I recognize in many of my man-friends qualities that are often tied to the feminine: compassion, listening, support, nurturing, the Infinite.

    Of all of the hurts and sadness and harm I remember in my life, nearly all of it has been caused by a woman. My personal experience is of man being as much partner, equal and friend as any woman I’ve ever known. Maybe more so. Never less.

    And so, I thought my post may have injured, may have hurt, may have alienated some of the very people who have been the kindest and most supportive of me.

    So was it my true voice? I waffled. I wondered. I analyzed. I spent time in my head and my heart.

    And somewhere in there I realized that in this, as in all things, I am the sum of my contradictions. I am the grey space between the extremes of my beliefs. This, as in all things, is the great balance, the sublime coming together, the profound wholeness of truth.

    I am not fully ready to lose myself in the complete feminine of these encounters, but I am drawn to experience this for the first time. And at the same time I know that I will always hold to the masculine spirits in my life, including the one in me. The art of this, the peace, the truth, is in being both completely, without losing anything from either.

    I’m working on it.

    Hugs and butterflies,

  4. This is such an important topic for women and men. We have a lot of healing left to do. Some of it is generational, in that different generations have different common experiences of wounding and so the areas that need healing may also be common within in each generation.

    What we often don’t realize is how our wounding affects subsequent generations and how confusing this can be for everyone involved.

    For us all to heal, we women must bring those dark areas into the light. We must be honest about our own wounding, because until we release this, everyone is affected negatively. Men and women both contain masculine and feminine. Both masculine and feminine contain dark and light. It’s the balance that is important, both between masculine and feminine AND between dark and light.

    How often do we forget this?

    Thank you, Julie and man-friend, for reminding us.

  5. Oh, yes, I struggled with this whole issue, years ago, struggled hard, fought against the way things are, the differences between male and female, the discrimination. And then I stopped. I just…stopped. I didn’t give up, there are still things that are unfair, but I think one day I realized that it is not so much a division between them and us, it is our own refusal/inability/fear that keeps us from taking what is ours. It is not their fault. It is no one’s fault. It needs to be changed, but we can change it ourselves, every day in the way we act, the way we stand tall and strong and set examples for the other women, girls, around us. The way you do. We just have to keep singing this song that is woman, until we hear it, loud and strong, and then those around us can’t help but hear it too.

  6. This is such a vital conversation and what a gift that you got to have it live, with a young man you’d just met, and that you (and we) can continue to have it both amongst ourselves and with the world. I love Renae’s words echoing your own – “liberation to WHOLENESS” – the sense that we are One and inextricably entwined.

  7. Such a great post, Julie.

    I grew up with men all around me (four brothers and a father, who are all very strong masculine figures). My mother and I couldn’t be more different on many levels, so I struggle at times with what being a female means for me. It has taken me a long time to get to a place of acceptance. Acceptance of myself for all I am regardless of gender. Not trying to compare myself to my brothers and not limiting myself because I am not “a boy.” Through this process of acceptance, I have dealt with anger, competetion, recoiling, and rejection. However, this post was a fresh reminder to embrace the differences in our genders. To appreciate our uniqueness and to be open minded.

    From Goria Steinem to Marilyn Monroe..I can relate to both of these women and several in between. And that’s finally okay with me.

  8. You had better get in touch, Julie, there’s still so much to explore 🙂

    – “the man”

  9. This post–and your conversation with the man you wrote about– is so practical and vital to our very existence as women, men, human beings. Thank you for speaking out and empowering women to embrace themselves and all that it means to be feminine.

  10. i’m so glad you left the devices at home. you might’ve missed this opportunity had your head been buried in a tweet. you know, i’ve been thinking about this since you posted it. (and isn’t it funny – in that grand kind of funny – that this happened mere hours after we talked about this very thing?) the women i know who are valued, respected, appreciated by men and women alike are the women who are who they are without apology or explanation. they just out and out revel in being a female, period.

    as i mentioned to you, several years ago my manchild and i had this stage we went through together when his shifting paralleled my shifting. he read my thesis and complained/resented the use of female pronouns (in my mind, that made my point); i read bly’s books and, well, we eventually saw that arguing got us nowhere. it was only when we said “yes, and” more than we said “but”, only when we peeled ourselves off the cross, only when we dropped the total self-focus to make room for those beyond our own selves that we began to move forward. that we began to smile, relax, and talk. it was when we were willing to listen to each other that we saw similarities and common concerns. it was when we uncrossed our arms and leaned forward ready and willing to bear witness to one another that we realized yes, there are changes that desperately need to be made, and yes, in many ways, we were our own worst enemy.

    there are characteristics and traits that are attributed to the masculine, and there are traits and characteristics that are attributed to the feminine. both have a place. both are needed. both can be valued. and when we start valuing the masculine and feminine in ourselves, it’s easier to see and value it in others, and eventually, one person at a time, we teach the world a different way of being. we teach abundance and inclusiveness and leave scarcity and exclusivity on the side of the road.

  11. As usual, you reach into my mind, pull out the thoughts my soul was trying to express, and order them eloquently on your blog. I did my best to express this very idea/feeling with my post A Woolf at the Door: Film and Feminism, but my success is difficult to measure. Thank you for your words and your wisdom.

  12. Beautiful post – so timely and relevant. I love that “the man” (Felix) agrees 🙂 For me, feminism is about embracing the feminine, not actually so much about being woman-centric. What I mean by this is that we all (men + women) have the feminine in us…the right-brained, watery, intuitive, creative, emotional side…some more expressed than others…and this side of all of us has been looked down upon for a long time. So being pro-feminine, or a feminist, is simply about being inclusive to all the parts of ourselves: the parts that we love and that we have trouble embracing, the parts that society honors and that society thinks is crazy. The more we love all the parts of ourselves (even the hard to love parts) the more we feel connected as humans instead of men and women or Jill and Bob or mother-daughter, etc. Thanks for a very thought provoking topic…one that I’m sure could be discussed from here to eternity!

  13. What a gorgeous, and caring, dance between you and Felix, Julie. I’m blessed by the dynamic listening between you, him and every commenter here. I want to add something to it, too. And what came to mind is a poem I wrote a while ago. Hiro Boga does poetry on Sundays, and “A Note of Appreciation to Tantra” was a poetic response to one of her posts. I hope you don’t mind me “recycling” it here, which I’m led to do as it talks about that sweet in-between place we also seek regarding feminine and masucline.

    A Note of Appreciation to Tantra

    Integrated mess
    that I bless

    because you, Tantra,
    don’t ask me to choose

    between my holiness
    and my lusciousness.

    You sweetly accommodate
    my lucidity and sensuality.

    I am both.

    Pristine and primal.

    Duality is a joke
    too impotent to evoke
    real laughter.

    I am both.

    I need not choose separation
    of anything.
    I’ll leave that whacking-job
    to butchers.

    I choose blended ways.

    Raging minds
    not so easily scandalized.

    Raging thighs
    that open to heaven.

  14. I love this post, Julie. I had a conversation with a feminist friend yesterday where we talked about the recoil that happens when the word “feminist” is used, and how it can appear so exclusive and excluding.

    You said: “Somewhere within, I know, we women must make the move to liberation – a liberation that beings from within, *disentangling ourselves from the beliefs we hold that keep us snared and entangled in the old thought structures and paradigms* that required the word feminism to come into being.”

    There is such strength in honoring what is rather than accepting what was. You express this so beautifully here, my love. So powerful are we, when we honor ourselves, rather than exclude those who are not like us.

  15. Oh my goodness, Julie, I can’t even grasp the depths at which this post resonated with me. I have spent countless hours wrestling with the same questions. How do I embrace the power of being a woman without alienating men? Why do I recoil from aspects of feminism and femaleness? How do I honor (and, ideally, release) my rage without wounding or rejecting? How do I honor (and, ideally, fully embrace) my softness without becoming a victim?

    This is an enormous theme you’ve raised. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on it, and the outcome of your future conversations with the man and his friends. What a beautiful gift for all involved!

  16. When I read this I thought about how I taught connotation in 7th grade. How saying your neighbor was nosy was negative, whereas saying your neighbor was curious was positive. Feminism has taken on a negative connotation. I understand that at the beginning men were threatened, even women were threatened by having to see their world differently. Now, you talk about how this man felt at first, and my first thought was how hard it must be still for men, who were kings of the world, to see women “taking over.” That’s how it must seem to them. But in your instance, this man was willing to listen, to talk more. Maybe feminism is an outdated word with a negative connotation. I wonder what we would use to be non-threatening but still take our place side-by-side with men. Sort of like your Rilke quote. Just thinking – may not even be relevant but I think the roots go way back.

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