by Mothiur Rahman
Reprinted with permission from ‘The Feminine and the Seeds of the Future Series‘
There has been an absence of male role models in my life, ones I felt I could connect with and be inspired to follow into and through adulthood. That absence, I have been learning, has led to all sorts of entrapments by projections of what I felt being a man is about. I carried a sense of betrayal that the sex I was born into had nothing to offer that spoke of the beauty I longed for in my heart. All beauty I put at the feet of what I understood to be the feminine.
When I say the feminine, I don’t just mean women. I also felt more affinity with those aspects in myself I saw as feminine (care, compassion, service) and yet, at the same time, I was guarded about expressing such feelings with other men. I did not feel any authentic invitation from men to speak about the male experience of the feminine and, when it came to groups that gathered to explore the feminine, more often than not they were limited to women. Where they were not so limited, the majority were still women and so the group ethos that arose did not necessarily recognise that there might be a male experience of the feminine which differs from the female experience.
I myself did not recognise that there might be a male experience of the feminine until I joined a men’s group called the Mankind Project. For most of my life I felt mostly fear and anxiety when in the company of a group of men, knowing little of the masculine other than what was offered by society (the accumulation of a specific type of power and influence, aggression, domination). I denied in myself those aspects I feared, valuing instead what I understood to be qualities of the feminine; at the same time feeling a strange sense of unease but unable to say why.
I now think my uneasiness was due to a lack of recognition that the feminine might be experienced through the male form in a different way to the female. I lacked a male language to understand emotions and feelings arising through my body, or how emotions behave when they are denied – that they fester and become ugly and ooze their way into behavior that leads to even more fear and denial. I lacked any teaching to help me understand what I was doing to myself through denying those feelings that I feared. I also lacked any role models to help me become more skillful in managing my more shadowy, dark emotions and feelings.
A moment of realisation came when I was doing a warm-up exercise for a movement workshop for both men and women. A safe space was created and we were given permission to enact a feeling or behavior we didn’t feel comfortable with. Although I resisted even contemplating myself as a person demanding obedience, I decided to explore that behavior and see what feelings came up, and to then go beyond them into obsessive demanding control – yet still remain a witness to what arose. I felt exhilarated as I opened up new territories in myself which I hadn’t known existed. I joined a men’s group through the Mankind Project to explore these feelings that had so much to teach, if only they could be encountered with knowledge, wisdom and safety.
Due to habits created so long ago, I hadn’t noticed how I often reacted to feelings. Often a feeling got pushed under before it had expression, becoming a thought unconsciously pulled into a distorted shape by the strength of feeling repressed behind it. I don’t know whether this experience is just mine or whether other men have experienced similar distortions. If they have, how can men cross this threshold to explore the feminine from a perspective of greater clarity?
My experience of gatherings exploring the intimate and relational aspects of life is that they often privilege one aspect of the feminine – the listening, nourishing, embodied, interconnected aspect. However, there is another, wilder aspect of the feminine, the Lillith of Jewish folklore who wouldn’t listen to Adam, who wanted equal power and abandoned him in the Garden of Eden when refused; Kali the goddess of creative destruction often depicted with tongue lolling and eyes wide, dancing on the body of Shiva (the masculine archetype) with a string of heads as a garland.
If more gatherings explored these aspects of the feminine, which I feel have a power to cleanse unhealthy emotions (in both men and women), perhaps it might resonate more with men? At a loss to understand the depth of anger and trauma pouring out from and since the #Metoo campaign, men find their traditional road maps make little sense anymore. Lost in this upheaval of previously unvoiced (or unheard) trauma, they fear that any response they make could provoke an even wilder reaction, rather than a return to safe ground.
Perhaps there is no escape route in that sense of going back to what was safe. Perhaps there is only “escape” through a willingness to being transformed through active presence. It feels like we are witnessing a collective archetypal story unfold, of Lillith who does not wish to obey Adam and instead demands sovereignty in her choices. How can men witness that story of the feminine with full presence and attention? Can we move past our everyday capacities bounded by fears and projections, to embrace the archetypal movement of the untamed feminine force? Can we become partners in grief for all that has been done? Can we stay curious enough to discover how the masculine and feminine are truly relating to one another at this moment in history, and within each one of us?