I grew up in Kolkata in the 60s and 70s, i.e. as a child and as a teenager stepping into youth. I grew up with the same middle class values like all others, went through similar experiences like all others, i.e. similar pangs of first crush, first rejection, worries and anxieties about future, dreams and wishes about life in general ….
Life, then, took it’s own turn for me and I went with the flow or rather was washed away by the storm and held onto straws for survival. Survive I did, rather well I must say, and went onto living a fulfilling life from many aspects.
What also happened during this period is that without my conscious understanding, I ended up swallowing the perfect patriarchal model of “man” and “woman”, though I did view myself as a rebel and a high achiever. What I did not notice was that internally I judged myself and everyone else through the same lense of patriarchy that I so hated consciously. For example, I believed that men who cannot take responsibilities (the way I thought they should have) are not really men, that most women were taking cover under victimhood because it served a purpose for them for not taking charge of their lives. No shades of greys were there for me. Therefore, my own lenses towards myself were very similar: must be stoic, must be strong, must be independent to the point of not depending on anyone or anything, must continuously strive, that nothing was impossible if one had decided to go for it, and so on, and so forth.
As I look back at life in the 60s and 70s and thereafter … I notice that I literally grew up with feminine beings … and have always been attracted towards feminine beings … I am using the word ‘beings’ deliberately because feminine to me does not necessarily mean only ‘women’ but anyone who has more feminine energy. (my apologies to those who do not like the binary of masculine and feminine, but as of now, I cannot find a better word or description to talk about the subject I am on). To me feminine energy get manifest is many ways … the wherewithal to receive life irrespective to what it brings, willingness to celebrate and live it, love, warmth and goodwill towards others in general, ability to dialogue and to listen, will to invite and nurture others without any preoccupation with control, to be vulnerable without guilt and shame, to treat strength unlike a weapon, and most of all, to not nurture hatred in one’s heart. I am not saying that therefore people who display these do not harm others at all; of course, they do … but by and large, they do not live by toxic masculinity.
I grew up in a household managed by women but who submitted to toxic masculinity. However, their own personal lights shone through even that toxicity and that helped me survive. I lived in a hostel meant for girls, went to girls only school and college and was taught and mentored by women teachers. My psychoanalyst teacher was a woman. My coach trainers were women. What is astonishing is that I did not realise this for a long time. I never looked at the implications of this experience. In fact, on the contrary, I had always prided myself in my youth that I could get along much better with masculine and strong persons that weepy, passive aggressive whiny persons!!
If I were to look at the implications of this experience of being held and nurtured by feminine beings (both men and women), it has a quite a bit of implications. My experience of being parented by my father was a very feminine experience. He was a loving, touchy feely, emotionally fragile person who gave me lot of love but without any protection. This gave me the wherewithal to love but to not trust. I then married a man who was not afraid to be dependent and fragile and who never blocked my way. This gave me wings but also taught me to not depend on anyone. The women who mentored me were varied in age, shapes, and in experience, and had their own hell and heaven to deal with. Without grossly generalizing, what I received from them:
was to value who I was,
to be strong,
to fly high
to create a home wherever I was, in short, not just to adapt but to own
taught me the difference between right and wrong and act from it, even if others did not join
what it means to be equitable,
taught me to value differences but to not discriminate
and, they taught me how to include without losing my own ‘me’ness and without controlling
In my life today, I am surrounded by feminine beings … my partner whose heart is very feminine and who taught me to value money for what it does, taught me to stand for what is right and how to love. It took me a while to appreciate his love for old hindi music, black and white hindi movies and easily moist eyes. My brilliant scholar daughter calls herself a pacifist and I see the incredible love and empathy that she carries towards the world and towards fellow beings. Today, I have friends who I know personally, but also know through FB, whose generosity, grit, courage and empathy towards others astonish me everyday … I believed I am blessed to be surrounded by all these feminine beings.
You cannot call yourself a feminist if you don’t behave like one, no matter how “woke” you are!
Today, we all need feminine energy and compassion especially in a world that is full of toxic masculinity and one upmanship and what our SC calls “irrational logic”.
Let me know what are your views and how you felt reading this post.