The Value of The Feminine by Yael Nevo

Looking back on the phases of the Western feminist revolution (and a revolution it is!), a lot has been accomplished, and we still have a long way to go.
I am a feminist. I proudly call myself a feminist because I know that I would not be where I am today and would not be able to have the experiences that I have had, if it wasn’t for many women (and men) who have and are backing me. I am also a feminist because I look at the world and I see a crisis that could only be changed by an increase of the currency we give feminine values.
Looking back on the social changes brought about by the feminist movement, first women had to straggle to have a voice. The rights for political participation, studying, working – women wanted to be in the world, to engage with and influence the decisions we take as a society. Then came a deeper and more fundamental change. Women wanted special rights based on different needs than men. We created flexible working conditions, maternity leave, a change in research methodologies etc. – we wanted an end to seeing men as the norm and having women forced to align. Then came a more substantial understanding of the differences between women. How class and race and sexual preferences and disability and age interact to create different views, needs and goals. Along this time, the concept of Queer gained momentum as well and we began to understand that our femininity (and masculinity) does not dwell in us simply because of our biological structure. It is wider, fluid and more complex than we thought.
Our world today has only scratched the surface of our understanding of Gender. This is true both essentially – meaning how we all carry different feminine and masculine energies within us, and more importantly, socially – meaning the extent of the permission we allow ourselves to explore these aspects in us and in others. We live in a society that declares equality for women, but constantly fails to acknowledge the true value of ‘The Feminine’, whether it is manifested within women, men, and everything in between.
And yes, using the term ‘The Feminine’ is tricky, so allow me to clarify. When using this phrase, I am referring to traits such as care, intuition, vulnerability, softness. The reason I am associating these qualities with femininity is not because women have sole ownership of them, but because these have historically and socially been attributed and therefore encouraged in women, and because these values have lower currency in our society than values that are associated with men such as rationality, strength and independence. Since we live in a world that adheres by the latter set of values and conforms all of us to align behind them, regardless of our gender identity, we still exclude many women from their legitimacy to full participation. I use the term ‘The Feminine’ as a way to reclaim what has been passed around as spoiled goods and show it for its true nature – life-sustaining force.
What we are experiencing is a crisis of connection. As a society, we are losing the capacity to truly relate to each other, by rewarding zero sum game of competition, valuing facts over feelings and suppressing emotions. We live isolated, over-worked, compensating for our lack in true connection by over-eating, over-drinking, shopping, porn and binge-watching. We look away from the suffering of others, and we rarely ask for help ourselves.
This hierarchal structure appears natural. This is how we were brought up – feminine values are underrated and appear weak if we were to express them, we will be put down, judged by others, and ourselves. However this structure is not a force of nature. It is a social structure meant to benefit the few. Maintaining unequal divisions, based in dog eat dog competition that serves this structure – keeps us separated, lonely, angry. This in turn creates space for more and more extreme voices, violence breaks and we either take part or numb ourselves in the face of it. Overall, we are distracted and depleted enough for this mechanism to keep going, for secret deals of arms trade or genetically modified food to go through, for our health and education services budget to be cut once again. And so we are detached from our real birthright of connection. We stopped caring for ourselves, for others, for our environment. We have lost the fundamental energy that will push us forward and tilt the scale from destruction to creation. And those few at the top, isn’t it the lack of connection that has them act so selfishly?
Imagine a world where care has a monetary value, where the more you show up for others and put attention on your environment, the more you are rewarded. A world where these values are not secondary or taken for granted, they are not something to practice on your spare time and they are not charity. What if we decide, right now that our care for other people and the acknowledgment of theirs and our own vulnerability were as important, if not more, than the matter of fact, utilitarian approach to life. What if we were to look at these as an investment, as a muscle that the more you flex it, the stronger it gets. What if we value the feminine, and the people who hold it not just as equals, but as precious?
And so the next step for feminism, the way I see it, is to acknowledge the deep deprivation we are living in, and to support not only women, but The Feminine, wherever and with whomever it shows up. It is time to feel.