The most classic stereotypical experience of premonition I have ever had was when I was in my teens driving late at night. It was a dangerous windy road that I was approaching, after a straight road of 60 miles per hour. As I was driving, I had this flash and I saw this image of someone walking into the road in grey. I was mainly bemused by this experience, but just in case, I started to slow down. To my - almost horror - someone walked into the road at the bend signalling for me to stop. They had just had a serious accident at the top of the hill, and had just climbed up to find help. It seemed he had injuries internally and that he was lucky to be alive. The rest of the night consisted of me calling an ambulance and making sure that we were as safe as possible as it was a pretty dangerous road to stop on. As we hung out and waited for the ambulance and started to talk, the man's sister was called Nadia as well, and we all laughed at the fact that it meant 'hope'.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Content warning: possibly triggering content bellow.
Also I don't know if that title actually makes sense, but I'm gonna try it for now.
Since I can remember, I have been taught to care about people. Perhaps this has been the same for you. Since childhood, I have not only been taught to be caring but I have also been taught to care for those who have been cruel to me and/or who don't care about me. When I was a child, I was expected to care, to look after others. Before anything else. And I do mean literally care emotionally for others, in this case my parents who neglected and abused me (I know. What fucking morons). The main things that I remember being a child was their fights and being forced to be an adult, I was forced to 'help', to try and manage them, and these situation for hours of my life. This and the general situation was so bad that by the age of 12 I distinctly remember practically deciding that because I was obviously worth very little, I would dedicate my life in service to others. That I would put their needs first before anything else.
As an adult, bad behaviour and cruelty is something that we need to protect ourselves from by creating strong boundaries, by not caring about those people, so you can exist with some confidence and peace. But as I was a child, I couldn't. As my boundaries were routinely abused, crossed, I got very used to this. This happens to lots of people, and they are forced to put up with appalling behaviour continually throughout their lives because that is what they are familiar with. This history has meant is has been hard for me to not care about people who don't care about me and/or people who are nasty to me. And frankly when you care about absolute fucking morons (peheh), it can really, really mess you up. Although caring can be a lovely quality in people, it can be taken to such an extreme that the person no longer puts their needs first. They are not confident in their needs and selves. For me, there can be a deficit of awareness and of the importance of my own needs, and a quality of not knowing who I am.
As a femme, we are conditioned to care for people, historically that's literally what we have been for. Recently, I made the mistake of assuming that some queer men understood the experience of being conditioned as a woman and being taught 'to be subservient' or 'to serve'. The (foolish) assumption was that queer people understand power dynamics because of their experiences. Being confident they would understand, I was using that (fact) as a prefix for another point, but they stopped me right there and plainly informed me that I was wrong. That they didn't agree with my experience of sexism - which of course, they understood better than me. They also said this about an experience of sexism I had, they said that didn't agree that that had happened. Wow. Thanks for gaslighting me fellas. Time wisely spent. You can imagine that that ended well. I still cared about 'me upsetting them' even though it was the other way round, and I put their experience first and saw it as more important than mine initially. And then I was like, actually no, I know what happened and that was really messed up. I'm so fucking tried of this shit. I'm so tired of people being dickheads and me caring about them when actually I shouldn't give a fuck about people who behave like that. What a waste of my precious time.
By I now, I am learning to just know and trust in my own experience. I have no other option. But my own experience (as you can see above) is something I have been told my whole life is not valuable and is not 'real'. Many people have had the same treatment. But I'm resisting that and I'm getting to the point where I know it is important and valid. I even took an MSc in power dynamics to uncover the root of what I have experienced, but people still treat me like I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about when I refer to this field. As many femmes experience, I get dismissed and put down so consistently (including things I am an expert in) especially by male (and sometimes female) peers that it is honestly rare if I don't. Femmes are taught to care for mainly men and everyone else in general. If you look at simple history, that's why we were taught cooking lessons, how to fold a tea towel, how to care for children, and so forth. (it's so fucking obvious that we are taught to serve.) That's why self-care and making boundaries is a radical act.
Being a femme, you are expected and taught to be less vocal, to say what you think, that being (at all) angry is wrong. We are expected to conform and serve rather than to assert and be listened to. This is true, no matter how much those that have no fucking idea insist it's not happening. It is. We know that. Research reflects that. Research shows that people get frustrated at assertive women far faster than they to at men, that women get punished for speaking their minds. Recently, I said to my dad how much I get dismissed, and he immediately said defensively, dismissively "Not all the time!" >_< (I wasn't even talking about him, just generally). And I was like -_- great dad you just did it right then. It is maddening to be devalued so constantly, to be dehumanised every day. Many don't notice it, but oh god is the madness real when you actually are noticing it. Oh gahd. You can never unsee it. It's a joke that my own experience is denied by people who are not living my life. Fuck you. Oh yeah 'cause you are the 'King of Objectivity'. Give me a break. This happens all the time for people, and why should we waste our precious energy and emotional reserves on this bullshit?
Recently, whilst visiting a very good friend of mine, we were examining some patterns in my life. He told me that it's vitally important for me to start actively not caring for people who treat me badly and/or who don't care about me. It's obvious in a way, but I've never been taught how to actively not-care. This may be obvious to some of you [lucky you :)]. But I was never given these tools. I was never taught how to put my needs first, because I was taught that that wasn't valuable or important and many others are in my position as well. People say don't care about what others think - but how do you put that into practice when you've been conditioned to to the exact opposite? So friends, family, colleagues who have mistreated me and have bullied me, no matter how much they are in my life, I have just started to emotionally stop giving their words and actions any emotional significance. He said that you can't really change the situation, you can't really change people, but you can change your response to things.
Frankly, I have come to this out of sheer desperation. I can't really survive continuing in the way I have been, caring for morons and about people who mistreat me. My life isn't worth living like that. Out of pure necessity, I cannot afford to waste my precious time and be so distressed over fucking idiots. But it doesn't work to directly say to someone 'I don't want to talk to you anymore' because they react in response to it. I have had people literally insist on being in my life when I have asked them to get out of it. (I know, creepy). But this is what you can do: learn to emotionally distance yourself so no matter what is happening on the outside you don't fucking care anymore. People who don't care about you and/or are cruel to you - why should you take seriously what they say? Why should you respect that? They don't respect you, so why would you listen to that crap?
So, to make clear what you do:
1. The people who love you for who you are, who haven't been cruel to you and who appreciate you and make you feel strong - keep them very emotionally close to you. Take the time to think about them a lot, and to spend time with them.
2. Anyone who does not care about you and/or treats you like shit, whatever is happening on the outside, however much you see them, however much they are or aren't in your life, you can choose to give less emotional importance to what they say and the impact that has on your life. You can start to emotionally distance yourself from these people. Because, they do not deserve to be close to you. Their shitty opinions do not deserve to be taken seriously by you.
With some people who you think can change, it would be good to put up clear boundaries with them. Some may react badly to this, but try not to care about that. They are doing that because they are not used to it and want to continue the cycle. The more you stop caring as well, the more you can relax, including if you are around them. You are not here to only please others. You are important too and you should put your needs first. As soon as I started to do this, so much about what I used to care about started to slip away and I started to feel so much better. I have cared so much about the needs of others that it has made me very sick in the past. But now, it has meant so much stress is dropping away. Where I worked, for example, people who would say rude, nasty and/or condescending things to me and as soon as I started doing this, it just didn't affect me as much as it used to. It is so important, learning this technique. It will take a while and a lot of practice as I have spent most of my life putting the needs of others first, including the very terrible relationships. But I'm getting there, and my MH has immediately started to improve.
A huge thank you to the amazing man who taught me this. You know who you are! :) You're the best and such an incredible friend. Thank you!
So, you have found this oppressive mainstream culture to be a load of BS, so you get into new age belief systems (that have always resonated with you anyway) and you find the 'Divine Feminine' and a load of people who seem pretty chill and are channelling that divine gendered stuff all over the place too with a mixture of yoga retreats, incense, and avocados. Good for you! But - something about the ‘Divine Feminine’ makes you feel a bit suspicious and uneasy. A bit uncomfortable. Well, what if I was to tell you that those feelings make absolute sense as often, mainstreamed notions of the 'Divine Feminine' seem to be not only inaccurate but are also really damaging and contributing to oppression? I know - terrible!
One of the problems is that, as one person put it, it stops certain privileged new age groups - let's call them hippies - from questioning these concepts and areas (SP 2018). That the ‘Divine feminine’ is age old misogyny 'shrouded in hippie terminology' (SL 2018). If the ‘Divine Feminine’ is used in a way that really works to address oppression and to liberate trans and queer people than I 100% support that. But that is not how I have seen it being used. Of course, I'm not saying that we should totally erase notions of the 'feminine' and 'masculine' - that actually would be wrong. I don't advise a culture where the feminine / masculine don't exist at all. Many queer and trans people rightly feel liberating being within these areas. But I is a separate area to mainstreamed notions of the Divine Feminine and Masculine
What I am critiquing in this piece is the mainstramed usually cis-themed applications of the 'Divine Feminine'. And long as we split these spaces into these kind of gendered binary categories only and don't give any space to thinking beyond this, we are never going to actually address the damaging power dynamics going on in and around them. And whatever people insist, when you challenge them about it, it is often defined in opposition to the 'Divine Masculine'. Whatever the fuck that means (tell me, what does it mean?). These divisions, which are often heavily sexualised, are based on a heterosexual, cis assuming framework which is damaging AF and outdated. A quick google of the 'Divine Feminine' on google says 'love, compassion, wisdom, beauty, gentleness, patience, accepting, forgiving, nurturing, welcoming, accessible, kind, intuitive and healing' *shivers*. Yeah. Because that is MAINLY female. OH I'm sorry I mean 'feminine'. Let's of course pretend the ‘Divine Feminine’ has no connection to ideas associated with the old school notions of the 'traditional woman'.
It is also so reductive to quantify these spiritual spaces as only within traditional sexist notions of binary gender. Especially if nothing beyond that is considered. Referring to the 'Divine Masculine/Feminine' at the very least, needs to be done with thorough thought and delicately, as if done badly, there is a lot at stake. Remember, these are in communities whereby they are supposed to be critical and challenging oppression, but many people find traditional gendering of characteristics pretty oppressive. At the same time as acknowledging binary notions of gender, we need to acknowledge thinking beyond that as well. One of the (many) problems - and probably the most obvious - of the ‘Divine Feminine’ is that it is casting certain characteristics as 'feminine'. Such as, oh i don't know, deep emotional awareness, empathy, caring qualities. You know, those feminine qualities that only 'the feminine' possesses. You don't think so? I know - exactly. If so-called 'masculine' qualities also reflect this (which of course they do) then - why have the distinction?
If someone did think these were just the 'natural' qualities of the 'feminine', these have obviously initially been created from old notions of ‘womenhood’. If that is what people really think, I personally think is so fucking rude towards anyone who doesn't identify with 'the feminine' or 'their feminine side' or even people who do but not most of the time. So are they not empathetic creatures? Of course they are. I don't identify with the feminine any more than I absolutely have to. You could say that I'm forced to because of being a AFAB but I'd rather not have to think about the feminine too much. Kind of makes me feel queasy. What does that make my 'Feminine' or 'Divine Feminine' percentage? Probably below 50%? What, so anything / anyone outside of the divine feminine - is an uncaring knob-head? No. Exactly. That's because humans naturally are empathetic. And caring. And anyone who has been conditioned otherwise has been, in my opinion, mistreated.
The 'Divine Feminine' comes from a history which tries to promote ideas of some sort of strong and innate bio-psychological differences between men/women - and that is literally scientifically inaccurate. Differences in the brain are as a result of the conditioning we put people through as the brain is incredibly malleable (check out ‘Neurofeminism’ and ‘No More boys and Girls’ for more information). So, for example, when we give boys building-related toys, they are actually developing the part of the brain to do with spacial awareness and things that contribute to maths and physics. Not something developed as much with barbies as toys (as highlighted in No More Boys and GIrls).
The forced gendered conditioning is something we are realising can often be experienced as limiting and oppressive. We are now trying to move away from that because we realise that's a mistake. Those things are not a feminine or masculine quality, the fact that we relate things like empathy as a gendered characteristic is an echo of our failures as a society. As we well know by now, certain genders have been encouraged/discouraged from certain behaviours in a way that is so strongly gendered that many people don't know who they are authentically. Now it is the time we need to address that balance - not create even more inaccurate differences for the sake of it (for the sake of control technically). And that means less created differences in terms of the assume bio-psychological differences between genders and pushing them into so Divine spaces. This forced gendering is a result of patriarchy, sexism and toxic masculinity.
Oh, but proponents say, we all have 'feminine' and 'masculine' bits within us! Okay well in that case - tell me. What the fuck is the point in always having those forms of categorization then with no question? Because if it is in everyone - then the feminine / masculine characterization is just (at the very least) - two bits of a whole. So, why the resistance to the whole? Can't we acknowledge that whole more where relevant? Such as in Divine space? In an era when we know there is gender variance. Why always make the distinction? If everyone is a mix of both then... why are we always dichotomising them? Why not sometimes acknowledge thinking beyond that divide, acknowledge these unique and complex spaces instead. And i'm not saying that to erase people who are in the binary. I believe in people being who they are - who they choose to be. Be that woman and/or man and/or beyond that. What I’m referring to is new age believers quantifying a divine space carelessly in this manor without thinking about these complex dynamics. Quantifying divine space in a manor that has often been based on a damaging historical context. There has been nothing divine about that process, quite the opposite in fact. Another reason why it shouldn’t be used – perhaps?
This area is exceedingly complex. It is, by the very nature of gender studies, paradoxical. Absolutely. Because (both cis and trans) people are men, women, and we actually HAVE created a cultures that strongly casts certain things and characteristics as 'feminine' and 'masculine' (including interests, clothes, objects, everything really) so in some senses, we are at the limits of language when we are trying to describe things and ourselves and the same time as challenging them. Wap. Mind blown. *take a beta blocker* And although this culture and language is changing, the gender binary is still used by everyone. What I'm arguing against here is biological essentialism implied in conventional uses of the ‘Divine Feminine’. To blindly call Divine space 'feminine' without question, without recognising that there are some problematic aspects of doing so based on our history, would be a of great error. I don't feel that people that talk about the 'Divine Feminine' are often thinking about these areas, they seem to be operating in spaces that don't really understand that complexity, its paradoxical nature or any negative impact of the concept.
More thought about the damaging aspects of gendering entire types of spiritual spaces like this is needed. I mean, it is usually referring to esoteric spaces. Often, I have seen it in spaces where there isn't a real challenge or mention of patriarchy, sexism and/or colonialism. Which is very central to the concept, and historically why traditionally ‘feminine’ areas have been oppressed. It also often sexualised in opposition to the masculine, which may exclude some queer people and also (stop sexualising everything new agers! Get over yourselves). But being serious now, historically, reductive and simplistic oppositional binary thinking is what causes inequality in the first place. Plumwood's Master Model is one way to see how Anglo-American's culture of oppositionally dichotomising categories has led to the 'feminised' and therefore devalued categories becoming viewed as subhuman and exploitable. Here is a little segment of what I mean:
So, there you can see some issues with dichotomising things so much without creating some space for the transformation of how we think about these things. Indeed, theorists such as Mies & Shiva (1993, 266) believe that this method of devaluing the ‘Other’ exercises tremendous influence over, and is a central and integral part of globalised capitalism and colonialism. The theory argues that it is through dichotomisation – in this case gendered binary thinking and perceiving – that allows the process of valuing one over the other. You can see that this kind of thinking shows that we are not easily going to get beyond oppression by glorifying, over promoting and sometimes over-sexualising this 'divine feminine'. The spaces that I've been in that have done that have been incredibly patriarchal and oppressive. If you really need to refer to old-school notions of the feminine, use the phrase 'traditionally feminine' as that already makes space for different approaches to femininity.
It's understandable if you have found the concept of the 'Divine Feminine' attractive, but please know there are issues with old-school notions of the ‘Divine Feminine’ and ‘femininity’. It, at the very least, needs to allow space for critical thinking and identities beyond and in-between the ‘feminine’ and the ‘masculine’. To assume that certain characteristics as put into the 'feminine' bubble - such as compassion - is very problematic because whose to say that is not a quality of most people? There needs to be a space to think outside of this sometimes reductive division. As I've noted, the Divine Feminine has often been used in an essentialist, cis-centric and heterosexual manor, which also comes from our patriarchal culture. I'm not advocating not having these categories, that would NOT be okay as people have the right to be who they want to be. And if we all have 'feminine' and 'masculine' qualities within in us, why always make that distinction? Can't we in many cases fuse that together then? I have shown above how oppositional dichotomy has been used problematically in the past and why it is important to - at the same time as acknowledging binary thinking as it is a huge part of our culture - go beyond that as well. As it we continue with this reductive thinking, it only contributes to oppression. It does not address the very oppression that some proponents of the Divine Feminine might be trying to address.
Lastly, as a non-binary person who struggles with simplistic and pressurised aspects of the feminine and see's all the above in relation to this concept - I just want to add that I fucking hate how it has been used thus far in the mainstream. :)
Here's to an advanced understanding of gender and power dynamics in spiritual spaces!