Thursday 1 August 2013

The problem with gender assigned qualities and Tantra

Dear readers, it's a balmy summer afternoon, August springs upon us and time flashes by so quickly I sometimes fear I cannot keep up! Since returning from the U.S where I attended the very awesome Desiree Alliance conference 2 weeks ago, I find I'm given to serious consideration of gender, both in general but perhaps even more specifically within my tantra practice and my personal awareness.

Now before I went to the conference, I'd already expressed concerns in various tantra chat threads on Facebook and elsewhere about assigning qualities to gender within healing practice. Of course this doesn't only apply to our work practices, but to life in general. One thing that really impressed me, amongst many, at the conference was the very keen awareness of allowing people to self identify their preferred gender pronouns, and to keep out of assumption about what that then meant to those individuals. Some make choices for political reasons, some for personal reasons, some for social reasons and many to challenge to status quo. So, on getting back to the U.K (where in my view we are still pretty behind on this), once again I find the issue of not only gender pronouns but gender meaning is up in my face.

Even as I try to find images to suit my blog today, I am still besieged by pink for girls blue for boys and pinky-blue for transgender, half dress half trousers. How woefully inadequate is that?!

One thing I've found in my tantra practice that has consistently troubled me is that within tantra there is an idea mooted that women, as 'shakti' or the 'divine feminine' need to bring men, or shiva 'the strong masculine' into healing and into their hearts. Well now, for me as someone working with sexuality and healing for over 25 years now, I don't personally want that job! I don't think it's up to women to bring men into healing, I think it's up to MEN to bring themselves into healing. You see the problem in assigning this quality of the nurturing feminine into gender roles is that for me, we can get so easily stuck there. My personal inner Goddess is way more Kali than Tara. That's not to say I am all fire and no frill, or all rage and no receptive, but I most certainly am more than this soft 'feminine' I hear about a whole lot in tantra practice.

My Kali is powerful and strong in her sense of self autonomy. She has clear boundaries and knows her own mind. She can breathe fire when necessary and can heal and transmute with equal potency. For me, her depiction atop a male figure is not about destroying the masculine, more the quashing of the rigid and unyielding elements of either the self or the other. In other words as easily applicable to slaying the internal demons as externalising a negative image of the masculine. I do not wish to be perceived as woman responsible for healing all ills in the world if it means I can only get there from my soft heart space, my womblike womanhood. Sometimes my passion comes from my sex, from my core of the wild woman, like those Women Who Run With The Wolves in Clarissa Pinkola Estes's seminal book. The archetype of the Wild Woman and the Witch suit and serve me better than those of the Virgin (not literal) and the Mother (again not a literal interpretation). I quite like Crone as it seems she too holds the capacity to be more akin to the Medicine Woman or Shaman of the tribe.

For me, some of these wilder gender assignments hold a distinct element of the 'other' within them. Genderless, wild and free. For men, I imagine you too get tired of having to uphold the strong masculine, the Warrior? What if those archetypes don't speak to you. In retrieving our sexuality, we MUST reject gender based stereotypes in my view and move beyond the 'soft feminine' and the 'strong masculine', or at the very least remain super conscious of how, why and where we assign those qualities.

Men are more than capable of stepping into their own healing, their own vulnerability, of finding their own courage. Women too. Let's challenge this assumption that all women are nurturers, and all men active proponents. And for all genders, however we may choose to self-determine, let's free up the range of possibility.

My tantra has teeth, and it has balls. Where do you stand?

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