5 Things About Gender & Energy that Spiritual Folks Should Consider

"Energy" is a huge buzzword at the moment, particularly in the New Age and spiritual communities, and I want to speak to an aspect of energy that is often overlooked.

We spend a lot of time talking about "male and female" energy, or "masculine and feminine" energy and it's important to understand that those are attributes of a larger system. It's even more important to understand that those attributes fall prey to many of the imbalanced attitudes that society holds about gender. For the purpose of this post, I want to refer to the two ends of the energy spectrum as YIN and YANG, from the ancient Chinese philosophy, as those are words without a lot of the same Western connotations as "female" and "male." It's also true that I am not Chinese, nor was I raised with these concepts in childhood; my very limited understanding of them is just the only way I can structure this idea, and I hope to be part of the movement that changes that.

1. Yin and yang are two complementary - not opposing - parts of a whole, and we're never meant to be one or the other.

To define energy as one gender or another does a disservice to each of us. Women do not own "feminine energy," just as men do not own "masculine energy." A man should not be expected to express primarily masculine energy, nor should a woman be expected to express primarily feminine energy.

Moreover, there is no "feminine" energy; there is yin energy, of which "feminine" is an attribute. Likewise with yang and masculine. Society, media, religion, our cultures, and our families have taught us to value one over the other, but one does not have inherently more value than the other.

2. Your sex organs do not determine your gender, and your gender does not determine your energy.

All genders can express all energies, and we need to be mindful not to confuse the two. This is one of the biggest social issues with Western society: the need to label things this or that, good or bad, black or white. It makes us feel safer, sure, because our preconceived notions don't have to be challenged. But it's not accurate. It's not even close to accurate.

Everything has a gray area and the gray areas are safe to explore, gems.

3. Yin energy has a really bad rap (thanks, patriarchy!).

Reread that breakdown of yin and yang again with a critical social eye. Do you notice that many of the yin attributes have a negative connotation for being weak, or less-good than the yang counterpart? This is not a coincidence. Several thousand years of patriarchy have washed away the sacred meaning of yin by socializing us to believe that yin qualities are less desirable. This is especially true in the US, where I live - you are considered unproductive and possibly even lazy if you take time to rest, contemplate, and withdraw (unless you're a man, in which case you're probably the next Buddha). Creativity is valued only if it leads to cash monies. Nurturing is expected of women but not of men. To "receive" has been turned into a derogatory action that likens men to homosexuals (and therefore, more like women, and therefore, less-than).

Everything about the darkness of yin - the moon, the cycle of decay, the crux of death and rebirth - has been demonized, and we're taught so efficiently to fear it that we have allowed it to become representative of evil in mainstream religions.

4. To say that yin energy is better than yang energy is to say that one side of a blade of grass is better than its other side.

This is impossible, unless you choose to believe (possibly after a lifetime of being taught) that certain aspects of a blade of grass are better than others. We have been erroneously indoctrinated to believe that yin energy is "less good" than yang, and we can choose to believe otherwise. In fact, when we choose to believe otherwise and act from that belief, we will change this whole mad world around right quick.

What happens when yang energy is out of balance? There is nonstop action, productivity, movement, destruction. In a personal sense, we burn out pretty quickly without time to rest and reorient. Externally, we see the effects of this imbalance value system on the earth and her people: pollution, extinction, mass deforestation, poverty, rampant disease, surreal greed for resources prioritized over the suffering of humans and animals. Of course yang's qualities are good, but no better than yin's, and, out of balance, have wrought incredible destruction.

5. The liberation of yin energy does not only serve women.

We in the spiritual community unknowingly often contribute to this idea that women = feminine energy. And for good reason: any appreciation of yin energy has been taken from us and turned against us. However, yin energy is not only ours, and we are not the only beings who benefit from its liberation. We must widen our view to include how the liberation of yin energy is good for ALL genders, all sexualities, all beings. We exclude a lot of people by continuing to use the limited scope of the gender binary (ie: there are only women and men), the illusion of an energy binary (ie: there is only good and bad), and the limited interpretation of gender and energy after several thousand years of patriarchy and conquest, and later, white supremacy.

Many women who identify strongly with yin attributes are taught that they are inherently weak and of low value, but because yin qualities come naturally to them, it's easy to internalize society's unkind messages as truth. Likewise, anyone who identifies as male and exhibits yin attributes? Words like "pussy" and "bitch" come to mind, words that liken a man to the low societal value of a woman: weak, submissive, something to control, to penetrate, or to dismiss.

If you are trans, you are welcome to identify as you please in Western society so long as you do not confuse people by featuring both socially-determined feminine and masculine traits at the same time. Western society cannot handle a bearded person wearing a dress, for example. We have strong attachments not only to what masculine and feminine traits "are," but how they should be expressed. This is dangerous territory and we need to check ourselves regularly on this, especially in the spiritual community. We must fight for the liberation and safety of all gender identities, and be careful not to use our limited understanding of the idea of energy to exclude anyone.

Let's recap!

There is no feminine energy or masculine energy by themselves; there is yin energy and yang energy, of which those attributes are a part. (Perhaps a new way to express these words that is not appropriative is moon energy and sun energy?) To be feminine isn't to be receptive and passive any more than to be masculine is to be active and assertive. Remember, the vast majority of what we believe about the meaning of being a woman or a man has been taught to us through our parents, the media, our religions, and our society.

Our words have power and we must be conscious of this power.

To further illustrate the nature of the balance, it's helpful (and really fun) to learn to recognize the inherent yin and yang attributes of things that are dominated by one or the other. I made the diagram below using the four elements, the elemental system with which I'm most comfortable (nb: Chinese philosophy uses a five element system), to demonstrate that everything has yin and yang energy, even if it's dominated by one. In fact, extremes of each element fall on both sides of the energy spectrum and often one may lead to another (for example, a wildfire starts with a small flame). In the four element system, generally speaking: earth is predominantly feminine/yin, fire is predominantly masculine/yang, water is predominantly feminine/yin, and air is predominantly masculine/yang.

Look around you and consider the properties of everything from this perspective; forget the negative connotations of yin. How different do things look? How different does your life look?

How different - and beautiful - does the world look?

Thanks for reading! Tell me in the comments what you think of this piece, and if there's anything you learned or want to challenge!