Gender issues are currently enjoying a resurgence in conversation around the globe, and rightly so. Are men and women really hardwired from birth to think, act and communicate differently? For generations we have been led to believe gender determines how we think and act. As women fight for gender parity in wages and the workplace, and feminism worldwide works to root out a culture of violence against women, what of men? Sometimes in the urge to press forwards with women’s issues – important though that they are – men’s needs are ignored.
Realizing that this was a problem, author and marriage counsellor John Gray saw a way to open the discussion to include men. In his 1992 best-selling book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Gray promoted a new twist to the old theory that men and women are by nature different, and therefore act and communicate differently. And millions nodded their heads sagely and said, “I always knew that.” And, almost everything in our society today – health products, movies, educational pedagogy, and gymnasiums – is designed to reinforce the two-planet theory.
Although Gray’s book and the work of numerous other gender experts have been designed to help us better understand girls and boys and men and women, and thus build societies where there is respect, equity and mutual appreciation for all, in many ways they have not. And, the two-planet theory has had unintended consequences in the stereotypes that limit both boys and girls and, thus, men and women later in life – e.g., bright girls who don’t become smart scientists and boys who can’t become compassionate caregivers.
Now, new research is debunking the theories that undergird these gender stereotypes. A comparison of many such studies shows that none of these stereotypes has any basis in fact. Additionally recent research in neuroscience has also concluded that there is no actual difference in girls’ or boys’ brains when they are born, thus contradicting the accepted dogma that has been a cornerstone in much of the two-planet philosophies.
To me, the problem is that when we think of ourselves purely in human, gender-based terms, we are not seeing the true essence of who we are, and so we cannot create the society we envision. We need a break through!
But what if we started from a different basis completely – a spiritual perspective that sees not gender, but the unique qualities that each individual inherently brings to a family, a business or a society.
This means taking a second look at how we see the nature of the Divine and its whole expression. The idea of God as both Father and Mother has its roots in Biblical teachings; not that the Bible uses both terms in referring to God, but that it describes the nature of the Divine in qualities that could be associated with either gender. So, for example, strength, protectiveness and power, as well as love, gentleness and compassion would be considered to be both male and female qualities.
This view allows us to lift the true nature of God out of human, body-based gender and to place it in purely spiritual qualities.
When we think of ourselves as children of this Divine parent, then naturally we can see that each one of us – whether male or female – has, and can express, all of those same qualities – intelligence, strength, tenderness and compassion. They simply don’t belong to human genders.
Rather than seeing ourselves at the mercy of our gender with its expectations and limitations, we can live these spiritual, practical qualities. This brings talents, abilities and strengths to the forefront that we have never considered before. And, as we recognize each of our sisters and brothers as also having all these qualities, together we can create societies where love and respect for our unique and diverse spiritual natures outweigh limits and injustice that result from human theories about gender.
The 19th century author Charlotte Bronte, adept at breaking through the stereotypical view that only men could be published authors, once wrote: “I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.”