Closing the Gender Gap: An Inside Perspective

This internalized gender hierarchy is so subtle and so pervasive that most of us don't even know how strongly we subscribe to it. And when we open our eyes to it, we prefer to deny it, rather than have the courage to consciously reclaim our whole selves.
11/07/2014 05:52 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2015
Man and women shaking hands

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The slow, but real global progress in the numbers of women attaining positions of economic and political power and responsibility, could tempt us to conclude that the gender gap is closing. And yet, I would contend that if we focus only on the external -- on gender equality as a measure of the numbers of women having reached positions long dominated by men -- we are missing the point.

Let me explain. More than 60 years ago, Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo declared that, "If there is to be a future, it will wear the crown of feminine design." This emphasis on feminine design, offers us an interesting insight. It invites us to shift our focus from women to the feminine, from the external, to the internal. From seeing gender equality as a measure of the opportunities given to women respective to men, to understanding it as the balance in the masculine and feminine energies at play within ourselves.

This shift in perspective is critical and enlightening. It suggests that the prevalent subjugation of women in many parts of the world is only possible because of our internal imbalance when it comes to the feminine. It is a symptom, which indicates the extent to which most of us have been conditioned to view everything female and feminine as being worth less than their male or masculine counterparts.

This applies not only to the fact of being a woman, but also to the feminine qualities within us: our intuition, our capacity to feel, connect, collaborate and empathize, all of which are deemed less valuable than our masculine qualities of rational thinking, analysis, action and control.

Instead of embracing these as complementary aspects of our being, we have raised one half on a pedestal and built our societies on top of it. The resulting dismissal of the feminine is alive and well. It is the subconscious voice that classifies as not quite good enough whatever a woman does, and any feminine behaviors and attitudes, which deviate from the blueprint of what is considered worthwhile on the road to success and recognition.

This internalized gender hierarchy is so subtle and so pervasive that most of us don't even know how strongly we subscribe to it. And when we open our eyes to it, we prefer to deny it, rather than have the courage to consciously reclaim our whole selves, by cleaning out our inner structures and core beliefs from centuries of conditioning.

There is more: this subdual of and disconnection from the inner feminine, has lead not only to the pervasive abuse and domination of women's bodies, but also to the abuse and domination of our planet, the source of life par excellence.

How could it otherwise be possible for us to participate in a system built on infinite growth and consumption, whereby it is justifiable to plunder the resources of the Earth, without giving our planet sufficient time to restore the soil, replenish the aquifers, and regrow the forests, all of which constitute our most basic life-support system?

There is no doubt -- as long as we are able to extricate ourselves from the grip of denial - that we are at a point in history, where the future will be very different from what we have known. And for many living beings, there will be no future at all. In this age of accelerating environmental destruction and economic collapse, we are called to re-think, re-feel, and re-design our connection and relationship with all of life.

And I would contend that all of it hinges on a critical aspect: our capacity to reclaim the Feminine -- from within. To close the inner gender gap and bring ourselves and the world back into balance, by embracing and equally valuing all aspects of our innermost selves.

This is the challenge for all of us -- whether we happen to walk the Earth in the body of a woman or that of a man.