The Demonization of the “Feminine” in the Battle of the Sexes

One of the great debates of our era is in regard to differences between men and women. Scientists and psychologists set up countless experiments to see whether men and women have different intelligence levels, strength levels, skills in vocabulary or object rotation, mathematical abilities, brain sizes, relationship drives, sexual desires…you name it, they’ve probably tested to see if there’s a difference between the sexes.

There tend to be two sides to the argument:

  1. Men and women are different
  2. Men and women aren’t different

Both sides find statistical evidence and cogent arguments to support them.

But what neither one realizes is that the argument isn’t really about whether gender differences exist. The real argument is unstated, thus unrecognized and unable to be resolved.

There’s a logical fallacy at play here called an unaccepted enthymeme. Okay, there’s two unaccepted enthymemes.

The first is that gender is binary.

But the second, and I think in regards to the sexism debate, the most important one is: If men are different from women, men are better than women.

The two sides of the debate are really rather absurd on their own because the answer to both sides is ‘yes.’

Yes, men and women are different from each other. In general women have a uterus, though that is not true for all women. In general men have testicles, thought that is not true of all men.

Yes, men and women are very similar on many levels. There’s enough evidence now to suggest that mathematical abilities only differ because of classroom socialization. Everyone has varying levels of testosterone and estrogen within them. We all have a basic human need for connection. And it’s a myth that men are only interested in sex and not in relationships.

But when you add in the unstated value judgment that men are better than women, that “masculine traits” are better than “feminine traits,” then the debate becomes so much more than just the absurd question of whether something objectively is or is not.

Feminists could argue until the world ends that women are just as capable as men, but unless we actually address the underlying assumption that certain traits are “less than” others, we will never be able to actually resolve this issue.

And this is where the construct of gender comes in because those devalued traits aren’t even exclusive to women. They are human traits, but because they’ve been stereotyped as “feminine,” they’ve been deemed worthless—so even men who possess those traits are looked down on in our hypermasculine culture.

Take emotionality for instance.

If a guy cries, he’s made fun of for being a “girl.”

If a girl cries, she’s accused of being “too emotional” or “too sensitive.”

Being in touch with your emotions is not a quality that we associate with a savvy business person or a political leader because, as a society, we value emotional intelligence less than analytical intelligence.

For that matter, we value quantitative research (stats and numbers) more than qualitative research (interviews and actually listening to someone’s experience of something).

We value aggression more than negotiation—just look at how many “action” movies exist that immediately resort to shooting people up as opposed to sitting down around a table to resolve differences.

We value conquering more than nurturing, competitiveness more than cooperation, judgment more than understanding, assertiveness more than congeniality.

As women attempt to work their way towards equal representation in the workforce and government, they are essentially told to be more like “men.”

But the traits that men (and women) are supposed to avoid are human traits! They are necessary to our society as much as the other traits are. They’re the glue that binds humanity together, without which our elevated primate species wouldn’t survive.

Somehow, I think ancient cultures understood that better than we do now. Perhaps being closer to death by predator, act of nature, or just plain bad luck did something to help them recognize how important a balance of both was.

There is a time for emotion and for logic, for assertion and for congeniality, for aggression and for negotiation. There are times when we should conquer and times when we should nurture, when we should compete and when we should cooperate, when we should judge and when we should seek to understand.

If men and women could be equal but different (not in the icky Complementarian way) without it being good or bad, would it really matter so much about whether there were differences? If people could be equal but different, with different mixes of different traits unique to them, without being shoved into boxes of masculinity and femininity–If we thought of the “feminine” traits as being as valuable as the “masculine” traits, would we even feel the need to defend ourselves when we were called “sensitive”? Goddess forbid that actually be a compliment and a sign of capability rather than an insult and an assumption of weakness.

I used to be interested in whether men and women were different. I wanted so badly to prove that those differences didn’t exist.

Now I just wonder why it matters.

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Four Ways to Legit Pamper Your Vagina

Every year, as some are aware, I have a month dedicated to honoring the female body and celebrating the vagina. It usually involves a party, reading, and lots and lots of crafting, followed by a post (like this one) passing on something I created, learned, or did in the hopes that more women will get inspired to celebrate their beautiful bodies.

This past year, I’ve also been undergoing physical therapy to treat damaged muscles in my pelvic floor. I discovered that physical therapy involved a lot of self-care in order for it to be effective. I also discovered that many of the books I’ve read don’t really go into vaginal self-care in depth, and it reminds me that, even with some fantastic sex/body-positive books for women, we still have a long way to go in disseminating all the information a vagina-possessing person could use.

So today, I’m going to share some of my favorite yoni luxuries.

1. Massage!

I love massages. If I could afford it, I would be getting a professional massage on a weekly basis. But for some reason, I had never thought to try massaging my belly and pelvis. I’m guessing most women haven’t because it’s not exactly the kind of thing you see Cosmo printing on the front cover.

However, there are lots of little muscles in the lower abdomen and around the outside of the vulva that can get tired and sore. The pelvic muscles benefit from a little bit of kneading just as any other muscle (especially around menstruation).

Obviously, it’s easiest if you have a partner who gives good massages and wouldn’t mind offering a non-sexual spa hour to your outer pelvis and abdomen; however, if you don’t have the partner or the willingness from the partner, there are ways to give the gift of a massage to your own belly. You can even create your own massage oil with coconut oil, olive oil, or sesame seed oil.

2. Yoni Steam (aka, vaginal steam)

Douches are bad for your vag. Let’s just put that out there. The vagina is a brilliantly functioning, self-cleaning machine and DOES NOT need to be washed out. Douching will only knock out of balance the flora of bacteria and yeast that keep that pussy healthy.  (Just look at these wet pussycats to get an idea of how angry your vagina gets when you douche.)

That being said, steams are awesome and super simple. Basically, bring a pan of water to a boil. Remove from heat (and probably turn off your stove), add in some herbs or essential oils. Some of the ones I’ve loved and that are beneficial for the yoni are rosemary, rose, calendula, and lavendar. Then sit over the steam pot, naked at least from the waste down, at a comfortable distance from the heat so that you feel it but aren’t in pain. You can get special chairs with holes in them, or you can just improvise in your own way to find a comfortable arrangement. The steam rises and relaxes the muscles, and the essence of the herbs works its magic on the mind and body. If you want to contain the steam for longer, wrap a blanket around your legs.

There’s been a recent surge of interest in yoni steams as a “beauty treatment,” which saddens me because it’s such a luxurious experience of self-indulgence and love on its own that it almost seems sacrilegious to turn it into yet another beauty standard. But it remains one of the “beauty treatments” that actually offers pleasure and health benefits, like a sauna for your lady bits.

3. Baths

This one seems so common-place that I shouldn’t have to put it down, but I do because I was told for years that baths were bad for women only to find out that it’s just the opposite. The first thing my physical therapist assigned to me when I began treatment was to take lots and lots of baths. Heat and water are healing and supporting, and I don’t know why we have developed a fear of their power.

4. Yoga

Add this to the list of health benefits for yoga: makes your vagina happy.

It’s more about the stretching actually, but yoga is my favorite way to get the stretching in. Poses like cobra, the arching cat, happy baby, child’s pose, goddess pose, garland, and basically any pose the stretches the abdominals or relaxes the pelvic floor is great.

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So go pamper yourself. Or help your partner/friend/whatever pamper herself. Not everything that happens “down there” has to be sexual or medical. Sometimes it’s just plain sensual. Happy yoni-loving!