Why Use Words That Might Turn You Off?
Recently a friend who is one of the clearest, deepest and most committed change-makers I know said to me that what he values and cares about in my work is the ways I show up, my actual practice of being in community. But the conceptualization of the ‘active feminine‘ doesn’t speak to him – the words, the metaphors, to him they’re just clothing for what’s underneath, and it’s what’s underneath that he finds compelling, not the way I dress things up. And he thinks those words probably exclude, or fail to speak to, more people than they do include or speak to.
I totally get where he’s coming from, it’s a valid concern, and I’ve struggled with this question a lot myself. Why use a language that’s a potential turn-off to people who might otherwise value what I’m offering?
I could write a book answering that (in fact, that’s where all this started). But for now I’ll share two of my answers to that question. One is purely rational, the other is personal.
The Theoretically-Supported Rational Reason
In theories of transformation, whether organizational, social, psychological, spiritual, it’s almost universally the case that a major component of transformational capacity requires the inclusion of what has been excluded. It requires seeing the world and our challenges through new and different lenses. Usually the lenses we are most uncomfortable with have the most transformational capacity.
And in western culture, if you look at all the 8 basic human archetypes, the 4 masculine ones and the 4 feminine ones, the two that have been the most repressed, most demonized, most scapegoated, and most punished – over a very long period of time, are those of the Active Feminine.
Repressing and punishing the Active Feminine archetypes is so endemic to our understanding of what it means to even be civilized humans, that it’s like the air we breathe. We don’t even see it, or if we do, we see the very tip of the iceberg of how that demonization impacts the ways we relate to each other. We don’t even really grasp the Active Feminine as possible feminine authenticity (she’s a brainwashed victimized object, or a spooky fairy-tale figure – not a real person), let alone conceive that she may have a perspective on the ways we relate to one another and accomplish things.
Therefore, if including the most uncomfortable perspectives is transformational, and the Active Feminine is among the most excluded perspectives – it’s simple logic – include her!
Theory Vs. Reality
But including the marginalized Active Feminine perspective is tricky, because this air we breathe not only doesn’t know she has a valid existence with a real perspective, it’s also fairly toxic to her. Mainstream lenses feel poisonous to her. They make her crazy (like Sinead was referring to).
Here’s an example of that toxicity: in the Miley/Sinead fracas – no-one, not one commentator that I read, even vaguely suggested it was not ok to refer to ‘prostituting yourself’ derogatorily. I was most triggered by Sinead calling Miley a prostitute – not because it was an unfair comparison (tho it really wasn’t, not in my book), but because it’s so implicitly insulting to prostitutes. If the context were different & she’d said ‘don’t make a [insert sexual preference epithet here] of yourself’ (especially with that intense hostility) or ‘don’t make a [insert any racial epithet] of yourself’ – everyone would have been all over her case. We, in the politically correct universe, would call that homophobic or racist hate-speech. But that was never part of this conversation. That silence is how I know how for we have to go – and how marginal my perspective really is.
Another example – suggesting that I rename the ‘whore archetype’ to the ‘lover archetype’ (which many writers/theorists have done to make their work more broadly appealing) – tells me I’m not welcome. My lens doesn’t even exist from the perspective that makes that suggestion – because while there are a lot of aspects those two labels have in common – there are some crucial differences that are key to everyone’s repression. Those differences are what make mine a very different lens than a lover’s. And that’s exactly what I’m being told will turn people off. So clearly I’m not welcome. In the mainstream world, I get those signals all day, every day.
If we can’t even stomach the use of the words ‘Active Feminine’ – ‘Witch’ – ‘Whore’ – we can’t begin to ‘Presence’ her, we’re too busy repressing. What I’m saying is – it’s the words themselves that have so much power (else why would people shun them?). And in my humble opinion, that puts groups at a deficit.
Do My Words Have To Speak To You?
Now – the words ‘not speaking’ to my friend are not the same as him repressing anything – not speaking is just plain ok by me. And, to clarify – he wasn’t suggesting I change anything, he was just sharing his truth with me. Because I’d asked. Which is what I want from him. But I can’t stand up as I intend to stand up if I’m not willing to use the words that carry all that charge.
I just hope that if the words themselves don’t speak to you, my explorations eventually will. Or that if you experience my presence in community as valuable, you might want to learn more about what informs me. And if not – ok – I’m not here to be everything to everyone.
The deeply personal reason I hold to this potentially off-putting language, is that I have my own lived history with the witch and whore archetypes. It has been from my own decades-long experience of looking at the world and community and our challenges through the lens of the whore and witch archetypes – applying the understanding, beliefs, values and the behaviors of those archetypes in practice that has given me this perspective that I’m sharing with you here.
I wouldn’t have any of this insight if I hadn’t lived these archetypes. There is a wisdom in them that is NOT accessible to our brains. There is a degree to which it’s not even inaccessible through our hearts (at least, not our personal hearts) – this is a wisdom that originates in the body. It needs heart and mind to bring it into its full generative capacity, but it doesn’t come from those places. It comes from life, not spirit. From life’s inevitable materiality and visceral-ness – and matters’ inherent connection to death, and limits, and finitude. It comes from primal consciousness. Which mainstream consciousness believes it has risen above. . .
That visceral connection to the consciousness in matter is what seems so dreadfully missing in mainstream paradigms, and I can’t stand up for that meaningfully if I turn it into a pretty mainstream-acceptable abstraction.
And, in my experience, it’s strange, but without knowing about my life experience, I find that people can’t hear the wisdom I share about it, even when I can articulate it clearly.
So, for me, as a lifelong student and practitioner of the Active Feminine, it feels dishonest and euphemistic to leave her out of the picture when sharing the wisdom she has given me. And since being honest about challenging truths is one of her fundamental tenets, I can’t see another way of clothing this work that retains any semblance of integrity. And I KNOW you don’t want her prancing around naked! I only know a few who can handle that.
I hope that gives you enough justification of my terminology to bear with me and be willing to explore this work more fully. And if not, at least you know why I stand where I do.
I’m not here to be everything to everybody. I’m here to, literally, Presence the Active Feminine. From the most garish costume to the most sublime.