The Adjectives We Use by Deanne Quarrie


Deanne QuarrieAs a practicing witch, feminist, energy worker and a student of life, I am often puzzled as to why, in this day and age, we continue using the terms “masculine” and “feminine” as descriptive modifiers. What exactly does it mean when we call an energy masculine or feminine, anyway?  While I understand that these are descriptors that generally address what are typical characteristics – why do we insist on being so vague, misunderstood and perhaps even, insulting, depending on who we are speaking to? 

Taken from the Planned Parenthood Site:

WORDS COMMONLY USED TO DESCRIBE FEMININITY:

Dependent, emotional, passive, sensitive, quiet, graceful, innocent, weak, flirtatious, nurturing, self-critical, soft, sexually submissive, accepting

WORDS COMMONLY USED TO DESCRIBE MASCULINITY:

Independent, non-emotional, aggressive, tough-skinned, competitive, clumsy, experienced, strong, active, self-confident, hard, sexually aggressive, rebellious.

In today’s world we are already discussing and understanding that we humans have more than two genders and certainly have more than two gender identities. Are we so brainwashed by the teachings of Carl Jung that we cannot think outside the box or even simplify how we describe people, things and energies but by two gender assumptions?

Why is it so hard to use descriptors that are accurate rather than general assumptions that may be inaccurate?

If someone is sensitive, why is it so hard to say that he is sensitive – is it accurate to say he is feminine?  If I am self-confident, does that make me masculine?

Or if we are describing an energy of a thing that is hot and forceful – why would we call it (the energy) masculine when we can say hot and forceful? And really, how does an energy claim gender identity anyway?

I did a Google search on the merging of masculine and feminine energies and was blown away at how many websites there are that are devoted to that one thing. Do people spend their lives attempting to identify what is masculine and what is feminine within themselves and then finding a way to merge them to become whole? Are we so confused by who we are that we feel we need to identify our strengths and weaknesses, our talents, our personality traits by gender identity?

Many practitioners of Wicca deal in such dualities.  In their magic, they insist on a balance of masculine and feminine – sometimes by the number of each sex in a Circle – other times but the type of energy applied to the magic.  When I first started my studies in magic I was required to learn how to project the energies of masculine and feminine, each by itself, into something else.  I found this very confusing.  I wasn’t sure how to project them without first feeling them.  So I looked for things representative of them to “feel” them and then learn how to project them.  Well, those things did not always feel the way I expected them to feel.  Nor did what I project, always feel like what I thought it should. This led me to a study of my own energies and personality characteristics – who was I, after all?  I have never had a single issue with my own gender identity. I am a woman. I love being a woman.  Truth be told, most to the words used to describe feminine, do not apply to me and yet I have never believed myself to be anything else but fully woman. I am direct, assertive and not so much a nurturer. But I loved being a mother, birthing and raising my children. I am passionate in all ways. I am passionate about what I believe in and I am one who will stand up to speak for those less-abled to speak for themselves. Because I am not a “girly” girl, does that make me less “woman?”

When I first came to the Craft – I identified as Dianic.  Now, there are two different kinds of Dianics floating around out there. Some say Dianic means woman only. That is not me. I will qualify that however, and say that women need their woman only space and to be honest, my work is dedicated to working with women. But I believe that who comes into a group needs to be determined by the person leading it.  For me, it does not define Dianic. What does define Dianic is that we are all of Goddess – all sexes and all identities. Not a pair who birthed us, but of Goddess – She is Whole – One and we are of Her. Is She Nurturing?  Loving? Fierce? Dark? Light? Bold? As Above So Below – All Things – As am I, All Things.  Not feminine, not masculine, not animus, not anima – but Whole, containing All. Woman.

Personally, I think the terms masculine and feminine are part and parcel born of the patriarchy. Yet another way to separate and divide. How many of us can read that list of feminine descriptors and not see that those words feel “less than?” And the opposite with those defined as masculine.  Not all but most.  The weaker sex – yes?  Not!  Science has already proven that women are built to be stronger – to endure more (again as a general rule!). Those of you who are of my generation know how difficult it was to not grow up feeling “less than.” And if that is what happened – how difficult it has been to claim power for yourself.  I was lucky because I had very progressive parents who saw that things would be different when I grew up.  I was taught to be strong – to make decisions for myself and to believe that I could do anything I chose to do once I “set my mind to it!”

I encourage everyone to really consider the words we use.  How do we define ourselves?  How do we define each other?  What words do we use to describe a thing? An energy? And are we totally a mess inside with two beings, a masculine and a feminine that shall never meet? When something is hot – let’s call it hot.  When something is nurturing – let’s call it that and not say it is feminine.  It really isn’t difficult.  Let’s be clear and use words that really describe something or someone. Let’s step out of the patriarchal terminology and become clear in what we mean. We must start with our words.  The word is sacred.

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of the Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch where she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, Northern European Witchcraft and Druidic Studies. She mentors priestesses who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, and publishes the Global Goddess Oracle at each Sabbat.

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Categories: Feminism, Gender, Gender and Power, Gender and Sexuality, Healing the Sacred Divide

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32 replies

  1. Amen. Or perhaps I should say: Yeah Yeah.

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  2. These binary categories are so harmful. Because I can be strong and assertive, my sensitivity and need for quiet are usually ignored, unseen. I cannot begin to tell you how isolating this is. As women, this binary leaves us with just two options: be a victim or a bitch. It’s horrid.

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  3. Interesting you say: “The weaker sex – yes? Not! Science has already proven that women are built to be stronger.”

    We are taught that it is somehow natural or better for the male to be the leader, but that is not true either. There are also a number of fish species that can change gender. This quote is from Wikipedia:

    “Clownfish, wrasses, moray eels, gobies and other fish species are known to change gender, including reproductive functions. A school of clownfish is always built into a hierarchy with a female fish at the top. When she dies, the most dominant male changes sex and takes her place.”

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  4. Really good point. I tend not to use these words, but I never articulated why so clearly.

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  5. Loved this essay. Masculine and Feminine terms support Patriarchy so obviously. For that reason alone we need to get rid of them. I want to seen as being a woman, a writer, a naturalist.

    Another excellent point you made is that so many so called feminine characteristics make us feel dis -empowered and less than… frightening that i bought into that stuff for as a long as I did.

    Thank Goddess for women who think out of the current destructive paradigm. May we all be praised!!!

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    • Every time I turn around, I see people using these terms – throwing them about without thought! How pervasive of Jungian ideas!

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      • Yes, and a bit scary don’t you think?

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      • It’s not just Jung. The entire culture has bought into this binary. There was a study done in the early 1970s where groups of university students were asked to delineate characteristics of either a man or a woman. They came up with lists like the ones you used in your essay. Then they asked another group to define the characteristics of a human being, and the list they came up with was exactly the same as the list for a man. Ouch! Those distinctions have not changed yet.

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  6. I was so blessed to grow up with men who were easily affectionate in the most genuine way. They applauded the strength and accomplishments of their wives, sisters, daughters and nieces. I encountered men and women who were more stereotypic in books, movies, and eventually through life experiences, but I’ve long wondered what makes us divide into types.I work as a storyteller both telling and eliciting life tales and folktale/myths. I look at my life history for patterns and that of my 37 year old son, my two older stepsons and a step-daughter raising an 11-year-old son. They all teach me about how we can foster uniqueness yet perpetuate stereotypes and dualities. I appreciate your looking at why we tend to divide the world around gender issues. As an educator I try to help people know themselves and claim their unique voices. I agree that cliques and types keep our view small. I’m grateful for the young friends who educate me about new ways to view sexual identity. I just returned from an annual women writers retreat at Pyramid Life Center in NY’s Adirondack Mts. The diversity of the women (and kitchen staff to whom we grow close over the week), like the flora and fauna surrounding us, was a beauty to behold. One young woman said, “Marni, you could become a queer whisperer!” We laughed and laughed as I accepted the challenge. So appreciative of this blog.

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  7. Remember the song? “I am woman, hear me roar”?

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  8. Helen Reddy, Barbara A.! I have a copy. :-) Singing it along with you now!

    The concept of dualism(s) has been with us a long time. I also think it’s time to move beyond it, and this post is a wonderful addition to living holistically, Deanne. Thank you.

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  9. On gender classifications (including orientation) I was dumbfounded when Donald Trump offered his respect and inclusiveness to members of the LGBTQ community, during his RNC speech, and then surprisingly huge cheers went up from his Republican audience so that Trump in turn cheered them for cheering too.

    That line by Trump supporting the gay movement, according to Facebook, was the top moment on the social media platform during his speech. And it seemed a wonderful break-through for gay people. To me it’s also feminist because gender discrimination of any kind is our focus too.

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  10. What does weaker sex mean? It depends upon what we call weak. If it’s only about muscular strength, it has no connection to real character. Compassion, honesty and intuition are what create true character, not physical strength.

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  11. Do you think that our growing awareness of transgender issues is either narrowing or expanding our definitions?

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    • I can only answer this for myself. I began questioning how we use feminine and masculine as descriptives long before I made even been made aware of transgendered individuals or the issues we are aware of now.

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    • Hi Faithgoddess —

      In answer to your question, I think it’s doing both. It’s allowing some people to look a little deeper at their own understandings or misunderstandings of gender, and that’s a good thing. But those people who are leading the way — like Caitlin Jenner — seem to have bought into the stereotype of what being a woman is, and that’s narrowing the definition. That makes it very complicated for those of us who are critiquing the stereotype, but wanting to support people’s self-definition.

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  12. So you publish an article with talk about dropping the terms feminine and masculine and then finish the article with a bio that says you are ” the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine, ”

    You imply sex-segregated Dianics are in someway denigning the Goddess in those that are male-bodied and then you limit Goddess with the farce of feminine.

    Heed your own words, witch!

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    • you are absolutely right about the wording in my bio. It was actually written that way to give women, who, let’s say honor Mary within their own spiritual practice and might not feel included if I said “those who honor the Goddess!” It is my way of allowing more women to feel welcome in Global Goddess! I have no idea what you are saying here “Dianics are in someway denigning the Goddess” but I certainly embrace the idea that men are and can be Goddess loving and certainly are of Her just as we are. Thank you for calling attention to my words which I do careful heed (within the limits of my own humanity).

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      • I feel as a Dianic that chooses to do ritual with women only (As in female-bodied people) that many missunderstand that choice to mean I only recognize Goddess in the female-bodied. This is what i infered from your article.

        Because the spiritual work i do is done best within an all female circle this is my spiritual path but that does not mean i do not see Goddess in male-bodied people.
        I have yet to meet a Dianic that does not recognise Goddess in all beings.

        As a Dianic i do not label life into genders in my practice of the craft or in recognizing human traits in people.

        Thanks for considering the comments on “Divine Feminine”

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  13. Thank you for this piece. I, too, have found the strict labels of feminine and masculine to be limiting and off-putting, and welcome the opportunity to explore alternate understandings. I know that in some traditions I’ve been a part of, they primarily use “active” and “passive,” but still tend to lump those with masculine and feminine. I’d love ways to explore active and passive energies without the frequently inaccurate wholesale pairing of those with the gender binary.

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  14. I do realize that is what many people think, Temple Ardinger, but I am not responsible for their ignorance and in all honesty, I don’t think I even inferred that. I always think it is much better to ask people about their intentions rather than assume anything.

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  15. Lately I have been using the phrase:

    si deus si dea
    sive mas, sive femina

    This post clarifies seomthing I couldn’t easily articulate.

    Like

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