Your Soul Looks Like Your Body

15 11 2010

“The sex organs and the sex cells manifest a polarity and complementariness in morphology and in function.  In the act of sexual union the male organ is convex and penetrating and the female organ is concave and receptive; the spermatozoon is torpedo-shaped and ‘attacks,’ and the ovum is a sphere ‘awaiting’ penetration.  That this polarity and complementariness should not be confined to the physical but also be reflected in the character of man and woman, is a view as old as history.  As a matter of fact, in ancient religions and philosophies, sexual polarity and complementariness did not stop at the psychological.  Human duality and human mating expressed an antithesis at the very heart of things, an antithesis striving for synthesis unceasingly, eternally – in an act of anticipation and restitution of unity.”

(From “Flight From Woman”, by Karl Stern, p. 10)

Note: Thanks for pointing out in the comments that this quote could be taken in a pretty awful way, since I’ve yanked it out of the context of the book that it’s a part of.

So to be clear: I’m not advocating “attacking” as a central part of masculinity, nor victimization as a central part of femininity.  “Attack” is a twisted and abusive version of masculinity.  It is evil and wrong.

The book from which this quote is taken argues that our society has devalued and abandoned femininity (hence the title), and we have suffered greatly as a result.  Far from advocating the victimization of women, Karl Stern is actually attempting to return femininity to a place of honor in society.

Nevertheless, k’s concern brings up a point that has to be wrestled with: There is a lot of evidence (both physiological and philosophical) to suggest that the essence of masculinity is initiation; the essence of femininity is response.  It’s deduction vs. intuition; doing vs. being; action vs. isness.  I’m not saying that I 100% agree with these ideas, but our strong emotional responses to them are telling.  What do you all think?

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7 responses

15 11 2010
Jon

Even some churches in Europe have represented this concept with two steeples or towers on their basilicas. St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna is said to have done that. One of the towers represents the male and the other the female.

15 11 2010
k

some of the wording in this quote is pretty sickening. and then you don’t offer an explanation of your thoughts on this other than to apparently agree with the first point based on the title of the post. what are you trying to say about the difference in the souls of men and women? and how can one say two things are “complementary” to each other when it describes one side as an attacker and the other as awaiting attack? maybe i am not understanding the last couple sentences and they are conveying the opposite, but i think that is a bold quote to put out there with no explanation.

15 11 2010
Tim Courtois

Thanks k. I’ve added some thoughts to the post. I should be more careful when taking quotes out of context.

17 11 2010
AH

AHHHHH! I think you’re cool so I’m not irate 🙂 I would however mention that you should update your science 🙂 turns out that the ovum isn’t so passive… actually moves around… covered in sticky stuff to “trap” sperm… and actually releases chemicals which “attract” them…

SOOOOOOO: Women… not so passive afterall.

Meanwhile, there are a million ways that biology and gender interact:
http://bms.brown.edu/faculty/f/afs/Bare_Bones.pdf

Above is one example of a different take on this…

Also… did you know that men AND women produce the similar levels of cortisol when subjected to the same stressor, and similar levels of oxytocin when exposed to babies 🙂 …. there are a lot of situation factors which produce presumed “differences” in physiology…

I mean… don’t get me wrong… there are some obvious differences. BUT much more overlap. Essentialization of gender/race/culture/religious group/etc does not do justice to our humanity. We are each a unique contribution to the universe and should be appreciated for the many ways in which we were made.

21 11 2010
Tim Courtois

Ah… but I never said anything about the egg being “passive”. Maybe you heard something that I wasn’t saying?

More to come on this topic…

28 11 2010
mikey

It sucks that my culturalization doesn’t allow me to hear the two complementarities of “initiation” and “response” and escape the initial thought “well, initiation is obviously better because it’s not dependent on something else.” I would like to hear a lot more on the topic, and something resonates with me regarding those words. For example, I generally have a far stronger desire to hold my wife than be held by her, a far stronger desire to lead her than be led by her. This may also be culturalization, but it seems to resonate with this “initiation” and “response” paradigm. But there is this equal force within me that inherently wants to reject it because, when it intersects with an underlying belief of mine that independence equals strength, then I am compelled to call your paradigm sexist.

12 12 2010
Tim Courtois

I have so much more to say about what you’ve said here Mikey… Way more than would fit here.

My first thought is that your paradigm is a distortion of truth – which I think you would agree with. (I’m pretty sure we’d both strongly agree that independence does NOT equal strength. If that were the case, then the Trinity would be majorly out of luck.)

I would also challenge the view that initiation isn’t dependent on anything else. I think a general philosophical principal that I’m buying into more and more is “being before doing”. I would call “being” the responsive, feminine half of those two; and I would call “doing” the initiating, masculine half.

I’m pretty sure “being before doing” is true of God: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He existed in relationship with himself from all eternity, in eternal loving response to Himself. His initiation: His creative ACT flowed out of that.

But even if “being before doing” isn’t true of God, it’s DEFINITELY true of us. We must first receive from God and be penetrated by him. All true “doing” flows out of that.

I do wish I had a better word for femininity than “response”. When I try to describe my impression of masculinity, I come up with lots of words that seem to capture my impressions pretty well. When I try to describe my impression of femininity, I usually find myself grasping for words that never come, and end up settling for articulations that are less than satisfying. Is that because our society has tainted words that have to do with femininity? Or is it because it is part of the very *nature* of femininity that can’t be articulated? (“Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” (Judges 13:18) I suspect it’s actually a little bit of both.

(After all, the left brain is the side more associated with masculinity; it’s the side of language, deduction, and linear thinking. The right side is more associated with femininity: Non-linear thinking, pictures, and intuition. So it would make sense that language would fail us when trying to describe the side that isn’t so much “about” language…)

Anyhow… the point is that this “being”, this “responsive” side of things is quite significant, quite foundational to who we are. One who is incapable of *receiving* love can perform a lot of actions, but will probably end up actually accomplishing very little. On the other hand, one who is fully able to receive love can live in that place of joyful embracing of the love that is offered. Such a person can accomplish more with a single act initiated from a fully affirmed soul than can the unaffirmed soul in a lifetime of anxious striving.

The life of Christ proves this most of all! All of Jesus’ most powerful actions would mean very little if we didn’t know first and foremost that he was a man absolutely captivated by the love of the Father. But because he was captivated by that love, he was able, with a single act, to redeem the whole world!

Ok, this is a little out of hand for a reply to a comment. Hope I haven’t said anything heretical.

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