Masculine vs. Feminine
March 2, 2023
Friends, I am grateful for all of you who choose to open my e-newsletters. I am grateful that you take time from your day to read what I have written. It means a great deal to me. Please know how grateful I am for each of you and the openness you bring to reading my words.
As many of you are aware, I am a person who loves to share. I love to share books that have inspired me. I love to share music or music videos that move me. I simply love to share. So, thanks for allowing me to share with you.
In this e-newsletter, I want to share my friend and teacher’s words with you.
Iyabo Onipede is a racial peace building educator, facilitator, and speaker and is co-director of Compassionate Atlanta. I attended her class on race and culture and can honestly say that she helped me understand myself on a deeper level. Learning from Iyabo has opened and continues to open my eyes to the society that we all live in. I can become who I wish to be only when I understand all of who I am and how I and my patterns came to be.
I have found myself reacting to all the anger and aggression that our world is experiencing with tremendous grief and many questions. As a result, I turn to people who can help me understand things a bit better. I thought you all might appreciate Iyabo’s blog post this month. It definitely opened my eyes further and is a writing that I have returned to in order to glean even more understanding about myself and the society I live in.
I invite you to enter this e-newsletter with openness, curiosity, and self-compassion. If you find Iyabo’s words interesting and would like to read and learn more about her teachings, I encourage you to subscribe to her reader-supported publication: https://iyabo.substack.com/
It Is Not Just About Individual Gender
by Iyabo Onipede
The language of “Masculine” and “Feminine” to describe a culture may sound antiquated, but it is powerfully descriptive and essential in understanding cultures. As we dig into what creates disparities in our culture, I found this language of the archetype of masculine and feminine to describe emotional gender roles in societies very revealing.
Geert Hofstede (was a Dutch social psychologist) tells us, “The definition of masculinity is a society in which emotional gender roles are distinct. I’m not talking about social gender roles because they have a lot to do with the wealth of the country, but I’m talking about the emotional role.”
I am aware of my non-binary and gender non-conforming folks. I understand that you might feel slighted hearing these descriptions, and I say, “Thank you for showing us a third way.” Yet, I choose to move forward using this language as it does not relate to individual human gender.
These “emotional gender roles” address what is considered more important in a society such as achievement, attitude toward sexuality, equality, behavior, etc. These are core cultural programming aspects of what a person “should” feel born as a boy, or born as a girl. It speaks to acceptable motivations, goals, and agreed upon cultural values.
On the more masculinity end of this dimension, there is a preference in society for achievement, more competition, assertiveness, heroism, and material rewards for success. On the other end of the spectrum, feminine societies experience more cooperation, consensus building, modesty, caring for the weak, and more focus on the quality of life. In such feminine societies, men are supposed to be more modest, and tender and focused on the quality of life as well. There is more acceptance for fluid gender roles, and there is tenderness to the feel of the business culture.
Cultural Emotional Gender Roles
What Does This All Mean?
[Using the Power Distance Index from Geert Hofstede, we can see a lot as to how a culture operates. Power distance is a dimension theorized and proven by Geert Hofstede, who outlined multiple cultural dimensions throughout his work. This term refers to inequality and unequal distributions of power between parties; whether it is within the workplace, family, organizations or companies].
Using Nigeria and America as comparative examples again, we find that Nigeria and the US score roughly the same – 62 and 60 respectively, as opposed to individualism and collectivism which were 30 and 91 respectively. Now, 60-ish is a little bit above median so let us look at a couple of countries closer to both ends of the spectrum. The Netherlands scored 14, Norway 8, and Sweden 5. Japan scored 95, Venezuela 73, and Mexico, 69. The higher the score, the more masculine the culture. The lower the score, the more feminine the culture.
In both my home country and the US, we think of men and women pretty much the same way. Patriarchy continues to rule, and women are awesome if they see the world through a masculine lens. That is why many women who have succeeded in both cultures are often very masculine in their personalities. Yet, we want women to still take care of the home front.
A while back, I listened to a podcast/interview with Malcolm Gladwell. He talked about Canada having a more feminine healthcare system than America’s. He clarified that in Canada much more money is invested in preventative healthcare. However, in America it is more about emergency healthcare. That was the first time I came across this method of approaching cultures and possibly solving issues by looking at it through a different lens than what we think of as norm.
Simply put, the difference between Masculine and Feminine societies boils down to the extent to which the use of force is socially acceptable. This dimension of the six that Hofstede writes about is key to understanding why violence is part of American culture. This helps us understand binary thinking and competition. Nigeria also has a similar level of violence. Boko Haram has plagued us with deaths, as gun and police violence has become norm in the US. Yet, it is not widespread violence, and conformity. I do not think of Japan as a particularly violent country, but I do think of the acceptability of suicide. Venezuela has resorted to high levels of violence as they work through governance issues.
I observed a good example of a more feminine way of addressing political conflict in recent news about Nigeria. There is an issue with our currency right now. Women gathered at our equivalent of congress and did not allow the cars of the senators and representatives through. They had to turn around their bullet proof and darkened window SUVs to find another entrance to their assembly. I thought that was cool.
- This is not about absolutes. This is more like a “trend towards.” Let us not think of this with the binary thinking of “good” or “bad.”
- Hofstede says that these things change very slowly in a society and is often based on how you were raised in your own home.
- Recognize that it is only one dimension of culture per Hofstede. How it works in conjunction with other dimensions is very important.
- I do not believe everything about one side is good and everything about the other side is bad. I do however, see more survival traits on one side, and the other side more nurturing and community building, but I might be biased! 😉
Give yourself one point for each attribute above in the pink chart that you believe in and adhere to. Regardless of how you identify gender wise, I fully expect to see you have points in each column.
Are these attributes reflected in your larger life? Your work, your family, your neighborhood?
The goal here is to tune into the culture that surrounds you and begin to use archetypal language to describe it.
- Which traits do you want to develop within yourself?
- What is working and what is not for you?
- What did you take on about this subject and you have never questioned?
I happened to see this video yesterday with Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlisle singing “A Beautiful Noise.” It touched me. I loved the message of the song. I so appreciated the message that I have a voice, and I am going to use it. It is such a great reminder that we all have voices. May we all gain the courage and vulnerability to share our voice and our truth!
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