A Paradigm Shift
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we may owe credit to the emotional process in society that we now call Feminism for a paradigm shift that may take us to an emergent reality in intimate relationships. Let’s keep in mind, however, that evolutionary movements happen at an alarmingly slow, practically imperceptible, rate—which means I won’t live to see what I believe can happen. But I can still do my part to spread the hope!
To that end, let me expand on a statement I made yesterday: “We have the opportunity to make peace with each other by appreciating and seeking out the differences in the intangible energy we bring to relationship.” This intangible energy continuum can be named in a variety of ways. Some call it masculine/feminine; some refer to it as left brain/right brain. In 1907, Philosopher William James referred to it as tough-minded/tender-minded.
Tough-Minded and Tender-Hearted
James identified the two ends of this binary to be a fundamental and irresolvable clash between two ways of thinking. True that. It’s a pretty good characterization of the battle of the sexes, with most men falling on the tough-minded side of the continuum, and most women falling on the tender-hearted side. While that’s a gross generalization, I realize, it does characterize most couples—heterosexual or not. Opposites attract, for better or worse.
If we’re going to emerge into a new, better reality, we’re going to have to make peace with those on the other side of the binary, the folks that we find ____________________. Fill in that blank and you have the reason why the battle of the sexes continues so hotly. Both sides fill in that blank in the same way, and both then try to shame the other out of thinking the way they do.
Imagine a world where there are only tough-minded folks. If you think patriarchalism is a bad deal, imagine it without any moderating influence of the tender-hearted. Now imagine a world where there are only tender-hearted folks, matriarchalism, with no moderating influence of the tough-minded. That picture isn’t any better, if you ask me.
Imagine what would happen instead, though, if both sides put down the sword for a minute, and simply accepted that the other way of thinking is just that: a different way of thinking. It’s not morally inferior, or unintelligent, or wrong. It’s just the way the universe is arranged. We need to reconcile opposites by accepting that they just are, and then trying to understand the other. If we were to do that, we could emerge into a whole different emotional process in society…a truly progressive one in which the two ways of thinking value what the other brings to the table.
Let’s take this into a practical arena—dating—and let use my relationship with Brad as an example. Like many couples, Brad and I tend to fall on stereotypical sides of this continuum. He’s tough-minded and I’m tender-hearted. It just is. We identified this as an unresolvable issue when we made a list of our perpetual problems one day, and we did this so that we would simply stop arguing about things on this continuum. He can’t change my nature, and I can’t change his, so we don’t try anymore. In our more emotionally mature moments, we even seek one another out for a view from the other side of the continuum.
Brad likes to say that solving the tough-minded/tender-hearted dilemma is a matter of choosing which to use and when. I like to say that in every situation, we have to be thoughtful about what balance of each to use. See? We can’t even agree on that, even though we pretty much mean the same thing. His is a more black-and-white way of framing the solution, and mine’s more gray. And we still love each other.
I may not gain popularity points with Fourth Wave Feminists by saying so, but I’m afraid we need to look beyond the Feminist Revolution to a time when men and women work together, not against each other, for the stability of human society. We need to look at long-term solutions, not just stop-gap measures, and envision a new way of being in which the sexes no longer battle or vie for power over one another. We need to value the various kinds of solidity each brings to the team effort of social progression. We need the next human (r)evolutionary emergence.
Tomorrow, we’ll bring this philosophical conversation back to earth again, right down to the table with your next date.