Balancing Our Inner Gender Roles

Last summer I had the opportunity to hear Pearl Means, the wife of the Indian activist and artist Russell Means, speak at an event sponsored by the Global Mother Divine Organization in Fairfield, Iowa. Pearl, who is carrying on the legacy her husband started, believes that matriarchy is the main difference between indigenous cultures and modern cultures.

She says that historically it is the women elders who are most respected in her Lakota nation. Even today, she says, “they are the last to speak, and when they speak, everyone else listens,” she says.

Hearing her speak about the matriarchal Lakota nation, I remembered that a few years ago when I visited the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico, which has been lived in continuously for over 4,000 years, a woman tribal member told our visiting group that originally the kiva, or space for worship, was under the women’s leadership. It was only after conquest by the Spanish that the kiva became restricted to men and boys.

“We have no trouble with gender roles,” Pearl Means told us. “The men tribal members understand that they must come into harmony with the female energy, just as all humans must come into harmony with the Earth Mother.”

This hidden role of women brings a new perspective to gender balance that is perhaps old, in that indigenous cultures have long understood it. Russell Means writes in his book, If You’ve Forgotten the Names of the Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way:

The Universe, which controls all life, has a female and a male balance that is prevalent throughout our Sacred Grandmother, the Earth. This balance has to be acknowledged and become the determining factor in all of one’s decisions, be they spiritual, social, healthful, educational or economic.”

What would that look like, to maintain a greater balance between feminine and masculine values in our world as a whole? Would there be more respect for our mother earth, more balance in the economy? Recent studies have shown that as more feminine energy is brought into corporations (in the form of bringing more women into decision-making roles), the corporations prosper. Women leaders also tend to bring a more compassionate viewpoint to the discussion.

As Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects and a member of the 50×50 Leadership Circle of the Women in Public Service Project, wrote on the Women in Public Service blog this fall, “Women voices bring a different perspective to the table in the public sector. Esther Duflo’s research shows that women are more likely to invest in public infrastructure projects—like safe drinking water—and are less likely to feed into corruption than their male counterparts. For example, at the local-level, women-led village councils approved 60 percent more drinking water projects than those led by men. This correlation between women’s leadership and development outcomes is clear.”

Personally, I feel that questions of gender balance will resolve as individuals come more into balance with their innermost natures. Some people notice that after practicing the TM technique regularly for a while, they experience a better balance of masculine and feminine qualities within themselves. Women often report that because they are less stressed and more rested, their ability to nurture others has increased. At the same time they may find themselves becoming more assertive. Research shows that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to greater balance in mind, body, behavior and emotions.

And since a society is only as balanced as the individuals in it, starting with inner balance seems like a good idea.

About the Author

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

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