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Feminine Vs. Masculine

Feminine Vs. Masculine

Lo femenino vs. lo masculino

Lorís Simón Salum

When I was 19 years old, my mother asked me to join her in a women’s retreat from the Marion Woodman Foundation in a magical place called Tepoztlán in Mexico. It sounded mysterious, intriguing and sort of sect-like, which made it all the more attractive. Of course I accepted the offer. At the time I remember being a hot mess, struggling between losing weight, finding a boyfriend, and sadly, there is nothing more I can add to that list.

We worked from 9 am to 9 pm every day for an entire week. It was exhausting. I will refrain from trying to explain the exercises and conversations we had in fear of losing the power they held within me. I will say, however, it moved me in ways I had never been moved before.

Years later, I could not let this experience go; I grew passionate about women, gender and feminism. There was a part of me that hoped: if all women could undergo this same change I went through on a regular basis, we would be unstoppable. This hope was what motivated me to create a documentary. If women could take the time to truthfully understand who they were, not only in relation to someone else, but in context of this universe, they would begin taking matters into their own hands.

They would never ask for permission to be, raise children as balanced human beings, do what they were passionate about, whether it be inside or outside the home. At this point, my thesis began to get a little bit shaky. Everything I was suggesting for women actually applied to men in the exact same way. Then, it struck me- it was not about gender at all; it was about a one-sided lens through which our society has chosen to see the world, as black or white, as male or female, as weak or strong, as either/or.

Back in the 1920’s, in her book A Room of One’s Own, author Virginia Wolf was one of many to sense two “gendered” powers presiding in each man and woman, where the norm would be when the two “lived in harmony with one another, spiritually cooperating.” Around the same time, renowned psychologist Carl Jung coined the Latin terms for these different perspectives as anima and animus, or in Western terms, feminine and masculine, respectively.

In Eastern traditions we see them as yin and yang, although other terms have been attached to this concept such as diffuse vs. focused awareness, right vs. left-brain thinking, and so on. As a quick example, a masculine outlook or behavior is related to being structured, creating hierarchies, being rational and forming limits. I believe this masculine approach has become the principal lens through which we see our lives.

It has become the reference point to what we consider as true and valuable. Just think about what we visualize when we hear the word “success.” If you are thinking of a situation related to high earnings, high degrees, popularity or intellectuality, Ding! Ding! Ding! You have hit the jackpot. In his book  A Hero With A Thousand Faces , author Joseph Campbell makes a distinction on how we perceive the truth in our culture.

 This doctrine of incommunicability of the truth, which is beyond names and forms, is basic to the great oriental as well as to the platonic traditions. Whereas the truths of science are communicable, being demonstrable hypothesis founded on observable facts; ritual, mythology and metaphysics are guides to the brink of a transcendent illumination. The final step which must be taken by each in his own silent experience.

I deeply enjoy that quote because it expresses a feminine viewpoint that we fail to recognize. Feminine qualities relate to ritual, mythology, creativity, the ability to nurture, receptiveness, chaos, and actually, historically speaking, women. When we turn to our feminine side, there are no right or wrong answers; in fact there are no words for answers at all.

It is about cultivating your every potential without the need to profit from it or judge it in any way. This is where we have come to a fault as a society and mistakenly assigned it to a problem regarding gender. I theorized that as we have devalued feminine qualities in our culture, we have come to devalue women along with them. We see these qualities as “soft,” “weak,” or “useless.” The funny thing is, our basic state of existence is emotional before it is rational. Every use we give to our logic has the goal to fulfill an emotional need. We are not robots.

Yet, we are so consumed by productivity, economic growth and social status; we have left the rest of our human side to the unconscious. We have forgotten the part of us that does not use language or reason to understand the world. We have trained ourselves to ignore what we sense through our intuition, our body and our hearts. This is the principal part in us that does not see boundaries, or gender, or religious affiliations, and so forth; it is the part that sees humans, and intentions, and empathy.

I had an “aha” moment when I came to think about the feminine qualities in each of us. Everything I had learned in the retreat in Tepoztlán came flooding in from my memory, making me realize that all this time I was not in search of more knowledge on women, I was actually in search for the feminine. My documentary quickly switched its focus from empowering women, to promoting a journey of truth and self-knowledge in all individuals.

It is not enough for women to try to become more masculine just because that is the only way our society values success. In the same way, it is not enough for a man to feel he must have more money than a country itself just because that is the only way our culture accepts him as worthy. Just because we cannot monetize our passions, it does not mean they do not have value. In so far as we promote unwholesome behaviors and perspectives, our world will remain divided, ignorant, and fearful of the “other”.

I named my documentary ‘Ensoulment’ because in religious debates, it is the term used to describe the exact moment when the soul enters an embryo in the early stages of pregnancy. When you place the spotlight on a balanced lifestyle, masculine and feminine in constant collaboration, you create the tools you need to connect different parts of yourself that seemed foreign to one another before. You begin to see yourself as one. As a result, you begin seeing the world as one whole piece as well, a metaphoric ensoulment of your persona.

In a biblical sense, it is the moment that God, whoever that may be for you, breathes life into your nostrils and you become a living soul. It is nirvana in the Buddhist tradition. It is self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. No longer is it about men or women, it is about the animals (us included) on this planet. No longer is it about what job you have, it is about finding meaning in a universe we know so little about. No longer is it about who can test better in school, it is about collectively bringing something forth to this world and make it a better place.

Towards the end of my project, film and book, what I found to be most important, not only in gender equality, but in our view towards the environment, politics, relationships, our bodies, the workforce, and every aspect of life, is that change comes from the inside out. Like Spiderman’s uncle said, “with great power, comes great responsibility”. The bigger the endeavor, the heavier the responsibility we have to change inwardly towards our true calling. Perhaps, more simply put, I will use Buddha’s words to say, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and humbly add, “and don’t forget yourself in the process.”


LorisLorís Simón Salum is a psychotherapist in private practice in Houston, TX. She is the author of Ensoulment: Exploring the Feminine Principle in Western Culture (2016), as well as the film director of the multi award-winning documentary Ensoulment: A Diverse Analysis of the Feminine in Western Culture (2013). She was the Creative Director for Literal Magazine for over 10 years. Some of her projects included Literally Short Film Festival, Literal’s short international film festival, and Literally Everything, Literal’s podcast. You can find her at

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There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Michelle at 4:07 pm

    My life always felt purposeful. I had a wonderful hard, fast paced, demanding, but two fulfilling careers. Raised my young brother and child in a challenging world alone. I have always had the words, or wisdom. But I have been lost these past few years. My words are still silent to me and hiding. But this was beautiful what you’ve done. I needed this so much as there are many of us that do. What we tangle up in our heads are as important. Not in the scheme of things. Thank you.

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