Recently I came across some essays written by Barbara Spraker that speak to the power of feminine energy based on the Tao concept that women hold up half the sky.
“So claims an ancient Chinese proverb – “Women Hold Up Half the Sky.” This amazing image doesn’t describe women sitting under the shade tree while men hold up the sky. It doesn’t suggest women are competing with men to hold up the sky. Not at all! What it evokes is a picture of women fully bringing their unique gifts to the task, bringing their ways of holding up the sky.”
Wow! I find that so powerful.
She goes on to discuss that through wholeness and completeness there is a commitment to the greater good. “This greater good requires us to ‘let go’ of our ego and lay claim to our deeper personal power, rooted in our unique gifts, perspective and passions, as well as to our place in the universal wisdom stream. This path enables us to understand that while we are individuals doing our work, our role in the sky is not about ego, it is about the common good. So we ‘let go’ of comparison and competition and listen inside for that place where our unique contributions are called for. When we are centered in our personal power, we are connected – connected to our highest vision, to others with whom we share our task, and to the continuum of wisdom and insight that is our birthright.”
Again I find that very powerful. It reminded me of the True Womanhood ideals of the 19th century and the first virtue of Piety which stated that women shine a bright light out into the world to balance the dark world created by man. In True Womanhood, Piety empowered women to stand up for the greater good – they too, believed that women held up half of the sky.
I find it interesting that ancient and more contemporary concepts acknowledge the power of female energy to balance male energy but our current culture has abandoned finding any value in female energy. We have forgotten that is through female energy, we arrive at the greater good. We believe that acts from ego will overpower acts towards the greater good. So we tell women, that to find power, they need to adopt male energy and habits. We teach that male energy overpowers female not that they work in concert with each other to achieve something greater.
Barbara’s essays discuss Yin (female) and Yang (male) energy and their dynamic nature – how one flows to the other, how when Yang rises, Yin ebbs until the energies naturally change and Yin rises and Yang ebbs. When working together, the ebbs and rises are gentle and natural. She says “So those who are ‘holding up the sky’ are engaged not in holding tight to a pillar, but are engaged in dynamic, interdependent, co-creative dance – in relationship with colleagues and with the sky itself in its continual changes.”
“And it is not just women. The other half of the sky is held up by men. This doesn’t come to the world as a new idea.”
Taoism teaches that the Yin and the Yang are interdependent and continuously act on each other creating unity. But Western culture has favored Yang energy for several centuries.
- “Rational thinking (Yang) is of greater value than intuition (Yin)
- Competition (Yang) is superior to cooperation (Yin)
- Science (Yang) is more trusted than religion (Yin)
- Initiative (Yang) is superior to responsiveness (Yin)”
As a result, there is a disconnection, a separation of self from the whole. This again goes back to what I talk about with men and autonomy. Too much Yang energy results in autonomy. It also results in “an energy that is assertive, externalized, hierarchical, oriented to power over others and which routinely uses force to achieve desired results.” “Yang energy incorporates a belief in ‘objectivity,’ an assumption that ‘I’ am outside the system, able to observe what is happening rationally, with clear perception, and make judgments untainted by personal bias or emotion.”
This is what my article Why Men Don’t Teach Employees To Problem Solve was about. Men detach themselves from the workforce and come up with solutions on their own. Because they are not part of the system, they believe they can make better decisions on how the system should operate. This detachment serves to increase status and position in a hierarchy used to exert superiority over others.
Yes, the male-dominated workplace is full of Yang energy which is why it doesn’t function well – it is working with only half of itself. For every rise, there is no balancing ebb. With no Yin energy to counteract the rising Yang energy, Yang energy keeps rising until it crashes back down. If you think about every major crisis in the past few centuries and you will find Yang energy that went too far.
This morning I was talking to my financial advisor about the oil industry and he said that the oil price peaks and crashes are inherent to the industry. I said – that’s because it is the most male-dominated industry on the planet. the construction industry has the same problem. Male dominated industries or companies that have unbounded Yang energy wind up going through periods of feast and famine, great rises followed by great crashes.
This is the greater good women can serve – bringing more Yin energy to prevent those great crashes. We can maintain a natural balance. We do this through creating the connections – through integration and coordination of Yang actions. By creating connections, no one is allowed to stand outside the system – they become part of the system, part of the whole. Ego is kept in check. As the whole gains in energy, the greater good, the better results are achieved.
As a woman, you will feel the balance of Yin and Yang working naturally together. You will feel and intuitively know when they are in balance. Likewise, I suspect most women, especially those in any STEM industry know how a workplace that is out of balance feels.
But instead of correctly this imbalance, women are mistakenly being told that what feels wrong is their female energy. As a result they are abandoning their feminine power and adopting too much masculine with the belief that male energy is more valuable or dominates over female. Barbara’s second essay Women Hold Up Half The Sky: That’s Hard To Do When Your Feet Are Bound discusses how women have bound their own feet and are holding themselves back.
“In this second essay we will confront some of the profound ways Yin energy has been dominated, discounted and silenced, and also consider what is required to shift that reality. Other authors have engaged this topic, to be sure, but often as an attack on the dominant reality, and ironically, reflecting the same consciousness which they are challenging. This ‘us versus them’ perspective is counterproductive to the healing and regeneration that is needed in the world today.”
“To put it plainly, this is not about men silencing women. This is about the beliefs woven into our cultures so deeply that they are usually subconscious. Men, as well as women, suffer from the insidious assumption that one half of the citizens of the world is more valuable than the other half.”
“Women as well as men must awaken. As long as we ignore the profound nature of the silencing, our efforts to bring our gifts to holding up the sky will be inadequate. We will not have the patience or persistence to step into our power. We will not have the boldness or the courage or the creativity necessary to step up to our responsibility as full, first class citizens of the world.”
Barbara brings up a point that I never thought of before in how we hold up the boy or the man as the standard. We tell girls they can play soccer just as well as the boys. We can achieve xxxxxxxx just as well as men. It is a subtle message brought that is rooted in an historically patriarchal society that values male energy more than female. As women we have subconsciously bought into this belief and that is what we must awaken to.
Her second essay tells us to:
Open our eyes and to see what we desire.
Open our eyes and to see our own path.
Open our hearts and feel – to feel the pain of the silencing we have felt for centuries.
Open our will and act. “To follow our inner wisdom and give our gifts with joy and compassion. Part of seeing is recognizing that we are not helpless to help.”
“We are ‘caring for our bound feet’ every time we accept other’s expectations of us without thinking, every time we fail to speak our own truth with respect, every time we make excuses for not acting on our own values, and every time we avoid responsibility for the health of our community.”
I enjoyed Barbara’s essays and am including the link to them as well to a Ted Ed about Yin and Yang.
As I have written more and learned more through this website, I’ve come to realize the first battle women must conquer is believing in themselves – that female energy is just as powerful and important as male energy. Women have to believe that empowering their female traits in the male-dominated workplace is their key to success.
I keep coming back to this issue because I know I can write about all of kinds of situations you will find in the male-dominated workplace and give suggestions on how to deal with them, but the advice does no good unless you truly believe that your feminine energy is powerful enough to deal with them. You must believe your strength lies in your womanhood. Once you believe in your power, then you can live up to your moral obligation to serve the common good.
Women Hold Up Half The Sky by Barbara J. Spraker April 2008
Women Hold Up Half The Sky: That’s Hard to Do When Your Feet Are Bound by Barbara J. Spraker January 2009
The Hidden Meanings of Yin and Yang by John Bellaimey
Empowered Women Hold Up Their Half of the Sky