By Purnima Coontoor February 2007 Don’t look now, but things are changing. women are becoming like men and men are becoming like women. what it means is that society on the whole, is learning to balance its male-female energies, a sure sign that consciousness is rising They Find TaoPersonal accounts of the human struggle to find that elusive balance Like water, human beings too are constantly struggling to find their own level. The ups and downs of life compel them to do so. It could be evolution or a changing society or expediency or rising consciousness, but nature allows for most men and women to adjust automatically to the altered demands on them. Once docile and demure, a very ‘yin’ Lata changed to dramatic ‘yang’ after her marriage. Brought up in a patriarchal family where women were required to be seen but not heard, she was shocked to realise that her husband was not the Mills and Boon hero she had harboured in her dreams. He lacked initiative, whether it was in going out for movies and buying her flowers, to making his business grow or deciding to have children. His utter apathy drove her mad in the initial stages of her married life, but Lata’s survival instinct made her take up the challenge of making the marriage work for them. She gradually learnt how to ‘wear the pants’ in the house, and decided to obtain a loan as a woman entrepreneur to prop up the tottering business. She took all the major decisions like her children’s schooling and shifting house, and with infinite patience, managed to convince her husband to find professional help from a psychiatrist. Circumstances forced Lata to tap into her masculine side, and she is now helping her husband find his. Looking at his gentle features and slim long fingers, it would be hard to believe that Vishal was an insensitive, aggressive person, not long ago. He was also a confused soul who was wracked by feelings of guilt and self-doubt when he discovered that his family distrusted him, in spite of the sacrifices he made to nurture them. “As the oldest of a family which lost its father early, I was forced to take up a job and forget my dreams of getting into professional singing, my passion. I also had to give up on higher studies. It made me feel cheated and I was constantly dissatisfied with everybody and everything. I became extremely touchy and snappy. My family cowered if I entered the house, and I suspect I also started enjoying the power it gave me over them,” says Vishal. He was shattered when one day, he overheard his mother warning his sister ‘not to let bhaiyya know’ about something unpleasant. For weeks, Vishal was disturbed and confused, wondering where he went wrong. Providentially, a friend dragged him to a ten- day Vipassana course at Igatpuri. “The ten days of silence and meditation drove me up the wall. I couldn’t live with myself and my thoughts. I realised that I had turned into someone I was not by nature. I had to reclaim my right to enjoy life and its splendours, and yet be the supportive son and brother that my family needed. Vipassana helped, but it was the teachings of Osho which acted as balm to my soul. I gradually started participating in several of his workshops and retreats. I find that I can give vent to my feelings through his techniques… in those sessions, I laugh and cry, sing and dance, I really let go, helping me get in touch with my softer side. It’s an uphill journey, but I’m getting to be a more balanced person.” Unlike the above, Veena consciously sought the growth her soul needed. “I was what you would call extremely yin, or with a very unbalanced proportion of female and male energies,” she confesses. “I was shy, sensitive, moody, touchy, extremely emotional, full of self-doubt, insecure and underconfident. I was also extremely passive and regressive.” Veena consciously set out to achieve masculine qualities, and one of the ways of doing so was through a relationship with the opposite sex. She found herself attracted to a very masculine (alpha) male. “In the process of studying him and being constantly in his company, I actually found that all the qualities I was looking for like assertiveness, less emotionality and dynamism were cropping up in me. When that happened, I simply outgrew the relationship,” says Veena. While she wouldn’t call herself balanced even today, she says she is far more so than earlier, and this balance has been a substantial part of the growth she needed. Veena is now a very successful career woman who handles stressful situations with a combination of confidence and sensitivity, thanks to her yin-yang balance. (All names have been changed on request) Quick – with what gender do you associate these professions – barber, secretary, lawyer, politician, nurse? Think again before you answer, for regressive traditional society has been turned on its head in recent times. “Hello, Captain Kapoor welcomes you aboard the flight…” intones a female voice on the mike, and one settles down to a pleasant flight without so much as giving a thought to the gender of the pilot. Even as Condoleezza Rice is listed among the most powerful people in the world, Hillary Clinton is likely to be the first female President of the US. Parents no longer dream of marrying off their daughters, as every year throughout India, girls fare better than boys in the 10th standard examinations. Men are increasingly reporting to women bosses dressed in smart designer shirts and trousers with skills and attitude to match. The non-sexist ‘Ms’ is substituted for the traditional ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’, while gender-inclusive terms such as ‘humanity’ instead of ‘mankind’, ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’ are slowly becoming part of English vocabulary. If women have been becoming more like men for the last few decades, men have started catching up over the last decade or so. Japanese celebrity florist Shogo Kariyazaki, for example, is one of the highest individual tax payers of his country. The gender-bending guru is famous for his glossy lips and flowing bleached-blond hair. Recently, he appeared for a show in public, sporting an embroidered silk shirt with the motif of birds of paradise in flight, exclaiming, “Beauty is the essential thing in life!” Film director Farhan Akhtar has no qualms appearing on prime time television with his Rapunzel locks held up with hair bands – and now a very, very male Abhishek Bachchan is also seen sporting this item of feminine headgear with panache. David Beckham’s fashion sense is iconic. And it’s not just the Dhonis or Ustad Zakir Hussains who flaunt long hair. Middle-class salaried males and college students are doing so. In a TV ad, Shah Rukh Khan smiles disarmingly from a bathtub selling beauty soap, and an ad for a famous brand of luggage shows the husband carrying the child and waving his corporate wife goodbye at the airport. In another, the man welcomes his wife home after a hard day’s work with a steaming cup of branded tea. He even operates the washing machine and the microwave and dishes out delicacies from instant food packets, and not just in ads. Hello 21st CenturyLadies and gentlemen, say hello to the new world order, where women have made forays into traditional male professions, and men are all ready to storm the hitherto female bastion of beauty and homecare. Hail the emergence of the metro sexual man, a man who is emotionally sensitive and aware, verbal and communicative, physically fit, clean, has manners, smells good, and often enjoys fashion, beauty products, entertaining, and interior design. A man with a sophisticated aesthetic and often a well-developed feminine side. A man a woman can live with. World over, the so-called reversal of gender roles has become a topic of TV talk shows, magazine articles, academic research, films and, perhaps most notably, public acceptance. Same sex relationships are becoming commonplace in college hostels, and two men or women waltzing together to a tune no longer raise eyebrows. Openly gay entertainers, fashion designers, hairstylists and film-makers have achieved mainstream success, even as heterosexuals have sought to cultivate an image of gentle manhood. “It doesn’t matter if we are straight or gay. We are simply not afraid to show our feminine sides anymore,” says Kariyazaki, echoing the views of his lesbian counterparts as well. Reversing TrendsDoes all this point to a paradigm shift in the psyche of humanity? “Yes. Present society reflects a deep-seated need in men and women to find a balance, and it seems as if things have come to a head,” says counselor Anuradha Kurpad. “For long, men and women have been out of balance, simply because they have been trained to be out of balance! For centuries, the masculine energy has been honored in men, urging them to act but not to feel. The feminine energy has been honored in women, until recently, to feel but not to act. With the onset of the woman’s movement, they were encouraged to get in touch with their male energy as well, to become active and not merely be content as nurturers and caretakers. And only recently, men have been encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side.” Man have been conditioned to mistrust feelings and intuition, suppress emotions or push them aside. Females have mostly been taught to mistrust the male side of the energy. They help others achieve greatness but find it hard to get motivated on their own projects. They know they have talent but often wonder why they cannot seem to express it or profit from it. But the fact that these trends are reversing, suggests that it could just be the b
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