Coming to Terms: The Use of Gender in Spiritual & Esoteric Communities

When we say male/female or man/woman there are ideas and behaviours that we associate with those words, and those ideas don’t disappear in spiritual, religious or esoteric communities. The framework of woman-man is meaningful in our culture and I make no pretence about doing away with those concepts; but rather I seek to deepen our understanding of how we shape our lives by making some important contrasts: most pertinent to this conversation, and what informs my existential philosophy, is that to say feminine and masculine is not the same as to say man or woman.

I first started thinking seriously about gender when I was introduced to Black feminist thought in my late teens. Prolific intellectuals and theorists bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins inspired me to pay attention to the things I had assumed were an ordinary part of being a Black girl becoming a woman. Things I had unconsciously associated with my sense of place and value in the world; namely, to give as much of myself as possible in service of others. There is some virtue in that belief, but Black feminism showed me how fragile and undeveloped my sense of self was. As well as the deep debt of love I was accumulating in a culture that had nothing to say about how Black girls could care for themselves. (more…)

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