“Embrace Your Feminine Energy!”

Something has bothered me for a while, but I was never able to put it into words until recently. To be completely honest, I also never really spent that much time focused on it. While it’s harmful and destructive, it’s got a veil of empowerment and dignity and therefore is highly deceptive.

I’ll admit that people talking about “good/bad energy” and “good/bad vibes” and the like has often made me roll my eyes. I put these sentiments in the same category as belief in the power of crystals, astrology, and other New Age beliefs and pseudoscience. I hardly consider myself any more “spiritual” than I am religious, and I’m not religious.

Now that I’ve offered that caveat, it has often bothered me on a visceral level when I have heard people (often women, often feminists) say something along the lines of “embracing your feminine energy” or “unleashing your feminine goddess” or any of the other multitude variations in which I have read/heard this sentiment. Although I obviously believe in the empowerment and equality of women, I do not believe these sentiments achieve that. I also find this verbiage to be slightly condescending and patronizing. This can also be seen in statements such as “A real man never…” or “A real woman always…” In actuality, the only masculine and feminine traits are those that can be seen with the naked eye and/or measured, such as the differing genitals, pronounced breast tissue and wider hips on women, and greater muscle mass and amounts of hair in men. And even these are not always necessarily true in every case, without even touching on the subject of trans individuals.

Ideal feminine traits are often considered those that would inehrently be considered weak, while ideal masculine traits are those that most people would consider strong traits. For example, the following traits are often considered “feminine”: soft, forgiving, sweet, gentle, submissive, and humble. On the contrary, the following traits are often considered “masculine”: in control, confident, intelligent, assertive, strong, brave, and independent. If nothing else, a quick Google search can confirm this.

These are not simply descriptive words. They also serve prescriptive purposes, which make them much more sinister. And while after thousands of years of the patriarchy and misogyny being normalized and considered “simply the way things are supposed to be”, it is easy for many people (including women) to confuse certain longstanding social norms, expectations, standards, and roles as actually being natural or biological, “simply the way things are”. In a world dominated by the patriarchy, men who do not live up to these ideal masculine traits might be mocked or even shunned socially, whereas women who step outside these bounds can and do face consequences ranging from discrimination in the workplace all the way up to their lives being taken.

Although those who talk about “feminine energy” are almost always full of good intentions and attempting to uplift women, this verbiage instead ensures women continue to be shackled in the same chains misogynists put them in in the first place. Ideal traits for human beings should include traits such as self-love, empathy, bravery, self-awareness, honor, and discipline, among other attributes. As an outflow of the accepted current duality, when a man comes up with a solution, he is praised for being logical, while a woman might easily be criticized as being bossy for having done the same thing. When a woman is (even very understandably) upset, she is said to be “moody” or “hysterical”, when a man who was feeling the same way would much more likely have his concerns taken seriously and discussed. Only when we undo the system of gendered speech that hold the sexes to different standards can we free both women and men of limiting biases.

I understand that the prevailing belief is that both men and women have both feminine and masculine traits. However, this is still problematic, as we are still defining (and deeming) certain traits as ideal when found in a man and certain traits as ideal when found in a woman. The fact remains that traits accepted as being masculine are less self-debasing and “feminine” traits much more so. Instead of attempting to sell the belief that societally-engineered “female” traits are inspirational and should be embraced by women, let’s question the very assertion that certain traits are feminine and certain traits masculine.

“Karen” “Karen” “Karen”!!!

First, I am going to acknowledge I am years behind on this topic. However, unfortunately, it seems nearly 3/4 of the way through the year of our Lord 2022, it has not yet been made irrelevant *sigh* so here’s my contribution to what has already been written on the topic by people far more articulate than myself. And for clarification, I’ll be using “Karen” to mean the insult/moniker. Karen = person whose legal name is “Karen”.

I’m not sure exactly when controversial, mouthy women started being called “Karen”s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this phenomenon closely followed the Red Pill’s rise to infamy and Donald Trump’s taking of the White House in 2016. However, I really only started paying attention to it during the height of the pandemic. I was confused by why both women publicly advocating for folks to wear masks/take Covid seriously, as well as women publicly advocating for folks not to wear masks/not take Covid seriously (usually depending on which political side the respective women were on) were both hit with the moniker “Karen”. It struck me that, unlike the moniker “Negative Nancy”, which depends on a certain type of behavior and can be ascribed to anyone, “Karen” was simply the term society decided to attach to women who unabashedly and unapologetically speak their minds. Which doesn’t seem to be a problem when men do so — and they don’t get any nasty sex-based epithets thrown at them, either. Additionally, although the term is usually relegated to white, upper-middle class, middle-aged women, it can and has been used for other groups, as well, although they all have at least one trait in common: they are always women.

And then, like dominoes falling into place, another related question I had was answered simultaneously —

The reason there are no male “Karen”s is because “Karen” is synonymous with “male”. We don’t saddle men with a degrading, mocking term like “Karen”, because society deems it appropriate for men to speak their minds — a privilege we still rarely give women. Being loud, outspoken, and taking up space is something we have always allowed and even encouraged in men and something we have not allowed women until the past few decades (and even then with major caveats, implied and explicit threats, and social consequences).

While I don’t know any Karens in real life, I speak with the general public for my current job as a canvasser, and have spoken with a lot of Karens. Due to the unfair besmirching of their name I have been exposed to these last several years (and certainly not my own personal experience), I am always extra cautious when dealing with a Karen. One thing that has hit me is I do not think I have ever spoken with a Karen I would consider rude, condescending, or unpleasant.

Ashley? Lauren? Kayla? Dave? Tom? Conner? Etc, etc, etc. Sure.

However, we don’t denigrate or pre-judge them for their names.

Recently, I meant to email my professor about an assignment but accidentally ended up emailing someone else in my address book, someone with the same name as a certain misogynist/r@pist/sex trafficker/grifter, who has been in the news and all over social media a lot lately. He very graciously emailed me back to let me know of my mistake and wished me well in my class. And I thought, I bet he wouldn’t be happy with his name becoming an equivalent for a very bad person, just because he happens to share his name with a very bad person. Although it would make just as much sense as society’s acceptance of the name “Karen” being used as an insult.

The term “Karen” is now so entrenched in society hardly anyone considers the appropriateness of the term. I hear even well-meaning, otherwise progressive and empathetic people using it. I urge everyone reading this to re-consider the term, its unintended consequences, and help end the use of a trait that is ascribed at birth (a given name, in this case) as a pejorative.