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The feminine and the masculine: evolving meanings in collective and individual conscience.


One can easily identify two extreme versions of public discourse on globalization.

On one hand, globalization is described as a positive response to the issues of contemporary world, by integrating regional economies, societies, and cultures through communication, transportation, and trade. It includes as a relevant component the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or popular culture through acculturation ( Globalization).

On the other hand, the opposite extreme vision on globalization describes it as a means to step up exploitation of individuals and nations by weakening national control on multinational companies (Conversi, 2009, Smith, 2006).

In any of the two extreme or other intermediate visions, individuals should possess qualities needed to either participate effectively in the process or put up a fight to resist it.

The Greater Picture: Evolving Visions on General Human Qualities

From the distant antiquity up to 1800's the perceptive qualities have been considered of utmost importance.

Critias identified the soul with the blood, because, he thought, the most important function of the soul was perception, and perception was the main function of the blood (Sahakian, 1968).

Aristotle wrote o whole volume (De Anima) on the common (movement, stillness, number, shape and size) and specific properties of the objects that would impact on the different senses of humans (idem). In Parva Naturalia he theorized that perception of objects and perception of time were indispensable preconditions for the development of memory. His comments on dreams started from pointing out the common belief that sensations were absent while man slept and concluded by stating that this belief was false (idem).

Closer to our times, John Locke (Locke, 1690) concluded that the blank page of the mind was being filled in by observing the objects from the outside and also, by observing the internal processes of the intellect, as perceived by each individual. Berkeley published in 1709 a volume on just visual perception (Berkeley, 1709). The French "sensualists" have also been vividly interested in perception. The interest went as far as trying to imagine how the representations of the world would change, should de number of human senses increase or decrease (de Condillac, 1754). The systematic measurement was first introduced in psychology also in the domain of perception (Weber, 1834; Fechner, 1860).

The classics of psychoanalysis directed the perceptual efforts to the internal world of the individual. This new discovered realm had own power sources and drivers for development, consisting of either instincts, needs or conflicts, or a multi-level structure, where each level would try to acquire a dominant status over the others.

Analyzing and controlling the internal forces, conflicts and components of the personality have begun to be highly valued. At first, it was generally thought that it was more effective to use such qualities embedded in a highly specialized professional, the analyst. Freud, Adler, Jung and many others embraced this vision. Karen Horney (Horney, 1942) brought forward the idea that the ability of self-analysis was critical for every individual's actualization.

Gordon Allport seems to be the one that seeded the next dominant vision on the fundamental human qualities. The human nature is being identified with the need to grow and find the balance and unity of personality in its activities (Allport, 1961). Rogers and Maslow added more consistency to this new vision: the balance of personality is not achieved mainly by understanding and manage the inner tensions, conflicts and traumas that threaten from within its integrity, but by fully actualizing its abilities and growth potential.

This vision is currently generating scientific papers and policy documents that would identify key abilities or competencies to be targeted by curriculum developers, education and training systems and institutions (Department of Education and Science, 1985; Wills, 1993; Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning, 2004).

The Gender Psychology Picture, from a Jungian Perspective Complementary Forces

The psyche consists of incongruous halves which together form a whole, as conscious and unconscious, as masculine and feminine etc. Both are aspects of life itself and a congruent development toward a more conscious whole, the individuation, means not to suppress and injure one component, but harmonizing conscious and unconscious contents (Jung, 1959). The opposite's resident in consciousness and the unconscious create a psychic tension from which psychological life flows, and the polarity inherent in the dynamic opposition ... creates the energy flow that will lead to a dialogue between them. In Jeffrey Miller's synthesis of the transcendent function that unite the complementary positions, like the feminine--masculine axe, "the process, which Jung called individuation, repeats in a never-ending cycle leading the person to ever greater degrees of wholeness" (Miller, 2004: 61).

In their study of the "organizational psyche," Corlett and Pearson stated the fact that, in the dynamic of conscious and unconscious structures, "conscious processes (in the organizational psyche) are dominated by masculine forms and mores, and the feminine principle is repressed into the organization shadow" (Corlett and Pearson, 2003: 16). In archetypal terms, the core forces acting manifest a fourfold tendency, which are represented by two pairs of complementary life forces. "At its core, four great life forces come together in two sets of polar opposites. The first pair of archetypal life forces consists of the tendency to nurture and develop people, in tension with the tendency to achieve results. The second pair consists of the tendency towards learning, innovating and transforming, in tension with the tendency toward stabilizing processes and maintaining tradition" (p. 19).

In order to observe the different level of masculine behavior, we have to follow the way the humans behave in their conscious decisions. In every organization, there is one principal tendency that dominates the values and actions that characterize the organizational management and, as such, is represented today by the masculine embodiment. In authors' terms, the masculine representatives have three levels of spiritualization for each of these four tendencies, from basic to spiritual. So, the tendency to nurture and develop people is symbolized by the Lover, the Every-day-man and the Jester.

These masculine behaviors are in opposition with the Hero, the Revolutionary and the Magician which are the embodiment of the tendency to achieve results.

The second pair of tendencies is represented by the Innocent, the Explorer and the Wise man as the embodiment of the tendency toward learning, innovation and transforming. These masculine behaviors are in counter position with the Care-giver, the Creator and the Leader. In order to have a non-rigid and flexible management, it is important to consciously act in order to integrate the complementary values and "life forces."

The Animus and Anima Guided Individuation

Anima as guide to the inner world for the masculine psyche is described by M. L. von Franz in practical terms: "This positive function occurs when a man takes seriously the feelings, moods, expectations, and fantasies sent by his anima and when he fixes them in some form" (von Frantz, 1968: 195). And she continues underlining the importance of this inner process for individuation, the evolution of the human psyche: "When he works at this patiently and slowly other more deeply unconscious material wells up from the depth and connects with the earlier material. If this is practiced with devotion over a long period the process of individuation gradually becomes the single reality and can unfold in its true form" (idem: 195).

The same is true for the feminine psyche, for which the animus is the guide that enables the transformations.

The essential fact is that a human being, man or woman is evolving in his or her own gender identity together with the evolution of the inside part of his or her psyche, the complementary gender.

In Jungian terms, Ego evolves towards spirituality only if the inside Anima or Animus is evolving in the same direction. In Linda Schiersc Leonard terms, "In the man, the anima, or feminine soul, reflects every element of femininity, hence to meet her consciously requires of the man that he open himself to the terrors of woman as well as the blisses" (Schiersc, 2001: 254).

In the feminine soul, the Animus in its most developed form connects the woman's mind with the spiritual evolution of her epoch, and she becomes even more receptive than a man to new creative ideas. The same for masculine, as many examples from literature show the Anima as the guide and mediator to the inner world of man.

A large number of fairy stories introduce a hero, prince or not, who turned into a wild animal or whatever monster, who is redeemed by love: this process symbolizes the conjoint psychological evolution of masculine and feminine psyche.

The process of individuation gradually transforms the whole of a person in a unique wholeness. In order to develop our personality, we have to assimilate consciously the inside potentialities and to evolve around them. That is way Jung considers the couple to be the best opportunity to integrate and enlarge our conscious personality by a conscious integration of the unconscious masculine/feminine qualities inside and by doing so to develop them from the level of mere instinctual tendencies to higher level of humanization.

The couple itself is an unconscious bridge in which anima and animus are projected onto the partner's unconscious triggers. There is an unknown but direct connection between the condition of inside Masculinity--Animus complex, Femininity--Anima complex and the behavioral characteristics of the partner. This bridge is the very core of both the dissatisfactions in the couple relationships, and the transformation opportunities. The inability of the partner to completely satisfy the unconscious demands could provide a lot of disagreements, and if they are amiable solved on long or short terms, the partners could change towards more tolerant attitudes toward each other. And such an attitude could provide a fertile ground for a real understanding of the other gender capabilities and for a better assimilation of the partner's characteristics almost invisible till now. In the same time, this kind of liberty may help the other to develop his/her level of gender values. In turn, these development could influence the inside transformation of the man's anima and women's animus.

Studying the world of anima and animus, as feminine inside man's psyche, and masculinity inside woman's psyche, Ana Belford Ulanov, underline that "the core identity, where ego forms and Self begins to form, we tend to identify with our sexual identity, it is the permanence we have been seeking, our judging apparatus, our certifiable being. The changes that assault and enlarge or diminish this permanence at the center pass through or even spring directly from the inner world of otherness that lives alongside our core identity, the world of counter sexuality. Ultimately, with the intercession of anima and animus, a fullness of sexual self, of being male or female, may emerge from this constant meeting and living together of permanence and change. We may then have something of the highest value to hold onto and know that we have it" (Ulanov, 1994: 49).

In Ulanov terms animus and anima are archetypes of transformations "because their constant effect on us is to enlarge us, even if not always positively (...) when it functions properly we are enlarged in best sense, in all directions and the ego receives contents from the contra sexual self. We are connected then, deep down inside with our sexual roots; we are made full with the unexpected enlargement that comes with the presence of the opposite point of sexual view. We are made flexible and less dogmatic, but more secure in being who we are, trusting in our identities even as, inspired improvisation, we put together all he parts, masculine, feminine, personal, collective, conscious, unconscious, self and others" (Ulanov, 1994: 42).

During the couple accommodation process we encounter the other peculiarities and we have the chance, besides enlarging our own gender, to develop and enlarge the condition of anima/animus inside us, plus the development of a richer connectedness with the world of complementary gender.

To acquire that level of human development as humans we have to confront the unknown unconscious world inside, to open our self toward the inner world and the effort of understanding the otherness outside and inside us. This was a huge work of hundreds of generations, of billions of human couples in search of their identity.

Values and Developmental Stages of Femininity. The Primitive Instinctual Stage

Hesiod wrote his Theogony in the 8th century B. C. He described the creation of the first woman (Pandora) and called women "genos gynaikon" the race of women, a separate species of humans that was necessary for the reproduction of humanity and yet was disruptive to civilization and had to be controlled.

However, much older representations of the feminine present a more complex image.

The most famous archetypal image of a woman, the so-called "Venus" of Willendorf, was found in 1908 by the archaeologist Josef Szombathy in an Aurignacian loess deposit in a terrace about 30 meters above the Danube near the town of Willendorf in Austria.

The statuette measures about 11.1 centimeters in length, and it was carved from a fine porous Neolithic limestone.

The limestone was not found in the region and so it must have been brought to the area from another location. It may well be the case that the carving, which was presumably done with flint tools, was not done locally. When first discovered, the Venus of Willendorf was thought to date to approximately 15,000 to 10,000 B.C.E. but a study published in 1990 of the stratigraphic sequence of the nine superimposed archaeological layers comprising the Willendorf deposit, however, now indicates an earlier date for the Venus of Willendorf, around 24,000-22,000 B.C.E.

As the earliest known representation, she became the archetypal representation of the Great Mother, who creates life, sustains life, destroys life and takes it back to Herself in death only to recycle once gain what She destroyed/killed.

The core qualities of the Great Mother are expressed in the simultaneity of the three imagoes: She is a maiden, a mother and an old lady-death. In this three parted symbolism She expresses the beginnings of life as Kore goddess, the riches of life creative power as Demeter and the mystery of the end of life as the female skeleton, as Hekate.

The worship of The Great Mother covered about 20.000 years, and in Marija Gimbutas research data, ended after 2500 B.C.E. when the patriarchal culture of the Indo-European took its place. The old goddess was either destroyed or absorbed into the new culture and religion (Gimbutas, 1991).

By comparison, in the Classical and Renaissance representations of Venus, her physicality and sexuality are treated with a high degree of civilized restraint; the breasts of the Classical Venus are small, her pubic area is undefined (no indication of the vulva, no definition of the labia), and her stomach, hips, and buttocks are given no particular emphasis.

The psychological perspective of both images is coherent with the characteristics of the very first human female representative in Scriptures, Eve/Lilith. She represents the stage of innocent purely instinctual and biological relations (in both positive and negative projections). This is in fact the very first level and values attributed to woman in the primitive mind (Von Franz, 1964). This level is to be found in every instance in which the partner is seeking only the physicality and sexuality of women. Goya painted this state as Donna Desnuda, and Gauguin as Tahiti aborigines (to mention only two of the many seductive images of the Eve).

The Romantic and Aesthetic Stage

The next stage, also present in legends and beau-arts is a new development towards assimilation and integration of more qualities of the feminine. The images are projected on heroines as Helen of Troy, or Cleopatra of Egypt, who personifies a romantic and aesthetic level. At that level, sexual elements are still present, but the impact is much more connected with attributes of romantic beauty: gentleness, grace, helplessness and need for masculine protection.

Marilyn Monroe is a tragic contemporary iconic example, also striving not to be taken as Eve. At this level, sexual elements are still present, but the impact is much more connected with attributes of romantic beauty: gentleness, grace, helplessness and need for masculine protection.

The Spiritual Stage

When, along with the human conscience evolution, Eros is raised at a new level, it is the power of spiritual, devotion, and infinite compassion that came to be universally revered.

One of the most powerful feminine figures connected with this stage is Virgin Mary. The attitudes towards individual and feelings that she was credited with were consisted with those representatives for Jesus. Mother Teresa was an iconic contemporary example for this stage of Femininity.

The Wisdom Stage

At the archetypal level, the fourth, Wisdom stage is anticipated by Sapientia, wisdom transcending love with empathy and pure spiritual feelings.

The fourth level is rooted in the archetype of the crone which represents Eros in its most balanced phase of the feminine (Carr and Carr, 2001). The wise woman is grounded in her body and mind, and she does not wish to unconsciously control, manipulate or destroy the "other." Inside, in relationship to her animus she follows a bridge to her higher Self. She assimilated consciously the creative function of mediating the opposites and as such she acts creative, spontaneous and has integrated the instincts into the psyche as a whole.

Among the 20th century feminine personalities, Kent and Mary Carr identify Jane Goodall as a key example of the distinctiveness of this archetype. As a tireless advocate for the humane treatment of animals she embodies the wisdom, courage, experience and compassion of the wise. While working in Africa as secretary and field researcher of Dr. Louis Leakey, she decided to follow his suggestion and study chimpanzee behavior up close. Starting in 1960 her one-on-one observations and studies at Gombe National Park in Tanzania provided some important discoveries about primate behavior. One of the most significant was that chimps like humans can make tools. She has won many awards including the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize.

One of the most interesting contemporary feminine figures is Oprah Winfrey. She "revolutionized the host role of a talk show on television. With her grand personality, her multi-platform business plan and her relentless messages of positivity and self-improvement, she managed to infiltrate American life from all angles. She also broke down the traditional barriers of journalism. She transformed the book-publishing industry. She made the very private very public. And she prepared a mass audience to celebrate differences among people, regardless of color, disabilities or sexual orientation" (2011, Discovery News).

Values and Developmental Stages of Masculinity

Starting with prehistory, we could find a similar development from instinctual level to spiritual, as the human conscience develops through centuries.

The ancient dual figures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu hint to a developmental path from instinctual and biological towards reflection.

First Stage: Instinctual and Physical Power

The masculine in its first stage is a per-sonification of mere physical power. The forth Rorschach plate, the giant, is a triumphant archetypal masculinity against the matriarchy power. Other representative figures for this stage are the gladiator, the warlord, the athlete champion, the "muscle man," the ardent and impulsive lover.

The Second Stage: Humanized Aggression

In the second stage of development of masculine values, aggressive action is humanized, as initiative and capacity for planned action are both the new assets. The Romantic poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley, or Ernest Hemingway, the writer, the hunter and the war hero are figures representing this new dimension of humanized aggressive action.

The Third Stage: Action Put into Words

In the third stage of masculine evolution, action is put into words. The representative figures for this stage are great orators, professors, fathers of nations, which either put real action into inspiring poetry or prose, or outlined courses of action for communities or nations, that would influence their future for generations to come. Names like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson or Albert Einstein come to mind as iconic figures for this stage.

The Fourth Stage: Action through Non-Action

In its fourth stage, the masculine representative figure is the searcher of meanings, "a mediator of the religious experience whereby life acquires new meanings," as M. L. von Franz expressed (von Frantz, 1964, p. 207). The masculine action becomes most effective by non-action, and spiritual figures as Gandhi or Dalai Lama are the human representatives.

Concluding Remarks

The current development stages of Masculinity and Femininity are consistent with the ideal of Globalization without exploitation, manipulation or domination without accountability.

They also seem to have accumulated both wisdom and means of action that would allow them to combine and complement their specific resources in order to identify the worst case scenario and act effectively to resist or reject being taken advantage of.


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National School for Political and Administrative Studies, Bucharest


Spiru Haret University

Mihaela Minulescu is full Professor at the Psychology Department of the National School for Political and Administrative Studies in Bucharest. Current teaching and research interests are in the field of clinical psychology, analytical psychology, aptitude and personality assessment. She is a Clinical Psychologist and Analytical Psychotherapist, member of the Psychologists College in Romania, accredited for independent practice and supervision. She is a founding member and acting president of the Romanian Association for Analytical Psychology. She is also a member of the Romanian Writers Association and has published eight poetry volumes.

Petru Lisievici has background training in Educations Sciences and English Language and Literature. He is currently full-time professor and Dean of the Psychology and Education Sciences Faculty of Spiru Haret University, Brasov, the largest private university in Romania. His current research interests are in the area of human development, assessment and development of human educational and psychological capital, educational assessment, educational counselling, and the quality of education. He is a member of the Romanian Psychologists College, accredited for independent practice and supervision in Educational Psychology. He is also a founding member of the Romanian Association for Analytical Psychology.
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Author:Minulescu, Mihaela; Lisievici, Petru
Publication:Journal of Research in Gender Studies
Article Type:Report
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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