Women and Power: When Archetypes Become Stereotypes
One of the most unique and powerful things about The Way of the Tigress is how we explore working with psychological archetypes before, during and after a trip. This week I was going to talk more about that. I still am, just not in the way I thought.
As I’m looking on YouTube for some videos about archetypes, I think, It’s 2022, yet I may as well be looking through microfiche in the public library in 1972. If you are wondering what an archetype is, I’ll tell you in a sec.
The YouTube videos I find are mostly by men, talking about popular books written by men, about the archetypes. One video has a man and woman talking; it’s promising, except the man interrupts the woman several times, even though she is more knowledgeable than he is about the topic.
The theories Carl Jung developed in the early 1900s classify archetypes as masculine and feminine. The language in the archetypal canon is gender-biased, if not sexist. I learned about archetypes in the late 1990s, and I’m surprised to see so little change.
I call BS. In a time when gender fluidity and inclusiveness are finally on the rise, the bias in masculine versus feminine classifications of these ancient archetypes needs to go. It perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes that have more to do with patriarchal bias over the centuries than differences in the male and female psyche.
I have a better idea, backed up by sources older than Jungian theories or even male-centric greek mythology. I’ll tell you all about it, but first, read on if you are wondering What the hey is an archetype?.
What are Psychological Archetypes?
Archetypes are characters representing the “roles” all humans exhibit. We manifest them in different degrees depending upon our genetics and environment. Carl Jung, a student, and later rival, of Sigmund Freud, created a modern-day body of work referred to as Jungian archetypes.
Jung was brilliant, but he did not invent archetypes. Before writing was widespread, artists, rulers, and spiritual leaders used archetypes in spoken word and cave paintings. Later, writers and playwrights intuitively used archetypes for thousands of years before Jung was born.
Through story and emotion, people have used archetypes to create vehicles for transformation like initiation rites, myths, iconic literature, and yes, even propaganda.
Archetypes represent different dimensions of the human psyche, including our Shadow side. Our Shadow is that part of ourselves we would rather not admit lives inside of us. The problem is if we don’t confront our Shadow, we can’t move ahead.
Archetypes are an interesting, imaginative model that helps us pull apart and look at the hidden and balled-up parts of what makes us tick.
Self-awareness is the foundation of inner transformation. Working with archetypes is powerful because your self-awareness skyrockets. You can convert aspects of your Shadow into very powerful helpers and protectors. Those are just two reasons why the Way of the Tigress loves archetypes. I explain how I convert my inner dragons into protectors in the Way of the Tigress Book.
Like characters in the game of Clue, archetypes know the shortcuts in your subconscious. They help you bypass shadowy corridors and winding paths in the woods on your Inner Journey.
If you Google archetypes, you will see archetypes like King and Queen. Fair enough.
The problem is that the most potent archetypes, like Magician, Warrior, and Lover, default to the masculine. In one YouTube video, the young woman kept referring to the Magician as “he.” It was like nails on a chalkboard.
Did you know that most modern medicine was and still is based on studying men? The same thing holds true for the language around psychology.
Rather than reflecting essential truths about these powerful concepts, the masculine and feminine labeling simply reflects the patriarchal mindset and culture of societies that originally popularized them.
The Greeks and Romans considered men to be the pinnacle of creation. Carl Jung lived in a century when doctors told women they were hysterical and weak-minded. A 1990 book by Robert Moore, called King, Warrior, Magician Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, basically sealed the deal up to the present.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for men using these helpful tools. As a person who identifies as a hetero female, I love me a masculine man.
I’m just calling equal time. I want women and girls to see themselves in the most powerful archetypes without having to accept a feminized version. I don’t want to say I’m a Sorceress or Witch or even Queen when I’m calling in a full-grown Magician, thank you very much.
For that matter, men should be able to work with their inner Witch or Queen, if she’s the one pounding down the door inside.
Reframing Masculine and Feminine Language for the Archetypes
So what is the answer?
Let’s go back to the source material that derives its meaning from nature, not the patriarchy.
The Japanese culture developed the philosophy of yin and yang.
Wiki has an excellent summary that explains the natural relationship between the two forces, devoid of human hierarchy, ego, patriarchy, and power struggles:
Yin is the receptive and Yang the active principle, seen in all forms of change and difference such as the annual cycle (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), sexual coupling (female and male), the formation of both men and women as characters, and sociopolitical history (disorder and order).
And thats not all!
It turns out that the yin and yang philosophy also has roots in Taoism/Daoism, the Chinese religion and philosophy. The Tao Te Ching is a 2,400-year-old spiritual text written by Lao Tzu.
Three points about the Tao:
- The target audience was Chinese rulers. In other words, powerful people.
- The book contains male and female pronouns in a more inclusive way than most modern texts.
- Ergo, power is not just for men. What a novel concept!
Back to the point of this post. Instead of using the terms masculine and feminine, let’s talk about the archetypes in relation to the Yin or Yang energy.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about the Yin of the jungle versus the Yang of the mountains. In the Way of the Tigress book, I relate how that post called in a symbolic rebirth experience where I visited the watery womb of the earth, pulsing under the surface of the jungle.
Riffing on that, a more literal way to express an archetype’s nature could be mountain energy versus ocean energy. Mountains are grounded, upright, protective, strong, and solid. The ocean is constantly moving, life-giving, yielding, ruled by the moon, and one of the most destructive forces on the planet.
Do you sense elements of the mountains, the ocean, even the jungle, inside yourself?
I’m going to experiment with yin, yang, mountain, and ocean energy terminology from now on instead of masculine and feminine.
That took up all my space and time this week. I was going to talk to you about how The Way of the Tigress uses archetypes, in particular your shadow, to help you achieve measurable more power within, but we’ll have to get to it later. Thanks for reading!
Keep prowling —
Kala is a writer and author of The Way of the Tigress: Inner Journey, Outer Adventure — to help adults of all genders use travel to navigate change and up-level their life, available at http://www.wayofthetigress.com.
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