In some ways politics is the ultimate in masculine energy – a blood sport where winning is everything. Candidates align themselves with their “tribe,” take strong positions, and argue vehemently with the opposition. There is always a winner and a loser, which could be why there aren’t many women in the arena – this “go for the kill” mentality is out of sync with feminine energy, which emphasizes consensus over unilateral victory.
Masculine and feminine energy refers to our inner values, as expressed in both verbal and non-verbal communication. What we say, how we say it, and how we hold our selves projects either the action-oriented masculine energy or the nurturing feminine energy. Masculine energy focuses on differences and prefers to accomplish things by force, while feminine energy focuses on similarities and prefers negotiation and consensus. Men and women are hard-wired and socialized differently, so most (but not all) men will have more masculine energy while most (but not all) women will have more feminine energy. Thus, with more men in politics it’s not surprising that masculine energy prevails in the system.
I think politics would benefit greatly from embracing the principles of Gender Physics – that is, to create a system which emphasizes good balance and flow between the two types of energy. A politician with good Gender Physics will be results-focused while still maintaining empathy and a willingness to compromise. Conscious of constituents’ opinions, he or she will institute fiscally-responsible programs to improve people’s lives, while maintaining high integrity and good internal accountability measures.
Too much of either energy is a problem. An over-abundance of masculine energy results in a politician who is unwilling to compromise, who dominates those below them on the hierarchy, and who fights just for the sake of fighting. By contrast, a politician with too much feminine energy would be unable to make tough decisions for fear of offending someone – they’d fall victim to the old trap of governing by opinion polls.
Under the Bush administration we watched the damage that too much masculine energy can inflict upon a country. Their addiction to action without proper analysis was at one extreme end of the continuum, demonstrating the repercussions of the worst of masculine energy.
When Americans elected Obama I believe they were expressing their desire for more feminine energy, and he has responded. In June, he gave a speech in Cairo in which he acknowledged past missteps and sought a new beginning between America and Muslim countries. More recently, Obama took steps to defuse tensions with Russia by pulling the plug on a missile defense system proposed for Eastern Europe. These conciliatory actions signal a new receptiveness to international relations that is unnerving for the hawks in masculine energy camp – they find it risky to show what could be perceived as weakness.
Obama demonstrated the feminine energy of empathy when he recognized that the Russians felt that the defense system threatened their strategic interests. His actions sent a message that he wants a global strategic partner, not an adversary. One of the issues with Gender Physics is choosing the energy that is appropriate for the situation. We’ll see if the Russians have the ability to access the appropriate feminine energy in their country as they respond to America’s overtures.
It is appropriate that I write this from South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was elected president after spending 27 years in prison. Another good example of feminine energy, he nudged people into forgiveness and reconciliation, which ultimately enabled South Africa to form a multiracial democracy. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
His message – that we should make peace with our enemies by working alongside them – is not unlike what Obama is saying to the Russians. It worked for Mandela, and we can only hope that it will continue to work in this new era of international relations.