Witness the Millennial man: he listens to a podcast considering the topic of 'unplugging' as he walks to his local cafe, where he waits nine minutes for the barista to prepare his locally-roasted pour over coffee before continuing on to the co-working space where he's set up shop to launch a consumer tech start-up. He's raising over three million dollars on a deck that values his idea at ten, but he's not doing it for the money: he's interested in building a new kind of business with a great company culture that changes the world because, at the end of the day, that's what it's really about, you know? He has a meditation practice, snacks on Paleo-friendly artisanal grass-fed beef jerky, likes to go out with pretty girls who don't care about their looks, isn't afraid to be seen at a Farmer's Market and has been known to smoke marijuana and/or experiment with mushrooms because they unlock creativity he then uses to improve himself and, by extension, the world.
This man doesn't know it, but he is liberating femininity, and it's going to be the thing that saves our society.
When we use the word femininity, what we're actually talking about is experience-orientation. All the words we associate with femininity -- sensitivity, sensuality, beauty, curiosity, creativity, compassion, connectivity, in-the-moment-ness -- are traits that enhance the experience of a situation.
Masculinity, on the other hand, is results-orientation. Traits associated with masculinity -- ambition, competition, focus, binary-logic, strength, measurability, goal-orientation -- are muscles evolved to guide or control the result of a situation.
A masculine attitude cares about the result -- we will win this war! A feminine attitude cares about the experience -- let's enjoy this meal! As such, masculinity tends to be the better attitude for some things -- battles, discipline, fixing appliances -- and femininity better for others -- caregiving, lovemaking, original art -- but most things can be done in either a masculine or a feminine way. If I go for a run because it's a pretty day outside and I want to stretch my legs and I speed up at some point because I like the adrenaline of my heart beating fast in my chest, I'm running for the experience and so it's a feminine way of running; if I go for a run because I'm training for a marathon and I want to lose three pounds by swimsuit season and I speed up to beat the guy running next to me to the stop sign, I'm focused on results and so it's a masculine way of running.
When we toss around the word 'balance,' what we actually mean is balance between these two forces. Balance is the capacity to find pleasure and meaning in the experience of a situation and also pleasure and satisfaction in the result. But it's also extremely practical: by being attuned to experience, femininity notices potential problems before they happen; by being focused on results, masculinity ensures growth and progress; if the two work together, sustainable, progressive systems are possible.
Traditional society understood the importance of this balance, and sought to achieve it by having women take responsibility for femininity, assigning them the tasks that most benefitted from an experience orientation - a beautiful home, a lovely dinner party, a caring environment for children and elderly - and holding men accountable for masculinity, putting them in charge of those activities that warranted such an outlook - a steady income, disciplined children, scientific progress.
This system makes sense on the macro-level - if everyone played his and her role, society should be in balance. It did not, however, make sense on the individual level, because masculinity and femininity actually don't have anything to do with gender.
While there certainly are women who are extremely feminine, preferring to live life engrossed in experience, genuinely ambivalent to results, and men who are extremely masculine, seeing results as the only worthwhile motivation for any action, the vast majority of us are a combination of the two, preferring some unique blend of results and experience that, when our lives align with it, makes us happiest.
Women in the traditional system recognized this, and understood that, by being forced to stay within feminine bounds, they had to suppress part of who they were, which made them feel stifled, unnecessarily dependent on men, and frustrated by the waste of (masculine) value they could have contributed to society.
And so they fought for the right of women to flex their masculine muscles - for the right to be ambitious and competitive and results-oriented. The Women's Lib movement was, in essence, about the liberation of masculinity in women.
And this was GREAT.
Except that it forgot to liberate femininity in men.
As women abandoned femininity, rushing to express their newly liberated masculinity, the energetic balance of society shifted in favor of masculinity (read: results orientation). The idea developed, moreover, that masculinity was BETTER than femininity (why else would women have fought so hard for the right to express it?) and women and men alike were encouraged to be more competitive, focused, and goal-oriented if they wanted to succeed in society.
This individual shift translated into a preference for masculinity at every level of society:
+ Our education system prioritizes test scores (results) over students' learning process (experience)
+ Our healthcare system prioritizes fighting death (fixing) over improving experience of life (compassion)
+ Our financial system rewards companies who post favorable quarterly earnings (measurable results) over those who provide good working conditions for employees and sound products for customers (connectivity)
+ Our political system invests more time in winning office (competition) than serving society (care)
+ Our news media prefers headlines and soundbites that drive ratings (outcomes) over stories that pose questions and provoke thoughtful debate (exploration of ideas)
+ Our sexual culture gets off on porn and unemotional hook-ups (definable orgasm) over foreplay, commitment and trust (undefinable lovemaking)
+ Our perception of others assumes results-oriented motive (she wore that dress to get attention) rather than allowing the possibility for experiential motives (she wore that dress because she enjoys the way the skirt swishes on her skin)
An excessively-masculine society is not only sub optimally pleasant for all but the most masculine people who 'win' within it, it is also entirely unsustainable, as was made clear in the toppling of Wall Street that followed that most deliciously masculine results-obsessed orgy that was the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis.
Which brings us back to our Millennial man.
Our hero hasn't always taken time to smell his coffee. He was raised in the era of masculine hype, spending time on things that looked good on his college application, measuring his worth by admissions and accolades. He was inundated with information and technology and Adderrall prescriptions that made him ever-more productive. He took out loans to get degrees that would make him more competitive in the world. And then the financial crisis happened, and all that results-orientation spat him out into a jobless economy with a pile of student debt and a lot of questions about why and how and what, exactly, he'd been working toward.
To a masculine Baby Boomer, the locally-roasted pour over latte seems like a waste of time; the do what you love mentality of work reeks of entitlement; the meditation might be justifiable, but only because of recent scientific surveys that suggest meditation can increase productivity.
But to me, all these things are symptoms of femininity quietly revolting against a masculine system that is failing, and, in liberating itself for men the same way masculinity liberated itself for women forty years ago, an important step toward true gender equality.
I do not mean to suggest there is not legitimacy to Baby Boomers' concerns, or that femininity is better than masculinity - too feminine a society is no more ideal than too masculine of one. But I think the anger we sense in society right now is nothing more than the desperate last stand of a domineering masculinity that is slowly but surely losing its grip. And that if we can, in its place, learn to respect and appreciate that we need individuals who mind experience as much as we need individuals to mind results, and that it doesn't matter the gender of who does what or if a person wants to dabble in a little of both, then I dare to hope that we are on the precipice of a society that works on both the individual and the macro level, which is a future to which I will gladly lift my locally-roasted single-origin raw cashew milk with organic fair trade Maca garnish pour over latte.