Alanis Morissette: Feminism Needs a Revolution

11 minute read
Alanis Morissette is a singer, songwriter and advocate of female empowerment and spiritual, psychological and physical wellness. She recently launched her own podcast called Conversation With Alanis.

Often when I’m being interviewed about my career and music, I’m asked whether I am a feminist. What the interviewer means depends on who’s doing the asking and what their take on the feminist movement is. Sometimes it’s rhetorical. Other times, a thinly veiled indictment. My answer is always yes. I have never been apologetic about this, but rather deeply passionate. It is an honor to be considered a feminist.

The concept of feminism to me is a mandatory link in a chain toward wholeness, cohesion, maturation and functionality—certainly the feminist movement is one of the most powerful means to this greater end. I do believe, however, that the definition of feminism needs some refocusing, redefining and updating for this modern time, and for this new generation, and that the movement deserves a reorienting, intentionality and re-envisioning for what is possible and how to get there. We need a revolution to the feminist revolution. And it needs to be brought to the fore of our awareness in order to heal what ails our times on this planet.

Here’s why: So much of the movement has been about (often willfully, and for good reason) forcing justice upon a patriarchal system that too often reduces the feminine to maintain the reign of the disempowered masculine. The patriarchy has always seemed an ignorant and emotionally immature purgatory at best, and, at worst, a liminal despair-filled holding pattern carefully held together by resistance, hate, hostility and separatism—the cost of which is felt across every area of life, in women and men alike.

This patriarchal acting-out is ultimately an indication of our collective spiritual and emotional immaturity. And if we are to heal our way out of this disconnected way of living, we would have to heal by growing our undeveloped aspects of ourselves, and take that healing process very seriously. Regardless of our past, of how we were raised, of the many valid reasons why we remain arrested at various immature past stages of our development, if we chose not to heal or grow out of having been frozen, nothing can change within the patriarchy, and ultimately, nothing can change in the world around us. It is up to us, collectively, to move into this inquiry of how to grow parts of us that never had a chance to when we were young.

Patriarchy may afford a false sense of power afforded to those who keep the hate in place, but that power is temporary and false, and it will never yield the peace and well-being that is not only possible but is every person’s birthright. The water of what is possible through accepting the goal of wholeness by embracing the feminine still rushes powerfully as the dam of patriarchy stays willfully (if not temporarily) frozen in place.

While I have had my share of challenges with the male species, outright radical man-hating—regardless of how much it has been projected onto me because I wrote a song called “You Oughta Know” about being devastated by a break-up—has never been my pervasive thing.

In fact, if I were to add anything to my personal exuberant sense of being a feminist, it would be that feminism is incomplete without its dualistic brother, its complement, and, ideally, its greatest supporter: the empowered masculine. Developing the capacity to separate the masculine from the man and the feminine from the woman has served me well in understanding the continuum of both qualities. Whether this is indicated in our choices sexually, physically, emotionally, vocationally or artistically, we are moving ever closer to getting a real sense of who we are as humans based on where we fall on this continuum. Man or woman, we are all a little bit of both masculine and feminine, in degrees that vary from one person to the next. And the degree to which we embrace these qualities within us dictates our level of personal agency, esteem and freedom in our lives.

In this sense you might call me a humanist, or better yet, a “wholeness-ist.” As it turns out, embracing the breadth of both sets of qualities that we have within us, regardless of what the context (aka society) says it expects of us or not, is the work of brave front-line activism. Who knew that to be who we truly are would be an act of rebellion in the world?

The delicate and powerful outcome of what happens when the feminine and the masculine work in tandem is what I am interested in, and with whatever percentages of each that each human being naturally evidences. What is inherently required in the beginning of the journey of embracing true gender-equality is the long overdue respect for and consideration of and credence due to the feminine, to females and to more feminine males. There has been so much death, mutilation, annihilation, reduction, aversion and obliteration of the feminine and the female/feminine body as has been evidenced with female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, hyper-sexualization in entertainment and pop culture, LGBT hate, unequal pay, lack of education about the female body, public shaming, bashing and bullying, and to know it is still happening across the planet on a daily basis is nothing short of soul-killing and archaic. Watching this within, without and about this life has left me unable to put this existential pain and despair into words. But I cannot push it aside. It is with this crack in my soul that I persevere alongside so many toward the greater goal of arriving at our wholeness as a species.

In more Westernized places, today, after many years and chapters of tireless effort, women can be presidents (if still frequently challenged on the basis of their gender) or CEOs (if still having had to work 10 times harder than men to get there) or movie stars (if still having to fight to earn anywhere near the same wage as their male co-stars), or play the natural roles that they were born to play with less resistance. Could this in fact be proving that the days of the egregiously polarized masculine and feminine are slowly tip-toeing toward the light at the end of the tunnel of unification or integration of both these parts? Painstakingly slowly, to be sure.

If the goal is less polarization and the greater acceptance of the masculine and the feminine qualities in all of us, then the goal being in sight might well be the gift that this new generation and new era is offering. And our eyes cannot avert from this prize if we truly want peace within and without on this planet.

We must infuse this feminine movement (as I prefer to call it) with a new clarity and passion, coming at it from another angle, thinking of this across-the-world challenge as more of a question—how can we move both the feminine and the masculine toward greater maturity and empowerment? For if patriarchy (disempowered masculine) relies on a silenced and reduced feminine (disempowered feminine), then true empowerment is an internal movement toward maturation and healing, and renewed defining of personal power and responsibility and a re-working of what it means to achieve success on this planet. And it is asked of both genders alike. It is an inside-out shift that would change everything we see around us—toward acceptance and allowance, sure, but also towards support, appreciation, honor and connection.

The unification conversation would have to continue in earnest, not just put a stop in the gap, only to spring another leak. If the false messages and choices born from a disempowered masculinity are not arrested at their root, we are merely putting out a small flame while the rest of the forest burns down.

The saying “that which we resist persists” applies here: Hating men for the oppression we as women have experienced—a justified rage and retaliation in so many regards, and Lord knows I have enjoyed my cushion on this bandwagon—just keeps the gender and gender-quality divide ever entrenched.

We must take our passion and energy for the lunacy of this reductivism and channel it toward change: addressing first, the egregious lack of celebration of the feminine and all feminine qualities; and second, and equally important, the redefinition of what empowerment looks like in the masculine.

In areas of the newly empowered masculine, things like competition, and the divisive mindset that competition requires would quell. The sublimation of emotions and the rewarding for that would wane, and men and women alike would be less resistant to the natural flow of emotions that course through their bodies every day, serving as intuitive indications to be investigated, versus sensations to be obliterated through stoicism or medicating. Aggression would be used when appropriate (during a workout, or while climbing a mountain, or while lifting something heavy while serving the whole), and the propensity to serve and protect would be geared toward those who warrant this provision and protection: the feminine within and without, and the more vulnerable. Basically, we would notice our collective eye moving more toward the success and well-being of the WHOLE, rather than the scarcity-fueled stronghold of abundance of the few.

In areas of the newly empowered feminine, abilities like submission would be used in its proper and appropriate contexts, surrendering and faith and dropping arms would be valued as deeply wise, and vulnerability and innocence would be seen as our natural innate qualities, and would be powerfully guarded as such. “Weakness” would be more respectfully associated with yielding (a deeply intuitive ability) or resting (an underrated action in today’s work addicted world) or humility, with humility serving as a portal to our own sense of spirituality—a lost goal in a world obsessed with industry and “might being right.” World leaders of both genders would be oriented toward teaching and modeling healing and inspiring a less punishment-oriented but more cause-and-effect consequence experiencing version of responsibility-taking—sure signs of the focus on supporting the emotional, psychological and spiritual maturation of the planet’s people.

There would be many changes that we would see all around us—some subtle, and some that would tip the world on its axis financially and politically. Many more opportunities would open up for both genders. There would be a planetary healing, a tenderness, a repair, a recovery, a sense of things returning to “how they were meant to be,” a homecoming. People could actually be who they truly and authentically are.

Flying in the face of our deeply entrenched survival strategies and long-held defenses (life-supporting when we were young, turned life-denying as we grow into adulthood) and prejudices is not for the weak of heart. When glimpses of a new way to live occur, it is truly a powerful and light-filled sight to behold. We have already seen it take shape in fits and starts in this new generation and in our culture: More fathers being supported. Fewer power-struggle-filled forms of parenting and relating. More emotional literacy. More masculine-oriented women having the careers that they have dreamed of since they were very young. More empowered men supporting empowered women. More diversity. More acceptance of personal lifestyle and sexual preference choices. More connection. More responsibility.

The feminist credo being evidenced everywhere around the planet relies solely on our emotional, spiritual and psychological maturation. The degree to which the feminine imperative is lived is commensurate to the degree that our consciousness is raised. And we raise our consciousness by taking responsibility for our own healing and reparation of wounds from our past, and cultivating the ability to regulate our nervous systems in an overstimulated world.

A focus on empowered versions of both the masculine and the feminine will serve us better than having either quality be seen as better or worse than the other. We need both. And that is why I see the feminine movement as the next step in our evolution toward liberation on this planet. We bring the feminine up to her rightful seat. And the masculine to its rightful seat next to the feminine. This is my prayer. This is my wish. This is my mission. And it will require both the masculine and feminine qualities in me to continue to move toward it alongside so many other people with the same vision. May our steps continue to be guided by our vision of wholeness, connection and deep peace.

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