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Melissa Portan LMSW, MEd

Writer & Sexologist

Melissa is a 5th generation spiritual guide who specializes in helping others find their own spiritual path. She is also a sex and relationship therapist practicing in NYC.


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Feminism, Equality, and Spirituality

In our souls, as in our bodies, we have male and female aspects. If you want to get technical, both men and women have testosterone and estrogen, the two hormones that give form to our sex. But in spiritual terms, we both have female and male energy. My favorite symbol that represents this is the yin yang symbol. (Read more about the yin yang here and here.)

Before I start writing anything I want to talk about the environment or state of the topic here in the United States. Currently in this country there are a couple of extremely hot topics: 1. immigration (with racial/stereotypical undertones) 2. LGBT rights and 3. women/rights/equality. Happily, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized gay marriage throughout the whole country. For me, when the ruling happened, I felt a load lifted off my back. Something great happened and it was a relief. However, though this great step forward was taken, there are groups, both political and social, combating this change. People are trying to use religion to revert the change that is happening. In the women’s camp, women’s rights are constantly being threatened in certain states (health care benefits like birth control). And again, religion is being used against women’s rights. To be clear, I’m not into politics. I am aware of political issues, I vote, but it is not my ideological focus. So, I cannot tell you which laws have passed in favor of women. And this post is not about politics, but it is necessary to give context. Though women have gained much in society, there is a lot lacking (equal pay, health care rights. A great example is the women’s US soccer team World Cup win.). All of this is only here in the United States. Women in other countries are not as fortunate as American women, or British women, and so on. Women in Latin America face many more challenges than American women, so there is still so much feminism can give.

I’ll be honest and tell you now that I have not studied feminism in-depth, nor have I done gender studies, and I am not fully aware of the situation of women in other parts of the world. I have never bothered studying feminism because it makes my head want to explode. The arguments men make against women and women make against men are just infuriating to the point that I want to have nothing of it. But feminism has a couple of tenets that are still valuable today, regardless of what feminism has become. As usual, there is an extreme side to this, feminism has extreme ideas that throw the whole thing out of balance, and representatives that distort and harm the reality of the male/female relationship.

What feminism at its core is is an effort for women to have respect and equality in society. A beautiful and somewhat rare thing is when men join the efforts of women. But what does equality mean? What does it have to do with the yin yang and spirituality? The equality women seek is societal, political, etc. In our modern society, there is no reason why women cannot be as influential in our society, our economy, our government, and so on. And that is where feminism is starting to fall apart. At certain points, certain ideas, feminism is about power. Feminism has ignited a power struggle.


Photo by Ryan McGuire

And this is where the yin yang comes into play. The men versus women argument has no end. Women are more intelligent than men. Men are stronger than women. Women are better than men. No, men are better than women. These sort of arguments are pointless and even wrong. There just is no end to the bickering that is happening between men and women today and it is frustrating and even scary. This current power struggle is a vicious circle where each tries to prove superiority over the other. Trying to establish superiority, whether it is physical or otherwise, has led only to conflict.

The yin yang symbol is static. It is a symbol. But at the same time and in metaphysical way, the yin yang is in an eternal state of harmony. Let’s imagine it this way, in a vast empty space where everything is quiet, in some remote corner of the universe, the yin yang symbol sits, gently giving off light, and reaching our eyes as some faint star in the night sky. There, the yin yang is stable, almost motionless, and the female and male energies are perfectly balanced. Everything is settled there. The male and female energies are not trying to overcome each other. There is peace, harmony, respect, and love. Now bring it back down to reality, to our reality on our blue planet. Here on our planet there is an intense struggle happening between male and female energy. The male energy, the white part of the yin yang symbol is overwhelming the black feminine side, trying to control and establish permanent supremacy. Yet at the same time, the feminine side is doing the same, overwhelming the male side and trying to extinguish the masculinity.

So this is obviously not going to work. There cannot be harmony if both sides are constantly trying to overpower each other. Is there a solution? Yes there is. It really comes down to perspective. We each have our own way of seeing the world and our views are shaped by our interactions with each other. The most divisive perspective out there is that one sex is better than the other because of so and so reasons. Men and women have different ways of doing things because of genetics but also because of social norms/pressure. What is happening is that those differences are being pointed out as weaknesses or faults. Though I believe there is a solution to the sex war, I don’t believe that it is one single answer.

But at its most basic, at its most fundamental, harmony between the sexes begins with respecting each other’s differences. It is changing the way we see each other and how we do things that needs to change. Because a woman cannot do something a man can, or because she struggles more with the task, does not mean that she is inferior. Because a man cannot do something a woman can do, cannot do it as well as she, does not mean that he is inferior. Both men and women need each other. On a mundane level, thinking only of primal survival, men and women need each other. Equality is seeing each other as being on the same level. It is understanding or making an effort to understand each other and above all it is respecting each other.

I don’t believe that humanity will ever achieve a state of harmony. At least, it probably won’t be in my lifetime. One reason is religion. All of the mainstream religions are patriarchal. These religions place the focus and power on men. Another reason harmony between the sexes seems like a fantasy is because of the constant negative arguments and ideological knots people make. I hope that I’m wrong and that I’ll be proven wrong.

I think harmony will happen in small pockets throughout the world. I think those who practice some form of spirituality will be able to reach an understanding with each other. Those who can look beyond the physical differences will be able to join others in harmony, whether by the influence of religion or ideology.

How we each perceive the opposite sex matters in spirituality. You will find an imbalance of power in many spiritual practices or organizations. Mainstream religion is not the only thing that affects the world’s yin yang. How you see each other when practicing, when performing a ritual, or when having sex, matters. Equality in spirituality is recognizing each other as equal forces of life, as equal vital parts of the universe.



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