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The Feminine Connection
ISBN 0-9744668-9-1
By Dr. Gayle Owens
Review by: Michelle Humphrey

06/06/05

In The Feminine Connection, author and psychologist Gayle Owens deals with the female mind in many of its dysfunctional incarnations, from the sour, thwarted housewife to the self-loathing diva, to the Prada-skirted professional pratfalling her way to a man. What is the phenomenon that makes us belittle, reject and then absorb some of the behavior of these modern-day personas? According to Owens, the culprit lies in our cultural disconnect with the archetype of the feminine.

The feminine, in Carl Jung’s framework, connotes “mystery, receptivity, incubation, nourishment,” the qualities that have been dismissed and devalued by both men and women throughout the ages in favor of the archetypal masculine (“activity, assertiveness, perfection, achievement”). It is only when the feminine is restored to an equal standing with the masculine that our culture will achieve a balanced psyche and progress to its fully actualized stage. Owens elegantly presents the upside of feminine-ascribed traits such as irrationality, surrender and passivity, letting us in on a secret that the Taoists and Gnostics have known since the Great Goddess days: there is something to learn from spontaneity and allowing events to unfold organically.

Feminine, however, must not be confused with feminist. Feminists, Owens argues, are largely patriarchal conformists: “[Women in the first stage of Feminine Development] spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on being physically attractive to men…They do not question the patriarchal emphasis on achievement, rational thinking…and power. Most feminists are in this stage.” And: “what is this so-called third-wave feminism all about? Lawyers wearing stilettos and having a French manicure?” Owens supports this statement with one of the more superficial films involving third-wavers (Charlie’s Angels) but she ignores other instances that complicate her categories (such as Real Women Have Curves). In attacking feminists the author contradicts the psychological completion she herself is defending: women need to embrace that part of their mind that is described as “festive…fertile…freeing” for the sake of a healthier self – yet the author does not embrace the diversity or complexity of feminists and their choices but rather defines them in generalized terms.

It’s also striking that the rediscovery of primal female energies is examined through the system of archetypes, which embodies labels, dichotomies and absolutes, concepts the Jungians associate with the masculine construct. It would make for a scintillating chapter to consider this paradox and discuss an alternative model, one which speaks to the limitations of archetypes or (better) does away with a gender-based language to describe our values.

Aside from these theoretical contentions, this volume does have its stunning moments. Owens deconstructs the Vierge Ouvrante, a statue which depicts the Virgin Mary with the traditional powers of the pagan goddess, and includes a myth on Sir Gawain which humanizes the “old hag” character of folk tales. The critiques of western religion are knowledgeable and spot-on (“Sophia originally symbolized the divine feminine, then she was downgraded to the partner of the male God. Finally, she was successfully repressed altogether”). While not always celebratory in itself, The Feminine Connection adds a spurring read to the genre that celebrates all things yin.


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