Category: Gender


What Do We Mean by “Masculine” and “Feminine,” Anyway?

8th November

Quick: “masculine”–take ten seconds and say the words that come to mind that describe masculine. Next, do the same with “feminine.” That was the first exercise that my friend and colleague Cindy Wigglesworth and I asked participants to do in the breakout session that we led at the Integral Leadership in Action conference (October 15-18). What did the participants say?


Caster Semenya: When Gender is Not Sex

23rd October

Imagine what it must be like for Caster Semenya, the top South African female runner who was in the news recently because her sex has recently been challenged. By “sex” I am not referring to her sexuality, but to the physical, biological characteristics that determine whether one is male or female. That basically comes down to whether one has testes or ovaries. Her fantastically impressive victory in the 800 meters in Berlin recently raised questions about her sex—questions that she herself shrugged off as “a joke.” Semenya has no penis; all of her life, she has thought she is a girl—a very athletic girl who loves to run and compete. Actually, to say that she “thinks she is a girl” probably misrepresents that unthinking sense of simply being who you are, living the life that you have, in the context … Read More »


Women, Courage & Dignity

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Culture, Gender, Politics. 12 comments

21st June

I was just sitting down to write a memorial for Jacqueline Péry D’Alincourt (1919-2009), whose courage during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II was beyond measure, when I read Carter Phipp’s most recent blog post that contained a quote from a young Iranian woman on the eve of the June 20 protests against the election of Ahmadinejad: “I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs…. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our … Read More »


What Do Women Want? Again…

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Cultural Evolution, Culture, Gender, Uncategorized. 13 comments

1st June

Sorry about using that tired question “what do women want?” to start off this post. Freud asked it–likening women’s consicousness to a dark continent both unexplored and presumably unknowable–and every exasperated male writer and far too many marketers have used it since. But the question is popping up again. In a recent New York Times op-ed column entitled “Liberated and Unhappy,”  Ross Douthat reports on an analysis by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers that indicates that across race, marriage status, economic bracket, and even country, women’s subjective experience of being happy has declined both absolutely and in relation to men. Interestingly, in 1970–before the women’s movement so dramatically opened so many women’s life options–women were generally more happy than men. So, in the forty years since women in the West won their freedom to choose the lives that they want, they have become … Read More »


Divine Feminine Alert No. 1

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Culture, Divine Feminine, Gender. 6 comments

16th May

I’ve decided to create an ongoing series of posts to challenge one of the most popular beliefs of our era: that women have a profoundly different value set than men, and that embracing these particularly feminine values will change the world. Men, and masculine thinking, have dominated the world and made a mess, so now women, and the feminine, are desperately needed to clean it all up. That’s how the story goes. And in postmodern spiritual circles, these traditional qualities of women that are associated with our roles as mothers, wives, and caretakers are often raised to, well, divine status. That’s why I call this the myth of the Divine Feminine.

This isn’t problematic simply because women end up once again with the thankless task of cleaning up after everyone! As I have written before, this way of looking at the world polarizes the masculine and feminine, and men and women, in ways … Read More »





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