Sex and Gender: The Crisis of Identity
We are in the midst of a crisis of identity: the heralds of Feminism and the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) alike all assert the ills of denying the sexes access to contrasexual roles; their detractors refuse support because the comfortable fit of their traditional roles is under threat by the social shame of abiding gender role enforcement; and transsexual and genderqueer culture objects to our very conceptions of sex and gender, asserting instead a spectrum of gender along which human beings each uniquely fall. There is no field of inquiry unaffected by our ideological conflicts variously pitting determinism and freedom against each other—all of these camps can at least agree on that.
In the battle between determinism and freedom, the collateral is a sense of Self whose uniqueness matches the ethereal inner image our intuitions won’t let us ignore. We all want to be able to say, “This is who I am!” and then feel confident about the claim. Those who reject the deterministic assertion (“You are who you are because of your nature and your nurture,”) rely upon a seemingly unending series of stereotypes that render their own claims to uniqueness dubious. Those who reject the freedom assertion (“You are who you are because you are unique and unclassifiable,”) deny the obvious outliers who undermine their rigid categories. The path toward resolving this crisis must navigate between the Scylla of determinism and the Charybdis of freedom.
Resolving the Crisis of Identity begins with a functional distinction between the concepts of sex and gender. Too often the interlocutors in the conversation about identity fail to appreciate that the two words represent different concepts that must be held at a safe distance from each other. Even Jungians, whose psychology implicitly claims enlightenment, slip into the same conflations of sex with gender that have polarized conversation about identity. Without a reliable model of what it means to be human and what it means to be masculine and feminine, the relation of concepts to human beings cannot maneuver through the narrow strait.
Who are we?
Are we free to be what we like?
What does it mean to be a man? A woman? A human being?
Never have these questions been asked more sincerely, and never have their answers been more important to us.
Feminism and Men's Rights
Society, being codified by man, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male’s superiority.– Simone de Beauvoir
Feminism is once again on our minds.
Simone de Beauvoir, one of the most memorable of the Feminist voices who still resounds from an older generation into the present, gave the concept of the Patriarchy a new clarity—though Feminism did not appropriate the term “Patriarchy” until well after her. Thanks to her and her contemporaries, we know that our social order itself has institutionalized a gender caste-system which imposes social limitations on human beings based on sex. In reading works from prominent voices in early Feminism, present day Feminists become angry and militant once again as they relearn that the tyranny of men over women has not yet ended, that injustice still exists, and that in choosing not to fight we are complicit. The power of the ideology that de Beauvoir represents (though she certainly was not the only voice that mattered) still injects itself into the veins of men and women alike who even today can see the Patriarchy on every street corner, in every transaction, on every headline, and in every face, male or female.
Women have learned how to be angry. It’s about time.
De Beauvoir’s concept of the male-codified society (i.e. the Patriarchy), however, is becoming an increasingly anachronistic concept. Since those days, Feminism has become commonplace, a force to be reckoned with. Whereas older generations of Feminists were fighting just to be heard, today’s Feminists find easy access to both microphones and lobbying power. Though they may not be the irresistible tide of energy that de Beauvoir had hoped for, their actions are yet felt in non-trivial ways. It is for this very reason that Feminism is changing. Radical Feminists of the militant mold see the Patriarchy in too many faces, and their sense of victim-hood threatens to transmute itself into victimizer-hood unless Feminism itself undergoes an inner change.
The Feminist tendency to victimize any perceived cronies of the Patriarchy, captured most clearly in a McCarthyist form of public shaming, reinforces the Patriarchy and delegates militant Feminism itself as one of its strong-arms. (Let us not forget the embarrassing Feminist protest of a Warren Farrel lecture whose disproportionately vitriolic protesters surely made most self-respecting Feminists cringe.) On its surface, the “#GamerGate” fiasco is a discussion about ethics in journalism, but the deeper emotional layers are revealing an outcry of nerd culture against Feminist shaming tactics whose vigor has induced deep pits of pain and anguish in an already vulnerable subculture.
Enter the Men’s Rights Movement. The MRM, obviously a response to militant Feminism, employs the same kinds of arguments and evidence as Feminism, except that the victims in question are men. Where Feminism declares that women deserve to be treated with the same dignity as men, the MRM declares that men deserve to be treated with the same dignity as women. One would think that these declarations are synonymous, but practice demonstrates otherwise. Where Feminists are concerned, for example, with men who get away with rape by laughing off accusations as if they were false, MRM activists (MRA) are concerned with women who benefit from false rape accusations. History has shown that where there is benefit to be had, someone will show up to claim it. There is no question, then, that in contemporary “rape culture” we find both men and women who lie about rape for their own benefit.
Because Feminists and MRA ostensibly pursue the same goal, you might think they’d be allies. Instead they are typically mortal enemies. Why is this? Because to each, the other is a threat. By the classic concept of the Patriarchy, all men benefit from its existence. So long as a man does not consciously choose to be a Feminist, he supports the Patriarchy as an act of self-preservation. Under this model, men are indicted as aggressors if they are not passive supporters. Although this concept of Patriarchy is not a model that Feminism still maintains, its influence is still felt and expressed unconsciously. Why, for example, in Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women, are we never presented with an example of the harmful stereotyping of men, despite the many opportunities she had to do so?
Like Feminism, the MRM accepts the existence of a social order like the Patriarchy, but rejects the assertion that all men benefit from it. The MRM asserts that, like women, men are also the victims of a social structure that seeks to impose gender roles upon them without permission. MRA can see that, despite lip-service to equality, Feminists often still perceive women as the oppressed and victimized and men as beneficiaries of the Patriarchy as well as victimizers in their own right. MRM therefore sees Feminism as a threat to its own agenda, so MRM actively attacks Feminism on these grounds. Feminism likewise perceives the MRM as a threat to itself. While the MRM has not gained the kind of mainstream traction that Feminism has, it is also younger and must overcome the victimizer stigma. Victimizers are, after all, the one remaining group whom it is politically correct to hate.
In addition to a disagreement about the Patriarchy, Feminism and the MRM also suffer a lack of sympathy for each other. Standard discussions about privilege encourage an attitude that privilege is a one-dimensional calculus in which any given person can be easily assessed as being either more or less privileged than another. According to this calculus, admitting the validity of your suffering threatens the validity of my suffering. Hence, because Feminists typically depict men as the victimizers (rapists, oppressors, tyrants, or even just creeps), admitting that the perceived victimizer has his own valid set of feelings undermines the very anger that has to this day motivated Feminism. The MRM, however, has also failed to meet Feminists halfway. Instead of focusing on the male experience, MRA often cite data that pits the suffering of men against the suffering of women. Arguments that are meant to show that both sexes have it tough instead only end up devaluing the validity of female suffering.
Gender Liberalism: Genderqueer and the New Feminism
Despite the ideological wall between these two camps, there is hope. Emma Watson’s UN address depicts a gentle feminism that exchanges anger for compassion as a motivating force. This is not to say that women should not be angry: clearly they are as entitled to anger as anyone. Rather, the significance of Watson’s demeanor at this address is that it demonstrates the falsehood of negative stereotypes about feminism. This new breed of Feminism extends well beyond the concerns of just women into the concerns of all human beings: all of us are affected by gender roles. It is this New Feminism — a Feminism that delivers on the promise of embracing all — that will ultimately abandon the terms “Feminism” and “Patriarchy” due to the gender asymmetries they etymologically insinuate.
The New Feminism gained its compassion by infusing genderqueer theory into its repertoire. Genderqueer, especially in its manifestation as transsexualism, is a phenomenon that seems to be undergoing exponential growth right now. This theory contests gender roles in a whole new way. Where Feminism and MRM appear primarily concerned with rights, genderqueer is concerned with how we conceive genders in the first place. Recognizing that the gender roles are assigned to us at birth based primarily on the appearance of our genitalia, genderqueer culture encourages the abandonment of the social construct in favor of a new and more personal definition of gender. Although sexual genetics are incontestable (intersex individuals notwithstanding) and unchangeable, gender roles as such are almost entirely plastic and, with the arrival of sex-change surgery and HRT, even bodies are partially plastic. In any case, a clear distinction between sex (which is a matter of genetics) and gender (which is a matter of identity) is one of the most crucial elements of genderqueer theory.
The fundamental claim of genderqueer theory is that the gender role enforcement of our social order (call it the “Patriarchy” if you must) suppresses our deeper drives to embody whatever characteristics and roles we choose, regardless of which gender those characteristics and roles are traditionally assigned to. Genderqueer, then, is an experiment that seeks to answer this question: What would we discover ourselves to be if we did not assume we were either male or female?
Emma Watson’s Feminism reveals its affinity for genderqueer theory with the simple statement that gender is a “spectrum” and not a “binary”. Interestingly, genderqueer adherents apparently disagree on this matter. While in theory all genderqueers accept that gender is not binary, in practice the transsexual subset tends to embrace the binary but simply prefers the pole opposite to the one assigned at birth. The theory accounts for this deviation, however, by asserting that some are attracted to the poles. Everyone who does not identify as genderqueer is simply “cis,” which means that you identify with the gender role you were assigned at birth. Although it is difficult to say how many people would still identify as cis when liberated from the system of gender role enforcement, my own circumstantial experience suggests that the overwhelming majority of the population is cis—this of course all depends on the finer details of our definitions for cis, gender, and genderqueer.
The Myth of Gender-Liberalism
What Feminism, MRM, and genderqueer culture all have in common is an assumption that the identity crisis we are facing as a population is a consequence of our sense that, to some degree, we do not identify with the roles we have been assigned. As such, we can think of them as gender-revolutionaries or gender-liberals. According to the Myth of Gender-Liberalism, the cultural enforcement of gender roles is an arbitrary Caste System that violently encroaches on the unique identity of each human being. The gender revolution, then, must up-heave the Caste System in order to replace it with a new, more enlightened, more plastic attitude about identity.
By the Myth of Gender-Liberalism, those assigned “female” feel weak and objectified because the Caste System suppresses their urges to participate in the male roles. Conversely, those assigned the “male” feel isolated and unappreciated because the Caste System suppresses their urges to participate in the female roles. This systematic suppression of inner identity prevents us from ever maturing into the fully formed adults we would normally become—adults who would likely find themselves somewhere between the two gender poles, rather than at an extreme end.
Gender Conservatism: Traditionalists and Jungians
Although genderqueer theorists appear quite certain that they hold the key to resolving the identity crisis, they are not without detractors. If Feminists, MRA and genderqueers can be thought of as gender-liberals or gender-revolutionaries, then there is also a camp that can be called gender-conservatives or gender-traditionalists.
The identity crisis takes a different shape with gender-conservatives. They can see plainly and painfully the false starts of a Self taking the smallest of baby-steps toward clarity about itself, but collapsing time and again into the same patterns of identity supplied by consumer culture. A man is someone who drinks beer and watches football. He likes to fight and he’s good with a grill but bad with laundry. We, young and old, are desperately grasping for identity only to find flimsy stereotypes slipping through our fingers. “What are you into?” we ask. “Oh, movies, games and hanging out with friends,” they say. “I like clothing with brand names on it,” they say. To the gender-conservatives, these are all unmistakable symptoms that we are entirely out of touch with a genuine sense of the gender-roles we are supposedly already familiar with. In the gender-conservative myth, the social order that gender-liberals often call “the Patriarchy” is not a genuinely masculine system. Rather, it is a caricature of gender identity that, by virtue of its shallow nature, endorses a hierarchy with men atop women.
Although its ranks are filled with cis folk and anti-Feminist types (who feel threatened by Feminist shaming tactics that target them for being complicit in the existing gender order), contemporary gender-conservatism is not the same as alignment with the Caste System. As gender-liberalism rests upon the intuition that our gender roles are confining, gender-conservatism rests upon the intuition that when consciously chosen, gender roles tend to take traditional appearance. Gender-conservatism is the self-conscious claim that the current identity crisis is not, in fact, a crisis of suppressed gender, but a crisis of malnourished gender. This ideology has its roots in none other than Jungian psychology.
The Myth of Gender-Conservatism
According to the Myth of Gender-Conservatism, men feel isolated, unappreciated and powerless because they have never been exposed to genuine masculinity. Similarly, women feel used, devalued, and weak because they have never been exposed to genuine femininity. Awash in the superficial consumer culture endorsed by society, human identity languishes, failing again and again to find anything substantial to cling to. Such gender-conservatives are unsurprised by the existence of gender-revolutionaries. They, like all of us, want to feel comfortable with their identities. The solution to this identity crisis, then, is to form strongholds of genuine gender expression within our culture and use these strongholds to expose others to more empowering forms of their own god-given genders.
Almost all Jungians agree that one of the major failings in our culture is the absence of initiatory rites. Boys are no longer initiated into manhood by older men (not counting unconscious vestigial initiations like Fraternity hazing and boot camp), and girls are no longer initiated into womanhood by older women. Gender-conservatives cluster around this assertion the way gender-liberals cluster around their concept of gender spectrum. For gender-conservatives, if we initiated our children into mature versions of the genders associated with their sexes (or “birth-gender” if you will), then the whole world would move toward a more coherent sense of identity. While gender-conservatives admit that gender is not the whole of identity, they hold that a healthy acceptance and expression of birth-gender is the foundation of a stable sense of identity and therefore also to a stable psyche.
Outliers, such as genderqueers, do not play a prominent role in gender-conservative theory, though their experiences are usually explained through the Anima and Animus archetypes. Classical Jungian theory treats archetypes as the inner contrasexual image according to which one’s own psyche determines what is considered sexually “other” and how that “other” is attractive. While Jungians emphasize that acquaintance with the contrasexual within is absolutely necessary in order to achieve true maturity, they often encourage us to wait until we are middle-aged to look deeply into the matter. Moreover, the contrasexual is typically viewed as a distant or weak aspect of self because it is, according to Jungians, more concerned with our image of the other and less concerned with Self as contrasexual. That is, when a man expresses femininity, he is operating from his Anima. Because he will never be as good at being feminine as a woman, it is unwise to rely on the Anima; rather, he is best served by his strength, which is his masculine sense of Self. For gender-conservatives, then, gender identity has a very strong correspondence to genetic sex, so those who defy this correspondence, such as genderqueers, are likely to resolve the matter as they mature.
Resolving the Crisis of Identity
Confusion proliferates among gender-conservatives. Whereas gender-liberals freely admit that they do not have a theoretical structure beyond the influences of personal intuition and social construct that can clearly identify what is or is not one gender or another and who belongs to which in what degree (or even that there are two genders at all), gender-conservatives find themselves frequently making authoritative but conflicting claims about what counts as masculine and what counts as feminine and the degree to which any of us is one or the other. In this confusion, we find masculine Archetypes with apparently feminine traits (Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Dionysus or the masculine Lover presented by Moore and Gillette) and feminine Archetypes with apparently masculine traits (like Wolff’s Amazon Woman or the popular Heroine). In their efforts to account for all the patterns of human experience, gender-conservatives smear the boundaries between the feminine and the masculine at the cost of a clear sense of either concept. Consequently, gender-conservatism at its most honest begins to look more and more like gender-liberalism.
Both the gender-liberals and the gender-conservatives are attempting to pull the stereotypes away from our attitudes about gender and the roles we play, hoping to reveal seedlings of genuine Self. To a gender-liberal, archetype psychology looks like yet another set of stereotypes whose applicability to lived human experience and its notable outliers is questionable. Because the Jungians have begun more and more to describe archetypes as personality types robust enough to look like a human being, stereotype is becoming a common pitfall. Archetypes are to be seen as a collection of personae within the self, not a single persona that accurately describes the self.
To a gender-conservative, the rebellion of gender-liberals typically takes the form of stereotype adoption, whether consciously so or not. When a transwoman augments her body, her attire and her pronouns and then claims womanhood, one tends to wonder whether a person born female with masculine traits is somehow less of a woman thereby. Although the transwoman asserts her womanhood based solely on an inner sense of femininity, its expression falls squarely within the stereotypes we associate with women. What kind of transwoman would you be, after all, if you did not wear makeup and dresses? We still have the sense that there is a difference between being a woman at birth and having an inner sense of femininity, or else the question, “What kind of woman would you be if you did not wear makeup and dresses?” would not sound so offensive. Rejecting types altogether seems to be as impossible a project as rejecting spoken word or logic. The Dadaists attempted such things…and then the movement ended.
The Careful Balance
Gender-liberals rightly object to the standard Jungian treatment of the contrasexual self. Archetype psychologists commonly either sweep the contrasexual to the side preferring instead to integrate contrasexual qualities into core-sex archetypes or else to assert that developing the contrasexual self is best left for a mid-life experience. It is easy to say to those who object, “If you had been initiated, you would understand,” but it is very difficult to downplay the urgency of a contrasexual self whose expression demands an extreme display at the cost of complete alienation if necessary. It is hard to believe that, given the eminent social stigma that accompanies coming out as queer, one would choose to be transsexual anymore than one would choose to be homosexual. Undoubtedly, however, our expressions of identity can easily miss the mark.
Gender-liberals have succeeded in articulating the distinction between gender and sex. One may identify female and still have a Y chromosome, because gender and sex are not the same thing. Inner theoretical dissonance prevents this attitude from getting off the ground, though, as a naturalist interpretation of reality tends to reduce conversation about gender and sex to social construct, physical appearance, and genetics. Genderqueer theory asserts that the terms “male” and “female” refer to the social construct and its gender roles, rather than to the biological sexes. The deeper motivation for these ideological maneuvers is to assert that inner identity and social construct are far more important than genetics.
Gender-conservatives, on the other hand, rightly assert the significance of genetic sex. HRT succeeds in giving an inner experience that approximates the opposite biological sex, but the human body is a work of art rather than a machine. We cannot expect that our tinkering will reveal the subtleties of the relationship between body chemistry and psyche. For this reason, biological sex is and will probably always be important to psychic makeup. Each of us has a unique set of talents unpredictable even to our parents, but the biological sex into which we are born distinctly biases those talents. While a woman can be just as good as a man in almost any field, men in general have readier access to masculine traits. Hence, the genderqueer pronoun revolution is unlikely to reach the mainstream: many of the experiences of gender identity are deeply tied to bodily chemistry, as anyone who has actually experienced HRT can attest. Insofar as accepting the Self as it is holds the key to inner peace, then accepting the body as it is plays an important role in personal maturity. No one is a better authority than you on how you must express your identity; however, the body and its genetic sex are a necessary starting point, and body-modification can be a tempting yet superficial solution to a deeper concern, just like any other body fixation (dysmorphia, eating disorders, etc.).
On both sides, there is an ever-present danger of conflating Archetype and stereotype. This danger, however, traces back to our tendency to conflate sex and gender. Gender-liberals tend to hear “male” and “female” (sex) stereotypes in discussions about the masculine and the feminine (gender) Archetypes. Archetype psychologists, probably in response to gender-liberal queasiness, either reinforce the conflation of gender and sex through considerations of what real men and women look like once their Archetypes are activated, or else they muddy the gender associations of the Archetypes in order to make the Archetypes look more like human beings. Regardless of the pathway taken, the upshot is that we still confuse these two for each other at the cost of incessant stereotyping.
What we need is a clear sense of the masculine and the feminine which accounts for the ways in which these Archetypes may manifest in both men and women, but which also admits biased expression based on sex at birth (intersex once again notwithstanding). We should expect that there are genuine associations between the sex poles and the gender poles, but we should not expect these associations to conform to a firm set of rules. Assuming that the overwhelming majority of human beings do, in fact, identify cis, it is reasonable to assert that a man is likely to be masculine. His masculinity, however, does not prevent him from expressing femininity, nor is his femininity any less a part of his core being for its contrasexuality.
Gender, though, is much more complex than than a simple masculine/feminine binary. There are many feminine and masculine archetypes, each of which has different strengths and weaknesses and a different overall character. Moreover, gender stereotypes have worked themselves into our unconscious attitudes so insidiously that we often do not recognize them. Women at work meetings are rarely given the space to speak, though men are not even aware when it happens. Transsexual and transgendered people attest that they are taken more seriously when they present as male. The roles that nature and nurture play in gender expression are not easily separated, but a key element in this process is the willingness to honestly assess the actual strengths and weaknesses of men and women as opposed to the perceived. Biological sex does incline us toward certain modes of expression, but rampant gender bias perpetuates superficial differences such as “Women talk more than men.” Even if women do talk more than men (which is likely not true), this difference probably shares similar origins to the tendency of baby girls to wear pink more often than baby boys.
What Is Gender?
Whether clearly articulated or not, the Architecture is a complete description of the elements of Self in the same way that the natural laws of physics, whether clearly articulated or not, are a complete description of the interactions in the material universe. That is, we are reaching for human nature here, not social construct. The elements in the Architecture, known as Archetypes, each have a persona unique unto them. These Archetypes describe the human experience on all levels simultaneously: the individual, the interpersonal, and the social. Hence, the Architecture is holographic in nature. Because of its holography, however, the roles we play as elements within a group come to be seen as rigid confines. In the machine of Society we are reduced to a single Archetype—often a distorted and superficial rendition thereof. We serve this Archetypal function in society just as a specific cog serves its designated function in a machine. Reducing a human being to an Archetypal role, whether distorted or not, is what we call “stereotype”.
We as a culture are not aware that there is an Architecture at all, so we have come to conflate stereotype and Archetype. When Archetypes begin to feel like straight-jackets due to our misconstrual of them as exclusively social roles, the throwing off of the yolk tends to eject both the Archetype and stereotype together. Hence, gender-liberals often adopt an Archetypal blank-slatism due to their emphasis on human uniqueness in response to gender role enforcement. Recognizing that the gender-liberals are abandoning something important, gender-conservatives perceive the liberals as a threat to a viable and vulnerable tradition—a tradition that is in an accelerated state of decay. In objecting to the extreme abolitionist attitudes of the revolution, the conservatives take on the appearance of defending a system that both sides agree is corrupted.
Time to go out on a limb: The masculine principle is the active as the feminine is the passive. In human experience, this translates to the conscious and unconscious—just like Jung taught (despite Robert Bly’s objections). Hence, such experiences as analysis, decision, building, and exploring are masculine, while intuition, feeling, nurturing, and accepting are feminine. The masculine and feminine principles, however, are caricatures when pasted upon males and females.
The absence of an active principle does not equal the presence of a passive principle. Jungian analysts have tended to describe women who are assertive or domineering as acting from the Animus. These analysts recognize that an immature or unbalanced active principle is at play, but what they do not seem to recognize is its origin. A passive or feminine Archetype whose expression is distorted or imbalanced takes on the characteristics of activity or masculinity. Such a woman is actually failing to express a feminine Archetype, so her energy is channeled through self-defeating activity rather than self-affirming passivity. The term “bossy” is uniquely applied to women, not because leadership and command are masculine traits that we are denying to women (though we do in fact deny women these things), but because a bossy woman is resisting or blocking her feminine ability to move gracefully with the flow of her environment (though this does not stop us from falsely applying the criticism). The vice lies not in her expression of activity, but in her substituting activity when passivity is appropriate. A commanding woman knows when to be active, so her authority is embraced by others without question. A commanding woman is comfortable being “one of the men.” I have seen bossy women and I have seen commanding women, and I can tell you that there is a world of difference between the two. Virtuous passivity must be cultivated just as virtuous activity must. A less controversial instance: a man who unconsciously lets a woman make all the decisions for him is not expressing a feminine Archetype; rather, he is failing to express the appropriate masculine Archetype.
Given that men have readier access to masculine Archetypes, the challenge of being a man (generally, though not necessarily specifically) is to open up to the infinite expanse of the unconscious, awakening to the extreme confines of experience relegated to the merely conscious. Men who are stuck in self-perpetuating patterns of conscious analysis are said to be “mentally masturbating.” Indeed, they are. There is no inner feminine principle involved in the event, no intuitive source to give substance and meaning to the endless analyzing. The challenge of being a woman, then, is to find stillness in the ebb and flow of the unconscious for long enough to process the abundant tide of feeling.
Each gender comes more naturally to its associated sex, but all of us are complete human beings with a unique set of talents and access to all Archetypes, masculine and feminine. It is ludicrous to suggest that men do not have intuition or that women cannot think rationally. The contrasexual aspects of self are latent in all of us but demand practice. A man is usually talented in rational thought, but must develop intuition as a skill. That men are generally talented in rational thought does not, however, preclude the possibility of a woman who is a rational prodigy (like my fiancée), nor does it preclude the possibility of one woman’s rational skill eclipsing most men’s rational talent (like my ex-wife). Biological sex is an indicator of where our natural gender-associated strengths lie, but because maturity entails the integration of all Archetypes, masculine and feminine, it is not an accurate indicator of the finished product.
Still, most of us end up cisgender. The significance of gender-identity is that despite having integrated both masculine and feminine Archetypes, we tend to identify and present ourselves as primarily one gender or another. An E minor chord has within it at least two notes that are not E (namely, B and G), yet the chord itself has the overall characteristics of an E. Analogously, human beings are a harmonic synergy of gendered Archetypes, each contributing to the chords and melodies that our very existence expresses. That there are strong feminine elements within my unique song does not subtract from the overall masculine sound it has. On the contrary, like the B and the G in the E chord, the feminine characteristics within me add to and accentuate my masculine song. While there is plenty of room in the human experience for androgynous songs, locating identity is not a matter of choosing a sex or a gender. Sex we are born with. Gender will find its own expressions without our having to wring our hands about it. It is true that our unique identities cannot find expression until we locate the mature masculine and feminine aspects of Self, but Self is much more than a single Archetype or a single gender. Self is the song of freedom whose notes are intoned with gendered Archetypes, each song built from the same deterministic materials but immeasurably different from any other.
When a coach or music instructor takes on a new recruit, he carefully assesses the person’s natural talents. A football recruit may make a good defensive end or tight end, a poor running back, and an excellent offensive lineman. A music student may make a good drummer or bassist, a poor violinist, and an excellent pianist. The coach, observing his recruit’s talents, strengths, weaknesses, and impediments, will usually come to a conclusion: “You are a lineman,” or “You are a pianist.” The coach doesn’t say, “You should be a lineman,” or “You should be a pianist.” He makes a claim about his recruit’s most essential self; he can see the recruit beginning to locate the melody of the inner song and wants to help clear the way for that song to be heard. At some point, the recruit must learn to accept what he already is and then strive to express that essential self more and more perfectly.
Locating the essence so clearly seen by these coaches is how we resolve the identity crisis. Gender-liberals and gender-conservatives are both reaching for the essential self. The gender-liberal who shirks off the biases and stereotypes looks within to find something more genuine; the gender-conservative who insists on the importance of associating sex with gender looks within to find the conviction that being a man or being a woman means something more than mere social construct. What our society lacks, however, is that coach who helps us find the genuine identity. The gender-conservatives are correct that we need to reclaim the old traditions of initiation that imparted self-enhancing gender concepts—that is, undistorted Archetypes. What gender-conservatives do not seem to appreciate, however, is that both sexes must be initiated into both sets of gendered Archetypes. Females who have made it through boot camp benefit from the experience in all the same ways that males do. They, too, are capable warriors, even if we’ll always have more male warriors than female.