Can we even talk about the feminine? A conversation with Indra Adnan & Jonathan Rowson

Indra Adnan & Jonathan Rowson
Oct 23rd, 2020

Questions that are in any sense about men and women and their differences invariably evoke more heat than light.

There are plenty of emotional landmines along the way; for instance, it’s important not to conflate ‘men and women’ with ‘masculine and feminine’ and those notions are contested in various ways, vary across different cultures, and intersect with other variables like social class or race.

Even so, with all due caveats, many people intuit that the challenges the world faces now have arisen due to the dominance of men and/or masculinity and that hope for the future resides *in some sense* in women and/or ‘the feminine’ and/or a greater balance between different kinds of energies, epistemologies, outlooks that is *in some sense* gendered. This kind of case has been made, for instance by Scilla Elworthy and Riane Eisler, and is well articulated by Richard Tarnas in The Passion of the Western Mind: ‘I believe that the West’s restless inner development and incessantly innovative masculine ordering of reality has been gradually leading, in an immensely long dialectical movement, toward a reconciliation with the lost feminine unity, toward a profound and many-levelled marriage of the masculine and feminine, a triumphant and healing reunion. And I consider that much of the conflict and confusion of our own era reflects the fact that this evolutionary drama may now be reaching its climactic stages.

For our time is struggling to bring forth something fundamentally new in human history: We seem to be witnessing, suffering, the birth labour of a new reality, a new form of human existence, a ‘child’ that would be the fruit of this great archetypal marriage, and that would bear within itself all its antecedents in a new form…Each perspective, masculine and feminine, is here both affirmed and transcended, recognised as part of a larger whole; for each polarity requires the other for its fulfilment. And their synthesis leads to something beyond itself: It brings an unexpected opening to a larger reality that cannot be grasped before it arrives, because this new reality is itself a creative act’. It is not easy to talk about such things!

This conversation with Indra Adnan explores why, and how we might begin to do it better. The conversation is quite gradual and tentative but begins to creep up on some major sites of further exploration towards the end, including questions of power, the public/private relationship, embodiment, praxis, and more.




Indra Adnan is a co-initiator at The Alternative UK which is a political platform seeking to build a different kind of politics. She is a psychotherapist, Buddhist, mother, journalist, and political campaigner. She is currently completing a book for Perspectiva Press on The Politics of Waking Up. A fuller description of the arguments below can be found in her long-form piece on The Feminisation of Politics. You can find Indra on Twitter.

Jonathan Rowson is co-founder and Director of Perspectiva. He was previously Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA, and is an applied philosopher with degrees from Oxford, Harvard and Bristol Universities. In a former life he was a chess Grandmaster and British Champion. His book, The Moves that Matter – A Grandmaster on the Game of Life was published by Bloomsbury in 2019. You can find Jonathan on Twitter.

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