Courage, as we typically define it, isn’t primary to a woman’s optimization, though it is for men. For example, women are meant to be compassionate, modest, tender, nurturing, safe, cooperative, and graceful. This is contrasted to men, who are primed for leadership, action, productivity, provisioning, aggression, and protection. For those of you who just gave me the head tilt and mouth drop, stop – breathe – swallow – now hummmm with your eyes closed. Yes hum!
So why did I ask you to hum and all that other stuff? Because it was meant to take you out of your cognitive dissonance and into your guttural knowing of things. Some of us have such a strong reaction to gendered descriptions, but it makes absolutely no sense that we have become so defensive to the natural dualism and complementarity that exists between positive masculinity and positive femininity. Now before I get into positive gender characteristics, let me return to the idea of courage. Both men and women navigate life’s challenges using varied emotional and behavioral resources to respond to fear. It is this encounter that separates the courageous from the cowardly.
But what does a cowardly woman look like? What does a courageous woman look like? It isn’t fitting to juxtapose the same masculine qualifiers to a woman. No, we must take the time to determine the contextual relevance for the feminine frame of reference. A woman can have Amazonian qualities just as a man can have compassionate and paternal instincts, but neither should nullify nor overshadow the predominant gender specific dynamics at play. Reminder: this discussion is not comprehensive of sexual orientation or gender diversity. There may be some of my contemporaries who might reject the validity of those potentials, but I do not. Just as courage is a choice, so are conventional behaviors and unconventional personalities and vice versa; although personality is frequently quite static in nature, it is merely because we have particularly strong preferences for certain choices dependent on our desires. Determining whether these desires are rooted in either nature or nurture is irrelevant, they remain psycho-somatic impulses based on both elements. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that we are each optimized by our choices and actions. So, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the building blocks of our intentional outcomes.
If we are to become self actualized we have to take responsibility for our choices (based on our compromises between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) and maintain this accountability whether we achieve positive or negative results. Courage is not just a feeling, it is an action, and when consistent – a personality type – and it most definitely is an outcome. However, the outcomes of courage are different for men and women.
Men’s courage manifests as external prowess, mental fortitude, principled and purposeful leadership in the face of all obstacles, or at the least overcoming them for the survival of others. A gendered difference here is that in “the end” the courageous man’s role is to protect and ensure the survival of others. Undoubtedly some of you are screaming at the screen >>> women can do this too! Sure, they can, but it is a CHOICE. Women in the military can choose to protect and save others more vulnerable, but how natural it is for a woman to be the one to shield and protect a man – unless of course it’s a boy? Not very natural. The primal nature of us as humans propagates the idea that man shall shield the woman, the woman shall shield the child (ok, she MAY shield the man, but it is not mandatory). Again, I’m not responding to gender and sexual orientation variances in this post.
Women’s courage is NOT shown in the same way as a man’s. We have to remember what is positively feminine first. She is kind, compassionate, nurturing, modest, secure, loyal, cooperative, sensual, positive, and uplifting. I can hear the undercurrent of “what about the strong and independent woman?” A woman’s strength and courage may not be what you think, or what you want it to be – because maybe society has informed your fears defensively rather than assisted you in facing them directly. What if women can be femininely strong?
What if feminine courage IS when a woman encounters her core fear of being alone, vulnerable, and insignificant and chooses to embrace her femininity as strengths? To be courageous she must accept she is vulnerable; and it isn’t a negative thing to need a man’s leadership. She can courageously follow in partnership while maintaining her internal assets, because truly she is of no use to a man if she won’t choose to follow and allow him to lead. You see this compliments a man’s core fear of being a coward, not actually failing – but failing to be courageous in the face of fear. So a woman needs others to share companionship, provide nurturing, and feel important, and a man needs a reason to be needed, take charge, and be tested.
As implied earlier, there are masculine and feminine qualities in both men and women, the key is to learn how to maximize the qualities that create a complimentary balance individually, contextually, and within relation to one’s significant other. Each of us has to learn to be resilient and dynamic by accessing these qualities as needed as best we can along our development in the life span. Culminating into a secure and inter-dependent pair-bond with a counterpart successful in doing the same in reverse.
The sun and the moon, the sea and the shore, they each co-exist in harmony when they do not compete with each other for power. This is where I found my courage. During a sunset at dusk about a year ago, I was reminded that although I may be looking directly at the sun for its wondrous spectacle, it’s equally essential that I embrace the silhouette of the moon synergizing on my back. But that is a story I have to tell you about another time…