More about Active vs. Passive

What do we mean by Active?

A misconception I hear about the Active Feminine – that a female athlete would represent her – tells me we need to amplify this concept.

‘Active’ in the context of the Sacred Feminine is not about how much one moves one’s body, or how actively we pursue the goals of our lives, how vigorously we engage with the world, or even our sense of agency. We can be highly ‘active’ in all these ways and still not belong to the Active Feminine.

We need to remember the prime polarities – transformation vs. stability.

The passive feminine – maternal and domestic – is all about stability, conservation, tradition, protection, nurturance, constancy, steadfastness, reliability. She is a foundation of strength for everyone around her. She can exist in many realms beyond the home, but wherever she is, she interacts in a stabilizing, supportive, empowering, affirming – maternal – manner.

The Active Feminine – sexual and magic – is all about transformation. She is about challenging systems, upsetting the applecart, innovation, erotic ecstasy, creation. If the passive is about bearing and raising the child, the active is about begetting it (and that’s usually not the goal). She is erotic flow, dance, joy, love, and connection. She is magical and mysterious, demanding, confrontational when necessary, unpredictable, uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

The passive feminine is the stability of earth, rock, mountains. The Active Feminine is the necessary instability of plate tectonics, weather, water flows.

Sports, career, political engagement – all are distinct dimensions which can be engaged in from either an active or passive feminine paradigm. But most often, even for women, those dimensions are engaged in from masculinity, leaving the feminine behind entirely.

Just as the earth has both passive and active aspects to it, so does the feminine. And most women are not completely one or the other.

The distinction is less a true segregation of women, but more a reflection of how the feminine is valued in patriarchy. You can’t have procreation, nurturing, support of men and children without women (at least not yet). Since they’re stuck with us, they try to keep us as controllable as possible. We can affirm and reward and honor the passive aspect of the feminine without seriously threatening the status quo.

But we all know the disruptive power of a sexual or magical woman – it is legendary, the one power that even great men succumb to. It’s a power that can topple kingdoms. It could change the world, making it a far more beautiful place. But that would threaten the status quo, and we can’t have that.

One of the most important impacts of splitting the feminine in this way – honoring and rewarding one, and demonizing and abusing the other, is that it pits women against women. Passive Feminine women, in my experience, are usually the least supportive of (or, most threatened by) Active Feminine women – less so than many men even (they tend to indulge in a lot of ‘fixing’). Which makes sense. If you’ve spent your life repressing that aspect of yourself, you can’t condone it in others.

It’s no accident that the Active Feminine sits at the very bottom of the male/female ladder – and that fifty years after a (poorly conceived) ‘sexual revolution’ the sexual female is still a demon.

But it’s also true that the more demonized and repressed the Active Feminine is, the more pissed off and destructive she becomes (remember that 13th crone?). We can choose to make a place for her at the table, and hope she’ll contribute her transformative magic powers to our efforts, or we can continue to try to push her out, and be certain that her powers will work against us.

Whichever we choose, we should know – she’s been repressed and violated for a very long time, and she’s breaking out of bondage. 


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"For a woman to explore and express the fullness of her sexuality, her emotional and intellectual capacities, would entail who knows what risks and who knows what truly revolutionary alteration of the social conditions that demean and constrain her."

-Louise J. Kaplan - Female Perversions