Thanks to Jeff for sending this in. Recent disclosures certainly attest that this is true! May the rough edges quickly heal into profound unity. ~W
By Devaa Haley Mitchell
Co-founder of The Shift Network
The fierce aspect of the feminine has been on the rise in recent months — an energy that is deeply needed as the challenges continue to accelerate on our planet. It seems that Her time has come. Finally!
When we generally speak of “the feminine,” most people immediately imagine “softer” qualities commonly attributed to the Mother archetype — unconditional love, nurturance, tenderness, and deep presence. Others may envision compassion, empathy, and kindness, or more “yin” qualities like gentleness and receptivity.
And while those softer qualities certainly continue to be important, there’s a different flavor of the feminine that’s now rising up which I’m calling the “Fierce Feminine.” This term was the title of a recent Shift Network course hosted by Andrew Harvey that included six fiercely passionate co-teachers, including Caroline Myss, Monica Sharma, Mirabai Starr, and other powerful, truth-telling women.
In speaking about the Fierce Feminine, Caroline said, “Fierce means different things to different people. It can mean aggressive, or it can mean that one has developed an inner sense of strength… We [women] need to be fierce as a way to just stand evenly in the world [among men].”
I see the Fierce Feminine as a combination of courage, inner strength, passion, boldness, and the willingness to speak up and speak out, even when you sense your stance may not be popular. It’s an invitation to be fierce without hating, blaming, or shaming. We are called to be loving, hold our hearts wide open, and cultivate compassion while we’re also speaking clearly and taking necessary and decisive action.
Look around the world today and you’ll see this Fierce Feminine energy being expressed by numerous women who are claiming their full power and speaking out against the wrongs they have faced or witnessed. And many of them are doing so despite the fact that their actions may be costly on a personal level or even dangerous. Many of these “fierce” women are bravely taking on powerful adversaries who have long been “protected” by their fame, significant resources, and/or networks of influence.
Speaking Up, Speaking Out
The most obvious recent examples of the Fierce Feminine can be found in the numerous women who have been speaking out against the pervasive sexual predation in our society.
A great deal of serious misconduct has come into an even brighter spotlight through the #MeToo movement. This predation has been going on for years under the cover of silence. In fact, a new poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal claims that “Forty-eight percent of currently employed women in the United States say that they have personally experienced an unwelcome sexual advance or verbal or physical harassment at work.”
It’s disheartening to realize the ubiquity of this issue. But this rise in awareness will undoubtedly lead to widespread — and lasting — change. It seems we’ve finally reached a collective point where women are willing to step way beyond the stereotypical “nice girl” image and choose instead to unsheathe and wield their swords in the cause of justice and protecting future potential victims.
Those first women who had the courage to speak out against the purported sexual predation of Harvey Weinstein can be celebrated as the vanguard of the Fierce Feminine — Ashley Judd, Lauren O’Connor, Rose McGowan, and others who were bold enough to break the silence. And we must not overlook the many women who spoke out against the sexual misconduct of Donald Trump prior to Weinstein’s exposure.
These brave women were willing to call out the wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Their actions required immense courage, especially given that the misconduct had been going on for years with so many people choosing to look the other way. Those women who called out Weinstein, Trump, and other uber-rich and powerful men deserve extra kudos because they knew that the cost of speaking out could be extremely costly given these men’s deep pockets, extensive networks, and powerful lawyers.
And so we celebrate these Fierce Feminine warriors who have stepped forward to share their previously hidden stories. And in sharing so deeply and vulnerably about rampant sexual predation coming from some of America’s most influential men, these fierce women have created permission for so many others to share their truths as well.
It’s also worth celebrating the fierce new initiative Time’s Up, which was designed and signed by more than 300 women from Hollywood who are committed to combating systemic sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and beyond. Among a number of positive features, the initiative includes a legal defense arm that will be administered by the National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity. Victims of sexual harassment will get connected with legal representation and support, among other features. So now there’s another clear pathway to take bold and practical action against sexual abuse, cultivate greater gender parity, and create enduring positive change throughout our culture.
Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History
This Fierce Feminine movement also came through loud and strong in January 2017 as millions of people across the U.S. took to the streets to participate in women’s marches following the election of Donald Trump. In the wake of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy,” it’s estimated that more than four million people rose up in protest the day after he was inaugurated.
A year later, on January 20, 2018, women took to the streets again in cities across the U.S. There were also parallel rallies in Europe, Asia, and Africa, making it a truly global event. Authorities estimated that well over 100,000 people attended the rally in New York, 300,000 in Los Angeles,more than 80,000 in San Francisco, and the list goes on.
American historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” (She also wrote a book by the same name.) And it seems we are collectively taking these words to heart, letting go of the need to be congenial as we boldly and fiercely stake our claim to our rightful place in a safe and respectful society.
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The image above highlights a number of women, both historical and modern day, who could be described as embodying this Fierce Feminine energy. We are bold, courageous, intelligent, powerful, and charismatic. When we talk, others listen. When we lead, others follow.
And who wouldn’t agree that Hillary Clinton is fierce? If the image above was assembled today, I’m quite sure she’d be included. Regardless of whether you were supportive of her candidacy or not, we should applaud her perseverance despite extremely harsh criticism that went far and beyond her policies.
And though there certainly may be many valid critiques about Hilary, many of them had a seemingly sexist underbelly. According to a September 19, 2017 retrospective article in The Week, Hilary had to endure “grossly gendered merchandise, disproportionate attention to her appearance, skepticism about her ability to be rational and level-headed in the face of pressures intrinsic to the Oval Office, and public stalking.” In her book, What Happened, Hillary characterizes her gender as an almost insurmountable obstacle.
But what’s so exciting about this current moment in history is that it’s not just a few bold women who are stepping forward with this strong feminine energy and reshaping the direction of our future. Instead, the Fierce Feminine is rising up everywhere. There is now a full-blown movement of empowered women, and it’s wonderful to witness. She’s found in the voices of so many women who are speaking out against injustice, battling extreme racial discrimination, spotlighting the workplace discrepancies for women, and so much more.
Media Depictions of Women
It’s not just real-life women who are embodying this Fierce Feminine energy; it’s also showing up in our screen heroines. The recent blockbuster movie Wonder Woman touted a strong and confident female superhero who was the most talented warrior of her day, cutting new pathways across enemy lines and leading the charge for her otherwise male battalion. And she also came from a full tribe of strong warrior women who appeared to have minimal contact with men.
Despite the fact that Wonder Woman still seemed to be operating in a masculine war model, filling the screen with scenes of violence and fighting (and wearing a pretty short skirt many would say is objectifying), she also has a refreshingly deep sense of caring and morality that seems in short supply these days. Further, Wonder Woman’s Director, Patty Jenkins, is also female — the first female director of a live-action, theatrically released comic book superhero film.
Strong feminine role models were also spotlighted by the heroines in the film Hidden Figures, which showcased the brilliance and power of women of color in an otherwise extremely patriarchal NASA space program. And Hunger Games’ protagonist Katniss Everdeen is bold, brazen, and beautiful, wielding her bow and arrow with prowess. Plus, Olivia Pope in the popular TV show Scandal dazzles her viewers with super-savvy political smarts, often pulling the strings of her powerful male counterparts.
Turning our gaze to the world of animation, we also see super-strong heroines including Moana in the Disney film by the same name, and the feisty celtic lass, Merida, the lead figure from Pixar’s 2012 film, Brave.
None of these feminine figures seem concerned about “behaving.” Instead, they are willing to break through crusty old structures and transcend limiting perceptions. They show up with their brilliance, physical prowess, and assertiveness, along with a strong moral compass. And they wrap it all up in a package of elegance and style.
Seeing women standing confidently in these leading roles, both in society and on screen, is certain to empower women and underscore our strength and power. It seems that our culture as a whole is developing a deeper affinity for this fiercer flavor of the feminine.
Unfamiliar and Perilous Turf
Despite the rise of the Fierce Feminine, it’s worth noting that many women are not fully comfortable with this energy. She still represents a clear deviation from the way that many Western women have been groomed. Many women were and still are raised to be loving, polite, compassionate, and agreeable. We are often “trained” through the blatant comments of our families or through the subconscious expectations of our friends or co-workers. Some women may not dare to speak out against perceived injustices for fear of being seen as brazen or “unladylike.” Others may choose to stand on the sidelines instead of assuming the mantle of leadership, knowing it’s not their expected role.
For me personally, allowing myself to embody this fiery energy has required quite a bit of spiritual training. I’ve had to break through my own ideas of what it means to be a “good woman” and a ”good wife” and to allow a greater force to flow through me. I’ve had to move through layers of fear that surfaced in response to some very vivid visions, in which I witnessed the days when the women around me were being burned at the stake. Many of my clients and spiritual sisters have had similar experiences.
There’s a deep cellular and collective memory of women being marginalized and even killed for wielding their women’s wisdom or for speaking their truths. We’ve witnessed powerful women being “taken down” throughout history. So for many of us, it may not feel safe to step up or speak boldly.
Though I now feel comfortable wielding this energy, I must admit that it took me years of training in initiatory womens’ circles in which we consciously healed our wounds and cultivated the primal energies of the woman warrior and liberating forces like the Hindu Goddess Kali.
I now have the honor of supporting other women to do the same through my classes and ongoing mentorship. But it’s often a long road, and it can take some time to unfurl the intergenerational trauma and tame the inner voices that are imploring us to stay small. But little by little, we are healing, wholing, and gaining the inner strength and resources to stand in our feminine FIRE.
The Fierce Feminine in Eastern Goddess Archetypes
This Fierce Feminine energy may feel somewhat new to some Western women, but She has clear roots in the religious traditions of the East. Hindus know the goddess Kali as a divine protector. To the Western eye, she may invoke fear or even appear grotesque given that she’s often depicted standing on the corpse of her vanquished enemy with blood streaming from her mouth. But in truth, she helps her devotees cut away all that no longer serves their development while showering them with her fiery love. In this way, Kali offers destruction in service of liberation.
The Hindu goddess Durga can be seen as the cousin of Kali. Wikipedia cites her as “the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation.” She is depicted in the Hindu pantheon as a goddess riding a lion or tiger, with many arms each carrying a weapon. Women who take up a cause and stand up for justice are said to carry the spirit of Durga.
Buddhists also celebrate the Fierce Feminine, especially those of the Tantric Vajrayana lineages. Vajrayogini is a primary goddess who embodies both grace and destruction. She’s often depicted with deep red skin, and naked except for a rosary of skulls around her neck. With her knife, she cuts away our illusory ego attachments, but also offers deep wisdom and compassion to those who are true seekers.
And though Kali, Durga, and Vajrayogini are goddesses who are widely celebrated, women living in India or Tibet are NOT encouraged to embody her qualities themselves. And therein lies the challenge, as their Fierce Feminine energy is sorely needed now across so many aspects of our society.
Nevertheless, She is rising, and She is here to stay. As more and more women gain the courage to raise their voices and work together for the collective good, we will continue to shape movements even as we shape history. Together, we are writing this next chapter of feminine history in which women are standing in our fullness, our strength, and our feminine power.
May it be so!