Bringing out the feminine side of science
There is a modern day movement to bring more women into science, to get girls interested in science at school, and to bring about pay equity for women who are working in the various fields of science. This is part of a broader movement in the western world and perhaps the world at large, to empower women and bring equal opportunity to both genders generally.
This article is not about exploring these phenomena, although it is about another level of this same process, but not just involving girls and women. Rather, this article is about bringing out the feminine within all of us, men and women, and exploring what this might mean for science.
For all those involved in science, from teachers and students, researchers and technicians, from academics to those on the ‘factory floor’, the first reaction or thought of what this might mean would possibly be one of confusion. How could science ever be ‘feminine’? Isn’t science always about logic, rationality and cold, hard fact? Isn’t femininity more about emotions, female intuition, fashion and beauty?
Firstly, let’s explore the word ‘feminine’, and its antonym ‘masculine’ in their commonly accepted definitions. ‘Feminine’ is to possess qualities traditionally attributed to women, and ‘masculine’ to possess qualities generally attributed to men. This can vary from culture to culture, generation to generation, and between different socio-economic groups also. What is considered feminine or masculine in one community may be quite different in another. One is not better than the other, although societies often do place one above the other.
So, getting back to the world of science, with all its literature, manuals, theories, hypotheses, websites, laboratories, and papers: does this even have qualities that could be termed masculine or feminine? Isn’t science just what it is – the rational, methodical study of the world around us, through rigorous observation and experimentation?
If we travel back just a few hundred years to the Renaissance, when science was coming out of the Dark Ages, we find both science and art developing side by side.
This is epitomised in Leonardo da Vinci, who expressed both the innate artist and the scientist within. His science was full of art; his art full of science.
He drew beautiful mathematical, geometrical and anatomical diagrams and representations of nature, mechanics, the human form and that of animals and plants. His science had a respectful and careful eye; how he saw the world around him was with eloquence and deep appreciation. His approach to science was truly feminine in that it nurtures the observer into appreciating the observed. It is not surprising that he was rumoured to be homosexual, as he clearly did not align with the imposing masculine force that was still prevalent from the Dark Ages and the Church. His balance of true masculinity and femininity was simply misunderstood.
When we look at the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most accepted example of his work capturing pure femininity, we see a non-sexualised image of a woman, holding herself in her true power. There is a strength in her surrender to herself, and her absolute transparency, hiding nothing, and seeing everything. She is beautiful, without a hint of glamour, and she is deeply feminine, without any weakness or inferiority: she, the Mona Lisa, stands as an equal to all men and all women. This expression of femininity was painted by a man – a man who was also a scientist. As a scientist, Leonardo was able to bring profound breakthroughs to the fields of mechanics, biology, and physics. He was a true man, expressing true masculinity in the human form. We could say that he embodied what he termed ‘the Universal man’, in that he was equally masculine and feminine, just as the universe is.
There were other great scientists of the Renaissance era who brought a respect for the feminine principle, and offered an integration with their masculinity. And these people were simply echoing the Classical Greek era where science stemmed from an equal expression of both principles, as taught by Pythagoras.
The sciences were not seen as separate from philosophy or religion. Indeed science was a living system of true exploration of all of life. It called upon the masculine and the feminine within so as to comprehend what was being studied. The purpose was not one of the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, it was more a whole body exploration of how everything was connected –– a spherical sense of feeling the subject in all its parts and as one.
In this way, the science was known by the scientist through his or her life’s experience, or their Livingness. And this could not be done without the feminine side of life – without the deep sensitivity and sacredness honoured and felt.
The science that we presently have has lost its connection to the feminine principle. It has become a solely mental pursuit, devoid of any beauty or freedom to explore with all of our beingness. Anecdotal experiences are written off as unscientific; anything unseen that defies any proof is ignored. Unless it has a practical application towards expanding capitalism, consumerism or sensory entertainment, then it is left unexplored by most within science.
But not all. There are indeed many people of science who hold dearly the essence of what science is in its completeness and know that there is so much more to explore and know. These people are generally marginalised by the scientific institutions, for to them they have no worth, offering no gain in funding opportunities or status. Free of the limitations and pressure of this modern-day ‘church’, these true scientists follow their inner-callings and explore the multidimensional nature of life. In doing so, they are more able to connect with the feminine, although they would be unlikely to define it in such terms. Women themselves – as scientists, as science teachers, as doctors and nurses, as technicians and researchers – can bring this, as can those men who have let go of the constraints of the patriarchal paradigm of the day.
Obviously it would benefit science to have gender equality – an environment where men and women are valued equally for who they are and what they bring. But if the culture of science remains stuck in its relatively recent patriarchal past, then even with more women involved it will remain distorted towards the masculine. We do not have to go very far back into scientific history to see that science has not always been dominated by masculinity. For as we have seen, Renaissance science was truly honouring of the feminine.
Imagine a science where cooperation replaced competition, where respect and honouring of all that we study replaced imposition and a sense of superiority. An absolute appreciation of all around us, in us and beyond this realm, without the need to know more, is sorely wanting in our science. If we can let go of the drive to continually understand everything and instead just be with it all, with all of our senses, with our femininity included, then we will find the true science that we all actually know inside.
This is a science that is actually all-knowing, yet it also accepts that we ‘know’ nothing. True scientific wisdom is found in a spherical appreciation and wonder of all of life. True science is found when we feel the universe within ourselves, and to do this we must connect with the inner divine feminine – the part of us that knows the sacredness of life.