We want to be at the center: at the source of power; and we want to be at the center: the center of attraction. Indeed ‘look at me’ could be called the cosmic game.
~ Albert Low, I Am Therefore I Think
Men seem to have a very difficult time with shame, the flip side of the legendary “male ego”. They experience vulnerability as a threat to their survival and tend to seek external validation as proof that they exist. When a fight breaks out between two men, it is often due to one of them having felt insulted or humiliated. When a man fails to provide for his wife or family, he feels deflated and depressed. Grandiosity is mistaken as an expression of masculine pride when in fact it is an attempt to compensate for feelings of impotence and inadequacy.
Women, on the other hand, seem to struggle with insecurity, the flip side of the legendary “do I look all right to you?” They need reassurance and understanding, everlasting proof that they are loved just as they are. When a fight breaks out between two women, it is often due to a breach of empathy. When a woman is ignored by her lover, she feels cut off and alone. The need for attention and connection is often mistaken for emotional dependency when in fact it is an attempt to compensate for feelings of unattractiveness.
Although the core struggle for both sexes is one of personal recognition (“look at me!”), there seem to be distinct variations on the theme depending on one's gender identity.
How does one explain this?
Albert Low, in I Am Therefore I Think (an ebook to be published in the fall of 2011), takes an innovative look into gender dynamics in terms of the play between what he calls “me-as-center” and “me-as-periphery”. The masculine container for this oscillation, he believes, is more identified with the center as “power”, whereas the feminine is more identified with the center as “attraction”.
Without suggesting that gender identity is a fixed thing (and I would agree with Albert Low that we are fundamentally androgynous beings who oscillate between center-as-power and center-as-attraction) masculinity does tend toward a center-as-power that is distinctly phallic. It is power that is exerted by pushing or penetrating. The feminine center-as-attraction, on the other hand, is more womb-like. It calls or pulls toward itself, a power that can be both seductive and nurturing but is always subversive and alluring.