Mahatma Gandhi said that we should be the change we wish to see in the world.
With that sage advice in mind, I’ve decided that the change I wish to see in the world is less hatred, less closed-mindedness, and less bigotry in all its forms. I’ve been contemplating the chat that the current occupant of the White House had with Billy Bush a few years back – you know, the one in which he boasted about how happy he was to be able to sexually assault women with reckless impunity – so I’ve been especially focused on misogyny as a toxic mindset (it’s just one of many that we humans employ, but I have to start somewhere…).
I’ve always been left feeling sort of embarrassed and squirmy whenever I encounter the old time-y convention of referring to our entire species as “man” or even “mankind.” It feels to me like a very outmoded and unhelpful way of reinforcing the notion that male humans are somehow inherently more important and valuable than all the other kinds of humans. And every time we adhere to this convention, we’re preserving and feeding that notion in some small but definite way.
I decided to use a Carl Jung title as an example here. And please don’t get me wrong: I love many of Jung’s ideas, and I feel that his work has had lasting importance. I’m a huge proponent of the benefits of looking at existence through a metaphysical lens, and Jung’s work is hugely influential throughout all of modern metaphysics. This was, after all, the man who gifted us with such worthy concepts as archetypes, synchronicity, individuation, the collective unconscious, the psychological “shadow,” the anima and animus…
But take a look at one of Jung’s well-known works, the last one to occupy him before his death in 1961. It’s called Man and His Symbols.
This is a highly misleading title. Symbols are undeniably a gigantic part of both our inner and outer worlds…but they’re hardly the sole province of the male. And men are hardly the sole component of humankind, or even the sole important component of it. Letting this convention persist in our culture is a backwards-looking move that feeds into the agendas of people who want to keep other people down, even if it seems to be doing that only in small and mostly innocuous ways. The problem is that repression is actually never small or innocuous…especially when you’re the one who’s being repressed…
So I’m suggesting that whenever possible, we try to repair our world by overturning this obsolete convention. I know we can’t retroactively change the title of Jung’s book (even if I did enjoy changing it for the accompanying image) or the million other such references already out there…but moving forward, we can do our best to not rack up any further usages of “man” and “mankind” when what we really mean to say is “humanity.” I guarantee that I’ll be doing my part in this, practicing what I preach.
This is how we shape the world, and how we can be the change we wish to see in it:
…and our symbols.