This collection of interview transcripts brings 24 experts, mostly psychologists and social scientists, together in a scholarly examination of the feminine.
Debut author Salum used Kickstarter to fund her 2014 documentary, also entitled Ensoulment. This women’s studies project relied on interviews with experts but created an animated protagonist who was, like the author and director herself, on a journey to understand the feminine. “What I was really after was not the female gender, but a matter of the soul, the impalpable,” Salum recalls. Her direct inspiration was a BodySoul Rhythms women’s retreat run by the Marion Woodman Foundation, which explores the Jungian idea of the feminine. Indeed, a number of the analysts and academics Salum interviews work within the Jungian framework. Many emphasize that feminine and masculine are not strict categories but interrelated principles, akin to the Eastern notion of yin and yang. “The whole business of opposites does not exist anywhere in the world. Everything is complementary,” one psychologist insists. Attempts to define the feminine abound—“the rhythmic…and the intuitive,” “both strength and delicacy, both firmness and love,” and “the great round…the encircling embrace”—but, crucially, Salum’s interlocutors always retain a sense of mystery and lived experience. They explain that the feminine is an archetypal quality to tap into rather than a distinct set of stereotyped behaviors and characteristics. The discussions in this original work center on six themes—the media, the body, men, relationships, work, and religion—but stray widely within those parameters to take in everything from eating disorders and fertility symbols to the goddess role that pop stars play in today’s culture. The interviews exhibit impressive depth as well as range, and the fact that one-third of Salum’s subjects are male prevents this from turning into a triumphalist, girl-power narrative. Instead, these are nuanced arguments that divorce gender from spirit. Each interview is headed by a photograph or cartoon avatar of the subject, a few biographical paragraphs, and Salum’s intriguing reflections on how she knew of and decided to include them.
Thought-provoking statements on almost every page; unmissable for women’s studies and religion students.