On the dynamic of women vs. men.
This has been percolating for me for a very long time. I’ve sat down to write many times, but the words just haven’t come out right. Still not sure they are as efficient as they could be, but I do want to share from my heart.
There has been so much coming up and out that is triggering deep, old, centuries old, generations old trauma for women.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve “done your personal work” or not, watching how women are regarded by leaders in our country, disrespected, belittled, dishonored . . . is helping to unleash a rage that has been smoldering deep since the dawn of patriarchy.
There has been a deep slumber that has taken over humanity that is at the root of being able to see another human, whether it’s the color of their skin, their gender, or some other characteristic or trait, as “less than,” and somehow worthy of subhuman treatment. It has created a desire for power, and if the tables ever turn or the balance is shifted, the rage continues and is then used to justify the subhuman treatment of what once was the oppressor by those who were once the oppressed.
The only way I see of ending the cycle of pushing and pulling for power is to be willing to wake up together and to work for solutions together.
We are in fact, waking up together.
This rage that is bubbling up to the surface in women is helping us to finally find our voices. To stop letting coercion lead to unwanted submission (sexually, financially, socially, politically). What we as women are seeing is that we have been conditioned to cater to, submit to, comply with the needs, desires and preferences of men because it wasn’t so long ago (and is still actually happening for many) that not going along with this conditioning was a full on threat to our (and our children’s) lives.
We are waking up from that conditioning.
And so are the men.
Men, too, are starting to wake up (could be at a slower, more resistant pace, but I haven’t got any unbiased research on it so to be fair, I’m going to assume the best and call it even). They are starting to realize that “no” might actually mean “no,” and true consent is critical, and that women might actually have the same value and are worthy of the same rights and privileges men have.
Men were conditioned by the same fucked up ideology that women were, except that they are on the other side of this unhealthy and toxic coin: to believe that women are weak, too emotional to make a rational decision, are here mainly to please, serve and submit to men.
It’s just as “Not Okay” now as it was 50 years ago to treat women as less than, but we’ve all been under a spell that has put us into deep slumber and we’re all waking up together. Men are facing the horror of realizing that their “boys will be boys” behavior that was, just a short while ago, condoned and even rewarded is now the fucked up thing it really is: abusive, disrespectful and intolerable.
I’m not excusing it, but I am acknowledging that we are all waking up together from the nightmare. Some of us are “coming to” as victims empowering ourselves to stand in our power and speak our truth and demand justice, and some of us are “coming to” as ignorant perpetrators (some not so ignorant, but my sense is that most of it is genuinely the result of ignorance and ingrained/inherited beliefs) reacting to these atrocities with deep shame, guilt, denial, defensiveness, self-protection . . . all sorts of self-protective mechanisms.
When I started to realize (long before this current wave of #metoo) that I had allowed men to do things I didn’t want, I compassionately forgave myself because I saw that I was brought up in a society that teaches disempowerment to women constantly from all sorts of angles (fashion, music, politics, finances, business . . .).
I had a deep rage toward the men who forced their desires on me and didn’t listen to the many ways I tried to say “no,” including actually saying “no.” What I ultimately realized was, while their behavior was intolerable, I could find compassion for their ignorance and their awful behavior because they were taught (and rewarded) to treat me that way, just as I was taught to accept that treatment.
It is not logical to assume that men, who have benefitted from this dynamic for centuries, and been taught by centuries of political, religious and societal beliefs/practices/values, are going to “wake up” and “get it” faster than women are. It is not logical or likelier than a snowball’s chance in hell that they are going to suddenly know how to behave in a “good way” just because we are now finding our voice, power and strength to say “ENOUGH!”
I’m still witnessing myself, my friends who are very strong women, and other powerful females around me feeling uncomfortable fully speaking our truth, unable to confidently say what we want and don’t want, not owning what we believe and letting “no” actually mean “no.” Many of us are just now learning how to give ourselves permission to be sovereign.
While we are all starting to recognize that NOW is absolutely the time for this bullshit to change, the only way it’s going to happen in a good way, that prevents a slipping into retaliation, revenge and a perpetuation of the “us vs. them” mentality is to recognize what is going to lead to mutual respect and honoring all humans: UNDERSTANDING. LISTENING. Being so focused on solutions that there is no time for blame, defense, guilt, denial.
Grief and processing all that is coming up is essential. Letting it out of our systems is crucial. Targeting that grief and anger at those whom we think “deserve it” will absolutely only perpetuate the struggle for power instead of the collaboration for healing.
Those of us who find themselves in the “perpetrator” role – whether they’ve ever done anything harmful to anyone or not – need to recognize that their perspective is skewed and full of convenient blind spots that have allowed them, their friends, their fathers, their uncles and countless generations before them to do things that we now recognize are not okay (and never were okay). Now is the time to just listen.
Men, that means giving your ear to more than 50% of the conversation. To start listening to the women in your life. (Recent research shows that if a woman takes up 50% of a conversation with a man, he is going to perceive that she dominated the conversation). Let’s give women the benefit of the doubt and give them the bulk of the conversation. Let’s ask women how they feel, what they need, and how they can be supported as we all go through this time of birth (that is full of intense labor pains for everyone). Focus on listening for the sake of actually understanding where women are coming from and where to go from this moment forward.
Women, let’s allow ourselves to be angry in ways that heal us, empower us, and completely transform the old struggle for power into a full stepping up into our own sovereignty (a sovereigness doesn’t struggle for power, she simply resides within it). Let’s be honest about how we feel and learn how to be angry without targeting people, retaliating, and let’s make sure we do what is healthy, helpful and looks like what we want to see in the world instead of falling into “justified” reactions.
And I feel this is the same with racial justice as well.
When I’m in a conversation with a friend of color, I have all sorts of feelings and opinions and my ego wants to jump in and say all those things. Right now, unless I am asked about my feelings and opinions, I have made it a policy to focus on just listening and understanding, asking how I can support, being compassionate, seeking to understand even more. . . and I have found that there isn’t anything I was going to say that actually needed to be said.
Listening needs to be the main role of anyone who is waking up and seeing that they have been in a place of privilege. Whether they think they have perpetuated harm or not, been accused of it or not.
The only way to learn the good way is to listen to the people we may have stepped on while we were asleep. We need to forgive ourselves for being assholes in the past, say “I’m sorry” for being an asshole, and truly mean it, and then be genuinely interested in how to not be “that asshole” in the future by listening to the people we were assholes to, to help them release their pain and to explore together how to make kindness, beauty and love happen instead of pain and suffering.