I am a feminist. No, I don’t hate men, and I don’t think anyone should be punished for “keeping us down”. That kind of thinking solves nothing. To me, feminism is about humanism. We all have the right to be treated fairly, kindly and equally. We can embrace all of our differences and understand that if we combine them, we will be stronger as a group because of our diversity, not in spite of it. Speaking out for the rights of women is no different than speaking out for the rights of men, or homosexuals, or different races, or religions. Each and every one of us is here for a reason, and a really good one at that. A divine reason, if you will. Not one of us is here by mistake. When we fully embrace that concept, we can start to look for the gifts that each one of us is here to share with the collective, encourage each other to develop those gifts and step into our full power. And when you focus on the gifts, you can’t also focus on hatred or intolerance or fear at the same time.
We have a ways to go, though
The way I see it, the goal is to move towards a society where every living thing is honored, respected and valued, and that’s where I put my focus. I am, however, aware that not everyone is quite there yet, and that many people still have strong beliefs that are keeping them from even imagining such a world. After giving the same speech to three female clients this week regarding just such a belief, I realized it’s time for a blog post (read: ass kicking).
It’s easy to blame men for the inequality that exists between the sexes. And while I’m not saying they don’t have any part in this at all (I’ll get to you guys in a second), the beliefs that are really holding us women back are ours. One of the most insidious ones may well surprise you – it’s the kind of thinking you might attribute to your grandmother in her youth. It’s antiquated and unenlightened. But it’s there and it’s causing damage, not just in our relationships, but in our society.
A woman’s “job”
The belief I’m talking about is the one that places the responsibility for relationships between men and women squarely on the woman’s shoulders (sorry my lovely LGBT friends. This post is going to be very hetero centric, but I’m sure you’ll recognize some really useful themes here.) Even though we’re squarely out of the 1950’s, girls are still often given the message that it’s their job to “catch a man”. She has to attract him, and then do her best to keep him. If she can’t do either, she’s encouraged to figure out what’s wrong with her. Perhaps she’s not skinny enough, or pretty enough, or too outspoken, or needs to be more domestic, or too aggressive, or too focused on her career, etc. Of course, there are all kinds of man-hatery beliefs out there, too, but I’m going to focus on this one today.
“When a relationship goes south, it’s seen as a failure. Because obviously, a relationship that didn’t last forever is totally worthless. It’s a waste of time. All parties should be ashamed of themselves for being so stupid as to have gotten themselves into it in the first place.” – the Earl of Sarcasm
And often, oh so often, the female relatives of the woman will come out of the woodwork with judgments about how she should’ve done this or that. She should’ve tried harder. She should’ve made it work. Never mind that she was miserable (they both were). Happiness isn’t even an option. It’s her job, her duty as a representative of the female gender, to catch a man, keep him and hopefully help him perpetuate his lineage (the phrase “to give him children” makes me cringe). And if those events don’t take place, well then she’s failed as a woman.
I’m sorry but I may need a megaphone in order to express the incredible bullshittitude of this perspective. First of all, it’s not a woman’s job to do anything. Nor is it a man’s job to do anything. We all get to do precisely what we want, to follow our own bliss, and we all get to be happy. Sacrificing Who You Are, your integrity and your authenticity, is not necessary and REALLY not a good idea.
Not only is this stance incredibly dismissive of a woman’s value, but it’s also unbelievably disrespectful towards men. Let’s start with “catching a man”. Like he’s some kind of animal who needs to be lured and caged and then tied up to keep him from running away. It presupposes that men are not capable of the same kind of cognitive thought as women. They are Neanderthals, incapable of being equal partners, yet also aggressive, violent, sometimes dangerous creatures that need to be appeased by women, lest they freak out and, in their attempts to prove their dominance, destroy the world. Or leave. Or cheat. Or whatever.
It puts all the power in the man’s hands. Women should be grateful if a man, any man, pays attention to them. If they are chosen, they have succeeded. There are many women out there whose worst fear is to be left by a man. They don’t understand that they, too, get a say, and that “being male” and “willing to put up with her”, are not the only criteria that should be on their list of qualities they want in a partner.
The reason this perspective is so damaging, is that it not only causes women to give away all their power and needlessly get stuck in self-blame, but it also completely removes all responsibility from men. After all, they’re just dumb, wild animals. They don’t know any better, right?
Think I’m exaggerating?
Think of this: when a woman gets raped, something that’s unfortunately still an all too common occurrence in our society, what’s the first thing that most people ask:
- Where was she?
- What was she wearing?
- Was she drinking?
- Were there any danger signals?
- Did she lead him on in any way?
- What signals was she sending?
Do you notice a pattern here? These questions are all about HER, about what SHE did to bring this on, to deserve it. Was she being stupid? Did she put herself in a dangerous situation? Should she have seen it coming? (Note, this is NOT the same as exploring what vibration she may have had that attracted this manifestation to her. Such a discussion would not involve judgment, which is rife in the questions above).
Here’s a question: What about the men? Why do we not ask what the hell gave this man the idea that assaulting and traumatizing a woman is ok? And even more importantly, why are we not asking this question?
Well, one person did. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have already seen this. My friend and author Tabitha Jayne published one of the most powerful and authentic pieces of writing I’ve ever read on her blog this week:
Yes, the subject is raw and a bit dark, but I promise you, she brings it back around to an empowering place in the end. This is the conversation we need to be asking. It’s not about blaming, it’s not about shaming, and it’s certainly not about figuring out how to get women to protect themselves against the inherent danger we’re all seemingly willing to tolerate. It’s about figuring out what the real problem is with compassion and wisdom.
Why are men putting up with this??
This is not an issue that can be healed by women alone. Yes, men, I’m talking to you. But not in an I’m-now-going-to-blame-you-for-everything way. Women and men can’t keep seeing these beliefs and the resulting chaos in segregated ways. Our attitudes towards each other and therefore towards ourselves affect us all. Violence against women is not a women’s issue. It’s not a men’s issue. It’s a HUMAN issue. It’s a symptom of a much larger problem. It’s not just about violence being acceptable. Why do so many men still feel the need to act out this way? What makes them feel so powerless in the first place? No one ever hurts another for no reason. It’s always a last resort, as far as the perpetrator is concerned. They often have no idea that a better feeling, less destructive option is available to them. This is what we have to get to the bottom of. Sure, we can just keep blaming men and locking them away in shockingly large numbers, but I think we’ve been doing that long enough now to be able to conclusively say that this approach isn’t really working. Men are not the problem. They are, if you want to frame it that way, just as much the victims as women are.
But don’t take my word for it guys. Here’s a man who actually makes this point better than I can. With poetry. And swagger. And, may I just add, sexiness (because tolerance is fucking hot, people).
Spread the conversation
There’s no hard and fast solution to these issues. We’re not going to flip a switch and eradicate intolerance in a day. But if we can do just one thing to get the ball rolling a little faster than it has been, it’s to have these conversations, to ask these questions. Aren’t we ready to move out of blame and into cooperation, already? Haven’t we all suffered enough? I believe that society is ready to move out of its anger phase now. Men and women can work together to empower each other, to stop being afraid of each other, to truly accept each other. And if we can do that, we can find ways to value all diversity, no matter where and in what glorious ways we may find it.
Please spread the conversation by sharing this post, Tabitha’s post and/or the video. Then talk to the people you shared it with and see what happens. This information deserves to get out there.
What’s your take? Are we ready to be cooperative? Are we ready to stop being angry and defensive? Are we ready to truly heal? I’m really looking forward to your comments.