I didn’t set out to be a feminist, I was brought up to believe in meeting my handsome prince and getting married, as a virgin no less. That was important, for me to give my virginity to my husband on our wedding night, like it was a nice tie or cuff links, definitely a gift he’d want desperately for some reason.And definitely something I now ascribe to patriarchal control of women’s sexuality but at the time, women who owned their sexuality were a mystery to me and I fell into the trap of othering them, labeling women who had sex as slags because I lived and breathed the societal strictures that I wasn’t aware of but still imprisoned within.
Sex was a mystery, and I remained totally clueless even after ‘the talk.’ My mother so embarrassed she could barely speak but struggling on as my father sat and glowered, contributing only to say that I better not do anything dirty ever. Any wonder I was so mixed up about sex for so long, trying to turn what should have been short term ‘entanglements’ into committed long term relationships because I’d been so indoctrinated into ‘the one man for life’ fairytale that my Mum and society in general dictated to us.
I hurt many of the men I went into relationships with because I was so emotionally stunted and completely rejected my own sexuality because I’d been taught it was dirty. And certainly, getting felt up my older uncles and friends of my father and watching him leer at my school friends didn’t do anything to make me more comfortable with it.
When I think about it now, its obvious my becoming a feminist was because I grew up powerless in the face of my father’s abusive anger and violence. It was the only way I could find for me to step into power but it was borrowed power, and ultimately empty and useless. Useless to me because it not only wasn’t mine, it wasn’t even positive power but reactive, a collective rising of women’s voices in the face of the patriarchal society that had short changed and diminished women for millennia.
And I got angry, probably because I still felt powerless, more than anything else but I was now powerless on a much bigger scale and yet i I never consciously realised that powerlessness. It was something I pushed down, because it is the worst feeling to me, the absolute worst feeling for me to feel., and I really try to avoid it. I’ll do anything to not feel powerless.
Which of course, made me angrier, as a way to avoid and distract myself from my own feelings of powerlessness that I’d never addressed.
And my attitude that men weren’t to be trusted, that they were bullies and control freaks and unfaithful all came from my father and of course influenced what I encountered in life. Any time I met a nice man, I ran in the opposite direction and I ended up in relationships with men who obviously mirrored my father’s unpleasant character traits; bullies, control freaks and chronically unfaithful.
Which made me even more of an angry feminist. Because of course, I kept seeing what I believed all men were, liars and cheaters not to be trusted.
And I was more than happy to amplify the rising chorus of angry feminist voices shouting about the depravities of male dominance and bad behaviour, sharing every every report and research study that detailed even more shocking male traits that harmed us poor downtrodden women.
And this is not to say that women do not have a lot of real grievances with the world as it is and as it was and with the men who perpetuated such grievances. Of course we have. Many, many grievances. So much trauma from the past, so much trauma still happening today.
But what I’ve come to realise this year as I’ve worked with more men in a deeper way than I’ve ever done before is that the patriarchal world damages men just as much as it damages women. And women shouting about the bad behaviour of men is not empowerment but victimhood.
Empowered feminism is the kind of feminism I talked about but didn’t really act on, the kind that sees how the patriarchy is a strait jacket for both men and women, forcing them into strictly observed gender roles that lead to nonsensical ideas like men shouldn’t cry or show their softer emotions and that women cannot be equal but are weaker and less than men.
Rather than the truth which is we are all equal and all different, and each gender has certain strengths and capabilities that can be found in the other but are more naturally predominantly found in one .
Unfortunately, many people see gender equality as a taking of sides, either for men and against women or for women and against men. How about we start being for all of us, for humanity, one individual at a time?
I appreciate we cannot legislate at an individual level, and this is where most of the contention and disagreements come from, but surely we, as individuals, can step back and see when a law is just and right and inclusive and accept it on that basis?
In my work I’ve seen angry, frustrated men who experienced difficulty showing up creatively and responsibly at work become both stronger and kinder, able to create improved work solutions and increase personal and business productivity.
Men who became gentler, in touch with all their emotions and able to process them. Men who previously required a partner to always be available and yet were emotionally distant and unreliable became protective and strong and so confident in their personal regard that they knew they would be okay even if their relationship was over and they were left alone.
What I’ve learned this year is that men are human beings too.
It is to me because I used to see ‘men’ as this homogeneous mass of threatening, power crazed, ill considered, entitled, priviledged monsters. As a group, men are monstrous. That’s how I thought. But in the past couple of years I’ve had several amazing male clients and getting to know them on an individual level forced me to examine my prejudices. And I had many.
Just a few days ago I shared this Guardian article about how porn can become a gateway to childhood abuse, its similar in many ways to other articles I’ve shared over the years about domestic violence, shooting incidents in USA, whole household murders, rape by sports stars and the travesty that is rape trials themselves and so on and all enabled me to point a finger at the evil men do and say ‘See, I told you, they’re all bad.’
Did that help in any way?
Does working with me individually, helping men step out of that strait jacket to embrace their full humanity, the soft and the strong, the vulnerable and the protective?
Yes, of course. Both for me personally and for all the women those men interact with in their lives.
I’m still working through this change in myself. you don’t change 50 years of a mindset overnight and I’m not instantly a champion of men’s right but men need the space to change just as much as women do.
And of course, the more men I help change into fully realised, emotionally, mentally and spiritually secure and thriving individuals, the better it is for the women in their lives.
Men are not the enemy, and women are not men’s enemy.
The millennia old strictures of rigid gender roles and the current imbalance in the world’s power structures are the enemy. The ubiquity of pornography and the ease with which it is now accessed by men and boys is the enemy. Unhealed trauma and abusive and absentee parenting is the enemy.
Just in case you still think I’m being biased against men about pornography, the most recent research shows that ‘compared to women, men were exposed to pornography at a younger age, consumed more pornography as measured by time and frequency, and used pornography more often during sexual activity on their own. Gender differences in the interpersonal context of use were also evident, with women using pornography more often with a regular sexual partner than men. In turn, men were found to use pornography more often on their own or with friends (non-sexual partners) than women. Men preferring a wider range of hardcore pornography and less softcore pornography than women.’ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6756843_Gender_Differences_in_Pornography_Consumption_among_Young_Heterosexual_Danish_Adults
How do we resolve it?
I don’t know the answers on the global scale. I can only take action one person at a time, starting with myself.
Educating myself about men’s issues, their fears and perceived injustices, and valuing men’s contribution in a way I never did before.
Working with more men, helping them heal their psychic, spiritual, emotional and mental wounds.
Doing what I can with the tools I have, and being open to learning, to truly hearing what men in the world have to say, and listening to what they need.
Because until we listen, we can’t understand and if we just keep shouting at each other its never going to get better.
There are currently 7.8 billion people in the world, just over half are men. They all have the very same human needs that women have, to be loved, cared for, seen and heard.
Let’s do more of that for each other. After the most transformative year we have lived through in generations, let’s make it count by allowing each other the right to be who we were born to be, all of the beauty of each individual to be fully expressed in their own way as the Creative Force of the Universe, God, Whatever you call it, intended.
Allow the men in your life to show you how they feel, and give them the space to be male – whatever that is in their nature – and not as prescribed by some archaic rule book that doesn’t apply anymore.
Because we’re all just doing the best we can, and how much better could we all be if we allowed ourselves and others the space to fully be ourselves, without judgment or criticism, imagine being able to trust that we wouldn’t be found wanting, that we would not be humiliated or scorned for daring to show the truth of our being.
What a world that would be.
Here’s to hoping for an amazing 2021 whatever it brings, and to gender equality in all forms for everyone.
BTW, I’ve completely reworked my Change for Life program and its now Being the Best Me. A 12 week 1:1 highly personalised HypnoTherapyCoaching offer designed to take you from being unhappy, miserable and not sure of who you are anymore to being fully reconnected to the truth of your brilliance, magnificence and humanity.
Interested? Email or message me to find out more. Space are limited as I can only work with so many people at one time. Be one of those who truly makes their life different this year.