One of the reasons I love my boyfriend so much is that he is frank with me. He doesn’t sugar-coat it if I am making a mistake, or if he thinks an opinion I have is based on faulty logic. There are times we still disagree afterwards, but he takes the time to explain why he thinks it’s a poorly based opinion.
A recent discussion with him pointed out to me that I have a blind spot, and that I’m being far more judgmental of my own gender than I should be. And that at the base of it, I have been victim-blaming in a very convoluted way, and sometimes in a very simple way.
So, as a person whose integrity is important to myself, I need to acknowledge that in myself and change it. I will warn you, this post is going to be a LONG one.
I will admit, I have a serious problem with certain aspects of the norm for women in our society. It’s a combination of a lot of different experiences in my life. But, what it really comes down to is that I set a higher standard of expectation for women than I do men – and that is patently unfair.
I could say that it comes from a lifetime of being judged poorly by far more women than men. I could say that it comes from watching my role models (my female family members), and judging them harshly from my own perspective. I could blame it on the cruelty I’ve experienced from girls and women. I could blame it all on everyone else.
But, blaming everyone else is NOT taking accountability for the issue inside myself, nor will blaming anyone else make the changes inside of me. I would rather analyze the issues involved inside myself, and find where I need to change my own definitions and worldview:
- Manipulation: In my experience, more women have used this tool against other people to get their way. It’s taken me a very long time to understand that manipulation – as a form of general communication – is simply a tool to help persuade others to see your point of view. It should be used as the last option, but it is simply persuasion dressed up to look like something else. Sometimes, some of us can be far too invested in our own belief system, and cannot be persuaded to see other positions (myself included). So, manipulation becomes that last choice to get someone to stop hurting themselves or others.
HOWEVER, that is not how I’ve experienced quite a few women using manipulation. Too often I’ve seen it used selfishly. Too often, I’ve seen it used to destroy other people. Too often, I’ve seen it used against men that these women supposedly love, even if whatever they are manipulating him for is actually damaging to him. And far too often, I’ve seen it used to control everyone and everything in the woman’s life.
Sadly, this is a fallacy that comes out of the whole paternalistic society that we’ve been fighting all along. The fallacy is that the only way that a woman can have power is through controlling the men in her life. Women in our society aren’t taught to empower themselves, even with all of the feminist fighting for it. The romantic lie still underlies the whole idea of relationships. And it’s not just women who want to believe this romantic lie. Men seem to believe it too.
If a man did some of the actions that many women do, other men would either laugh in their face, or in some other way make it known that such activities need to stop right now. But, when a woman does it, men fall for it nearly every time. And it doesn’t matter if another woman points it out to the man what is happening, he’ll ignore the warning.
This, honestly, is basically one of the main reasons I absolutely HATE crying. More often than not, in my own personal experience, crying is almost always used to manipulate someone. I remember watching my mom use it repeatedly on my father. It’s not that I don’t cry, it’s that I try to only cry when I’m alone. And only two men in my life have ever worked hard to undermine that issue of mine. Only two men who have been persistent enough to not only get me to cry, but show me that while they are not unaffected by my tears they are not being manipulated to do something for me other than just simply hold me.
It’s a bias that’s going to be hard to overcome, but I’m determined to do it. If I’m going to fight for men not being judged guilty until proven innocent, then I damned well better not judge other women to be guilty until proven innocent. It’s gender parity in justice – I can’t fight for just men or just women, if I’m going to fight at all. I need to fight for all of us as just one more voice.
- Passivity: Ohhh, this one is hard. After spending most of my life armored up to the gills protecting myself from vulnerability, I have to actually learn to be more vulnerable. And that’s part of the problem. Too many people (women and men) seem to think that being passive is being vulnerable. No, being passive is just lying there, not choosing actively but allowing choices to be made without you.
I get it, I do. Sometimes in our lives we are overwhelmed by shit. Sometimes we need that hand to “save us.” But, ladies, even if we need that hand, we have to be an active part in saving OURSELVES. We have to be willing to make the choice to change.
Is it easy to just sit back and let someone else take over your life? Yes, it can be. But too many women take on that passive act, but spend their entire lives being manipulative so that even in their passivity they are controlling others.
Power isn’t about controlling other people. That never works the way you want it to, because other people have free will. Power is about making choices for yourself, and not just letting the world make your choices for you.
My part of this is reminding myself that not every woman out there is capable of understanding that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. And that in the process, I HAVE to let other people in, I HAVE to choose not to just “soldier on through” – because that way only lies death (literally and figuratively). Hell, not all men are capable of understanding that either, but men are gender normed to be the “dashing hero” rather than the “damsel in a dress.”
- Innocent, Naive, Gullible, Accepting: These are all kind of grouped together for me, because it is the basis of the whole Madonna/Whore Complex. We women are put into only two roles by society. We are either the saintly Madonna, or the debased whore – there is very little in between. Even the “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” idea still buys into the idea that anyone who prostitutes themselves is dirty and debased.
And let me tell you, people, one can prostitute themselves for more than just money. There are those who prostitute themselves for affection (that was me in my 20s), prostitute themselves for security or safety, prostitute themselves for protection, and so many other reasons.
This norm ALSO tries to make us women choose not to clearly communicate our needs, or to sacrifice our needs for those around us. It encourages us to be patient, even when someone is obviously using us. It encourages us to feel superior when we sacrifice ourselves for others, because somehow those sacrifices must make us “more worthy.” Not really, it just means we’re giving up our own needs.
And Gods forbid a woman who is intellectual. A new study, published digitally in August, and published in print this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, states pretty damned clearly that although men can respect a woman who is more intelligent than they are if the woman is not within the man’s sphere of influence, if she IS involved more closely they do not respect or accept her. The gender norm is that we’re supposed to let the men in our lives feel intellectually superior to us.
Actually, I have gotten into arguments with some men about this. I will ask the men in my life for advice, because often they have a differing perspective to offer. But I don’t always take that advice, because when it comes down to it, I’m the one responsible for the choice – and therefore I must weigh the pros and cons of the situation as I see them. And a few of the men I’ve asked advice from have felt that because I don’t always take their advice, I must somehow see them as less intelligent (and thereby inferior) than myself. Nothing could be further from the truth. I ask for advice ONLY from those whose intelligence I respect, and whose objectivity and ability to be honest I respect.
- Nurturing: Oh, this one is a toughie. My mind says that if I really care about someone, I need to “take care” of them. It’s that myth in our heads that says a good woman sacrifices for those she loves. The reality is more egalitarian – HUMANS should be willing to sacrifice for those they love, but they must balance it with an occasional willingness to NOT sacrifice. And that, my dears, is something a lot of women are still struggling with. We’re supposed to be the “Mommy” and the “Grandma” and bake cookies, and kiss boo-boos, and all of that stuff while also simultaneously having a career, and hopefully a life as well.
But, know what? There are some women out there with not a nurturing bone in their body. And there are MEN out there who are much better at nurturing than the women in their lives.
There’s not “something wrong” with a non-nurturing female, nor is there anything wrong with a nurturing male. We ALL have received different talents, and converted them into skills. I would rather have the BEST person with the BEST skills doing the nurturing, not based on what genitalia they may or may not have.
- Subordination: Even as a childhood Christian, I have always had difficulties with this one. And I even had a Biblical response for those men who tried to use the Bible to make me bow down to their will. Try reading Proverbs 31:10-31. That doesn’t sound to me like a subordinate or submissive woman at all. That sounds like a very capable woman, being a partner to her husband.
And strong women, like myself and like the woman described in the above Bible verse, are temptations to men who want to “break” us as if we were horses. The difference between “breaking” a horse and “training” a horse is that in breaking, the horse has just given up trying while in training, the horse learns that step a follows step b and so on. Women aren’t horses, but if you hurt us enough we do finally give up and quit fighting for ourselves. Hell, that’s a human thing, not just a woman thing.
There’s just something about the independent personality that attracts those who want to destroy it. I’m not sure what the root cause would be, unless it is simply a sheer desire to destroy something that they cannot develop within themselves. And it seems to be worse when the independent personality shows up in the mind of a woman. There seems to be some fascination at “taming the wild beast.” But it sees us as an object or possession, not a real live person.
There are probably more points inside me that need analyzing. But this is enough of a book already.