27 Jul Stop Expecting Women to Be Men – “#MeToo What Now?”
Ouch. This article, “Masculine Dads Raise Confident Daughters” published on WSJ.com a few days ago, has a few gems… and, in my opinion once again, it sets us up for failure as men and women – and all those in between as we consider #MeToo What now? No doubt, this is a time for us to be questioning our norms – the unconscious ways we see and do things. It’s a time to get honest about all that’s really happening. It’s a time get real about how we are showing up. It’s a time for all of us, men and women alike, to ask ourselves, “How am I showing up?” “How am I contributing to the challenges of the #MeToo situation?”
I know that second question may raise the dander of women, saying “I didn’t do anything to ask for the comments, the unwanted touch, the propositions.” I agree that women – myself included – didn’t ask for it. Although unwanted touch, sex, or even disrespectful comments are wrong from the very first time, the question for women is… “What did we do about it after it happened?” “Is there a way that we went along with what we didn’t want in hopes that it would get us what we did want? — love, respect, a job?”
It Takes Two to Tango
There’s the old saying that “It takes two to tango.” Yes, it took two… more than two… to tango in the events that #MeToo has finally – thank God – brought to light. And, it’s going to take both of us – all of us – to transform the old unconscious disrespectful reality into something extraordinarily beautiful, real, and connected when it comes to gender relations.
Neutering isn’t the Answer
HOWEVER, neutralizing – really neutering – the expressions of masculine and feminine energy within us – will not solve the problem. It will only create – actually has created – a different problem. I have written over the years that while the Feminist Movement brought power and equality, it simultaneously created a world filled with exhausted, disappointed, and masculinized women co-existing with confused, frustrated, and disempowered men. We have suffered individually, our friendships and working relationships have suffered, our romantic relationships have suffered.
All along we seem to have thought, that for one to get their power, the other had to lose theirs, or have it neutered. NO! We can both be powerful – albeit differently – and respected.
Let me make a quick foundational point here. Masculinity is NOT synonymous with male or men. Femininity is NOT synonymous with female or women. They tend to flow together more often than not, AND they are NOT one in the same. Too often in these discussions, of “#MeToo What now?” we blend energy and gender together, when they stand absolutely unique.
Masculinity isn’t the Bad Guy
We have made masculinity the bad guy here. It’s an essential energy that we all have, need, want, and desire as a species. Masculinity plays its role. Femininity plays it’s essential role. Neither energy is inherently good or bad and both can be applied consciously for positive result or unconsciously for dishonoring, disrespectful, and even violent results.
I love the quote in the article… “Men have used masculinity for acts of heroism and decency. That they have also applied it to despicable behavior says nothing of masculinity itself.”
I also love that the author takes a stand for women’s responsibility in what’s happening between the genders as we look at “#MeToo What now”?… “And that is the greatest disappointment of the #MeToo movement, that it has so spectacularly refused to insist that a woman not allow any man to treat her badly. Failed to insist that young women have an individual responsibility to demand better. That they should all agree no job is worth more than their dignity.”
I love that. The real and very important truth is, women may need help recognizing and claiming that power that lies within them. Although essential for our evolution in gender relations and for answering the key question “#MeToo What now?” taking those stands goes against our female human “survival” wiring. It can be hard to stand up for ourselves. Yet, we have to learn to honor ourselves. It’s time. Beyond time.
That self-honor is not found by shutting down our emotions and “manning up” ourselves. We as women, too often, have modeled masculine power and made it our own, but it exhausts us and leaves us deeply disappointed… and lonely.
The challenge I have in this article is that it implies that the way to a woman’s confidence is through modeling the “take no shit” attitude of men. No, women don’t need to – and SHOULDN’T – take shit, but how we can most powerfully take that stand, for most of us, is authentically feminine NOT masculine.
Emotions are Not the Problem
It’s not about shutting down our emotions. It’s about claiming them and expressing them boldly and clearly. It saddens me deeply to hear that this father made his daughter’s emotions wrong. They are part or her power, her grace… and her sexiness (but I’ll leave that for another discussion.)
I spend hours and hours and hours of my time giving women (and men) permission to claim and express their feelings and emotions. Emotions guide us, they show us our authenticity, they highlight where we fail to set our own boundaries.
I read that this father’s expectation is that his daughter do life the way he does life, creating one more woman who has lost the sense of what it means to be herself. (Mothers also, in an attempt to raise good boys, condition the masculinity out of their sons, rewarding them for being softer and more sensitive.) Soft and sensitive nor assertive and solid deem a man or a woman “great” or even confident. They only make one great (and as a by-product confident), if these qualities genuinely express that person’s true essence – who they really are.
Worth and Strength are Not Equal
Our worth is not defined by how strong we are. Our strength isn’t defined by how much we can take or how much we can handle (without asking for help.) That’s the old paradigm that has gotten so many women in trouble. If we are a naturally feminine woman at our essence, the idea that… we’ll do all that our feminine nature calls us to plus all that the modeled masculine nature expects of us… leads to unhappy and unhealthy women. This is not an answer to the question, “MeToo What’s now?”
Chivalry is a Solution Not the Problem
I’ll write more on chivalry another day, and, for now, please ignore the advice to stop teaching boys this powerful expression, if being chivalrous aligns with their innate nature. Of course, if chivalry is in a young girl’s nature, then nurture that expression in her too. For now, let me say that feminine women do want to be cherished – treasured. Too many women, like I did for years, deny that truth about themselves. You’ll find that if these women are allowed – and feel safe – to get real, they’ll totally tell you that is what they desire.
Chivalry, when it is offered genuinely and authentically, feeds the giver and the receiver. It’s about treating something we value – something we treasure – with the utmost respect and care. And, yes, we do protect the things we treasure.
We can be worthy and be feminine. We can be powerful and be feminine. We can be a leader and be feminine.
This is Where the Question “#MeToo What now?” Gets Real
When we look within and see what’s actually going on within us and then, find the courage to speak about what we feel, what matters to us, and what we won’t stand for, change – reuniting – becomes possible.
This is a call to men and women alike to get real, see how you perpetuate the game – and the pain. It’s time to start standing up for the truth of our desires, our hurts, and our dreams.
Men don’t have to be a certain way. Women don’t need to be a certain way – especially not a model of men and masculinity. We need to find out who we are at our core and start standing for that… and stop settling for less than what our heart knows to be true. That goes for all of us, regardless of what gender body we inhabit.
Here’s the thing I want to say again. It is not about women being feminine and men be masculine or women being stronger and men being softer. Maybe those expressions will develop and they need to develop because that’s who you truly are… not because you are modeling something you should be.
This is an invitation to go within.
Find out who you truly are… (Get help if you need it or find a community on this journey with you).
Then live your authenticity. Share it. Inspire that same authenticity in others.
Genuine authenticity never hurts, disrespects, or dishonors another person.
Finally, I’d like to say, this is a deep, critical and complicated topic. Be gentle with yourself and others. We have only just begun the conversation that leads to true healing.
Live in love,