With so much talk about men against women, women vs men and continuing gender inequality (the statistics prove it’s still a very real thing), there are many fingers being pointed, but there is not a lot of personal empowerment going on. Are we clinging to, or letting go of, gender inequality?
There is a saying that we would do well to heed: “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me!” I believe that this is often forgotten and too many women are cast as perpetual victims. If we take on the victim mindset, nothing will ever change. In the same vein, men continue to be cast as the villains or the sole cause of all gender inequality, which is also not the full truth.
I speak for many different companies and organisations at this time of the year, to inspire and raise up their women, and am conscious of the fact that men are excluded from these conversations. I believe the way to create a new narrative is to do so together, not apart.
Both men and women need to be educated and empowered to change the status quo. While empowering one and not the other, the disempowerment and inequality cycle will continue. We try and exert power over each other rather than power with each other. The latter requires many honest, challenging and revealing conversations with, and about, each other.
You may recognise some of our past conditioning and current behaviour patterns that get in the way of honest and clear communication. This list is not exhaustive but should stimulate your thinking and may challenge your current perspective:
- Women carry deep cellular memory of the persecution they suffered at the hands of men when powerful women were branded as witches and burned at the stake
- Women have never forgiven men for this. The wound lives unconsciously in our collective psyche.
- Women have been secretive, withholding communication from men for centuries as a way of holding on to the power they lost.
- It is time to dismantle this patterning.
- Women have manipulated men for centuries by shaming and blaming them.
- Our inability to take responsibility, maintains the gender divide.
- Too many children only know their fathers through the eyes of their mothers – another form of control over men.
- Boys are brought up by their mothers, trained by their mothers and handed over to their wives without having been given a chance to grow up and grow into their alpha-male selves.
- Women talk about their husbands or partners as their ‘other child’, minimising them, rather than working with each other’s deep patterning to raise each other up and support each other honestly.
- Girls don’t learn to have empowered conversations with their fathers because their mothers run interference for them, or speak for them.
- Mothers, as a general rule, don’t let their sons or daughters stand up for themselves or find their own voices. This behaviour, minimises their children, sabotaging them in a way as it doesn’t grow their resilience muscle. Rather, it perpetuates the victim mindset.
- Women instinctively want to fix their children’s problems and challenges rather than upskilling their children and supporting them to solve their own issues, denying them their independence and perpetuating a sense of learned helplessness.
- Women are continually looking for external validation and acknowledgement from men, from their partners, or from their colleagues instead of searching their own hearts for validation and revelling in their feelings of inner satisfaction.
- When women experience success they don’t allow it to land for long enough to feel a sense of satisfaction before launching on the next quest for success or achievement. Women report fearing they may be being self-centered or selfish if they do (event if no-one else is watching!).
- Men naturally carry the warrior archetype. When they don’t have an enemy to fight, they often turn on their women and families, especially when they feel trapped or they are not succeeding.
- When men aren’t able to express themselves, they try to exert their power in ways that are can be destructive to themselves and to others.
- Abuse of power results when men fail to use their strength appropriately.
- When men don’t ‘show up’ they fail to use their power at all.
- Children need to see their fathers control their strength, using it to love, serve and protect, not to dominate and take what’s not theirs.
- We are witnessing extremes of masculinity – abdication and abuse of power, in our homes and by community and faith leaders as well as politicians.
- According to a 2014 report by StatsSA, 64% of children born in South Africa have no reference to the father on their birth certificate. This suggests an absence of fathers prior to their birth
- Many women are angry at men who have abused them, deserted them, or let them down, and can unknowingly pass on their resentment to their children. The result is often that boy children will try ‘not to be a man’ because of the sense they pick up from their mother that ‘men are bad’ and girls learn to despise men because their mother was hurt by them.
- Of course there is more, this is just a start…..
The Trap of Blaming Our Present on Our Past
When I speak to groups of women about how to show up with strength and resilience, I like to share an analogy from the late Dr Wayne Dyer, that of a motor boat. He said that many people blame the wake of the boat for what’s not working in their lives. However, the wake is the past. The longer you blame the wake, the more you entrench past conditioning and patterning and hold onto a victim mindset. This holds both you and the perpetrators as victims.
Another way of looking at it is that you choose to stay in the cage of your past conditioning, never challenging it, but trapped by it. What would be more helpful would be to identify what’s really driving the boat – the engine, which contains all the present, kinetic power. We should be focusing on the engine of our boat, and how we can influence it NOW, in order to create and power our present – creating it as we want it to be.
We can’t control our past, but we can make choices and attitudinal adjustments in this moment. This is what we do control.
The Feminist Movement and #MeToo
Interestingly, the feminist movement of the 60s was designed to raise the status of women in society and as an unintended consequence, may have made men wrong. The movement lost momentum possibly because men were made the enemy, resisted the movement and made women wrong. Something similar seems to be happening to the #MeToo Movement because it has also made men the enemy (not without reason) and, in effect, could lose relevance. How can men and women support each other to be equals in society in every respect?
Of course, gender bias exists because it has been allowed to continue to be perpetuated by both men AND women, not one or the other. I, myself, operate in the historically male-dominated professional speaking industry and it has taken 14 years for a woman to be recognised with a Speakers Hall of Fame Award which I received in 2019. Speaker bureaus will be the first to tell you that corporates expect to pay male speakers more than female speakers.
Fighting for change vs letting go
Of course, women have to advocate and fight for change. But, we also have to let go at some point and jump into the void of reinvention, believing in our own value, holding onto it and not being negotiable. Women have traditionally been very negotiable – yes, I was too! This, in itself, is a new mindset that has to be nurtured by women themselves before they will be taken seriously on this point. We have to own our value or risk being devalued – financially, physically and emotionally, by ourselves and then others, because we allow it.
I am always fascinated by how the ancient north American Indian tribes were ruled by the Council of Grandmothers. If the men wanted to go to war they had to get the permission of the Grandmothers first, who were the guardians of the future of the tribe. They lived by the maxim, “And nothing shall harm the children.”
Looking at our past patterning and conditioning
Both men and women today would do well to heed this maxim and to allow it to inform their actions and attitudes towards themselves and each other, moving forward. It requires taking responsibility for ourselves, our choices, and our behaviour. It means looking with curiosity at our past patterning and conditioning and being awake to breaking the cycle of gender stereotypes and gender disempowerment in the generation we are raising now – our children.
To our leaders in politics, business and education, whether you are male or female, you too need to look at the patterning of your past that is influencing your decisions and your behaviour today because, to lead, is to parent, whether it is a nation, a business, an association or an educational institution. Many eyes are watching you and this generation of young people takes more cues from what they see that what they hear.
Choosing ‘power with’ versus ‘power against’
To everyone, this Women’s Day, what you do and what you say needs to be congruent. Get your act together. Let go of the past, stop clinging, and choose to build a new future – men and women sharing a vision of ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ or ‘power against’ each other.
Men and women need to come together to create a new vision for their future and be prepared to challenge their perceptions of each other, to deal with their pain and give away their judgements and expectations. By collaborating honestly to uncover the power games both sides play, there is a chance that we might start to be able to lean into each other and trust each other.
With this in mind, I have two new public event webinars – one for women and another for men which will explore all the above concepts in much greater depth: