My facebook feed is lit up with women storming the gates of misogyny, non-consensual sexual behavior, and the culture of submissiveness women have been cornered into for….well, forever.
Finally, we are blowing up the culture of “I’m ok with that” and calling out stuff that is and has been common to many of us: unwanted touching, unwanted groping, unwanted humping, unwanted comments, unwanted pressure, unwanted visuals of man-parts standing at attention. And the crazy, unacceptable normalcy of boyfriends, bosses, friends, colleagues, doctors, or whoever ignoring the word “no,” passing through it like a small town without a coffeeshop, assuming “yes” is just on the other side of it, or hidden within somewhere (she just doesn’t know she wants it.)
I feel like half of the American population is staring at the other half shouting, “The Jig is Up! Come out with your hands where we can see them, fuckers.” And thank God for this because what a relief. Please, oh please may this be the end of times where women are cornered into needing to be submissive, sexy, attractive, docile, good-natured, roll with the punches- when our instincts, bodies, and voices are shouting the opposite.
In a strange way, I think #45 tugged us right into this, like a steady little insensitive, unevolved tugboat. Every woman who voted against him, and visualized the first woman president, fell so hard when he somehow tripped his way into office, that it felt like a personal violation. It was too far. And from that point forward, any single damn teeny tiny violation of respect in our everyday lives or any assumption of our willingness to go along with a status quo that felt unequal- it all had #trumpwon attached to it. It was already too far. Dirty dish in the sink your man expected you to wash for him after your long-ass day? Too far. Interrupting your much-needed ladies’ night to tell you to come home? Nope. Someone saying you look “cute?” Hell, no.
So this whole me-too thing, (which, by the way, me too) is such a relief because I finally can locate a valid reason for this rage I’ve been feeling since I was a little girl. It’s all clicking into place as I backtrack through the years, seeing not just glaring violations, of which there were a few, but also all the mini, many nearly invisible times my feelings and spidey-sense were sounding alarms that had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with knowing I was not standing on equal ground. All the times I felt less than or unheard accumulated and internalized until I believed the culture, not the truth. Album covers of girls in lingerie, movies where men talk more and women talk about men, health care that doesn’t cover things like tampons, less than adequate morning sickness solutions, Beyonce on the cover of Time in a leotard while her colleagues wear tuxes, out-of-reach childcare expenses, pink baby onesies that say “Daddy’s Princess” held against blue ones that say “Daddy’s Champ,” uncomfortable shoes marketed so your legs look good, wrinkle creams, age creams, cellulite creams, not being able to identify my favorite female celebrities because their faces can’t move, the fact that my favorite swear word has the word “mother” in it, unequal pay, and all of it. Like the whole culture was somehow pressing its big, phallic thumb down on me and I deep-down knew it, but didn’t understand how pissed, like really pissed, I was. About what was expected but not spoken, obstructed but not admitted, accumulated exponentially over decades and, looking back, centuries. So to finally have this whole culture evolving, bringing it all up to the surface-it’s so wonderfully liberating.
Translating this to home life…..If you talk to my husband, he can tell you I have been deeply concerned about having my voice heard in our marriage and being treated with respect on every level. He has handled my rage quite well, I think, when it’s all said and done. Because he is a strong man who can handle women being strong.
I am at home with our 3 kids and am inspired by what I’m seeing around me, the women in the workplace who are speaking out…..and it has me wondering now where the action is for those of us who don’t work outside the home, like me.
So, I thought amidst the amazing voices rising up, I’d throw in mine to the mix of practical things we can do in our daily lives, as moms, as wives, as ex-wives, as daughters, as parents, to contribute. I practice these things and am sometimes astonished at how unnatural it feels to place myself willingly into a position of power, emotional and energetic power. But unnatural or not, we must practice until it becomes habit. Here are some ideas…
- Stop asking permission for things you do not need to ask for. As in…”Can I use the bathroom?” at the doctor’s office or “Do you mind if I chew gum?” at a teacher conference or “Can I have the last bread roll?”
- Stop apologizing for other people’s feelings.
- Stop apologizing for your own feelings or display of emotion. Women feel. There’s not shame in it.
- Stop apologizing for bumping into people, interrupting, etc. Either say nothing or say “excuse me.”
- Stop moving out of the way for men on the sidewalk. Stay your course and see if they move.
- Take the armrest.
- Make statements without lilting your voice up at the end like it sounds like a question.
- Stop discounting accomplishments of yours by saying “but,” as in “I have my degree but it’s only Liberal Arts.”
- Stop saying “I’m just….” as in “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
- Consider how you feel before you consider what others’ feel.
- Stop apologizing for your feelings.
- Stop trying to predict how your true-to-you actions will affect your spouse.
- Stop editing yourself based on what you anticipate will be a negative response.
- Expect equal contributions for housework if you and your partner live in the same house- the things anyone would need to do if living alone.
- Sit where you want to sit, eat where you want to eat, watch what you want to watch- it’s ok to take turns but make sure you’re not sliding over your own needs to make room for someone else every time.
- If you’re unhappy with your partner, tell him/her: Start with “This is what I feel. This is what I need.”
- Stop having sex when you don’t want to.
- Wear what you want, cut your hair how you like, wear what makes you feel strong, not pretty.
- Shop for your babies in non-gender conforming ways. Shop for your girls in the boys’ section and your boys in the girls’ section. And let them choose when they’re old enough to.
- Express appreciation and respect for what has traditionally been seen as feminine qualities: empathy, intuition, nurturing, nourishing, non-hierarchy, feeling, circles of support and conversation, inclusion.
What about you? What steps or practices do you take to place yourself in a position of equality?