The world continues to speak about issues between women and men, between rich and poor, between people of different cultures and races. Good, important, and necessary. This month I want to add the element of how women treat each other into the mix – this piece is not just for women – we all bear witness to and experience these social incongruences.
In my practice I am seeing so many beautiful, scary, and tender layers being worked between women. In my own home world, I spent hours talking my teary and confused daughter through a heartbreaking situation of bullying and exclusion towards a “new” child. This can be such a confusing topic and was not addressed sufficiently at school for my child to understand and settle. This was actually good as it meant we got to address it here at home. In listening to the story it became clear that the children were not being malicious, exclusionary, or intentional in their actions – kids can be blunt and their curiosity can come out in powerful ways. How we hold these actions, whether with children or with our peers, can make a mighty big difference. As more information about what actually happened came to light, one of the alarming things I heard were reports that the girl who was bullied “did not mind” being bullied, and there was an implication that this made things OK…
Yikes, THIS is trauma.
THIS is the way women, and girls, are trained to make not ok things ok.
Most of us have “school” trauma in our bodies so we can get confused and or silent around these issues when they arise. Yet as parents and community members, these small things are the very things that need our full attention, care, and action. This trauma is BTW a symptom of patriarchy – patriarchy is not a man thing, it’s a culture thing and women perpetuate this culture right alongside of the men we are inclined to blame. Patriarchy supports division, separation, and competition, and puts everyone’s basic (and essential) sense of belonging at risk. Big problem
and the results are in – epidemic levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, and a deeply broken and sick culture, whoa.
Ever overheard, or been in a situation where a woman has spoken intensely and negatively (aka hatefully) about another woman?
Did it make your body feel funny? Did you just kind of push through?
How did you participate (because if you were there, you participated)?
Did you join in or did you hold silence, or did you interrupt the violence?
Just so you know, the statistical likelihood that you spoke up is very, very low. This is a brain thing AND as with most brain things, we can change our responses and reactions. Step one, train yourself to speak up, train your children to speak up. Train yourself to say something, even if it is not “perfect” or super articulate (this is how we justify silence and maybe this was righteous in the past when our very lives were on the line).
Back to the storyline: the speaker was probably speaking righteously, sharing how horrified or amazed they were that that woman would do that thing… so much body language, so much compelling information. Surely this woman must be right… and come to think of it… yep I think I
saw/remember/heard. This is how it goes. Another brain thing, another animal thing—we are wired to belong, it is stronger than morality—unless we choose to change our response, we may perpetuate the injustice.
Imagine a world where we refuse to speak about another human if they are not present. (There are exceptions, a good discernment question can be: “Would I be saying this about if the person was in the room?” If it’s NO, stop.)
Imagine a world where we have the courage to name that uncomfortable feeling inside us when these exchanges happen.
The terribly separated state between us hurts everyone and this is something we CAN change. There is so much that we can’t, it’s important to have a handful of things that are possible to work with and change in our lives!
Humans competing (though women typically do not directly compete, we sneak-compete), demonizing, hurting each other via shrouded gossip, subtle and not subtle criticism, facial expressions and body language… lots of these are hard to “prove” and easy to deny. So again, we tend to override the discomfort in our bodies and be quiet instead of speaking up and working together to dismantle these habits which keep us apart.
This bears repeating: patriarchy is not a man thing, patriarchy is an everybody thing and the healing of the patriarchy-induced sense of brokenness and separation, well, it takes work, it takes time, it takes willingness – to both support and challenge each other. It also takes reflection around our own habits of rejection and exclusion, and those subtle and overt actions we take as “normal” in our every day interactions – even though our bodies tell us otherwise.
This better world, this more loving community, this closer and more connected baseline we all seek, it is right here. Simple, not easy – and like most precious things, worth the effort.