The poem above by Rupi Kaur arrived at the exact perfect moment. For the past 6 weeks I have been struggling with increasingly crippling pain from the middle of my back to the top of my head. I understood the potential physical triggers, but more importantly I was aware of the emotional triggers that started it. What was troubling, however, was the magnitude of the pain as it seemed disproportionate to the triggers. The triggers were familiar and of no surprise, but for whatever reason they hit me more deeply than usual. I applied my normal reflection and healing practices to resolve the pain, but nothing seemed to be working. I was beginning to wonder if (once again) my personal triggers, because of their universal theme, had catapulted me into something I was being called (once again) to process and transmute on behalf of the world. #shadowwork
I had an acupuncture treatment on Wednesday that helped to loosen the pain. Then on Thursday morning while doing some deep meditation and process work, Rupi Kaur’s poem showed up in my Instagram feed. I took in her words and BOOM! OMG! That’s it! The pain is mine, but it is more than mine, because it is about the deep-seated demon of misogyny and all the ways it has crippled women and men alike – a demon that we must exorcise if we ever hope to have peace and harmony in the human experience.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. Merriam-Webster expands that meaning to include: something (such as speech or behavior) that reflects and fosters misogyny. As I have been recently reminded, misogyny is not limited to the actions of men, as some women are equally guilty of beliefs and behaviors related to misogyny (the denigration of other women and sometimes men). Misogyny is sometimes obvious, often subtle and always insidious. Misogyny is at the heart of what is wrong with our world and while it is often described as a weapon that men use against women, both women and men suffer because of the sins of misogyny and women are just as often the perpetrators of misogyny. Here are a few of the subtle and not so subtle examples of misogyny as we might be experiencing them today:
• The way in which boys are socialized not to like or want to date smart girls.
• The ways in which some girls act dumb to get boys to like them.
• How some parents are disappointed when their first born isn’t a boy.
• The ways in which boys are socialized to abhor strong, courageous, independent and successful women.
• When men are intimidated by or recoil from a woman who knows herself and what she wants.
• Women who choose not to know themselves or what they want so they can fit better into the category of “male likability.”
• Men demeaning, sexualizing, controlling, and manipulating women.
• Women sexualizing or diminishing themselves to get male attention.
• Privileging male sports over female sports.
• Funding sports while defunding the arts.
• The way in which boys have been labeled as “gay” for wanting to explore theatre, choir, (and god forbid!) dance.
• Expecting women to remain in subservient roles or in jobs that have been traditionally feminine (teaching, nursing, secretary, etc.).
• The silent demeaning of men who choose careers in traditionally feminine fields (teaching, nursing, stay at home parent, etc.)
• Charging more for women’s professional attire than for a similar item in the men’s department.
• Every way in which women are silenced, ignored or mocked, when they try to share their knowledge, experience, expertise, concerns, ideas, etc.
• Every way women are condemned for “rocking the boat.” (you know, like when we try to speak our truth.)
• When women are talked over, ignored, dismissed, interrupted.
• The silent rules of complicit women.
• Women rely on manipulative (often sexual) behaviors to get a man’s attention.
• Women who sell their souls for the perceived security of status quo.
• Body shaming!
• Banishing, ostracizing, abandoning, shunning – those who refuse to hold the “party line.”
• The assumption of authority and bullying those who question or challenge that authority. (in my world, authority is not assumed, it must be earned!)
• Elevating competition over collaboration.
• Creating “winners” and “losers.”
• Making money a measure of success.
• Making God into a man. (thank you for this one Lyna Jones!)
This list is by no means complete, but I think you get the picture, and likely have a few of your own to add. Before pressing on, I want to acknowledge the dear men that I know in whom misogyny has not been ingrained, or who have purposefully chosen to root this out in themselves. They are examples of how men are meant to be in their attitudes toward and behaviors with women. They elevate, celebrate and collaborate with the women around them and to them I want to say thank you. I also want to celebrate the amazing women I know who have stepped out of the misogynistic trap and who celebrate, elevate, and uplift their sisters and who are sources of support for each other, rather than competition in the endless race to “get a man.” Thank you dear sisters, I honor you.
At the same time, it is important that WE ALL acknowledge the subtle, and not so subtle ways in which we have been conditioned and even trained by the “rules” of misogyny. We must acknowledge the ways in which we have either ignored or taken misogyny for granted – accepting it as something that “just is” and having no other choice but to deal with it. As for “dealing with it,” I call BULLSHIT! It is not ok to put up with being ignored, silenced, censored, talked over, demeaned, criticized, condemned, even punished because we do not agree to the rules laid out by misogyny. It is not acceptable that any of us should have to change our behavior, withhold the sharing of our gifts, deny ourselves our passion because some man a long time ago decided what is expected of and acceptable from women and then applied similar rules to men whose Souls do not fit within the toxic masculine paradigm. It is not ok that for centuries we have had to put up with “the rules,” often under the threat of our own lives. (Women and men have been killed for speaking and living their truth).
For 56 years I have suffered under the rules of misogyny, and I know I’m not the only one! We need to end the reign of misogyny and it starts by identifying its role in our own lives, the ways we have suffered or been complicit in its ministrations and choose another path. We start by healing ourselves of the effects of misogyny and then saying NO to its actions when it attempts to insert itself into our lives.
How have you experienced misogyny in your life and how have your worked to root it out?