For a long time, I thought I was inferior to men.
Wait, that’s not true. I didn’t think I was inferior. I believed it. What I thought was that I was angry about that belief, a belief that went so deep I didn’t know how to access it to turn it over and find out where it came from so I could remove it. This belief was something in my body that went beyond words.
It’s a belief most of us have. Women and men.
It’s a belief that’s weaved into the fabric of our culture, into the underpinnings of the way the current culture was made.
It’s a belief that is so ingrained that when I say something like this in the company of men, or express any frustration about women not being taken seriously, or being held back by certain assumptions, many men get really, really annoyed, because they feel as though I’m attacking them personally. Which I’m not. But the sighs and the looks and the body movements indicate frustration. Why can’t I just be pretty and shut up about this already?
When I was in Dublin once, I came across a group of men standing at a table with interfaith messages about God, what they were calling prophecies. A woman was engaging with them (because this is what people do in Dublin, it’s awesome!), and she was getting so heated in her conversation I had to stop and listen. The man behind the table had an air of calm, and he began speaking of some theory he had about different kinds of angels, or something. So I gave him a little attention, trying to discern if he was actually speaking wisdom or if it was complete nonsense. When he finished his speal, I realized it was nonsense, and I posed a question to him:
Can a woman be a prophet?
He immediately shook his head. Women were meant to have babies and take care of domestic things, he said. In no way, in no world, could a woman be a prophet.
So then I called him a liar. Because the thing I despise most is a liar. And I told him my name. And I spelled it. J-A-N-A. And I said, Remember my name.
And the woman next to me turned to me and said, “That’s my name, too.”
(Although I think she had an extra “n” or something.)
Most of us who consider ourselves progressive have fully embraced the problems in economics, the problems in race, the problems in religion, the problems in our political system, and we are conceptual when it comes to problems in gender. But we still hold on to this very deep, very powerfully problematic belief that women are inferior in particular ways, because we act according to stereotypes and have a very difficult time moving beyond them in practice. We have attitudes about women and men that are extremely detrimental to crafting a new way forward, a vision of our future that is healing and whole and embodied, something to lessen the atrocities that have bombarded us for the past few thousand years.
Problematic Belief #1
Women are unreasonable. We think that we cannot talk rationally to a woman, or engage with her about logistics and smart-thinking, because she is going to become overly emotional and freak out.
And guess what? There are times when freaking out might be totally necessary. I freaked out recently at someone who really needed to hear it, because that’s the only way certain people get the message. (Similarly to kids. Like, when I say, Don’t do that, you’re going to get hurt. Don’t do that, don’t do that. And then I lose my shit because if I don’t lost my shit someone loses a fucking arm.)
And we have a tendency to think men are more reasonable, and less emotional. Which is so not true. They just may carry it in different ways, or feel less comfortable expressing it because of societal norms.
But I, a woman, am one of the most reasonable people you’ll ever meet. I respect hearing people’s points of view. I respect that people have inherent wisdom, and I give them space while also sharing my point of view. I don’t elevate myself above other people. What pisses me off is when I see someone doing that to me, on account of I’mma woman so I must not know.
Problematic Belief #2
We think that women are further from God, with less access to the divine. We think, as that man in Dublin thought, that women cannot teach us something holy. Something is inherently dirty and tempting about these evil woman-folk.
Women used to be respected as healers, as seers who were in tune with the earth. Midwives used to be sought after for their knowledge of the human body, of how to give birth to and keep a new life healthy. (Which is pretty important!) But a new wave started ushering itself in, a wave of technology and extreme rationality, an agenda that discounted and discredited the way women healers operated and managed their lives for centuries. And we’re in the throes of those consequences today. Don’t even get me started on childbirth in this country, in the focus on cutting women open so they never know the power of their own bodies.
Christianity was not the first to undermine women, but Christo-centric culture does it well. Jesus was a man, rigid people say. And Paul made some comment about women not being priests in the church. And women have that powerful sexuality and beauty you have to be wary of. And so we’re allowed to be nice to women, the way we’re nice to our animals. We tell them they can contribute. We tell them they matter. But it’s just better all around to keep them on a leash and go watch a lot of porn to get our rocks off.
And baby, that Holy Mother? She is no kind of woman to be kept on a leash. She is so fucking ready to break free and show some leg and some shoulder and bang out a funky dance. You just watch.
Problematic Belief #3
The old guard has this idea that men’s success in life is in making money and gaining prestige, and women’s success is in lunching and communing and raising children, keeping a house in order. And so the two sexes form a perfect pair, a perfect whole.
But this is not the way things operate anymore. First, we are starting to recognize that gender is not so stuck or rigid. We can all (and should all!) embody both masculine and feminine qualities within us. Next, if women can make just as much money as men, we don’t need to rely on men to make all the money. Heck, everyone wants someone to make all the money! Making money carries a lot of pressure! But if women are showing themselves to be capable of operating in this other milieu, we need to see men similarly adapt in alternate environments. It is time to move forward from a place of new understanding, a new dynamic for us all to uncover and live into.
So there is a new version of “success” developing in our culture, and we all need to spend some time learning about it, observing it, and learning. Women are leading the way, because it’s just time, and that’s just how it’s happening, and you can’t ignore the nature of reality.
But this doesn’t mean we need assholes of any gender taking charge. There are plenty of women assholes. Assholery goes beyond gender. What we need are kind, strong, good-hearted warrior people persevering and guiding us forward.
And they will. And they are.