Get a life: If women ruled the world

NST, March 17, 2013

“I, myself, have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute...” ~ Rebecca West

MARCH 8 was International Women’s Day. Every year on this day there are all kinds of programmes and messages to honour women. Every year I wonder the same thing: Why men struggle so hard to accept women, why they’re so clueless about how to treat us when everyone speaks endlessly about our worth and potential.

They say conditions are good for women in Malaysia. I believe what we see on the surface is just window dressing.

The reality is, women are second-class citizens in this patriarchal society. This is felt, rather than seen. Like emotional abuse, the activity is insidious and covert. The wounds are internal — hard to see, hard to prove — and so the perpetrators often get off scott-free.

Girls, tell me I’m imagining things. Can you tell the difference between a man who spends money on you and one who invests in you? What about the guy who lusts after you and the one who loves you?

How many women leaders and professionals are treated like Girl Fridays simply because we care enough to pay attention to the comfort of others? Worse still if we’re petite and soft-spoken. If I see another line up of pretty tray-bearers at a business function, I promise I’ll scream.

How many women leaders are bullied and our contributions discounted just because we’re gentle, preferring the more dignified approach? Who wants to morph into a street fighter and engage the male ego? Who needs the stress from power play and politics?

Must women compete with men to be successful? Margaret Thatcher, for example, is still the only woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was the first woman PM in Europe. I wonder if she was an ally of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush because she behaved like them? She is certainly smarter than them!

Madeline Albright was the first woman to become US Secretary of State. She was confirmed by the Senate with a unanimous vote of 99 - 0. Would Bill Clinton have nominated her if she looked like Gennifer Flowers?

I’m told I’m a powerful woman. People say that when I enter a room, my energy is so big it can influence how you feel. That’s intimidating, they say. It’s true that I’m totally on purpose — I work to inspire courage, confidence and freedom.

Does my authenticity and openness make you feel uneasy? I understand people are more comfortable around someone with a smaller personality.

“I don’t feel comfortable with her,” is a euphemistic way of saying, “I don’t like her,” which really means, “She’s not enough like me.”

They say that whatever we cannot accept in ourselves shows up in what we dislike about others. Perhaps you fear freedom or are so curious about what courage feels like... that when you observe it, makes you shrink back or want to escape from it? Like when we first discover our sexuality. The more taboo sex is for us, the harder it is to be with others who are comfortable with their body.

Is this why women are our worst enemies? What if women ruled the world? I’d say our first instinct would probably be to make it look as if men did! Isn’t that just typical of us “rescuers”, “pleasers” and “protectors?” We want to fix, save, please and insulate. Isn’t this how we find our worth? And because men are so fearful of uncertainty and confrontation, isn’t assuaging the male ego the easiest way for women to overcome them?

This keeps us stuck in “You versus Me” mode. Instead of complementing each other with our differences to form an integration of parts, we’re off competing with each other and comparing strengths versus weaknesses. In this pattern to cope and survive, we avoid, deny, settle, defend and resist. No growth there.

Just think. What if women embraced their womanhood? What if we sanctified our softness, our sweetness and our sensuality? Suddenly there’d be nothing to prove. We are what we are and what we are is perfect for what we are here to do.

If women ruled the world, real issues like relationships and trust would be brought to the table for discussion. I know we already have the ability to make hard men go soft but I just know if women stood shoulder to shoulder, we’d enable a more empowered existence for all.

Priorities and outcome
I’VE served my company loyally for six years and this year, because my girls are taking exams, I’ve asked that my role be reduced a bit at the office. My bosses are now unhappy with me and have found little ways to withhold from me appreciation, acknowledgment and support. How can I get over this feeling of disappointment?

IT sounds like there’s been a breakdown in your relationships at the office. This is causing you to feel disappointed. We experience breakdowns when there’s an interruption to what we’re committed to. So what are you committed to that you now feel you’re unable to have? What would need to happen to get that back again?

The other observation I have is that your disappointment is caused by something (or someone) “out there”. They are the cause. You are at their effect. That’s not a very powerful place to be. What would need to happen so that you are “at cause?” In other words, you create the outcome you want instead of having to respond to circumstances beyond your control.

Fact is, you asked for a reduced role. You wanted a reduced role because of your priorities and your bosses agreed. You caused the outcome you desired! Then your bosses withdrew from you what you had become accustomed to receiving — their acknowledgment and support.

You did not ask for this and cannot be responsible for things beyond your control — that is what other people think, feel, say, and do.

So how to get back to an empowered state is how you overcome your feelings of disappointment. Ask, “Would I prefer to be “at the cause” of my destiny or “at the effect” of other people’s actions?” What’s going to cause the shift in you is as simple as this — will you decide how you want to feel or allow others to put you into a state?

Roommates or a couple?
MY marriage has gone stale. My wife and I are like roommates. She does her own thing. She has her own friends. I want us to be a couple again but I don’t know if it would work. What if she snubs me?

WHAT if she snubs you? What’s the worst thing that could happen from this point on?
Now you’ve set an intention, you want to be a couple again. Is this something you’ve decided alone? Could this be one area to pay attention to — how inclusive you’ve been all this time? What have you done to enrol her into the outcomes of your intention? Ultimately what do you want for the both of you?

Sounds like you both need practice about being one unit! What would you do to engage her? How would you start? What do you think she’d want to hear, want to see or feel that would make her go,

“Oh, that can’t be bad. Let’s try it!”

When you have a good moment, why not ask her what type of relationship would make her happiest. Take a moment to go through what her values are — what the cornerstones of a great relationship are — to her. Some would say communication and relatedness. Others might say responsibility and integrity. Go through what that means for each of you and then see how best to co-create those things in your lives.

There! There’s one thing you can both do together that would support you no matter what the outcome!