What if women limit women more than men limit women? (I think I just created another tongue twister.)
Now, hear me out. This article is written by a woman who loves women and wants us all to succeed, and I’m simply raising questions that we might want to openly explore. I hope we can all be of the same heart as we discuss some new and perhaps challenging ideas, even if we may not completely be of the same mind.
It was my friend Sarah, I believe, who put words to the way I felt about that first GIRL BOSS mug I ever saw. My initial reaction at the sight of that TJMaxx find was heh! followed by mehh… a lingering sort of bad emotional aftertaste. But I didn’t dwell on it. Eventually, I saw the phrase on all kinds of stuff just about everywhere, until finally it became its own popular hashtag.
Here’s the thing: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with girl bosses, so why couldn’t I just accept it as the cute and empowering catchphrase it was designed to be? Perplexed, I scratched my head and earnestly searched my heart. Had I as a woman somehow bought into some form of sexism?
Cue Sarah. Her husband is a very successful business owner, and she herself has quite the mind of an entrepreneur. Yet she also resented the buzzword. “I just can’t imagine my husband going around proudly describing himself as a BOY BOSS or MAN BOSS,” she laughed. And I realized she’s right: it would cheapen something about him.
So here’s the first question I would like to raise. Could certain vernacular designed to empower women actually work against them?
Girl Boss, Girl Power, and all of their other well-intentioned sister phrases could actually be counter-productive to the feminist cause. Think of it this way. If a woman has to TELL people she’s awesome, it’s a lot like every time I have to explain a joke: it just isn’t effective. (In fact, often it has the opposite effect.) Unfortunately, empowerment vernacular only seems to affirm gender inferiority, not combat it. A woman’s calculated effort to be seen as powerful sends the underlying message – whether right or wrong – that she is actually insecure, and the words on her mug become like a cheap bumper sticker slapped on to distract from or hide the scratch. Or like an insecure man who drives some flashy vehicle to compensate for something he perceives that he lacks. People very easily pick up on those things, subtle as they may be.
Wouldn’t you find it harder to take a male business entrepreneur seriously if you found him wearing a BOY BOSS shirt? We would either lose a level of respect for him or take it like a joke. In that case then, I don’t know why a reasonable woman should expect promotion or for others to take her seriously when she covers her workspace with GIRL BOSS trappings. [Successful] men confidently believe they can fulfill certain needs in society, without self-esteem-boosting buzzwords littered about.
If women want to shatter glass and be taken as seriously as men are, I really think we should beware of self sabotage. I’ve come to realize that Girl Boss doesn’t sit well with me because I think it hurts, instead of helps, women.
So many women ARE girl bosses. If it’s really true, shouldn’t that speak for itself? We would use that logic in regards to men. So if we really are their equals, the same logic should apply equally to us women. (Unless we like to consider ourselves above men, where double standards and hypocrisy rule?)
Here’s the second question I would like to raise. Are exclusive women’s clubs & events counterproductive to the feminist cause?
This question has similarities to the one above.
I love it every time I hear about events specifically designed for “women in business,” for example. What I find unbecoming of my own sex is the hypocrisy when certain women among us call men “sexist” if they in turn hold business events exclusively for men. This also seems to send a self-sabotaging message from women to men: “You men ought to be held back while women advance, so that we can ‘catch up’ with you in business.” That is a thinly-veiled admission that women feel behind men, even when they claim equality and power. Worse still, it alludes that men ought to think so, too. If there is such a thing as toxic masculinity, it would seem this only fuels it.
Here’s the third question we should explore, and I admit that it is a bit of a shocker. Is ThirdWave Feminism actually misogyny (hatred of women)?
Any suggestion that the words feminism and misogyny could be synonyms at first seems absolutely ludicrous. How could the push for equality, empowerment, justice, and respect for women ever turn out to be founded on the hatred of women? And even more ironic, how could women hate themselves?
I understand the disbelief, but the colors of misogyny have shown through modern feminism… even if it’s accidental.
Modern feminists speak a lot about empowering women, but I want to tell you why the term “empower” (like Girl Boss) has stopped me in my tracks. The way I see it, women are already powerful. Super powerful. I’m certain any ThirdWave activist would enthusiastically raise a glass to that notion if they heard me say it. And yet by constantly proclaiming the need to empower women, it’s suggested that women are not already powerful. It’s underlying, but it’s loud enough to stymie us. And we’re bombarded daily with this message from feminist megaphones everywhere.
Female leaders should take care to not undermine their own message. Women are listening. Men are listening. The next generation is listening. We want women to feel powerful by reinforcing an idea that they’re not? That’s an irony in and of itself. Of all people, modern feminists should affirm the power women already have, rather than repeatedly drum a message that they aren’t.
The trouble is, I’m not convinced feminists really believe their own chants.
We as women have a lot of qualities which men are more or less incapable of having. Powerful, indeed! Let’s raise another glass to that! But whether GIRL BOSS wannabes like it or not, the reverse is also true; men have inherent characteristics which women are more or less incapable of having.
The issue is not whether women are powerful, but whether women value the power we innately possess. I would argue that ThirdWave feminism does not.
Instead, modern feminists – as well intentioned as they may be – seem to have made a competition out of gender. The game has become “which sex can be better at fulfilling the traditionally male role?” and they’ll fight to the death. ThirdWavers value the power men innately possess over the innate power of women, to the point where they utterly deny inherent differences even exist between the sexes.
To modern feminists, the masculine role seems dramatically more highly-valued than the traditionally female role… to the point of accusing homemaking women of being “traitorous” to the feminist cause. To “traditional” women, this pressure and these accusations feel as much like oppression, opposition, and hatred as any man has ever exacted against her. Misogyny, indeed.
So which gender are ThirdWavers actually obsessing over? Suddenly it seems obvious who the true traitors are.
In a nutshell? ThirdWave feminism often tends toward misogyny because it rejects the inherently “female” in favor of masculinity.
Now, I’d like to clarify something. This is not to say that men and women ought to be stuck in separate boxes which dictate gender roles. I know some influential women in high positions for which they seem made. They absolutely thrive, and remain completely their true and beautiful selves. Is this wrong, and does it automatically make her “masculine” or misogynistic? I don’t believe so, no.
Is a man who nurtures his children and does piles of “women’s work” while his wife is “winning bread” automatically feminine or lazy? No, I don’t believe that, either.
Is there really such a thing as a “glass ceiling” for women in the workforce? Are equal pay and equal opportunity still an issue on our society today? Unfortunately, probably yes.
I’m simply challenging some overall discrepancies I find broadly scattered amidst the feminist agenda. I do love building women up to become their best selves, but so far these inconsistencies are why I personally cannot align myself with ThirdWave activism. It just. hurts. women.
When women personally believe that their value is limited as long as they’re not taking on traditionally masculine roles, they are in essence despising their own sex. Is that not the very definition of misogyny? And isn’t it strange that the same women who openly hate & demonize men are the very same ones who idolize the masculine role? If they truly hate all that men represent, then why aspire to replicate all that comes naturally to them?
The irony, as it seems to me, is that these women believe they hate masculinity when in reality they hate femininity.
Fourth question. Does the empowerment of women mean elevating them as equals to men, or does empowerment involve elevating them to have power above men?
When faced with this question, I think of the woundedness of women. I know that women can be vulnerable and taken advantage of. I know the strength of men and how easily women can be hurt by them – whether intentionally or accidentally.
Now, many ThirdWavers make the point that women need “girl boss” style affirmation and are even owed special treatment to compensate for the oppression we have faced after all these years from privileged white males.
(Let me just pause to say that it’s not only white or even Western males who have sought to dominate women. This has and continues to occur across many nations, cultures, and religions still present in the world today. In fact, a Middle Eastern friend of mine dreaded returning East after 6 months in the USA, because she loved how Western white men viewed and treated her in contrast to her native culture. But that’s another discussion.)
I don’t mean to discredit those wounds. Please know that. But I do want women to be as powerful, whole, and free as we can possibly be. Counter productive mottos and ranting, tantrum-esque demands for equal- (or even special-) treatment are neither a practical nor healthy way of realizing this. Neither is punishing men or any attempt to feminize/neuter them. Even if this method was warranted, it’s not going to work, and now we’ve got to ask ourselves whether we want to be right more than we want the right outcome.
If women decide they want to climb ladders the way men do, we ought to put our heads down and work the way [successful] men do. We should demonstrate what we’re capable of without demanding special treatment or crying “victim!” or “unfair!” Have you ever seen any respectable, influential, or successful man get ahead using these methods? We ought to make our contributions to society highly sought-after, of high value, and indispensable. These are values both genders can equally share. After all, an attitude of entitlement never changed society’s views on anyone (and if it did, it didn’t come with respect.)
And if women decide to climb ladders our own way, we ought to go about it in a way that comes most naturally to our womanhood. Until more recently in world history, business and the workforce has been mostly pioneered by menfolk. It’s only natural that men have set precedents (according to the qualities that come most naturally to men), and these precedents have worked their way into the fabric of society. Living in a “man’s world” is simple cause and effect; no ill-will here. We shouldn’t call that toxic or oppressive, and it’s certainly not domineering. If women had set the precedent instead, how would we take accusations of “toxic femininity” or “female privilege” on these grounds?
It will take some healthy and wholesome pioneering, but women today have every opportunity to begin introducing their strategies and success to society. By “healthy,” I mean without the mindset of having anything to prove. It may be challenging to rise up this way when the foundations of society have already been largely fostered and set by masculine ways of filling needs and problem solving, but women forcing ourselves into roles that don’t reflect our inherent nature? That is on no one but ourselves. We know very well that square pegs don’t fit round roles, and we can’t in clear conscience continue blaming men for being who they are …or for our inability to be inherently masculine.
One last question, and I believe this is most important. If well-meaning feminists have been advocating for women in counterproductive or ineffective ways, what can they do instead?
Shattering that glass ceiling is going to take some personal responsibility on the part of women as a whole.
That responsibility includes making steps to heal from all the times men hurt us (this will mean forgiving) without demanding restitution. Man-shaming won’t inspire; in fact, that’s the low road which keeps women beneath all their glorious potential. We don’t rise up by pushing men low; we rise up by valuing our feminine identity no matter who abused us.
It will also include loving & whole heartedly supporting other women who choose to embrace traditionally feminine roles, such as house keeping, home making, gardening, cooking and baking, and motherhood. Fighting sexism isn’t about fighting men, it’s about celebrating and embracing the different ways women can contribute to society.
Women should also take responsibility by appreciating good men… not just self-deprecating or neutered guys, but all good men. There are quite a lot of them around us. And we have to stop trying to feminize them.
We as women have got to take responsibility for our own insecurities. A man’s success doesn’t rob a woman of her success, and his approval or disapproval does not affect her worth. Men are not the measure of a woman, and if society’s mind is going to change on that then we first have to believe it for ourselves.
Finally, our personal responsibility includes resisting the urge to manipulate (one of our negative inherent tendencies as women), and instead trust that in due time women WILL reap what they sow: hard work speaks for itself and it WILL pay off.
Sow respect, and you’ll reap respect. Sow justice, and you’ll reap justice. Sow equality, and that’s what you’ll reap. Empower others (even men!), and you’ll reap empowerment.
The success of women is simple. Just fill a need and do it well, then trust that in time you will reap what you have been sowing.
It all comes to this. . . .
Perhaps more often than not, women have become our own glass ceiling; perhaps we limit our own selves in many ways. Maybe our true success lies in embracing our own set of strengths instead of entrenching ourselves against “male privilege” and hating the very essence of who we are because we don’t think like men when we wish we did. Maybe we need to shatter the lie that men and women are more or less the same, and that this is how we need to define equality.
Women DO have a lot to offer, and it doesn’t come in the form of adopting male thinking. It comes with being the best version of our true selves.
And ladies… let us never forget that our true selves are FEMININE. ❤