“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic” says Serena Williams' voiceover in the new 'Dream Crazier' Nike ad - something we already know. For centuries women's ideas and ambitions have been devaluated and ridiculed. Yet, we're told we have equal opportunity and if we fail to seize it, clearly it's our own fault.
It's best not to read comments on Twitter, but against my own rule I went through the thread that followed when UN Women posted about the Oscars and why there's only 21% women film makers. Many men responded with hostility. Surely if women were able to make great films there would be more women film makers. It's not about gender, it's our own fault that we can't do this, they commented.
The patriarchal system was designed to take away the feminine power, our intuition and creativity, our ambition and our drive. Women were to serve the system in ways that would be defined by men.
The patriarchal system was not built on nature's need for balance. It was built on masculine way of being.
Women and men carry both feminine and masculine energy (to a different degree), but for the past 5,000 years the feminine way of being was shamed and only certain aspects of femininity were acceptable by the society (built by men). This has led to systematic abuse and ridicule of women’s ideas, which by nature, are often based on different value system than men’s. There’s nothing wrong with that. It's great that men and women have different ideas and values, it's the ying and the yang.
But as the feminine values were not appreciated and balance wasn't high on the agenda, feminism tried to fix this first by women becoming more like men. We were to play the ‘masculine game’. That only left women frustrated and confused as they never got to shine their true inner, feminine brilliance.
We’ve always been called crazy, emotional. The masculine way is linear, it's designed to hunt down a bear, not to analyse the consequences or emotions in doing so. So too much emotion was mocked and emotional women were even locked up in institutions.
The ‘weaker’ sex, our livelihood depended on the approval of men. If we didn’t conform, consequences were life threatening. Those days are now, mostly, over. In the Western world, our lives no longer depend on someone making us feel small.
The system's way of belittling is like a net, it covers us. It's always been there and very difficult to pin point.
Devaluing female contribution is like the air we breathe so we don't question it. It's difficult to put your finger on exactly what is wrong as the system conspires against your dreams and ideas.
A horrifying example comes from Ernst & Young, a company who in the public eye flaunts its diversity agenda. Karen Ward spoke up about sexual discrimination and got retaliated.
“One male executive told her to “be careful” because she was “being perceived as a bitch". Under threat, men in charge may use hostile or inappropriate comments, exclusion, sexual overtures to make a woman feel like an outsider and essentially keep her in her place.
“Could this be because I’m a woman?” she said. He dismissed the idea and told her to be careful about raising the gender issue. “Don’t push that rock up the hill, it will roll back on you and crush you.”
Organisation's lack of female leaders is no accident but the result of an environment where women are demeaned, devalued and isolated.
We are silently hushed away, dismissed, our worries are pushed under the carpet and not taken seriously. After all, our worries are about patriarchy crushing us so how could the system help?
Though most men you and me know want nothing to do with patriarchy, think putting women down is against humanism and makes no sense at all, some men are still tangled up in the old patriarchal beliefs. And all women who have made it to 'the other side' have a story to tell. We all have faced the contempt and shaming, putting us down, breaking our self-esteem, losing our hope and confidence.
Lady Gaga recently shared her demeaning experience:
“I had a boyfriend who told me I’d never succeed, never be nominated for a Grammy, never have a hit song and that he hoped I’d fail. I said to him, ‘Someday, when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coffee at the f—ing deli without hearing or seeing me.”
We all have had that boyfriend. The one who's sweet on the outside but silently keeps putting you down. I married one, he was "a catch". For many years I was playing directly into the patriarchal game without ever noticing. Finally, I realised that someone or something was keeping a lid on me: keeping me small, not wanting me to be too successful, too sexy or too smart. That day I opened the lid and I left him.
For a long time, I didn't want to write about the system, the patriarchy. Perhaps for the same fear of being labeled as "a bitch". And that's the greatest trick of all! It's the same trick that kept women silent about sexual harassment until #MeToo movement. Nike has done an incredible job bringing this issue of belittling out in the open. It's not just about sports, it's about every way women are made to feel small.
It's now time to stop beating about the bush. We can't keep hiding away from this agenda. We must open our eyes and extend #MeToo to all silencing of women, all belittling, all demeaning behaviour. In the office and at home.
Equality is not a fight. You are not small.
Ladies, we have to prove nothing to nobody. We don't have to fight anyone. All we need to do is to stop believing we are small. This is easier said than done. If you are feeling small and lack self-confidence it’s not your fault. The belittling-mechanism has been passed on for generations.
Think about this. Only 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to run marathons.
So next time when you feel small, overwhelmed and confused, please remember this: it is not who you are. There’s an enormous deposit of energy and drive inside of you. There’s eternal brilliance wanting to burst out.
It is up to us women to start believing in our own brilliance. We must start believing that you can dig it out, that you can brush off the layers of silent ridicule. Nobody else can do it for you. And nobody else will.
You can wait for the world to change or you can start changing your own world.
Let's start now!
Let's make a plan! (Because it won't happen overnight.)
Repeat after me: “In three years time I will be free from feeling small in my... job, relationship, in life."
Then identify the smallest step you can take right now to move away from that feeling, the struggle.
Remember, if your brilliance is not appreciated, take your brilliance elsewhere. When we choose to stay in a belittling environment we choose to support the old system. It's a choice.
It's our responsibility to start valuing our own life. This is not a message against anyone else, it's a message about our inner positivity.
It’s our job to not only save ourselves but to help men heal. When we step into our power, follow our dreams and celebrate our ideas the world will learn that there's nothing to fear. Who wouldn’t want to be in a company of a person, a woman or a man, who’s confident in her own skin, approaches people with humility and respect, and is confident to use her inner strength for the betterment of the whole world?
That is to be celebrated. And those dreams aren’t crazy.
It's our mission at DrivenWoman to create a safe space where women can start to celebrate those dreams and step by step make them happen.