While gender inequality is a complicated issue and there are many factors that contribute to it, women are sometimes quick to blame men for the issue. Yes, women have been subjected to subordination for millennium but it’s important to realize that as women, we have played a contributing role in our subordination, too.
Until recently, the course of human history was based on the need to protect the mother/child relationship. Our relationship to children, and to the men who have protected us, has always been the basis of our existence. Over the years we’ve been women of revolution, but we have also been “mothers of the status quo.”
Dr. Elizabeth Debold, expert on girls’ and women’s development, says our habits for deference, caretaking, and seeing ourselves through the eyes of others, especially men, still shape us from within. These operating structures are firmly etched within us and they blind us to the fact that we have achieved social equality with men.
For millennia, we’ve competed intensely with other women for the attention of men in order to survive. These habits are so ingrained in us that today, even though we are no longer dependent on men for our survival, we continue to recreate these old and familiar roles. We practice survival arts that are designed to attract and keep a man. Many of us are desperate to have and keep a relationship so we manipulate, hide and attract because we’ve become hooked on the need for affirmation. We forget that we now have a choice whether to be in a relationship or not, or whether even to have children.
Debold calls these "psychic habits of the past," and she says they are ingrained in our cells and psyches and this is holding us back. We must release ourselves from these old operating patterns in order to achieve full equality. (Of course, we must release men from their psychic habits for leading and protecting us, too.)
Men are capable of nurturing, and women are capable of leading and protecting. Women don’t have to be in a relationship, and we don’t have to have children. Men don’t need to be the breadwinners, and they don’t need to lead and protect.
Once we free ourselves from these old habits, we’ll be able to create new and better ways of working in partnership together.
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Debbie L. Kasman
Principal Newcastle Public School and Author of Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul