Patronizing Psychological and ‘Spiritual’ Practices Keep Women Calm, Quiet, and Docile.
Obama said in a speech once, “We all have to be louder than the voices that are telling our girls they are not good enough, that they’ve got to look a certain way or that they’ve got to act a certain way.”
Trump once said, “A person who is flat chested is very hard to be a 10. When asked how he would change the Miss America Pageant he said, “I’m gonna get the bathing suits to be smaller and the heels to be higher.”
Donald Trump can patronize girls and women masterfully. But we women can patronize one another just as masterfully. We do it unwittingly because we have inherited patronizing psychological theories developed when there were only wealthy males in academia. Founding psychological theorists rarely interacted with developing children or women outside the clinical setting. These men developed the theories applied on us as girls, theories we now apply on ourselves and one another.
Patronizing psychological theories tell us loud and clear as girls and women that we are not good enough. Psychological theories teach us we suffer all kinds of personality confusion due to our wildly vacillating emotions. They teach us we often have trouble understanding and regulating our emotions. They teach us our alleged unconscious makes us think and do things we are unaware of. Some of us are told we have odd personality traits and difficult temperaments.
What if these patronizing psychological theories are wrong and we aren’t a big bundle of confusion to ourselves. What if we are taught our emotions and our unconscious are confusing so we strive constantly to tone ourselves down in order to be calm, quiet, pleasant, and docile? What if yoga and spiritual ideologies have only become popular so we can achieve outdated ideals of womanly perfection, the kind of perfection that requires us to be super self-aware and super positive so we stay super calm and docile all the time?
If you are a girl, the moment you first walk into a school until the day you walk out, you WILL be told you are not good enough by your predominately female teachers. Because of outdated psychological theories all teachers grew up with and have been taught to apply in the classroom, you will be asked to engage in character development activities. You will be taught that to become a woman of quality, it doesn’t just happen, you must work on yourself and develop your character. You will be taught a poorly formed character means you will never be a well-respected woman of substance.
Also, if you are a girl, as soon as you are old enough to go out into your community you WILL be told you are not good enough by mostly female yoga teachers and spiritual/energy healers. They want your money and will patronize you in the same ways Christian televangelists do, by convincing you that you need to be healed. They will frighten you about the negative energy associated with your allegedly inauthentic, egocentric self. They will insist they can help you uncover and connect with your joy-filled authentic self.
Trump fixates on discussing a woman’s appearance in patronizing ways. Patronizing women fixate on discussing a woman’s character, spirit, soul, ego, and/or authentic self.
Why do women patronize one another like this? We have we worked so hard to break free from male dominated patriarchal ideologies and televangelists. Why do we replace them with female versions of patriarchal ideologies and money grabbing spiritual and energy healers?
I believe we need to break the paradigm that has allowed both male and female driven patriarchy to exist since time out of mind. Here is an idea. We equal the playing field by understanding our human characteristics at the level of our biology, not at the completely unquantifiable and scientifically unverifiable levels of our alleged characters, spirits, souls, or energy bodies.
To do this I present a hypothesis for a new working definition of the human personality. This definition would require us to drop the glut of existing psychological and spiritual terms that are scientifically unverified and unverifiable like character psyche, temperament, ego, spirit, authentic self, energy body, and soul. These are nonsense terms with no mutually agreed upon or scientifically verified definitions or applications.
My hypothesis for a biologically accurate definition of the human personality would be this. A human is what her brain is capable of predicting in any given moment. I literally am my process of information management.
I am not the sum total of my character traits, personality traits, my soul, spirit, or psyche. I have neither an id, ego, or super ego. I am not the sum total of my behaviors because my behaviors have no agency in and of themselves. My behaviors serve to allow for and support my predictions. My personality is a reflection in a moment of how I am able to manage the information present in that moment.
The end goal of all human brain activity is to continuously assimilate and organize internal and external information in order to generate a continuous string of predictions for what to do next. To accumulate the knowledge with which to make predictions, the brain associates all the information it experiences with a neuronal pattern. The brain then stores those neuronal patterns as memory and calls them up as needed.
The brain does not care if is experiencing the arm of the person it resides in or the arm of a chair. It cannot see, hear, or sense anything itself. Everything on the outside of the skull is information to the brain, information it experiences, forms associations with, and then stores as neuronal patterns.
Although not flowery or poetic, human beings are brains and brains are information managers.
We should not be teaching our girls that the ways in which they manage information and make predictive decisions is dependent upon the quality of their character. This is patronizing, biologically inaccurate, confusing, and destabilizing. We should teach girls that the conclusions they form and the predictive decisions they make are a result of how their brains are capable of understanding and managing information in any given moment.
We should teach girls that our different decision making capacities are a result of differences in our sensory, motor, and cognitive capabilities, not differences in the qualities of our characters, psyches, souls, or spirits
In school I do not want them patronized by being told their characters have to be developed, their psyches tweaked, their consciousness raised, or their own personal emotional cues explained to them.
Furthermore, I only want my daughters to learn biologically accurate information about their brains. We expect our girls to use anatomically accurate terms for referencing their body parts. We expect them to know their vagina as their vagina. Why don’t we have the same ethos for the brain? Shouldn’t we insist our girls reference the organ with which they make decisions as the brain? Shouldn’t we protest the use of patronizing and cutsie words for the brain like character, psyche, soul, or spirit?
In today’s world, one minute we tell girls to make their voices be heard, to lean in, to self-advocate. The next minute we reprimand and patronize them for having a weakness of character, too much ego, being too self-involved, not showing enough empathy, or being too far removed from their authentic self. We patronize our girls by listing positive character traits they should attain by ‘working on themselves.’ We tell our girls loud and clear they are not good enough as they are by using patronizing and cutesie words to refer to their decision-making capacities.
I say it is time to usher in an era of biological correctness. Let’s be biologically correct so we can, as Obama requested, be “louder than the voices telling our girls they are not good enough.”