In celebration of women’s history month, I made this video to share a different approach to moving past the patriarchal conditioning that is holding us ALL back, including men. Why not lift those up who are embodying what we are trying to create?
Please watch this video and read my thoughts below on the challenging topics of feminism and patriarchy and how it’s SO DAMN HARD to talk about this stuff without people getting SO OUTRAGED on all sides.
I hope you watch and read it with an open mind and open heart.
Throughout my life, and specifically as a female entrepreneur and CEO, I have dealt with the politics and hypocrisy of being a woman. And not just against “the patriarchy,” but among women.
On one hand, I’ve built pro-women companies that fight to eliminate shame around periods and poop, and on the other, I was deemed “not feminist enough” because I didn’t brand myself with all of the #relevant feminist paraphernalia and define feminism exactly as some other women would.
On one hand, I hired bright women who support other women through their actions and ideas, and on the other, I worked with some women who shouted about how “woke they are” about “their deep understanding of intersectionality” and they ultimately were the meanest of the mean girls to one another (and to themselves).
Believe me, it’s not mutually exclusive. If you’re confused, so was I.
Outside of my own experience, a record number of women were just elected to office (an incredible feat), but on the other hand, the women’s march split into factions. This made the public question whether women can protest together, let alone work together.
We lack an ever-changing rule book for how to behave as modern women and leaders, attempting to disrupt the business world, the political world, and the media.
After experiencing this inter-gender hypocrisy first-hand, on top of researching its historical context, I believe that part of this female on female hypocrisy is a mirror to the patriarchal conditioning that we are so deeply wrapped in still.
Women are told to be stick skinny, but judged for not having voluptuous breasts and a big butt. If they do have curves, they are “too much” and are told to “tone it down” with their clothing styles and personalities.
If women don’t speak up, “it’s their fault for not advocating for themselves”. But if women do speak up, they’re too loud, pushy and aggressive.
Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that women give birth to all men (and all humans) and, after being held inside our wombs for nine months, birthed, breastfed and often raised primarily by women, some men turn around and oppress women, especially in certain parts of the world.
When there is so much hypocrisy to simply being and existing as a woman, it’s easy to want to march in fist-pumping-protest.
However, the way to fight the hypocrisy is not through outrage. Outrage had value in getting us here. But now the only people who really win from it are the media because it lets them benefit from the sensationalized conflict. Oh, and oppression wins too of course.
Ultimately, the more outrage, the more divisiveness. The more divisiveness, the more conflict grows. The more conflict, the more it strengthens the patriarchy.
Then everyone loses.
Men are victims of the patriarchal conditioning too. It’s not as though this generation of men decided to oppress women; this pre-conditioning has built since the Neolithic times.
The way to build a bridge is not by wearing “The future is female” t-shirts. That does exactly what we have been fighting against: being excluded.
Rather than fight fire with fire, we must go a different route.
The way to fight the patriarchy is two-fold.
The first is through our wombs. I figured this out after learning about the Bonobo apes.
Female bonobo apes have a very strong bond with other female bonobos. Whenever an aggressive male bonobo tries to mate with a female bonobo, the other females come together and shun the male away. Thus, an aggressive male bonobo will rarely (if ever) procreate with that group again. Female bonobos choose to procreate with only the kindest, gentlest, most loving male bonobos, and in one generation the females can transform an otherwise aggressive society into a kind, gentle loving one.
Ladies (and specifically those who want to mate with a man), can we learn from the female bonobos? Can we (starting with the majority of women in this country) choose to partner only with the kindest, gentlest, most loving men and say no to those who are unwilling to put in the time to do any self-work?
Just one generation ago, women were mostly not in the workforce, so did not have nearly as much say as they do today. Today, 64% of mothers are either primary or co-breadwinners. The power dynamics are shifting fast so women are more freely able to pick their partners.
Imagine if ALL women came TOGETHER and only chose kind, loving partners with whom to raise children? What would happen to the world? Dare I argue, in one generation… PEACE?!!
The second way to fight the patriarchy is by meeting men (and our historically patriarchal society) where they are. Over time, women will be able to show them the way to true equality. It feels annoying to have to “meet” anyone, especially the men who have oppressed women, but it’s a smarter tactic that requires fewer voices being raised.
I give the example in my book, Disrupt-Her, of Whole Foods Market and how it used to be a vegetarian store. Founder John Mackey shared with me that they almost closed their business because Americans were not ready to “be vegetarian”. He had to decide on whether to be “outraged” at everyone who ate meat, or meet people where they were by offering the best meats available and then teaching them the benefits of a plant-based diet once “in”.
Well, it worked. Whole Foods will top $19 billion in sales in 2019 and millions of people have now adopted a plant-based diet. All because he chose to meet people where they were.
Similarly, if women met men where they are with patience and empathy and taught them over time, we would have a much more effective, long lasting strategy of equality. Meeting men where they are shows them that sharing emotions and authentic feelings is not weakness, but true strength. It’s a slower method, but more effective than getting angry and marching against them, especially today.
There is clearly no magic bullet for solving for this BIG, NUANCED TOPIC but if we followed the above two tactics, we could powerfully begin the transformational shift this world so direly needs to end both women-on-women hate and patriarchal preconditioning, once and for all.
Thank you Erica Berger for helping edit this piece.