Why Are Men So Afraid of Powerful Women?
My thumbs flicked upward as they dragged across the screen, scanning my feed, seeing the women I’ve known for years voice their beautiful opinions loudly and proudly out into the wide-open world of cyberspace. After several of these women made comments which gave me pause — in all the right ways — I stopped and thought to myself, cracking a devilish smirk out of the side of my mouth: I love powerful women.
In truth, over the years, it appears that I’ve been building some long-lasting and deep friendships with all of the right people, and many of those people are strong, opinionated, independent women. I must say, I like being in awe like that moment I just shared, where my jaw falls down in amazement with a giggle that creeps up from the back of my mind.
There is the woman who survived a brutal rape and sexual assault and turned it into her life’s mission to help other women, the same woman who helped me to see and understand how the world really works, how the world is set up to protect predatory men by keeping them from reaching their full potential. It is an honor to know her though she angers many, many people by way of her mere existence and speaking. They wish they could silence her but she’s too powerful to allow them any ground to be gained.
There is the woman I know who cast all of her belongings and her entire life to the side to rush to North Dakota, half of a country away, in order to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline on the behalf of Native Americans, people she’d never met.
I remember everyone telling her that she’s crazy, I remember supporting her when they were spraying hoses and firing tear gas into the crowds. I remember being one of the only people who supported her in this. Frankly, I’m amazed at the people that I know and slightly made uncomfortable by them, intimidated — and that’s a very good thing.
We should be challenged by our friends, regardless of their sex. I think many men don’t ever grow to a point where they can view women as anything more than potential sex objects or prior sex objects. Trust me guys, it’s well worth your time to begin to understand that women can make amazing friends.
I’ve always been drawn to strong women, friends or lovers, and it’s the magical ingredient in my relationship that makes me truly feel at home. It’s absolutely necessary that I respect my partner (and my friends, for that matter) as equals. I enjoy having people in my life who are stronger than I am in certain areas of life, at accomplishing certain tasks, and those who challenge me to be better in the areas where I perform poorly. They hold me to my word, they show me what quality people are like on a daily basis, and so much more.
But the question still lingers…why?
Why do I look for such people and seem to magnetically draw them to me and keep them? And the inverse of this question is why so many men are repelled by strong women? I think I have an idea towards an answer…
I tend to view relationships on an axis. It’s the love-power axis.
- Love: On the one side, we have love and all of the things that fall under the category of love, such as responsibility, support, care, compassion, understanding, listening, giving, and sacrifice.
- Power: One the other side, we have power, control, manipulation, submission, violence, obviously. But we also have things like prestige, impressing other people, status, and yes, of course, money and looks.
In the center, we have things like attraction, which is partially love-based, partially power-based. Similarly, the pursuit of mutual goals is towards the middle, as is the defense of mutual territory.
I believe that if a human being is left unattended, to their own devices, absent quality parenting from parents who understand how to love, all from within a cultural framework of radical individualism like the ones we have here in the west, they’ll tend toward power dynamic rather than love dynamic. I think that love is something to be learned, something to be witnessed, and there just aren’t a whole lot of solid examples of love and dedication in our culture. Our friendships often become predicated upon zero-sum losses and gains in this culture of hyper-individualism, eyeing for a gain here, defending against a loss there, and people become little more than instruments with which we achieve our material ends. This is pitifully unhealthy.
Given enough time, even our very identities and subscription to the ideals of masculinity which are held before us as the golden Form of what we should aspire to become mere instruments towards the ends of manipulating others out of material aims, be it a currency or political sway, sex or the appearance of affection. Western culture treats relationships as something you do to acquire what you need for yourself, not things you engage in as ends-in-themselves.
I think any quality relationship must be built with the opposite framework in mind. In love-based relationships, material goods (including wealth) are merely instruments to the end that is peace and harmony amongst our family, our tribe, our communities at large. The end should be happy living, but we pretend and feign happiness in order to achieve our material ends every single day. How backward are we?
I think this cultural framework is the major explanation for why so many men out there cannot handle being around powerful women. We reflexively become angry, agitated, and even hostile at even the sight of a powerful woman expressing herself. When a woman doesn’t just fall in line, that woman can’t be controlled — she cannot be an instrument, she’s a free subject of her own making and her own ownership, and many men cannot handle it.
It is odd, isn’t it? The phenomenon of readily-hostile men, ready-made to reflexively flinch and strike at a moment’s notice. This is because, in my view, we’ve placed so much responsibility of maintaining control at the feet of our individuals (under individualism) that most people don’t have the cognitive or emotional capacity to handle such a load without breaking down, fracturing within and eventually feeling completely ostracized, without help, alone, isolated, and despondent. Absent a well-established community of loving others, people tend to be desperate and afraid, which isn’t a good place for anyone to be. If you’re anything like me, loving people are remote and hard to find. I had to become that kind of person first and draw those people to me afterward. I won’t lie to you, this is no easy task, but it’s a worthwhile task.
It is hard, I’ll admit, to change yourself from within such a pervasive and unrelenting culture like ours — but I can assure you from the opposite shores of love, caring, and genuine affinity for the others I care about, it’s much worth it. We start by first making a decision, the decision that we’re going to consciously and actively learn to see the humanity in other people, the immaterial substance of thought, emotion, and process behind the eyes of the other; their perspective, their impressions, their expressions, and all of the other things that cannot be reduced to a mere frozen static snapshot of atoms.
We must reach out to our brothers, as well, and hold them accountable but more so, be there for them. What’s really going on in the lives of men around us and how can we bridge the gap and establish loving and compassionate male relationships with the other guys around us? Fostering a new outlook on life is a challenge but it’s one that’s undeniably needed. Stop and look around at the friction, the tension, and I know that in your quietest hours, alone and in the dark, you feel that deep and gnawing sense of isolation and dread, and I want you to know that it can all go away. We just need to make a choice to live in the world of love and dismiss power when and where we can. Once we transform ourselves within, the world transforms without as we see it through the lens of different means to different ends, reversing the goals with the material means to attain those goals.
Thank you for reading. I highly recommend a book that changed my life when it comes to loving of all sorts, from parental loving, familial loving, self-loving, and romantic loving, Erich Fromm’s work The Art of Loving is truly a game-changer for anyone interested in learning how to better approach the subject of loving, transforming relationships from something we experience to something we actively do and participate in. Erich Fromm’s words have stuck with me for much of my adult life and have made my relationships better in virtually every instance where I’ve applied his words and ideas, and I know it’ll likely do the same for you. The Art of Loving can be found through an affiliate link here. Full disclosure: I may make a small commission from any sales made.