It has been hard for me admit to myself, in a vocation swarming with quality woman, that a female could still feel unequal in 2014. There is a joke we tell of how it’s ok to be anything except a middle-class white guy. All my bosses are women. My wife’s a woman and she is perfectly capable of handling me if she chooses. I usually hang around with women. Women aren’t equal?
There are a ton of things to write about here but I like looking at the weird stuff. It may not surprise you to learn that men, by the mean, have difficulty understanding, on an emotional level, what it feels like to be just shy of five-feet tall. I’m 6 feet plus 2, I have a black belt so that I can be blissfully misinformed. I grew up with lots going on and excelled with a ball in my hands (shut up Cory). I have no idea what it would be like to have a partner who can beat the crap out of me on a whim. My wife could take me, I’m not allowed to hit girls. My mother will hurt me. My father would be disappointed, a man in his 70’s whom every woman loves. I dare you to take the challenge.
I have never known physical violence that I didn’t initiate or deserve.
So when I tell you that I am only now beginning to understand, I ask you to excuse my large frame of mind. The sheer volume of fear I have listened to has begun to ring true. I learn slow. Of course I know this stuff intellectually, I can read. But I am still partly a man, and most of us have difficulty with emotional intelligence when it comes to this kind of stuff.
So many women who live with fear every day of their lives. I could never really understand, as a younger man, why women were afraid to walk alone. I love walking alone. It’s zen, baby. So when you told me the first few hundred times, it sounded a bit ridiculous. I’m not excusing what was. I’m the tallest one in my family. I hang around with ninjas. I’m a white male who plays with weapons.
To all my patient female friends who have not given up on me, you win. It was a good fight, figuratively speaking, but I might be getting a taste. I am constantly amazed at the burden others can carry, and fear has to be one of the worst emotions with which to run a tab. The anxiety, the depression, the trauma, it may not be biological. Imagine you have emotional Fibromyalgia. Everything hurts and it doesn’t make sense and everyone is a potential problem. People with Fibromyalgia live in a body that is constantly in varying states of shock.
Some people live in that state, on an emotional level as well. I have heard the stories. She ran into the McDonalds only to find the two sketchy males in hoodies were only 11 or 12. The right makeup to wear if you have a bruise. What mood is walking through the front door tonight? I always believed that my home was my safe place. What if it isn’t? Any counsellor can tell you that living in that heightened state of tension releases chemicals all over your body. Things change in your core. Things are released in your brain… and in your mind. You learn words like cortisol and neurochemistry. The diet can take a hit. You no longer sleep through the night. The motor is already running and you haven’t even had coffee yet.
Here’s Wikipedia: Cognitive conditions, including memory and attention dysfunctions, as well as depression, are commonly associated with elevated cortisol, and may be early indicators of exogenous or endogenous Cushing’s. Patients frequently suffer various psychological disturbances, ranging from euphoria to psychosis. Depression and anxiety are also common.
Cortisol is a good thing that can become a very bad thing. Other things happen neurologically that are not in your best interests. The words self, medicating, and behaviours, are used one after another in the same sentence. Fear can do that to a person, to an emotionally vulnerable person. Let’s be honest, most of us are emotionally vulnerable. You know how this sentence ends. Weight gain or loss, body image, self-esteem, problems with relationships, fear, anxiety, the whole toolbox from hell.
This is the kind of stuff people like me hear all day, every day. It’s not an isolated incident and if you can relate to any of this I will remind you that there are hundreds out there. Thousands. Millions. You have been saying it for years and you are absolutely right. Everyone does have mental health issues. We didn’t know this because there was a time, not so very long ago, when talking about this thing of ours was not really popular. People who went to see a counsellor were somehow “less”. Well baby, it’s now 2014 and daddy’s got a new pair of pants. It’s all good, all of a sudden.
I have become firmly convinced that each and every one of us needs some help, sometimes. It is the human experience. I do not think I could do this without a great deal of help from a couple of people who walk life right beside me. I have at least two other worlds of friends from different hats I have chosen to wear. I need those people very, very much. But I digress.
What does it feel like to be small? I walk around blissfully ignorant of the war that women feel everyday in every part of the world. Or am I wrong? Here’s the thing – this is a blog. It’s not in my book yet so it doesn’t have to be a finished product. Could this be true?
Like I said, I’m recent to this. Time for class. Talk to me.
5 thoughts on “Women Aren’t Equal?”
I’m less afraid of physical harm now that I’m divorced (from a man small of both stature and mind). I do fear surprise, as in a stranger’s face appearing on the other side of a window at night. (This happened to me once, as a teen, perhaps the source of that particular fear, but I can’t imagine that there is anyone who would not be fearful of being startled in that way.) Ironically, being made afraid also then pisses me off and the circumstances of the moment change my reaction. For example, just a few years ago I was at my computer when a young man appeared walking down the incline next to the window. We spotted each other at the same time, both froze. He then backed up and disappeared. My anger kicked in. What, I can’t even sit in my own bedroom and enjoy the blinds open without some moron snooping on the property? I ran outside to give him hell (which I’d done with others before him), but he was gone. I phoned 911 and the first thing the operator said was ‘Okay, well don’t go outside’. I cruised the neighborhood looking for him. I’m sure he was just exploring what appeared at that time to be an interesting empty house, but he had no right to startle me when there was a ‘no trespassing’ sign in the driveway. I have become much stronger with strangers since my divorce. I’m not afraid to tell someone how I feel, or to step closer to tell them what I expect them to do…or stop doing. Perhaps years of cowering out of a desire to keep all my teeth, and in turn demolishing my dignity, created a personality that can take only so much before I stand up and am ready for whatever action seems appropriate to me. I don’t back down to anything that feels like a put-down. I’m not afraid of strangers unless there are circumstances that support that fear, so I become annoyed with my older sister who sees a serial killer round every tree–we have a right to enjoy the day and it ticks me off to know she may nix a walk in the park because there’s another car in the parking lot. I see someone who’s pulled over for an animated conversation on his cell phone because the signal disappears one more mile down the road. She sees Ted Bundy’s cousin. I have healthy fear, but I am still angry at how I was treated for two decades and I found my inner ninja and am always ready to fight the good fight for my own truth and justice.
I am a small woman (108 lbs). In younger days I had lots of guys flocking about me and my share of experiences around men that have moulded the way I behave around their sex.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great guys out there. But there also those who still treat women like a disposable lighter. We gals have to be wary because we don’t know who is who. Even if we are wary , it’s my bet that most of us don’t get away unscathed – or ungrabbed at some point in our lives! Or worse! And I’m even more willing to bet that my stories are more the norm than might be thought.
Here’s my short list of the most memorable moments. I had an uncle who abused me before I was old enough to know what that meant. In my early twenties, I was nearly raped by some big football dude who cornered me outside a pub while I was trying to find a washroom. I was lucky he was very drunk, and while he was trying to tear my top off, I managed to kick him in the softest part of his anatomy and escape. As he backed me into a dark corner, he kept saying I was asking for it because I was dressed ‘like this’. ‘Like this’ was shorts and a crop top that every other girl had on at the time. Then there was the time I worked in a pub as a student because the money was good and was grabbed by the crotch by a guy I had known all my life and considered a friend. Drunk guys are the worst!
I bet if I asked my friends, most of them would have stories like this to tell. We have to be careful out there with you guys. What amazes me isn’t that we are cautious or afraid around men but that so many of us actually go on to lead relatively healthy, productive lives with men in spite of all this. I think I may have got that one from you Scott, but it’s damn true.
I don’t sit with my back to a door. Having someone come up too close behind me when I’m sitting in a chair can trigger an automatic freeze response or cause me to dissociate. For most of my adult life, during sex, my mind has disconnected from my body and found someplace safer to go. Try telling that to a guy when he asks you, “Was it good for you?”
I’m not a small woman – I’m 5’7″ and weigh 300 pounds, weight I believe my subconscious chooses as means to protect me. I once only dated (and married) shorter, slighter men, imagining perhaps that I would somehow be safer that way. But I learned the hard way that, if a man truly wants to take something from me physically, my superior height, wearing the weight of two people, or knowing self-defence strategies are worthless at best.
At that point, my only protection is to separate my mind from my body. Not an ideal solution, it turns out, as it has a tendency to happen in situations in which I’m NOT under actual threat. But we don’t always get to choose our mind’s coping mechanisms.
Perhaps the saddest part is that, as I become more self-aware and do the work to unearth and heal the trauma buried inside, the more acutely aware I become of the threats around me. Not only physical closeness feels more dangerous, but emotional intimacy as well. How do I even conceive of finding a mate and partner who would be willing to live with my periodic forays into darkness?
That’s not a dating profile tagline you’re likely to find on eHarmony.
I’m not small, but my mother ensured I knew every possible awful thing that could happen to me, on a regular basis. Crowds are a nightmare. I walk alone; I enjoy the walk, but being on guard is part of the workout. I never listen to anything like an iPod so I’m able to hear what’s going on around me. I’m constantly thinking through what I will do if… The frustrating… annoying… sad part is that all the abuse happened at home.
Sleep deprivation is a great tranquilizer. You’re too tired to care about whatever happens.
Fear is confusing. Abusers mess up a perfectly natural and healthy response to dangerous situations by taunting the victim or using their fear against them. Not to mention putting them in a dangerous situation randomly or all the time. Being so hyperaware makes it difficult to not overreact to normal events.
I like the comparison to Fibromyalgia. That’s helpful. I don’t have it, but I work for a doctor who specializes in it and have a number of friends and family members who struggle with it.
I do not understand the need for the first cup of coffee.
A book I found helpful in better understanding my perception of fear was “The Gift of Fear.” I’ve actually improved.
Is there fear everywhere? Yes, if you have been traumatized and abused. I can’t say that he was my first abuser, but he was a football player and I weighed 105 pounds. Before that was my father and before that was the 15 year old son of my mother’s best friend. I was 5 years old. After a marriage to an abuser and then another one to a sociopath, I am done. I play down my fading looks and God forbid a man look me with interest. I totally freeze in fear. I can no longer trust myself to detect evil. Yeah, men hurt me and I don’t trust me…