I want to discuss a difficult subject; powerful men hating and humiliating powerful women. It’s amazing how deeply this issue runs. The problem is that the expression of anger can be subtle, deeply steeped in our cultural biases against women. It’s so difficult to recognize, that when I have confronted men about this phenomenon, they often react in total disbelief and denial.
I’ll begin with an example. I was in a group where the leader was imploring a young woman to make some kind of personal inner change to a behavior that he deemed as bad for her personal evolution. However, she didn’t see the behavior as a problem at all, instead she thought of it as a strength. He took her response and non-compliance as a sign of disrespect.
She was completely misunderstood, and he was blind to his blindness and immune to the possibility that he could be wrong. It was an awful scenario to watch play out, and I felt so helpless to stop it. The group leader beat on the woman mentally for nearly 3 hours, shaming her, verbally abusing her, twisting her words, until she finally snapped, collapsed, and reverted to a non-verbal state, where she lay on the floor shaking for several more hours. He declared it a breakthrough. For me it was the last straw. I could no longer participate in groups where I was not the leader.
This is a cycle of humiliation and punishment, fundamentally no different than what happened to State Representative Lisa Brown.
I have seen this pattern in New Age circles as well. If a woman speaks up too firmly, she is beaten down emotionally. If she disagrees with the group leader, then she is “in her woundedness.” If she agrees with the group leader, then miraculously, she is in her “empowered self.” It’s a sick cycle of delusional thinking – where the male leader believes in the absolute accuracy of his perceptions. For me, this just points to the fragility of the leader’s ego. In my experience, it is impossible to do any serious work on yourself and not come to the conclusion that you can be wrong, about all kinds of shit, all the time.
Ultimately however, I see this as an inherited cultural bias against women. As a general rule, we are afraid of empowered women speaking up. When they do, we have derogatory phrases like, “she’s just being a bitch, or a cunt.” We need to develop empowering, viable frameworks that allow women to be heard without the subtle, female-hating, cultural biases filtering our listening.
I see self-declared enlightened men doing the same things that psycho-conservative factions do to powerful women. They do it in the name of healing and self empowerment, which is just a slightly different version of moral salvation. Even in the most liberal circles where female empowerment is encouraged, there seems to be a limit to how much liberation can be tolerated.
I’m curious what your experience with this is. To me, it’s very disturbing to watch and very difficult to approach. Power wielding males are completely blind to their own abusive behaviour towards women, hidden by delusional, omnipotent beliefs and couched as healing, protection, and salvation.
The problem is, I seldom see tangible evidence for this supposed salvation. Rather, I see men shaming and humiliating women when they go against the codified norms. In turn, I see women subjugating themselves and other women, becoming true believers, and even enforcing idealized moral behaviors.
It seems to me that a woman expressing herself with a dissenting opinion needs to be looked at as a valid expression from the very beginning – not some unhealed, immoral expression of her wounded psyche. There’s something inherently wrong with the kind of thinking that exalts dominant male leaders, like Mitt Romney, as the enlightened, all knowing, omnipotent beings. This idea is so ridiculous and simple to disprove, that I find it silly to even have to mention–but sadly–I do.
Here’s the bottom line: just because we are culturally blind to our blindness doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there. Breaking women down emotionally and humiliating them is neither healing nor salvation – it’s trauma and abuse.
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