More often than not, Women use Men as speed-dial scapegoats: Men are to blame for the patriarchy and why Women hate and rage.
I get it.
As a witness and former contributor to the hate and rage game, I understand the relief that comes with projecting one’s frustration and fears onto someone else, something other than the source. The appeal is clear since the alternative would require self-awareness, unfiltered acknowledgment of your own responsibility plus the commitment to change.
My gut tells me the not so secret and well-aged taboo of why and how Women bash Women has been slowly kindling a fire in my head for some years now. The recent and shameless Women on Women and Women on Men bashing seen across the media, struck a new chord with me.
What better time to tackle old shit with a new reality and a peppering of grace, eloquence, and truth, than right now?
Tall order for a taboo topic. I know. I’m a go big or go home kind of woman.
I shared the story’s vision with a dear friend: by education and training, she is a licensed social worker, trauma-informed therapist, Reiki practitioner and healer. She has worked the front lines and lives in the deep and dark with Women and Men around the world As a human, she helps me along my tumultuous train of thoughts.
She tipped her head ever so slightly to the right, with a slight grin and spoke.
‘Oh, you want to talk about internalised patriarchy?’
My response with a bigger grin: ‘Oh right, that’s what this is….’
Here we are. Let’s talk about internalised patriarchy.
First, let’s step back ten years. I was neck deep in a corporate climate that I joined when I was twenty. Fresh then and fresh again: I was hungry for answers.
I wanted to understand root cause patterns for what I witnessed, year in, year out. I wanted to brush shoulders with novel behaviour practices, the concept of feminine and masculine energies. Out with the politics and linear, results-oriented rat race financial goals and in with an emotionally intelligent and positive psychology based personal development for personal and professional gain.
Years of immersive work with therapists, coaches and mentors were the requisite route to understanding what went on behind the scenes of big corporations. It started to make sense, why Women do what they do: the survival techniques, strategies, and life hacks we blindly busy ourselves with to stay afloat.
The skewed money mindset, the hardwired perceptions and the limiting beliefs that keep us stuck all of this led me to a place where I can say – hand on my heart – that I get it.
Internalisation. This is how women respond to the stomach-pit feeling of being beneath a glass ceiling that they just can’t break through, no matter how much caffeine their morning latte was steeped in.
They internalise the world they see. They internalise patriarchy. Cue the shame, blame, and hatred towards other women born is a society of women perpetually mirroring the behaviour they seek to change.
Let’s set the level set.
Patriarchy is a system of relationships, beliefs, and values embedded in political, social, and economic systems that structure gender inequality between men and women1. Nothing new here.
Internalised patriarchy is when women toss aside their best judgement and sacrifice their needs, to fit the mould of how they think they’re supposed to behave. How? By minimising themselves and the women around them2.
It feels awkward to admit that women minimise other women; it feels like a step back.
Sure, on the surface, through an artificial lens, we also lift them up. Underneath the surface and the cutesy compliments, there’s a cavern of nuance: of which, when you dig into self-minimising behaviour patterns and do the research, the signs begin to unfold and what you see in the real world is short of the positive outcome with which Women seek.
In the grand court of public opinion, where no one can hide, Women publicly shame and reprimand Men for placating, judging, and minimising Women. The positive intention is there, but the delivery? Anything but positive.
Women spout monologues on why Men aren’t doing enough to create an equal playing field in business.
Shame reinforces the behaviour that you seek to change.
Blame justifies your actions.
Remember the schoolyard bully? Aggressive and loud, collecting victims who were never able to defend themselves as a solo entity. You know how the story ends.
Oftentimes, the bullied owns the ‘situation,’ or takes matters into their own hands, acting on behalf of resentment, spite, and anger. They fight back with the belief that justice served. They suffer internalise unintended consequences and repercussions of the retribution.
What’s misunderstood is that bullying the bully reinforces the aggressive behaviour with which the bullied seeks to change.
Blaming and shaming Men for not doing enough to break down the walls of patriarchy is adding fuel to the fire: the patriarchal flames are reinforced and spread, internalises within all of us.
Shame reinforces the behaviour that you seek to change.
Blame justifies your actions.
I get it. You’re angry. I see you and hear you.
My anger once fuelled me for decades of resentment and frustration at my workplace – it would wake me up in the morning and keep me from sleeping at night. I fell into the trap of shaming others. My voice grew eerily quiet, for fear of ridicule or judgement. Resentment, I washed down with my morning coffee.
I knew I was doing it wrong. It didn’t feel right. I told myself that when the circumstances allowed, I would do it differently. I was actively kicking the can down the road.
Do men have a responsibility to actively participate in change? Of course! But women have equal responsibility to lead the way.
Let me share a personal story.
We were, and still are, vastly different women. She likes boxes, lists, and conformity. I like bows, circles, and innovation.
She was technically inclined and renowned for her black and white, cut-to-the-chase opinions on how things should be done, be it my job, others’ jobs, decisions that had nothing to do with her.
My gifts included understanding root cause issues, while establishing deep relationships so that I may lead and transform chaos to calm. People recognised this and often brought me into the equation to leverage my methodical antidote to chaos.
I was (still am) intentional, unconventional, patient and relationship focused.
She bullied people until they got the tasks done that she felt were meant to have been done last week already. One hundred miles an hour or nothing. She thought she followed the book.
On paper, our different approaches could have been a match made in heaven. Strawberries and cream. Yin and Yang.
Spoiler alert. That’s not how this ends. I triggered the shit out of her.
Instead of understanding her reaction, I internalised it and made it my own. I became an active agent in my own undoing, the spiralling of my own anxiety, the nourishment of my own insecurities and limiting beliefs.
When I didn’t respond to her demands, grappling with emergency efforts to implement the emotional intelligence (quotient) and positive psychology strategies I had trained, she went rogue.
It got out of hand. The back and forth was disruptive not only to us but to the entire team.
I didn’t ask for help, because I was determined to find common ground between the two of us, on my own.
She didn’t have any such vision. Taking full advantage of my medical leave when my morale had been shattered, she smacked the crown right off of my head.
Fabricating stories about me and my work, ensuring they would filter through to my boss as well as my peers. The result? I was stripped of my bonus, pay rise, and don’t get me started on the performance rating. I felt the repercussions for years.
Devastation doesn’t begin to describe it. I was resentful and disillusioned that it was all her fault.
I asked myself, albeit through gritted teeth, what woman knocks the crown off another woman?
The truth is, I let her. We were both at fault.
She was constantly one-upping me; she was the embodiment of the pressure placed on women to “step up”. My work had to be done her way, the patriarchal way. I didn’t stand my ground, ask for help or use my voice. We both contributed to the structure that I wanted to put an end to.
She brought me down to lift herself. I obliged. We both internalised and reinforced the patriarchy.
Women do this to each other, consciously or unconsciously, reinforcing the structures and behaviours that they seek to change.
Choose any or all these questions that inspire you to go deep. Then, write out your answers or speak to someone you trust.
The exercise is in Identify limiting language that is akin to your vocabulary or thing, actions and behaviours that are a trigger.
- For example, the glass ceiling is a derogatory statement. There is no glass ceiling, only your limiting beliefs that one exists.
- What conditions would need to be in place for you to live up to your own expectations?
- What women are you secretly jealous of and trigger you?
- By whom do you want to be heard and understood?
- Do you share with them how you feel and what you want?
- Or do you expect them to know?
- What conditions need to be in place for you to forgive yourself for not standing up for yourself?
Gender equity in business and investment will show up when women self-lead. Modelling how they want and deserve to be treated is feminine power.
Feminine power takes up space. She doesn’t overstate and backpedal. She is curious, leverages her strengths and owns what she brings to the world. Remember, you are 50% of the population.
These actions are the first baby steps in breaking down the walls of internalised patriarchy.
As a collective, we are stronger, smarter, and savvier in business and life. Interested in working with Stacy to break down the internalised barriers inhibiting you and your business or firm from success? Email enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
1Catherine J. Nash, in International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Second Edition), 2020 Patriarchy – an Overview. Science Direct 2
2Nina Cherry, U of Missouri, Kansas City, 2018. Internalised Misogyny What does it look like and how do you stop it?