The war between women and men

gender equality warThere is a war between women and men. It is evident in the words we choose when we speak to each other. It is clear in the positioning of our bodies. It is obvious in the raise of the eyebrows, twitch of the lips, turn of the head.  It is a war neither side wants but we have become so entrenched in patterns of our past, expectations of our peers and the pressure of society that we battle with our lovers and friends day after day.

Women have been fighting this war openly for a long time. We took a strong, necessary public stance against discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment, pay equality and the right to choose what’s best for our bodies, and we fought hard. And we still fight. We aren’t at equality yet, but we certainly have made significant progress.  There is an open dialogue like never before in the public arena.

But what about the private one? We took this war into our bedrooms. Into our most intimate relationships. Into our family relationships. Into our friendships.  And really, we turned this war against ourselves.

We spend a lot of time talking to each other, we women do, about our lives and relationships, about what we want and need from men, from our families, from our jobs.  We pour a glass of wine – or a shot of vodka – and dissect what it means to be vulnerable, complain about how hard intimacy seems to be to achieve, and wonder at how inspiring Liz Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic is and about how Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on shame ripped us emotionally raw from the inside out. We women are deep, emotional thinkers. With each other.

How many of us take this open vulnerability to the men in our lives?

couple not talkingI don’t mean plan romantic, one-on-one evenings and share our innermost thoughts. Those are actions that can set the stage for intimacy and connection, but those aren’t requirements.

I mean, when is the last time we actually took the time to understand each other?  When is the last time we not only listened to what our partner said to us, but understood it came from  his particular point of view?  When is the last time our acknowledgement that men are wired differently from us was truly more than just an eye roll and snarky comment?

In this war between women and men, there two dynamics at play on the women’s side.  One is that we deny our own power. We deny that there is power in being female. We deny that the “softer” elements that make us women are actually a source of strength that the men in our lives admire and respect.  We deny this because we have battled so long against a society driven by masculine patterns, that we believe our feminine power is useless… and we have fought our public battles against sexism with their weapons.  We fought with a directness and brute strength and anger that came from our masculine energies. And that was what we had to do, to break through.

The second dynamic at play is that in turning the tide of the public war, we did more than just use these tools: we adopted them. We have integrated them into our personal emotional and mental patterns. And we have brought them into our personal relationships.  The equality we look for at the office is now the same equality we want inside our homes. And bedrooms.  We demand our partners meet our needs. We lay them out in a direct, step-by-step manner using checklists and videos and seminars about understanding the female psyche. Go ahead. Google it.  Any man, anywhere and at any time, can find detailed advice on how he should talk to and behave to please a woman.

There are a lot of men doing just that: they’re seeking it out, researching and opening their minds to understanding women. And they’re struggling. And we’re still not happy.  If we’re not happy, they’re not happy.  No one is winning this war.

But what if we changed our battle strategy?  We base the needs of our intimate relationships on a premise of equality that makes sense in the public arena but doesn’t work in private.  Our needs in public life are more black and white: we are equally smart and equally capable to men in the workplace. We are mentally and emotionally capable of managing a team, a business and making decisions for what we will and won’t do with our bodies.

But our needs in the private arena are to be connected to another soul – to be safe emotionally, able to share our thoughts without judgement, to mentally and spiritually refresh.  What is the role of gender equality in that world?  To resonate and meld with another person isn’t about who washed the dishes last or whose turn it is to walk the dog. It’s about understanding. It’s about openness. It’s about acceptance.

Men and women want the same thing from their intimate relationships but our path for getting there is different.couples-talking  For women to open our vulnerable soul to another, we need to feel secure. We need to know we can depend on our partner to not just be there, but to stay there.  For men to feel safe enough to open up soulfully to a women, they need to feel they are trusted. They need women to believe in them, that they will hold space for them.  It seems so simple but note that to get to a place where intimacy can grow, we have to accommodate two different needs. Women need to trust, men need to provide safety.

If we each changed our strategy and focused on serving the needs of our lovers, rather than pushing for a sense of “equality”, how would our relationships change?  If we embrace the idea that in allowing ourselves to be trusting and open and emotional, we are also being powerful and feminine, we then allow men to provide us with space, care and security. We allow them to behave like men who are biologically and chemically different from us.

Changing our strategy in this war isn’t about calling a truce.  It’s not giving up our public fight for equality. It’s about recognizing that we’re fighting for equality in the an arena where equality has no role. It’s about recognizing that we’re fighting a war that can yield no winner.

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