Listen to a tale of my brief regression into a submissive woman

September 11, 2007 at 1:36 pm 11 comments

Woman StatueI have always been intrigued at the socialization process that expects women to defer to men. Then the other day I was in a conversation with a man who challenged something I said and I responded with a news piece to prove my position. The man dogmatically stood his ground and I decided it was not worth the fight – over dinner no less.

In retrospect, I know I should have continued the dispute, but I did not want to bruise this man’s ego. In other words, I had acted just as I had been socialized to act. I might as well have said, “Of course, you must be right, after all you are a man and I am just a woman.”

It occurred to me that when a woman is trained to defer to a man, she is actually being trained to protect his ego. I have a difficult time believing men have such fragile egos. Moreover, one cannot help but wonder why very few have ever given so much as passing thought to the female ego.

It would seem the female ego carries no more value in many cultures than the female intellect, the female aspirations – or in some cases, even the female herself. In some drastic cases, a woman can be killed if she bruises her husband’s ego too much by having an affair.

Yet that same husband can carry on with whomever he wishes and her ego should never feel the sting. She is to defer to him in this case and all others until death (or murder) do them part.

In my case, I merely allowed a man to feel he had bested me. I rationalized that it was dinner and why would I cause a stir at such a peaceable time? Of course, he obviously had no problem with a stir, but the others at the table might have not enjoyed it as much. I also reasoned to myself that the point at odds was nothing more than a piece of information, which was not as important as a relationship.

It is amazing the hoops an intelligent woman will jump through to justify a willful act to submit to the stereotypical female role. I was simply acting according to societal expectations. What could possibly be wrong with that? As I type that question I have a million answers to it.

The first and foremost question is why on earth would I pretend to be less intelligent than the male sitting next to me just so his ego could be stroked? The next important question is why society expects me to swallow my pride so that a male can walk around with his feathers cocked?

This is not the first time I have deferred to a man for the sake of societal propriety. When I think of the times I have stepped aside to allow a man to do a job in which I could have done much better, it makes me sick. On numerous occasions I have held my tongue and pretended to be uninformed or uneducated about a matter just so a man could feel more important.

I cannot count the number of times I have consciously stopped at a door and adjusted my countenance to portray a less confident and more submissive representation of myself. This is nothing but a lie to the world though, because my footsteps are not light and my confidence is not shaky.

I would wager an entire year’s salary that every single woman reading this column has deferred to male when it was unnecessary. It is a sad indictment on society that it forces women to lower themselves to such a despicable position just so men can feel as if they are on a higher plane.

I have promised myself time and again that I would not act like someone less intelligent or less capable just to appease a male ego, yet here I find myself feeling guilty for knowing I am an equal but acting like I am less just because society demands it.

Unguarded moments, like the one I had at dinner, are the most treacherous for me because they steal my resolve and force me to behave in a manner that I would never willingly act. It is at these times that my knee jerk reaction is to revert to my conservative upbringing that demands female submission.

I write this very personal essay for one reason and that is to show other women that regardless of the number of times we mindlessly fall in line with patriarchal socialisations, we must not give up.

It is more important than ever to continue to allow our real selves shine through – the intelligent, strong and confident women. Otherwise, our daughters will spend their lives pretending to be lackeys instead of leaders too – and the world simply cannot wait much longer for women to take their rightful place of leadership.

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Entry filed under: feminism, feminist, misogyny, Stella Ramsaroop, women, women's issues. Tags: , , , .

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11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nakedthoughts  |  September 11, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    I’m glad I’m not alone in doing things like this. Thank your for your voice.

  • 2. Shawn  |  September 11, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    I just happened upon your post…amazing…brave…thanks.
    I am a female Shawn by the way. I am 48 years old and have been fighting the very issue of your post since day one. I recognized very early in life that boys were treated differently (and in a way I wished to be treated) JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS!

    One of the most disconcerting facets of this issue is the number of women, women I’ve been close to, ie: mothers, sisters, friends, teachers, that have asked me to “just play along”, “play nice”, “don’t rock the boat for the rest of us”.

    I’ve never been militant about this, just looking for equal, fair treatment. When it comes to protecting MY ego, we’re usually on our own. But that’s all part of the socialization process as well.

  • 3. MOI  |  September 11, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Hi Stellar1!

    I am so on the same page with this post. It comes up EVERYWHERE, not just dinner. When was the last time you EVER saw a man shut up and let a woman have the last word in the opinion department. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, especially in group settings. Maybe at home our husbands will just go quiet on us, but at university, in the classroom, never, ever did a guy let a woman make an obviously brilliant point and leave it at that. Why? Because men always have a more brilliant point, an all-decisive point, a point that trumps any that may come out of our pretty little heads. And it is all ego and bluster. Apparently men are so fragile, that we cannot best them at anything without damaging it and curtailing their manhood for a good long while. So no matter which path we choose; submissive or assertive, we are wrong. For once, I wish men could just be ignored like women have for centuries, and to hell with their hurt feelings! Good post!

  • 4. KellyMac  |  September 17, 2007 at 1:10 am

    I guess if it were me, and I cared about the point, I would argue it. If it didn’t matter that much to me, I wouldn’t argue it.

    Or, alternatively, in the interest of having a pleasant dinner, I would suggest that we agree to disagree. Then again, I don’t particularly enjoy arguing over dinner. There are better times and places 🙂

  • 5. es  |  September 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Seems to me this is a question of etiquette. Would you get into a big argument with an equally dogmatic woman over dinner?

  • 6. gotheek  |  September 21, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    I feel much the same way about this subject… one event particularly sticks in my mind: an argument with a boyfriend which began because I had the audacity to point-out that mainstream religions, from one end of the spectrum to the other, have been created By Men, For Men.

    His response was to explode in magnificent fashion, rant on about how that’s not the case and if I thought that, I could just get out.

    And ordinarily I would have, but at that time, I was sleeping on his couch and had nowhere to go after an abortive trip to europe.

    With regard to the ettiquite point made above, this has only got traction BECAUSE you’re talking about another woman. Two men would quite happily debate something over dinner, over a barbequeue or anywhere they damn-well-like, because that’s how they’ve been socialised. But two women would be blasted for doing the same thing because it’s “Unladylike” or “not acceptable”.

    We’re talking about social conditioning and ettiquite is just as much a tool of this as dolls to girls and sex-based-advertising is to women.

  • 7. NHY  |  September 23, 2007 at 12:26 am

    Women defer to men because it is in their nature to do so. There is no need to feel as if you’ve being violated because of that. Most be quite tough acting against nature, isn’t it?

    Also, you have more than enough protection of your rights as it is, too much in fact if you ask me.

  • 8. Lyd  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    I am assuming that NHY is a male. I am also assuming that you are joking as it is most certainly NOT in the nature of most women to defer to men, it certainly isn’t for me, or my sisters or my friends, mother, grandmother. This is a redundant statement because as far as i know there is no proof of this. Where is your proof that women naturally defer to men? Are you a Social Biologist a gender psychologist? From early childhood girls are taught to respect men as the head of the household. We are taught to be amaiable, polite, forthcoming and submissive to men. We are also taught to keep our opionons to ourselves. Usually the father has the last word on punishments, he is the disiplinarian, therefore females are conditioned to fear the consequences of questioning the head figure or standing up for herself.
    I myself would never defer to a man, I did when i was younger because of lack of knowledge on the situation but now I do not care for his bruised ego, it means nothing to me.
    On the other hand, if a man fairly and democratically argued his point and I realised that I was in the wrong, I would have no problem admitting that I had the wrong idea – and I would expect a man to do the same. Sadly, this is not often the case.

    NHY I challenge you to come up with a woman’s right which you think should be done away with. If you think we have to much protection over our rights I ask you to name them which you do not agree with.
    I will take your failure to answer to mean that you cannot think of any or you have finally let your ego down long enough to let a woman have the last word.

  • 9. lola  |  July 31, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    dear girls friends,

    my biology teacher in 5th grade told us once that if we needn’t men for reproduction, they would long have disappeared.

    Sometimes I tend to say she was right but then….

  • 10. Ada  |  October 11, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Women defer to men because it is in their nature to do so?
    Not.
    Humans don’t live in nature any more, they are doing everything to distance themselves from Nature. Women who are doing it are doing it to please men, who will in exchange protect them and provide for them. Things are usually simple, because humans are simple egoistic creatures.
    Elisabeth the First did not need a man to provide for her or to rule England. No one can argue that she was one of the most important rulers in history. She did not want to marry because she did not want to share the power. If she was a man by chance she could had had both, power, marriage and even mistresses.

  • 11. Max Dashu  |  December 27, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Rebecca Solnitz wrote a great piece along these lines, called Men Explain Things to Me, where she lays out just how deep this conditioning goes in even the most brilliant independent women. She shows that women’s conditioning is but a shadow of men’s colossal self-importance and entitlement:
    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174918

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