The Identity, Knowing, and Oppression of Women - have.space blog post

The Identity, Knowing, and Oppression of Women

I’ve been reading this book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., and have been astonished by how deeply it resonates with me. It feels like a remembrance of my soul and the soul of my people. 

As I’ve been reading through it, I keep thinking about my fellow women and the challenges we experience in this modern world. These challenges are very common that any woman can relate to: relationship insecurities, fear of judgment from other women, and not knowing who she is.

I would say that I have embodied all three of those above challenges all at once, for the majority of my life. Constantly plagued by shame, fear, and people-pleasing, I have not always stayed true to me. 

During my active addiction, I reshaped who I was into who I thought I needed to be in order to be loved by a certain guy. This led me down a path that was filled with pain and inauthenticity. Unsurprisingly, I lost myself.

My sobriety is one of my most prized accomplishments and I find myself grateful that I had an affliction that had a clear cut solution (12 Step Programs and total abstinence), whereas my issues when it comes to dealing with life don’t always have such a clear “solution blueprint.”

I’ve struggled along this journey called life, uncertain about who I am and constantly wondering where I fit in. I’ve been single for the majority of my life, constantly sifting through different men as I looked for the perfect relationship and partner. Recently realizing, there is no perfect person—only a person with flaws who you’re willing to put up with in order to benefit from their love.

There’s something I’ve observed from watching my own journey of relationships as well as consoling my women friends. 

Women are generally afraid to be themselves in relationships.

I’m talking about the full-on wild, erratic, creative, sensitive selves that women inherently are. 

Women possess such immense power that it’s a shame that more women don’t own their strength. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, I’m referring to any type of relationship that requires vulnerability.

Let’s first take a look at societal implications and conditioning to see why women might not truly know themselves and what they want. Then we’ll discuss how to move past judgment of women, and then connect back with our true selves.

Princess Charming/The Empowered Woman Does Whatever the Fuck She Wants

Society has trained us to believe that women are delicate and fragile. Vulnerability and sensitivity, which are strengths, have been touted as weaknesses, making women and men believe that we are frail, needing the support of a man to catch us when we fall. 

Watch any old Disney movie to understand the garbage us young girls were being fed in our formative years—thinking we needed Prince Charming to come into our lives and make us complete. Oh, how the influence of the media can easily be twisted as a system of control.

The mindset that we need a man to take care of us or “save” us is a disempowering belief sprinkled throughout media, literature, and gender roles. I’m almost 33 years old as I write this, and it wasn’t until last month that I became aware of a deep-seated belief that I thought the man had to be the provider of the family and it wasn’t okay for my partner to be reliant on me.

There is definitely a level of maturity needed to become fully self-sufficient (something I’m still learning) and there’s no reason a woman can’t take care of a man. It’s so much easier to accept that a man will take care of a woman—that’s the “normal” we have created and accepted. But why can’t a woman taking care of a man be the normal?

If men were depicted as needing Princess Charming to come along and rescue them, women would become empowered from the messages we receive subliminally, and overtly. But that isn’t quite the current widespread propaganda. 

I believe a lot of women, like myself, are staying single and unmarried later in life as a subtle, and not-so-subtle, act of rebellion. We are declaring that we can have a career and a life, be successful, and love ourselves without the aid of a man. 

I’ve actually gone too far to one side where I pushed away men for a while, thinking I needed to be more independent, using my singleness to “prove” myself and fight for “the cause” of women’s empowerment. But the truth is, women can do whatever the fuck we want.

Fight for the cause by staying single. Marry your high school sweetheart. Have 12 children. Have none. There is no rulebook dictating the guidelines of how to be a feminist or participate in the shift of patriarchy. It’s whatever each woman truly wants, what she feels deeply in her soul and heart. 

Let your intuition be your guide and tell you what to believe in, but make sure you question those insidious thoughts that we were conditioned into, because they might be blocking you from knowing your truth.

Once you realize what you want, and not what society tells you you should want, you are free. Free to be you, free to explore, free to make “mistakes” along the way. Your heart is more open and you are more willing to love others.

Replace the Cat Fight with Mutual Love and Respect

There’s something scary about admitting that I don’t need other people. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I need other people in the tribal sense of the word, as community is something biologically ingrained in all of us. However, I don’t need people in the desperate sense of needing their approval.

This freedom of accepting my own independence and self-worth has been a journey. I still find moments when I’m craving external approval and validation, like a deep ache for someone to love me. However, social media or unhealthy pandering won’t satisfy the craving. Because what I’m truly desiring is to connect with another person, to feel their presence and care. I’m craving intimacy.

Intimacy is an interesting concept. I learned many years ago what “false intimacy” was: creating a fake sense of connectedness by using gossip or other inauthentic forms of connection. For a moment it makes you feel closer to another person because you’re sharing something in common, however, it’s insincere and will not create lasting fulfillment.

For a woman to feel connected to another being (friend, family member, or lover) we must learn how to develop true intimacy, which comes as a result of vulnerability. Without vulnerability and honesty, we are only scratching the surface, and there will still remain a deep ache to touch another’s soul—or rather, to see the God reflected in another’s eyes and heart.

Yet, what holds us back from so freely doing what we were born to do? Fear. Fear of judgment, of being ridiculed, of being abandoned.

I have lost a lot of women friends in my life, for reasons of unintentional offense and naïveté, and I never gained potential friends because of their jealousy of my beauty. It’s unfortunate that there has been more than one time that I heard: “I hated you before I knew you because you were pretty. But now I love you.”

What is this common theme of competition that creates jealousy and insecurity in women? I definitely am prey to this folly, since I grew up watching mainstream television, too. We think we must compete against each other in order to prove our worthiness.

I still remember an old best friend of mine who was strong, beautiful, and highly intelligent. I felt so lucky to be her friend, and I remember how she taught me a lesson in beauty and self-esteem: 

Just because someone else is beautiful, doesn’t make me any less beautiful.

There is a scarcity mindset of beauty. Well, of everything, really. But in regards to beauty, women are trained to tear each other down and buy new products to prevent ourselves from aging and feeling unattractive and obsolete. 

Have you ever thought to yourself: “Will she get the guy I like because she’s more beautiful, funny, charming than me?” I know I have.

The truth is, we have become so entitled and reliant on ourselves that we have lost our connection with the divine. Divine fate, truth, and love. The knowing that if something is meant to be, it will. If that guy is meant to be with our friend, then he will be. And I can trust that I will find a great guy for myself, rather than competing for attention and favor.

We think just because we want someone, we should have them. We feel entitled to get what we want. The rampant bar and club culture only perpetuate this disease. And oftentimes women will sleep around to “keep” or “win” him—trust me, I know. 

But looking back on a blueprint of our lives, we can see that relationships will generally happen or not and last or not because they’re supposed to, not because we tried so hard.

Therefore, stop competing with other women. Stop tearing each other down. Instead, celebrate another woman in her beauty. Congratulate her for getting the guy you thought was attractive. Being happy for the success of others will bring you more success and happiness. You attract what you are.

If we all start to treat other women with the respect and care they deserve, we will create a culture for ourselves and future generations of women who see the value in each other, therefore, seeing and honoring the value within themselves.

When we feel good about others and treat them with love, it means we feel whole too. We don’t need to fill an emptiness with the hot guy from the bar, instead, we get to make space for true love to enter. 

To stop fearing being judged by other women, you can do two things.

  1. Stop judging yourself.
  2. Stop judging them.

The Endless Ocean of Knowing

I’m convinced there’s never a true, “I have figured it out: I know who I am 100% of the time and always will from now on.” Since we are adaptable beings we are constantly being changed by love and life events.

Knowing who you are is something we all lust after and usually despair when we don’t know. If only we knew how many people can’t honestly say, “I know who I am,” we'd probably feel a lot better about our own unknowing. 

Granted, there are certain aspects of a person that they can know, such as, “I love working with kids” or “I have a big heart.” But there is a needed understanding where we recognize that we are actually more than we think.

Identity is ever-shifting. It morphs with our maturity and life circumstances. Having children makes us a mother. Getting married makes us a wife. Starting a company makes us a founder. These are all different identities that will shape how we view ourselves.

However, self-knowing is like the waves of an ocean, sometimes it is thrust upon us, sometimes it eludes us as we chase after it, and sometimes, if we’re lucky and able to sit still long enough, we catch smooth glimpses of it and are touched by its power and grace. 

But as the ocean naturally recedes, so will this self-knowing escape us if we are not vigilant. Thus is the truth of living in the physical realm—it’s easy to become distracted by human plight. 

We become afraid that we have lost this inner knowing forever, so we immediately stand up and chase after it, only to be further evaded, leaving us desperately searching around for a different spot to run towards. 

This upheaval is seen in mid-life crises, re-identification after a divorce or break-up, or the chameleon charade many of us are familiar with, notably in our teens and 20s. We’re always trying to become someone we think we should be because the people around us are doing it and we are looking for our tribe.

Rather than trying to fit in, you should stand out and look around. Look for those who are also standing out, wearing the same colors with the same hairstyle (metaphorically, speaking) and join together. Don’t blend into the background, go out and search for others like you. 

Be someone you love and want to be around and you will attract someone you love and want to be around—friend or lover. That is how I attracted my partner, by raising myself to the frequency of the partner I wanted to attract. 

Be who you want to be, who you know you are deep down, and you will call in the right people, your soulmates.

We must be able to sit in the discomfort of not knowing, trusting that the moment will come when the wave will rush back to us, splash softly in our face, and remind us of who we are and where we belong.

Rediscover Your Inner Child

If you feel like you want more from your life, I invite you to look at how deeply enmeshed you’ve become with earthly values and behaviors. Do you value a new car over taking the time to watch a spider spin its web? Would you rather binge watch Netflix or sing songs to your children?

We have lost touch with our ancestry. For the most part, America is a land of lost boys and girls. Valuing capitalism and materialism over tradition and family.

The more you get in touch with your wild self, the more you will discover the latent creature inside that wants to scream, dance, play, and laugh. This is something we need more of in the world: adults who are like children (in the sense of expression, not immaturity).

So if you’ve felt a fire inside of you, sparking and kindling as you’ve read this article, I invite you to read, Women Who Run With the Wolves. It has activated the primal creature inside of me and provided inspiration for my writing fire as I wrote this. This book holds great power and wisdom, passing down stories we’ve forgotten but still remain etched into our souls.

Remember that there is more to life than what you see. What you feel will bring you closer to your true nature. Close your eyes and listen as the waves stir up around you.

_____________

Brittany Noelle Roa is an interdisciplinary artist with an MFA in Physical Theatre who uses her art and creativity to heal herself and others. She loves learning about health and wellness so she can optimize her human potential to live a full and happy life.

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