The Future is Female?
So, I have to admit, I’m energized by the women’s movement…by the activism I see on the internet, in our streets and in our political races. This idea that the future could be “female” makes me feel stronger and more hopeful about life. Wonder Woman, #metoo, and Alabama’s recent election all demonstrate that women are taking the lead in ways that are important to them. But what do folks mean by “female” when they say the future is female? Are they mistakenly equating “female” with inherently ecological, empathetic, and egalitarian, as if women have cornered the market on these attributes? And what place would males and “maleness” have in a future that is “female”? And…AND…what in the world does this have to do with marriage counseling?
Since this is a marriage counseling blog, and you’re subscribed because you want thoughts on marriage and stuff…I’ll address that part. What does everything that’s going on politically and with many women across the country have to with marriage? And especially, with YOUR marriage?
Well, possibly nothing. But could it? Is this a time for women—for you—to begin to see the biases in our culture and how they may have become part of your standard operating procedures as a result? The biases that leave you always comparing yourself to the male standard and unsure of what’s right for you? That perhaps could be part of what challenges or cripples you in terms of taking on a leadership role at home?
But first things first…
Leadership in Marriage
What the heck does leadership in your marriage mean? The answer is: I don’t know. Same as I don’t know what you should DO in your marriage. The very definition of leadership, regardless of whether you are male of female, as I see it, requires that a person…in a challenging circumstance… embody what it is they stand for (not what they stand against…but for) and that they decide for themselves what they think is important to do rather than being directed by a paid expert…or by my blog…amazing as it may be. ;)
Got that? It’s pretty darn important. Deciding for oneself, based in as objective of a position as is possible for us humans, and taking a leap of faith in…oneself…in a process…in an idea…are key factors in leadership in a marriage.
Leadership is not antagonism. It’s about being “a believer.”
“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe.”
But where might biases get in the way of your leadership at home? Perhaps in how you think about money or in how much ‘say’ you exercise in that arena? Or in how you think about going to the doctor/taking care of your health (you know about the medical field’s male standard in research and training, right)? How do health issues and health care play out in your marriage? Or perhaps in the mental health arena. Do you either get diagnosed or diagnose yourself as “crazy” or “depressed” or “codependent”?
Depression and Women
Women are diagnosed with depression significantly more than men. With the mental health industry’s declaration that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain (for which there is zero evidence), and their definition of depression as a mental illness, one might be led to ask the question, What’s wrong with women’s brains? Or What is wrong with women?
And you would then be right along side the many psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists, who for decades, and perhaps much more than that, have been asking the same question…What’s wrong with women? And when that’s your question, you will certainly create answers. Lot and lots of answers.
Carol Tavris, in The Mismeasure of Woman, writes that every few years there is a rush of best-sellers sweeping over the United States that aim to tell women the origins of their unhappiness. In the 1950’s, Tavris explains, it was said to be a woman’s inherent masochism, “an idea that derived from Freud’s theory that female psychology includes an unconscious need for, and pleasure in, suffering.” Then in the 1960’s Matina Horner said that “the problem is women’s fear of success.” Wrong. Tavris recounts the work of Marabel Morgan and many religious conservatives in the 1970’s who said “The problem is that women want success, when they should be spending their energies being obedient to God and husband.” Wrong, said Colette Dowling in 1981. She says the real problem with women is that they have a “Cinderella Complex” which she defined as a secret fear of independence. From there it went from “women say yes when they mean no” to “women love too much” to “they don’t love too much…they just love the wrong men.” Then, to Melody Beattie in the late 80’s saying that “the poor guys aren’t to blame, because they are sick. Women love too much because they are codependent—addicted to addicts, addicted to bad relationships.” Men tend to have “problems.” Women tend to have “mental illness.” And well meaning author after therapist after expert tell us how and why.
Despite the waves of popularity of these various notions (and their subsequent “solutions”) over the years, one has to ask…how is it that year after year, decade after decade, these alleged inherent flaws in women are constantly being reworked? And how is it that no matter how women keep being diagnosed, the corresponding therapies and solutions fail to work? But fail they do. We are still disproportionately suffering with depression and anxiety. Is this just more evidence that something is wrong with women…or is it evidence that the question itself is problematic? And is it evidence that perhaps women have problems too, and that defining them as mental illness or chemical imbalance has led so many in circles?
Do you find yourself impacted by this bias from the mental health industry? It has seeped deeply into our American culture. The idea that if you are depressed, something is wrong with you…rather than the idea that depression is an appropriate response to real problems—real disconnections from important relationships or meaningful work or from our values, or many other things that are fundamental to human happiness. Are there real problems in your marriage? Are there real problems in your work life that require attention? Is there social isolation? Is there loss of community? Women’s real problems have a real impact on us all.
When a disproportionate number of women are being fed heaping piles of something-is-wrong-with-you, rather than being empowered to think through and then solve the real problems in their lives…they get more and more and more depressed and less thought and creativity are applied to real problems. And our leadership at home diminishes.
What has this post stirred in you? What questions? What emotions? How would you think and act differently if you thought of your depression as a normal reaction to real problems?
(I can’t recommend Tavris’ book enough. And if you want the truth about depression, have a look at a book called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions, by journalist Johann Hari. We need perspective. We need facts. We need to be a part of real change. And for many of us, it starts at home.)