Can I Ask You A Question?

Women are controlled (If you were any good you’d be thin)

Are mistrusted – (FGM)

Are to be feared (otherwise educate them – why not if they’re not up to much?)

Are to be objectified (child brides/super models)

And yet… They feel powerless.


Why when the establishment everywhere and every time seems to see women as so powerful they must be constantly controlled, why are women the only ones who can’t see this power?

Imagine what might happen if that power was unleashed?  Not power as we know it where women are ‘powerful’ if they are like men or liked by men.  But the real, thumping, all-encompassing, generative, protective power of real women.

Imagine what might happen?

Imagine – for example – in places where a girl who is raped must kill herself to restore her family’s honour, if the mothers in these places not only tried to protect their daughters but said to their sons – “Marry her son, she’s been raped but that is something that was done to her, not by her and so her honour is clearly intact – which is more than can be said of the men who raped her.  I am your mother and I am not just standing up for her, I am also really standing up for you.  I am trying to teach you that it’s always the perpetrators who are the guilty ones – not the victims.  Always.  I want you to understand this son because I want to make sure that your honour remains intact.  Because I love you.”

Imagine if that happened.

What’s stopping it?

12 comments on “Can I Ask You A Question?

  1. LittleFires says:

    Powerful! Thank you x

  2. Imagine a mothers that said that to their daughters first.

  3. You might find Dorothy Dinnerstein’s book ‘The Rocking of the Cradle and the Ruling of the World’ throws some light on this topic. She suggests that because early child rearing is almost always traditionally in the hands of women, children experience mothers as omnipotent beings controlling everything to begin with. For girl children, she argues this is compensated by the later realization that they too will play this omnipotent role for their own children. Though of course in my own experience mentoring young women, their relationship with their own mothers can be pretty fraught and power struggles common in adolescence too. But for boys, as they grow up they are terrified to be in that situation of being under the control of an omnipotent female, so they structure society to dominate women, or so Dinnerstein argues, if I remember her correctly. I don’t have her book to hand. Dinnerstein I think suggests part of the answer to your question is very equal time in her early childhood for both father and mother, so the omnipotence is better distributed and not associated with one gender, so there is less need to dominate women later on in adult life. Interestingly, in my own case I have never felt what Dinnerstein suggests and have never felt any need to dominate anyone, especially not women, although I too was raised by a mother with little fatherly involvement. Though given that this better balanced parenting is to some extent happening, and the domination is diminishing in modern societies, maybe she has a point. What do you think?

    • That does sound like a book I’d like to read, Ed – thanks. Obviously I haven’t read it but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t agree much with that solution either. The first part may be true, though and the problem is that everybody – including mothers – tend to educate their children to perpetuate the prevailing norms. If the prevailing norms are that women are dangerous in some way (lots of women believe this) and that men can only be of value if they are alpha, that it is more important to have power ‘over’ rather than power ‘to’ and then if there is an imprint of the omnipotent woman it’ll probably cause trouble alright! I think we need to radically reassess our views on power. Thanks so much for the comment and recommendation.

  4. You’ve framed the question(s) within a specific cultural context. Step beyond cultural conditioning and you will see that they derive from two fundamental realities: 1) Females are (with few exceptions) physically smaller/weaker than males. 2) Males are hormonally programmed to ‘have their way’ with females. Consciously or not, females (women in particular) understandably dedicate much of their lives to exploiting #2 (as best they can) to help mitigate the subservient (or worse) consequences of #1. Attempting to understand how (not why) that dynamic is played out in any specific culture is a little like trying to figure out why Americans drink coffee and the British prefer tea. In short, with humans the gender ‘dance’ can get a little complicated. And no matter how many extra notes might be added to the ‘tune,’ the instruments playing it remain the same. 😉

    • The thing is, William, unfortunately I haven’t rooted it in a cultural context (apologies if that isn’t clear – my fault). Though some of the more extreme practices like child-marriage and honour-killing/suicides are much more prevalent in Africa and Asia than in the West, that improvement is reasonably recent and it is still the case that women in the West are ‘controlled’ by our society – perhaps in more subtle ways. It is the case in the developing world that men commonly don’t take proper responsibility for their child – making a clear link between the education and empowerment of women and the safety of children – are things that much different (as a sweeping statement) with men and their children in the Western world?

      Miss Representation – the movie about the portrayal of women in the American media is very interesting. It shows the subtleties quite well. You might like it.

      What bothers me is that it seems to be such a pervasive (and ancient) problem, this controlling of women. Even FGM isn’t limited to a place or a religion or a culture – which seems crazy but it’s true. Why would you need to control with such ferocity if you weren’t afraid?

      I agree about the adaptive impulses and the strength and weight differential and indeed a lot of the practices attributed to women (manipulation, indirectness etc) are found in all oppressed races – the Irish being a great example of that. I know that the major adaptive drive in women is to be attractive (thinner,younger, more be-bosomed in the West – other things in other cultures but with the same objective) and equally the main adaptive drive in men is to attain status (that’s how you get the better women after all) and all of that is fine and beautifully designed by Mother Nature to perpetuate the species. However, Mother Nature is ruthless and she couldn’t care less about happiness as long as the births keep coming. We have our adaptive drives but we also have a big brain which we can use to think as well – and we need to start using it!
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment – sorry for the long answer!

  5. Annie says:

    When I ready our blog, I feel ridiculous worrying about minutia. You center me.

  6. ansuyo says:

    The mother is bound by fear as well, but it would be great if this happened and/or many women banded together to change things.

  7. granbee says:

    We women need to return to our “Amazon” selves in raising our sons, don’t we? We are Earth Mothers and Joan of Arcs and Esthers and Ruths and Marys one and all. Let us reclaim our rightful identities.

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