As a woman, can I also be a misogynist?
I just spent the weekend at my Yoga Teacher training course, with my all female classmates and female teacher & for this weekend only … a guest Male teacher. No one mentioned ‘it’, him being the only ‘him’ in the room, because it wasn’t a ‘thing’, in that moment, in that space, it was a complete irrelevance. He was a great teacher, it was a great weekend.
I have never previously been taught Yoga by a male teacher and whilst male’s are not absent from the many classes I have attended, they are always the minority & rarely is there more that one of them. It’s like a rare Zambezi sighting of two rhino’s in the wild at a Serengeti watering hole to find two of them in the same class – you have to look twice to check there are two & even then, check again to see if you are just seeing their reflection in the water/mirror, it is so rare.
The really interesting part for me however, is the complete reversal of this from my daily grind. I work in a male dominated profession in a male dominated industry. I have been surrounded, managed by and significantly outnumbered by men my whole career. I am the Rhino for the majority of my day and as I creep ever closer to the next decade of my life, I have been the Rhino for the majority of what has shaped my waking hours.
It feels somewhat serendipitous that this teaching comes at a time when I have been percolating on something a colleague told me the other week that has stuck & I’ve not known how to deal with. Not because it immediately struck me as sexist, as it had her, or because I am worried about her (I know that she’ll be fierce when she needs to be), but because my immediate thought was, am I so ingrained in the sexism in this world, have I been so numbed by acceptance of my own circumstance as the norm, that I just don’t really see the imbalance anymore? Am I so aligned to the male way of thinking I’m almost batting for the other side? Am I, as a woman, also anti-feminist?
The blow by blow details of the incident are not important – the short story is; she was the only female in a room where sexist, derogatory comments were made, about her, to her. My first thought when she told me was; and? Because that’s my daily norm: Sexist jokes and dick swinging competitions. So much so, I barely notice the comment on the boots I’m wearing or the girly nature of my dress (being the least girly girl of any office I’ve ever worked in, it’s akin to a national holiday when I do something different with my hair). & Is it wrong to enjoy a compliment about how I look good? Because I should be worried about people seeing my work as good? My sex should be an irrelevant tag?
In complete honest disclosure, I like being the minority, I like being, in some instances the only woman. I like having the door held open for me, I like it when it’s chivalrous, but also it’s practicality as I like to carry both a glass of water & a mug of coffee to a meeting. & I like being the only woman in a meeting & using my feminine charm to change a man’s point of view – it’s my more subtle version of a dick swing and actually requires use of my brain to deploy effectively (it never involves a short skirt!). So I am not going to apologise for that and I am happy to take the compliment on how I look, because a) I dressed this way to make me happy & b) I know I do a good job irrelevant of the sex I am & how I dress it up.
But is it the reason I don’t get it, because I am playing the game? Because I am utilising the tipped in favour of the male dominance & therefore male viewed scales of life? Instead of trying to tip them back. Have I lost sight of what being a woman is? Am I pushing against the course of feminism rather than pursuing it’s cause? I must stress here I see feminism as having woman on an equilibrium with men, nothing more, nothing less. Have I stopped seeing the abundant sexism in my workplace & accepted it? & What about outside the four walls of my job?
In my life before Yoga really took hold, I constantly compared and bench marked myself against the achievements of my female friends. I’m clever enough not to compare my self to celebrities & such, because I know I don’t have their money or their time to input into the stunning selfies and abs of pure dedication & willpower to forgo the cake. When I read somewhere you will never have abs if you eat sugar, I immediately decided I was happy to never have abs!
But my dearest friends, who I love & admire, those who know the good me & the naughty me … I compare myself to them. With every success I think of a reason they didn’t earn it e.g. well it’s OK for you, Daddy paid for that, or every happy milestone they achieve, I belittle it with why they are not really happy e.g. how many times have you slagged him off? So is agreeing to marry him any real achievement?
And its not just me, they are doing it too … ‘See you had a good night last night’, from the stylised, delicately placed but so it looks natural, designed picture of whatever I was drinking on my Instagram feed from last night #friyay and then they begin to talk about their child, but I wouldn’t understand, because I don’t want to have children & that life choice is lesser in their eye’s … & so on it goes.
But when I am with the women on my YTT, I don’t see them this way. I don’t look at how they can wheel pose like a boss & think something negative (I can’t even think of an example as I have never done it, which is a surprise even to myself!!). I don’t listen to them talk about anatomy – which I massively struggle to understand and find some chink to make me feel better about not knowing it by making them seem lesser for knowing it. I look at them & think: Go you!
The group of woman on my YTT are in a word beautiful … & I use that word in reference to the warmth & light that radiates from each & every one of them, the body in which they wear it, being completely irrelevant. This YTT has made me appreciate women in a different sense: their strength both physical and mental, their vulnerability, openness to it & how they own it, their hearts however empty; how they can still give or when full how loud they sing. I have found, surrounding myself with women in a non social environment, makes me a different person. It encourages me to be open & accept weaknesses, to not dwell in the negative questioning, to allow myself to be comforted and not just be the comforter. These women make me a better woman.
So this is what Yoga has done to me; Off the mat, it has seeped into how I think & feel about the world, and without knowing it, how I think & feel about My Sex. It’s starting to come together in a collision of my old world as was and the new path as my mind opens. It is making me think of how amazing women truly are and that in my male dominated working arena, a few more women shouldn’t just balance the boardroom but enable me personally to bring out the best in me.
Side note: I also listened to a ‘woowoo’ book called ‘The Judgement Detox’. After the first few minutes I wasn’t sure I’d see out the chapter, but I persevered on my next long road trip & once I got past the (& this is obviously far from a technical term) ‘woowoo’ element that just isn’t part of my make up, it really started to resonate with me. Basically all that bench marking was judgement. And why did I judge all the time? What was I really judging? Who am I to make all these judgement’s? What was it in me that I didn’t like? What previous experience was driving me to protect myself through judgement? The books by Gabrielle Bernstein, if you find you can be Judgey Mc-Judgerson – give it a try!
Oddly, as I think of best how to conclude this collision in my little sphere, I realise, I have never actually compared myself to a man, not at work, not on my mat; is that because I have never seen myself as an equal? No, because I see myself as different but that’s not equivalent to unequal. I don’t see myself as physically strong like I do most men & personally I have no issue with this, no arm strength, no problem – I’ll buy the screw top. I see men as dominator’s & have no desire to be one; I have no issue with standing up for myself & making myself heard, but I am also comfortable with what I say being my opinion & not THE opinion. I don’t have a dick & have no desire to swing one.
So in Conclusion: I am happy to be a woman. I am proud to be a woman.
I will stop (begin trying to stop!) ‘competing’ with the women in my life.
I should and will do better to champion other women.
Feminism = equality, nothing more, nothing less. You can be different & be equal.
Feminism starts with me, it starts now & I really must do better.
Picture credit: David Adams ‘Rhino Pose’.