I’m noticing that a lot of the trauma work that I do with women is centered around masculinity and the way it takes up space in our lives. In fact, I have found in my own trauma work that I had to heal my relationship with masculinity and trust in men. I remind myself that there are good men out there that can be an ally to me and my work, even as my work is so devoted to liberation for women. So in today’s blog, I want to unpack this idea of masculinity and how it affects women.
I'm somebody who has always been surrounded by a lot of masculine energy. I was the only girl in a family with five brothers, had a great relationship with my stepdad, and even had a lot of male friends, so I grew up with a lot of healthy, masculine energy around me. I got really comfortable with it, even though I used to joke that it was because of all of that masculine energy that I became a Women’s Studies major and a Women’s Empowerment Coach. It felt like I’d needed to study to become a woman because I didn’t have the same perspective that other women get growing up. My dad, uncles, and I went hiking in the Rockies after I’d graduated High School. I remember feeling grateful that I had these positive, strong male presences in my life. I was set up from the start to trust men, to feel like my strength as a girl (and later, a woman) was supported by the men I was surrounded by.
However, like so many women, I’ve had negative experiences with men. A lot of us, whether we identify as survivors of trauma or not, hold in our hearts and minds plenty of distrust towards men because those feelings come from a very real place. For so many of us, there are direct incidences where we can trace back our feelings of suspicion toward men. We recall specific moments, specific comments, or even, moments of assault. Maybe you can even still remember the first time you were walking down the street and got catcalled or the first time someone touched you without your permission or the first time you felt violated. It may not be that something happened, but the fact that you’ve been worried about something happening, your whole life becoming its own kind of low-grade trauma in the body. You might change where you walk at night, you avoid going to certain places all to avoid harm. Catherine McKinnon writes about how this sort of behavior impacts college-age women. For example, college girls can’t stay at the library as late as their male counterparts, and if they do, they then have to worry about walking home late, potentially by themselves, and how unsafe that is for them.
Catherine McKinnon’s argument is that we don’t have a way of thinking about how this problem impacts academic performance. Life is hard enough without having to process a traumatic history with men. How many of us have had bad breakups, or messy divorces and have seen what happens when things shift. When men you thought were good suddenly changed. It’s those moments when we feel let down by masculinity, let down by men in general. This feeling adds to the overall narrative of living in a patriarchy where your voice as a woman isn’t valued, where men are automatically prioritized and considered to be the voice of sanity. As women, we have to constantly be on the lookout for threats, contend with the patriarchy, often bear the brunt of responsibilities in our families, and we’re then expected to be open, vulnerable, soft, and charming when we go on Tinder as if we aren’t taking our very lives in our hands.
I won’t gaslight you, and tell you everything’s ok. The difference between me and other coaches is that I don’t follow an old-fashioned school of thought. There’s a lot of advice that more or less works out to “Just swallow your anger. Don’t talk about it. Don’t be a feminist. Don’t be weird.”. I call my program UNCOVER for a reason. It’s because I’m all about not letting these feelings hide. That includes your anger, that includes your disappointment, bitterness, and rage. You deserve to have a place where those feelings and emotions come out and you deserve to have tools to help you release them so that they don’t end up becoming a poison and stop you from being open to the kind of love that you actually need and want.
I hold this safe space, for you.