It is my experience that straight guys can’t give jack shit for advice for women who are dealing with other men, whether such men are lying or being manipulative. Knowledge of gender dynamics fails them; they don’t know what it’s like to be in a woman’s shoes, feeling confused, and pressured to do things they don’t want by way of gender socialization. All they know is how to rub into a woman’s face how she “should have” done this or that and how he would have known exactly what to do if it were him. This is not helpful to women who are already conditioned to blame themselves for men’s actions and to feel bad for them (i.e. “men are just acting upon what you project yourself as” and the sociopathic “vulnerability is meant to be taken advantage of”). They are in short promoting a masculine mentality that is not conducive to females as a sex-class. Sure, females can emulate such males but what they end up emulating is the objectification of the female sex and internalizing this misogyny as a form of self-hatred; masculine-minded on the inside while appearing “sexy” on the outside, a male fantasy of the feminine illusion. Femininity takes a lot of effort (time and energy) to maintain, yet we are taught to think of this as normal. What’s really hard is standing up as a female under patriarchy because we are conditioned to be selfless and voiceless and alienated from our bodies – our physical, sexual reality.
Females are forced to make compromises under patriarchy, to “sell their soul to the devil” sotospeak, and sleep with the enemy for approval and survival. We are not expected to have principles, to “stick to our guns”; or at least, to have principles in theory but not in practice, a non-threat to male domination. Radical feminists have attempted to remedy this problem with collective analysis of patriarchy, gender roles, male privilege, the institutions of organized religion, marriage, motherhood, the sex industry, masculinity and abusive behavior from males. Feminists such as Adrienne Rich have written about compulsory heterosexuality and how women are essentially “trauma-bonded” to males in unequal and opportunistic, if not outright abusive, relationships.
However, since many women are forced to interact with and associate with males for whatever reason, they are in a variety of vulnerable situations (on a spectrum) that allow for microaggressions to take place. Or rather, males are constantly trying to invade female-only spaces (including their bodies) and pressure them into unwanted emotional, physical and sexual entanglements. And for that women need more than theory and abstractions so they can help themselves without having to divulge TMI* or spending lots of money (such as on therapy or yoga); they need action. There is no need for traumatized women to feel guilty for wanting to heal themselves first.
“Some women’s liberationists encouraged women to believe that their individual achievements of success, money, and power (especially in spheres historically dominated by men) advance feminist movement. These women need to know their success has little impact on the social status of women collectively and does not lessen the severity of sexist oppression or eliminate male domination. Their individualism is dangerously narcissistic when it leads them to equate personal success with radical political movement. Individual achievements advance feminist movement if they serve the interests of collective feminist struggle as well as satisfying individual aspirations.”— bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
Therapists talk about doing body work but they fail to recognize that as women with female bodies we need female-focused bodywork. This is necessarily sex-based. Gender socialization plays a role insofar as femininity signifies powerlessness, submissiveness, the beauty myth, the virgin-whore dichotomy, and other traditional roles or positions which the sex-class of females are raised into. It is the purpose of such body work to get behind this conditioning – also known as “programming” or “false consciousness” – and break the cycle of self-hatred.
“Women do not decide at some time in adulthood that they would like other people to understand them to be women, because being a woman is not an ‘identity’. Women’s experience does not resemble that of men who adopt the ‘gender identity’ of being female or being women in any respect. The idea of ‘gender identity’ disappears biology and all the experiences that those with female biology have of being reared in a caste system based on sex.”
-Sheila Jeffreys, Gender Hurts
To this end, I am going to write about what has helped me in the hopes that it will help other women. I make no claims to be an expert, merely a female who has some experience and first-hand knowledge. Not all practices will be female-only or female-authored but they will lead to and center around that. It is not a be-all and end-all but a constant process. Any relevant comments are welcome as a collaborative effort.
* By TMI I mean very specific details about traumatic experiences (such as rape to a male therapist who could care less about sensory experiences over chronological facts and possibly victim-blaming) and whatever privileges or oppression the patient may have and hence focusing on privilege or other oppression which can be shared in common with males – ignoring the fact that all females are oppressed under patriarchy and other privileges don’t cancel out sex-based oppression and trauma.