When misogyny manifests between women

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Last week, one of my best friends and I got in a fight. I said something that was snippy and unkind and it really upset her. We didn’t talk for a whole week.

When she was ready to meet, she sent a text and we arranged to meet at a coffee shop to talk. It felt very serious. I decided I needed to take a shower. Just before getting dressed, I could feel myself bracing for what was coming. I wanted to stay open and I wanted to protect myself.

So there I was, standing in my closet, staring at my clothes. In one moment, I sincerely wanted to be able to take in what she was going to say to me and to better understand why she was so upset and to tell her again, that I was sorry I had hurt her. I knew I needed to stay open for us to repair. That’s what our friendship needed. But then, almost simultaneously, another part of me didn’t want to do any of that and I could feel myself putting up the guard and hardening. That part, the self-righteous part, wanted to be right and wanted to feel justified and wanted to minimize what happened that day and not apologize again.

Though I kept reminding myself to breathe, to remember how much I love this friend of mine, and to believe that the good in me will prevail, I reached for an outfit that was not a stay-open outfit. I picked out clothes that would make me feel stylin’ and sexy and superior. Instead of my comfy worn-in jeans and fluorescent sparkly green belt, I chose the tight dark denim jeans and a belt of tooled leather. And instead of my super soft sweatshirt from the music festival that is my Sunday uniform, I wore my sergeant pepper jacket.   I wore cowboy boots to make me taller and I put on bracelets and mascara. It felt shitty and necessary all at the same time.

Our visit was good. She was honest and vulnerable and friendly with what she said and I could feel the love in all of it. Despite my outfit, I was able to hear it and stay soft about 75% of the time. Eventually, we went on to talk about all sorts of other stuff. It was fun to be out on a Sunday afternoon and to visit without interruptions. I was glad to be there with her and to feel like we were able to repair some of what had gone awry the week before. Before I left, she commented on the boots.

I got in my car and yelled in my head, “What the hell am I doing wearing boots?” Why did the part of me that wanted to control the situation choose the clothes? And a more troubling and perhaps unanswerable question… Why do I, as a woman, have and use in my self-preservation toolbox this misogynistic clothing behavior that totally undermines my connection to other women… to my friend??!! This is such a big deal.

I’m still pretty amazed and disturbed by this misogynistic behavior outfit thing. It speaks to the many, many layers of saṁskāras, patterns, that are inside of me. This particular saṁskāra is one I’d rather not acknowledge and yet must because I’m seeing how it unconsciously influences or even determines my behavior at important times. I suppose knowing what I’ve got to work with and having more awareness is a good thing, but it’s also painful for me… and potentially for my friends.

I’m humbled by the work and reflection that’s ahead of me. I’m acutely aware that Amanda-the-feminist still has a ways to go. I’m grateful for this dear friend who continues to love me despite occasional bouts of exasperation and weird ways of power-dressing.  And I’m, yet again, feeling indebted to my teachers and this practice of yoga that make it possible for me to notice the weird stuff I do, to have compassion for myself, even when I don’t like what I see, and, best of all,  provides the means for making change.

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19 thoughts on “When misogyny manifests between women

  1. This is truly ah!mazing…I don’t think I would ever put together my clothing choices. But now going forward thanks t o you, I have a new awareness. My mom always used to say you could tell when i had my period because i always put together the oddest outfits! Bless your week…xx

    1. I think our mood really does influence all sorts of behaviors. Insecurity does a number on my inner voice for sure. I giggled to read that your mom noticed a clothing- tendency during your cycle. funny. 🙂

  2. you. are. awesome. thank you for taking the time to type out some seriously weird shit that so many of us do all the time (and for having the heart to reflect so honestly about it in the 1st place).

    1. Thanks, Amber. I always know when I’m touching on something important for me because my stomach turns a bit when I write it. Totally happened on this one.

  3. Amazing post, Amanda. However, I don’t think misogyny is the right word. How we use the term misogyny in general discourse and in attempts to address gender inequities is a cop-out because it does not address or admit the very things you so openly acknowledge here: the feminine need to control situation and relationship and the way women judge and prepare to be right.

    Thanks for owning your shit so publicly. And for not off-putting it on to anyone or anything else. I’m grateful to be vicariously included in your journey!

    1. Oh Andre. thank you for this.
      misogyny…my husband had just this discussion this afternoon. He too wondered if this thing that came up for me was actually stemming from a contempt or ingrained prejudice against women. And all I could think of is how my experience with my woman-friend did indeed seem rooted there. I compared it to the way that racism manifests in many progressive and thoughtful people… it feels worked out and it feels like we are beyond it, and like we are so, well, progressed, yet racism is still so much a part of our institutions, our culture, our systems, the language we use… we may not be aware of it as such. So, it seems to me, is the mistrust, sexual objectification and even violence against women. Can the sexual objectification be rooted in misogyny and be self-imposed? Can the mistrust or prejudice that arises from a disagreement with a friend be rooted in gender identities? These are some of the questions that are coming up for me and because i don’t really know, there must be some good work here for me to do.

      1. Pretty sure those heavy questions were rhetorical. But… Can sexual objectification be rooted in misogyny and be self-imposed? Yes! One of my favorite lyrics -ever- from Van Morrison’s Wild Night:

        all the girls walk by dressed up for each other

        I grew up hearing the language of feminism define men (negatively) as competitive, referencing the drive to earn/succeed in business or the ridicule of sports competition. I’m not saying it isn’t there. But I’ve never seen male friends compete amongst themselves the way female friends will compete and be judgmental with each other. This is my observation and I don’t think it’s so much cultural as innate.

        Not sure where I’m going with this other than I’ve kind of realized recently that I don’t trust women. I’ve always seen women as strong role models, given and worthy respect and autonomy, so I don’t subscribe this lack of trust to a culture of misogyny.

        What I’m arriving at for the first time (right here in this thread!) is the root of this distrust is probably directly correlated to a lack of trust or confidence to express the/my masculine. Though I think it’s really incorrect to blame ‘culture’ for many of our problems, I will say there’s a negative bias towards identifying with the feminine and masculine.

      2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and first I want to say thanks for sharing some of your process here. When we start to dive in, it’s really interesting what we can find under the surface. Also, I seem to get a lot from considering how something that comes up in outside relationships plays out in my inner world.. for example, how does this recent realization of a mistrust of women connect to that aspect of yourself?

      3. Just to be clear, the lack of trust I’ve identified is mostly in regard to intimate/romantic relationship. I don’t know that there’s any outer/inner correlations for me. If there’s any connection for me it’s more like connecting the dots. Perhaps being taught or simply identifying with the feminine, and then losing trust in the feminine, to eventually realize that the masculine was under-represented. I mean, we’re really cufked up. We’re more focused on gender inequity than in identifying with who we are.

        I’m still learning to trust the masculine and then speak from that place so my needs/desires are simply on the table, much less to determine compatibility. Have you ever read David Deida? I love the way he talks about the masculine and feminine.

  4. So honest and insightful. And for me timely! I have a difficult situation to address with a colleague and I had already thought what I might wear!
    And yes facing our negative samskaras is hard and painful at times, especially when we think we have already dealt with them and ” put them away”! And just then they rear their ugly heads again and turn us upside down. And it is worth the hard work.

  5. I don’t know…are you being too hard on yourself? That self protective part of you got to choose your clothes, but didn’t get to run the meeting. Maybe that’s okay ❤️

  6. Hi Amanda, thanks so much for this – I remember back in the 70’s when my Mom was about to face my Dad in divorce court, her lawyer told her not to wear boots. She had not planned on this, but just being told that got her back up, and she wore them anyway. My Dad did not show up that day, but after her statement to the court, the stenographer told her she looked great! I think having a masculine side to draw upon for strength and protection is different from misogyny, but I do take your very good point. xoxocc

    1. Colleen, I like the way you say, “having a masculine side to draw upon for strength and protection is different from misogyny.” This helps make sense of what was going on for me in that moment, and I can’t help but smile when I think of your mom and her boots in court. Thanks.

  7. What an interesting read that was — and the comments too. I’m wondering still, about the friendship — did you two actually discuss what had happened and why she felt hurt? How was that resolved? Did you ever apologize for your admittedly ‘snippy and unkind’ comment, and were you able to reflect on why you made the comment in the first place? Did you share that with her so she could understand if she had a part in it, and the two of you look at your friendship? Usually such comments are coming from a place of some anger, and hurt, and intended to hurt the person back, without having to be vulnerable. To me, the clothing seems to be a shield against having to share what triggered you, against having to share some part of you that feels very vulnerable. But without that, how is your friend going to know what was really going on?

    1. Leigh, my friend and I had the chance to connect on the day that we met, despite my clothing choice. She talked about what had been going on for her, I had space to better describe what was going on for me in my snippy moment. We both left feeling like we had repaired some of what went wrong the week before.

      I think your sense of clothing as shield, and the other good stuff you wrote, is right on. And I think you nailed one of the great challenges in relationship: shielding vs. vulnerability (which might boil down to fear vs. love). you can’t do both at the same time.

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