â€œWhen a man gives his opinion, heâ€™s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, sheâ€™s a bitch.â€
Cathy, a trim and attractive woman, age 75, leaned in close before whispering, â€œI always find it interesting who we give our power to.â€ She then cocked her head and gazed at a group of men sitting at a nearby table. A glint of defiance sparkled in her eyes. â€œDo you see how the women here girlishly offer to bring them coffee, or how they stop in mid-sentence as soon as one of the men speak?â€
Her insightful comments thoroughly intrigued me. I then stared at the men, too, as if that would help me see the big picture. And, if not the big picture, maybe a tiny way into my soul? Was I guilty of giving away my power? If so, why?
Cathy shared that she had been raised in an environment where females were expected to be seen and not heard.Â Â â€œWhen I finally got old enough to move out of the house, and could say what I had to say, I could barely stop talking!â€ She laughed with the intoxication that comes with confidence. â€œThank heavens for the feminist movement!â€
That got me thinking about my childhood. I never felt like I was treated differently than my brothers, but in retrospect I was. Mom made my brothers â€œpartnersâ€ in dairy farming. For helping with the milking and other related chores they were given a percentage of the milk check. I, on the other hand, was expected to do more traditionally feminine work. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, feeding the rabbits and helping with the laundry. Those tasks did not equate to being of value, at least in a monetary sense. Dad lovingly called me â€œthe hostess with the mostess,â€ and asked me to serve coffee and cookies when guests came to call. He thought it was cute to have his young daughter attending to the needs of others. Â I doubt it ever crossed his mind to ask one of my brothers to â€œserve.â€ Did those early lessons condition me to give my power away too?
In the book, Crones Donâ€™t Whine, author Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., talks about giving power away as a form of groveling. â€œWomen entering their crone years often revisit feelings they had in high school because menopause has similarities with adolescence (p.77). She goes on to say that groveling occurs when one feels subordinate to another, and that â€œinequality that is built in as a part of culture fosters low self-esteem.â€
What do you think? Do you knowingly or unknowingly give your power away? If so, to whom? How did your mom or female role models act around men? Do you feel your power growing in the second half of life?