For the past few days, I have been trying to figure out why the workshop I attended last week didn’t quite hit me right. I felt agitated, perhaps a little angry, perplexed, and like something was just “off.”
Building Legos with my son a few mornings ago, it all clicked. When I say it all clicked, I really mean it ALL clicked. Like life, why things are the way they are, why some marriages are falling apart, why women are still struggling in the workplace, and why it is so hard for women to get ahead, be heard, and be respected.
Let me set the scene a bit. Maybe you can figure it out faster than I did. Or perhaps because I am writing this post with some clarity, I can give you the gift of seeing how all the pieces click together.
My husband and I recently signed up for a marriage workshop with our church. We meet on Thursday evenings via Zoom and together, we follow a guide and video with a charming couple, lovingly poking fun at one another, making us laugh, and giving us tips on how to have a successful God-centered marriage. The workshop is geared toward Christian married heterosexual couples seeking to strengthen their marriage and their relationship with God. I recognize that this type of workshop catering to this type of couple is not for everyone, but it is something that is important to me and my husband and makes sense for us.
I want to begin this post by pointing out all of the things I like about the workshop. As a family law attorney who has held many a client’s hand through their divorce and as someone who has witnessed the heartache and financial ruin too many times to count, I know all too well how important it is to actively pour into your marriage and make sure that you are doing everything in your power to ensure your marriage is a well-tuned machine. So far, this workshop has provided a few ah-has that I think we both needed. I like that it focuses on ensuring date nights and having both spouses carry some weight there. It is also a concrete way with set times for us to connect more deeply and spiritually to one another, which can only be a good thing. I like that we intentionally take the time in the evenings to lean into each other and other parishioners. I like that we are actively working on our already pretty good marriage. I like that neither of us had to cajole the other into doing this and we were both game for it (that might be one of the best parts – that I feel like we are already on the same team).
I also want to stress that this post is in no way to bash the church or the program we are following. I can see the good intentions. But. I can also see a lot of the blind spots. While there is a lot of good in what we are learning and while I do think our marriage is growing stronger, I am lucky that I am already in a marriage where my spouse respects the heck out of me and listens to me. I am lucky that not only was he game for this workshop, but he also listens when I point out the blind spots. I am lucky he sees them too. Again, I know the course is full of good intentions, but often even good intentions unknowingly cause harm.
The focus of the workshop last week was what men and women each “need” in a relationship. In summary: Men need to be “cheered” and “respected” & Women need to be “cherished.”
When explaining why men need cheering, he said “You know, ever since we are little boys, we are cheered for everything. We are told ‘good job’ on the sports field, good job at school, etc. When our wife agrees to marry us, we continue to feel cheered on, then we get married, and then we hear a whole lot of boooooooo.”
This example sparked something in my gut. While he was talking, I saw the “movie in my mind” and the visualization of moms and dad jumping up and down, cheering on little boys. Little boys. There was zero talk about little girls getting cheered. It wasn’t even a part of the discussion or thought process. Instead, I saw us women cheering on the little boys and then becoming nags to men as we age.
I cannot say he is wrong per se about his observation. Yes, there probably was a lot of cheering in his growing-up life and then real life and exhaustion kicked in for his wife, and yup, there is likely more boo-ing than cheering. But that is not the crux of the true issue. While what he is observing may be accurate, he is missing the bigger point.
When the lesson shifted to talk about what women need, it all boiled down to being “cherished.” He (more than she) talked about how women enjoy taaaaaaaalking about their relationship and where it stands, among other more “touchy-feely” things. Um no. I rather gouge my eye out with a spoon. Ok, that is a little drastic, but no. I don’t need to taaaaaaaalk as the couple put it. I want to be CHEERED gosh darn it! Being CHEERED is what I need. Yes, I want to feel loved and cherished, but the cheering really matters too!
When our group came back together to discuss, I pointed this out. I said, “I don’t know about you all, and while I understand the benefit of cheering on our husbands, I think us wives need it too!” Every. Woman. Nodded. Every. One.
Fast forward to my Lego morning. My son was up early and first (snow day!) and I wanted to make sure I plugged some time into him before I lost him to a day of electronics with friends and lost myself to work (here on the computer, typing furiously away and Zooming with clients). We decided to work on his latest Lego project, the Home Alone house build (it is pretty damn cool). While he was building and figuring out a complicated part, I heard myself cheering him on. “Awesome buddy! Way to go! This is a cool set! I am so proud of you for choosing this one and sticking with it.”
Then I thought to myself, look at me, way to go cheering on my little man. This is what they were talking about last night.
Very next thought. Oh my word. Am I doing the same for my daughter? Am I cheering her on in the same way? Am I valuing her for her artwork, math skills, and intellect and not just telling her how cute and beautiful she is? How is she being hard-wired? Does she want to be cheered or loved or both?
Is my son feeling cherished and loved?
Don’t they both deserve all of it?
In that moment I figured out why I felt so bothered about the teachings, aside from the fact they didn’t resonate with me. This is just another way we are (unintentionally) setting up our little girls to struggle with women’s issues and bias. This is the heart of women’s leadership and development.
I am not sure about you, but I know I have to actively remind myself to watch my language with my kiddos. I actively remind myself (a lot) to praise them for their hard work, their intellect, their perseverance. To make sure the praising language I use with my daughter doesn’t just focus on her appearance. To make sure I am following what I learned in the book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck and ensure I am praising my kids for being hard workers and not just for being smart.
Then I got to thinking even bigger-picture and about the book I am reading right now (which I adore) called Becoming Heroines, by Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin. I encourage you to read it because I cannot possibly summarize it here (in fact, I have almost underlined the whole darn book!). McLaughlin addresses the systematic oppression of women that is still happening all around the world. She points out that one way we hold ourselves back is due to our own self-limiting beliefs. While each and every human has self-limiting beliefs, I cannot help but tie together that the lack of cheerleaders for women only solidifies the (untrue) beliefs we already have about ourselves. If the teaching is that men need these cheerleaders, and women need to BE these cheerleaders, then aren’t we reinforcing the self-limiting beliefs held by women in our silence and our failing to cheer them, while helping men dismantle their own self-limiting beliefs by breathing fire into them. What. the. Heck. Read that sentence again.
Women need that fire too. Why can’t the NORM be that women and men both need and deserve cheerleaders? It cannot be that women, who are already sucked dry (quite literally), continue to be sucked dry, while the men get all the cheering.
In fact, it is even worse.
While women are taught to cheer men, and men are taught to cheer men, seeing men slapping each other on the back and cheering one another on from the sports field to the boardroom, women are taught something far different on how to treat our own gender. We are taught, even encouraged, to tear one another down. We go after one another with a shocking hostility that is not only stomach-churning but fatal to our collective ability to succeed. What do I mean here? Women can be downright nasty to one another. Why? Perhaps it is because, as McLaughlin’s teaches us in Becoming Heroines (Chapter 9), women are indoctrinated with the false belief that only so many of us women can succeed. That subconscious philosophy has become so toxic that it pits women against one another in a race to the “top” to succeed. And guess what? It isn’t even true. In fact, it is the dead opposite of true. (See my quote at the very end, we need each and every one of us to succeed. We have a lot of work to do).
Sadly, I have seen this play out too often in real life. For a long while, I was part of a special Facebook group, full of smart, highly educated, successful women. At first, the group was fantastic. We celebrated one another, advised each other on child-rearing issues, work, recipe swapping, venting, etc. But at some point, the group became rather hostile. Women began tearing one another down. Women became downright mean and bullying. Members aligned with the thought process of hey, if she wants to post this thing, I am allowed to attack her in any way I wish. I stopped following the group. It was too awful to watch and it was hard to put my emotions and frustrations into words until I fell across these IG posts by a fellow life coach who sums up what I was feeling but couldn’t articulate past the notion of “wow, these ladies are vicious”:
Powerful stuff right? Makes you think. I know it made me think.
And still why? Why do we do this? Taking it one step further, perhaps it is because we are thinking some pretty terrible thoughts about our own womanly self and that fear, hate, and anger unconsciously rise up, bubble out, project and spew all over other women. “Virtually every woman . . . struggles with the voices in her own head that hold her back.” (page 33). The author sees it. I see it in the work I do as a life coach. I see it in the work I do as a family law attorney. I have seen it in my own self.
To my ladies in the room, we need to stop that nonsense. We know better and we can do better. We need to actively work not to perpetuate this nonsense and continue to check ourselves, our thoughts, and our words.
My takeaway in all of this: women need to be cheered too. Not only in return by their husbands (which is where my whole thought process here started), but by the other men in the room, by other women, and themselves. It is crucial. It is fundamental. It. Is. EVERYTHING.
But wait, there’s more.
I am still thinking about what rubbed me wrong about the workshop last week. It was the link between cheering and RESPECT. Remember, not only do men need cheering, they need it to feel respected. I do not doubt that this is true. But when the dude said something along these lines: men need cheering due to the fact they were cheered their entire life and they are so used to it, that when it is taken away by their wife, they feel a loss of respect. Wow. When I put it like that . . . I see pretty clearly why I am still agitated. Shouldn’t we all be so lucky to grow up with being cheered at every turn?
The truth is wives and husbands need respect, cheering, and to feel cherished. Both partners need all 3. Doesn’t it make more sense if we ask our partner what speaks to them and what they need the most? I think it is time to consider how some of the teachings can have a greater impact if we simply ask our spouse, does this resonate with you? I think we need to use this workshop to figure out how to best support our spouses. I think we need to use it to see how we can do better with our kids. Don’t all of our children, no matter their gender, deserve praise, respect, and the feeling of being cherished?
This is such an easy example of really seeing how boys and girls, and men and women, are taught to treat and to be treated differently and how that message is still coming across in black and white. This is such an easy example to see how this message starts to come across at a really young age. This example underpins everything.
Before I continue with the woe is me. There IS an answer. Several of them. Empowering ones that you can start today:
- Pour into your daughters. Pour into them in front of your sons. In front of your husbands. In front of their teachers. Their coaches. POUR INTO THEM. Every chance you get. Check yourself and make sure you are cheering on your daughters in the same way you cheer on your sons. How do you do this? Cheer them!
- Husbands. Pour into your wives. Pour into them in front of your sons. Pour into them in front of your daughters. In front of her friends. In front of YOUR friends. In front of the people at your work and her work. In front of your fellow parishioners at church. Pour into her, cheer her, and let everyone see it. Normalize it. How do you do this? Cheer them!
- Continue to pour into your all of your kids, no matter their gender. Pay attention to where, when, and what you are pouring into them for. Cheer them for kindness. Cheer them for inclusivity. Cheer them and encourage them to cheer on their sisters and their female friends.
- Talk to your spouse. Ask them to complete the sentence (the same question the workshop started with) “If there was one thing I needed to hear from you today , I would want you to say _______________________.”
- Surround yourself with people who are further ahead and further along in these issues than you are. For example, I know about this book because of a fellow law mom, Nichole Berklas, posting it on her Facebook. The passage she posted was so powerful, I bought it straight away. I intentionally watch this woman’s posts because she is a role model to me and is further along on figuring out race and women’s issues than I am. Find your role model. If you cannot find someone in real life, find a book. Be the role model.
Thank you Nichole! This book has been a lifeline. Thank you Elizabeth. This book is a gift. Thank you to Simone for putting in words the angst I was feeling.
Full circle, no wonder I am feeling how I am feeling. Check out my Story and WHY I became a life coach.
These are the words I wrote almost a year ago today: In my 21 years of experience, I have discovered one really important commonality: We, as humans, need encouragement and a LIGHT.
Still further, what I wrote for myself for my WHY DO I WANT TO COACH? This is what I wrote in January 2021:
To everyone who read until the end, thank you. Please share this post (or the books) with the people in your life you know can make a difference and to the people who may need to hear it.
To those of you who are ready to have your voice heard or to start effectuating change but you don’t know where to start and you are looking at some coaching to guide you along, I invite you to a schedule a discovery call with me by clicking here.
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links to the books I mention, and I may receive a commission for purchases made through said link at no cost to you.