What Can We Do To Change the Passitivity Problem?

Monday I talked about how women are told to always agree with men. Yesterday I told you about a time I screwed up when communicating with a woman and how I made it right.  And let me tell you right now, despite dating guides that literally tell women to lie and pretend to be someone else, that is horribly toxic to a relationship.

This question is still mostly unanswered, though: What the hell are we going to do about it?

It’s easy to say “Women should be expected to speak up.”  I think it’s important for women to speak up as much as they can (and go past their comfort zone in doing so), but that’s passing the buck. This is a patriarchy, and so if we want it to change (and if you don’t, are you sure this is the blog for you?), those with power – men – are the ones who have to act in ways to recognize that power differential and negate it.

I mentioned one thing that I did yesterday:

I praised all the things she said she
was shamed for (and honestly so), and took responsibility for all the
craptastic jerks she’s encountered in the past. I lauded her forthrightness and honesty, even if it made me uncomfortable.

This is extremely powerful, though it takes time, honesty, and commitment. A woman I dated for a while flinched when I asked her why she was taking one route instead of another. I wasn’t the person who created that conditioning, but I sure as hell was the person who was there then. So I made a point of encouraging her to speak up. When we broke up, she told me pretty honestly how she felt – and a bit more later. While I wasn’t glad that we broke up, I was glad that she’d felt comfortable enough to make her needs and wants known – and when I was unable to meet them, to stand by what she truly needed and wanted.

Likewise, with my amour, I do my best to recognize the times that she challenges my opinions or ideas… even if it means that I’m uncomfortable (or hurt) in the process.  Yes, it has happened.  Yes, it sucked.  But at the same time, I was thrilled that she felt able to tell me her truth.

While this is especially effective with those you have a strong emotional relationship with, it’s possible to do with those you work with. Encourage women to speak up, and then listen to what they’re saying, and act on it.

Further, recognize that women in our society are trained to be passive. Double check when a woman you interact with suggests something in a passive way.  For an example, if she says “Would you like pizza for dinner?”, make sure she doesn’t actually mean “I would like pizza for dinner, and I hope you’re not going to object?”

But here’s the problem: my perspective is limited. While I’m working to dismantle this power differential, I’m still on one side of it.  Women: Wherever you see this post, please comment with the suggestions that would best help YOU be able to say what you actually want and need – or that men can do to show that we are serious about wanting to hear it.

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