048: The Patriarchy with Heather Higgins

In Gender Issues, Guest Star, Podcast by Robert KandellLeave a Comment

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Welcome back to Tuff Love, with Rob Kandell. The guest today is Heather, who is part of the authentic relating community in Boulder, and very passionate about feminism and looking for a better world outside of patriarchy for everone. Bringing together these two worlds is incredibly important. She’s in a place of exploration about how men and women can relate to one another in a system that continually favors men and masculine energy over women and feminine energy, and how to honor everybody’s experience within that. How do we honor women who’ve been socially trained not to say no and not have boundaries, and honor men who have been taught to win, conquer and not take no for an answer? It’s an interesting exploration on how to relate and have options to show up in a way that creates intimacy and authenticity.

Rob and Heather explore this interesting and challenging topic:

  • Rob believes this whole concept of honoring everyone’s experience is truly important. Feminists have a bad rap, men have a bad rap. We think people are bad for their behaviors.
  • They were taught to act this way. We were poorly trained and poorly educated to be in this world. We’re here to re-educate, have more connection, honor the past, honor our viewpoints, expand and grow them so we can get better and better.
  • The biggest thing Heather had to re-educate herself on is to validate her gut feeling, honor that, listen to it if something doesn’t feel right to her. Notice feelings of discomfort and ask, ‘How do I take care of myself in this moment?’
  • She had to learn to not listen to the social programming of ‘it’s not a big deal, smile, because I’m nice and that’s the way I should be.’ She had 28 years of social programming about being nice and polite and accommodating, so she’s still re-educating herself.
  • Rob and Heather discuss the example of a guy staring at a woman on a bus. To Heather if she notices someone noticing her, that’s one thing, but it’s different. There’s a point where someone is continuing watching that feels less clean, where she feels objectified, because they don’t care about her as a person.
  • Rob notices that when he has his attention on the woman an her feelings, that’s when he can tell if he’s awake and aware. Most men, most people don’t put that attention out, and that’s where the line gets crossed.
  • Patriarchy is a system that harms both men and women with the social training. It’s this training that women are around for men’s entertainment, pleasure or enjoyment. And women have the social training that they should be that, present a certain way, or be accommodating or nice.
  • We’ve created this system where women don’t feel like they can say no and men feel like they should go for things they want, and we have a huge gap in how to communicate with each other because of it.
  • Heather started practicing boundaries with everyone in her life. It started with family, just saying, ‘No Mom, I don’t want to help you clean out the garage.’ The idea of saying no was so scary. What if they’re angry at me? It’s been a process of being connected with what she wants and needs and honoring it.
  • It’s also holding space for someone else’s reaction to that. People don’t like hearing a no, and she is being open to the impact of that. Practicing with friends and family seemed safer, a good way to start.
  • The social critic, that thinks of herself as a bad person for saying no, is still there, and it stems from social programming and upbringing, as well as layers of codependency with family. All that is true. Heather allows space for it, listens to it, and doesn’t let it take over.

Rob and Heather change topic a little to talk about the systems of men having the advantage in our society but also being hurt by the patriarchal system:

  • It’s pervasive in our society that there are more men in positions of power, especially in business. That’s one example.
  • A little more severe is the way it shows up in legal systems with rape and assault cases, e.g. The Brock Turner Case. The conversation was about the negative impact it would have on Brock to go to prison, without focusing on the impact of his assault on the woman he assaulted.
  • There’s been a ton of studies about job selection and identical resumes with the name Daniel or the name Jamal, or a woman’s name. Daniel gets the job more often than not. These are internal biases that are deeply rooted in our society and what we’ve been taught.
  • This system does hurt and affect men and women.
  • Rob has studied the men’s rights activism movement and found that men are suffering, not with the positions of power so much but really around the emotional intelligence. Men are not allowed to speak about their own emotions.
  • Heather believes the social training for boys happens sooner than a lot of the social training for girls. Girls are told what boys want and how to behave properly around 9 or 10 years old, whereas boys are taught from as little as 2 or 3 not to cry, to put down dolls, don’t be a girl – like that’s the worst thing you could be. A lot of them are completely cut off from their emotional access really, really early on in life.
  • One thing Rob is struggling with in terms of equality, we definitely want women to be in power positions and equal, but there’s a piece around polarity.
  • A lot of men and women are very confused nowadays because of this change in power dynamics between the sexes. A lot of women don’t know how to act, especially in the bedroom.
  • For a woman to be in masculine during the day and then come home and be in feminine with her partner, it involves a lot of trust. She needs to know she doesn’t need to be in control at home, she doesn’t need to manage everything. It’s trusting when she’s asking, “Can I really be who I am? Can you hold me in my feminine? Can you hold me when I’m a little more masculine and want to be masculine?”
  • It’s also an experiment of “How deep can I go, how much can I let go?” Experimentation is the only way to find out where your edges are. We are explorers and we want to expand.
  • A lot of the caution that Heather has around men is around ‘can I trust this person? Will they respect my no, my boundaries?’ So the idea of trust is very important because she needs that in order to take down the walls she has around her to preserve safety outside home life.
  • The walls got created because of our society and this unequal system we all grew up in. Rob went to an Allison Armstrong seminar that demonstrated the difference in the concept of how different it is for men and women in the concept of safety outside their home.
  • Women have a lot of training around that safety piece. Heather says they’re taught to be scared of outside the home. There’s value in caution but men aren’t taught the same cautionary tales. Rob was taught those things but it was only about certain neighborhoods.

Rob and Heather coach Mihai. They explore Mihai’s experience with this male-dominated society, and the topics of shame and consent:

  • This topic right away brings shame for Mihai, about the places he’s made mistakes or hasn’t been sensitive. He’s been exploring enthusiastic consent, and it’s a very different energy, he likes it.
  • Consent to Heather is crucial. It’s about getting consent every step of the way, no matter what you’re doing. There’s something there about claiming what you want, which for a lot of women is also an edgy thing because they’re taught a lot of times to do what makes someone else happy. To have a woman claim the thing that she wants is edgy, and it’s a great buy in for consent. Do you want it enough to ask for it, or is it just a thing that you’re going along with?
  • For Mihai what’s not consent is dominating the space with his masculinity in such a way that there’s no room for her masculinity to come out. He had a hard time being in his femininity, he’s exploring that, feeling his own desire, holding back, giving her a chance to step forward. It’s a switch of polarity. Consent is a tool to explore polarity dynamics.
  • Rob shares the old joke that men are offense, women are defense. What Rob has found from being in a strong sexual community and teaching around sexuality is that when women’s appetites are safe and free, they’re much larger than most men.
  • The shame piece is such a poignant example of how patriarchy hurts men too. This shame about ‘I did this thing that was what I was taught to do but then it’s wrong or it had a negative impact and how do I hold that?’
  • People think each other fragile. Past experiences have probably proven that the other gender has fragile egos.
  • If you want to have a powerful relationship with someone, you have to speak the truth in real time, you have to communicate, you have to be real. If not, if you think the other person fragile, you create them as fragile. How do you tell the truth when you’re afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings?
  • For Heather it depends on the situation and the context: what’s happening, how well do I know that person? She might say, ‘I feel worried or nervous telling you this thing and it’s the thing that’s true for me.’
  • Rob calls it a communication bridge, it’s the communication before the communication to build more rapport.
  • If Heather doesn’t know the person, and she’s worried about physical safety, that comes before someone else’s ego. She won’t care about the other’s feelings, if it’s a choice between physical safety and their feelings.
  • For speaking truth, Mihai loves structured relating games. For example, The Withholds game. Scheduling time to do that is important.
  • Ask for what you want and be okay with not getting it. The second part is key, and not so easy for a lot of people. The difference is living in a world of surplus versus a world of scarcity. If you live in abundance and surplus, a no is just a no. If you live in scarcity, a no is death.
  • Heather has some recommendations to ease up the disconnection between men and women. Be willing to look at it, read articles about it, e.g. everydayfeminism.com and information about different ways to interact or relate.
  • Be willing to look at your own internal biases and shame or overwhelmed, approaching it with curiosity, be willing to explore it within yourself. Take bite-sized pieces. Do the internal work. Admit that this is going on.
  • A lot of people want to avoid it or reject it. If you’re not putting attention on it, the problems will keep going and the world will stay the way it is.
  • Come at it with curiosity and love. Respect the places that you can’t look at right now, the parts that might be too painful to address right now, get some support around it, come back to it in a month, honor own journey.
  • For Mihai, it’s about making sure he’s taking care of himself so he can show up better for others. He’s started a men’s group, so his fellow men are support and his relationships with women are for nourishment but he doesn’t go into it alone.

How to find Heather:

Find her on Facebook at Heather Higgins.