I am honoured to know a lot of incredible women – strong, resilient, highly-intelligent, well-organised, successful in their chosen fields or brilliant stay-at-home carers. But often they share a recurring theme that breaks my heart and causes feelings of profound sadness, frustration and yes, rage, to rise in my chest.
It is the lack of equality in their intimate partnerships and their continued acceptance of that situation as normal.
It is evident in common statements like:
I’ve done two hours of work before my husband has even got out of bed in the morning.
He really wants to have kids as soon as possible and both our Mums really want grandkids. I’m not sure if I’m ready but there is a lot of pressure. [a few months later she falls pregnant]
He really wants more kids…[later in the same conversation]…He didn’t realise he needed to take the nappy bag because he rarely looks after the children by himself.
I finally got a cleaner because I don’t have time to do it all and it doesn’t matter how many times I ask, he never helps out much.
He tries but, you know, he never does it properly.
He’s always happy to do things he enjoys like going to soccer with our son. But he’s not great with the other stuff like cleaning and cooking dinner.
He runs a large company but can’t cope with our three children for two hours without calling me.
Again and again I hear these statements uttered with an accompanying sigh of resignation. I wonder how we reached the point where women accept this behaviour as the standard. Why do we accept this is what love and relationships are supposed to look like?
Honestly, I know exactly how we got here. We arrived through the centuries of conditioning woman (and yes, men) have received, generation after generation. It’s been enforced through cultural norms, families, religious doctrine, film, television, books and our media.
Women accept this is what love looks like because we’ve been taught that it looks like this. We believe it because we see it everywhere. Yet we also wonder why we still don’t have equal rights in the workplace and why men still get off lightly in the courts for rape and other forms of sexual assault. We wonder why women working online receive vicious threats from men threatening to hunt them down, hurt or murder them. We wonder why the scourge of domestic violence continues to threaten women in relationships at every socio-economic level.
We wonder why we don’t have equality in society yet we don’t realise we don’t have it in our homes. If we don’t have it in our intimate lives how can it ever be created or sustained outside our front door?
The truth is, it can’t. But if we continue to accept inequality in our intimate lives, to shrug and say that’s just the way it is and “I love him”, nothing will ever change within our homes or outside them.
Love without equality is love with an unhealthy serve of disrespect. I am so very tired of seeing women disrespected. I can also see they are exhausted from it too. They are exhausted from the accommodating, navigating and negotiating. Yet they believe this is what love looks like so they make trade-offs in their own minds and it all continues.
If we truly want equality in society, we must first achieve it in our homes. And men who support equality in their workplaces need to do the same in their relationships. If they don’t, they are simply mouthing meaningless platitudes in an attempt to publicly look good to their female colleagues and the rest of the world.
Intimate relationships and love can be complicated. There will always be give and take throughout the twists and turns of life, and compromises to be made. But let’s get real about equality.
If you’re in a relationship, sit down and map out how much time you both spend doing paid and unpaid work to sustain life and the home. Include all the hours spent getting up to feed babies in the middle of the night, caregiving, doing the school run, shopping for groceries, cleaning, looking after relatives – although it is unpaid it is still work and if you had to pay someone to do those things (actually, let’s face it, you would need to pay several people), the bill would be huge. Tally it all up and compare notes. See who is spending more time and go from there. Perhaps you are both equally pulling your weight. If so, that is fantastic – keep going! If not, it’s time for an honest conversation.
Every woman deserves to have equality in her intimate partnership. It should be a right rather than something we need to negotiate. A given not an exception to the rule.
Love without equality is not good enough for any woman, or a good enough reason to stay with any man.
Why don’t we believe that men know their own minds? When they say things like, I don’t think I’m the right man for you or I’m not good enough for you, we usually argue with them.
We seek to put a salve on their egoic wounds and build up their confidence. We argue with them when we should accept what they are telling us and show them the door.
When we ignore these statements from men, we do them and ourselves a disservice. Firstly, our refusal to believe his words dismisses his knowledge of who he is and where he is at in life. This is kind of condescending when you think about it.
Women often step into a more encouraging and dare I say it, mothering role at this point in the conversation. We seek to build him up and focus on his potential much as we would do with a child. But he’s not a child. He’s a man. And you actually want to be in a relationship with a man who will meet you as an equal…don’t you?
Not valuing his words and listening to them leaves the door open to being screwed over. If you convince him to stay in the relationship at this point, he’s given you fair warning about what may be ahead. He might simply spend more time with you until he meets the right woman or he might try to be good enough for you (and succeed in this quest, or not). Either way, it’s not a solid foundation for your relationship.
I’m not saying he can’t become the right man for you. Maybe he can. But that’s something he will need to work on, grow into and choose for himself. Propping him up during this period is unhelpful and emasculating.
When he says he’s not the right one or he’s not good enough, believe him and let him go. If the situation changes, he will be back. If he doesn’t return, he’s done you a favour and helped you move towards the right man who is still out there, looking for you.
Lucretia Ackfield is a modern explorer of love and a passionate advocate for establishing equality through love for the self and others. She helps women all over the world to fall in love with themselves so they can find the deep and powerful love they deserve. Her first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, covers all the antics of a single life from online dating to lackluster sexual adventures and dysfunctional relationships. Now available in eBook and PDF >> Get your copy.
TW: This post discusses sexual assault and rape.
A heavy sadness has been growing in my heart for some days now. It arrived when I opened Laura Bates’ Men Who Hate Women and read about the vicious and violent threats she has received from men throughout her career, simply for voicing her opinions.
My heart grew heavier still as I watched Promising Young Woman at the cinema last night.
A book and a film both released in the past 12 months. Both cover the abuse of women. Both shining a blinding spotlight on what women know to be true – we are not safe.
The fact I need to put a trigger warning at the start of this post demonstrates just how unsafe we are – almost every woman I know has experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of man. And when many of us write about women standing up for themselves, we also include the words – if it’s safe for you to do so. We write this because for many women, it’s not safe to speak up.
I had to put Laura’s book down after reading the first 20 pages. I will pick it up again but I need to steel myself to proceed (and I haven’t even got to the really confronting parts yet).
However, I did watch the entirety of Promising Young Woman and I would describe it as brilliantly written, incredibly confronting and disturbingly accurate. It shows what women know to be true and also how men and some women dismiss, cover it up and justify it to themselves.
The film centres on Cassie, a young woman who dropped out of medical school to care for her best friend, Nina. Nina was raped while drunk during college and her rapist got away with it.
Cassie is on a mission to seek retribution.
Promising Young Woman could only have been written and directed by a woman. Its realness is unavoidable. I also feel it should be compulsory viewing for every girl, woman, boy and man over the age of 16.
The frequent refrain of “but I’m a nice guy” provided many teachable moments. Male characters knowingly took advantage of a woman who was drunk yet, when caught out, excused themselves with “but I’m a nice guy” and somehow reasoned away their culpability. Men and women dismissed rape as no big deal with comments about how the victim was drunk and asking for it.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
It reminded me of when I was at my post-formal party. It was the end of high school and my whole year went to a school mates’ property to get drunk and celebrate. I was a fairly naïve 17-year-old but even so, for some reason, I asked a trusted male friend if he would look out for me. I knew he would be sober but I wouldn’t be. Later that night, I remember one of the guys from my year (a seemingly nice guy) with his hands all over my breasts and the rest of my body. If it wasn’t for intervention of my sober male friend, things could have got out of hand very quickly.
Interestingly, back then, it didn’t register as an invasion of my physical space or assault. I don’t think I mentioned it to anyone and I certainly didn’t confront the perpetrator when I was sober at school the next day. Instead, I felt like it was just one of those things that could happen and you lived with it – having a guy put his hands all over you, intimately, when you were drunk was something that could happen and you lived with it. There was also an underlying theme that, somehow, you should feel good if a guy noticed you in that way – like you should be grateful for their attention.
No one had ever talked to me about how vulnerable women can be in those situations, what could happen and what my rights were to protect my own body. Clearly I knew enough to ask a friend to look out of me but that wasn’t from any direct conversation. I guess it was a more innate understanding of what kind of world I lived in as a young woman. It was just what we lived with.
But I’m sick of living with it and I’m tired of hearing people say that a woman asked for trouble because of what she was wearing or because she drank too much. Equally, I know that just because some guy shows you attention doesn’t mean you should be grateful for it. I’m also so sick of perpetrators getting away with their crimes because everyone thinks they are “nice guys” and “women often lie about these things”.
Women don’t often lie about these things. Why would we when, by making a formal police report, we open ourselves up to condemnation for being a slut and somehow asking for it? Or worse, victims are dismissed by police because a perpetrator “comes across as decent guy” when interviewed. Yes, it happens. Still.
There’s no doubt Promising Young Woman rips the scab off and exposes the darkness beneath. It’s a darkness we all know is there. Some of us try to ignore it, some of us feel powerless to stop it, many of us have been victims of it. But. We. All. Know. It. Is. There.
So please, take your brother, husband, boyfriend, father and male friends to see this film. Have the difficult conversations that arise afterwards. And for God’s sakes, all you men out there who sincerely want to help women: start listening to the experiences of the women you are supposed to care about, believe them and step up. Because women are still being raped and assaulted by “nice guys” and we need your help to stop it.
And as for you “nice guy” perpetrators out there. I hope you meet a woman like Cassie very soon.
TW: discusses sexual assault
World, we have a problem and I am sick to death of it. Sexual assault of women and girls is rife in our community and it’s got to stop.
Almost every woman I speak to has been sexually assaulted and/or physically abused by a boy or man. The incidents may have happened when they were a child or an adult but the stories are appallingly and insidiously common. Strangers at parties, boyfriends and husbands, older men when they were kids, on and on and on the stories go. They are everywhere and they are never-ending.
If you’re reading my words and thinking, “Lucretia is exaggerating, it’s not that common,” I want to invite you to do the following.
If you are a man reading this, put down your device and go talk to the women in your life – the women you care about. Ask them about their experiences of assault in the workplace, at home, on nights out. I dare you to ask and I dare you to listen and accept what you hear about their experiences. If a woman has escaped sexual assault and abuse, she is a lucky exception.
Then I suggest you take walk through the comments sections on posts by women like Clementine Ford who speak out about abusive male behaviour, feminism and women demanding better treatment. As you scroll, I want you do look out for the misogynistic commentary that some men still think is acceptable – comments like, “I’m going to rape you if you don’t shut your hole” or “No man will ever have sex with you because you’re an ugly pig.” This type of commentary is remarkably common and even more interestingly, when women shine a spotlight on these ugly comments that men send to their DMs, people (men and women) defend the abusive pricks who sent them in the first place. Women are still expected to play nicely and smile politely even in the face of abuse – we mustn’t cause waves or be disruptive.
Well, I am sick of this shi!
I’m sick of hearing of young women who are assaulted yet, when they tell adults, police and others, they are disbelieved and met with words like, “He comes across as a really genuine guy” or “Maybe he didn’t know that you weren’t into it.”
I’m sick of reading about how, even if a woman bravely and tenaciously, goes to court to tell her story, juries are still more likely to believe the man’s story even when evidence shows that women are unlikely to lie about this stuff. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read the words of Bri Lee in her book, Eggshell Skull.
I’m also completely devastated when I hear women and girls describe their assaults and in the next breath they doubt themselves and ask, “Was that wrong? Am I over-reacting? Was it my fault?”
If you are a girl or a woman and you feel like you have been sexually assaulted, then it’s highly, highly likely you have been. It wasn’t your fault.
If you said no and then he coerced you, didn’t listen, forced himself on you, you have been assaulted.
If he touched you sexually without your consent, then you have been assaulted.
If he pushed himself on you and you froze (which sadly, many women do in these situations because we are terrified), then you were assaulted.
If you have had any of these or related experiences, I want to say this directly to you:
“Sweetheart, none of that was your fault. When things happen and they feel wrong, they are wrong – trust yourself. It’s not your job to teach men and boys how to treat you respectfully – they know the difference between right and wrong.
“You are a courageous and beautiful person who deserves so much more than this. I believe you can find your way out – sometimes it’s just about finding the right person to help you.
“Don’t give up. I believe you.”
As for those of you who continue to say, “It’s not that common”, “She shouldn’t have worn that dress/gone to that place/been with that guy” or “He just misunderstood and thought she consented”, my response is “Do better”.
It all started in the early hours of New Year’s Day when a very tall and very wide bloke (you could say he was built like a brick shi!house) decided he give out free hugs in the nightclub. He said he’d had to bulk up so he could “keep up with the boys back home”. Then he proceeded, in his rather inebriated state, to lean all his bulk into me while he hugged me. My spine curved into a C-shape backwards and I felt a tugging sensation in my lower back. My stilettoes were more than three inches high and didn’t give me a solid base. Later, as I stood in the inevitable line waiting for a cab, my back felt a little sore.
Over the next few weeks, I had a bit of physiotherapy and then continued on with my life as normal. I was in a full-on, senior role in a high-pressure work environment and had a frenetic social life that matched a single woman in her 30s who loved to meet people, dance and have a good time.
Then, somewhere between ANZAC Day and Easter, I bent over in the shower and felt a sudden, sharp and very painful feeling in my lower back. I could barely stand back up again and can remember feeling fearful and panicky. Aside from my much-loved cat, Super Puss, I lived alone. I called in sick and somehow managed to lever myself into the car to drive to see my physiotherapist, Anne. I remember the look on her face when she came into the waiting area to greet me – she knew something was very, very wrong. I was in so much pain.
It turned out I had a desiccated disc in my lower back. As someone with hyper-flexible hips who danced Latin but didn’t have much core strength, my back didn’t have enough support. I was also highly stressed. That guy and his hug had triggered a weakness and begun a trajectory that led me to Anne’s office.
Ironically, I’d never really understood when people said they had back pain. I mean, I was compassionate to a point but a small part of me always thought maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Ha! Turns out I was definitely wrong – thanks Universe for that lesson.
I had to give up all the things I wanted and valued – my yoga, my dancing, socialising, my stilettoes (going to work in sandshoes everyday felt humiliating by my standards). I went to work, came home, went to physio, came home and that was about it. Most movement was painful most of the time. Getting out of bed was a challenge that required strategic thought and concentrated coordination. Anne was incredibly supportive during this time – every step of the way, she encouraged me, propped me up and was firm when needed. She was a godsend.
However, I wasn’t always gracious and accepting of my situation. It’s incredibly hard when your body decides to do something you don’t want it to do. There were times when I felt so resentful and frustrated. I can remember being halfway through a rehabilitation Pilates class for people with back issues and thinking, “I don’t belong here with these back problem losers!”. I felt so full of anger that I started to cry. I got up (slowly) and left. My exit was a concern to Anne and later, when I told her what was going on in my head at the time, she didn’t say a lot but she didn’t recoil from me either. It wasn’t my finest moment but I guess she’d seen people caught in the lows of the healing process before. It sucked.
But while I was in all this pain, stuck mostly at home, feeling, resentful, lonely and wondering if I would ever get back to where I wanted to be, something interesting happened.
For years I’d been talking about writing a book. I’d written ideas and anecdotes on random, scrappy pieces of paper, post-it notes and in notebooks. They were shoved them into a box in my office and left there. Then were also notes in journals and on my computer. I was going to write a book…someday. People told me I should definitely write a book. But it never quite happened.
Suddenly being forced to stop, be still and stuck at home with nothing else to do, I found myself wanting to pull all those notes together. At the very least, I could compile everything into a single Word document.
Over the following weeks and months, Super Puss and I spent a lot of quality time together as I sifted through all those random thoughts and typed them into the computer. But hey, it’s not as if I had somewhere else to go. Being stuck meant I had nothing else to do – so I moved on something long overdue.
Eventually it was all in one document and eventually too, my body started to heal and I was on the road to recovery. Dancing still wasn’t really on the cards but my sexy stilettoes were back on my feet.
A year or so after that awful day in the shower, I was fortunate enough to obtain a lucrative voluntary redundancy. I could be self-funded for a year and in my mind were two things – I could finally tutor at the university part-time and write my book. I did teach at the university and completed the first draft of my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, just after my birthday in October that year.
Why am I sharing this story now? Honestly, I’ve been feeling very resentful and irritated. I am here in Brisvegas when I had planned to relocate to Italy by now. By 30th June I would have obtained my 12-month student visa to study Italian and would be moving into my apartment in Florence. But due to Covid-19, I am not doing these things and instead, I feel stuck. Freaking incredibly and frustratingly stuck.
I’m in the process of accepting that I won’t be moving there for at least 12 months. Of course, I am grateful to be in this country, safe and with all the bounty we have here. And I know a lot of people are in far more desperate situations than I am. I recognise that I am lucky, so very lucky. But I am fighting an internal rebellion with my Soul – she longs to be in Italy and is always called back there. Unfortunately, 2020 has a plan and an energy of its own that, let’s face it, is turning everything we all planned and hoped for, on its head.
I was musing on my frustration and feelings of stuckness this morning and then recalled that time when I hurt my back. That injury led me to take my writing and my book seriously. If that bloke hadn’t pushed all his weight onto me, I may never have written my book at all. One thing leads to another and another but it doesn’t always lead to what you plan for or necessarily want at the time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck right now. We’ve all got things that we want and can’t have at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a bird locked up in a cage – all I want to do is fly.
But when I recall how my first book came together, I’m reminded that the Universe will often force us to pause when we don’t choose to do it for ourselves. In these times, the Universe is saying, “Wait. Now is the time to focus on all the things you’ve delayed because you were too ‘busy’ before. Wait. There are more things that need to shift first before that other thing can occur. Wait. Be patient. Focus. Just wait.”
I’ve got books to finish and a business to keep building. I will get to Italy, just not when I planned to. This breaks my heart. But I realise there is always a reason for the unplanned and unwanted delays we experience.
We just have to be patient and wait for the Universe to reveal the answers when she’s ready.
You can get your copy of The Men I’ve Almost Dated at all good online bookstores or via Lucretia’s Book Store.
I know lots of inspirational people – writers, creators, thinkers and those who have an entrepreneurial spirit that burns brightly. The problem is, many of them hide that part of themselves from everyone else but me. Actually, let me clarify that point. Many of them would also like to hide that side from me too but this is impossible because one of my gifts is the ability to see straight into their heart and what their soul desires.
But why do they want to hide this in the first place?
Many of them are waiting for permission because showing yourself and going for what you really want is a risk. But if you have permission then you will have support; you won’t be alone. Without permission, you go against the expectations of family, friends and others who think they know best or believe you should be making different choices. You may be worried about their anger, judgement or disapproval. So you wait for permission and put your own desires on the backburner if they can’t be molded into a shape that others will find acceptable.
This is not going to bring you fulfillment or joy. However, it will lead to a life where you settle, conform and survive.
I understand the drive for acceptance and the need to fit in. I get it, I really do. My teens and 20s were focused on an epic, internal battle involving a desire for conformity versus a desire to be free.
Freedom eventually won and the price was, in some quarters, a loss of acceptance, angrily expressed opinions, and judgement. As I found my feet, I also directed some of these against myself – no one could be harder on me, than me.
The fight to break free of these unseen shackles is very real. The expectations of ourselves and others can be insidious and lurk unidentified until an issue brings them to light. There is always another layer to be removed as we grow and expand.
However, I chose to stop waiting for permission years ago. I realised I could wait for the permission and approval of someone else for the rest of my life and never, ever get it. This would mean my life would be half-lived and honestly, what is the point of that? My 90-year-old self would not thank me for that choice at all!
So, here are some words of advice from someone who waited for a long time before choosing the path I know is right for me.
Stop waiting and do what you feel called to do.
Because waiting for permission is like trying to ride a scooter with an arm and leg tied together. You’ll always feel off-balance, it will be difficult to change direction without falling off, and the feeling of wind in your hair as you zoom joyfully through life will be unattainable.
If you are ready to stop hiding and share your story with the world, check out my new course – Storytellers Anonymous – it might be just what you need to help you shine.