My friend Cheryl just helped me understand why powerful women avoid feminists. Its quite simple. Cheryl was a feminist years ago and is now wealthy and powerful (enough). As she says (and I supplement),
1. We hate feeling powerless. We hate feeling that we need someone to rescue us. Women should stop complaining about the difficulties of working in a “mans world” and start sucking it up. Be a “man” about it!
2. We want to feel strong and in control. We do not need to hear anything negative that might bring us down. We like to think we are the masters of our destiny.
3. We are optimistic. Even talking about “advancing women” gets in the way of our groove – our forward-looking and positive perspective. Negative thinking must be ignored or abolished.
4. We hate bad news. We hate hearing about women failing. Its a downer.
5. We hate complainers and whiners. And we think all feminists are whiners. In fact we think that any woman who complains about balance and “not having it all” is complaining.
6. We want to be with others who are powerful. Women who complain are losers who often got ejected from the corporate world and obviously did not work hard enough.
This makes me cry. Cheryl’s mindset is the typical mindset of most women (and men) today. And to be candid, it makes perfect sense! Why would anyone like a feminist?
But sadly this is the very mindset that keeps women down. It looks very much like a psychological disease called disassociation. We disassociate when things are too painful for us to hear. In other words, we simply deny that women are actually being held back by the systems we have created. We simply decide to pretend everything it okay. It feels hugely better. Its kind of like valium.
Well here is the truth: Things are not okay. Not for women, not for men. Its a huge waste of time trying to re-package the bad news so that it is palatable. The truth is that we are all ignorant and naïve. Its not our fault. Our whole culture (which is reflected in every system from economic and legal to corporate and even marriage) discriminates against women and actually holds women back. We just don’t see it. And hating feminists is the primary way we stop the conversation from even starting.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Lean Out: 50 ways to shift corporate culture so women can rise to the top. Still searching for the perfect publisher.