"Do you know how hard it is to date a feminist?" My jaw dropped as the words spilled out of his mouth. I couldn't believe it was a serious question. How could this possibly be a question?
No, but I do know how hard it is to date a misogynist, is what I should have screamed back. In that instant, I suddenly felt that I wasn't 100 percent respected.
Instead, I sat there in disbelief, convincing myself it was okay: these were the people I'd have to face for the rest of my life. I wasn't wrong for thinking that – fighting for what you believe in is hard, and if we want to achieve Gender Equality, it's going to take everyone's effort. However, my experience as an activist and heterosexual woman has taught me that the most effective way to advance this cause is to date someone who doesn't cringe at the word "feminism."
The lack of education and ignorance surrounding the beauty of feminism can fog many people's worldview. I can hardly claim myself a feminist without receiving suspicious glares and assumptions that I'm a "man hater" to which I'd like to settle the score: just because I label myself a "feminist" does not mean I hate men. It means I believe women have every right to be respected as men do without question.
So, how do you know if your potential significant other is afraid of the "dirty word?" For one, they refuse to call themselves a feminist. How familiar does this sound: "I'm not a feminist, but I believe in equality."
Yes, my eyes just rolled too.
Someone that understands feminism knows that, by definition, it refers to the equality of cisgender and transgender people. The person you date shouldn't be nervous or scared of the word "feminist" because inequality affects all genders. If the person you're with doesn't make an effort to understand the wage gap, rape culture, and the social inequality of women to men, then it is evident they do not respect you. This lack of respect can quickly take a turn for the worst. This can lead to your partner dominating your relationship. When one person dominates a relationship, the other inevitably feel submissive and oppressed. Relationships are built on compromise, love, and trust. Not domination.
Examples of dominance include anything from criticisms about your outfits to isolation from friends. Because of the dominance of the perpetrator, one might feel the only person they have in their life is their partner. No relationship should ever feel this way – it's emotional and psychological abuse. If you fear aspects of your relationship and your anxiety heightens when you think about things you wouldn't normally worry about, this is a red flag that your relationship could show signs of having an unequal balance of power. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 48.4 percent of women have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner. To follow, 4 in 10 women have experienced coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This dominant behavior is more common than people realize, and is behavior that is the exact opposite of feminism.
Another way to tell if your partner doesn't respect you is if you feel guilty for voicing your opinion. While partners don't have to agree on everything, but one should never feel guilty for standing up for themselves or having faith in their beliefs. A partner who makes you feel weaker or less intelligent because you say something they disagree with is not making your relationship an equal partnership. Relationships should never undermine a person's confidence or sense of self-worth. The NCADV says that this kind of psychological abuse leads to long-term damage to a victim's mental health. One may experience depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), low self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, or even a higher chance of suicidal ideation.
In my past relationship, there was a power struggle because we were both dominant people. I felt as if my voice was never heard or respected because my partner didn't take the time to understand the oppression that women face every day. He was controlling, manipulative, and made me feel inferior to him. His false pretense included the behavior of pretending he was more intelligent than me, telling me what clothes I should wear, and even went to the extent of saying he was turned off by the idea of me not shaving. Even for one day.
These comments came from him daily, and made me feel like I wasn't good enough for him, lowered my self-esteem, and triggered my PTSD from a past that I worked so hard to recover from. I suffered through a love that sometimes nourished me, but more often than not broke me down.
Just as love is defined by respect and trust, so is feminism. But the stigma around feminism has prevented far too many people from seeing this. I'm not a man-hater. I just want to be equal and have my voice heard in my love relationships.
In the feminist community, there are many debates about what equality looks like. This is not only limited to society, but also extends to the relationship between two loved ones. Feminism advocates for a balance of power, a concept that shouldn't intimidate people. It doesn't advocate for "man-hating" in any possible way.
Too many times, potential lovers do not see the benefits of dating a feminist. A feminist will work as hard as they can to show equal amounts of effort, love, and respect for their partner. Because of the modern stigma, this idea of equality is largely lost in the sea of accusations of the feminist being a “man-hater."
But feminism, by its very nature, fosters an unbreakable love because it is rooted in equality, empathy, and respect. And if you can't respect that, it's safe to say you're not worth my time.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."