We are strong women, determined, courageous, and successful, so why are we still so submissive? We are businesswomen and leaders, yet we persist in deferring to men, allowing them to preside over joint endeavors rather than challenging them with our own wisdom and experience. Find out why now is the time to beat such behavior into submission and stand up for ourselves.
In January 2020, my friend arrived back after spending two years in the rainforest in Ecuador organizing the release of a small group of woolly monkeys. For months, she trekked through the jungle after her charges, sleeping in a cage and carrying everything she needed in a small backpack. She was completely independent and in control.
Now in a relationship with a younger man, however, she has become (by her own admission) completely submissive, immediately accepting the superiority of his opinions over her own. While it is usually about something inane, like cooking chicken on an open fire, she still hates herself for doing it.
Listening to her describe her experiences, I started wondering just how many of us quietly back down, accepting that it is more important for a man’s ego that we submit rather than giving our own egos the benefit of the doubt.
The kind of submission I’m thinking about isn’t necessarily the biblical kind in which “wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24). While I don’t necessarily support the current trad-wife movement, I don’t intend to attack those who believe that “husbands must always come first if you want a happy marriage,” however dubious that might sound.
I am more concerned with those moments when we bite our tongue and go with the flow, the times when we say “yes” while wishing we had the confidence to say “no,” the instances where we compromise our own beliefs so as not to stand out in a crowd.
However, it’s a grey area, especially if we consider people like the author, Dr. Heavenly Klimes, who advocates being a submissive wife despite being a very successful doctor.
According to Klimes, “Submissiveness means being humble and engaging in a positive dialogue with your husband. It means maintaining your own dignity, while helpfully cooperating with your husband in building the family”.
While that sounds perfectly acceptable, Klimes also encourages us to follow our husband’s lead, look sexy for him, and be neither a prude nor a nag. To me, that suggests backing down to a man’s natural authority and boosting his ego at the expense of my own.
Dr. Klimes is certainly not alone in believing that submission is about “learning to become more feminine” and, in searching for opinions about women submitting to men, I came across a flurry of articles declaring things like “instead of being feminine, we often choose to ‘be in control or that to “truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and… submissive”.
While I’ll happily accept that the ability to back down in the face of conflict and admit when we are wrong is valuable and any successful relationship, I also support the concept presented in the article, Feminist Discernment in the Family, which says, “Women should not view themselves as subjects of physical and emotional fragility, simply because they are defined as “feminine” by society.”
It might be tempting to back away from conflict – to submit rather than challenge – but maybe it’s time we stood up for our fundamental belief that we are equal to men and stop keeling over every time they wield some authority.
Kickstart your assertiveness today by following these useful tips:
- Listen actively, and without interruption, so you understand the other person’s perspective.
- Consider their position and communicate honestly about your own
- If you cannot find a compromise, be prepared to agree to disagree.
- See your adversary as a friend rather than an enemy and practice problem-solving techniques to find common ground.
- Exercise the power of ‘I’ rather than turning the conflict into a series of accusations
- Set boundaries about what you are willing to allow and what you find unacceptable
Above all, be patient and kind to yourself – “assertiveness is like any other skill – it takes practice.