I was brought up on a diet of gender equality. I saw how awesome EMPOWERED WOMEN are – there weren’t many women PhD’s in the 70’s and early 80’s, I got to know A LOT of them.
My father studied feminist rhetoric back in the 60’s and I saw first-hand the transformation that happens when a woman begins to believe in herself and eliminate the things that don’t support her. I also saw the impact it has on a woman’s life when she doesn’t speak up and confront those who treat her less than honoring-ly including herself.
While my dad taught me about women’s empowerment, he never outgrew his southern upbringing, and didn’t practice equality at home. So while I couldn’t believe stories about women who stayed in relationships where they felt like the lowest priority, I learned to treat my mom like she was the slave of the family and her needs didn’t matter. She worked full-time, as a teacher, and still my dad and I expected her to do EVERYTHING around the house.
For example, we had dinner at the table every night, growing up, Dad and I sat so we could still see the TV, mom couldn’t see it, and I learned that “women don’t matter.” It didn’t make sense to me back then, and I took it that my mom was “fine.” She said she was “fine” so it must be OK, right? Looking back, I wish I had spoken up at age 10. I wish my mom had spoken up and set some boundaries demanding that she be treated well.
All it would have taken was ONE TIME for my mom to say, “hey guys, I’m glad you guys enjoy the TV during dinner, and it stinks for me. Marcus, will you turn the TV off every night when we start dinner?” And if she had wanted to make sure I really got it, she could have said, “Marcus, I want you to grow up and know how to treat a woman well. It’s not OK for you guys to watch TV during dinner and I can’t see it. So, every night when we sit down to dinner, will you turn the tv off, please?” It didn’t happen because my dad would have been offended, been defensive, belittled her, and NOT BACKED HER UP with the BOUNDARY she was setting with me.
Since that never happened, naturally, in my early 20’s I met the love of my life and I still had the teachings of women’s empowerment. So I taught the love of my life how well she deserved to be treated and because I learned to be like my dad, I had taught her that SHE DESERVED TO BE TREATED BETTER THAN I TREATED HER! but I also had the modeled behavior of my dad which didn’t honor the women closest to me. The love of my life was gone, because I didn’t practice what I preached, but I didn’t care, because I also learned from my dad to be arrogant.
But really, I was hurting more and more inside.
I have been blessed to have some strong, badass women mentors in my life who have taught me so much about being the kind of man I want to be. I was always aware that my mom was treated unfairly and I learned to treat women unfairly. I got called out really hard on how I was, and it inspired me. I had to eat a lot of “humble pie” – I realized that I was treating girlfriends just like my dad had treated my mom.
It felt like shit to get confronted and it was the best thing for me – it forced me to grow and get a sense of how my dishonoring behavior affected the women I cared about. Working as a therapist and growing in my own spiritual path, I have seen how much women’s spirits are shut down and dismissed in our Patriarchal culture.
THE MOMENT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE
I had gone to have dinner one night at my parent’s house when I was in my mid-20s. My mom had just come back from a road trip picking up a bunch of stuff (mostly clothes) that belonged to her brother, my uncle, after his divorce. Although my uncle hadn’t died, picking up his stuff triggered the memory for my mom of when she gathered a bunch of her father’s, my grandfather’s, clothes after HIS death. As we were sitting at the dinner table, I saw my mom’s face change as she described being 20yrs old and pulling her father’s dirty clothes out of the laundry hamper to wash them the day after he passed. She began to re-live this hurt of her father’s death. That hurt had been buried inside for 30 years. She never felt it or let it out! She began to describe holding her father’s undershirt and how she could smell him in that shirt, then she stopped talking. Her eyes were bugged out as she looked far into the past, she covered her mouth trying to keep the pain inside – she looked like she was about to explode! I could feel how big this was! I didn’t know what to do. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!
I looked to my dad, who just sat there. He didn’t know what to do, either.
I KNEW there was a way to help my mom alleviate this hurt – I had some kind of sense that she needed to go deeper into the hurt and then it would heal, but I DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO HELP HER! I wanted to help so badly and I didn’t know what to do.
From that day on, I have made it my mission in life to be able help – to know what to do, to know what to say, TO KNOW WHO TO BE, so I could be of service to those who are hurting – to help them heal on the DEEPEST levels, not just on the surface where you get patted on the head. I help people find true emotional freedom.
I didn’t know that this quest would lead to discovering spirituality, I didn’t know it would lead to discovering, respecting, and teaching the Divine Feminine energy, I didn’t know it would lead to understanding women and seeing how they hold themselves back from being their amazing selves, but I am humbled and grateful everyday for the chance to do this work.