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“Women Can’t Say No” (if they want to be accepted)

Some insight and observations regarding our inability as women to say no to those things that do not serve us or that we simply do not want to do!

Have you ever felt like screaming to the heavens in frustration because you just “couldn’t” find the words or courage to say no to someone or some group of people? Or you just felt so much guilt and pressure to take on a task that you had no interest in doing or were just too tired to take on?

Well, welcome to the club! This is the struggle facing a number of women and has been the case for generations. Tending to hearth and home, running household errands, caring for family members, meeting the demands of religious obligations, society, culture, etc-and then you wake up, to do it all over again.

While some women might argue that this is not the case in 2019, I beg to differ. The same power strictures employed by patriarchal and paternalistic forces within most societies across the globe are alive and well. The battle for equality in all of its iterations is still in full force; simply taking new dimensions of complexity and expressions of activism. Added to that, the increased visibility of the women of color feminism via social media and other technologies have highlighted an uncomfortable truth; that the battle for equality and human rights, is far from over. In fact, this is made no more stark and obvious by the battle over “women’s reproductive rights” (a more truthful description would be the battle for equal human rights and autonomy).

some Historical Context

Also, women of color feminism represent the intersection of color, gender, sexuality and power-a battle that has taken on a variety of faces and masks throughout history. Oppression and discrimination by any other name is still “oppression and discrimination”! the confusion comes from the fact that these are not simply “wrongs” that can be righted by their “undoing”. There is a complex web of systems that must be dismantled, uncomfortable truths to be faced, and reparations to be made-this is just the tip of the ice burg for which those who have enacted and benefited from these systems, do not want to be made known or addressed.

And so, like our broken health care system that seeks to “manage” the symptoms of illness rather than cure the underlying condition, we have the “self -care movement”, “mindfulness”, “Me Too Movement” and so forth. All have individually failed to address the underlying “sicknesses” which lie below the surface of our society. These are toxic masculinity, misogyny, as well as various forms of oppression and discrimination.

We witness some of this poison manifesting as white supremacist terror organizations, institutional racism, the dismantling of social-political protections and policies aimed at correcting inequities (i.e. gender inequities), rolling back of environmental protections, cutting spending for public health, reductions in funding for social safety nets, etc. So what does this have to do self-care and self-worth?

self-care vs Self-sacrifice

Self-care defined as the practice of deliberately taking active steps to protect one’s own physical, mental and emotional health. It calls for us to actively advocate for our own health and well-being. Self-sacrifice, on the other hand, is giving up of one’s own self-interest, wants and desires for others (i.e. for one’s own community, family or cause).

While both seem equally “good” on the surface, most women often fall victim to the dark side of self-sacrifice. Additionally, because most societies and cultures have conditioned women and girls to adopt self-sacrifice as “something” that is “good” and as the “ideal” female model, as well as being the primary currency of valuation, women find themselves sacrificing themselves on the altar of “other people’s expectations” (aka, O.P.E).

Why Women Can’t Say No (To Sacrificing their Self-care and sense of self)

The effect of this is that society has tied the worth of women to these “traditional” roles and models of femaleness; a form of toxic objectification of “womanhood” that forces women to seek self-worth and value in “other people’s expectations” (aka, o.p.e.) and fulfillment of roles dictated by society.

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