I was an intern at the Manhattan VA getting my first experience as a psychotherapist with troubled military veterans. Doing this earned required credits toward my PhD. I was one of several interns assigned to this VA Hospital but was the only female.
Quite casually, I seated myself at the far end of a large square wooden table with the other trainees and our supervisor. A coffee urn was on a side table near the front. We sat there when the men turned their heads and looked at me. I stared back. What was up?
Slowly, very slowly, it occurred to me that I was expected to pour and serve. Why me? Wasn’t I one of them? Yes and no. I was one in the same, yet I had a significant qualifying difference–I was female. Per their social training, the category of my genitalia put me in the role of server.
My background did not offer me advice about what to do about this. My father was a critical tyrant. I was never good enough for him. I did not learn self-defense or even a way to debate. My mother who was smashed by his words did the same to me. People who feel defeated often step on those they regard as more helpless than themselves. Children are great victims.
My mind whirled. Why should I accept this task? Why should I agree with this designation of female as one who serves the male? Why should their quest for power, presumably caused by feelings of inferiority, be played out on me? Then came the message of fear: would they all be mad at me? Would resisting their pressure to serve appear on my evaluation in a way that made me look bad, so that I would lose my training credit?
I poured the coffee and served it, but I have never forgotten this moment. I accepted myself as a serving bimbo, as not to be called a bitch. I accepted the insanity of my demoted state. How many women do this? How often and under what conditions, and what is the price we pay for doing so?
If the bimbo charade puts us on a down escalator, how do we get onto the up? I have studied what makes me happy by comparing pluses and minuses of losing myself by fitting in. Now, I may attend a group, listen to what they have, but I do not join it. I do not surrender the right to make up my own mind and speak my truth. I can change my mind as well. My mind belongs to only me.
Remember the Greek play, Lysistrata, in which women withheld sex from their partners until the men accepted peace and unity. Hold onto your genitals and your power. Do not fall for the rewards of slavery. Demand, and only accept fair play.
State your goals without becoming hysterical, a behavior so easily dismissed. The hysterical female is a learned female role. Unlearn it. Reject as a group when an angry, needy bully demands something you do not wish to give. Women are great talkers. A bully saying “you have to do it” without stating why cannot hold the floor unless lethal weapons are drawn. We are not at that place yet.
Author of Unloved Again, now on sale via firstname.lastname@example.org ($16 for signed paperback.)