As women striving towards self-actualization and personal empowerment, we need to define the social system that we are entrenched in. Here is a little story to understand what that is like. There is an old fish swimming in the ocean and she encounters two younger fish and asks, “How’s the water today?” The younger fish reply, “What is water?”
You see, because they live in water and it is everywhere, they are not objective enough to realize that there is something other than water. Patriarchal society is like the water. We live in a patriarchal society, and recognizing that requires that we gain some objectivity and conscious awareness.
So, let’s define patriarchy: This is a social system in which males hold the dominant power and authority as applied to government, moral code, and family — wherein father figures rule. The modern-day world originated with a patriarchal system. Both Christianity and ancient Greek culture, the systems that form the foundation of current Western culture and society, privileged males. As such, we see the world and ourselves through a patriarchal lens, at least until we become conscious of that lens. The patriarchal lens favors masculine values over the more subtle and mysterious feminine values. Western culture has become far out of balance with patriarchal dominance, and even though there is backlash, the patriarchal model continues to hold dominion — and it is holding on tight as we witness far-right conservatism all over the world, even in typically liberal continents such as Europe and North America.
We see the world and ourselves through a patriarchal lens, at least until we become conscious of that lens.
In my book, Tracking the Wild Woman Archetype: A Guide to Becoming a Whole Indivisible Woman, I suggest that a wild woman is someone who has become conscious of some of the ways culture has over-domesticated her: she has become aware of her own wild, instinctual, animal nature. Many women within patriarchies are socialized in a way that leads them to be overly civilized or overly domesticated from birth, and that domestication affects how they express themselves and engage in relationships.
Within a society dominated by an overly conservative patriarchy, we now more than ever need to come into relationship with our healthy instinctual feminine wildness as a corrective. We want to become conscious of the patriarchy that dominates women and nature, our inner wilds, and Earth. To be truly free, we must take on the basic conditions as they are — painful, impermanent, open, imperfect — and then be grateful for the impermanence, and the freedom it grants us.
As women becoming empowered within a patriarchal system, we want to recognize the importance of our choices. Once we realize that we have the opportunity to choose, we are no longer powerless. Our personal power exists in our ability to choose. Our power is in our choices.
Once we realize that we have the opportunity to choose, we are no longer powerless.
Granted, sometimes our options are not all that appealing and we have to make choices that are difficult – our personal values get brought into question and we may even have personal values in conflict with the options available to us. In those cases, take your time because the options might evolve.
The more practice we get at making choices for ourselves, with consciousness, the more our personal self-confidence grows. We make the best choices we can given where we are and what we know at any given point in our lives. As our self-confidence grows and we build trust in ourselves, our confidence emanates as charisma. This is because we feel empowered in trusting ourselves to make the choices that serve us. Knowing we have options and choices gives us power. Exercising our ability to make choices is empowering. A confident, empowered woman is a charismatic woman. She is confident enough in her ability to respond to life’s surprises that she can risk taking on new challenges.
Stacey Shelby, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and depth psychotherapist. Her 2018 book: Tracking the Wild Woman Archetype: A Guide to Becoming a Whole In-divisible Woman is available on Amazon.com.