Growing up Liberal and Sexually Free
I grew up in Holland, a country well-praised for its liberalism, freedom of speech and lifestyle. I grew up thinking that in our liberal society/culture there were few of the major problems that are so prominent in the rest of the world. I did not think there were any racial problems, homophobia or sexism in my direct community. Where I lived, people were openly gay in schools and I personally did not even notice if your skin colour was different. I thought it was great that we allowed ‘soft’ drug use and believed our country was a role model for a ‘live and let live’ attitude.
I grew into a teenager thinking I was very liberal, that there wasn’t a problem with sexism and I did not even know the word misogyny. I thought I was sexually free and did not have an issue with nakedness. I would go to saunas and believed it was normal to be nude around other people in this setting and the only discomfort I felt was because I had issues with my body. Of course there was the odd pervert around, but I only thought of it as annoying.
Sexism and Misogyny… Not such a Big Deal?
But was this real?
In recent years I have been reading a lot about sexism and misogyny.
My first response to it was that doesn’t happen where I live…
When I started to see that sexism and misogyny actually was happening much more than I thought, my second response was, “Geez people, why make such a big deal about the little things? It’s cool to have a bit of fun, it is not meant in a bad way.” etc. etc.
I thought the ‘feminist reactions’ were exaggerated and unnecessary.
But I was so wrong!
Only slowly did it dawn on me how wrong I was, after I was stopped by a simple question. I was asked to look at my own experiences as a woman and to see how many times I personally had come across sexism.
I was shocked at what I found. Just looking at my teenage years, I came to a full-page list of assaults ranging from remarks about my breasts or bum to downright groping and grabbing – most of them in the latter category. And this list was just the type of incidents, not how many times they occurred.
I had even twice narrowly escaped very serious assault attempts; once by a group of boys and once by a man chasing me in the streets at night.
I began to see instantly that things like misogyny and sexism
were a big deal…
The Shocking Normalisation of Sexism and Sexual Behaviour
After realising this, I felt to ask around my female friends and every single one of them had had similar experiences.
This shook me to my core: in my ‘liberal’ society there was not a single woman who had not experienced some form of sexism or inappropriate sexual behaviour, from the so-called ‘mildest’ of misogynistic comments to instances of outright physical and sexual abuse.
The truth of what was and is really going on was starting to form in front of my eyes and I realised that I had grown up believing that sexism was normal.
The reason I thought we did not have deeply embedded problems in our society was because I was looking at the extremes and had learned to dismiss the less extreme incidents.
I had been taught by society that this was normal behaviour from men, and we as women should take it as a compliment and not be fussy about it; that this was the game between men and women and I was expected to play it and like it.
In fact I had learned to ‘numb out’ how I truly felt about this, and adjusted to being a way that I thought I needed to be – to be socially accepted.
I now realise how deeply ingrained these totally harming sexual dynamics between men and women are, in even the most ‘liberal’ societies in this world. Through magazines, videos, songs, books, movies and all media we are being bombarded with images and stories ingraining and supporting the ideals and beliefs we hold as women and men – that tell us that sexism is ‘natural’ and acceptable behaviour.
The simple truth is that even though in most modern/liberal societies men are more and more willing to say women are equal, underneath that there is still a consciousness of sexism and a deep momentum driving a belief system based on the roles that men and women ‘should’ play.
There is so much more to look at than is generally thought about.
Yes, it is great progress that we now have many men in our society who are thinking it is natural for them to take a more active role within the household, taking care of the kids or cooking a meal. But this is not the end of sexism. The same man who is washing the dishes at home could be in a bar with his friends, mouthing off about the ‘big tits’ on ‘that’ women on the other side of the room.
Addressing Sexism in a Liberal Society and the Natural Way to be
In the past couple of years I have come to feel the impact of living with the beliefs and ideals that actually supported sexism.
I had completely shut down my sensitivity, tenderness and delicateness as a woman while thinking I was ‘free’ in my body. I had bought into the ideals and beliefs of a so called liberal society so much that I thought addressing sexism was considered extreme or overly feminist.
I see it very clearly now:
Sexism is a very big problem in our society today. It has exploded into a very worrying ‘normalised’ behaviour that is seriously affecting everyone, especially our youth.
Both boys and girls, men and women have gotten caught in this increasingly sexualised game and the extremes are growing more and more obvious, leading to very unnatural behaviour, if you consider how delicate and sensitive we really are. But in a world where sensitivity is not accepted, we have become so hardened in our ‘liberal society’ that it takes really awful things for us to see and feel the extremes which keep spiraling downwards.
We can only truly address these problems if we are willing to see the depth of sexism, and that really there is no level of sexism that could be seen as ‘harmless fun’.
- As women we need to look at what we have allowed or bought into.
- As men we need to look at our behaviours and the beliefs we have taken on about what it means to be a man.
In our so-called liberal societies, or any society in fact, it is time to address sexism and misogyny and what we have deemed as ‘normal’ and realise this is not normal at all. And nor is it natural, as the natural way for men and women to be is immensely tender, sensitive, open and delicate.
As I have seen, there are many men and women who, inspired by the work of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, choose not to normalise so-called ‘liberal’ sexual behaviours, who are living proof of our naturally tender and loving ways… of how different we can be, as men and women, without the impost of the various roles we play and the ingrained male/female behaviours we take on.
By Carolien Braakenburg, Self-employed, 42, Belgium
So much of what is accepted as normal in society can be felt, upon closer examination to be extremely dysfunctional. It is like there is a veneer of society, and a veil over people’s eyes.
I agree Chris, it is as if we have all made a general agreement of what it can and cannot be, we have settled for something way less then we could have – and be- in favour of our everyday comforts.
Very true Chris. And interestingly how much of the time we do know what is true, but the choice is not to see it.
The world as we know it is dysfunctional, even the bits that we deem to be functional because they’re either happy or going along without a hiccup are often dysfunctional because in truth unless something is serving it’s true purpose which is to guide people back to God then it’s fundamentally dysfunctional. And I acknowledge just how ‘out there’ this sounds but none the less it’s true, we’re all here to serve and expand the God that we are, there ain’t nothing else on the agenda.
Is it possible that the so-called liberalism you refer to here is not a thin veneer on an otherwise untenable situation of sexism and misogyny that has been labelled as ‘normal’ – lest we noticed what is really going on and said, no more, I am not playing that game any longer?
I agree Gabriele, it is not that different to those cultures where sexism and misogyny are blatantly present, only here it doesn’t come often in the most extreme expressions and therefore we are lulled into thinking we have it all worked out.
To end sexism and misogyny is to honour in full the power of our vulnerability and our sensitive being coupling our fragile makeup of the human body.
I saw a documentary on sex education for teenagers in the UK the other day and what was shocking to see is what the boys thought was normal, the donation they showed in the class when it came to this topic and the holding back by the girls. At the end of a 2 week educational program on sex the girls learned to speak up and correct the boys in what they until that time thought girls actually liked or should allow. The change came from the girls stepping into their power and speaking up against the until then accepted normalcy.
This sexualism that has been accepted as normal comes from and equal approach both men and woman have been sucked into. Learning to let go what we actually truly know is not loving nor respectful of each other is a process worth pursuing, and sometimes it can take a little while but when we stand there side by side with absolute love and respect it is out of this world, and beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Sometimes I think I have blinkers on when it comes to this as there have been things I haven’t wanted to see. There were certain things that didn’t sit right with me with a colleague but I dismissed them. Then when he started to make a lot of sexual remarks it confirmed what I had been feeling about him but dismissing. At first I didn’t know how to respond as I was a bit shocked of what was being said in the situation and I almost laughed it off with the other women there. The next time I asked that he not speak like that around me. This request was considered up-tight and ridiculed by the other women, I could see that they did not want exposed what they had been allowing and part of.
Gosh, it’s terrifying that we don’t even realise just how lost we are. I too have been surprised by how much I have accepted as normal life. I’ve experienced countless moments of sexism ranging from comments, through to physical assaults. And because none of it has ended ‘badly’, I’ve written it off as crappy experiences, that everyone goes through. It’s very very alarming just how much we allow.
Thank you Elodie for sharing this as I feel most women have experiences like this throughout their lives and have taken it for granted. We need to allow our sensitivity to peak and not override the abuse we feel because when we allow it we are the ones that are continuing it.
Not only do we allow behaviour that’s fundamentally unloving but we encourage and applaud it from both men and women. Casual sex, adventurous sex, dangerous sex, sex with multiple partners either at the same time or consecutively all gets a pat on the back, we see these things as achievements.
It seems incredible that a full-page list of sexist behaviour and sexual abuse could go unrecognised until you are asked to consider these events. This shows me how much our perceptions affect what we allow ourselves to see. As a woman I can also see that we have learnt to accept, tolerate and stay quiet about such things, even to the point where we don’t let ourselves recognise abuse as abuse.
This is a great example of how blinded we can become from cultural norms that we no longer see the decency and respect that is fundamental in us as human beings.
True Carolien, when we dismiss the less extreme incidents we will never get to honesty about what is truly going on. Solutions are on offer but it is not about solutions , it is about going to the root cause and the truth of the way we choose to be with each other.
From what I can see in society all around is it that our standards have slipped, what was not acceptable 10 years ago is now everyday occurrence. We can see this especially in how women are sexualised and degraded in advertisement and media.
Carolien I too grew up with the illusion that I was part of a (relatively) liberal society and like many women, included ‘sexual freedom’ as a part of that so-called liberation. Today I know otherwise – abuse of women is the norm and, like many women, I willingly subjected myself to abuse thinking I was progressive all the while.
In the extremes of behavior and emotions people have exhibited today in their quest for gender equality, in too many ways the shadow of sexism has also been fed.
It is only by exposing all the seemingly minor incidences of sexism and misogyny in our everyday lives that we can start to address the inequalities in our current society. I too have accepted a lot of inappropriate behaviour for fear of making a fuss and can feel how this has contributed to the greater ills that we are now facing with the alarming rise in the use of pornography and the increasing disconnection of so many of our young people.
I agree Carolien that a man can show a willingness to support the running of the home yet can treat women as beneath himself in other areas of his life but whatever situation we find ourselves in we have to look at the relationship we have to self. When we hold back from expressing and calling out any abuse towards women whether we are a woman or man it exposes a lie we are choosing to live with.
Whatever happened to common decency, respect and equality within the sexes, it seems our scale of what we will accept from others has slipped to an all time low and we are willing to disrespect another or ourselves with the choices we are choosing to make, for various reasons. But if we all want the same thing, love, we are going the wrong way about it.
Often what we grow up with in life and think to be normal turns out to be not something we would want in ours on anyone else’s life, when it is put under the lens of respect, decency and love.
Wow this is so interesting Carolien, to expose our tolerances to things like sexism and abuse when they are hidden under an umbrella of liberalism, freedom of speech or a ‘relaxed’ community. It’s so important to call out where we’ve settled for a comfortable standard of communication or consideration for others, which may actually fall well short of true respect!
Well said Susie, there is much for us to have a fresh look at in life as there is much we are taking for granted, have accepted culturally or are ‘just the way it has always been’.
This is an eye opener Carolien! We as women very often have to bear the brunt of this kind of Sexism and the behaviour that goes with it ,most of our lives. It is so great that we are starting to see that we do not need to accept this behaviour at any time in our lives. We know that we are equal to men and that we also deserve respect.
I find it incredible that being liberated has become synonymous with having sexual freedom when if we take a very close look at what exactly is the energy of sex, as opposed to the energy of making love, then what is it exactly that we are celebrating with this new found liberation?
This exposes so well how the corruption of words reflects the arrogance of a consciousness that seeks only to impose its ideas and beliefs onto others for the purpose of self-gain alone. For in-truth liberalism does not constitute freedom from responsibility, but this is clearly what it equates to today. The harm that this ideal propagates is what we have allowed to be accepted in society as ‘normal’, steering us further away from living in connection to our self-worth and honouring who we are as women and as men. Freedom of an individual does not mean we have the right to freely abuse another, disrespect another or dishonour another and as you shared, nor is it our natural way of being together. For we are truly free when we connect through our tenderness, through honouring our preciousness, cherishing the delicate beauty within each other, and being open to share and explore the grandness of love we innately are together. When we stand for this way of being we stand to truly free ourselves.
When I travel by ferry there is a big advertisement screen right in front of the waiting area that shows those perfume advertisements. What I noticed is that they had a high level of soft porn energy in it and it was all about attracting the other sex. We are feeding this energy from every angle. What if perfume was a way to express ourselves and nothing more?
When I see MTV and other music channels I am shocked at how much sexuality there is in these types of videos, to me it is robing our youth of their innocence and provides utterly destructive role models.
Yes there is a visible trend to be seen in music video’s and it is very much out of control. I observed some young girls the other day and they would not have been over 13. It struck me how they were dressed and how they had done their make up as I realised that not that long ago to look like that would have made you look like a hooker. Our societies values and norms have been on the decline for a very long time and the way to change it is to bring in true role models for our children and teenagers. This means we as adults need to take responsibility and change our lives first.
“there is still a consciousness of sexism and a deep momentum driving a belief system based on the roles that men and women ‘should’ play.” I totally agree with you Carolien, things might have changed but it is still normal to objectify the woman’s body, jokes about women are freely made and even women laugh about them just because we think it is normal. But what if we had a choice, would we rather live with or without these kinds of misogyny? Like you shared it really takes a while to open our eyes to what is truly going on as well as seeing that we have a choice to accept it or not. By way of what we accept others say to us but also by way of how we are with ourselves as we can be our own worst critics.
It is not just “other” people who are sexist. Within ourselves we have to uncover it and deal with it. For example as a woman I need to look at whether I put down other women because they are women or do I put down men because they are men. The fact of the matter is that if we put ourselves down we will put others down so the change has to occur within ourselves first.
I absolutely agree Elizabeth, the real harm is not even in the excesses but in the more hidden patterns that we carry within ourselves and are not aware of as they will always come with us in each and every expression and add to the whole.
I have just watched a trailer for a movie about girls being kidnapped and forced in to sexual exploitation. The scenes were of girls being horribly degraded, murdered, raped, held captive and abused on so many other levels. I understand that the film makers wanted to show the world a slice of reality, it was after all based on a true story – which is horrific. But I do find it unsettling that at the end of the day this film was made with profit in mind, it was ultimately made for entertainment, it was another chance for the actors to showcase their talents and for producers to increase their clout in the industry. If it was truly to raise awareness, this film would not be using the sexploitation of women as entertainment, everyone would have worked on it for free and given all the profits raised in box office sales to organisations that actually help women out of these situations. I feel that by paying to see this film we are in fact adding to the very problem that this film is talking about – that a woman’s body can be treated as an object that has no soul.
When women accept sexism and misogyny as being the norm we shut down our natural delicateness and preciousness in the belief that this will keep it at bay when in fact all we do is invite it.
beautiful Mary and this is so very true, if we allow ourselves to be full in our expression as women we can break these patterns for once and for all.
Thank you for offering us so much to read on the subtleness of this topic. It is so underplayed and in many cases welcomed as the norm in society. In recent weeks I have noticed this and the reaction of others to down play what is obvious abuse. There is a responsibility for us all to observe and respond with a truth that calls another to a level of respectful accountability. When we choose to ignore or champion this as “‘just the way it is’ -What are we saying yes to for all of humanity?
The more love and tender self care we bring into our own lives, the more so called normal behaviour between men and women once tolerated show itself now up as abuse.
Its true Carolien, deep within all men is the tender and true heart, and in this extraordinarily dysfunctional age it is great to remember this and to feel and develop this connection within ourselves so that we can , just by being, show another way.
The more tolerances we allow in our life the more we contribute to what society calls normal when in fact that ‘normal’ is something furthest from the truth and love where we come from; calling out abuse and not allowing tolerances in life where the truth is hidden or diminished is the way forth in our evolution.
This blog is so timely when our country is talking about freedom of speech but not the responsibility that comes with that freedom. We have allowed inside and outside voices with ourselves that means we now how a culture of what is acceptable to say around different people. Even presidents say it is OK to have ‘locker room’ banter – what is with that? It leads to normalising abusive behaviour that can very easily lead to abusive behaviour outside the locker room. There is no turning on and off this behaviour. We all have to make the choice to be and live the change we want to see.
I like how you unravel sexism and misogyny. There are so many things we take as normal in this world but as you realised there are not, they are just things we got used to and/or simply do not know any better because it has always been like this. When we start to allow ourselves to feel how we truly feel about certain things and express it we will find that many feel the same and also just abide to what they have learned.
Sexism in a liberal society comes with a lot of righteousness – you not only have to point out the behaviour but also have to get past the outrage by the other of being suspected of such behaviour as, after all, with his or her attitudes, they couldn’t possibly be engaging in this behaviour.
This divide and sexism has been there for a very long time- it is again going to such extremes that it is coming to the surface like a big pimple- so that it can be seen. It will only be changed when we change this from within.
Sexism used to be felt just from men towards women but in a desperate attempt to re-invent ourselves we women are seemingly happy to be sexist as well.
Since re-reading this blog, I have been observing sexism in my immediate society, and what I have noticed is that sexism can be either coming towards me or is near, but there is always a choice that I have about whether to accept it or not, which comes by way of whether I change my behaviour, stance, the way I move and breath, or not. Therefore, any reaction that I may have to this imposing sexual energy is actually a giving in to it – which feels disempowering. However, if I remain steady and unwavering then not only do I come away unaffected, but the person who was choosing to be this way with me no longer has this energy in their body and so they are free from it too. Thus love has come in to the situation because we are all given the grace of having the space to be who we are, un-imposed upon.
This was very enlightening and thought provoking to read. What struck me the most is how invisible certain behaviours become when we live with a predominant societal belief that clouds our vision. I have had similar experiences where I cannot see something that would be obvious to an outsider, because I have accepted it as the norm and learnt to wear blinkers to the truth. Liberalism is just another belief and is far from a true way for men and women to live and be with each other.
It strikes me the most in the blog when you talk about growing up with sexism and it therefore seeming normal. This part is crucial because as our children grow to form our future societies and local communities, the respect and care they have for themselves and for eachother is paramount to how those societies and communities will be.
This is such an important subject that seems to be so easily brushed under the carpet. It is a problem that won’t just go away and it needs to be addressed to stop it being normalised. It only seems to be getting worse due to the easy access we have to porn with smart phones and the internet. We all have a responsibility to express how far wrong we have gone so that we can all start to live from our true sensitivity and tenderness.
Great conversation to have. The way women are portrayed in the media is a stark contrast to the way men are portrayed. Any look at mainstream advertising and it’s clear how sexualised women in society have become. Those are the images we are faced with and so it can become quite normal to treat women this way as sexual objects. As a woman and as women we have a responsibility to not allow this treatment of ourselves. Tackling the media industry may seem like a big job but it starts with us, in our homes and daily lives. How we move and what we allow has a ripple effect that may be bigger than what we imagine.