There is interesting thing I have noticed about women in the generations before me. I cannot paint all women with the same brush, but it is something I have encountered personally and have defined in my family and social circles.
I have been lucky to know and be a part of so many different communities of people and seen something in women that used to bother me but took a sharp turn recently. I used to have a feeling that they lied about the truth or they minimized their own struggles and mine.
They have disassociated from the hurts. They do this to run households, hold down careers, or be emotionally present for their children, spouses, and self. They lie, conscious or not, because they have to.
Denial is complex and terrifying but seeing it when it comes up can help you discern the denial from your reality. It cannot be turned off. It is the most primitive psychological survival mechanism in humans and has helped all of us survive.
Denial kicks in when your parent is the only person you have to survive, but they treat you really poorly. It kicks in when there's a bear that you have to fight. It kicks in when your trusted partner rapes you.
The only way you can protect yourself from the psychological damages that these situations would cause is saying, "It's not that bad."
If you really have to confront the weight of fighting for your life or being betrayed by somebody you love, you may not be able to make it out of the situation. You'd be too busy crying, screaming, and processing the emotion. So, our mind plays a trick and tells us it isn’t that bad. If we knew how bad it was, we wouldn’t have the energy to fight, run, or keep it together.
The Lost Generations of Women
The Lost Generations of Women highlights the survival of millions of women that were born into and survived a society that was literally traumatic.
This idea first came to me when I was having a session about a female relative and I came across how similar we were. Her old friends told me about her long legs and her flirty and promiscuous personality. I’d seen it, too. Her personality outside was so different than at home. It was sweet and sultry. Just like mine.
She constantly feared I’d be kidnapped and raped. She warned me incessantly about how certain she was that if I dressed in a certain way, talked to boys, or even walked to my car I was in very real danger.
I carried that fear with me until it manifested as panic attacks (and sometimes still do). The fear is a false reality I was taught: You will have to escape for the rest of your life. When a guy says hi at a bar or when a co worker stands too close I am in danger. I had gotten the message that guys only wanted one thing from me and I took it as a truth.
When I realized this fear hurt my relationships, I was angry. My session helped me realize there was another layer. The woman that put those messages there believed them. I had to confront that there was a reason she believed those things. It might be because those things happened.
I often wonder what a woman like me would have gone through in the 70’s. The “free love”, birth control, and drugs decade that was a sexual revolution seems like a fun place for a promiscuous girl but it wasn’t.
We have only in the last 10 years been able to solidify that wanting sex doesn’t mean wanting sex with everybody and even still there are some hold-outs. The perception of women that dress in a way that shows off their body is often used in examples of rape. “She was asking for it,” is only recently no longer an excuse (in most places).
What was it like for her to have to tell herself that her freest expression of self was an invitation for sex that she didn’t want? How many times did she have sex that she was too high, drunk, or scared to consent to? How many times did she tell herself that she deserved it because there were hardly any people around to tell her she was worth more than that?
This is a trauma perfectly covered by denial. The truth: Nobody deserved to be objectified or touched in any way without enthusiastic consent. The protective lie: I can escape those traumas by changing myself and so can you.
It’s a sweet sentiment that illustrates a whole history of women in severe denial. Their childhood was “fine”, their dad “had a temper”, or their mother “did her best”. These women may never know these are lies that they have been telling themselves and others. They may know it is a lie but think that these lies are how we make it in life. They see the denial and befriend it.
The Found Voices
This realization opened up a huge well of compassion for all of the patterns women have been burdened with or acted out of in my life. The women in my life have been amazing to me. They have sacrificed and nurtured and taught me so much. They also have gashes running down their hearts because they have not taken care of themselves.
These Lost Generations of Women are a thing of the past. Psychological advancement, civil rights movements, and creative activism have liberated women in a way that is more than a salary bump or equal representation. There’s still a long way to go, but now women have permission to do something they have previously been looked down on for: Suffer.
Consent culture is rising in popularity and fucking THANK GOODNESS because blurred lines of consent have ruined lives and created preventable hurt. The resistance our culture has to shift from an economic view of marriage has left the residue of what it was like then.
Women were property, men owned everything, and the girls shut up about it. Things may not be completely different, but the dialogue features more female voices than ever before.
We can feel and cry and speak out. This is hard and still sometimes punished but we also get to complain about that. The movements toward a more authentic live experience and a more genuine interpretation of it are freedoms that are unprecedented.
I am lucky that my hurts are valid and that I get support to realize that. I am lucky that I lived through what I did and it made me who I am. I honor the women that cannot say how hurt they are because it would hurt too much.