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Who's Afraid of Critical Women?

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a woman who had had reviewed my book on her blog. While she had mostly good things to say about it, she took issue with one of my first chapters (on the ways motherhood changes a woman). So, she graciously invited me to respond to her critiques.

So I went to her post, read the review, and starting mulling over my response to her. She had raised some good points, offered some valid arguments. And although she didn't sway me, she did make me think. So much so, that while I was still lost in my thoughts, I got another email from her. This time, she said she took down her post. And she apologized! She happened to be a frequent commenter on my Mommy Revolution blog and explained that she didn't "want to be divisive or create any controversy."

I didn't have to think long about how to respond to this!

I wrote back immediately to tell her to do no such thing. She wasn't being divisive or creating controversy (not that I think creating controversy is even a bad thing!). Why should she take down her well-constructed critique?

She wrote back: "In the past when I have disagreed with certain people (mostly men), I've been accused of creating division (mostly by the wives of those men)?"

Honestly, I wasn't expecting that answer. It made me sad and angry all at the same time. At first - because I haven't experienced this - I thought maybe this was a rarity, something perhaps reserved for the small pocket of the world in which this woman lived. Apparently, not so.

As I relayed this email exchange to several of my friends, I got shocked looks. Not because of what this woman wrote, but because they couldn't believe I was so clueless about this "phenomenon"! Apparently this accusing-women-who-disagree of being "divisive," this trying-to-shut-us-up is common. Maybe I'm just dense because I haven't noticed this.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I've had plenty of experience with people (men and women) who thought I couldn't or shouldn't do this or that because of my womanity. And I'm sure plenty of people in my circles roll their eyes, exchange "knowing glances," or give quiet sighs when I get going on one of my soapboxes (and I do keep a few handy and pull them out often).

But honestly, I've not had anyone accuse me (to my face, at least) of being divisive. I realize now how blessed I've been to run in circles where even where there is wild disagreement, the conversation and the process of thought is valued. By men and by women.

I shudder to think what drives people to think - in this day and age - that critically thinking women equals divisiveness. I'm not saying that we can never get divisive or stir up excessive controversy in our critiques, but I'm confident that men don't hear this same message.

So what it is? Is the world just still not ready for critically thinking women? Are we that scary a thing? And what on earth does this mean for women who lead?

April28, 2009 at 5:28 AM

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