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April 17, 2017
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

Who's Afraid of Who

April 17, 2017 08:59 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW  [About the Author]

One of the truisms that have endured through the ages is the existence of the tension that is derived from the often disavowed rivalry between men and women. Men possess the advantage of physical strength. Women, however, hold what is frequently seen as the ultimate power — the ability to create life.

Some scholars have suggested that men assigned the male gender to God in an attempt to even the score. After all, if the woman creates life and God created man and then created woman from Adam’s rib, the advantage is returned to the male side of the equation.
According to the Judaeo/ Christian Bible, Eve had the power to change the course of human existence.

The Syrian members of the early Christian church, under St. Thomas, were told that the Holy Spirit was a woman. Mystical groups in the same era believed that God, being unknowable, came in many forms, male and female. Sophia (wisdom) created the universe and, at the end of time, would be the bride of Christ.

There has been speculation that religions were created by God, the male, in the primary role because men were fearful that they were not essential in a universal plan. The argument was that fewer men than women were needed because a woman could become impregnated by any number of men, and could reproduce quickly and easily. In societies focused on survival, the woman was, thus, indispensable.

Theory has it that man not only created a male God figure; he promoted the value of physical strength to ensure his ability to thrive in a still mysterious world. If survival depended on the capacity of the woman to create life, then the role of the male to protect mother and child was crucial. It does not seem that the role of the man as the provider of seed was taken into account.

Today there are six modern societies in which women rule. These are:
  The Mosuo, near the border of Tibet
  The Minangkabau, Indonesia
  The Akan of Ghana
  The Bribri of Costa Rica
  The Garo of India
  The Nagovisi of South Bougainville

Many men and women remain intimidated by independent women. The foundation for this anxiety was established in ancient times. “She” may not need “him”. There are some who contend that the greatest fear of modern men is that “she” may laugh at or ridicule "him."

A change of attitude regarding gender equality is disconcerting for both men and women who view society as patriarchal. While some assert that they believe in gender equality, it is not unknown for a woman who speaks her mind to be considered radical and impossible to love. There is sparse understanding that real authority is born of mutual respect.

Today’s Millenials know little, if anything, about the nascency of the Woman’s Movement. Many of the women who have changed the world in their quest and passion for equality are unknown names to many who are alive today. These are the individuals who laid the underpinnings for the conviction that women’s rights are human rights.

One such woman was Sojourner Truth. Born Isabelle Baumgree, Sojourner Truth (the name she gave herself) was the child of slaves. Slavery officially ended on July 4, 1827. When Sojourner won her court case against her former employer because he had illegally sold her son, Peter, into slavery, she was the first black woman to prevail over a white man.

In May 1851, Sojourner delivered a powerful speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. The title of her speech was Ain’t I a Woman. She told of her life as a slave and made a commanding declaration of racial equality and women’s rights. Her message was enthusiastically received by those assembled. Ain’t I a Woman was published and can now be found online.

Rosa Luxemburg (1870 -1919) was a revolutionary Marxist of Jewish/Polish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. In 1898 she was awarded a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Zurich. In 1915, after Germany decided to go to war, she was a founder of the anti-war Spartacus League. Rosa believed that the only way to liberate the industrial middle class and all minorities were to encourage a rebellion.

In 1916 Luxemburg was jailed for her efforts to organize a general anti-war strike. Upon her release, she championed amnesty for all political prisoners and worked to abolish capital punishment. In 1919 she was murdered by those intimidated by her political opinions.

Although she was a controversial figure regarding her dogma, which, often failed to line up with the beliefs of possible allies, Lenin praised her as an “eagle” of the working class.

Patriarchy has been defined as power over others. Matriarchy has focused on the power within. Those who practice Shamanism believe that the male principle of destruction (clean away the past) and the female principle of creation (working to bring the future into being) represent the full life cycle. This would appear to be a more balanced point of view than that of those who contend that the genders are, naturally, meant to be at war.

The stated and unstated implication of the Shamanistic vision is that when the genders unite they form a whole. While this sounds obvious and logical, the struggle continues. 

In her speech to the United Nations on September 20, 2014, Emma Watson, the actress, asked attendees to consider the impossibility of world change when only half of the world is invited to join the conversation.

Something to ponder.

Barrie, Z. (n.d.). She Doesn't Need You: Why Everyone is Afraid of an Independent Woman. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Francis, E. (n.d.). Why Men Are Afraid of Women. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Garrison, L. T. (2017, March 3). 6 Modern Societies Where Women, Literally, Ruth. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Goudreau, J. (2012, April 3). Why Successful Women Terrify Us. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Noble, D. F. (2007, January 22). Religions Built on Men's Fear of Being Expendable. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Shamanism & Women. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Why is God Not Female. (2015, June 2). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

I bring with me +30 years of experience as a clinician. My Masters degrees are from: Assumption College, Worcester, MA, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling/ and Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA, an MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is the 11th year I have written a monthly newsletter that is sent to approximately 500 individuals. The archive can be found on my website,

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