As I’m writing this, my best friend is in the hospital because of a suicide attempt. We’re all in that agonizing waiting period where nobody knows anything. I have my own history with suicide attempts, and I can’t help but feel like I’m watching my own life on replay.
I initially found CTA because I wanted a place to share what had happened to me in woke therapy. I’ve always found it difficult to explain to people who are pleasantly ignorant of internet discourse why politics has anything to do with therapy. CTA members know the situation, but your organization is in the minority. As I’ve been ruminating on my friend’s predicament, I finally came up with a concise way to explain it.
When women go to therapy, I’d imagine that two common issues they bring through the door are 1) who am I in my relationship? and 2) what do I do with my life? These were questions I had. These are things my friend struggles with, too. Feminism has answers to these questions. Their answers lead to an unhealthy fixation on things that don’t matter.
The way out of this hell is to do the difficult and uncomfortable work of accepting yourself as a creature, not just a mind on legs that can think your deepest idealistic wishes into existence. I’m writing this essay from the other side, in hopes that my prescription for healing helps other women like me. I want to write this in honor of my friend, whether she survives or not, because this shit does not deserve to claim any more lives.
My friend and I are both atypical women. We are married but don’t want children. We like to work. We have male-type interests. She’s a computer programmer. I’m a scientist and I like to build things with wood and dig in the dirt. We are both very ambitious and like to philosophize and take big intellectual and creative risks. We don’t wear a lot of make-up or dresses.
Though both of us are openly not “woke” (she was quite active in the libertarian community), women like us are perfect targets for feminism because we don’t fit Hollywood’s girly-girl stereotype. As adolescents, we were both susceptible to the messaging about sexism toward ambitious women. Our pre-existing drive to achieve, rather than make babies, was leveraged against us. We both joked about how if we were teens now, we’d both have attempted to be trans or non-binary.
But we’re not safe. Both of us spent the better part of the last 20 years unhealthily obsessed with our careers and salaries. She fared better than I did in terms of salary and status because of her math abilities. I was in the more female-dominated life sciences. In 2020, I had my own meltdown. I decided to leave a PhD program that was breaking me mentally and physically. I had lost most of my friends and nearly lost my marriage. I had my own suicide attempt.
Feminism had trained an intense selfishness in both of us. We both tend to put everything on the line for our work identities.
Why does feminism cause this to happen? In the highly secular, utilitarian academic and tech bubble, your worth is what you do. Both of us are atheists, but I have had a lot of second thoughts about this as I reach the second half of my life. I’m not necessarily becoming religious again – I’m too far down the atheist rabbit hole for that. But when your meaning in life does not come from virtue or deontology, the only thing left is your utility. This is why work worship is seamless with secularism and the movements that arose in it’s image (feminism among them).
If you’re a balanced human being who had a relatively healthy upbringing, you might be able to avoid the worst of feminism’s grip on your brain. You may just end up stressing about how to “have it all” as you balance marriage, children, and a career. But you’ll figure out how to make it work somehow, maybe by silently making some sacrifices that get logged in labor datasets, which activists pull up when they want to bitch about the gender wage gap.
My friend and I were not balanced people. We both wanted to be men. We tried to reject everything feminine in ourselves. Both of us had fraught relationships with our mothers. Carl Jung would say we had disrupted mother archetypes. Reading his “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” was, for me, a revelation. I’d never seen anything so accurate in my life. If you’re familiar with that work, we are both the fourth type – “anything but the feminine.” Our attraction to science and math felt like the perfect way to reject everything ambiguous and uncertain. Case in point: her suicide attempt was triggered by a panic spiral over a decision she was trying to make wherein the future could not be calculated precisely.
When Jordan Peterson says things like “the feminine is chaos,” the feminists on the internet get mad. They don’t know what he means. He does not mean “women are chaotic.” He means that the feminine archetype, the opposite of the masculine archetype, represents what is ambiguous and chaotic because women are the font of life. Life itself is uncertain and chaotic because it’s biology.
We are sexually dimorphic creatures. The masculine and the feminine are part of who we are at a very deep level. We need both to be happy people. This has nothing to do with Hollywood’s parody of femininity. Make-up and dresses are not femininity. My friend and I can try all we want to deny our femininity but it’s a battle that we will ultimately lose. Reality has a way of catching up to you.
Feminism filled both of our heads with the idea that some patriarchy above us wants very badly to untrain our ambition. The patriarchy, they teach us, will benefit from women believing that they are destined to be self-sacrificing and subservient, living only through her husband and children. So we should fight against this at all costs, to keep ourselves safe from potential abuse. This is nonsense.
Any man in a healthy marriage must also be self-sacrificing. It is a movie myth that men can do whatever they want while the wife is at home maintaining the family. Marriage is a partnership. Two people sharing a living space who are both just out for themselves and their own interests is not a relationship. It is roommates with benefits.
Why not just do roommates with benefits? To each their own, right? Go right ahead. But I’m betting it doesn’t actually make a lot of people very happy. I’m open to the possibility that some people might be. Regardless, it’s not about which choice is right or true, but, as Jung says, “a matter of psychological need.” I know that I needed to let go of my work identity and realize that life is about connection. I needed to enter into the other half of my relationship and the other half of my friendships, before I lost it all. I needed to understand what femininity really means.
The way out of this woke hellhole is a difficult and sometimes humiliating path. I didn’t wake up from my nightmare and suddenly throw on an apron and make some kids and start going to church. I still work. I still do all the things I love to do. I still don’t go to church. I do sometimes regret not having children, but I know it was the best decision for me given how long it took me to stabilize my life.
The difference is, I found meaning beyond what I do. This was my cure.
If you’re a non-religious, childfree, ambitious woman who was sold the feminism lie, maybe you will benefit from knowing how I saved myself. It’s something I will probably have to keep an eye on for the rest of my life. Maybe this won’t work for you – your path is your own. I still say that you should do whatever you can to find meaning outside of your utility.
- I started reading mythology.
The stories that bind us – whether they are from the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, Arthurian legend, or Leonard Cohen’s poetry – can be spiritual to experience, even without God. Reading these stories shows me that there are so many common themes, things that have been with humanity since we became Homo sapiens (or possibly earlier). The writings of Joseph Campbell have been instrumental in helping me understand these things.
Feeling connected to all the humans that came before me has given my life some meaning beyond work. The Grateful Dead’s song “Eyes of the World” sums it up. “Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.” Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the universe to know itself.” Our very consciousness, what makes us human, allows us to be curious about the world and build this ridiculous thing called civilization in our attempt to understand it. It’s a beautiful mess. There’s no reason at all that any of this should have happened. Thinking about life in this way fills me full of awe, and I start to understand how people feel about God. I start to finally grasp what that means.
- I made myself accept that I am a creature.
Femininity is not bad. Neither is masculinity. One is also not better than the other. They just are. Once I stopped believing that I am my job, I was able to be okay with being the lower-earning spouse. I started letting myself relax a bit about gender roles, and simply focus on the fact that a house doesn’t stand if people don’t do the work. So we split the labor and if some of the tasks I do seem more feminine, then fine. So be it. Somebody’s gotta do it. I started to be okay with trusting my husband. I let myself accept the fact that we are both dependent upon each other, and that it wasn’t all about money.
I started being honest with myself about my need to nurture. I’ve always talked to my plants. I get really weirdly emotional when seedlings don’t take off and I have to compost them. I have almost a ritualistic process of seeing them off, as they decompose and become part of my garden again. I know I do this weird, silly-sounding thing because the feminine in me wants to bring life into this world. I don’t need to find that fulfillment with children, specifically. Farming is just as much a part of our nature as birthing and dying. In fact, it seems like they were seen by ancient humans as one in the same.
We are animals. There’s evolution denial behind the woke just like there was with creationism. Most people don’t like thinking about ourselves as animals, but we are. And when you embrace that, life gets a lot easier. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You don’t have to keep forcing things you hope to be true. You embrace competition, hierarchies, uncertainty, risk, even death. I used to be absolutely crippled by fear of death – of myself and my loved ones. I’m not saying that I don’t still fear it. That’s a long road. But at the end of the day, I know there are no guarantees. I started becoming really really happy that I’m a human who gets to live in a safe home and benefit from a food surplus because our human ancestors figured out how to farm. A lot of things fade into the background after that – politics, salaries, degrees. What are those? Those are just things we made up.
For these ideas, I recommend reading the writings of Desmond Morris and Jared Diamond. The woke get very angry about anything “deterministic.” This is why behaviorism became so popular. It is compatible with the belief that we are a blank slate. We aren’t. There are a few things that are not avoidable. Read “Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature” by Larry Arnhart, guaranteed to piss off everyone because it hits that uncomfortable truth that we cannot build society from scratch. There are constraints.
- I accepted my own personal limitations and learned to operate within them.
I know I can’t participate in internet discourse. I’m already too deep in. I know I can’t use screens after 5pm. I bought blue blocking glasses (they actually do work). I enlisted help from my husband to remember to take my meds everyday, eat three healthy meals, and exercise. I go to bed early and wake up early. I tell my husband when things are too much and I step away so that I can deal with my emotions and not overburden him.
I don’t do this perfectly. Tonight I am breaking some of these rules because my friend’s suicide attempt is keeping me awake. So I decided to write.
As for work, I know I needed to be my own boss, for my sanity and health, even if that means I don’t make a lot of money. I know I need a small friend circle because too many relationships to juggle overwhelms me. I go to therapy weekly and work through my past bit by bit. I’m doing EMDR right now, but I’m convinced the value of EMDR has nothing to do with the tapping. It’s just finally being able to tell my story and process what happened. It’s being able to be honest with my therapist about it all. She’s a Christian and a mom. It’s not a coincidence that she’s finally giving me what I need.
I also don’t feel guilty about having these nice options. Accepting my creatureness has helped me stop wanting to save the world. That woke guilt we former lefties carry with us, torturing ourselves for having more than some and the anger for having less than others. It doesn’t matter. Individual variation and competition for limited resources is the mechanism of evolution, and the mechanism for life itself. There’s nothing I can do to save the world from that.
I don’t know what will happen to my friend. Maybe she’ll make it out of this and will get to read this essay that was inspired by her. Maybe she’ll finally start to embrace her complete self – the masculine and the feminine. Maybe she will stop obsessing so much about having the perfect job, house, and body. Maybe she will show up for the other half of her marriage. Maybe she’ll find her own way to meaning. Maybe she’ll figure all this out before she loses it all, like I almost did. I hope so.
by ‘Velma Olden’
Update 4/3/22: The author’s friend survived and is getting mental health treatment