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False Beliefs That Set Women Up to Be Used and Abused

Part of a Series: How discarding these false beliefs can empower women.

Part of a Series

False Belief #5: If I act naïve and innocent people will take care of me and I won’t have to grow up.

It used to be that the payoff for being sweet and nice was that girls were taken care of and protected by the males and authority figures in their life. Girls were perceived as weaker and in need of protection from the “big, bad world” and males took on the responsibility of making sure that nothing bad happened to them. But those days are gone along with chivalry and manners. Most males today do not feel responsible for protecting girls, in fact, many view girls and women as sex objects to be exploited.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t males who like taking on the role of provider and protector. But these men often take on these roles as a way of controlling women. In fact, these men often look for women who are passive and who act naïve and innocent because they are easier to control.

False Belief #6: I don’t have the right to stand up for myself.

Women have been conditioned to be passive, especially when it comes to standing up to a man. It was not so long ago that girls and women were completely dominated by their fathers and husbands. We also need to remember that women have had to fight for the rights they now have—these rights were not given to us freely. It wasn’t all that long ago that women couldn’t vote. So this false belief is a powerful remnant of our history as females.

For some women, this false belief also comes from their personal experiences of being dominated and or abused. It may begin when they were children and include being sexually violated as an adult, or abused by their intimate partners.

False Belief #7: Anger is a destructive emotion and shouldn’t be expressed directly, especially to those to whom you are angry with.

While both males and females have difficulties with the expression of anger, research tells us that parents and teachers discourage the expression of physical and direct aggression in girls early on, while anger in boys is either encouraged or ignored.

Rachel Simmons found that there is still a definite double standard when it comes to aggression. Aggression is still seen as unfeminine and displays of aggression in females are punished with social rejection.

Girls and women are socialized to avoid expressing their anger in outward ways. Girls are raised to be the caretakers and nurturers in relationships, so aggression is discouraged since it is believed that it endangers relationships.

False Belief #8: It is better to avoid conflict at any cost.

In normal conflict, two people use language, their voice, or even their bodies to settle their dispute. The relationship between them is considered secondary to the issue being worked out. But with girls and women, the relationship is primary. They will do anything to preserve it—even if that means remaining silent and not expressing their hurt or anger. And because most girls and women have been discouraged, if not forbidden to express anger, it goes underground.

The psychologist Carol Gilligan found that most girls and women will do anything to avoid isolation, including not speaking up when they disagree and avoiding conflict at all costs. And sociologist Anne Campbell, in her interviews with adults, found that where men viewed aggression as a means to control their environment and integrity, women believed it would terminate their relationships.

For girls and women, the fear of being alone is overpowering. Many try to avoid being alone at all costs, including remaining in an abusive friendship or romantic relationship.

False Belief #9: There is good in everyone and if you give someone enough chances they will show it to you.

Women, far more than men, give people too many chances. This is often due to the fact that girls and women are expected to be compassionate and forgiving. And as nurturers and mothers, we are supposed to have infinite patience and tolerance. Females are biologically programmed to have these very qualities when it comes to our own children. When you think about it, the qualities of a good mother (or parent) include patience, tolerance, unconditional love, and forgiveness. So it is within women’s very nature to give people a second chance, to believe someone when he tells us he won’t do it again. But as women, we need to rein in this tendency. Giving someone a second chance is a good idea if the person has shown us in the past that he or she deserves it or if there is a reason to believe he or she will, in fact, change. Otherwise, giving a second chance is usually a bad idea, especially when it comes to abusive behavior.

False Belief #10: Women need men to protect them and take care of them financially.

Given the fact that women are generally not as physically strong as men, women feel especially vulnerable in the world. And the world is becoming a more dangerous place every day. Not only can we get mugged, but we can get raped. As hundreds of thousands of rape victims know, an act of rape is so violent a violation that it can shatter the self-worth a woman has taken a lifetime to build. Unfortunately, women can no longer depend on men to protect them or rescue them from danger. We must protect ourselves. And we must be able to take care of ourselves financially. No matter what a woman’s situation is she needs to maintain a separate bank account with enough savings so that she is not dependent on a man for her livelihood. Unfortunately, many women end up staying with men they are unhappy with or men who are abusive just because they don’t have enough money to pay their own way or enough money to leave.

See Part IV
For more information on how to stop believing these false and sometimes dangerous beliefs, refer to the book, The Nice Girl Syndrome.

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