TEDx talk for University St. Andrews in April 2021
By Emilia van Hauen, cultural sociologist, board member, bestselling author
Do you know why blonde jokes are so short? Because then men can understand them too! Studies show that blondes actually DO have more fun.
But I know another group of women who have even more fun – and don’t need to tell bad jokes or put men down to have a blast – and these are the UW.
They are about having fun. But also about taking responsibility. As a cultural sociologist I have studied gender issues for more than 25 years and it is clear to me that unruly women are part of the answer to co-creating a better balanced world. A world that we desperately need.
You surely already know that the environmental balance is proven to be out of order. But statistics show us that our mental wellbeing is also out of order.
50% of the population suffer from stress on different levels.
20-30 % suffer from anxiety – and the same numbers go for loneliness.
20 % suffer from depression.
All of these numbers were already increasing before COVID19 – and especially within the young generat. This has cost our society tons of money, a massive loss of life joy and has deprived the young generation a better future than their parents.
So instead of having created a world where humans can thrive, we have constructed a society for human machines. On the surface it seems to be hugely effective. However it stands on the broken backs and hearts of people. Obviously our system isn’t working! So we need a new super hero: The unruly woman!
Who is she? An UW has freed herself from restraining and suppressing expectations to her female existence. In other words: Her gender. Instead she follows what makes her happy and gives her an emancipating power to co-create a better balanced society. So the UW both changes the world – and has fun at the same time.
While I was preparing for this talk a memory came to me. As a child I often felt like an outsider. When time came and the other girls started to grow breasts and kiss the guys I still looked like I had just left kindergarten. So now I also looked like an outsider! One day we had a small party in my friend’s home and we were all dancing together, but then I had to go to the toilet. When I came back all the others were kissing two and two. I just froze in the doorway, looking at them I didn’t know what to do with myself – even though I didn’t want to kiss any of the boys. Or girls! And so I escaped to the garden.
First I didn’t understand why I suddenly remembered this story – but then I recalled how the rain broke loose. And how I first felt even more singled out and pitied myself. Just at that moment I lifted my face towards the raindrops and connected to the liberating power of this beautiful tender summer rain while spreading my arms out and began laughing and dancing while getting completely soaked.
For me this has become the image of unruliness: A laughing dancing girl in the rain!
So what does it mean to be unruled? What do YOU think, when you hear the word: Unruly Wild? Free? Rebel? Uncontrolled? Tiresome? Teenager?
For me being ruled is being governed by societies existing norms, values and behavioral expectations. Many of which have suppressed women for centuries. Leaving us with the unbalanced society of today.
Being UNruled is to reject these expectations from society, culture and history if they conflict with your own beliefs and talents. Instead you let yourself be ruled by YOUR OWN HEART’S DESIRE!
This does not make you egoistic, un-empathetic or antisocial. On the contrary. An UW knows that taking care of herself is the most loving act she can offer the community. When you respect yourself by cultivating your own power and talents you both have much more to offer society + the strength to support others.
In the words of Nobel-prize winning author Andre Gide: Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.
This unruly position also sets you free to experience fun and joy.
When you can follow the things and persons in life that inspire and make YOU happy, you also create an overflow of joy that you can share with others. For centuries though, women have not always had that much to laugh about. Because we have been ruled on the three most important areas of life: Our beauty. Our sexuality. And our sociality.
Now the time is up for us to take back our ownership on these three areas. Which is exactly what an unruly woman does. She owns her own beauty, sexuality and sociality. But what does that in fact mean?
Beauty is typically about esthetics and appearance. And about being pretty and living up to some fixed standards. But unruly beauty is not about that. I will give you a beacon of unruly beauty: Oprah Winfrey! Why her? It is not because of her struggle with her weight which she’s been open about.
It is because she has had the courage to talk about issues that have interested especially women. In a way that has made her the most influential person in 25 years according to the CNBC.
When you own your own beauty – like Oprah does – you give yourself the right to appear as you want and then you can take your own space from where you can contribute to the whole society with what you find important – and THEN you become an unruly woman.
The challenge is that women have always been connected to the traditional understanding of beauty. The explanation for that, is that in nature beauty equals health, and ultimately fertility. In order to survive as a species men have logically enough hunted beautiful women giving them the highest status.
Is that still true in 2021? Yes- because we are still nature. And no – because we are also culture.
Nature is not the problem. Nature is just sex! Culture is the problem! Because we still experience 12 year old girls featured on the cover of a fashion magazine all dressed up with makeup and high heels, as if THAT is what every girl should strive for. And we still have too many girls hurting, cutting, starving themselves because they loathe how they look like and cannot acknowledge their right to shine and thrive regardless of their physical appearance.
If we want a balanced society we need to change this cultural understanding of beauty. Change it into one that centers around the joy of appearing as we want to – the way we find important.
So do you dare to shine and take your own space? Do you want to own your own beauty?
In your hand you might have a cell phone. Or maybe you have a computer in front of you. Hedy Lamarr is the reason why it works as a communication device. And she is a perfect image of unruly sexuality. Who was Hedy Lamarr?
A beautiful famous Austrian Hollywood actress of the 1940’s. And yet a brilliant scientist, who was never fully acknowledged for her invention of the technology behind WIFI, GPS and bluetooth
Sexuality is normally about lust and sex and orgasms – however, amongst psychologists it is common knowledge that our sexuality is the center of our creative life-force. Creativity is what has developed our civilization. And if our goal is a balanced society where humans can thrive, we need more diversity as we shape the world of tomorrow. That is why we need more unruly women to invent more, create more, contribute more, so that our solutions, products and services have a much wider range than today.
How can this happen?
By eliminating the fifth most used lie amongst women! Which is: I have only slept with five men! This I found out some years ago when I made a small study about women’s lies and the interesting question is of course: Why do we lie our number down? The answer is that apparently women are still not allowed to be horny & willing, when following our own lust – if we want to be socially accepted. So instead of enhancing the liberating power of feeling loved, alive, energetic and creative, when pursuing our own desire, we shut it down and make it wrong. But if we want new solutions to the existing and future problems, women need to own their own sexuality and creativity.
What about you? Do you dare to feel your lust and create on your own terms? Do you want to own your own sexuality?
In 2012 Jyoti Singh was beaten, gang-raped and tortured in a bus in Delhi and died 13 days later from her injuries. 2 years later Ram Devineni published the successful comic book about the superhero Priya, who survived a brutal gang rape and since became a protector of women and survivors. Her super power is simply the power of persuasion – that can motivate people to make changes. Voluntarily
Priya is a liberating image of unruly sociality. Sociality is not only about taking care of others, creating good relations and a sound social society. It is also about giving yourself the right to be the person that you want to be.
For ages sociality has been a woman thing. Women are both the biologically reproductive sex and also the socially reproductive gender. This means that women have had the primary responsibility for stabilizing the existing social structure. We do so in bringing up our babies, training them to be good citizens. If that goes wrong the mother is often the one who’s blamed. That is why we still experience daughters being killed by theirs mothers because of honor – and women stating that they come after the dog in the family.
An unruly woman does not find her purpose in sacrificing herself – or her daughter. And, like Priya, she does not let herself be ashamed by a crowd that doesn’t respect her right to create her own life. Instead she joins a group that celebrates her as she is. And who understands that sociality and good relations are the cornerstones of any sound society, which has been proven in a number of studies.
I am the mother of three wonderful young men. My belief is that we – as a society – need men to be more unruly too. They are also caged in by expectations of what masculinity is. Especially when it comes to sociality and relations. Why should they not have the right to be valued for their kindness and caring? Why are tears and vulnerability still a stigma for males? When in fact feelings are just clever human nature.
We should all dare to follow our own dreams and needs – do you? Do you want to own your own sociality?
I dream of a society where people are never judged or constrained by their sex and where the term gender simply does not exist. Instead we are all human beings with a set of skills and interests and longings and dreams and we are free to contribute to a society where everybody meets like creative equals in the wonderful task of building a balanced world.
But, we are not there yet. So I will invite you to become a member of the Unruly Women’s Club. Or better still: Become part of the Unruly Peoples Movement. Both to use your power to co-create a better balanced and more humane society than we have today.
And to have more fun!
And if you lack inspiration to become more unruled I have a suggestion:
Next time the rain falls upon you – start dancing!
Emilia van Hauen, April 2021