Why Don’t We Believe Women?

My feelings about Feminism are well and widely known. My opinions are not hidden under a layer of civility or justification. On the contrary, they have, in recent months, become louder and further cemented in my belief system. Despite all that, there’s one question I circle back to time and time again.

Why don’t we believe women?

Barring extremists, and apparently Polish EU lawmakers, I’m going to assume most people don’t think women are intellectually inferior. I think most agree–at least on the surface-that women should enjoy equal rights.

Yet almost everything we do as a society undermines that basic foundation–because we continue to mistrust women. This holds true for the poor and minorities as well, but I’m a little hyper focused these days, so I’ll focus on the female.


When it comes to sex and reproduction, we repeatedly and continually mistrust women to know what is best, to do what is right for themselves and their families, to make complex and personal decisions.

It seems the very idea of a sexual woman, one unencumbered by the weight of possible motherhood, is as terrifying now as it always has been. Smack in the 21st Century, women who have sex are still the Boogeywoman. Are we so frightened that allowing women control of their bodies will result in some sort of Vagina Dentata Spring Break? That we will unleash a secret society of Succubi? Are we really that afraid of women who have sex?

Look, a woman who was or is willing to risk death by putting her life in the hands of a back-alley abortionist, or ordering unknown pills of the internet, or mutilating herself with knitting needles solely for the purpose of ending an unwanted pregnancy is telling us something. Loudly and clearly. Why don’t we trust her? Abortion in the United States was not legalized to encourage women to have more abortions. It was legalized to regulate it. As much as it may offend some to think it, women have always and will always seek ways to end pregnancies. It was only legalized in the US because enough women were bleeding to death or dying of sepsis that someone finally took notice.

When a woman makes the very private decision to end a pregnancy why don’t we believe she made the right decision for her? Why don’t we trust she knows what she is doing?

The myth that all women are meant to be mothers, or that all women, when presented with a child will love and nurture it is not only false, it’s dangerous. Not all women should be or want to be mothers. Why do we doubt them? Why do we perpetrate the misguided notion that she can simply ‘give the child’ up for adoption, conveniently ignoring the health, financial, and psychological toll that nine months of pregnancy and birth will have upon her (while simultaneously completely ignoring the male role in that pregnancy)?

Why don’t we believe women?

When a woman tells a friend, or the media, or the police, or a judge that she has been raped, why don’t we believe her? Why do we continually search for reasons why she was raped instead of accepting the reason is simple: some men are rapists.

When a woman says she is being beaten, why don’t we believe her? Even with bruises circling her eyes, we will gratefully swallow any cheap excuse offered. She walked into a door. She fell down the stairs. We want those excuses because it means we don’t have to examine the complexity of feelings dredged up by the idea of a woman being violently beaten, including, first and foremost, the truthfulness of her claims.

We don’t believe women who report marital rape or domestic violence. Surely she must have done something wrong.

We don’t believe women who report sexual harassment on the job. Surely she’s just too sensitive, can’t take a joke.

We don’t believe women when they talk about the barriers to their success. Surely they’re just not trying hard enough.

We don’t believe women who tell us they’re treated differently than men in the same field. Surely it’s all in their head.

We don’t believe women who outline the obstacles they must overcome in order to compete in the workplace. Surely they’re just not as qualified, or don’t want it badly enough.

We don’t believe women when they speak of  the everyday sexism they face. Surely they’re just making it up to get ahead.

We don’t believe gay women really love other women. Surely they just hate men–or haven’t met the right one.

We don’t believe women when they file discrimination suits. Surely they’re just seeking revenge.

We don’t believe women of color when they tell us for every 78 cents on the dollar a white woman makes over the course of her life, she will make between 58 and 65 cents. Surely it must be something else. Certainly it is not because she’s black, Hispanic, because she’s a woman.

We don’t believe Trans women are using bathrooms in the exact same way we all do. Surely they are lying to cover some nefarious plot.

We don’t believe women when they talk about the challenges of balancing a career and a family. Surely they’re exaggerating, after all, men do it all the time.

Do we honestly think women take low paying jobs because they’re not as smart, or ambitious, or educated as men? Study after study shows the opposite. Study after study shows more women graduate college than men, but women make up a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers.

Are we honestly going to pretend it’s because they’re just dumb? Lazy? That they are un or under-qualified? That they want shitty jobs?

Or could it maybe, just maybe, have to do with the fact that women face obstacles which simply aren’t there for men?

We don’t believe women, either individually or as a group, when they try to tell us these things.

What’s it going to take for us to start believing women?



12 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s especially frustrating working in a male dominated field, you have to work extra hard for credibility. Plus, especially in construction, men don’t like being told by a woman that they’re doing something incorrectly. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      I hear this all the time, and yet, I still see the same tired old excuses being made for why it happens. What good would it do to lie?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Priya says:

    You are absolutely right – women are still infantilized. It is still hard for society to see women as adults, capable of making decisions and willing to face the consequences of those decisions.

    The whole victim blaming that you mention – it is scary for men to give up the privilege of ALWAYS being right – be it a rape, harassment, or abuse. If it’s always the woman’s fault, then men are always right. That’s a hard one to give up.

    Regarding women’s success and barriers, it is hard for some men to acknowledge they live in a world of male privilege – maybe they feel this undermines their accomplishments? Although I see more men acknowledge this nowadays – which means they are feeling more secure and less threatened.

    Women need to get organized and ight these battles as a group. Historically women have always been part of groups decided (and headed) by men – their group identity came from religion, family, race, economic status, and the suburban club they belonged to. They never belonged to the club of women, so to speak, which can be truly empowering. Like black people have a black identity and Jewish people have a Jewish identity. Women don’t have that kind of support, recognition of the issues, awareness building that come with group identity. Being part of groups headed by men also means – discounting the female experience, the female perspective, female history.

    There needs to be a spirit of sisterhood. Instead I see women at work fighting their battles alone, associating with people based on cultural background (read race), fitting into the boy’s club and engaging in petty competition with other women. I realize these are all coping mechanisms we women developed as a result of being enslaved for generations. But it’s time we broke out of them, learnt to bond as women, support one another, celebrate each other’s successes, stop judging other women and the choices they make. Then we will be in a much stronger position to take on the all-pervading misogyny.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dina Honour says:

      SING IT, Sister!

      I can’t tell you how strongly I believe in supporting other women. Honestly, I think it’s the bedrock of it all. If we can’t support and encourage other women, we’re never going to get anywhere.

      I made a promise to myself that I would stop commenting and judging women on their appearance. It’s been eye opening for me, not that I feel like I did it overly frequently (though for sure I did do it), but how much of our interactions with other women are based on the negative. I agree, a lot of it is coping. Women, historically, were told they had to play the game like men in order to succeed. The ones who did were hated by men, because they were encroaching upon male territory, and they were hated by women, because they were seen as having betrayed their feminism. They couldn’t, and still can’t win.

      I can’t express to you how much I love this comment. But I do. I love everything about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Priya says:

        Thank you Dina and I love your post!:) Hugs,

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Alice says:

    Ugh. Yeah. This one.

    I have my theories, of course — from generational transmission and the impact of cultural gaslighting; to the patriarchal commitment to treating rights, and even truth itself, as zero-sum resources; to a human desire to avoid recognizing horror, especially as widespread and pervasive as the damage inflicted on women collectively — but yeah. None of the answers satisfies.

    Nor do any of them answer the other question that haunts me: how do women –collectively disbelieved as we are — get most people to even believe us when we say, “women are collectively disbelieved”?


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Meta-disbelief? When it’s all boiled down and pushed through a sieve and I’m left with some sort of pulp, it’s usually hate, fear, or a combination. Deep down, I do wonder if there is a unconscious fear that women (and minorities) will treat men as horrifically as they have been treated over time. A fear I can understand because, frankly, it sucks to live in and walk around in a body that you know others view as inferior and I can imagine if you envisioned yourself giving up your privilege for something else, it would be a a pretty dismal thing to contemplate.

      But I’m also left with the ‘why would we lie?” question. What ends are achieved by having million of women retell similar experiences? What are we going to get out of it?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t help but think why people mistrust women is because they don’t respect them enough, with the respect that we deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dina Honour says:

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this. I agree, and I also think there is a lot of apprehension, and fear. It must be, on some level, terrifying to think one is capable of treating another human being so dismally, and also terrifying to think of what would happen if true equality was achieved and the tides were turned.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries 🙂 We must keep striving with action to make sure equality happens. Once that happens, other things will fall into place too I’m sure.


  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t immediately believe women when they say that they’ve had a crime perpetrated against them because we require a little thing called evidence. The assumption of evidence is a thing that exists in our legal system. Also, some men are rapists? So are some women. Men aren’t the only ones who rape (when I say all of this, it may seem a little condescending. It’s not meant to, just so you know).

    Have a nice day 🙂


    1. Dina Honour says:

      Ok–flip that. Why would you automatically assume, in the absence of evidence, that a woman is NOT telling the truth? This is the heart of what this piece is getting at. Not the requirement of evidence from a legal and judicial standpoint (which is of course required, and needed–but in cases of rape is almost there is an almost impossible burden for rape victims to meet. In many cases, it comes down to she said/he said testimony. And in those cases, why are we so pre-disposed to disbelieve women?)

      Statistically, in terms of reported rapes and sexual assaults, false claims account for between 2 and 8 % of claims. That means, even conservatively speaking, a whooping 92% of rape claims are legitimate. Yet the system–legal, judicial, media–is set up to believe the 2-8% over the 92. Why? Why do we automatically assume that more women lie about being raped than is actually the case? That is the point of this. We do not, as a society (and I include women in this) consistently give women the benefit of the doubt.

      In terms of female upon male rape–that’s not what this particular piece is addressing. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not traumatic for male victims, or that it should not be reported. However, it has nothing to do with this. This article is about society’s treatment of women. Bringing the idea of male rape into it serves no other real purpose than to dilute the argument (it’s like saying, women who are let down by the system suffer, but they don’t suffer as much because there are men that are let down by the system too). It’s not a contest as to who we let down more. There is room for both, and we should address both. But sometimes we have to do it separately.

      I appreciate you taking the time to lay out your thoughts–it’s important for all of us to keep doing that with each other. Happy 4th!


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