Women’s Wisdom versus Patriarchal Programming

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

The patriarchal society and programming that I describe in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom has a lot to do with how you think about your body and care for yourself. When I say patriarchal society and programming, I’m referring to the belief that the masculine ways of being (and doing) are superior to the feminine ways of being (and doing). This has been a part of the world’s culture for thousands of years. And after 5,000 years of patriarchal programming, it’s no surprise that women get sick in the uniquely female areas of their bodies.

Anne Wilson Schaef calls it, “The original sin of being born female.” This refers back to the Bible story about Adam and Eve… God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and declared that Eve would bring forth children in pain and suffering, because she tempted Adam. This kind of programming teaches women—at the deepest, deepest level—that the processes of her female body, including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, labor, and menopause, are burdens to be endured.

This belief system has left women with the idea that a woman’s body is not “good enough.” And nothing could be farther from the truth. These processes are embodied with wisdom—clues that tell us that something in our lives is out of balance. Whenever we trivialize our bodies or are ashamed of their normal processes, we are not only missing these clues, we are contributing to our own ill health. To truly thrive as women, we need to reverse or abandon this programming entirely.

Instead, we must be kind and gentle to our bodies, and not think in terms of controlling them. That is a patriarchal way of viewing them. Our bodies work best when we love them the way we would a two-year-old child. When a child is learning to walk, we don’t yell at them when they fall and say, “Get up you little dummy!” We are calm and patient.

The organs and processes that identify us as female tend to be very vulnerable. Therefore, diseases of the breasts, uterus, ovaries, and the menstrual cycle are very common in women. The key is in knowing that our bodies never lie. They are always pointing us in the direction of the truth—and health. If you get a breast cyst or have breast pain, you can be sure that your body is asking you to take more time to nurture and care for yourself.

Women have been programmed to feel very guilty if they take time for themselves. Instead, I want you to honor the way you feel. And to be gentle and kind to yourself. We are not responsible for our illnesses. We are responsible to them!

I have learned that the processes of the female body are physical metaphors for the way in which God comes into and through our bodies. As the Medieval mystic Meister Eckhart said, “For all eternity, God lies on a birthing bed, giving birth. The essence of God is birthing.” When you see your body as holy and sacred, your entire life changes.

My deepest hope is that women all over the world will wake up to the power and privilege of being a woman. And will know that their ability to create pleasure and joy in their bodies, relationships, lives, and families is the key to living heaven on Earth.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by this blog, please leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page.

Last Updated: March 18, 2014

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. A changed perspective in the masses about womanhood would help us discover a nidus that’s all new and devine to nurture million healthy souls.
    Delighted
    Thank u Dr Northrup !!

  2. Barbara
    6 years ago

    I read Anne Schaef Wilson many years ago, and I always loved that quote of hers about how women are brainwashed to accept that they have “the original sin of being born female.”

    Thank you Dr. Northrup for all you do and all the great words of wisdom!

  3. Pat
    6 years ago

    Hi
    Thank you so much for wise words. I am new to this . Wondering where i can get a protocol and support to get off years of estrogel and progesterone combo. I have tried on my own but each time have horrendous symptoms
    Additionally.
    I had unnecessary surgery where half my thyroid was removed because of a nodule. No findings following and then told to go on synthroid which i did just recently and reluctantly . Need some guidance. Thank you for being a steady light in this storm

  4. Christiane Northrup
    6 years ago

    Dear K– please make sure you take some iodine and also enough vitamin D– so good for breasts.And Tess– check out the book The Genius of Flexibility. Lots of times hip problems are from dense fascia. If I hadn’t been doing Pilates for the last 13 years, I am certain that I would have had a hip replacement. Alignment is everything! Thank you everyone for weighing in here. REally appreciate it.

  5. Daynetha Singleton
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this blog post. It was exactly what I needed to hear today. Reminding myself to listen to my body and take good care it is imperative. I am in the the mist of peri menopause and this helped me to remember that its okay to feel the way I feel, while that taking time for me and my personal healing is what I am suppose to be doing. Thank you for your work in supporting women’s health and well being.

    Sincerely

  6. Daynetha Singleton
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this blog post. It was exactly what I needed to hear today. Reminding myself to listen to my body and take good care of me is imperative. I am in the the mist of Peri menopause and this helped me to remember that its okay to feel the way I feel, and that taking time for me and my personal healing is what I am suppose to be doing. Thank you for your work in supporting women’s health and well being.

    Sincerely

  7. Pamela ferry
    6 years ago

    I love this article..what you say makes so much sense and sits right with me, interesting it has take. Half a lifetime for me to really ‘get’ this stuff and still learning …..thank you x x

  8. Robin
    6 years ago

    I’v followed u for years, attended a USANA convention you spoke, that did it for me (2007? in Salt Lake). I’v read many of your books, website articles, your wisdom/info is so powerful. I’m 55, gmom of 2 beautiful boys. Life’s great & confusing and looking for advice to prepare myself for retirement or better to say JUMP! btw just ordered the book. WE plan to move, biggest challenge. I’m looking forward to new jobs, volunteering, crafts been sitting for years. Suggestions, advice?

  9. Andrea
    6 years ago

    This article is so beautiful & moving and a great inspritation! Thank you! Will be sharing it with friends and family… 🙂

  10. Donna Shiver
    6 years ago

    Clarity 🙂

  11. Debbie
    6 years ago

    Wonderful! Know it and have experienced it deeply… Will be sending this to my daughter at college. She has heard similar things from me for most of her life (I can visualize her rolling her eyes and hear the “oh mom”.) Hearing it from a professional woman who is a leader in her field my change her response. I have your books in wait to pass them on to her. Bless you!

  12. K
    6 years ago

    So interesting! Thank you! You wrote,” If you get a breast cyst or have breast pain, you can be sure that your body is asking you to take more time to nurture and care for yourself”.
    I get breast pain & have spoke to a dr. about it numerous times. They say its fine, never suggested anything because my mammograms came back normal. I have been nervous about it especially since my mother has survived breast cancer twice. I know I should take more time to nurture & care for myself!

  13. Cristina Cezar
    6 years ago

    Thank you so much Dr Christiane. I so experienced myself what you wrote here, and I feel inspired to share my life story with other women in a hope that they will also feel inspired to transform their lives. This post is a great sign and confirmation that I am on the right path. Thank you again! With love, Cristina

  14. Maia
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this. It comes at a very opportune time for me 🙂

  15. Jade Olsen
    6 years ago

    “We are not responsible for our illnesses. We are responsible to them!” – Pure brilliance Dr Northrup! Your wisdom has helped me to change my life so much. Picking up your book was the smartest thing I ever did!

  16. Venecia rojas
    6 years ago

    We women need inspirational, affirmative, and supporting thoughts and articles such as this one. It is empowering too. Many, many thanks.

  17. Tess Charbonneau
    6 years ago

    Dear Christaine,
    I have been a follower of your wisdom for a long time as my 4 daughters are now and many people I have referred you to. I am going back to our wisdom in another rise in popularity, the HIP REPLACEMENT EPIDEMIC. I was told I was a good candidate for this surgery. Would rather not. What are your thoughts please?..Best Tess

  18. mary louise hayes
    6 years ago

    continued Words of Wisdom thank you

  19. Jennifer in Montana
    6 years ago

    I love being a woman! I embraced pregnancy, labor was empowering and being Peri-menopausal has taken me to the brink of insanity! However, I feel more ‘alive’ than ever! Thank you for guiding us through….

  20. Wynelle
    6 years ago

    Hello Dr. Northrup, Your deepest hope for women is full of promise and I know that your wonderful contributions and dedication will serve in seeing your hope for women realized. The pain and labor in childbirth for women plus labor and toil in work for men, was the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating from the tree of knowledge. God created men and women in His own image and we are glorious!

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Linda Sheridan
    6 years ago

    Always a pleasure and a breath of fresh air to read anything you write. I will be 58 in June. No paying job since 2010, but loving that I can care for my family and home. I write my gratitude each morning and put it in a ziplock gallon bag for the year. Have started dedicated exercise, eating “clean”, and have a positive, spiritual, outlook. Life is grand. So happy to be this age.

  22. Jan
    6 years ago

    I loved what you said in today’s blog! So much truth pouring out in your words. As a 51 year old mother of three daughters, I want this truth to be spoken everywhere. Keep on writing!

  23. Suzi Banks Baum
    6 years ago

    Thank you dearest Dr. Northrup, for teaching me that my body is always pointing me in the direction of truth. I have learned this in real time and live the pleasure of this deep knowing. xo Suzi

  24. Bill Manahan
    6 years ago

    Chris, you are a prophet with words of joy and wisdom. As you know, I have always appreciated your courage to speak out; the wisdom of what you say; and the joy and humor with which you live your life. You are a wise woman who is helping to change the world.

  25. Pat
    6 years ago

    Wow, that is beautiful. I need to read this repeatedly for the rest of my life.

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