On Our Best Behavior: Elise Loehnen Pushes Back on the Patriarchal Narrative

“We need a culture where the men are like, ‘I would like to be more like women. I need to be caring. I want to be nurturing and creative. And yes, I can be strong and I can be masculine, but I also need this underdeveloped muscle.'” – Elise Loehnen

Episode 03

In this episode of the Matriarchy series, we explore how deeply ingrained patriarchal narratives can create a policing effect on the behavior of women. 

Author, Elise Loehnen, discusses her book “On Our Best Behavior” which examines how concepts like the seven deadly sins have historically been used to restrict women’s behavior and police their adherence to an idealized form of “goodness.” Loehnen unpacks the insidious ways women are culturally conditioned from a young age to suppress normal human drives like anger, ambition, and sexuality. And how disrupting rigid gender stereotypes is important when raising the next generation in order to build a more compassionate world. 

Jen and Elise discuss:

  • How women are culturally conditioned and expected to embody “goodness” while men are oriented toward power 
  • How concepts like the “seven deadly sins” have historically been used as a patriarchal “punch card” to police women’s behavior
  • Why raising boys to have an emotional inner life nurtures positive identity development
  • The current era of politics that calls for women to challenge the patriarchal system while also having compassionate dialogue to build a new, care-centered world where everyone can flourish
Episode Transcript

Hey everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your happy host of the For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. I just wrapped up one of my favorite interviews I’ve done in some time. Today we’re diving more into what our wider culture has intrinsically woven into our psyches and understanding about gender and patriarchy. We are talking with an expert who went through kind of her own wake-up call, and has since put her hand to the plow with a really incredible offering; I would dare say a cultural touchpoint at this moment in history. 

Our guest today is Elise Loehnen. If you know her, then you’re like, “Yay!” She is a self-proclaimed seeker and synthesizer of wisdom, traditions, cultural history, and deep knowledge of healing modalities. She’s “woo woo” in a good way. She is the author of On Our Best Behavior, which came out last year. She wove together in that book history, memoir, research, and cultural criticism to explore the ways patriarchy lands and has landed and is still landing in the bodies of women and embeds itself in our consciousness.

This is such a powerful conversation. In her book, she used the framework of the seven deadly sins and she walked us through this examination of what it means to be “a good woman.” She wants us to give our attention to the patterns that restrict and oppress us so that we may be able to rewrite a narrative of modern matriarchy that will deliver the freedom we all crave, and certainly the freedom we want to pass on to our kids. I’m telling you this conversation is so interesting, smart, and illuminating. It’s going to break open some patterns we haven’t even thought about because as she mentions in this interview, a lot of this is subconscious. This is the air that we breathed for so long that we don’t even know there’s another script. You’ll listen to me at a couple of points in this interview, say, “Holy gosh, this is something I’m telling myself right now! This message that she was bringing up, I had a conversation with myself about that this morning.” So, this is really under the skin for me. I just found Elise so smart but with a whimsy that is so engaging and endearing. You’re going to love her and I told her at the end of this interview, “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to come back I have more that I want to talk to you about and we didn’t get far enough.” So, what I hope will be conversation number one, please enjoy this exciting and hopeful discussion with the absolutely wonderful Elise Loehen.


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