Be the kind of woman who when she wakes up and puts her feet on the floor, the devil says, “Oh crap, she’s awake.” Anonymous, quoted by Kathy LeMay
This is not another “go team, rah rah rah, women can do it all” posts. I’m no academic steeped in theory and models of how power is won, lost, and everything in between. I proudly claim the feminist label, and that badge to me includes at home mothering as a legitimate and honorable path for a woman’s life. It includes rich femininity, difference, and a real equality that allows for those differences. What this post is then, is a cry for deeper understanding of the power women already have.
I attended an insightful conference in early December on women and corporate and social responsibility, hosted by Working Mother Media. As the United Nations, governments and corporations around the globe are championing, the key to our future is girls and women. With their empowerment we consistently see vast improvements, increased peace, healthier agricultural systems and more logical prioritization of infrastructures.
As girls are saved from child marriage for example, they receive more education. With that education they can delay children past their teens, when their bodies are stronger and they are less likely to die in childbirth. With that education they can marry a peer instead of a significantly older man chosen by relatives. With that education they can work and support themselves. With that education they can teach their own children and break the poverty and ignorance cycle.
And somehow it has to be done in partnership with boys and men. Those husbands and fathers and brothers, often the perpetrators of repressive social and cultural practices, have to be part of the process.
However, the conference and its focus on women and power in a developing world context, brought my mind to those issues in an environment of more (generally) stable social systems and what I observe on how women and men navigate power in my own spheres of influence. In this part of the world, women are more powerful than many realize. Not by using sexuality and manipulation. Not by wielding the household budget, though economic choices are part of it. Not even by teaching and raising the next generation, huge component that it is. And most definitely NOT by trying to be clones of men.*
When the basic needs of safety, health and nutrition are taken care of, here’s where the real power lies.
By being. By doing. By being speaking. By listening.
By banishing self critical language.
By knowing who you are.
Because when women show up in honesty, in integrity and in strength (quiet or loud), stuff happens. Powerful shifts. Seismic change. In the boardroom, in the kitchen, in the mini-van, in the voting booth, in the square, in the media, in the negotiation room.
Why am I so obsessed with technology and social media? Because when you claim voice, your voice, and you anchor it in things that matter deeply to you, it’s a game changer. I don’t care how you do it. But I do care that you get the chance.
When you are the kind of woman who frustrates evil by your very waking presence — well then — you are onto something. You are on to real power.
Recommended Reading: Half the Sky, by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
What’s on your passion and purpose list for 2012? How does your true self show up? You can reach me here or comment below. Join me at The Daily Thrive for a year of online exploration in daily bite sized bursts of learning.
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* As I searched for a suitable image to accompany this post, 40% of the results of typing in the words “women” and “power” in my usual image libraries, were women pointing guns (real or imagined). The remaining 60% showed women in overtly sexual poses or dress, or women flexing their muscles in various poses. We have some things to fix my friends. Calling on all my gifted photographer friends to begin the shift on this one.