PIONEERING WOMEN NEEDED? REALLY? YES! It’s not that no one has stepped forward forcefully enough to attempt to change abusive men and abusive systems; it’s that the NUMBERS OF WOMEN and the absence of sufficient MALE SUPPORT have lacked the power for lasting SYSTEM CHANGE. Now, if we hang in there, we may be seeing true action and movement.
The voices of feminist activists and writers — like Gloria Steinum and Kate Millet and women in academia like Alice Sargent and Rosabeth Kanter (See BEYOND SEX ROLES and MEN AND WOMEN OF THE CORPORATION) — and countless others — were audible in the 1970’s and 80’s. The impact has been fierce and strong, yet the systems have continued to remain stagnant — abusive.
Because? Consider this visual image …imagine standing up straight and strongly extending one arm and fist into the side of a wet sponge.It makes a dent, and if you are really strong, sometimes a big dent. What happens when you remove your fist from the sponge? It snaps back into its original shape! That’s my visual metaphor for the challenge of changing systems. As long as enough vigilant women stay vocal (fist in the sponge) — through workshops, lectures, books, organizing, confronting — there is TEMPORARY CHANGE. BUT once that effort loses intensity (and recognize keeping a fist in the side of the sponge is exhausting) the system RE-FORMS in its original shape — that of seeing and defining women as POWERLESS and as a result, vulnerable.
I wrote my first book on the “powerlessness of women” in the 80’s. And each time I revise and publish a new edition, (there have been two revisions of RELEASE FROM POWERLESSNESS: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE) I sadly recognize that the systems we live in and work in have not changed …that we as women continue to be PIONEERS, today and every day …in our efforts to make changes that create better lives for women, regardless of the choices they make regarding how and when and with whom they live their lives.
What’s different right now? I am hopeful that it is NUMBERS! It appears that women who have been fearful of NAMING discrimination and abuse for what it is …not just naming individual men but SYSTEMS that discriminate against women …are stepping up, speaking out, and realizing the power in NUMBERS …that one woman can be silenced, but dozens and dozens cannot! And to compliment those numbers, MEN ARE SPEAKING OUT AND SUPPORTING WOMEN …further increasing the power of numerous voices.
In the 1970’s Kanter’s MEN AND WOMEN OF THE CORPORATION pointed out that eventually numbers would make a difference in the corporate culture …and perhaps now we are seeing one quite unique example of power in numbers.
My hope and anxiety is related to how much MUSCLE this change has. Fear is obviously reduced, to some extent, because women have a VOICE that is being recognized and supported. Media is stepping up. TV news and an October editorial in the New York Times name the problem of discrimination and abuse as unacceptable. Hopefully each of us can step up and in our individual way, lend our voices to the need for change — for equality — for the end to discrimination and abuse of power — whether it is sexual threats, abuse, or fear of
discrimination in hiring and promotion practices!
This is where the PIONEER SPIRIT IS ESSENTIAL. This is once again women needing their voices heard and recognized …modeling for one another and for younger generations confronting abusive individuals and systems. When the historical voices of women have made a difference, they have often been smaller in numbers, discriminated against even further, put in jail, and further abused, even as they paved a COURSE FOR CHANGE. These women are our anchors and role models. And TODAY we have the potential for NUMBERS, numbers that include men. Regardless of whether individuals have had direct experience with abuse, all of us can pay attention, be more watchful. And as GRETCHEN CARLSON points out in BE FIERCE, we need BYSTANDER TRAINING! …Speaking up, speaking out when you see discrimination anywhere and with anyone in your personal and work world.
We need one another. And we can already see the power in connecting, sharing, telling long held secrets of abuse …healing begins. So think about your own story. Do you have a story you have never even considered sharing — about either abuse or embarrassing discrimination or harassment … that you did not confront? If so, see yourself as a PIONEER. Imagine your voice can make a difference, even if with just ONE person. Imagine “paying that forward” and the positive impact it can have. Speak up. Speak out. Salvage the next generation of young women. Be one of the new majority, the PIONEERS of 2017!