women in politics

Sister Giant: Three Responses to Feeling Insecure

Last week I was touched by your comments on my blog post about how insecure I was feeling about stepping out into new phases.  First, I always love comments as they remind me that someone out there is reading what I write!  But, more importantly, it's good for all of us to open up when we can about our experiences and feelings so we can each say, "me too!" Because so many of us are familiar with feeling vulnerable, I wanted to follow-up on that post and share with you a bit of encouragement.  It comes from a conversation about politics, but I assure you that each point speaks to us in any insecure spot we're sitting.

Sister Giant-- Our Call to Engage in Politics

Last weekend I attended Sister Giant--a conference designed to encourage women to run for political office as an effective way to bring about justice and care for the vulnerable in our world.  The event organizer, Marianne Williamson, is a well-known spiritual teacher who made an incredibly strong case over the weekend that the realm of politics is actually the only place where we can change legislature to actually prevent some of the causes of injustice, rather than only donating to non-profits that are set up to respond more the symptoms.  Even advocating or lobbying for change in legislature isn't always effective as there is no money or power behind hungry children, prisoners, or the impoverished.  To look at broken systems, like our prisons, and figure out how to better respond to non-violent crimes-- we need big-hearted people in office to care.

The case was well made of the difference that women can make and the need for more of us to show up in that world as candidates, or as women who will support other female candidates.

I can get behind bringing transformation to this world and I know that it is more likely to happen when women hold up our half of the sky. I felt convicted when Marianne said, "Women are indeed called to be homemakers and mothers.  What we forgot was that we are called to do it for the whole world-- to be more homemakers of this planet and mothers of all children."  Indeed we need more of us caring that there are 17,000 hungry babies dying every day.

How to Show Up When It Sucks

But just watching congress is enough to discourage the best of us!  A couple of news interviews listening to party-lines and egos and defensiveness and blame is all I can take. One of the attendees asked the question then that so many of us feel, "I can't even stand watching politics on TV as it all seems so mean-spirited and ego-based-- how would I ever survive in that world long enough to bring about any positive change?"

Marianne answered that question with three points that I think pertain to all of us who feel insecure at times, and she even started with the importance of female friendship:

  1. Develop a Positivity Team:  She quickly acknowledged how fierce the arena can be, and immediately suggested that we need to surround ourselves with positivity teams-- women who will cheer for us, hope with us, and pray for us.  That answer obviously gets my female friendship juices going!
    • If we were running for office, the jobs of whose on the positivity team are tangible-- women who would call every morning to tell our friend how amazing she is, women who would defend her in the press, women who would help pick up the kids after school, women who would remind her that whatever is said by the opponent isn't necessarily true, etc.  How fabulous does that sound?
    • I quickly thought of all of us who might not be running for office, but still need positivity teams.  Our friends are hopefully versions of that all the time, but if you're going through something big, something temporary, or something that leaves you feeling vulnerable-- maybe the best thing we can do is bequeath this title on them and make sure they know what we need the most right now. We're allowed to ask a friend, "While I'm going through this, will you call me more often and just remind me what you love about me?"  Yes, we are.
  2. Add good, rather than eliminate the bad.  There is so much research out there to support this concept now.  Whether it's emotional research that reveals it's more significant to add good moments to our lives than it is to try to eliminate stressors or medical research that supports that it's proving more effective to fight bad bacteria by adding good bacteria (i.e probiotics) than it is to just zap the bad ones gone-- the point is that we effectively deal with the bad by adding the good.
    • So in politics, her point is well made that the political climate isn't going to change until we add a bunch of good, caring, compassionate, and courageous female candidates.
    • But in our private lives that can often feel stressed out and insecure, the remedy is the same.  We can't (nor should we want to!) avoid risks, big decisions, and new opportunities just because they increase our stress and fear.  But we can add in extra moments of energy and joy when we know we're in stressful times.  What makes you happy?  What boosts your energy? What stimulates you?  What brings you laughter? Try to add some of those!
  3. And lastly, Show Up in Your Own Armor.Marianne told the inspirational story of David & Goliath.  For those of you not familiar with this Old Testament story, David, a sheep-herder discovered that none of his brothers or their comrades in the military would go fight the enemy giant.  David believed in their cause and offered to take on the giant.  The King quickly gave him all his best armor and choice of weapons, but David could barely move with all that extra weight.  He finally just said, "I'll stick with my slingshot and handful of stones." The iconic story ends with David hitting the giant with a stone between the eyes, or the place that many people call the third or inner eye.
    • Her point to women in politics was that we don't have to show up acting like everyone else; we'll be most effective when we come with who we are.  We don't have to act like the current congress.  Just because it's that way now, doesn't mean it's the only way.
    • And that hit me for all of us who feel insecure.  It reminded me of running for student body president as a college freshman.  Someone told me I couldn't win because I was a girl, a freshman, and I had no former experience in the student association.  The night before my speech, I turned those very three obstacles into the three reasons the study body should vote for me. And, I won.  I was grateful this weekend to remember that story.  It provoked me to make a list of what I consider my inadequacies to be now (i.e. no MBA) and turn them into my strengths.  How is it that I can come through this moment better and stronger for who I am, rather than for who I'm not?  I may feel a bit like David-- but Goliath can come down while I stay true to who I am.

So if you feel insecure right now-- take those three steps to heart.  I am.

And if you're thinking of running for any office-- let us know so we can support you!  :)

 

 

 

My Coming Out as a Feminist

I won a $1,000 ticket to a Ms. magazine fundraiser luncheon featuring Gloria Steinem last week.  With only thirty women in attendance it was a coveted win.

Feminism: a word I didn't like

I'm slowly waking up to feminism.

Half of my readers will be appalled that I feel a need to use the word feminism at all, and the other half of you are probably rolling your eyes that I ever had any hesitation around word.

I was raised in the eighties when the women's movement experienced its backlash after all the progress of the sixties and seventies. To say the least, the word feminist didn't hold positive correlation for me for most of my life, it wasn't something you wanted to be.  I'd repeatedly heard women start sentences with "I'm not a feminist, but...", modeling for me that we wanted to distance ourselves from some scary picture of women burning bra's, hating men, and causing a ruckus.

Adding to the distance I created between me and feminism was the fact that being a girl often proved to be an advantage to me.  I liked being a girl. (shows how much I misunderstood the feminism message!) More than a sense of oppression, I actually felt singled out, rewarded, and applauded.  Being among the first females running for Student Association president in college was an honor, attending seminary with less than ten women in my program felt pioneering, and serving as many people's first female pastor felt like a privilege. It wasn't without gratitude that I recognized that I had those opportunities because of women who had fought the good fight before me, but I didn't see the need to keep fighting.  I wasn't one of them. I thought we had made it.  Or, at least that there was enough momentum to keep us on our way.

I look back now with a twinge of regret that I cared more about being likable, agreeable, and your all-around-good-girl, than I did about being an advocate for women.  But I either didn't see the need or assumed the cause was doing fine without me waving the banner.

My own feminist awakening

Feminism is a loaded word. A word that few of us would disagree with in definition: "the advocacy of supporting women's rights as equal to men." In words alone, who among us isn't a feminist?

But as soon as the word is uttered-- we sometimes back away because we don't sense the urgency, don't relate to those in the media who represent the word, or don't necessarily feel like there is anything we can do, or want to do. I've had an entire career distancing myself from a word while still believing in the concept. Being a naturally positive person has more-or-less allowed me to look away from numbers as I argue that change takes time; choosing to feel encouraged by how many amazing women I knew who were doing so much.

And yet. Positivity shouldn't include denial.

Women still make up only 3% of creative directors, less than 5% of movie directors (that number dropped in 2011!), only 14% of Hollywood writers, and are shown as protagonists in only 17% of films. These numbers aren't all that different from a decade ago. Only 6 of our 50 state governors are women, and of the 535 seats of Congress, only 90 of them are women.  While we celebrate that we hold 22.1% of all statewide elected offices, that number was 22.2% in 1993 so the last twenty years hasn't shown tremendous strides there either.  I can keep going... reminding you that only 3% of Fortune 500 CEO's are women, that we are still earning double-digits less than our male counterparts, and that even though we own somewhere around 30% of businesses we still receive less than 10% of the funding.

So this last year I'd say I'm having a bit of an awakening. An awakening where I realize that we women still need to consciously play bigger games, speak out more, and offer our best in this world.  This has nothing to do with what choices you make--to get married or not, stay home with kids or work outside the home, wear stilettos or reject fashion--it has to do with being honored completely in whatever choice we do make. Not just for our sakes, but because the problems in our world need us.  The ways we engage, make decisions, and nurture those around us is being called out.  The challenges around us need us.

Like Katie Couric said in the documentary Miss Representation: If women spent 10% less time worrying about our weight and appearance, and instead applied that energy to others, she’s pretty sure we could solve all the worlds problems in a matter of months.

We can do that.

Feminism in Friendship

I've always wanted to live up to my best.  And I was always told I could.  In that sense I have always been a feminist.

But it hasn't been until this last year that I'm getting more comfortable with the word and my belief that I need to contribute to what that word stands for. I'd say that one of the forces that has transitioned me into the passion I feel for the cause were my relationships with other women.

When you experience women cheering for you-- supporting you, believing in you, thanking you, and helping you-- you realize how much more powerful you feel.  And you want everyone else to have that.

Whether it was Ayesha (who is pictured with me and Gloria above, who invited me to participate in an entrepreneurs group of women who were committed to helping each other) or Christine Bronstein from A Band of Wives who gifted me the ticket to attend the luncheon and has done nothing but cheer me on in our shared passion for women-- these two women are fabulous examples of women who have modeled their willingness to promote other women.

And when you have been given to, you want to give back.

The word feminism is still an awkward word on my tongue.  But the concept has taken root in my heart.  I hope that those of us reading this can keep living it out in our interactions with each other-- being constant reminders of each others value and potential. That as women who value friends-- we know that we are empowering each other in ways no one else can do. We can hold up mirrors to each other that remind us of our inherent worth.

In that sense, what we are doing in GirlFriendCircles is sacred work.  On the surface it would be easy to think it's just networking and social events.  But it's women showing up ready to commit to each other, willing to invest in the forming of bonds, honoring the fact that friendships with others are important enough to us to do something about it.  That's feminism.  Saying we matter.  Putting actions behind our words. We're ensuring that we don't do this journey of life without a local community, cheerleaders, allies, and friends.

Upon meeting Gloria Steinem-- I thanked her for the path she helped pave for so many of us.  Her response was "the hardest part is still ahead."

Good thing we have each other.

------------

p.s. a couple of good resources:

  1. Find a screening in your area for Miss Representation or plan to order the DVD when it's available late February.
  2. Subscribe to Ms. magazine which is like supporting the cause since it's a non-profit magazine that seeks to tell inspiring stories about women and highlight issues and challenges facing them.