The last 8 months have been seismic for women in terms of repositioning themselves in society. And whilst this shift is not only pivotal for women, it’s an altogether positive step forward for the growth of humanity as a whole. And whilst much of the blame has been cast at men — after all, there is after all no denying the appalling behaviour of Harvey Weinstein and others in using their power to dominate women — the conversation doesn’t always have to point the finger at men. Indeed, when appropriate, it can be re-positioned that the world can learn a lot by embracing feminine traits.
I’ve written before about the subject of embracing feminine traits and know that the language we use in these situations is so, so, important. Many women (myself included) can easily be turned off by language we draw from the past; terms that have been ridiculed by both sexes. Language that did no good for anyone, whatever side of the fence you sit on.
Today is, of course, International Women’s Day. And today it means celebrating women stepping into their power, not being side lined, but finding their voice and a platform for being recognised for their achievements instead of being put down. Much of it has been driven by high-profile women in the media, women who have supported each other and spoken up. These are women who have had a public voice, but until now have been too afraid to stand up and use it for fear of losing their positions or being victimised not only by men, but other women too.
It’s not to say that men haven’t experienced these things either, but for now, it’s the time to focus on women, because the world has been far too dominated by unhealthy masculine energy. Indeed it has been so for thousands of years, and we all (I hope) recognise that this has to change. It’s just taken a while for it to happen.
Actually, in so many ways and in so many cases, it’s not a gender thing at all. If I think about the male friends in my life, perhaps it’s just the ones I attract as friends, but they are not the type of men we hear about in the press. The men in my life are gentle, feel equal to their partners and are often earning less than them without it being an issue. So I’m always reluctant to make this a men- focussed discussion. For me it’s about traits. Masculine and feminine traits. All of us have both in different amounts and we each decide how much of each we use. This image featured, which I’ve drawn up, helps to visualise this.
For me, the discussion now needs to be about the future. Our future. How we choose to behave, and which traits we choose to adopt which will make a huge difference to where we’re all heading. Things looked very bleak when Donald Trump came into power last year, the Boris Johnson led the UK vote for Brexit, North Korea’s leader threatened Nuclear War and the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. Would we ever survive? We appeared to be going setiously backwards as a species, not learning, collaborating, growing. The inauthentic masculine traits you see listed in the image were clearly running the show and winning the race. Some say it’s not a matter of whether our planet survives, but whether we do, as a race.
Why have we allowed these inauthentic masculine traits to dominate us for so long? Why have we allowed them to be used to such an extent that we’ve damaged our planet and our behaviour so much? What is it in us that allows us to make huge, destructive, irreversible decisions on behalf of all future generations?
Is it fear of standing still? Fear of being left behind as each nation clings to the idea of power and competition? For short-term profit and gain? Apathy? Or is it our lack of connection to nature, to our own hearts and to each other that makes people with power behave so badly and is accept it? Why are we in denial and fighting for decency and will the human race pay the ultimate price for this?
Time to change
Women are beginning to find their voice, there is no doubt that it’s an exciting time. They are beginning to feel that little bit safer to stand up for what they believe in, to call out what has been wrong for so long and to do it without being judged or typecast as feminists and trouble makers. I remember once being called part of the ‘petticoat brigade’ by my Board once for standing up to what was wrong. We were four people, two men and two women, running a business for a group of 3 male shareholders. And it turned out, so I discovered one day on the printer, the men were being paid massive bonuses, whilst we were paid none. And when we stood up for ourselves, there was outrage that we dared to question it. The bonuses were never entirely rectified, but we made some headway. It was a tough time and throughout, I remember fearing for my job. So, to some extent, I know how some of those Hollywood actresses and female BBC employees feel, when they talk about inequality of pay.
Much of the problem comes from the patriarchal system we’ve adopted for over 3000 years. A system of power and decision-making that has caused devastating results. Out-dated masculine systems that we as collective individuals, as well as the planet, can no longer sustain. Yes, it’s brought us advances in science and technology, but the domination has also led to an imbalance of masculine and feminine principles (regardless of gender), creating a distorted way of doing things that exclude or marginalise essential aspects of human intelligence.
And it’s here that I draw you back to the idea of feminism. This is not a always a gender discussion. In many instances we may include women in some of these unsustainable masculine traits, as much as we may men. We must all take responsibility for where we are now, whether it’s in adopting or allowingthe decisions we’ve made, to get to where we are now.
We’ve lost sight of the more profound and life-nurturing gifts of the masculine, such as the passion to protect life and the vulnerable, the sense of honour in duty to the community, the depth of brotherhood, courtesy, modesty and chivalry. And in devaluing the feminine, we have lost some of the essentials of living and being, such as listening, nurturing, intuition, empathy, compassion and reverence for the sacredness of our bodies.
I read a great book last year called ‘Pioneering the Possible — Awakened Leadership for a World That Works’. I loved it. And whilst it’s a book filled with some of most frightening statistics I’ve ever read — agonising first-hand stories of the greed, dominance and aggression that has pervaded the human race for all these centuries — it’s also a book of great hope. It’s a book of possibility and potential. In its simplest form, it’s about the leadership required from each one of us, as individuals, to save ourselves and save our beautiful planet. It’s this leadership that we’re beginning to see emerging from women, along with supportive men, who are finding their voices. And if it begins in Hollywood, so be it.
The book is written by a woman I greatly respect and admire, Dr Scilla Elworthy. And today I wanted to pay homage to at least one, perhaps a few if I have time, women I greatly admire. Scilla’s energy is incredible. There is a kind of openness, a patience, a kindness and an acceptance of all that she has seen in life (she runs the international Charity Peace Direct which is dedicated to stopping wars). Yet there is strength and a great pioneering spirit that is undeniable. She is wise, strong and intelligent, yet warm and compassionate. And there is not a drop of grandiose. Imagine a world where those qualities were admired around the Board tables of our biggest polluting companies and in our government buildings where some of the biggest decisions are taken.
A great organisation which Scilla helped to found, FemmeQ, has an event on in London today timed to celebrate IWD2018, says:
“All over the world, in all systems, we see the devastation caused by the old patriarchal system, and the global consequences that cut across societies, geographies and generations. The feminine intelligence that exists in both women and men is now needed to face the current crises and bring a radical shift in the way we live and lead.”
We desperately need to change. We need to begin valuing compassion, active listening, inclusivity, intuition and regeneration.
We are out of balance
Too much masculine and not enough feminine. Take a moment again to read through the traits shown in the image and you’ll find that it’s easy to recognise these qualities in ourselves, both men and women. There is much crossover. Women in power or at the top of organisations adopt these inauthentic masculine qualities too, in order to survive. Do you recognise yourself in the inauthentic sections? I know I do. The impatience, independence, control and at times, fear. You may, as I, feel ashamed at this. You’ll no doubt laugh, but when I look at the authentic masculine qualities listed here, I think of Poldark. He is fallible but is not afraid to admit it. He is chivalrous and empathetic. He is a marvellous example of a man in his authentic masculine yet he also embodies many great feminine traits.
Out of destruction comes hope
So what will help lead us to an altogether different future?
And it’s here I will leave you to ponder. Could you adapt to be the change you want to see in the world? Do you have what it takes to be an authentic leader — a leader in any capacity, in any area of your life? Are you prepared to look at, and challenge, every part of yourself — do the inner work required? And so, on International Women’s Day 2018, here’s to all the women — and men — who are leading the way.