A year ago yesterday, I gave into a whim and started this blog with nothing more than the vague goal of writing about feminine community and spirituality. I wasn’t overly optimistic; my last attempt at a blog yielded only a handful of posts. But I felt the undeniable to pull to write again, and my mind and heart were immersed in anticipation of change – the anticipation that our world was slowly but surely evolving into a place that was kinder, more cooperative, and more inclusive. More feminine.
That’s not what 2016 ended up feeling like. In fact, this past year has – at points – had me questioning my deepest moral and spiritual beliefs. Everything from my writing, to my religion, to my parenting has felt terrifyingly irrelevant.
But as painful and divisive as this year has been, it has served a purpose. It’s been a year of shadows – of confronting the ugly, shameful things that our country has been trying to push down and out of sight generation after generation. Violence and oppression against people of color. Violence and oppression against women. Growing wealth inequality.
On November 9, I thought that I had misunderstood our transition to a kinder, more nurturing world.
But I had misunderstood us, sisters.
I – and many other comfortable, middle-class Americans – thought that we were going to go through a beautiful transformation akin to a yoga class. Yes, there would be some moments of discomfort and stretching as we learned to use our bodies in unfamiliar ways, but overall it would be a pleasant experience.
We underestimated the scope of the change that is taking place. We underestimated the resistance to it. But most importantly we’ve been underestimating our own power to overcome all of it.
The fear that many of us woke up with November 9 – the uncertainty and anxiety about what kind of country our children would inherit – isn’t an unpleasant side effect, but a necessity.
As women, we were never going to run for office in large enough numbers to accurately represent the integral role we play in our families, communities, and country. Running for office takes a unique skill set that is inherently more uncomfortable for women than men. Knocking on strangers’ doors when we’ve been trained to seek out the safety of people we know. Speaking in public when we’ve been trained to not draw too much attention to ourselves. Engaging in fierce, public competition when we oftentimes prefer cooperation and collaboration.
But 2016 raised the stakes. It put progressive women in a position where avoiding leadership is no longer the best thing for our children because our children need the leadership that we as women – as mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and mentors – can provide. We are now in a position where women need to run for office not in spite of our children but because of them.
The system, as it exists, was set up by and for men. And it served a purpose. But how do we, as women, work and lead differently? I would argue that female leadership emphasizes and embodies the following qualities, all of which our country and our planet desperately need right now:
- cooperation and collaboration
As women, we’ve been socialized for generations to think about others first. Our children, our partners, our families, our friends. And we’ve spent a lot of time trying to break out of this pattern. (I am certainly a big believer in self-care.) But the caring, nurturing, and mothering that has defined traditional femininity for so long is not the weakness we’ve been treating it as. It’s the solution we’ve all been looking for.
On my list above, did you notice all the words beginning with “co”? COmmunity. COoperation. COllaboration. COmpromise. All of those words are about doing things TOGETHER. Because that’s how women work best. We don’t shine when we’re going it alone, trying to prove that we’re better than everyone else. We light up the world when we work together in strong communities to solve the problems facing us.
And that, sisters, is the way of the future.
Look at our world right now. We have some studies showing that, for the first time, our children’s life expectancy is shorter than our own. College is going to cost significantly more for them, loading them down with debt. Our planet – based on the almost unanimous consensus of scientists – is in crisis. Our national debt is over $19 TRILLION. We turn on the news and see graphic images of children’s dead bodies washed up on the shores of Greece or among the bombed out rubble of Aleppo.
We are not leaving our children a world that is better, safer, or more just than the one we inherited. And that is not how women operate.
We stress about whether our kids are getting too much pesticide exposure from their non-organic strawberries. We ask for minimal Christmas presents so we can afford to get our daughter the American Girl doll she really wants. We protect our children with our own bodies without a second thought. (Ask my chiropractor about the time I threw my back out jumping across the living room to catch my son when he fell down the stairs.)
I was recently walking out of Costco and ran into a woman from the sister circles I attend. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but she said, “Yeah, I have a feeling that if women ran the world, there’d be a lot less fossil fuel and a lot more solar panels.”
And it’s true! Because it is not in our nature – as the beautiful, caring, feminine people we are – to screw over our own kids tomorrow to make things temporarily easier for ourselves today. That’s not how we work.
The answers we’ve been looking for? We already know the answers. We know how to work together to achieve consensus in a way that everyone feels heard and validated. We know how to think in the long-term if it will ultimately make things better for our children. We know how to empathize and find compassion and patience even when it feels like we’ve already given everything we have to give. We know how to function as communities because many hand make light work.
It’s time to give ourselves credit for the skills we’ve been learning and perfecting for so long, and it’s time to share these skills by stepping into the leadership roles that we were born to step into.
It’s time, sisters. We are capable. We are qualified. We are ready.
As for this blog, things feel somewhat uncertain for me. When I started it a year ago, I never intended for it to be a political blog, but it feels like a dramatically different world now, and I cannot imagine spending time and energy on something that is not political. I’ve joined my county-level Democratic Party. I’ve joined Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a grassroots organizing cooperative that will be fighting for progressive causes in my area. And I’m sure that somewhere in there I will be writing. It seems to be the thing my life always circles back to.
Happy New Year, sisters. The lessons of 2016 were difficult but necessary, and now it’s time to get to work.
P.S. For whatever it’s worth, this clip from The First Wives Club has been extremely inspirational to me today. And when I say “Get everything,” I mean the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office.