Introducing this Blog, September 15, 2011, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles,” I described two journeys – one was the actual trip through Turkey, on which I was about to embark, and from which most of the posts so far have been made – - and the other the metaphorical journey that women around the world are traveling. These journeys have converged for me at this point, in a potent, painful and I suppose necessary way.
I am sitting on a small hill, a bluff at the edge of the Mediterranean. The sky behind the Taurus mountains across the water is a soft pink. The water itself is smooth, satiny. Doves are pecking out their breakfast around my feet. It is a gentle scene, quite a contrast to the emotions raging inside of me.
Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, and actually for five to ten years leading up to that, the clarity of understanding about my work in the world came into sharp focus. First was clarity about “global.” My work was – and is – global. That seemed arrogant and incongruous for a girl who grew up in the rural mid-west of this vast nation known as the United States. But so it was. Of course that’s the deal when it comes to one’s “calling” in life; it is not a logically planned journey; it is a continually emergent journey, based on trust, filled with surprise, synchronicities and puzzling uncertainties.
The second clarity was that my work was to be about women’s leadership ~ not a focus on supporting the leadership development of individual women, but rather about evoking, calling out, encouraging, nurturing women’s leadership – the leadership of all women. Kofi Annan, then Secretary of the United Nations, said the 21st century was the century of women. I got it – not in a rich way, but I got a sense of the essence of that meaning.
I realize that coming to teach at Antioch was very much a part of this journey of my work in the world – because my colleagues and our students taught me about systems and I came to understand the real difference between an individual woman’s leadership – and women — stepping up, stepping into, standing in the leadership that is already deep within them and is necessary to manifest at this time, if we as a human species are to survive, let alone thrive.
It is clear that this is not an individual journey. It is a collective journey. The meaning of the Yin/Yang symbol that has resonated with me for many years, has reached new depths. Robert Taylor, a nationally recognized leader and author, who now lives in Seattle, grew up in South Africa. Desmond Tutu was his mentor. Robert recently sent me a note sharing that at Tutu’s 80th birthday in conversation with the Dalai Lama, Tutu was asked about one thing that would change the world. He replied that women should lead the world. We have indeed, as a species, come as far as we can go with only male energy leading us. Feminine energy is not needed as a supportive adjunct. It is necessary as a leading energy, giving voice to the vision and the values that will create our future.
This actual journey we are on, this travel through Turkey was partly motivated for me by the thought of being able to stand on the land where the goddess was worshipped – so long ago. Imagining the Neolithic times, where egalitarian life style was the norm, where there were no monuments to fighting and war, was a powerful, refreshing and energizing vision. To know that at one point in history me and women were equally valued – seemed a precious place to stand, from which to once again create – in this age – a world where women and men are equally valued.
To learn that this is no longer the way that period is understood, to have to give up a belief that was so central to me, has been as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. The convergence of our journey as women with my actual journey to the Neolithic archeological site at Catal Huyuk has shaken my world. I do not have a nice foundation on which to stand. I must let go of that notion – and look ahead with the realization that we are indeed creating the future.
The questions remain, of course. How did we as women get into this subordinate place? How is it that for thousands of years we have participated in maintaining a system where we are valued less, discounted, and often even today, treated with violence? We will continue to explore these questions in subsequent posts. The message of this one is about the agony of giving up cherished beliefs – - – - and the necessity to do so – - – in order to truly move into new understanding, to create our own future.
I see that future unfolding before me. In a sense I saw it before, but I did not know the power of what I saw. I see more clearly now the potency of creative business women, such as Eveline, Silvia, Banu, Lilly, carving out a way to give their gifts – to share their skills, to enjoy their creative process – and in so doing provide both jobs for others and products that are satisfying to their customers.
I see Leyla’s leadership as the powerful gift that it is – not only to the women who need to recover from abuse, but to a social system that is learning its way from unbridled power and control over other human beings to more respect for each individual – man or woman. I can treasure in a whole new way the potency of Heather’s poking and probing old, unexamined belief systems through her Feminist Activism blog. And the list goes on and on.
What a gift the conversations on this trip have provided for me. Visionary, creative, skilled, savvy and courageous women are indeed creating the future day by day. They are not waiting for approval. They are not waiting for external authority or resources. They are authorizing themselves, and in many cases using their own limited resources, to create a new reality with intention, consciousness of the greater whole and trust in their own power and the competence and power of those they attract to themselves.
It is an amazing time!
I hope that my sharing a bit about these women we’ve met may encourage and inspire you, evoke your own courage to do whatever it is that is yours to do.
I also hope that the women I’ve met may connect with one another, or at least, find and connect with other kindred spirits. BECAUSE one of the ways we contribute to traditional subordinate roles is that we are frequently unaware of the contributions of one another. We do not support one another as much as we might. We are unaware of some of the lessons and knowledge gained by women in previous ages. We do not build on the work of one another as much as we might.
AND – that is changing. We are at a point where we have access to the work of other women – both from the past, and from the far away spots around the world. Role models are available to us as never before! The stories of the women featured on this blog, and on the www.womenleadingtheway.com web site are examples of women leaders who might live right next door to you, might be part of your community.
Only a few weeks ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women: Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female president, Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized fellow women against the Liberian civil war including by organizing a “sex strike,” and Tawakkul Karman, a leader in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen. “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” noted Thorbjoern Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
In Istanbul, on the same day the Nobel Peace Prizes were announced, on the front page of the English newspaper, Daily News, Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, is pictured striding alongside her counterpart, Turkish President, Abdullah Gui. Rousseff was named as the third most powerful woman in the world in 2010, by Forbes Magazine.
We have great partners on this journey!
And we are great partners for one another!