Friday, September 24, 2010

Choosing Faith: Wrestling with Religion

Politically, the natural enemy of a Powerful Woman is organized religion.

Not God. Not faith. Not monotheism.

Every 70 years, fundamentalism raises its sleepy head, notices how progressive the church has become, and swings a sword to decapitate the new growth.  As sure as the sun will rise, any new attitude of the church toward women will be stifled and suppressed as soon as there is a trumpet call to return to the days when the church was dominant, powerful, and patriarchal.

So, naturally, a Powerful Woman's first face-lift is removing the baggage of religion.  But, in doing so, too many aggressive women miss out on the salve of faith.

Faith: the sister of intuition, the parent of hope, the child of submission. 

Submitting to the idea of a higher power is much like the idea of submitting to another.  Full power is retained by the purposeful and voluntary relinquishment of the exclusive control of our own being.  We recognize that there are forces we cannot manipulate, ideas that we cannot reconcile, and a standard of perfection that forever remains out of our reach.  Faith is the gentle ointment that fills in the raw wounds, connects our consciousness to a higher sense of order, and calms the nagging voice that reminds us of how far we must go to meet our own expectations.  Faith is within us, a mental process that parallels logic, as prolific as our daily self-talk and present in all of our decision-making.  And yet, for so many, it is unrecognized, underutilized, or mismanaged. 

Every day you are either intentionally or unintentionally relying on faith.  Whether you believe in the higher order of capitalism, the consistency of science, the beauty of the human spirit, the complexity of the human mind, or monotheistic divinity, you are acting in reliance on a set of underlying, foundational principles that govern your life--principles that you can't prove exist but have provided you with enough discrete examples that give you the confidence to predict future transactions.  No matter how much you would like to believe otherwise, you are submitting to something.

The greatest gift that organized religion has given us is the structure to develop our spiritual dimension, to introduce us to the powerful capacity of the mind to believe, hope, and find pleasure and the joy within ourselves that relies on no external stimulus, no ideal set of circumstances, or degree of perfection. Much like years of school that trained us to develop our rational selves, religion presented us with the discipline to develop our capacity for faith.

Unfortunately, this structure also has a crippling effect.  Over time, if an individual relies on this structure, in the absence of independent thought, it has no more developed the capacity for faith than its absence has for those who have never encountered it. 

So, were we right?  Should we just abandon it altogether?  No, we are social creatures and collective beings.  However, we must be aware of the conflicting forces that grant and take our greatest asset and source of power - our independent thought.  Find your source of faith, invest in learning to intentionally apply it to develop your whole being, use external sources like the church to refresh and reenergize your faith, and align your core to these set of beliefs. 

Organized religion is a love-hate relationship.  I will be forever annoyed by its abuse of faith to achieve political means or to perpetuate a collective morality.  However, I am eternally grateful for its lessons in intraspection, discipline, and submission. 

My guiding principle is faith.  Not religion.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Fear of Gender Disparity in Leadership

What if all the issues that females write about in their experiences as emerging leaders turn out to be the same issues that emerging male leaders have?

Great.  My book is already knocked of the best-seller list and it's not even written.    I already had titles picked out:  I Am Woman. Hear Me Whine., Last Woman Standing, Stop Picking On Me, I'm a Woman!

Are we really afraid of a difference that may not actually exist?  Another example of the fear of fear? Remove all the deeply rooted resentments of how difficult it was to get to positions of power.  Respect, but move past, the last generation's fight against the glass ceiling. Recognize the fact that we still have a ways to go to see equitable representation in female leadership.

But...once we're there, how different is it? Comparing notes with male leaders; leadership struggles, pitfalls, and successes arrive and abate neutral to gender.  So is it just the visual of female leadership that tickles our imagination and aspirations to step into the ring? 

Once you're there, both men and women will guide the way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Choose You: A Post-Feminist Perspective on Submission

I choose you.

Considering that powerful women barter for choice in most areas of their lives, the idea that such a woman would set out to choose a man isn't a far stretch.  Why allow fate to determine our relationships?  If we can choose the best candidate to grow our organization, what prevents us from finding the best man? 

Beware. This is a trap. Like the man who took the genie's three wishes and made himself a genie found: greediness for power will enslave you in turn. Choosing a man is an exercise in submission to self.

If you were lucky enough to brilliantly negotiate Erickson's developmental stage of intimacy v. isolation in your twenties and find a mate early on, growing together or mutually constructing interdependence was a natural progression. You grew into adulthood with ideas of self that were inevitably shared with the ideas of self of another. Subjugating your own will to that of another occurred seamlessly, likely without notice.

However, if you didn't, and you spent your early adulthood developing independent ideas of self, it is a surprising revelation to find that choosing interdependence requires a rather conscious act of submission to make room for the other. The irony comes when an extra-powerful woman decides to be extra-intentional about the man she chooses. If a woman decides to embrace the challenge of pursuit, activating her feminist ideas of equality, does she actually violate those same ideas of female power?

Trap 1: The greater the challenge of the task, the greater the subjugation to make the match happen.

We must first assume that such a woman is choosing the man wisely.  An overzealous approach to doing whatever it takes tends to hide the more obvious red flag that this may simply not be the right one for you. On the other hand, choosing a man later in life infers the tolerance and acceptance of the inherent baggage that all of us carry at this point: widowhood, divorce, or hyper-independence.

Intimacy was so much easier when we were in adolescence. We were all at the same starting point, baggage-free, with ubiquitous availability of options. But we are mid-stride now, and the second, and perhaps the more significant, challenge is finding congruence in timing.

Trap 2: The woman decides to hunt; exercise her skill in making things happen; and finds the right man, wrong time. If anyone has encountered "wrong time" politics, it comes with frequent sacrifices of self, significant periods of waiting, and a skewed distribution of feelings; choreographed as a push-pull dance. It is an enormous exercise in the delay of gratification. I'm sure that most women accustomed to the immediate results of power find this last experience especially excrutiating.

Through the test of timing, how purposeful will her choice continue to be? How submissive to her choice will she become? Is exercising her full right to choose, and thereby keep power, an appropriate application of feminism? If so, how do you categorize her subsequent choice to subjugate herself to this choice? Is this a legitimate exercise of feminism or is it moving beyond?

I propose that the intentional exercise of choice, regardless of the nature of the choice, is the full manifestation of the intent of feminism. That the choice involves the submission to a male is truly irrelevant, moving beyond traditional feminisim. The premise of feminists as perpetual opponents of men mistakenly establishes men as the central tenet of female power. If men do not grant a woman her power, men cannot inherently take it. The critical question is whether or not women maintain their right to choose. Thus, though choosing a man may lead to the intentional submission of self, choosing a man does not violate the tenets of modern feminists and may be considered a post-feminist perspective on the relationship of men and women.

So, what separates this idea from pre-feminist powerless submission? Feminism.  Its era, contribution, and the equalizing right to female choice created to permit a newly liberating platform of power.