On Friday my girlfriends and I went to the fifth annual Women of the World (WOW) Festival in London – blissful day it was at the Southbank – the sunshine, the vibe, the atmosphere! A celebration of womanhood. Six of us rushed in the morning from different parts of London and out of it to be on time for the opening talk with Annie Lennox. What a treat! One of my friends even had a ‘bump into the star’ moment with her at the front door! Which she ‘facebooked’ on the spot, Who wouldn’t? Sharing enhances every experience.
And Annie delivered! Among other very compelling things she said was the question, ‘What is it with the ‘F’ word?’ She related a story of her receiving The Woman of the Year Award about six years ago. She was on the stage giving a speech sharing her natural raw emotion of being touched and honoured with an audience of four hundred very powerful individuals of all walks of life – policewomen, women who overcome disabilities, rights activists. On the hype of it all she called everyone who supports feminism to stand up. And it was a real moment of truth for her when half the audience stood up and the other half remain seated. So she asked herself,
‘Why feminism became such an ‘f’ word. The word is tricky by itself.’
Maybe a better word won’t carry so much baggage as to alienate so many. As it probably sounds to a great number of people, the word feminism is in the same category as every other power grabbing ‘ism’ – capitalism, socialism, pacifism, communism, fascism – all to do with allocation of power and resources. It’s political. We don’t expect men to be any of the above just because they are men. To accept this is to relieve this social backlash of expecting every woman supporting something just because of being a woman and propelling the gender bias further instead of getting rid of it. Also, it actually purifies the feminist cause as one consisting of women taking care of each other first of all and then spreading the equality message to include all willing.
I’m writing about this in connection with my workshop on living in feminine and masculine energy on one of the Chiltern Escapes days. During it I was showing examples of people (famous statesmen and celebrities) portraying different energy. And Annie Lennox presented a slight puzzle for me in this respect.
We looked at masculine versus feminine first. And an example of pure masculine was King Abdullah of Jordan in his commander in chief capacity training his helicopter squad. The front square body posture, direct eye contact and stern facial expression says it all.
The pure feminine example was Marilyn Monroe as I couldn’t find any better contemporary example of a celebrity stepping out in the public view in a pure feminine (vulnerable, beautiful) energy – the only purpose of this energy is romantic relationship. There are two other feminine energies though not particularly identified in Western culture nevertheless existent (follow this post). In our everyday experiences as adults we all live in a combination of different proportion of masculine and feminine energies. We had examples of women in the public eye and workplace stepping into their masculine energy predominantly (like Madonna or younger Hillary Clinton) due to their lack of emotional connection and as a matter of personal protection it’s a safer energy to go out and perform; being in the first type pure feminine energy – in the social life isn’t such a good idea and didn’t end well neither for Marilyn nor for her contemporary icon Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Way too often women get crash-and-burned or hit the ‘glass ceiling’ in their career life simply because they are either going to work in their young beauty selves and consequently either promoted for the wrong reasons up to a point or not being taken seriously despite their expertise. Or women step into the masculine, being competent and super efficient and yet alienating everyone around them and hitting the ‘glass’ eventually.
And we concluded with images of matriarchs – women in their fully realised feminine energy – HM the Queen Elizabeth the Second and Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, the second largest food company in the world. But we didn’t quite solve the puzzle of what to do for all the working women in between the ages of young beauties and matriarchs. We employed a very useful coaching tool from Tara Mohr’s ‘Playing Big’ book of finding our ‘Inner Mentor’. Tara was another celebrated guest of the WOW on Friday as part of her paperback release world tour.
Well, Annie Lennox is the perfect prototype of the third feminine energy – knowledgeable, artistic and socially active, teaching and learning. Despite her age I won’t place her in the matriarch category and she certainly is not a flirtatious beauty even as her younger self she didn’t step out as one. But she is beautiful, emotional, connected to people, artistic (of-course!) and engaged, she exudes not the power and serenity of the matriarch but the kind of energy many women in different generations could easily relate to – live, vibrant and passionate. She shares her art, experience and knowledge and is constantly learning herself! She has a certain percentage of masculinity (she certainly ‘played’ with it during her long enigmatic career). But in the end this is the type of feminine energy that is predisposed for social life as well as one of the matriarch.
The trick for women is to be flexible in these three energies and preserve the young beauty exclusively for romantic relationships and utilise the artistic-knowledgeable and protective- maternal types in all other areas of life. It may sound all too regimented and unrealistic but it has the positives of preserving intimate relationships and leading a healthy home and active social life. And I can say that my five girlfriends who went to this WOW day are such amazing women.
So as Annie says it, ‘One can be a lipstick loving, high heeled feminist,’ and I’m not afraid of the word.
8th of March is celebrated as International Women’s Rights Day and the eight days of WOW from March 1- 8 is such a powerful and delightful project giving everyone an opportunity in Nelson Mandella’s words, Annie reminded us of, to be ‘a part of the solution not the problem.’
As a life coach working with women I help them identify the three distinct feminine energies in themselves and utilize them on a daily basis to achieve healthier, more balanced and conscious living which ever path they chose not waiting for a major crash like Arianna Huffington. The fears, uncertainties and stresses of being intimate in relationship and moving ahead in career and social life are greatly reduced and often disappear when women find these powers in themselves and use them appropriately.
© Dana Johnson 2015