Hold a different power

Bella Abzug said, “In the 21st century, women will change the nature of power instead of power changing the nature of women.” Like leadership, we associate male posturing with the meaning of power. So when I asked Iron Butterflies about power, many said they didn’t want power, they wanted influence instead, reflecting how gladiator-infused the word has become–to have power over others and dominate. Iron Butterflies want nothing to do with that kind of power.

Perhaps because women learn and are socialized to think that power goes to men and that women shouldn’t want power, women tend to think of power more as a tool, an entity separate from themselves, so they don’t personally identify with it. Iron Butterflies make a distinction between wanting power for your identity or wanting power to achieve a mission; of wanting the power of position or power to be effective; of wanting to hold onto power and do what you have too get reelected or wanting power to make a difference and serve the people.

When we look at elected women officials, they almost never choose to run for office because they want to get elected and have power. It is because of an issue or a movement, of wanting to effect change which led them into a more national role. Nearly every woman in Congress, when they tell their personal story, the first thing they say is that they had no intention of running for office.

For example, in Oregon Senator Patty Murray, a homemaker, was so angry at the inadequacy of the education budget, she got herself elected to the State Senate. Governor Christine Gregoire started her career as a clerk typist, put herself through law school, and became a crusading anti-tobacco attorney general. These women reflect a larger trend among women in politics–they run because they are issue-driven not ego driven. Most women with political power are there because of what they wanted to do with that power. That is what, I think, Bella meant about the different use of power. Iron Butterflies don’t want to have power, they want power for improving things and effecting a direction or outcome.

Female power is not the inverse of male power, not the opposite of domination and control. It is something totally different. Female power doesn’t create dichotomies, such as, “us and them” but is in the service of realizing the power of “we.”  “Gathering” is how we realize our power and  use power differently from men. Men have tended to demonstrate ‘go for the kill’ mentality…Women have tended to prefer searching for common interests, solving problems, and collaborating to find win-win outcomes.” Feminine power is felt as a collective power and as a distributed phenomenon. Power is not conquering another, but a capacity to bring people together in the interest of collaborating and learning from each other. There are many issues facing human societies today and Iron Butterflies know that the solutions are there if nations are willing to use their power to learn from each other rather than focusing on the sheer desire to defeat another at any cost. What kind of power do you seek?

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1 Comment

  1. Nanette said,

    May 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I think the difficulty in the power game is the confusion that comes with the access to power. What happens when someone achieves power who is not a) balanced b) clear c) selfless? You get a male or female in an energy that can easily be misguided- what we saw with George Bush and the Catholic Church.

    We all want power- power over our finances, government, spirituality, body…but how many of us are truly equipped to handle that power and what comes with it? The dark shadow that accompanies power is powerful in itself, how do we keep the desire for power clear, keep it in the “we”?

    It takes much work and this work has to be done with a group…but then again, how does one know you are in the right group? Every group thinks it has The Answer?


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