Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Is it important to be powerful?
I've been asking around, because I know I used to think being powerful was supremely important. Maybe it's a baby boomer phenomena.
During the early days of the feminist movement in the 1970's, when women felt completely powerless, the concept of empowerment got planted in our heads. Without sufficient umphh, we felt we would fail to overthrow the oppression of our post 1950's American culture. Down with Doris Day! Up with Angela Davis! The idea was to get power first, then focus on healing injustices. We had consciousness-raising circles in which we expressed anger, clenched our fists and raised them to the sky. It was intoxicating. After a lifetime of being told we had to stuff our desires and be polite, we allowed ourselves to feel blood in our mouths - all in service to the urgent need for justice and fairness and peace, mind you. What a delicious sensation.
Everything in early feminism had to be extreme, in order to explode through the old paradigm. As the movement matured, feminist tactics became much more refined. After awhile, most of us went back to shaving our legs, wearing bras and make-up. I changed behaviors, but held on to the old, extreme thought forms. Why did I believe that kindness and receptivity, lady-like behavior, was a sign of weakness? It's a leftover fragment from the 70's. But, maybe I'm finally letting go.
These days I think it's important to be kind, to practice compassion, aim towards balance, actively avoid the drama that always accompanies the pursuit of power. Human beings are so powerful already. It's like cultivating weeds while ignoring the roses.
Unfortunately we have a long road to travel if we want to become a more gentle, thoughtful species. Trying to cultivate personal power without refining our instinctual behavior will not bring us closer to thoughtfulness and compassion. At least it certainly didn't bring me closer to being a decent person.
Maybe Doris Day wasn't so bad. She almost always played a career "gal" in her movies. She was boy crazy, of course, but she also had her pride. She had strong boundaries around her sexual behavior, was clearly in control of her own destiny, and in the end, she always triumphed Wow.. Doris was powerful after all. As powerful as Angela Davis? I'm starting to think so.
Any thoughts? Is it important to be powerful?