The Time Has Come For Women to Embrace Their Power

by Gloria Feldt on October 6th, 2010
in Power Tools and tagged , , , , ,

Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director—for The Hurt Locker which also won best picture of 2009—stood holding her two Oscars, looking completely flustered. Seeing her under the spotlight, one coveted golden statue grasped in each fist, I was struck by how accurately she mirrored where women in the United States stand today. We’ve got the evidence of success in our hands, and everyone in the world seems to be looking on, but we don’t quite know what to do about it.

There are more ironies in this picture. Bigelow’s film is a raw, violent portrayal of the war in Iraq, with no women as major characters—hardly a chick flick, despite some interpretations that it puts a feminist lens on masculinity and the senseless violence of combat. Yet it did not go unnoticed that Bigelow herself is gorgeous, gracious, and above all says not one word about the fact that she is a woman—indeed, she seems even more flustered when the obvious is called to her attention by inquiring journalists.

That she wasn’t the first of her gender but the fourth to be nominated—the first was Lina Wertmuller in 1976—similarly speaks to both the progress women have made and the newness of our tangible triumphs. After eighty-two years of Oscars and over four hundred best director nominees, presenter Barbra Streisand was finally able to pronounce upon opening the envelope, “The time has come.” Without question, the time has come. That’s why No Excuses is foremost a book about hope and possibility. But it is also an urgent call to action.

I wrote these opening paragraphs of No Excuses in a fit of passion while watching the Academy Awards. They were actually among the last words I wrote. It took a year to crystallize the metaphor that felt exactly right.

Nick Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn say the moral imperative of the 21st Century is the empowerment of women in their book Half the Sky. Marketers know women buy 85% of all consumer goods and thus hold the reins of their success or failure. McKinsey and Co. studies find that companies that have larger numbers of women on their leadership teams have better returns on investment. The public generally trust women candidates more than men.

In No Excuses, I say women don’t yet know what to do with the power everyone else knows we have. That the time has come for women to embrace that power. What are your thoughts? What examples in your own life or your observations about others makes you think this is or is not women’s moment?

Left: No Excuses officially launches! My reading at Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle in New York.

Center: (Left to right) author of Black Women’s Lives, Kristal Brent Zook; media commentator Keli Goff; and Feed Fund co-founder Lauren Bush share their stories and discuss the 9 Ways power tools with me at the launch of No Excuses, Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle on 10/5.

Right: Surrounded by fabulous young feminists: Elizabeth Camuti, Jamia Wilson, and Shelby Knox

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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2 Responses to The Time Has Come For Women to Embrace Their Power

  1. Gloria says:

    Yesterday I participated in the Women’s Media Center’s weekly #sheparty on twitter. Here’s a sampling of the questions and comments that came up as I tweeted about No Excuses and the 9 Ways.

    “I think you have to take the approach that feminism is ultimately abt freedom”- blogger Tavi,14 @tavitulle #sheparty

    Yes! & from a 14 yr old, besides. Who said young feminists don’t exist? RT @serenafreewomyn That’s feminism in a nutshell for you! #sheparty

    @womensmediacntr Feminism is definitely about freedom. The ideologies and beliefs I hold most dear are about freedom. #sheparty

    RT w/YES! @Dr_Merck “@NvrComfortable: You can be free w/o oppressing others. #sheparty #feminism #blackfeminism” –I second that emotion.

    @GloriaFeldt: @FairAndFeminists asks: “do u think young women r the problem?” #sheparty #NoExcuses

    Power tool #2 in the 9 Ways is to define our own terms. We need to redefine power as “power to” not “power over”. #sheparty #NoExcuses

    I think young women are the answer. #sheparty Every generation has to speak in its own tongue. But it must speak.

    @GloriaFeldt Do you hear enough young women speaking?#sheparty

    I’m curious what kind of research you did for the #NoExcuses book @GloriaFeldt #sheparty

    @FairAndFeminist I reviewed many studies, interviewed dozens of women, + brought 40 years of frontline experience #sheparty #NoExcuses

    @roxymtjoy I hear many young women speaking. A new upsurge in feminist interest. We need to support that. #sheparty #noexcuses

    Second wavers broke many barriers but could have done more to teach younger women the power of a movement. #sheparty #NoExcuses

    @GloriaFeldt How do young women learn to harness the power of the movement and translate it into action? Where do we go to learn? #sheparty

    @GloriaFeldt: Which of the 9 ways to change how #women think about power will be most challenging, do you think? #sheparty #noexcuses

    We need to see schools as spaces for teaching the next generation of young feminists. Build a movement with feminist teachers! #sheparty

    I still think the language used in this convo reveals an underlying assumption that young women are the problem #sheparty #youngfems

    As if women the second wave was perfect– (see: racism, classism) #sheparty #feminism #youngfems

    #sheparty the movement has changed from an identity movement–its not about biological defs of women, it shld be about ending oppression

    @roxymtjoy And I talk about movement building principles: Sister Courage–be a sister, have courage, put them together= movement. #sheparty

    @FairAndFeminist Agreed. I don’t think the prob is young wmn not being taught-some have legit criticisms-racism heterosexism etc #sheparty

    Gloria Feldt
    Love @feministteacher idea to build a movement with feminist teachers! Teaching as a subversive activity :-) #sheparty #NoExcuses

    @FairandFeminist Both WMC & @GloriaFeldt work w/#youngfems-generations of feminists need to acknowledge each other & work together #sheparty

    Some women’s studies faculty believe their job starting with UNTEACHING 12 or more years of formal education #sheparty

    @womensmediacntr i think all women can learn more strategies for leadership in organizations and empowerment #sheparty

    Where/how did u learn about #feminism? Where/how do you want to learn about women and power? #sheparty #NoExcuses

    What would be different if women were the majority of top leadership positions? #NoEXcuses #sheparty

    Women are 51%of population, 54%of voters, 17%of Congress, under 25%of state legs. Need more progressive women 2 run. #sheparty #NoExcuses

    Am I still considered feminist if I believe that, were women to be majority of leaders, very little would change? #sheparty

    @Rizzz I agree with you actually. The point is that “we” are no better no worse than men. #sheparty

    We need 2 reach boys/men in the feminist movement. There’s a myth that feminism is 4 women. Need more allies like @mencanstoprape. #sheparty

    Feminism isn’t about special treatment for women but EQUAL treatment-using opportunities, creating new ones for others #NoExcuses #sheparty

    @roxymtjoy I think next feminist wave = men + women joining to change workplace so both can have life and earn $ #sheparty #NoEXcuses

    Love it. @GloriaFeldt I think next feminist wave = men + women joining to change workplace so both can have life and earn $ #sheparty

    @GloriaFeldt @womensmediacntr Agree! Men so have to be part of solution. We cannot just talk amongst ourselves & expect change! #sheparty

    My favorite question is about maternity leave for the CEO. When that happens, it will happen for everyone. #sheparty

  2. Gloria, I think the number of female candidates in this year’s elections shows that it is definitely women’s moments. The question, which you’ve asked yourself, is whether or not these female candidates will be good for women.

    Just look at Arizona – Jane Brewer has set back women’s health. Ruth McClung is running of the US House of Representatives against Raul Grijalva. McClung doesn’t believe in choice. The list goes on and on.

    So really, we need to be adding a little bit of nuance to the question.

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