“That’s what makes horse races,” I shrugged, recalling my father’s way of telling me differences of opinion are to be expected.
Then I reread both articles. And I realized that their diametrically different worldviews of women’s relationship with power reflect precisely the historic crossroads moment that had inspired me to write the book in the first place.
I was excited when asked to be interviewed for the Feminist Review, now known as Elevate Difference, by lawyer and global crusader to eliminate violence against women. Dianne Post and I originally met decades ago, because of our respective Arizona residency and involvement in women’s social justice issues. I recalled her as a bit of a contrarian but a passionate advocate for women. I was delighted to reconnect with her–so much so that after we spoke, I invited her to address my Arizona State University class on “Women, Power, and Leadership.”
During the interview, Post challenged my thesis that while some external structural barriers remain, women in the U. S. are at a moment in history where doors are open and it’s up to us to walk ourselves through them; that to embrace our power to do so, we must—and are able to–consciously overcome the remaining barriers, many of which are culturally learned, internalized ones.
So I wasn’t surprised when her acknowledged bias turned up in the review—understandably, seeing women as victims is an occupational hazard. And it’s a perspective that was accurate during the heady days of second wave feminist revolution, in which we both participated. Forty years ago, there were so many unjust laws to change and policy barriers to break.
The second review Google popped out was posted on the Changing People blog of Jane C. Woods, a women’s personal development specialist who viewed the world from a completely different lens.
Woods—whom I do not know, but who appears to be from a younger generation than I–got precisely what I was talking about when I said the revolution is unfinished, but has brought many profound changes which in turn open up an era of opportunity such as women have never had before. And thus it is our responsibility to use the power in our hands for good—ours and society’s.
She resonated with my optimistic approach, and appreciated the specific 9 Ways tips and tools in No Excuses, gleaned from my own experience as well as interviews with dozens of women and current research. Again, not surprising since she describes her professional aim to “help you deal with whatever life throws at you, whatever changes there may be, and know that you can always be in control!”
Where Post perceived blame, Woods perceived inspiration. Where Post perceived external barriers, Woods perceived possibilities.
Ironically, the representation of No Excuses by an esteemed colleague in feminist arms emanates from an outdated male-dominated, hierarchical, power-over framework. In that view of the world, power is finite. If I take a slice of pie, there’s less for you. So I have to stay in adversarial mode all the time or I will be a victim.
In contrast, Woods seems to share my more expansive idea, of redefining power as the power-to: to accomplish great things in the world, an infinite resource, enlarged rather than diminished by being shared.
These dueling book reviews, both from people I admire and respect, perfectly illustrate the crossroads women stand at today. What direction will we take? Will we remain mired in a victimhood self-perception and spend our energies in a Kabuki drama with shadow enemies from the past? Or will we take another path, with a vision of women becoming unlimited, in a place where we can stand comfortably in our power and walk with intention toward a better world for ourselves and others?
My passionate hope is that we will take the second, more powerfull road. Because in the end, whether you think you can make fundamental social and personal change or not, you are probably correct.
I encourage you to read both reviews and let me know what you think. Am I overly optimistic? Not radically optimistic enough? What encourages and inspires you to embrace your power? Which way do you think women will women choose to go at the crossroads?