I’m in the Pacific Northwest today where I planned to blog about vacation pleasure like hunting for agates and arrowheads, learning to pick nettles and digging for clams. But I can’t get that image out of my head. The open cavity where her nose once was haunts me. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about because it’s likely that you can’t forget it either.
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a female colleague. She was frustrated with feedback that she’d received regarding her competitive demeaner in the workplace. I commiserated and afterwards lamented that suffering the same issue, I probably wasn’t as helpful as I should’ve been. I forwarded an article published by Harvard Business Review titled Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership. In the article, the researchers identified what is called the double bind penalty for women.
The double bind penalty denies women the benefits of being warm and considerate because people expect it of them. Men however, reap total approval for nice behavior. Likewise, men get away with being unhelpful, but women do not. The findings show that men can communicate in a warm or a dominant manner, with no penalty either way. I commit to circulating the article amongst male executives at our office.
Two weeks ago, had you asked me about feminism, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. I mean, I probably would’ve said that I’m not sure exactly what it means and that it was a movement and that perhaps that movement is history now. I’m sure this is disappointing to some. Shortly after our lunch, the same colleague sent me a link to Isabelle Allende speaking on passion.
I’m mesmerized by this talk. Her words flow as artistically when she is telling a story orally as they do on the page. She’s funny but I finish watching somewhat ashamed. I’m thankful I haven’t been asked about feminism. I’m one of the Western women blessed with so much that I haven’t acknowledged the plight of women who aren’t and I have given little thought to the issue of being a feminist. Allende blows stories to life with data like 80% of the world’s refugees and displaced people being women and girls and individual examples of abuse and torture. But she rounds it out with hope – hope that comes from passion and much of that passion is feminine passion.
Coincidentally (?), during my travels on Friday, I see the photo. It wasn’t at a newsstand but rather, on a blog. I read that Time magazine is criticized because the cover is controversial but I’m glad that they are shaking us up in our cushy Western existence with the stark realities of what it means to be female in other parts of the world. I find the photo beautiful and I hate it at the same time. I hate the story. I don’t know if I’m thankful or disappointed that her lovely hair hides the places where her ears once were.
I think about women in need that are within my reach; in my own community, at my church, at my company, and within my family. I consider what I’ll call my double bind advantage – the ability to be both warm and strong and I commit to nurturing both in others.
Allende began her talk with a Jewish saying. “What is truer than truth? The story”. We can all create better stories.