Woman to Woman: how do we show up is looked at by Marco Cochrane, Burning Man Sculptor and Artis. He poses the question by his art: What would it take to have women feel safe? That question has had such an impact on me. And the bigger question, what would it be like for humanity if women felt safe and expressed what hasn’t been expressed, forged the path to a depth of perception and understanding that changed the course of assumptions and givens about how we do this thing called life.
It was a few years ago when Marco came to the Berkeley Impact Hub, and his question provoked some uncomfortable truths. I now recognize the places I stop. Where I don’t fulfill my communications, limit my investments, withhold my viewpoints-and just ask that question of myself. What I find is opinions of others have been a long standing inner critic, and actually specifically the opinions of other women. How women judge women is rarely considered, but , if they exclude one from the tribe, group, community, with a shrug or a cool chill, it may never come to words but a whole dance has happened. Without conscious consideration and in a pattern, we often fall back and hide. Moderating subconsciously to fit in to whatever code of conduct is telegraphed with the slight nuance barely detectable. Recently a research revealed that being outside the group, the tribe is innately something we dread from our DNA. Our very survival depends on being part of a tribe, community, family. So the exclusion risk is experienced on such a deep level that it is barely recognizable. The view that the risk is so high that we automatically reduce ourselves to acceptable form without even noticing that’s what we’re doing.
Does that experience bend our wills and allow us to shrug off our intention and wisdom? Sometimes. WE’re writers, artists, mothers, sisters, volunteer politically, board members, entrepreneurs, community members, dancers-and before I brought that question into my life, I had no idea how much I safeguard, mitigate, tolerate and allow things to pass. Just the question, Marco’s question, gives me energy and a free space from which to find a whole other voice, a whole other stance, a whole other trust that has never been there that what I’m up to, what I need to say, how I need to respond can be trusted to be of value.
It surely starts with being told as a little girl to settle down, get in line, don’t talk, don’t giggle and don’t skip in the hallways. It is deepened by the moments of being called on by the teacher, haltingly responding and seeing and feeling the snickering in the room. The idea is don’t speak unless you are right. Watch, observe, and be included, be accepted, be a good girl.
POWERFUL IMAGES THAT TEACH
Marco Cochrane’s question disturbs the comfort in thinking that things are working out: women have been sexually liberated since the the mid 1960’s. Women’s Rights and Human Rights are instilled in the culure, and the distance between the potential and what is so towards sex equality has reduced; we are home free.
But then we watched women of stature, powerful women, who have earned national respect in achieving elected office and produced results for society that are notable and distinguishable be diminished. They of all of us feel safe, right? Well maybe not.
Yes, it is still a man’s world, as we see in the halls of congress for instance. Even so sometime women use the same judgements to level the playing field as do the male counterparts. Certainly, congress has demonstrated their position as we watched Hillary Clinton be criticized for everything from her husband, her hair, her choice of clothing, etc. to her character as well. Women, as well as men, said they just didn’t trust her-giving no discernible reasons offered. Even recently, we have seen newly elected but highly seasoned Senator Kamala Harris of California interrupted repeatably in a recent hearing on Trump and the Russian intervention in the 2016 Presidential election. The concern and focus might have been on the source of the hearings, the Russians and their hacking, but instead the Chair of the committee interrupted Senator Harris basically to shush her: be still and sit down. Anyone paying attention has seen this with Senator Elizabeth Warren. So our daughters are watching, and a part of our minds are observing and pulling us back from full expression lest we be called hysterical or cold or irrational.
What do you think the world would be like if women felt safe? Where would that show up in your life and your community, and the world?