I live in southern California and it has been a busy week of e-mails with passionate reactions to the endorsement of Sarah Palin by Shelly Mandel, President of the L.A. chapter of NOW. Introducing Palin at a rally on October 4, Mandel says, "America, this is what a feminist looks like." Some of the e-mails are from women thrilled about this support of their Republican VP candidate and her ticket (even though they are a bit worried about Palin being linked to a 'liberal' organization like NOW); others were shocked and confused by what they experience as a blatant betrayal of everything NOW stands for, including the national organization's endorsement of Obama.
To me it seems another perfect opportunity for American women to continue to dig deep into their own knowing during this amazing exploration of feminine leadership called the 2008 presidential election. Instead of getting frozen in the polarization, let's breath into our own personal learning and expand.
Newsweek magazine featured on its cover several weeks ago large red lipstick-drawn words "What Women Want" and predicted that it will be women who will decide this election -- even though they acknowledged that historically, no one has been able to predict how women will actually vote. Apparently we are fluid and dynamic (and a bit mysterious) with our decision-making processes.
As I reflect upon this moment of opportunity for women, I have had to make room for the possibility that Shelley Mandel is correct in her assessment: Sarah Palin may be what a feminist looks like. And this may be why I have met so many thoughtful global activist women who insist that they are NOT feminists and the work they do is NOT part of any women's movement.
Over the past six years, I have met many women both in the U.S. and internationally who are passionate about feminine leadership. Many are honest that they are still learning what a new model for feminine leadership might look like. They are fumbling around a bit and feeling awkward ... and keeping their eyes and hearts open for information.
They know what feminine leadership does not look like. It does not mean women being equally successful in the old dominator paradigm, whether that is in the boardroom or the halls of government. It does not mean merely equal rights and equal pay for women in a patriarchal system. It means that somehow the collective wisdom and compassion of women are going to rise up as a mighty force to bring about a new paradigm of sustainable interdependence on this planet.
For many women, the word 'feminist' is stuck somehow back in another time. It is a word that embodies the 'fight' for equal rights, a sometimes angry reaction 'against' the male establishment. With all that angry fighting against stuff, it may have became hard to tell the feminists from the ones they were fighting against. Women did not transform the old paradigm but eventually earned the right to thrive in it.
May we find ourselves in the presence of feminine leaders who embody the qualities they wish to manifest in the world. That is what a feminine leader looks like.