- Religion and Philosophy
Empowerment: Gender-Neutral or Gender-Free? 8th conversation
Empowerment is defined as the process by which we effectively gain, or hope to gain, control over the factors and decisions that shape our days.
‘Power’ in all its shapes and forms, the stem word in empowerment, does not come imbued or infused with true Happiness, Contentment, Bien-Etre or Joie de Vivre.
To earn that for ourselves, we need to operate from our inner, most authentic self. We need to understand and work with the true, all-encompassing meaning of two action words: Nurture and Protect.
Yet, we still seek ‘power’ outside of ourselves and, most often, we aim to find this elusive power through the merry ka-ching! sound of money piling in our bank account.
Jewelbots and Goldieblox
Worldwide statistics tell us that only about 14% of engineers are women and that this woeful disparity needs to be urgently addressed.
OK! There is hope!
Over the past couple of years, building toys said to be gender-neutral but designed especially for girls have begun appearing on toy shop shelves.
Jewelbots, for example, is a toy-tool that introduces young girls under the age of 14 to coding ‘through the power of friendship’.
Nice, but isn’t the little gender bias suggesting friendship as a stimulus reinforcing the stereotype about girls and their yearning to belong to a group?
One could also ponder the choice of brand name, Goldieblox, for a gender-neutral ‘tool that empowers girls to build their confidence, dreams and ultimately, their futures.’
All that aside, though no toy or tool kit can ever build anyone’s future, any tool that helps girls develop true confidence, which is different from a spirit of ruthless competitiveness, is indeed of great value.
Serious questions #1
Let us imagine that in the next couple of years the figure of 14% women engineers worldwide will exceed all expectations and jump to 50%.
How much of a genuine difference would that upward trend make to these women engineers when it came to their personal empowerment in the workplace, in their streets and inside their homes?
How much closer to authentic contentment would that career take them?
How to estimate the true benefits of this upward trend for Woman worldwide?
Serious questions #2
‘I’ve learnt that it’s the people who love me, the ones I can count on, the ones who know me best that matter most. Life’s too short and too precious to let people who don’t matter take energy away from me,’ a woman said recently.
Is this how we want Woman’s empowerment to sound in the face of workplace adversity?
How likely is it that such a mindset will boost authentic contentment, which implies good health and good relationships a.k.a. health wealth and happiness?
Know Thy Self
We are told that, beyond a supportive and encouraging acceptance from men, girls and young women need ‘live’ role-models and women-specific, empowering plots to lead them to the realization of their own personal ‘power’.
According to Tanya Tarr, Senior Mentor at New Media Mentors, ‘If you don’t know what truly motivates you, you really don’t know what will satisfy you.’
Free Will Only Up To a Point
The 2017 Women’s Day celebrations and commiseration are over. Some gender biases still hinder women in various ways, some more subtle than others.
Yet, it should be clear to all that there is no need to climb down the ladder of time to make the point that, even in the absence of any, let alone ‘many’ role-models, once we know what truly motivates us and once we believe the outcome will satisfy us from the inside-out, we pursue it single-mindedly - not from a ‘girl’s mindset, but from an androgyny of the psyche.
Whether or not that pursuit pans out according to our dreaming and brings us love, health, wealth, credibility and fame [a.k.a. Love by any other name], that is another story.
Compounded by our karmic blueprint, the result relies on the ebb and flow of our personal energies.
Having said that, let us climb down that ladder of time anyway, just to remember that girls have always been able to become women who have always been able to become great women within the specifics of their personal karmic blueprint such as they began amending it during the years that followed puberty.
Of course, the same can be said of boys.
Way Back When
Perhaps through a karmic of ‘androgyny’ of the brain, the topic of Conversation #7, there have always been women who refused to let their ‘girl-oriented’ brain/background - and/or their DNA - define them.
One such ‘ancient’ woman, a favourite of mine, is Hatshepsut - second historically confirmed female pharaoh [not queen] - widow, mother of two and pharaoh.
Circa 1472 B.C., this woman ruled Egypt for 21 years and proved to be immensely powerful and successful throughout her pharaonic reign.
My personal short list of women who, in the total absence of any role-models, became AMAZING women, particularly given the odds of their gender and circumstances, is as follows:
Circa 570 B.C.E., Sappho - first known female writer - said to have been one of Plato’s most preferred poets.
Circa 60 C.E., Boudicca - inspirational leader of the Britons whom she led in revolt against the Roman occupation.
Died in 1179 - Hildegard of Bingen - Benedictine abbess, mystic, author and composer. Her liturgical works are still at the top of classical medieval liturgy. As an aside, she is still considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany and a proto-feminist.
Died in 1565 - Mirabai - Indian mystic and poet from a privileged Hindu family. Perhaps in a way similar to that of Gautama Buddha, she turned her back on parental expectations to have her become a Princess by marriage. Instead, she became a devotee of Sri Krishna.
Died in 1796 - Catherine the Great – still considered today one of the greatest political leaders of the 18th Century.
Died 1901 - Queen Victoria – on the throne for 63 years and seven months -longest-reigning queen regnant in world history until her granddaughter, the current Queen of England did even better – 64 years reigning … and counting.
Died 1906 - Susan B. Anthony - American Campaigner against slavery and for the promotion of women’s and workers rights.
Very much alive in 1924 - Alexandra David-Neel, explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist convert - trekked some 6500 kilometres over the Trans-Himalayas in midwinter to reach the forbidden Tibetan city of Lhasa – a major influence on philosophers and esotericists such as Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts and Benjamin Creme.
Died in 1934 - Marie Currie - physicist and chemist – pioneer in research on radioactivity.
Born in 1902 – died in 1986 - Beryl Markham - British-born Kenyan aviator - one of the first bush pilots – impetuous, single-minded - the first woman to successfully fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west at a time when no pilot had yet flown non-stop from Europe to New York though several had died trying - adventurer - racehorse trainer – author.
Born in 1918 - Very much alive in 2017- Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson - African American physicist and mathematician - contributed to the United States' aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA which enabled the launch of John Glenn into orbit.
Born in 1932 - Dian Fossey - Considered one of the foremost primatologists in the world - undertook an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups in the mountain forests of Rwanda over a period of 18 years. Her book, Gorillas in the Mist was published in 1983 and transformed the way we see gorillas.
Born in 1956 – and still ‘kicking’ at the time of writing – Martina Navratilova – the tennis player who dominated the game from 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1963 - Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space.
Very much alive in 1979 - Margaret Thatcher - Britain’s first female prime minister - controversial figurehead of conservative ideology – “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope,” she quoted upon arriving at 10 Downing Street.
Born in 1936 - still very much alive - Deirdre Blomfield-Brown- twice married and twice divorced by the time she was 29 - found her better self as Pema Chodron - first American in the Vajrayana tradition to become a fully ordained nun in 1981.
They Are Still Doing It
Some 100 years after the first female police officers appeared on American streets, women are as under-represented in the ranks of law enforcement agencies as they are in the field of Engineering and Aerospace.
Sure the odds, there, too, have been stacked high against women but
Ann Dunwoody was the first woman in U.S. military history to become a 4-star general in 2008.
Julia A. Pierson was appointed in 2013, as the first female director of the U.S. Secret Service.
Janet Napolitano - Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security - manages an annual budget of $47 billion and in charge of about 240,000 employees.
Christine Lagarde - Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2011.
In 2016, Kathleen Rubins was Flight Engineer 2 on board Soyuz MS-01 on its way to the International Space Station.
Born in 1993 - Sabrina Pasterski built and flew her first plane at 14 – by now, at 23 years of age, Sabrina has received grants totalling hundreds thousands of dollars to support her exploration of the complexity of black holes, gravity and space-time.
Amazing achievers in a number of highly relevant fields and, no matter how ‘calendar-dated’ some of them have become, they are still ground-breaking women by today’s standards.
Having said that, my favourite ‘great’ woman at the moment is Empress Dowager Cixi, born in China during the Qing dynasty, in 1835. She governed the country for 47 years until her death in 1908.
Sure, these women’s karmic specifics have, sometimes circuitously, led them where they were intended to get for reasons no one, least of all themselves, will ever know, but always for reasons that affected more than the self - often, too, in the absence of authentic gendered energy, which is … human nature, as we know it.
Not on their Way to Happiness
Perhaps weirdly, in spite of success, applaud and public respect, the private lives and all around health of such hugely successful women are not, generally speaking, as inspiring as their prowess ‘out there’.
Their vulnerable point was most likely the absence of their authentic gendered energy, an essential element of ourselves which has been culturally overlooked throughout most of civilisation - particularly in the past 300 years since the scientific mind and a focus on status began to rule the world.
Equality rules in some sectors: men, devoid of that missing but essential energy fare not better – however successful they are and however happy and healthy they seem, but we do know that already. We do, don’t we?
In spite of the white matter microstructure in our brain which, too, is karmically engineered while in utero, how different might have been our world and our lives if, from the word go, our brain-dictated impulses and social preferences had been able to move our emotional and physical persona beyond the models of a culture that, on the emotional spectrum, has evolved very little over the past five thousand years?
Could we have evolved, not as gender-neutral but, simply, as gender-free beings?
Pain Has No Gender
Bottom line: we, earthlings of all genders, unavoidably restrict our emotional growth and potential for well-being through each act of Free Will, such as we understand it.
Our system simply cannot operate optimally when any flow, including the flow of energy, remains constricted over a period of time.
When our system struggles, we suffer.
Some of us suffer privately – others suffer publicly - but, suffer we all do.