Before and after the leadership workshop that made me cry (and laugh) I got to hang out with a bunch of young feminists this past weekend. I was too old to participate in the ReBelles gathering, but I could at least volunteer and be inspired by their energy and passion. I worked at the registration desk and the merch table and I served some delicious vegetarian chilli to a bunch of hungry (and wet) feminists who’d come out of the rain after marching on the streets.
I was there for three reasons.
1. I wanted to be inspired by their passion and commitment and was hoping that some of their energy would rub off on me. I think we all have a lot to learn from those younger than us and I was open to the learning.
2. I feel a calling to be a mentor and supporter of young women leaders in the next generation and I want to do what I can to encourage them as they step into their own leadership and power.
3. I know some of the organizers and I am quite fond of them.
Though I wasn’t allowed in the workshops or plenary sessions (they were quite intentional about maintaining the space for women under 35 and I respect that choice), I got what I wanted out of the experience and I’m glad I went.
The truth is, I’ve been discouraged lately by what our generation is doing with feminism and I think it’s time to turn things around again.
As I said when I created Sophia Leadership, on my “About Sophia Leadership” page, the feminist revolution opened doors for women – doors that lead us into the houses of power. We became leaders and politicians and educators and business owners, but to do that, we had to learn to think and lead like men.
The post-feminist movement helped women tap into our sources of power – our spirituality, our creativity, and our intuition – but we didn’t take those things into the houses of power with us. We were mostly busy making the connection between our heads, hearts, and bodies in our own spaces for our own benefits.
We so enjoyed the freedom that the feminist revolution earned for us that we started spending most of our time focused on ourselves, buying all the self-help books we could find, going to all the yoga and spiritual retreats we could afford, and justifying all the choices we made to pamper ourselves instead of being in positions of servitude as our mothers had been.
What we forgot, however, is that along with freedom comes great responsibility.
I firmly believe that it’s time for the next step in the women’s movement. Now it’s time to merge what we learned in both the feminist and post-feminist eras and make some BIG changes. I suspect that it might be the next generation who will do the bulk of the work of ushering in a new era of feminine wisdom, and so I want to support it where I can.
That doesn’t mean, though, that we – the over 40 crowd – have an excuse to go back to our insular world of self-care and self-focused spirituality. Our young leaders may be the ones with energy and they may be the ones to do the turning, but they need us, their mentors, wise women, sages, and crones.
They need us and we need them. I was so glad to be part of a mutual benefit society this weekend.
And here are a few of the things the young feminists taught me:
1. Make your work, retreats, and gatherings accessible to everyone. Instead of gathering with only the elite who can afford spiritual retreat centres, find ways to prepare simple meals, host people in homes, charge on a sliding scale, and make sure the emerging leaders from poor and marginalized groups can afford to participate.
2. Be intentional about including only ethically produced and purchased food and products – things that are gentle on the earth and that weren’t produced by under-paid labourers in faraway factories.
3. Combine art and body movement workshops with political/advocacy workshops. Find ways of blending them in ways that are uniquely feminine.
4. Dare to be passionate. March in the streets. Write manifestos. If things need to be shaken up, SHAKE THEM AND DON’T APOLOGIZE!
5. Be intentional about creating spaces for those you’ve gathered, and don’t apologize to those you’ve excluded. But then honour those who support you from outside that circle and hold a feast for all to celebrate together.
6. Bring in wise women as elders, honour them and let them advise you, but do not let them run the show if you have people in your group quite capable of organizing gatherings.
7. Make the space as safe as you can for emerging leaders, by doing small things like asking the rental facility to ensure the guards on duty while you gather are all women.
8. Don’t leave until you have some clear action items and then follow up to make sure there is MOVEMENT. Don’t let people simply go back to their homes with warm fuzzies forgetting their commitments to positive change.