I heard Gloria Steinem last evening, one person in a snaky line of probably a thousand folks, female and male, old and young, waiting for the doors to open, griping some as we stood in the dampening cold. Then all discomfort was forgotten as she did her thing – inspiring probably a thousand different energizing reactions in her listeners. These are mine – no effort to summarize what she said, but eagerness to talk about what it did to me.

Something has been stirring even before last evening. A couple of months ago I resurrected the key chain my brother had given me, “Certified Crazy Person.” Then a friend of mine urged me to do my “A Healthy Woman is a Crazy Person” talks again. My friend? A very effective professor and equally effective leader of laughter workshops who has people rolling in the aisles. My reaction? The conversation went something like this.

Joyce: I loved your talks, your humor, the laughter.
Mona: But there’s nothing funny about it now.
Joyce: There was nothing funny about it then, but you made people laugh.
Mona: But it’s old fashioned now. Look at the progress.

• Back then women’s earnings were 58% of men’s for jobs of equal value. Now it’s something like 72%.

• There were no women executives unless they came into it through family inheritance. Now it’s common for women to be in that position, though I’ll admit they still have trouble making it to the top, or even into men’s golf clubs (no pun intended) when they do hit the peak.

• In the mid seventies, a divorcing husband explained to me that no man wants to be married to an executive/professional, and certainly not one who earns more than he does. The other day public radio reported than women are now outnumbering men as heads of households and the evidence is that a majority of husbands are OK with that.

• Remember the athletic leader at SCSU who said no one would ever want to watch a women’s athletic team? It wasn’t long afterwards that the women Huskies led the way.

• Oh, and the discussions of the ridiculous possibility that women might be effective firefighters. “I certainly wouldn’t want a woman to show up to rescue me.” And now?

• Women’s voices aren’t strong enough to deliver the news effectively. ‘Nuff said? How about women anchors on TV news? Reporters in war zones? And speaking of war zones, what about the rise of women admitted into the military? Granted, many still suffer hazing, and even rape, but ..

• Women police? Why, on the evening shows they are often in the highest positions of authority. Sure, I’ll grant you people laughed at “Fargo.” I never did understand what was funny about that – something about a pregnant woman leading a bunch of cops and talking Minnesotan.

• Women bankers, mail carriers, lawyers — .

• Oh, and women doctors. When my daughter was 13 she wanted to move on from her pediatrician to a female physician – none available – not admitted into hospital residencies. Now – well, need I say more?

Joyce: So we should be satisfied with half-way progress? Or even three-fourths?

Mona: So, there’s still more to be done, but I lost my effectiveness way back in 1995 when I bombed in Fridley.

Joyce: Bombed in Fridley?

Mona: Yup! I was new to Minnesota. Something in me knew I shouldn’t take the job, but I needed the money. The results were awful, most of the comments in the vein of “This was the worst talk I ever attended,” or “This woman shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public.” Or, in a kinder vein, “Maybe you should change your title. ‘A Healthy Woman is a crazy person’ just makes no sense.”

Joyce: You’re kidding.

Mona: Nope. It took me months of therapy with the best no-extra-fees provider I could find – me. I know lots of the mistakes I made, but I concluded the material was just too old fashioned.

Joyce: You’re kidding.

Mona: I’m not. That stuff about women and men being expected to be opposites, developing different abilities, like men being strong in math and science and women not, for example.

Joyce: You’re kidding.

Mona: OK, the truth is I just don’t have it in me to be funny about what’s going on now.

Joyce: Send me your material. I’ll make it funny.

Mona: But the humor lay in the spontaneity. I really didn’t plan the funny stuff ahead of time. It just came from the feeling of confidence that my audience liked me, and I could pretend that the other 99% really did.

Joyce: OK. Just promise me you’ll think about it.

Mona: OK. I’ll think about it.

Then I heard Gloria last night and “CLICK.” Remember the clicks of the 70s? Well, we might, but I’ll bet the young men and women there last night don’t know what a “click” is – that feeling of “Wow! The pieces just fell into place.”

I get it! Another stage in my Fridley therapy. I was afraid. I blocked my own creativity out of fear they wouldn’t like me. What that left in the talk was a pile of dusty dull facts and observations with no energy behind them.

Wait! It’s more than that. It’s fear of power. The power of letting all that good stuff in our personalities/souls demonstrate our authenticity. Just like the women in my women’s groups of the 70s and 80s who didn’t want to admit they had personal power. Why? Because of our negative definition of power – power over rather than power to …

Yup! It’s power. Power defined as control and violence. Power vs. its opposite – weakness. If I let go of my power over, I may be destroyed. If I exercise my power over, I may cause damage, or at the very least be disliked.

Ah-ha! Too bad I can’t afford to pay myself, but I can choose to say it out loud. What a world this would be if we all unleashed our positive power. What we could accomplish in the way of social justice, personal health – physical and mental – creative solutions to the world’s problems. If we could just redefine power as “power to …” instead of “power over …” Now I’m getting carried away. I think I like it.

Thanks, Joyce. I told you I’d be thinking. Thanks, Gloria Steinem. I’ll bet that snaky line turned into lots of activated people.

Posted April 18, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized


Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Read the article in last weekend’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about the excessive need to ‘blame’. Couple that with ‘Power to…’ and it would be a much different world.

  2. Power, the power to think up new creative solutions to problems. The power to be strong. The power to be assertive. The power to tap into God’s power. The power to rise above the petty name calling and angery retoric. The power to speak and be listened to. The power to recognize your own positive influence for good. Use your own power!

  3. Love it, Mona!

  4. A power I love: the power to see innocense – not in acts, but in essence

  5. Really like this, Mona.

  6. Thanks, Mona! “Power to” rather than power over is just what I needed to hear right now. –click–

  7. Hurray! A click, and from such a bright and great lady. It’s a gift to me. Thanks, Jean

  8. Do it again Mona,I was in a healthy woman is a crazy person and I’m still crazy, And Mona it’s power with…..Louise Banatoski, Connecticut

    Louise Banatoski

I'd love to hear your reaction, click here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: