Empowering yourself: not apologizing anymore for your strengths

Susan Estrich – a male definition of power

With the welcome reality of more women gaining corporate and political positions with high levels of power – all too often traditionally reserved for men – what do women think about power?

“The world would be a better place if more women were running it, and so long as that is true, then ambition in women should be celebrated as a gift to all of us. Have I bought into a male definition of power? Absolutely.

“I would love to see more women making the decisions that affect the lives of thousands of people and the policies of nations. Even the most powerful women I know go out of their way to say they’re not really interested in power. Imagine a man saying that. Why would he? Why should we?”

Susan Estrich – Law professor, and Fox News Commentator. Her book: Sex & Power.

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Brooke Shields – not apologizing anymore

Brooke Shields in Flower Shop MysteryIn an interview, Brooke Shields reveals some of the self-limiting thinking that may keep many people – men included – from positively using power.

LIFE mag.: “You just made a TV pilot based on the novel Lipstick Jungle, by Candace Bushnell [Sex and the City], about three powerful woman friends. You play Wendy, a movie executive and mother. In what way do you relate to her?”

Brooke Shields: “I relate to not apologizing anymore for my power. Women are taught to undermine it, because it’s so threatening. But I don’t have to be self-deprecating anymore to be funny or to be liked.

“I don’t like to believe the good: I used to take my papers that got A’s and slide them under the desk. Now I’m going to take the A and put it up on the wall.”

[From Life mag. feature.]

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Lena Headey – playing a Spartan

One of the pleasures of the new film “300” is Lena Headey as the Queen of Sparta, Gorgo – a woman of commanding presence, decisiveness and self-assurance. And definitely power.

Lena Headey commented about the role, “I think that the kind of element that’s the key to her is she’s rather male in psyche, in terms of pride. You know, whereas you’re used to seeing females cry, they cry and the emotion and the way we are, once or twice a month, and I think it was the kind of stoic, stillness of a man she has even when she wants to give in to it she doesn’t. I mean, she could do with therapy, probably (laughing).” [From about.com interview]

Headey reportedly takes boxing lessons in London. Maybe that helps fuel her presence and power on-screen.

Androgyny and creativity

The sort of personality traits or stances Headey mentions – stoicism and stillness – are more typically related to men than to women, which brings up the issue of androgyny.

In her book “Revolution From Within” Gloria Steinem writes that “..females who are more ‘androgynous’ – that is, who incorporate more ‘masculine’ qualities along with their gender-appropriate ones – have considerably higher self-esteem than those who rate as exclusively ‘feminine.’ ”

“Studies of creativity make the point: creative people have both higher-than-average self-esteem and higher-than-average degrees of androgyny.”

[From my article: Gifted Women: Identity and Expression]

Carla Gugino – avoiding cliches

But actor Carla Gugino, who played contingency analyst Molly Ann Caffrey on the tv series “Threshold” (2005-6) – like Lena Headey – commented on the potential distortion in being or acting androgynous, at least in the more superficial ways, and also hinted at the potential limitation of traditional “feminine” qualities for leadership.

Gugino said that “a lot of times when women play strong, professional women, it’s an easy trap to fall into, the idea of taking on the worst characteristics of a man and becoming sort of cold and detached.

“I wanted Molly to be completely a woman – sexy, insightful, empathetic – but without being the cliches of a woman in terms of being sentimental.”

[From the page androgyny / gender]

Sandra Oh – celebrating female power

Actor Sandra Oh [Grey’s Anatomy] commented on some of the social value in women gaining power: “We need a new resurgence of female power. A lot of what the present administration is about is fear of female power, of world consciousness, which I feel women have an easier time with than men. We have an easier time communicating than men do. It’s our gift. It’s something to be celebrated. It’s about power. Not economic or political power – it is about a deeper power.” [BUST, June/July 2005]

Candace Bushnell – women charting new lives

Candace Bushnell says about her new novel Lipstick Jungle: “Like the women in Sex and the City, the Lipstick Jungle women are charting new lives for themselves, redefining what it means to be a woman when you really are as powerful, or more powerful, than a man.”