In 2008 I facilitated a meeting with Elders from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. there was a ceremony I was unfamiliar with, and the Elders insist I participate. It was a two day ceremony that involved string and prayers and the Elder would dream of an animal for you and more talking, praying and string on day two. I am sure my description is not doing it justice, but it’s a sacred ceremony, learn for yourself!
I had a pretty good ego back then and assumed the Elder would dream of a beer or something large and imposing. I was a social justice warrior, fighting for Indigenous offenders, surely I was fierce! Nope, the Elder told me he dreamed a mouse for me. I wanted to give my tobacco back and ask for a second dream, but then he said something very prophetic, “You are the mouse. You have the ear of the bear, your advice is needed.”
Hold this thought until the end, let’s chat a bit about today what Global Leaders Change, or “feminist camp” as I am dubbing it today. Today we talked about our leadership style and about feminist leadership in particular. I do and will consider myself to fit most in the Situation Leadership paradigm. In life, whether managing individuals, inspiring people with my blog (shut up you are too inspired, and yeh I said shut up in my inspiring blog) or managing my house hold, I change as the situation needs. Part of this stems from my ability to manipulate to meet goals and objectives (manipulate for good, not evil) yet remain an authentic person. I try to value both the needs of the individual with my need of getting deliverable met. My style involves ensuring proposals are written on time, which providing much thanks to teams for their help, but it means at times I may not be the “open door policy” person. Sometimes there is just stuff that needs to get done.
While discussing feminist leadership and how it differs from women leadership, I thought “I am a feminist leader, why don’t I acknowledge this more often?” The reason became clear today as I talked to women from other countries about the term feminism. Their is a definite notion by many from other nations that feminist means anti-men. There is a notion that feminism is radical. In truth, there are reasons they believe that and it can be brought down to the methods and voice of feminism in the media, particularly social media.
I have been called a racist by feminists. I have been told I am dumb by feminists. These are often feminists who were just babies as I was marching in the World Women’s March in 2000 and other activism work. I have never fully agreed with some methods of some feminists. In 2002, the board of my women’s centre on campus wanted to eliminate PST (provincial sales tax) on tampons. My idea was to write a letter, get a meeting with our MP and begin discussions. Their idea was to paint parliament’s steps blood red. I am sure that the painting of steps read would be the clear message that feminists as rational people who want to work with all people to affect change. No wonder people can be scared to identify with feminism.
That said, there is extreme methods in every movement. Sometimes these extreme methods work and sometimes they make the people look like idiots, and sometimes both. Feminism itself is not a dirty concept. As a woman trying to balance culture and gender, I can see where other women are coming from. I can see where feminism isn’t cut and dry. I can see why feminism has involved in the western world where it has.
Feminists may argue academically and in the front lines, but in truth, the limited idea of what people think feminism is can cause much of this stress. The unknown in femimism creates fear in those who want to explore the idea, but don’t want to be considered “anti men” or “radical” and the hatred in the internet trolls that live in their parents basements keeps the rest away. Let me create a simple definition of feminism for you:
“Feminism is helping everyone achieve the opportunity to succeed while eliminating systemic and acute barriers and that keep people oppressed. EVERYONE includes women, men, any sexual orientation or gender, tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people, people with legs and those without. Poor people and sigh, rich people. People who have big boobs and those less fortunate.”
Basically, BE A GOOD PERSON, help where you can, and when you think of life, think of those who face harder barriers than you. Also stop hating on feminists. Literally hating all feminists because of a few whose tactics you don’t like is like hating all babies because one puked on you. It’s ridiculous. I hate to tell you, but you are likely a feminist. If you are reading this because you follow me, you support the ideals of equality and equity for all and yep, you are a feminist. It’s okay if you don’t agree, I’ll know deep down.
Back to me though. Remember the Elder’s teaching? The one about me being the ear of the top dog/bear? I have put much thought into this since that time. Organizationally it has always been true. I have always been a director/manager with the executive above me. I like not having to be the face and accountability of an organization. I get enough attention from my comedy and frankly, the attention that comes to the full leader of an organization is not always positive and my borderline brain prefers not to deal with difficult people.
Bring it to today, here, at “feminist camp”. The first day here I had a clear idea of what I need to do with my life. I cannot be a transformational leader because of my mental health. I cannot lead large movements, it would be taxing. I cannot work directly with the marginalized people, I lack the boundaries and everyone would be moving into Chez Hayward in no time. I am a leader though, a feminist leader and I want to use my ear and voice as my Elder has taught me. I want to tell the positive stories of women around the world. I want to use my voice to be positive, we have enough ragers against the machine, I am still there in solidarity but want a project that shows all that I love about feminism. I want to show the female change makers, those who have initiatives or life journeys that will inspire. No, it’s not Chicken Soup for the Soul, just profiles of women, programs, events and strength based positive news from around the globe. This is where my life has been leading, it’s all very clear.
I am still in my program, may take a day job when done and will keep on writing, comedy and how this will manifest is left to be seen, but it will manifest, sooner than you think. You can get an early jump on this by signing up at www.shesthechange.com (yes that IS an awesome name) and we can keep you aware. Until then, keep reading the blog because the transformation that is occurring both inside and outside of me is truly remarkable. I have all the same qualities people love about me, but am shedding anger, guilt and shame with my actual pounds.
Cheers to feminism, I wear the label proudly and with my definition, you should as well.