Early 1980s, Women’s Studies Department,
University of Maryland, College Park
I am sitting in a Women’s Studies class (WMST) on feminist principles for business and organizations. My professor whose name I do not recall is describing what she calls her “feminist hit squad” approach to bringing her new woman’s ideologies into her private consulting work with male clients; males being the “executive” ruling class of the day.
Her point is well taken, as a manner that we students (all female) might emulate in our own lives to strengthen our endeavors to balance the off-kilter power between men and women. Obviously, after more than thirty years later, I have never forgotten the lesson.
I admit to employing these “wise woman” ways myself on occasion. Yet all that the “feminist hit squad” instructs me to do is fight off the threats of disrespectful, inappropriate, often abusive male banter and other intrusions at my expense – in my mind, visualizing what I would like to do in retaliation for these assaults to my dignity, my space and my self-esteem; the subtle violence that isn't subtle at all when you are the target!
Actually speaking “truth to power” (i.e. “male power”) is still a good ways off for the majority of us.“I am woman, hear me roar” has not really taken hold yet. And, often we wonder when? When will our roars truly be heard – and make a meaningful difference?
Seated in my classroom chair behind a conference table as we are that day, I am surprised by my professor’s anecdote; something is jarred lose in me as I watch and listen to her, mimicking herself in a business meeting; smiling prettily, looking well put together, ‘80s women’s business mode; definitely poised with a not-too-hidden aura of Gloria Steinem-style sexiness. Her empowerment is, meanwhile, limited to her conjuring up mental images of throwing daggers at men.
This is her way of modeling for us how she is managing, in this new era of women’s liberation, the slurs and power abuses of her patriarchal clients.
I am startled in some way that only now, in the heat of our present presidential election upheaval am I examining closely; a scenario fraught, as it is, with meaning unexplored until now. I do know right off, however, almost instinctively, that just like me, as I look back retrospectively, my professor is feeling like a child, acting like a grown-up.
Genuine, full blown mature adult power does not need to take covert measures such as this!
“The feminist hit squad” is a ruse, a deception, a ploy, subterfuge with which we dodge the true reality that we women are still disempowered in all but the most minimal ways.
“The feminist hit squad’s” ways are passive, secretive and collusive; familiar, typically, to members of a women-only society. Every woman earns her place in this secret society as her birthright. In various respects we women have been managing the affairs of this society since time immemorial.
Looking back on that day, in the early 1980s, I can see that it was not so very long ago for many of us that we began to even glimpse at empowerment, let alone fully embrace it; to be who we truly are, including that almighty turning around place of speaking “truth to power” most of us are battling still today.
Enter – Donald Trump on the heels of Bill Cosby. And, yes, Bill Clinton too, no matter how much we have grown accustomed to stepping aside of his dereliction of presidential morality.
Or, at least, the presidential morality we have fooled ourselves into believing in, in our deluded fashions.
Could Donald Trump’s outrageous antics and attitudes, perhaps, be bringing us to experience the fall of the Tower of Babel, mythical representation of how our different voices separate us, particularly insofar as the gap of gender of spoken language is concerned?
Could it be that, possibly at long last, there is, at least, a meaningful crack in Babel’s Tower? And that women can truly speak truth to male dominance and disregard and have it make a difference?
Perhaps Donald Trump’s craziness; blatant and destructive as it is, is going to be the last straw needed to push men and women to be stronger together. And, that men like Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton – and – Donald Trump will be forced to face the full wrath and humiliating consequences from their fans; both men and woman.
It seems today that it could be, as moment by moment news is taking up for us women.
Could it be?
If so, can I then dare to hope that Hillary will also face up to her disregard of other women, outside her elite circle, and someday, perhaps, do what I need most from her, beyond her political adroitness; apologize to Monica Lewinsky and the other women she has assaulted in her allegiance to Bill?
I will dare to hope for this. After all, anything is possible these days it seems.