Women and Power

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As women gain power, politically and economically, our cultural power will become ever more interesting. The good news is that we have so much more control over our cultural power than we ever will have over the political or economic. We are the ones in charge of our hearts, which is the home of culture and likewise the site of joy, that mystery that has gone missing under centuries of inequality.
Surely you have heard that women are more than half the US work force. Women now get more college degrees than men. Even John McCain acknowledged that the forces for choice in reproductive rights are winning. New Hampshire has a governor and two senators, each of whom is female. We didn’t need Hanna Rosin to tell us about “the end of men.” Nor does there have to be any “end of men,” if women find new beginnings and new tendencies for our generous hearts.
Ordinary women everywhere see the rise in our power and wonder how to enjoy it. Why do we wonder? Because economic and political tipping points don’t necessarily mean a tilt in the soul or heart. We weren’t raised to have power and won’t know what to do with it for a generation or two. That’s why right now is a great time to imagine for what we may dare hope. I say we hope for equality, which is a kind of boring word for how beautiful it would be if both men and women had power and relationships. Imagine men being happy with women or women being happy with men. Now that sounds like a lot of fun, and not just sexually.
For now, as internalized sexism and undeveloped culture trot around the tip, threatening to make our hearts small, we can use the power we do have to root out any sense of blame or shame, in men or women. Women didn’t take power from men. Neither did men consciously take power from women all these years. We inherited inequality, and we taught it to our sons and daughters. There is nothing universal here. Instead there is something so very taught that it can also be untaught. It is in the gender self-interest of all, politically, economically and culturally, to create a new inheritance.
It is time to enjoy the tipping point. Enjoy it with your sisters and your mothers and your sorority sisters, as well as your brothers and your fathers and your fraternity. Why not? Only those satisfied with the way things have been between men and women would want to maintain the status quo. I am not even talking about the great hope being realized in democracy, with 20 US Senators finally being female, nor the great gift to a stagnating economy to have the energy of women growing new jobs for all. These are nearly as important as what happens in our hearts, where joy has so long wanted to live.
Fox news has already started to blame women for a certain unhappiness that does seem to circle the edges of political and economic victory. That unhappiness is “female” because we want relationship as well as power. It is very hard to have a relationship with angry men, those who know they are angry and those who swear they aren’t.
I preached at the installation of a woman at the Unitarian Church in Brooklyn. Her husband was utterly delightful in the way he acknowledged her, their children, and most of all, the wife of the former minister. That minister had been at the church for 35 years. He was back to say a (long) opening prayer. The woman at his side was unnoticed, which certainly was not a new experience for her. The “Rebitzin”, or Rabbi’s wife/husband, began his remarks by acknowledging her. I was so proud of him. He knew how to have a relationship as well as power. I am likewise proud of my eldest son who is married to a rabbi. He wears a T Shirt: My mother is a minister and my wife is a Rabbi. Get over it.”
By the way, the husbands of ministers are treated quite differently than the wives. (I claim no knowledge about same sex partnerships yet here.) I will never forget what happened in my first job as an associate pastor. My husband asked my senior minister, “What can I do around here?,” and the response was “Nothing. No need.” That’s when the wife of the senior minister who was in the kitchen preparing our dinners broke all the china and walked out. She was an opera singer who sang in the church choir, obviously, with less consent than imagined.
What can men do during the tip to equality? They can acknowledge women. What can women do during the tip to equality? We can enjoy the time that has come when women are not just the bottom half of our bodies or only at work in the kitchen. We can sing in the choirs because we want to, not because we have to. What can both men and women do during the tip to equality? Have relationships with each other and power. Both/and. Not either/or. We can tip the tip toward our hearts.