Power is a formidable variable in our everyday lives, both at work and home. We know power can be communicated in many different ways and people in high-power positions (CEO, President, etc.) assume an entirely different repertoire of nonverbal behaviors and linguistic patterns than people in low-power positions.
Carolyn Heilbrun defined it as "the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter." This is true from the playground to the boardroom. The issues are self-mastery and self-esteem rather than title and totem pole; women are overhauling the very concepts of influence, leadership, clout, control. Traditionally, power has been associated more with masculinity than femininity. Business gurus have been calling for a revamp of traditional forms of power and suggest a more balanced style which includes not just getting the job done but also building relationships and incorporating interpersonal skills.
For a woman, using power can be tricky. She straddles a tightrope, risking being perceived as pushy and aggressive. After all, power is openly expected to be excised by men. These subconscious precepts are still alive and well. Women have learned to camouflage their power and are experts at using indirect power. If she doesn’t, she generally pays the price.
It is common knowledge that women have made the greatest strides toward independence, leadership and opportunity in the last 50 years. We live in a world of female surgeons and Supreme Court justices, fighter pilots and four-star generals. We even live in an age that has learned that emotional and social intelligence may be even more important than IQ. Much of the components of high emotional intelligence are considered typically female traits—strong communication skills, a collaborative instinct, and a gift for balancing are desirable leadership qualities. For a few thousand years women had no history. Marriage was our calling, and meekness our virtue. Over the last century, in stuttering succession, we have gained a voice, a seat at the table, a vote, a room, a playing field of our own.
This is where the movie Wonder Women comes in. Seeing women train as Amazon warriors preparing to go to battle, Diana (Wonder Woman) is nurtured in an environment believing she can do anything. She is athletic and able. Wonder Women also ignores the patriarchy. This is illustrated when she bursts into meetings full of men and ignores them when they tell her she can’t do something. We know there are societal expectations about how women are supposed to behave. But, alas, she is ignorant of these expectations because she was reared on a secluded island of women. Wonder Woman also champions an androgynous persona characteristic of effective leadership and interpersonal skills. Never is her power diminished by caring too much or feeling and expressing her emotions. Rather her devotion, love and kindness strengthen her. She is strong and compassionate, brave and empathetic.
Then Wonder Woman faces the age-old beauty dilemma. Men ogle her. For her, it is a small moment. Later she is defined not by her beauty, but by the bar fight she wins. Finally, in a dramatic scene, she is unable to stand by when civilians are being murdered. She enters the battlefield and charges forward despite the men telling her not to. Wonder Women simply does what she thinks is right because she was reared to believe she could do anything.
Maybe this is a role model for little girls-our next generation of leaders. As the saying goes, “you can’t be what you don’t see.” Not every girl has to strive to be a superhero, but we want girls and women to believe they have the strength to be one if they want to.