New Feminism

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An excitement is bubbling up within me and I feel an energy around me that I’ve not felt since college: it’s hopeful, inspired, and powerful.

This energy signals a call to join a new feminine political movement. My regular self would like to deny its existence and go back to business as usual—I am an entrepreneur and mother—since I’m already balancing working and volunteering at the school and carving out time to exercise.

But how could I not join something I hear many term “The Feminine Rising”? This is the call I’ve been waiting for.

Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, in a patriarchal community proud of its farming roots, I learned to make my way in “America’s Breadbasket.”

I was one of the first “newspaper girls” in my neighborhood, and I proudly trudged through four-foot snow banks, delivering newspapers in freezing weather to pay for the boarding of my horse.

Fast and fearless, I raced snowmobile across the plains. Back then all the snowmobile suits and helmets were black, so at the end of the race, when I pulled off my helmet and my long blonde hair spilled out, I laughed inside when the boys couldn’t hide their surprise and exclaimed, “Oh no, a girl won!” (My twin girls love that story.)

I was the first female in my family to go to college and I worked full time to put myself through school.

After majoring in Political Science at the University of Minnesota, I interned at the State Capitol. As a faithful subscriber to Ms Magazine, I followed Gloria Steinem and gave my girlfriends copies of Susan Faludi’s Backlash.

I remember well the feeling and passion and belief that I could—and would—change the world for better.

Only in hindsight can I recognize that was the same time that I started losing my power. At the Capitol, when I arrived ready to work, in my new suit from Filene’s Basement, I found that not only were there were no women in senior positions but virtually all the women in the building were there to support the men, not to provide any thought leadership.

Further, I planned to write my thesis on how PAC contributions might affect politics—naïvely thinking I would uncover some loose proof of a misuse of power.

I found no mere “loose proof”—overwhelming evidence showed that special interests were running the show and that the people had very little influence. A den of entrenched testosterone and backroom deals was clearly no place for a young woman who wanted to change the world.

So I took my power to the non-profit sector and found a fantastic communications job at the Salvation Army Headquarters doing PR and raising money for a worthy organization that provided services to help the neediest: the homeless and children in poverty.

I loved every minute of it and found the work rewarding, but felt that non-profits are often a Band-Aid on societal problems rather than creating policy or enacting change. Not to mention that my salary barely covered my own rent.

The world of big advertising beckoned with big dollars. I collaborated on some of the best advertising campaigns of Fortune 500 brands—from Microsoft to General Motors to MasterCard—living abroad and working internationally. Not bad for a girl from Fargo.

Ninety percent of my bosses were men and I was usually the only woman sitting in business class. In any given meeting, if we needed food or drinks, a man would ask me to go get it, no matter my seniority—I was the only female in the room.

Once, returning from a business trip to Germany, I discovered that I had miscarried at 10 weeks. I forced myself to go into work that day, jetlagged and deeply sad, because I, along with three other male colleagues, was being promoted.

At last I could move out of a cubicle and into an outer office with a view. Despite my medical and emotional state, I showed up, looking forward to what I had earned. But Human Resources pulled me aside to say that there were only three open offices, so the others would move and I’d stay boxed in.

I recognized that it was easier for them to leave me behind versus any one of my male counterparts. They had bigger egos and would put up a bigger fight. I stemmed a groundswell of tears—I couldn’t afford to be seen as “the woman crying at work.”

And yet, even though I was living the struggle, I was simultaneously dis-engaging from the feminist movement. “Feminism” seemed like a wrong word. I didn’t hear anything from the feminist movement that caught my attention.

Heck, I didn’t think about it. I couldn’t be bothered to read It Takes a Village.

Fast forward to this year’s elections. Like many, I watched with outrage as male candidates made comments about rape and controlling women’s health issues. (Throughout college, Planned Parenthood was the only place I received any healthcare!)

I listened to politicians demonizing the poor and denying climate change while Mother Earth screamed and shouted at us to wake up, destroying parts of the East Coast just days before the election.

I read with disbelief the numbers of dollars that corporations spent in 2012—billions of unprecedented dollars invested in their interests, and not one bit in my interest, thanks to “Citizens United.”

Perhaps that was not only my wake up call but our wake up call, at last cutting through the noise to reach millions of women.

We showed up at the polls this year, and we made a difference. Even my own North Dakota elected a woman to congress for the first time.

I’ve been thinking extensively about what disconnected me, and many women, from the women’s movement. It boils down to two simple points:

  1. Apathy. We sat back because we didn’t want to engage, because things were mostly okay and equal. Close was good enough.
  2. Resonance. The feminist movement wasn’t touching us anymore. We walked into the boardroom and acted like men, and while that approach got many of us into the game, it was inauthentic. Though we could wield the same power and play the game as men did, we often hid part of our true nature, our essence.

What has been buried in the feminist movement is that which makes us women. Our emotions, our true nature, and most of all — our compassion.

And we are finally understanding today that the power of our essence is not only what we must bring forth but also what is desperately missing from our world.

Many ancient cultures and native tribes considered the female the “moral and spiritual center” of their cultures or societies. That spiritual center and feminine energy went missing from the modern western world, but it is re-emerging.

Recently, I attended a powerful gathering of women called “Sister Giant,” brought together by Marianne Williamson. Williamson is calling for women to engage in politics and to run for office, to act from our spiritual and moral core, and to change the world.

“Western Women will save the world.” – Dali Lama’s 2009 prediction

I am encouraged and inspired because this movement is striking a chord with women. We finally understand that we don’t need to embody male qualities to be powerful. We can bring forth the feminine power within us.

Williamson speaks to us clearly: The solutions to the world’s problems are perfectly aligned with how women think and what we have to offer.

When women think of power, innately, we don’t consider it only for ourselves. Women stand up passionately for the care and protection of others—for our children, as well as for the care and protection of the Earth itself.

Williamson calls this feminine spirit rising the Soul Force.

“Women’s authentic voices should be front and center in protecting both our young and our habitat. We need only to look at nature and history to know that is true.” – Marianne Williamson

Last weekend at Sister Giant, I met many, many women with stories similar to mine—and many men who were there to support this movement.

I am newly hopeful for our world. I am encouraged about what my girls will experience.

More and more, I see that when a girl steps into her power, wins her race, pulls off her helmet and jumps for joy…that everyone, even the boys, are yelling “Oh yes, a girl won!”

Nikki Striefler

Nikki Eisinger Striefler is the co-founder and editor of www.Glad.is, a website created to inspire people to live their fullest spiritual life. She lives in Venice Beach, CA with her husband, twin 7-year-old daughters, and her St. Bernard. Her personal journey included working on Fortune 500 advertising accounts for large ad agencies in New York, Frankfurt, London and San Francisco. She had the honor to work for Al Gore and Kevin Wall as Marketing Director of Live Earth, the single largest cause-related event in history. Her most challenging job was delivering newspapers in Fargo, North Dakota.

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