Claiming personal power can be one of the greatest life lessons we will ever learn. As women of the boom generation, we mounted the women’s movement and struggled through many a gender-based battle fighting for our collective power and a chance for parity with the big boys. And, with the recent passing of Barbara Billingsley, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come from one of our earliest and most legendary role models: June Cleaver.
But have we, in truth, succeeded? Maybe not so much. I recently had the great fortune to interview activist, author, and past president of Planned Parenthood, Gloria Feldt. (Take a brief 15 minutes to listen to this amazing women speak her mind.) Gloria pointed out we still have a long way to go. There remains a 20 percent pay gap between men and women—women earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. We spend 80 percent of consumer dollars but control only 15 percent of corporate boardroom positions—those powerful folk who decide on such products. And, although we represent the majority of voters, a mere 17 percent of us are in Congress.
Making her points in print, Gloria wrote one of the most riveting and important books I’ve read in a long time: No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. The book is an exhilarating call to claiming your personal power—not only for yourself, but also for the wellbeing of all women. Although the topic is serious, Gloria defines her nine “Power Tools” in engaging and often wryly humorous terms citing stories from the many women (and men) she’s interviewed and observed. Believe me, as a boomer woman especially, you won’t be able to put this book down!
Each of her points is significant but the power tool that resonated most with me was changing the definition of power from “power over,” (the hierarchical, masculine version) to “power to,” (the ability to claim your right to be accountable for yourself, take action, and make things happen). As Gloria puts it: “Power-over is amoral. Power-to is responsibility.” You can check out each of her power tools on her website.
Gloria is currently touring the country sharing her vitally critical and uplifting message. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can catch her at 7 p.m. at Mills College on 10/19, Books Inc. in San Francisco 10/20, or at Kepler’s in Menlo Park on 10/21. Be certain to check out her events page and find out when she’ll be in your area.
Although we changed the rules and roles for women years ago, for many boomers, aging has helped us claim our personal power. I think it has in my case. Nevertheless, there’s much we still can learn and do in the name of our gender and generation.
No Excuses opened my eyes to the many times I’ve abdicated my own personal power and “wimped out.” No more! I’m herewith claiming my power-to. As Gloria points out, it’s important for me personally and vitally important for the sake of future generations of my gender. In fact, there’s no better way to celebrate the Feisty Side of Fifty than becoming the powerful force for good we menopausal women on a mission can be!