By Cornelia Powell – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
The issue of “competency” once again became part of the discussion when one-time frontrunner Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign leaving two 70-something white men in the lead—a field that in the beginning had six women candidates. The woman that Atlantic magazine writer Megan Garber called “competent incarnate,” Warren, a former special education schoolteacher and professor at Harvard, is known as a woman with a plan! “She is unapologetically—and unavoidably—credentialed,” Garber wrote. “Warren knows a lot, and has accomplished a lot, and is extremely competent…[and] it is precisely because of those achievements that she represents a threat.”
As Jennifer Palmieri wrote in the aftermath of Warren’s departure from the race: “We are comfortable with women as leaders in abstract, but when they get close to gaining real power—as Warren did when she rose in the polls—we get uneasy and start questioning them and their motivations in a different way that we do male candidates.” Palmieri added: “As I learned working on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and the women running this time experienced, you immediately run into buzzsaws of double standards, moving goalposts, and a lot of voter unease with an ambitious woman seeking power.”
But there was another reason why the end of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign felt “personal for women,” as Michelle Ruiz explained in Vogue. “Warren was not just any woman. She was an electric candidate who felt authentic and spoke from the heart—still a rare asset in politics. Warren celebrated her womanhood and her wonkiness. Her policies served women, with plans for everything….” Or as Kate Kane said in the Washington Post: “Elizabeth Warren succeeded because they saw her as caring. That’s also why she failed.” Or how Susan Matthews put it in Slate: “Elizabeth Warren ran as a woman, and she lost.”
When Warren was on the campaign trail, she once tweeted: “Whenever I meet a little girl, I say: ‘I’m running for president, because that’s what girls do.’ And then we make a pinky promise so they’ll remember.” Ruiz shared about Warren’s first interview after ending her presidential run: “When asked what her message would be to women and girls who now have two men to decide between, she replied, visibly emotional, ‘One of the hardest parts of this are all of those pinkie promises and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years.’”
It’s not just little girls. We’re all missing out on the benefits of “feminine leadership.” Spiritual teacher Elizabeth Locey explains that “Feminine Leadership looks like a circle; it does not manipulate through fear” and patriarchal leadership—the archaic system that has long been in place but is now crumbling—“looks like a pyramid. The circle is inclusive; everyone is inside it. The pyramid is oppressive; everyone has to hurt those ‘below’ them in order to maintain their status. In the Patriarchal Pyramid System, fear was the key to power. In the Feminine Leadership System, love is.” Locey reminds us (because sometimes we just need to be reminded of the basics!) that love equals “inclusion, generosity, connectedness (not separation), flow, grace, enough for everyone, trust, mutual understanding, compassion, forgiveness, teaching (not punishment), freedom, allowing.” (Sounds like the track that both Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson, and sometimes Pete Buttigieg, were on—the opposite of what we have in the current White House!)
Remembering that in speaking of “feminine” and “masculine” in these terms, we’re speaking of “energy,” not gender, so “in order for the ancient-future Feminine to rise again,” continued Locey, “the Masculine will have to re-define itself as the energy and not the power.” This requires recognizing that the Divine Feminine is “an energy present in everyone, not just women” and the Sacred Masculine is “inseparable from the Feminine, because both are needed to achieve anything and everything,” as Locey concluded. For love to prevail, as we’re re-remembering our ancient Feminine heritage, we must all embrace its inclusive and compassionate traits—especially when we really don’t want to!
“Elizabeth Warren was successful partly because of how unapologetic she was about not only being a woman,” Matthews wrote, “but being on women’s side.” But were women, or at least enough women, on her side? Perhaps what it will take for women to truly succeed in positions of leadership and power is if other women let go of what might be our petty judgements and opinions to genuinely support another woman who is “exceptionally considerate and competent,” as Kane called Warren, and who has substantial, open-hearted views—even though we don’t happen to like “the style with which she delivers them,” as Garber pointed out. (What does it matter, in the great scheme of things when it comes to loving people and taking care of each other and the planet, that sometimes we don’t like ‘how’ someone said it?)
When Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the presidential race, I looked to see why it felt “personal” for me—like a personal loss although I had not been supportive—and yet I had thought, with her tenacity, intelligence, big heart and clear vision, she would make a good presidential leader. So I looked deep inside (you know those places you really don’t want to go?) and saw that I had my own patriarchal-like prejudice affecting my full support of “certain” women. My “small self” views had gotten in the way of me truly seeing Elizabeth Warren as a courageous, unapologetic ‘feminine woman’ speaking up for the rest of us, leaving no one out. An inspiring role model for our girls—and maybe sometimes she came across as a lecturing schoolmarm—so get over it! Like a good teacher, she was teaching us about ourselves.
“Elizabeth Warren fell prey to the widespread—and yes, misogynistic—sense that, unlike their male rivals, women are not entitled to make mistakes,” Kate Kane continued. “They are not entitled to challenge the narratives put forward by their male counterparts. And while they may be permitted to have power under certain conditions, they are not entitled to seek it, nor to take it away from men.” Then she added, like a punch in the gut: “Until we face these facts, we will not get a female president.” Ladies and Gentlemen—we have lots of open-hearted work to do! ~
Cornelia Powell—author, guest speaker, fashion historian and wedding folklorist—shares many “feminine leadership” stories in her book-in-progress, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess. She is also writing a series for Confluence Daily celebrating the Suffrage Centennial.
Confluence Daily is the one place where everything comes together. The one-stop for daily news for women.
More by Cornelia:
SUFFRAGE CENTENNIAL SERIES. Second-Class Citizen (Part One: Speaking Up—From Abigail Adams to Alice Paul)