Feminine Leadership - my journey
It’s a concept that has been with me my whole life. My grandma (dad’s mum) was a feminist, fighting pornography and active in several women’s clubs such as Elisabeth Bremer förbundet. My mum was also a feminist and along with my dad, they raised us in a fairly equal household. Through my mum's work at Konsumentverket, like banning sexist commercials, I knew from a very early age about how sex is used to sell things and how gender norms are established through media.
I saw this system. I questioned this system. I didn’t wanna fall victim to this system.
But still, I grew up in it. I was formed by it. The longing to climb the social hierarchical steps made me conform to it.
Growing up, society and its norms never really offered me the opportunity to love myself. I was always feeling some sort of shame. First of all for my sex. Cover up, don’t show. Also for being sexual. And later on for not being sexual enough. Menstruating. Shaving. Not shaving. Being feminine. Not being feminine enough. Body size. Wrong clothes. Not taking up enough space. Taking up too much space.
So many contradictions. So much shame.
It got so obvious for me as I got kids of my own.
With my son it was very simple, I wanted him to be allowed all emotions. I wanted him to be allowed to be who he is, not restrained by any restrictive norms. We were not going to shut his emotions down. And we offered him all kinds of toys, not just the gender-typical ones. He played with cars and my little ponies. He wore pink shirts as well as blue shorts. He was allowed it all.
But then I got a daughter.
No, no, no. A dress?? Pink? White stockings? It’s just not practical. She can’t play in it. But was that really the reason for my refusal of these feminine attires?
I had a war going on inside of me. Why could I offer my son everything, but felt the need to neglect my daughter things, by society, connected to being a girl?
At the same time, I was struggling with bad self-esteem. I never felt good enough. As a short blond girl, running my own businesses, I had to play a game I didn’t feel comfortable in. I felt that I had something inside of me that I wasn’t able to let out. But I couldn’t understand why. I kept facing my fears, kept talking in front of people, facilitating workshops, even though they were connected with so much anxiety. Throw yourself out there Sanna. But still, that self-esteem didn’t get better. I stopped believing in myself. I couldn’t sell mine and my colleagues' consultancy services anymore. I felt useless.
But then life had new plans for me. I was challenged out of my comfort zone, amongst people that also saw the system the way I did but refused to play by the common rules. Through this context, I found a new movement, a feminine one. I jumped on that train and found answers that ended my internal struggle.
What I realized was that my feminist beliefs had made me believe that there is only one way of playing the games of adult life, the masculine way. I had to be more masculine to be taken seriously. For a short blond girl with big brown eyes and lots of happiness in her system, it took a lot of energy to play that game. I had to oppress so much of myself so I forgot about who I really was. I had to communicate in ways that didn’t feel authentic to me. And how could I then act authentically? I never allowed myself to wear feminine clothes such as pink dresses. When I cried or showed to many emotions in public I felt so ashamed.
I deprived myself so much. My feminist lifestyle had made me disparage the feminine principle in favor of the masculine. It made me believe I need to be more like a man to succeed in business, to get power. It made me believe that there is only one way to play the game - the masculine way. By that, I had also accepted patriarchy and reinforced it my entire life.
That has stopped now. Because you know what, there is also a feminine way to play the game (and probably many more). The feminine way is a way that I am convinced will benefit both women and men, the planet as well as future generations. It’s not through replacing patriarchy with matriarchy. It’s not through seeing all genders as a social construct (parts of it are, yes, but not all). It’s not through doing either-or. And it’s definitely not through saying that one is better than the other. We need both polarities. We need to value them both. We all have both of them in us. Women and men and everyone in between.
So what was it that ended that inner war in me?
It started with accepting our biological differences. My body is different from a male one. I have a sex organ that is completely different from a man's. Externally and internally. Our Bodies are wired in completely different ways and my body has so much potential to experience pleasure if I get to know it better. I also have a period, which means that I have a four-week cycle, where each week affects me in different ways (not just PMS, also in really good ways!). I can carry a child and have a body that is constructed for this magical thing. It needs a different kind of care. As the sex-industry, as well as the medical industry, is so focused on the male body, it’s very important to see these biological differences. To learn more about how my body works have made it possible for me to experience more of the potential I have within it, and there is still much more to be revealed (reading tip: Vagina: A New Biography).
Seeing my body in this light, getting a new relationship with my feminine parts, was the key to start loving myself. It all starts with my body. This vessel of mine. Owning it. Loving it. Enjoying it.
I started to grow wings.
All of a sudden I was no longer choosing clothes and wearing make up to please others, or to conform to societal norms. I did it for me. I dressed in whatever pleased me that day. Cozy, sexy, comfy. Jeans, dresses, yoga tights.
All of a sudden I didn’t get embarrassed when my daughter was exploring the diamond between her thighs (reading tip: Still I Rise). Instead, I would celebrate it. Yes, you go girl! No shame! Explore your pleasure potential! Explore what it means to be a girl and a woman.
All of a sudden I dared to be authentic, my full self in all sorts of situations. The full package, with emotions, menstrual cycle, intellect, intuition, etc. I accepted myself in all that I am. Stopped analyzing and criticizing myself and my performance from a masculine point of view. Compassion, empathy, creation and listening, those are some of my power strengths and I started valuing them just as much as my analytical and organizational skills. I found my true power!
When I started loving all that it means to be a woman like me, that’s when I could break free from the norms and expectations that have been dictating my life. I am not completely there yet, but I’ve come far enough to fly. I’ve come far enough to see how feminine leadership can influence an organization. How it can give permission for people, women, and men, to be more of themselves. How it can lay a completely different foundation for organizational culture and how this affects the wellbeing of both individuals and organizations.
I’m still on a journey. I will always be. The things I’ve written above is my journey so far. I’ve felt intimidated to take leadership or to share my thoughts for too long. Because the fear of being ridiculed is always there. But now I feel like saying fuck off to that fear. We need women to own their power. We need women to show up, in all their femininity, to take care of this world. We need the feminine principle more than ever!
I want women to take leadership. I want men to see and acknowledge the need for this leadership and power. The need for compassion, vulnerability, and love. And I want us all to love the two polarities. To let the healthy masculine and healthy feminine come together in a partnership. We all have the two principles (or essence if you prefer) within us. We need them both to keep a balance in this world. We need these polarities to make love, not war.
“The future is not female. The future belongs to self-aware, conscious powerful men and women who create abundance of resources and possibilities” (Read more: True feminine power)
So dear ones. I feel a calling to be a permission giver, by being my full self and throwing myself out there. This means I will say and do a lot of stupid things, but I will hold myself in this, giving myself permission to be my full self. I will stroke myself on the cheek and say that it is okay, that I am perfect just the way I am. It’s okay to screw up. And I will do the same thing to any other being who dares to show up authentically. I will love you, just the way you are. My daughter. My son. A complete stranger.
You are perfect. You are loved. You are needed in this world.
I want you to feel that.
I believe that will change the world.