The Women’s Power Strategy Conference
Last weekend (or a few weeks ago—where do the days go#?!), I spoke at The Women’s Power Strategy Conference. We were a panel of four women and moderator, Patricia Davis, who had in common our creative work and coping with chronic illness and/or tragedy. Two of the women had unbelievably sad stories, but they inspired me with their courage.
I don’t find sad events depressing—they’re part of life, and I’m happy to be alive to feel things, both good and bad. I find superficiality, deliberate cruelty, competitive backstabbing and everything else along those lines depressing. Illness, loss, and all manner of catastrophes happen, and while I may find myself crying, it doesn’t pull the rug out from under me the way acts of deliberate treachery do. I think that in order to fully live, I must be willing to feel pain rather than rationalize it away.
And along those lines, I recently attended a memorial service for DJ Solomon Kahn. He was killed in an auto accident in Thailand at age 34—in the midst of a brilliant career and an exciting life—he and his fiancé were traveling—she was in the taxi with him, but survived the horrific crash. He and our son, Dylan, were friends since Jr. High days at Waldorf, and high school at Marin Academy. Solomon’s parents are Sufis…they concentrated on celebrating his life, rather than mourning (which I’m sure they did their share of in private). It was a crushingly sad event—we’re not built to have our children die before us. I saw a number of people I haven’t seen in years…we all saw the horror of his passing in each other’s eyes…but it was also a sharing of sorrow, and yes, a celebration of his life.
But back to the conference…Malissa Feruzzi Shriver was the keynote speaker. I was happy to hear her reference Brene Brown’s work twice during her speech. Girls Inc. was a part of the presentation, which offered a number of workshops designed to further empower women and girls. Anybody who thinks the Women’s Movement’s struggle for equality is over doesn’t have a vagina. The stats on pay discrepancies are despicable, as is the sheer volume of violence against women and girls. But like Solomon’s memorial service, the conference was a celebration of Women’s Power rather than a mourning of all the injustices that women endure daily. There was electricity in the workshops, excitement over new challenges and possibilities opening to girls.
Pete’s and my daughter, Natalie, went with me to the conference. She is a vibrant example of a powerful woman. While in college and again afterward, she worked with women and girls in rural Rajasthan, teamed with an Indian woman doing workshops on Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights, and teaching empowerment techniques from Augusto Boal’s, Theatre of the Oppressed. They traveled from village to village, working with child brides and orphans. She also gave Classical Indian Dance lessons to lower caste girls…an unheard of thing to do! During her times in India, she often found herself in substandard living conditions (rats and roaches, etc.) and was assaulted once, robbed twice, yet she describes her time there as magical and amazing. For her, it was all about the hearts of the people she came in contact with, as well as the beauty and rich culture of the place. She doesn’t see what she’s done as particularly extraordinary—it’s just her life story and it’s still in progress…she’s now married to an equally socially conscious, intelligent (and handsome) man, and they went back last year to the villages and taught English and Computer Skills to the girls. Currently, she is doing social work at Cedars of Marin.
When I look at both of our grown children, their partners and their friends, as well as all the adult children of our extended community (including an Iraqi student, our beloved Farah, whom we hosted for two years), I feel optimistic about the future. They are all more aware of global issues, both environmental and human rights, than I was at their ages. And they all seem to be doing something to help make the world a better place. Events like the Women’s Power Strategy Conference add more fuel to the flame that warms women around the world. Together, working in cooperation with each other, we lend each other strength to further women’s power.