by Hillary Strobel | Featured Contributor
When I was in college, I first became aware of the existence of a special little book. It’s not terribly long, although it’s got the power of many generations and centuries behind it. Over the years, I’ve found myself in some strange debates with people who do not fully understand the point of the book- they are pretty sure it’s about being “evil” toward someone else. I’ve gotten out of it, in bits and snatches over the years, the basis for the strategy of a lifetime.
That strategy of a lifetime? Bringing women into a place of equality.
Not more special, and certainly not less special. Not at the expense of someone else. Absolutely not to anyone’s detriment. Just… equal.
The Birth of Women Warriors
I recently watched a video of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin discussing the value in female friendships. Sadly, the YouTube comment section was littered with thoughts, written almost exclusively by men, that there is nothing to be gained from the discourse of listening to two women loving on each other.
The most virulent argument against this video? Fonda said at one point that men don’t have the same relationship quality that women do, so they should be shown a great deal of compassion. It was amazing to read from the male perspective that they can do without our condescension, thank you very much. However, these same commenters were quick to point out that everything a woman has in this society is a gift of grace from a man, thank you very much. Paternalism is just fine and dandy; maternalism is a bunch of bullshit made up by hags.
So how are we going to bring this to a head and overcome it? Let’s engage in a war.
Filmmaker Julia Bacha hosted a TED Talk in June 2016 about how women wage conflict. Hint: it’s nearly exclusively non-violent (meaning without the goal of killing someone else), but it’s also extremely effective. We don’t avoid conflict, but we meet it head-on in constructive and often very creative ways.
How Women Warriors Engage in Conflict
How do we go about waging such a war? The first chapter in The Art of War is titled Planning. There are five factors that go into effective planning: a Moral Compass (finding an accord we can all follow in full faith); Heaven (understanding the differences between night and day, hot and cold, and summer and winter); Earth (nearness and distance, ease and hindrance, terrain); the Commander (who must be possessed of “wisdom, honesty, benevolence, courage, and discipline”); and Regulation (marshalling the troops and controlling resources). The better prepared side must attack the underprepared side, “appear[ing] where least expected. Thus you may see that in war, surprise is the key to victory.”
My own thought on this, by the way, is that we are all Commanders in this war, if we so choose to prioritize the lifting up of each one of us. We simply must find the place where we can make the most impact, and then go and make it.
How Women Warriors WIN
Women also know the terrain and complexion of the space our opponent occupies, since we’ve grown up in it from day one. We know how the resources have been handled so far. Where can we best make our surprise attack?
A few days after watching Julia, Jane, and Lily, I came across the writings of Bejan Matur, a Kurdish poet, and Maram Al-Masri, a Syrian poet. These two women are using their talents and voices to change the human face of the wars in the Middle Wast. For Matur, it is a way to give voice to the Kurds, who are all but being wiped out in the region. As Al-Masri said, “Poetry is the anti-weapon.”
We can make our mark, everlasting, in our stories; those we tell of ourselves, and those we tell of each other. A story told well is told forever, to paraphrase Emerson.
According to Bacha’s talk, The Big Takeaway is this: women must be included in the public space. We’ve always been here, waging these non-violent wars. Now we must hear them with new ears and more expansive minds. In my case, I take up the flag in giving voice to the discourse through collaborative storytelling.
We must agree that the stories we tell are deliberate and effective. If we frame it in Julia Bacha’s terms, this is war, and in order to succeed, we have to have the most effective planning and strategy. We must be our own best leaders, and we must wage this conflict to win.
Hillary Strobel is a single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and the ass-kickin’ President and CEO of The Flyways, Inc. We publish story projects that are interactive and highly creative, and 25% of profits are donated to support social justice causes: from business incubators serving vulnerable women, to agencies working to reduce recidivism rates.
Hillary also runs a consultancy for businesses and organizations seeking to meaningfully build social impact programs from the ground up. The three pillars that support this mission are: designing outcomes and developing goals, measuring impact and creating a universal metric, and quantifying results to the public.
After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job — volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer — Hillary has decided to marry her two deepest passions: storytelling and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations.