Women fighting for power really do not have an easy time for various reasons, but mostly it is a lack of generational experience so that one generation of female powerbrokers can serve as an example to the next generation. There is no crash course, shortcut, or hack that is going to save you.
As someone who worked in journalism, the one thing I was good at doing was knowing who was a genuine article — and who was the newbie trying to fake it. There is a depth of nuance people obtain when they are experienced in anything.
When you never had cancer or ever had to look after someone with cancer, you can just imagine roughly what it is like, but standing next to someone who is undergoing it, survived it, or looked after someone who had it, your act will be missing a lot of details. There are strange unforeseen consequences that are not obvious to those who never had that battle to contend with.
The same holds true for people who have power. The ones who had mentorship and experience understand the nuances of power. Men understand it, and as they were the ones who created it in the first place, they have set up a system that is in tune with their natural abilities. Women really are playing catch-up in a system that is not as accomodating to their own instincts.
And many times, it shows.
We need to learn from the mistakes of others; so we do not repeat them; unfortunately, many men and women assume everything they do is right, and any criticism means the other person is an enemy.
Oh, get over yourself.
Recently, two women in power made two very different boneheaded moves because they did not understand that they have power — and behaved the same way as women who did not — and both women had very bad consequences befall them.
Catherine McKenna is a Canadian minister in the federal government. She has power. She ought to know that she has power, but she acts as if she is some teased little girl at school who is helpless against a big bully.
She committed an unforgivable sin: she confronted a reporter who called her “Climate Barbie” during her press conference.
First of all, a public press conference is a canned event. It is there to give your spin on whatever your ministry is doing. It is not the place to settle childish scores because someone called you a silly name. Who cares if a third-rate reporter called you anything? You are being called a lot worse than that.
Second, and more importantly, she gave away her power to the journalist. Freely handed over all the attention to him for free. He works for a right-wing outfit called Rebel Media, and they weren’t a household go-to place for most people around the world to get their information.
And now the whole world knows to call her Climate Barbie.
That is now going to be her legacy, no matter what she does for the rest of her life. She is Climate Barbie. It will be the phrase people think first. She changed her own name, and it might as well be on her tombstone now. Everyone in the free world knows that Catherine McKenna is bothered by the name, and hey, what a great way to take away some more of her power.
Being called Climate Barbie was stronger than she was. Had she understood that she had power, she would have ignored the lure (yes, it was a strategic bait used to provoke her, and our very naive minister fell for it hook, line, and sinker), and just ignored him. Let him ask questions that she never hears. She could have done a lot of things to show that she was in charge, and put him in his place by proving his words have no worth.
Instead, she focussed on a bit of trivial nonsense, proved she was vain, and handed over the spotlight to someone who was far lower on the pecking order than she ever was.
Choose your battles.
But she wasn’t the only woman this week who did not understand her power. Juli Briskman also needed some critical lessons in it before she flipped the bird to President Donald Trump’s motorcade, and then posted her low-class buffoonery on her social media site.
She behaved like a powerless drugged-out high school dropout, and she was fired for it.
She is a fifty year old woman who sacrificed her career as a marketing executive to show the world that her university education and job was completely wasted on her. A woman in her position could have done a lot of constructive things to make a difference: she could have campaigned for a candidate she believed in. She could have even run herself in a public office. She could have organized a group, or rationally expressed herself through writing.
All of that could make a difference in an outcome.
An obscene gesture just proves you have no class, cannot control your basic emotions, and are willing to do things that can have no effect on your world.
You are blessed with opportunity, and you show your middle finger to someone you do not like? How can your employers trust you if you face an obstacle or conflict on the job? Is her impulse control that bad? Is she as mature as a teenager who has no power and can only use gestures because she has no control over her life?
Once you have chosen your battles, choose the correct weapon for the fight.
Not some unoriginal hand signal that every fifteen year old empty-headed follower can use, too.
Worst of all, she says she doesn’t regret it.
Yes, you had power, but are unteachable. Briskman gave away her power to her employers who cut their losses with someone who was supposed to understand the nuances of marketing, but obviously didn’t know it as well as she thought she did.
And like McKenna, she has sealed her legacy. Whatever she does now, her past self will always be flipping her a finger, as the president she was gesturing to was too busy to notice her temper tantrum, or even care.
Had a man flipped a president Hillary Clinton a finger, there would have been howling accusations of sexism. She has proven she is just like the misogynists who express their impotency through meaningless and ineffectual actions. Briskman had made a serious tactical error that will have subversive consequences for years to come.
Women are making strides, but they cannot assume they are fairy princesses without flaw. We have to learn from our mistakes. We have to approach our power by first respecting ourselves — and the power we are given.
And fighting petty, unwinnable battles is the most foolproof way of losing it.