Phenomenal Woman Blog
I’m a woman with a phenomenological inclination, who believes we understand ourselves and the world better through close attention to our different stories. I aim to challenge stereotypical portrayals of how mid-life women should and shouldn’t be.
Resistant as I am to the cult of the first lady, Michelle Obama’s story and her meteoric success are so extraordinary in their own right that they merit telling. And she does so with intelligence and openness. Her comments on her own struggles with negative stereotypes and about affirmative action more generally started a train of thought about the perspective of those who have stepped away from power and how much they have to offer to the gender diversity narrative.
This week sees the publication in the UK of an indispensable book by Mylene Desclaux - “Who?” I hear you chorus: well, apparently she is a French blogger - offering tips on how to be happy in your 50s. From the press coverage (the book itself is not yet available) this appears to be a euphemism for how to pull eligible men once you are “over the hill”. This forthcoming literary milestone caused me to wonder whether national stereotypes might really in fact be true.
Among my generation there can be few formerly angst-ridden young women for whom the soundtrack to their sorrows did not include the songs of Everything but the Girl. The words of Bittersweet summed up my struggle between pleasing others and treading my own path.
In the week that Stan Lee died and as we watch Theresa May teeter on the edge of a very fragile Brexit glass cliff, my thoughts on the myths of the female superhero.
We are constantly being told that we live in a fast-moving world where perpetual motion is vaunted, almost prized, and standing still, whether you are a person or a business, is seen as laziness, even some kind of precursor to death. But all change is perhaps not equal and in the gender equality and diversity world different laws of physics seem to apply.
As US and European political discourse descends into harsh words, spawning both threats and actual violence, I consider how the inspirational words of Edith Eger, Holocaust survivor, and relational psychology for building effective working relationships across difference offer an alternative way forward.
Women in mid-life are still materially underrepresented in the workplace. Instead of “fixing the women” companies are realising that corporate cultures are broken and must change. I discuss how encouraging developmental relationships based on trust and willingness to learn and change are essential for success.
A treasured meet up with my gang of first-child’s-first-school-mum friends (a group with quite a broad age range) and a slot on Radio 4’s World at One programme today about the dangers of late motherhood (aka another excuse for telling women off) caused me to reflect on this worrying trend.
If this week has shown us anything it is that the polarising dynamics of men (entitlement) against women (the putative new order) are alive and kicking. In the age of the witchcraft trials - proof in themselves that fake news really is nothing new - crowds turned out to enjoy the sight of the condemned women; the outcome of death was pretty much a foregone conclusion, it was just the question of how that remained to be settled.
A confession that I always skip to the end of a novel before reading the rest, and an observation that I couldn’t handle suspense, sparked a train of thought about how this was a metaphor for the way I have lived my life. Since writing this on my recent writers retreat, I have noticed that the subject comes up for a lot of people who have suffered death and loss (Brigitte Macron in a recent Economist article and Esther Rantzen on a Radio 4 interview are just two examples). So I’m sharing it with you: let me know if it resonates (or not)…