A few weeks ago, I sat down with one of my greatest teachers, best-selling author and spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson, to talk about women, politics and her upcoming, unprecedented event Sister Giant.
This is part two of our conversation (you can read part one here).
Tara: Let's talk about Sister Giant, which is coming up and is an unprecedented event. What it is and how did the idea evolve in you?
Marianne: A lot of the kinds of ideas that you write about, that I write about, that we've all been so involved in over the last 20 years, have really revolutionized mainstream American consciousness.
We have taken a new more holistic perspective, a more relationally-based perspective, and we have changed everything. Business has been affected. Medicine and healing have been affected. Educational ideas have been affected. The sciences have been affected. The arts have been affected.
The one place where you don't see the new energy, the new ideas, the new possibilities taking hold is in politics. Politics is entrenched. There is an entrenched, old paradigm perspective. There is an entrenched, old paradigm story. There is an entrenched, old paradigm collective behavioral pattern.
What this has done is to make those of us who are so interested in higher consciousness simply turn away from politics. We say, "It is so toxic, it is so old, it is so awful, I can't even go there." But that represents a real conundrum --
- When you have 23.1 percent child poverty rate in the United States, which among 35 developed nations is second only to Romania
- When you have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world or any country in history in the U.S. -- which is very connected to our failures at public education because so many of these kids [who] drop out become on an almost inevitable track towards incarceration
- When you have so many of the problems that we have, including real direct as well as indirect threats to democracy itself, through such things as the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has now given unlimited permission to moneyed interests to flood the campaign advertising that expressly advocates for the election law to defeat a particular candidate...
If we look away from that, well, you know, there is a line that the French say, "If you don't do politics, politics will do you."
I think we know that you cannot transform something that you refuse to engage. But once again, those of us, as women, as people who are interested in a different kind of thinking, we don't want to go there the way it is.
Sister Giant is about saying, "What if we had the conversation our way? What if we didn't go into the old conversation?" What if we talked about issues like the child poverty rate, the incarceration rate, Citizens United, environmental issues, sex trafficking and more in the way we wanted to talk about it?
I'm doing the second day of Sister Giant in association with the Women's Campaign School of Yale University, where women are being taught how to run for office.
If you were ever thinking of running for office, if you were ever thinking of even being involved in a campaign, you will learn what it looks like. It's not a foreign language. It's not that different from other things you do. It's just that we have kept it on the other side of the room. I think that's to our detriment. I know it's to the detriment of the society.
You know, in the U.S. Congress, fewer than 17 percent of our elected representatives are women, and on the state legislative level, fewer than 24 percent. Young women like yourself -- the coolest, the best, the brightest -- aren't looking to do that.
Sister Giant is taking place three days after the presidential election because the way I look at it is this: No matter who wins, we need to talk. We need to have a new conversation, our conversation, or things could really get rough for all of us down the road.
Tara: I really love what you are saying about women redefining how we're thinking about what it means to be involved in politics and what politics is. As you were speaking, it was reminding me of a research study where women and men were sent in to negotiations with each other. It was a business negotiation where one party buys a chemical plant from another -- a very technical negotiation. In one cohort, the women were told really great negotiators are people who are competitive, who are aggressive and who are very strategic.
And then the other group of women were told really great negotiators are people who have empathy, who are great listeners, who understand how to communicate and connect with people. They never mentioned the word "women" when they made those statements. They never mentioned gender stereotypes. They just gave these two different models of what it meant to be a good negotiator.
When they told women that to be a good negotiator was to have empathy and to listen and to connect, those women dramatically outperformed their partners in the negotiations. When they told women that what it took was to be competitive and strategic, those women underperformed their counterparts.
Marianne: It's so to the point. It's a fascinating story. It's very much what this is all about. We need to go about things another way. Ironically, in politics, the other way is a very feminine, relation-based, more inclusive, more empathic way.
The second speaker after myself on Saturday morning at the seminar will be Charlene Spretnak, who will be talking about just that kind of thing and how a different way of looking at things and a different way of behaving is a natural feminine way of leadership, and as you just said so eloquently, it's also the more winning way. What you were just talking about is everything that Sister Giant is about.
Tara: So for people reading right now, think about if you have an image of running for politics that is being defined by the old model, and reinvent your notion of being in politics as a way of loving the world, as a way of loving children, as a way of using all your amazing skills of communication and connectedness and vision toward all that.
Marianne: The problem is, as you know, many women I think would hear what you just said and say, "Yeah, but I don't know all the facts. I don't know all the stuff like you have to know." That's what Sister Giant is for.
We do have to have the political savvy. We have to have the information. But I think people are more intimidated than they need be and that really is the point of Sister Giant. That you'll be exposed to enough information that you won't feel kind of too embarrassed to go forward in the conversation.
Because if a woman just says, "I want to run for office," and somebody says, "What's your platform?" and she says, "I just want to love everybody," she will be marginalized. She will be trivialized. Many women say "I don't know where to go to get the information that I'm supposed to have." That's what Sister Giant will give.
Tara: Yes, that is so exciting -- and it's coming up. November 10 and 11 in Los Angeles. Live stream is absolutely available, so you can attend from wherever you are if you can't be in LA. I'll be there via the live stream!
Marianne: If people go to SisterGiant.com -- that's www.SisterGiant.com -- you'll see all the information. We made as absolutely affordable as we can, and we'll work with people for whatever they can do. I just want people there.
Tara: And, there is an amazing list on the website of women who are being funded by other people to get there. I got all excited reading that and started making some donations. That was exciting.
Marianne: Me too.
Tara: Marianne thank you so much. It's an honor to talk to you.
Marianne: Thank you. It's an honor that you have me.
Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women's wellbeing and leadership. A coach, writer and teacher, she is the creator of the global Playing Big leadership program for women. Visit here to get Tara's free guide, the 10 Rules for Brilliant Women Workbook.