Posted by: alexisspain | February 18, 2016

Who’s Problem?

In 2014 Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Washington on women’s rights. She is cited as saying that women’s rights are a man’s responsibility too or rather “a responsibility we all share.” I totally agree with her because I believe that until equality is established, through recognition of the issue by all, internalization of what inequality means for those marginalized, and measures are taken by both sexes to even the playing field, productivity among the human population as a whole will be weaker than it could be.

Generally, I think part of the problem is that each sex doesn’t understand why the other one operates the way they do. For instance, can a man understand why a woman feels nurturing towards children? Probably not fully, due to the fact that they can’t bear a child themselves but they can make efforts to try.

There is this group of four men called the Try Guys— a Buzzfeed comedy video group— that often “tries” feminine related things in hope of understanding (while providing humor). In one of the episodes then men actually use electrode stimulation in order to simulate being in labor. After they had all experienced “labor” they all expressed reverence and appreciation for women. Although this example may sound silly, I think it is relevant because men are putting themselves in women’s shoes. Thus, trying to understand the other sex’s struggle. Below is the link to that video:

Another problem in addressing women’s rights and equality in general is the notion of power. As noted by Miller (1987), the traditional definition of power negatively and positively affects each sex in different ways. A prevalent definition of power, that most closely conceptualizes what citizens today believe it to be, is— control, command, domination. Thus, women, who traditionally are communal, nurturing, and collaborative, are uncomfortable with saying that they have power in a position or want power. This sometimes leads women to demean themselves, sound less competent, and behave in unsure ways. Thus, to alleviate this strain, we need to formulate a definition of power that suits women too. And if defining power means that we have many definitions of it, like with the concept of leadership, then so be it.

Noting how one feels about how ambition plays into power is also important. For instance, some people believe that ambition has nothing to do with power, whereas others may disagree. My interviewee for the first Interview paper said that she had no ambition to grow their power base. It just wasn’t central to her conceptual of leadership. She lead by helping others to grow, instead of growing herself. Thus, she never struggled with the concept of power. Following, she did not have criticism about her being selfish or power hungry.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, now running for the United States presidency, is often criticized for being bitchy, loud, and aggressive. All being because of the way she choices to lead with a masculine power definition. If she used a feminine definition of leadership would she be viewed as incompetent though?



  1. I can understand why women feel nurturing to children; kids are awesome. I think every human feels nurturing feelings towards children. Responsibility to nurture children is why the nuclear family was developed, with a man working outside the house, and a woman working on the inside, both with the goal to provide. This was a system that broke down because it limited people to roles, limiting their freedom of choice. Women were not free to work, and men experienced societal pressure to work.

    Both genders sacrifice for their children. A man who does not nurture his children is not a man.

    Miller defines power as the ability to facilitate change. This definition includes power within, and women’s power to build quality relationships which can be used to influence situations. I think the spreading of this gender-inclusive definition of power will help alleviate the problem you described in your post.

  2. The biggest problem with any concept like power or leadership is that even if it has a formal definition, the definition will morph into whatever people generally prescribe it to. In this instance, people think of “power” as being dominating or assertive or making people do what you want instead of influencing people to do what is best for themselves or the group. And the reason why “power” for women is different than “power” for men is because of how women have gone about leading, in a more influential way. The reason why Hilary is getting such a backlash for being a bitch is what everything goes back to: the double bind. I think, though, because of the nature of politics, if she adopted a more “feminine” definition of “power”, people WOULD think she was incompetent. So, spreading the idea that power is not about dominating and leading, for women, isn’t about being loving because sometimes jobs, like politics especially, demand someone more masculine, or a woman who is more a “bitch” instead of a “ditz.”

  3. I had a similar outcome with my interviewee for the first paper, and I have to agree with it myself. My desire in leading is embedded under the idea of serving. Serving to help others grow rather than expect any growth for myself although unconsciously it happens. I think that ambition and power have such contextual meanings that it truly depends on the situation for a particular definition to be used. I think it’s difficult for people who don’t have those key ideas in the front of their mind as they’re leading to be asked about what it means to them out of the blue. Like myself, we just don’t think about it right away. It isn’t our purpose for leading.

  4. I have to agree more with the opinion that ambition plays into power. I feel that a leader can’t truly exert their power by affectively influencing and creating change unintentionally. I also think that ambition is closely linked with intention. However, I also believe a lot of women may not realize the effect of their actions in this context.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, Alexis! Thinking about this in what my interviewee had said during our time together was so interesting. Interesting in that she took her ambition, and gave the credit for it to the women before her that helped her to her success. She believes that her ambition came from others, and that she gives respect, ambition, and power to her staff every day while she leads them to success. She uses her nurturing side to foster relationships with her staff, then gives them motivation by always supporting them in their work. She sees ambition and leadership as a “pay-it-forward” kind of thing. Others got her to where she is today, and she is now getting others to where they need to be.

  6. That is a good point. people should try to get to know a person or group of people before judging them. The saying is “don’t judge a book by its cover” is very applicable here. People should try to understand a persons heart and intentions before judging them for a word or phrase they say. For equality to happen the conversation needs to happen and from both sides of the table. I think we as a people group are starting to understand this and videos like that are helping lead the conversation.

  7. I have to applaud you for finding a way to combine Hillary Clinton, the Try Guys, and class reference in one blog post. I think a lot of women share the belief that ambition and power are not directly correlated. Although each may have a negative connotation, for some reason ambition is even more negative for women. There is no one definition which we can fit to all situations, so the only thing to do is create a new understanding of what is means to have power and ambition. Great post and thanks for sharing!

  8. Adding to what Colette said, I am not sure if it was in a reading or in a video, but I remember a discussion about how women tend to attribute their success to others. In other words, they thank others for “giving” them opportunities instead of giving themselves credit for their accomplishments. I think this can also relate to the idea of power, that a lot of the time women are uncomfortable with power because they feel they are undeserving or, like Alexis noted, worried that they will be perceived negatively.

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