The Power of Women

Women and men have been attempting to re-define women as long as I’ve been alive, and long before that. Very little attention seems to be applied to the defining of men, though. Growing up in the sixties and seventies as a young girl, I paid attention to Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, I read Erica Jong, I was torn between the style of glamour of Jackie Kennedy and the coolness of the hippie women. How was any girl supposed to develop a cohesive personality in such a melee of disparity?

My mother taught me how to sit up straight, to wear pearls to the grocery store, and to entertain lavishly. An aunt, my mother’s younger sister, taught me to pull my skirt up when I sit down to show off some leg. I wore crinolines and lacy socks when my girlfriends wore bell bottom jeans and tie-dyed shirts. Somehow, I managed to achieved a style of my own, but it remains a work in progress. Do all women feel like they’re often a work in progress somewhat?

I waited to see which camp would win: should I be the efficient uber-housewife and mother, or should I be the bold career woman who traveled the world independently? While I was waiting for the verdict, I got married, had some kids, and took some courses. As time went on, I delved into multiple careers, enjoyed myriad hobbies, and luxuriated in a comfortable family life. Slowly, I defined myself in my own way.

It was with interest that I read Joel Achenbach’s article yesterday. He wrote, “What we are witnessing is the Rise of the Alpha Woman.” “What exactly is an Alpha Woman?” I wondered. It encompasses leadership, strength, ambition, and success. Achenbach goes on to say, “[W]omen have, in their own way, been running things for a long time.” I believe that this is true: women have been running things for a long time and doing it quite well. What, though, does Achenbach mean when he says, “in their own way”?

So, I continued to read his article. According to Achenbach, the way that women rule is through means of manipulation and cunning. He reports that women realize “that the male of the species is easily manipulated by expressions of affection and gratitude.” He goes on to show that women also rule by appealing to the male ego, a deceptive ploy; women are duplicitously and deceitfully sweet. And we do it all shamelessly.

I’m not sure whether to pity Mr. Achenbach or to revile him. Are all of those college degrees that women earn a waste of time and money? Would society be more honestly served if women were offered courses like Power of the Coy Smile 101, or Dynamics of Decolletage 301? Should my husband wonder what I want every time I kiss him?

Mr. Achenbach confesses a personal desire “to be powerful and godlike.” He does not scoff at other men, though, in his quest to rule alone, to be Alpha Male. It is only women who obstruct his ascent to the empyreal throne. Power is a universal desire, manifest more in some than others, but present none the less. (It’s why children learn to walk and talk and take toys from other children.) The quest for power may be a legitimate aspiration, but in some, it remains an infantile wish. Mr. Achenbach, like a child, cannot share and wants to take the toys away from women. He denigrates their claims to power in hopes that they will relinquish them, leaving him to be supreme ruler.

The power that I have witnessed in the women whom I know and have known is honest, competent, and direct. Those who have aspired to and gained positions of leadership have done so because they are expertly adept at achieving the goals of an organization. Those who control their homes, do so because it is their passion. The women I know wield their power compassionately and wisely. Women of power are to be admired and honored.

Achenbach, Joel. “Maybe Someday Women Will Eliminate Men.” Star Magazine. The Kansas City Star. 29 October 2006: 7. The Washington Post.

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About the Author:

Dawn Crouse is a licensed mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, and high school English teacher.


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