Leadership is first and foremost about developing others. I wrote this post to our fabulous and diverse and talented participants in our NEW Train-the-Trainer program (we held the training at the beautiful Omega Institute in May) to share why my core workshop is so necessary for women NOW—how their role as certified “Take The Leaders” can accelerate women’s advancement to leadership parity.
Meet the first class here and be dazzled by the range of expertise. You’ll want to book them to come to your company or organization to increase dramatically the pipeline of highly-skilled women leaders. And if you want to be considered for our October 22-23 Train-the Trainer program in Phoenix, Arizona, click here.
So here’s the story of why I liken my legacy to a pie. A chocolate cheesecake, actually.
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has put all his movie projects on hold, including one called “Cry Macho.”
Oh the irony of that title. Let me get him a hanky so Mr. Macho himself doesn’t douse those phallic cigars he puffs on with his tears.
There’s also a yummy irony in the fact that the woman who brought down this powerful man is near the bottom rung of social power, a household worker. Sexual hubris and belief in their own entitlement to whatever they want whenever they want it, including women’s bodies, is a common thread between men like Schwarzenegger and the recently deposed International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also brought low by a domestic worker whom he apparently thought would be thrilled to be jumped on by a man twice her age leaping naked out of the bathroom.
Are these men like babies who think people can’t see them when they have blankets over their heads? And why don’t they understand that they can’t get away with the same bad acting they did a generation ago, thank goodness, because the women’s movement has changed both the culture and the laws?
There is certainly a qualitative difference between what seems to have been rape in the Strauss-Kahn case and what appears to have been consensual sex between Schwarzenegger and Mildred Patricia Baena who worked for 20 years in the home he shared with wife Maria Shriver. But who knows? The power differential between Baena and Schwarzenegger was inherently huge.
What strikes me as more puzzling, though, is that the power differential between Arnold and Maria was miniscule to nonexistent. She certainly didn’t need to be on the arm of any man in order to have money, prestige, or political power. As a member of the wealthy Kennedy political dynasty and a prominent journalist, she already had it all on her own.
And after the work she has done with her California Women’s Conferences to promote the idea that women are powerful, this betrayal is a terrible irony for her. Right now, the humiliation must be horribly painful. My heart goes out to her and to their children whose world has been turned upside down.
Given the timing of the split, one can’t help but wonder what did Maria know and when did she know it, and if she knew any of it at all, why did she stay in the marriage.
To the positive, though, unlike Silda Spitzer and even Hillary Clinton, Maria Shriver isn’t standing by her man. That alone is a step forward for womankind.
If we do not retaliate for acts of aggression, we enter into a cycle of victimization. This is what happens to women who are cheated on over and over and over and over again if they forgive, forgive, forgive, forgive without ever taking proportionally retaliatory action when told one bright summer morning that their husband has been supporting the child he fathered with the household help for ten years.
Maria did the right thing. She packed her bags and left, leaving Arnold to his own devices and, one assumes, to contemplate what the poorly timed release of this information might do to any man’s future political career in any state other than California.
Shriver is likely to go through a great deal more public humiliation and pain before this is over. Who knows what Baena will do or say? And look, that child is her children’s half-brother. Who knows what that will mean to her family?
One thing is quite clear however. The outdated dominance model of power exemplified by Schwarzenegger’s behavior–the power over others—is passe. Maria has in her hands the more positive model, her power TO–the ability to accomplish great things for herself, her family, her country, the women of the world—as she makes the transition into whatever is next for her. It’s the very transformational model of power she herself lauded in her recent blog post, Is the Model of Masculinity Changing in America?
My advice to Maria Shriver, were she to ask, is to use what she’s got (No Excuses power tool #3): the sympathy and support of her friends and family, the platform she has built for herself as a champion for women, her celebrity and media credentials, and the financial capability that will enable her to do whatever she chooses with the rest of her life.
In the end, Maria Shriver will have a brilliant future. She will be back.
Hasta la vista, Arnold.
Sit down. Pour yourself a cup of tea and know that you are going to need some time to read author Amy Ferris’s story slowly and carefully. It will sear you. It will uplift you. I encourage you to write your thoughts about it here too. Thank you, Amy for sharing it.
First, here’s the cover note Amy sent to me, inviting me to post it so all of you could read it too, then her essay in full:
i wrote this essay about a week, week and half ago, on the advice of my amazing therapist. i have been dealing with such deep shame, deep doubt… and she helped me pull this up and out. and on the page.
righting my life. or … writing my life. as the case may be.
i’ve sent it to 3 people for both a reaction and their advice where to place it/put it. three amazing writer friends – two who are survivors, and one who just came out. they were – without sounding too bloated – absolutely amazed by this essay. they were so taken aback by my truth, my story… this piece.
i wanted to send it to you, after seeing on your blog that you are asking for stories.
this is my story.
it’s very painful.
it’s very raw.
it’s very liberating.
i am so fucking proud to have been able to write it, say it, share it, give it, open up an heart or two. make a difference.
i hope it saves many, many lives.
and i hope, deeply, more than anything, that my story gives women courage to stand in their truth, to tell their story … and that they too realize that their lives matter oh so much.
much love to you!
(I LOVE YOUR BOOK! it’s my christmas gift this year for my women friends!) (OK, I had to leave that last part in! GF)
I do not matter.
I am seven years old.
I am burning. My vagina is burning. I am scared and in pain and it is the middle of the night and I start to scream. My vagina is on fire. It burns and I can feel like my insides are exploding. I have an infection. I have many infections since I can remember. My mother doesn’t come into my room right away. She is right across the hall, a small narrow hall, a size ten shoe length. She can hear me. My dad can hear me.
I am nine years old.
I have an infection. I am peeing and it is burning and I am in pain. I am back at the Pediatrician’s office again, and she tells my mother I have a urinary tract infection again. She tells my mom I need to take cool baths. Not hot, cool. My mother is impatient. Irritable. Smoking. I am in pain. Antibiotics and a soothing cream and cool baths. I am sad and unhappy and in pain.
We stop at Orbach’s so my mom can go shopping. She tries on shifts and shoes and sweater sets. I am in pain and I am uncomfortable and I smile at my mom so she doesn’t get upset with me. She tries on clothes and I sit on a stool and I keep my legs wide apart, so I don’t rub my thighs together because that will irritate my burning vagina more.
We go home.
My mom tells my dad she didn’t find anything at Orbach’s. He asks how I am, she says, she’s fine. She is fine.
I do not matter.
My neighbors, Eddie and James, come over and want to play Doctor. I am eleven or twelve years old.
They are twins, and they are my age, and so, we play Doctor in my backyard. They crack and snap the branches off from the tree and stick the branches up my vagina. I am the patient. They are the Doctors. They tell me that Doctors can stick branches and stuff up a girls “thing” so that they can take her temperature. My mother doesn’t take my temperature in my vagina I say. They say, no, no, you can do this. I know they’re wrong. I don’t tell my mother that Eddie and James came over to play doctor. She’s watching The Mike Douglas Show, and she does not want to be interrupted when she is watching television.
I do not matter.
My finger doesn’t heal. It is crooked and bent and misshapen. I was running and playing, whooping it up with my friends when Andy fell on me by accident and I could hear the snap and the crack, just like a tree branch snapping in half, and it hurt and I ran up the hill and screamed, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, but Mommy was playing mah-jongg and she shooed me away and I went into the Bungalow and she came in, and pulled open the metal ice tray and wrapped my hand in ice, and made me promise, “cross your heart,” that I would sit there like a good girl, and she went back to finish the game, and I heard the ice cream truck, and I heard my mom and my aunt ask for “creamsicle pops,” and sometime later, my mother placed the two perfectly clean licked pop sticks on my middle finger and taped it with scotch tape and that was that.
My finger never healed.
I do not matter.
She gave my brand new Barbie, my brand new “still in the box,” Barbie to my cousin Debbie. She forgot, she said – it slipped her mind – to get my cousin a gift for Hanukah. So when she asked my Aunt what Debbie wanted, it seemed that she wanted what I had. She gave Debbie my brand new, still in the box, Barbie Doll and promised she would get me a brand new one, “Cross my heart,” she said. I never got the new one, the one with the black and white two- piece. Maybe she didn’t look hard enough, or maybe she went to a store that didn’t have Barbie dolls, like Orbach’s. I must have asked a million times but she did not like my asking over and over and over. It annoyed her.
I do not matter.
Awful horrible, bad, first time, painful, eyes shut, squirming sex. He didn’t love me. He hardly knew me. We had sex. I was 14, he was older and while he was moaning and groaning and saying please, baby, please, oh, yes, baby…. on the Zenith black and white television that was tucked in the corner of the room, Janet Leigh was getting bludgeoned to death in the shower while I was losing my virginity at the exact same time. He was older, an artist and he hung out at Max’s Kansas City and the Ninth Circle, and he wanted to paint me and told me I looked like, reminded him of …a younger, much younger, Ultra Violet, an Andy Warhol starlet. I was fourteen and lanky and had curly sexy mop-y hair and wore lots of make-up and mascara. He was my friend Stephen’s older brother and …
I. Gave. It. Up. For. Him.
I wanted to say no.
I do not matter.
I sat there with a few other girls my age. None of us talked. Names were called. Forms were filled out. Money was exchanged. Names were called again. Nurses took your vitals. You were given a robe. You undressed. You waited. You were asked, “Are you sure?” You said, ”Yes.” More waiting. Then you get called. Rolled in. A needle. The anesthesia kicks in. Count back from one hundred.
Ninety seven, Ninety-six. Ninety-five. Ninety-four.
Ni. Ne. Ty.
You wake up. You think it’s been forever, but it’s only fifteen, twenty minutes later. Groggy. Alone. Scared. The gown is bloody. I’m wearing a kotex napkin. Bulky. I ache, and I’m empty. Sad emoty. Alone empty. And I look around, and see on either side, the same as me. Bloody gowns. Groggy. Scared, and the nurse comes in with some juice and offers a sip, “here the straw, your lips are dry, sip…. sip… lift your head, sip. Atta girl.” She takes my pulse and checks my vitals and says everything is fine. “Everything went fine,” she says. I didn’t think to ask “boy or girl?” or did you know? Or could you tell just yet?
You lie there.
No one is coming to get you.
You had secrets.
Scary, lonely, shameful secrets.
You get rid of those secrets.
You get dressed.
Fill out more forms.
Atta girl, one more time.
You are empty.
You are head to toe fucking empty.
You cry and cry and cry, snot nose cry.
You are young and scared and you didn’t say no.
No, I can’t. No, I don’t want to. No, I don’t like you. No, I don’t want to have sex. No. Thank you. No.
I do not matter.
And I leave home.
And fly away.
I am young and scared and have no sense of myself, and I am filled with shame and guilt and make up stories about my life because god forbid I should tell the truth and then NO ONE WILL EVER LIKE ME. No one. I will say I am this and that and come from here and there and no one will know. No one. Because no one will care enough to ask more questions.
I am young.
I am lost.
I say yes again, and one more time.
One. More. Time.
This time the pain is unbearable because of the constant bladder and urinary infections and pelvic inflammatory disease and a rupture and tear and holy shit, I HAVE ABUSED MYSELF.
I HAVE ABUSED MYSELF.
I have hurt my own body. I have torn my own body. I have given it away and tossed it away and I have stood naked in front of a stranger and I have said, here… here… here… and now I am in pain, excruciating pain, and the doctor asks me if I am sure, ARE YOU SURE, and I say, YES, and he says fine, and I am given a Demerol, and a drip, and I am asked to count backwards from 100 and I count to eighty two because I am so ashamed and frightened and then I wake up and I feel so completely alone.
Some juice, some warmth, some compassion, a soft smile, a nod, a comforting hand. “Take care,” she says, the nurse. “I don’t know how to,” I tell her.
You start with NO, she says. Mean it. Say it. Repeat it. No. No. NO. NO. No.
I try. I slip.
I do not matter.
More lies, more doubt, more shame, more guilt, more drugs, more men, more to store away and hide.
I am pinned against the wall.
He is angry. Enraged. Vile. Mean. It’s in his eyes. They are bulging.
He tells me he doesn’t love me. I tell him I don’t care.
End of story.
End of bad story.
I do not love him.
I do not want to spend one more moment lying in bed next to him, fucking him, sitting in a restaurant with him, sharing popcorn with him, driving in a car with him, waiting on line at the supermarket with him, ordering sushi with him, going to the movies with him, watching TV with him, cooking a meal with him, giving him a blow job, getting on planes and trains with him, visiting our families – his family, my family – with him.
I do not love him.
Why did you stay so long he asks me.
I was lazy I tell him.
I say it.
I say: I DO NOT LOVE YOU.
I grab hold of his hands, which are pressing down on my clavicles, and I say to him: I do not want to be with you any more. Not one more day. Not one more minute. I am not staying here.
I AM OUT OF HERE.
I AM LEAVING.
I grab a few things. Small things. Personal things. Enough things. I grab my purse, my cash, my jewelry, my beads from my altar, a couple of tee’s, and jeans, and the clothes on my back.
I get in my car and I drive and drive and drive.
And I drive.
And that day, at 7:52 PM
I BEGIN TO MATTER.
I begin to matter.
No going back.
And yes, oh god yes, I slip sometimes.
Backwards. But I catch myself. I grab the railing, or the step, or the handlebar… or my husband.
And I feel scared and ashamed and shameful and doubtful and the self-loathing bubbles up, I am sometimes, but not often, brought back to moments. Memories, times that hurt so deep, that cut so fucking deep that I can actually feel as if my ribs are cracking. I can barely breathe.
I am sometimes, but not often, reminded of that young girl filled with such god-awful pain, crippling self-doubt, no self-esteem what so ever. None. She wanted … to be included, to please someone, to fix someone, to make it better, to mend someone’s heart and soul.
To be seen. To be heard.
To be visible.
To fit in.
To be loved.
Please. Oh please. Please. Please. Please.
Here. Over here. Yes, Me. Here. Yeah, me. Love me. Please. Pretty please, with a cherry, man, on top.
She did not believe she mattered.
She was wrong.
Everything she did – EVERY. SINGLE. THING. SHE. DID -mattered so that someone else, another human being, could feel that they matter.