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home : commentary : thisissue October 18, 2017

Turning fear into action
Norma Smith Olson, left, and Kathy Magnuson
by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson


If most people were asked to close their eyes and imagine someone in power, they would see a man. It's not hard to understand how that happens - even for women. So far in the United States we have had very few women leaders of the stature of Margaret Thatcher, for example.

We celebrate plenty of holidays honoring our male leaders - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, and July 4 with our Founding Fathers. We've had many honorable women - Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and more - but our culture does not hold them up in the same way. How can our girls aspire to grow up to do something that only men and boys seem to do?

It's tough work changing visions and cultures and imaginations. In addition to running a competitive presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton also faces the history of stereotypes, assumptions and the "way we have always done it."

Fear and worry are two feelings we're hearing expressed this election season. The negativity of the presidential campaign has many people losing sleep - the fear of a Donald Trump presidency for some, or the fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency for others. There was a different feel to the presidential campaign eight years ago when the focus was on hope rather than fear.

Much social science research backs up the fear felt by many Trump supporters - men and women. A fear of men's subordination by women. Fear of a smart, strong woman with power. Fear of change in the social order.

Change is hard - and needed.

One of our favorite bloggers, Tara Mohr, wrote about waking up in the middle of the night with a clear solution to her own angst. "Make the hours of your action equal to the hours of your worry." That meant matching the amount of time she spent in personal worry and shared venting with an equal amount of time working to make a positive difference.

These words shifted Mohr's personal energy from dwelling on fear to taking responsibility. It's a natural outgrowth of her coaching work with women to "play big."

Playing big means not keeping quiet during political conversations that differ from your own point of view. It means welcoming conversations that allow you to listen and try to understand another's perspective - and then voicing your own.

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For this issue we spoke with women who play big, including three long-term Minnesota legislators - Erin Murphy, Sandy Pappas and Patricia Torres Ray - about the challenges women face in political office.

And we tell the stories of two women more recently elected - Rena Moran and Melisa Franzen. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith shares thoughts about women in leadership. And Erin Maye Quade, a first-time candidate, shares thoughts about politics and girls.

We are wowed by the commitment and energy of our Minnesota women in elected office to make change in the world.

Politics is personal. Mohr reminds us to honor what we know in our hearts and minds, believing that there are more hopeful and "response-able" possibilities. We are hopeful that more women will be elected in November, including the U.S. presidency. We are hopeful of a new future with a new picture of what leadership can look like.

Coming up:

November's
theme Is "walls and bridges" and we're asking: When have you encountered a wall or a bridge? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: October 10, 2016
November advertising sections:
• Education and Lifelong Learning Guide
• Celebrations Guide
• Girlfriends' Guide to Giving
• Holiday Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: October 10, 2016

December's theme is our annual Changemakers issue. What would you like to see changed for women or girls? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: November 10, 2016
December Advertising Sections:
• Holiday Guide
• Spirituality Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: November 10, 2016





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