There’s been discussion on the Huffington Post lately about the lack of central (Gloria Steinem-esque) figures in the women’s equality movement. My main resulting question is, do we even need one?
Pat Mitchell, CEO of The Paley Center for Media, called for all U.S. female leaders to be involved in gender justice movements because those women earned those top spots, they wouldn’t be maxing out the full potential of their positions if they didn’t specifically address the status of women today. Surely every movement benefits from having influential supporters, but the movement for gender parity and women’s (read: human) rights seems like it would gain the most momentum simply from everyone who’s interested getting involved.
Birute Regine of IronButterflies.com eyed the topic more critically by saying that the women’s movement will benefit more from collective power, and citing Gloria Steinem herself as espousing those same values of shared leadership. Regine draws analogies between the direction in which the business world is heading and the leadership of social movements: the blueprint for successful business no longer requires a dominant powerful figure with a my-way-or-the-highway attitude. Instead, emphasis is placed on networking, the sharing of ideas, and mentorship (not coincidentally, many of the admirable qualities being talked about in female-owned businesses).
Most recently (and ongoing) in the United States, this type of collective leadership can be seen in the Occupy Wall Street movements. A significant amount of people had the same frustration with the same issues, and got together as a collective voice to enact change. The fact that there is no concrete leader perhaps gives the participants more agency in what they dedicate their daily lives toward changing. It’s a bit of a stretch, but imagine if the gender parity movement in the U.S. had one umbrella organization and everyone who was interested worked only for that, and followed the philosophies of one leader toward success. We’d miss out on a lot of fantastic organizations and their respective leaders’ visions for the future.
Right now we have one goal, with many different, creative routes being taken – nobody has to wait for one specific leader to get the ball rolling. Don’t hang around lamenting the fact that there’s no one knightess in shining armor for all of us – look around you at all the great people already working for change, and more importantly, be your own leader right now!
April DeJarlais is a Communications Intern with The White House Project.