We’ve come a long way from Cinderella and Snow White stories. Our pop culture only remembers the beautiful young women being saved by the strong handsome Prince and Hero archetypes. We often forget there was always the powerful, evil force in these children movies who was always a woman too. We can see both these archetypes play out in Halloween costumess: sexy or deadly.
Today, Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond and we even see Helen Mirren handle a gun as a deadly spy. Even the fall 2011 TV lineup is full of intriguing portrayals of women, from NBC’s Prime Suspect to Against the Wall on Lifetime, a channel traditionally portraying women as victims. You don’t have to like Sex and the City or the fashions to appreciate the four female archetypes the characters play. As we see and experience a rise in women’s power and diversify women’s social roles, are we merely replacing gender for the same social roles? Would women do it differently?
Different female archetypes in movies, stories and TV shows represent beliefs and values that enable modern society to understand and appreciate the evolving roles of women. We’ve always had, and still have, Demeter-style nurturers, the Aphrodite-like lovers as well as Artemis huntresses. I view archetypes as powerful forces and energies that operate within us, versus cultures and stereotypes that are forces operating and acting upon us. Culture is a way of life, collective learned behaviors reflecting shared values and beliefs. As history and environment change, culture evolves by adapting to those changes.
Although more than half of prehistorical pieces have been destroyed and lost, there is overwhelming archeological and historical evidence that proves both men and women worshiped the Goddess-Mother. Property was passed through the mother’s lineage. Goddess worship was equated to responsibility, nurture, give and love – rather than domination, destruction, oppression, privilege and fear. Her powers were oneness with nature – humans, animals, plants, water, sky and earth – a popular theme that is emerging in ecological survival in modern times. Why and how we shifted to a Patriarch society and whether there is a correlation between return to the “Mother” values and rise of women is a whole chapter in my book. But the question remains would gender balance in the top 1% change the infrastructure of our social and financial model. I started thinking about the old 70s movie Planet of Apes. Didn’t the Apes do the same thing to humans when the power was shifted? Would any of us do anything different if we were billionaires facing threats of loosing some of the billions that we own?
These are the questions that each of us should be asking ourselves if we truly want to experience a cultural transformation where performance and prosperity meet ethical values in leadership. Power, lust and greed can be very gender neutral. I for one like to believe that women will do it differently. We do have the “natural” capabilities of nurturing and giving. The key is not to loose those qualities in positions of wealth and power. Because that’s easy to do, specially given our history and social model. There is much talk about soft (feminine) versus hard (masculine) powers. I’d like to call it smart, ethical powers that is very androgynous. Think of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela as male role models. Think of Shirin Ebadi and Kavita Ramdas as female activists who integrate aspects of tradition and community to overturn oppression, challenging the very notion of western models of development.
I am working on defining a modern woman archetype, and would love to hear your thoughts.