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Wise Gurus, WWB Book Wise Club

World Wise Beauty Selects ‘Cassandra Speaks’ as the Fall ‘Book Wise’ Pick

How would you like to take a walk through the ancient parables, tales and stories that have been created about women by men? If you are a woman reading this, you will jump out of your chair once you realize just how you’ve been not only written out of the stories but also misrepresented. If you are a man you might feel a wee bit uncomfortable and awkward if you haven’t looked outside your man cave lately.

The first chapter of this eye-opening and enlightening book by Elizabeth Lesser opens with a quote, “History isn’t what happened. It’s who tells the story.”  What we discover in Cassandra Speaks is history has been missing the voices, perspective, and energy of women for a long, long, time. What you should know before reading this book is– it is not another academic look at the suppression of women or the indictment of men.  It is really a very personal  book from a the author who has been earnestly trying to make sense of her own female experience, through a lens that has been distorted and fragmented for not just her life but all women for centuries.

Cassandra Speaks, When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes reveals how humanity has outgrown its origin tales and hero myths, and empowers women to trust their instincts, find their voice, and tell new guiding stories. These new stories just may save the world!

There are common words used today to evoke change like ‘call to action’ ‘revolution’ and ‘manifesto’, but as Elizabeth has reminded us so eloquently in this book, we need new words and language to evoke real motivation to truly evolve. In order for the same old sad story to change, we need to include the other half of the world who are women. Women who can co-creatively save the planet along side our men. Sometimes we may pull ahead and lead, but that’s okay because we have everyone’s well-being in mind every step of the way. Words like cooperation, interactive, collaborate, partner, mutual, and shared are empowering words once we clear out the cobwebs of the one sided lexicon of the dead-end past.

Ultimately this is a big book about the choice we all make, both women and men, between power and partnership. I am so honored to feature Elizabeth Lesser who is my guide and mentor from afar via her books and her work at the Omega Institute. I hope this Q&A with Elizabeth inspires you to jump out of the story someone else wrote for you, and create a new story that manifests a beautiful civilized society we can all participate in. Hopefully we are all beginning to understand ‘the planet’ won’t have it any other way. Sustain we must.  Together.

 

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Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty

 

 

 

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Lauroly Q- The title of your book is quite compelling and one might assume it is a book for women with a feminist message. Of course it is! But it is also a book for all of us to consider an enlightened paradigm, in which, both women and men can move from a power mindset to a partnership mindset. The key caveat is both energies need to be empowered and heard. Right now, that’s not happening. It seems in almost any aspect of life things don’t really get destructive or dysfunctional until there is a great imbalance. How did the feminine and the masculine human story get so muddled up? Your book answers that big question so well but for now your answer here needs a little ‘story’. Many people don’t know the Cassandra story, but many women will relate to the unfortunate message of the story. Let’s start here…

Elizabeth Lesser: Cassandra is a figure from an ancient Greek myth. She was a Trojan princess who was given the gift of clairvoyance and prophecy from the god Apollo, but when she refused his sexual advances, he was enraged. Instead of taking the gift away, he cursed her: “You will still know the truth, and you will still speak the truth,” Apollo told Cassandra, “but no one will ever believe you.” Cassandra indeed did see what was coming. She warned about the Trojan war, she foretold the death of her brothers and the ruination of her city, but she was told to be quiet, she was called hysterical, she was not believed. Even as her predictions came true, even as her warnings proved real, no one took her seriously. Women still see themselves in this ancient story—we know what our families need, our workplaces need, the world needs, and yet our voices are so often denigrated and ignored that we lose faith in our own wisdom. My book is about writing brave new endings to the Cassandra tale as well as so many other myths, parables, fairytales, books and films that have silenced women’s deep understanding of life, our priorities, and our voices.

Lauroly Q- I mentioned the phrase from power to partnership and you created a list in the book which clarifies the differences between these two mindsets culled from your extensive research. I’d like to share it here for the readers.

 

 

OLD-STORY POWER

DOING POWER DIFFERENTLY

Strong/weak hierarchy model Partnership model
Authoritarian Interactive
Collaborates competitively Collaborates connectively
Values individualism, fortitude, and action Values relationship, empathy, and communication
Withholds praise/ encouragement Generous with praise and encouragement
Denies one’s own mistakes and vulnerability Transparent about mistakes and vulnerability
Dominates, interrupts, overrides Listens, processes, includes

 

In the book you talk about the academic and intellectual arguments we have had in the last century on the differences between men and women. I agree with you that it does get frustrating and old, because it always corners both sexes into confining and reductive identities.

Reading your book made me think of the research anthropologist have done over the years on the Tiruray culture in the Philippines. This indigenous community believed in trust, goodwill and the benevolence of nature. It sounds so innocent in this day and age, when violence and power is glorified on a daily basis, in every media form we can think of. Miraculously the feminine was not devalued in this culture, nor was it elevated. Feminine and masculine just co-existed together. This is the crux of your book! Why do we have to keep perpetuating the old story of power and destruction created by just 50% of the world? It never ends well!

Elizabeth Lesser: I totally agree with you, Laura. The world is out of balance after millennia of male-dominated leadership in most human cultures. Humankind would be suffering from other problems if throughout history men and their talents had been relegated to a small sphere; if their sensibilities had been ignored and denigrated; if their bodies had been routinely violated; and if their creativity, intellect, and leadership had been suppressed. If women’s ideas, symbols, and metaphors had dominated in shaping our common history, humanity would have missed out on the great genius of the male of our species. Instead, it was women who were excluded. And in doing so, we have not only lost the genius of the female perspective, we have also suffered from an excess of the masculine, and we have prohibited both women and men from discovering their own inner balance, their full humanness. I like to imagine a day when masculinity is no longer synonymous with violence and misogyny. When it no longer is considered a crime against masculinity if a boy or a man is open with his emotions, if he feels fear and shows it, if he asks for help, if he is vulnerable, expressive, kind.

When I dream of a better world, I dream of men fearlessly reclaiming words and traits that have been coded feminine: feelings, empathy, and communication. I dream of women reclaiming traits that have been coded masculine: ambition, confidence, authority. But what I dream of most is women and men mixing it up, blending it all together, tempering power with wisdom, giving muscle and prestige to love and nurture.

We are seeing some countries in the world embracing this idea of women and men filling out their natures, blending the traditionally feminine qualities with the traditionally masculine ones. Men being involved, nurturing fathers; women successfully leading businesses and countries. Its so important for people in the press—like you!—to tell the stories of men and women who are redefining what it means to be courageous, successful, whole. I wrote this book because I believe that when women’s voices are equally esteemed, the culture will change and a different kind of hero will emerge—men and women who value caretaking, champion compassion, and elevate communication over vengeance and violence. I wrote the book as a call for all people to redefine what it means to be courageous, daring, and strong. I wrote it because I know we can do power differently; I know there is another way to live together on our one blue planet.  

Lauroly Q- Very powerful and insightful words Elizabeth, and so happy you shared your beautiful dream of a better world. Speaking of words, we can’t talk about story without acknowledging language and metaphors are powerful communication drivers. I love your challenge of going through an entire day without referencing catchwords and phrases about war and violence. I always hated ‘to kill two birds with one stone’. What is an alternative phrase for that one and why is it so important to be aware of our language?

Elizabeth Lesser: I’ll come up with an alternative to “kill two birds with one stone” in a moment! In the book I talk about how we describe almost everything we do—from having a discussion to having sex, from winning to losing, starting or ending, helping or hindering—using the words of combat, or force, or explosions? We call an argument a battle, and cooperation a cease-fire. In everyday conversations we talk about bombardments, firestorms, front lines, and wars on everything from drugs to the middle class. We join the ranks, take it to the mat, get in the crossfire, call in the troops. These words seep into our consciousness and affect the way we go about our daily lives and work projects and intimate relationships. I’m not suggesting we police people’s language. It’s so annoying when we do that to each other. What I am suggesting is becoming aware of the words we use, choosing them deliberately, and noticing how that changes our perspective. The next time you find yourself using metaphors from violent confrontations—either in warfare or contact sports— play around with other ways of describing common situations.

There are so many other words we could use to describe a woman’s beauty other than “bombshell” or “knockout,” or a person’s power other than “heavy hitter,” or a plan’s failure as a “dud.” And pay attention to how often you use sports idioms like “low blow,” “on the ropes,” “roll with the punches,” “saved by the bell,” “under the wire,” “dead ringer,” or “down to the wire,” to name just a few. Maybe it’s a perfect expression for what you mean. Fine. But maybe you want to look for other metaphors from other pursuits. Just to balance things out, just to fill our imaginations with the full range of what it means to be human.

OK, back to your question! “Killing two birds with one stone” means to achieve two things by doing a single action. Like, dropping off our kid at school on the way to going to work. Or, taking a walk while listening to a podcast. Or checking your email while talking on the phone (that’s about as negative a metaphor as killing two birds, but at least no murder is involved! Why would we use such a sad and violent metaphor—killing two birds—when talking about the mundane experiences of daily life?

Lauroly Closing: Wow, you are so right! Combat, force and explosions oh my!  I hope we all try to be conscious of the war like words that dominate our lexicon. As said, it’s not about policing our words but thinking about what they conjure up in our experiences every day.  Thank you so much for joining me Elizabeth, and for writing you inspirational book ‘Cassandra Speaks’. Your personal stories and experiences shared in the book will resonate for so many women. The big surprise is I bet there are many men we just don’t hear about in popular culture longing for more inclusive stories too. I recently did a Q&A with the male author of ‘The Eight Lessons of Nature’.  Lesson number four is “Healing the Planet, and Ourselves, Means Recovering the Feminine.’  Funny, when you get close to nature you begin to understand the interdependence of all energies here on earth. Let’s hope this wisdom will take hold so we can save ourselves and planet earth.

Elizabeth Lesser Closing: So many men understand exactly what your friend said. Some are still a little threatened by it. Sometimes I like to ask this question to a man who may be struggling with the whole “feminism” questions. Have you ever noticed how girls feel a sense of pride if they are called tomboys? How women feel accomplished when they join the ranks of male endeavors? Well, why can’t boys feel pride when they exhibit more “feminine” qualities? Why is a “tomboy” exalted, but a “sissy” is a source of shame? Why do men scorn the “feminization” of culture? What does this say about some men’s deeper feelings about women?  I believe it is time for women to tell our versions of what it means to be fully human; it is time for men to respect those insights; and it is time for all of us to integrate them into a new story of power. It may seem that in in order to hold your own or to get ahead you must shut down your vulnerable heart. That you must always be as cool and aggressive as the warriors and the superheroes. But this is a sad mistake. All of us—women and men—can expand our capacity to feel and empathize and give, even as we strengthen our muscles of discernment, self-respect, and boundary setting.

 

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