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.
Laura Connolly, Founder of World Wise Beauty
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…
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.
DOING POWER DIFFERENTLY
|Strong/weak hierarchy model||Partnership model|
|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!
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?
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.