Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal
Photo by Federica Valabrega
Fearless. Iconic. That’s what the picture of Nancy Pelosi, standing in a room full of men, opposite the president of the United States, pointing her finger at him, is already, iconic. Let’s talk about standing up.
There have been many iconic moments like this involving women recently. In my last post, I talked about women acting. In this case, let’s talk about the act of standing up. From Christine Blasey Ford, standing, hand up, swearing to tell the truth in front of Congress, to Greta Thunberg at the U.N., shaming her adult listeners, to the statue,” Fearless Girl, on Wall Street, hands on hips, facing down the Bull, all iconic.
Recently, I was forced to revisit a time, more than 20 years ago, when I started a consultancy whose focus was “using the body in leadership.” This was well before Amy Cuddy’s “iconic TED Talk,” where she introduced the whole world to “power-posing.” The consultancy never really got off the ground. But I continue to believe in the power of the body and the intelligent use of its intrinsic power, especially for women.
That’s another thing that women have been denied for far too long, feeling, using, and relishing the power of the body.
Let’s be clear, looking pretty, dressed in a “power suit” and high heels, is not enough. Although Nancy Pelosi, in her solid primary colors, suits, heels, tailored, not “frothy” but still “feminine” style, exudes confidence, that’s just packaging.
If “clothes make the man,” women have always needed much more to be able to stand up, something coming from a deeper place.
While “fake it ’til you make it” by power-posing in the bathroom before a crucial presentation, and wearing a kick-ass suit at an important meeting, can work, when it’s time to stand up, they’re not enough. Nancy Pelosi understands that. And so do other women and even young girls. I bet Greta Thunberg was brought up to feel good in her young body.
There are exceptions to the rules about women and the use of the power of the body, whose allowed and who isn’t.
Although not exactly my area of expertise, I have to mention prostitutes and
“courtesans” here. Prostitutes are an exception to the rules, and they have at times been, if not quite members of “respectable” society, then respected for their particular power.
Artists and athletes are paid to use the power of the body for us.
While “regular women” have to sublimate the urge to perform, Serena Williams and Miley Cyrus, within reason, can go for it!
I’m thinking also about Madonna and Beyoncé, and how they practice the art of power posing and the power stance, every time they go on stage. No, the cone bras, sky-high heels, leather and chains, and in Beyonce’s case, mile long legs, don’t hurt.
Look at this picture of Madonna in the “iconic” Jean-Paul Gaultier “cone bra.” The strength in the way she’s wearing, an overtly feminine and sexual garment, is enhanced by the traditionally masculine pin stripe pants.
Her “power suit” aside, look at those arms, the arms that were criticized for looking “scrawny” and overly defined at the same time (women can’t win), are a real power statement.
Madonna was one of the first women who appeared on stage with “ripped” arms.
She was one of the first women to do lots, but as a personal trainer and avid weight lifter, I loved her especially for showing this aspect of her strength, literal strength. She was standing up.
Then Madonna mixed it up, her muscle with sexuality and strength, and she confused a lot of people. And many of us loved it.
Mick Jagger, after all, had been strutting, thrusting, and power posing for decades.
Bruce Springsteen, in his sleeveless t-shirts, biceps bulging, and tight, butt enhancing jeans, slid on his knees, sweat drenched, into popular culture worldwide.
So what can we mere mortals do to access the kind of strength that others are allowed? Way before Me, before Amy Cuddy, before Nancy Pelosi, there was Tadasana, Mountain Pose.
Whatever you might want or need strength for, a good way to start feeling strong is to literally embody strength, no matter how weak, fearful, or vulnerable you might feel.
Tadasana is the cornerstone of any good yoga practice. Practicing Tadasana on a regular basis, will use your body’s muscle memory to embed the asana (“pose”) in your body. And because of the “mind-body connection,” it also seats itself deeply in your brain so you can access Tadasana anytime and anywhere.
After a while, you don’t even have to be standing up to embody the strength of Tadasana. When that really nasty team member at work, comes slithering up to your desk to insult you once again, you can stand up while you stay seated in equanimity and confidence.
Even though you may never stand before the UN General Assembly, or a conference table opposite the President of the United States, it seems to me all of us, women young and old, are going to need to continue standing up.
*See this early post, 5 Precious Poses, for a whole set of poses that can help us access the strength within.
“I do get pissed off when I’m at some gay event, and there’s a 25-year-old, and he has no idea who I am. And I say, ‘You need to know more about your gay history boy.’ I think the younger generation takes it a little bit for granted.”