The Power of Women

I am a feminist.

But I’ve never burned a bra. My relationship with bras has traditionally been qualified on facebook terms as “it’s complicated.” Honestly, three hooks?! In Hollywood, bombs are easy to disarm than this fabric/metal combo.

I don’t know if that was funny. It was funny to me. So I typed it. If it wasn’t funny, understand it’s because I don’t have a good grasp on humor and it has been more than 15 years since I was self-aware enough to recognize that my story-telling left something to be desired. My stories frequently lacked a punchline. They were process stories that were tangentially related to another topic and may or may not provide any conclusion. If you’ve seen Lost in Translation you can imagine what it’s like being told stories like that everyday.

But I digress from women which is a hilarious topic for me to write about because while I have many amazing friends who are women, my track record with women can be summed up by a woman I kissed at midnight on New Years’ (an occurrence about as frequent as Halley’s Comet) who later explained to me “You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing.”

Guilty.

But as ineffectual as I may be trying to channel Casanova, I was one of the first modern male feminists. You see, as I grew up in the 90s, I was not only exposed to strong positive female role models but I was repeatedly confronted with their badassery and awesomeness. Now 20 years later, little has changed.

First, I hold all the people I associate with to the high standard of people I grew up with. It’s simple: reach high, aspire for more AND back it up or we’re probably not going to be friends.

The result of that worldview is profound. The second you cut mediocrity out the space closest to you, you live in a constant state of inspiration. It’s a daily commitment to living outside of your comfort zone. A constant decision to understand that there are more deserts you will have to cross alone but the people who seek to associate with will force you to be the version that represents your “Best Self,” the person you want to be. And even a morsel of that changes your life.

And isn’t limited to women. You will find that the men you associate with also understand the plight of women. And this is always the point where I pause to acknowledge that women are on a massive climb. Think about equality as a stock and look back 100 years to a time when the fight for suffrage was current, when the first woman was a newbie in Congress, when the thought of a woman CEO or President would have garnered snickers. This is a stock you would buy for its consistency and its dramatic upside. Now the stock has risen to the point where it’s expensive but not so expensive that you can’t get a taste. Get on board this train. Women rule the world, men just haven’t learned that yet — and for that matter women haven’t fully embraced their collective power to the degree they would force men to acknowledge the role of women in developing our future.

There are only two sides to this issue, you’re either pro-women or you’re a misogynist. It doesn’t seem like it would be such a stark contrast but then you step into the real world. In soccer terms my father used to explain it as such: “Everything you do either furthers your aims and move you closer to your goals or it undermines them.” The same is true of equality, of equal opportunity.

So now we men find ourselves in a position to empower women or to fight against women. I for one, am almost always true to this goal. But there seems to be a sense that when men advocate for women it’s disingenuous, that our motives are somehow suspect. Women have to decide to trust, not with blinders on but understanding that those of us who seek to move the needle towards a better future understand none of it is possible without women.

I think back to my teenage self and I know that I saw the power that Julie Foudy wielded as she was able to choose between a path as a professional athlete and that of a med student at Stanford. I viewed Mia at the same level as Michael, yes because of Nike and Gatorade but also because Mia in all her humility understood the cross she carried was one for all women and she did her part, she does her part. While casual sports fans talked about Cal Ripken Jr. (and I was a fan) I saw Kristine Lilly, soccer’s iron woman, the balance to Maldini. Carla Overbeck brought a leadership that I had never seen a man embody at that point in my life and is still a high water mark for leaders I meet and associate with now. Michelle Akers was a warrior the Spartans would have been proud to call their own and the list goes on.

And in the center of all of this was my father and my mother. He wouldn’t have been prepared or successful without the guidance and the understanding of the “Divine Mother” which my Mom invested herself in understanding and he would never have been successful if he too wasn’t a feminist, believing that the women’s game, while different from the men’s had a power about, a power that could be unleashed on the world.

In 1999 it was. It took other male feminists, Alan Rothenburg, Hank Steinbrecher and others to join Marla Messing and Donna de Verona, to validate at a global level to FIFA a plan that captured the power of women in a bottle, in a Polaroid, in an instance that can only be viewed as historic.

For the month of June, into early July in the year of the Lord, one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine, women were the focus of the world’s superpower. There have been moments since, but the commitment to the collective required ongoing sacrifices from the 99ers. I yearn for that positive energy to be recaptured and I will be there to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who would see history repeat itself. Unfortunately, the conditions for such a transformation seem to be resigned by general consensus to peaks and valleys of such events. That is not how it has to be but it is the state we find ourselves in today. Women have to collectively decide to move out from the shadow and the light, well the light is scary. Love must be chosen over fear.