How might feminism shape our approach?
There is no singular, packaged definition of a feminist strategy and, in fact, the lack of a unilateral definition speaks to the nature of feminism itself — that it is emergent, responsive, and embraces the unknown. In her book Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown lays out qualities of emergent strategy that highlight aspects of what we hope to infuse our feminist approach with. ”Change is constant, be like water,” “less prep, more presence,” and “never a failure, always a lesson” are some of her statements that allude to the potential within the unknown.
Feminism brings abundant expansiveness — it not only allows for play, it requires it.
The dominant paradigm is packed full of seemingly immovable goals, objectives, and deadlines — which lack space for the shifting nature of any complex project. Instead, feminism requests that we hold people and processes as more important than predetermined plans or outcomes. This allows us to respond to the reality of any given moment — even when that reality is shifting like quicksand.
Integrating a feminist approach asks us to look through a multitude of dimensions and angles, to consider the linear as just one tiny fraction in time, a simplification of what is moving, vibrating, connected, and shifting. Instead of asking questions that keep this simplification in place, we see how much play we can create, plucking the string to make it dance, loosening the ends, making connections, and welcoming knots.
While linear approaches to strategic thinking cannot easily integrate these shifting (sometimes painful) realities, a feminist approach allows for the collaborative creation of guide rails in an agreed-upon general direction, making abundant space for pattern finding, meaning-making, and complex conversations and decisions.
Applying this approach better equips us to thoughtfully examine all the initially unseen nooks and crannies inherent to any process and life.
A feminist approach reminds us of uncertainty.
Linear thinking falsely leads us to believe that we can control unexpected matters without acknowledging emergent realities. We barely know the present! When we focus on events, actions, and what is on the surface, we misunderstand reality. Lacking depth in our understanding, we do not see the myths and beliefs that hold our current systems in place.
When we are mindful of feminism, we are curious about the unknown and aware of our agency within any present moment. This allows for a strategy that is responsive, more applicable, and more deeply able to accommodate the reality of impermanence.
We cannot ever know the exact future! Knowing that the future is not predetermined, the future is not predictable, and future outcomes can be influenced by our present choices, John Voros offers The Futures Cone as a tool for strategic thinking that considers the possible future, a wide expanse beyond the probable, or even plausible.
Feminism allows us to operate from our values and principles.
In the application or practice of anything, it is helpful to inquire why you practice something. Not what or how, but why is this approach the right one for this project? Analyzing the why can bring us to examine and understand our core values and principles, which we want to inform our work.
When we integrate feminism across and within our strategy, we are able to lead from other important principles–abundance, dignity, and connection. It offers permission for sensing and intuiting and for deep listening, critical to the navigation of complex terrain.
Feminism invites us to shift into human be-ing
Finally, such an approach is relevant and timely. In responding to a world that is in significant shifts, collapse, and unveiling, we are excited about holding the essence of being-ness that feminism invites us to over the doing-ness of the dominant paradigm. The application of feminism can encompass more socially-just actions, shifting away from the dominant culture and, instead, moving toward transformational work, with a focus on how we show up over the exact specifics of what we do.
As in any shift, the fear of letting go is present, yet when we refuse to do so, we greatly inhibit future possibilities and opportunities, missing out on much goodness.
Resources for further exploration:
This article was written by Sonja Ausen in collaboration with and Katrina Mitchell.
Sonja says: feminism (intersectional) is important to me because it boldly believes that our collective sum (reference to the sum of us) is critical to our collective liberation. Dismantling oppressive systems is possible when we do the work to unite across (often) painful differences that are exacerbated by dominant culture in order to keep us apart. Feminism invites healing to anything we do — not running from the difficult but rather holding it, knowing that the offering of presence itself is foundational to the radical change it can catalyze.