My next book project, Walking in Her Shoes, delves into the human (yes guys do this, too) tendency to distance ourselves from anyone who threatens us. This could include anyone with more power than we have. I've come across (thanks to Katherine Routenberg) a fascinating discovery of a word to describe females in power. I think it covers the ambivalence better than "Iron Lady." The word is virago\vuh-RAY-go\, noun;
1. A woman of extraordinary stature, strength, and courage.
How's that for a narrow line to walk? Virago comes from the Latin meaning "a man-like woman, a female warrior, a heroine" from vir, "a man." Here it is used in literature.
This virago, this madwoman, finally got to me, and I was subjected to the most rude, the most shocking violence I can remember.
- Proverbs 21:9
It is better to live in a corner of a roof / Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
- Proverbs 21:19
It is better to live in a desert land / Than with a contentious and vexing woman.
- Proverbs 25:24
It is better to live in a corner of the roof/ Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
That's what holds me back.
I'm wondering, can a woman lead powerfully, beautifully, masterfully, wisely? Can a woman be a virago without being manly, ill-tempered and cold?
The problem surfaces when we assume that femininity must mean softer. How can you be "soft" and a leader? Perhaps our definition of a leader must change, or our definition of femininity. I have to admit that I assume a leader will be impartial, sort of rational, somewhat cool and calculating. I'm envisioning Solomon with the two women fighting over the one live baby, cool as a cucumber while asking for a sword to slice the infant in half, I Kings 3:16-28. Could a woman, would a woman do that? I actually think she could. But what would we call her afterwards? wise? or cold, unfeeling, an Iron Lady? For a good leader must be both wise and shrewd, careful and bold. A good leader must be able to put themselves into their subject's shoes, enough so to judge justly. And women are often very good at that, feeling what other's feel, seeing what other's see. Well, why doesn't this leadership trait get recognized as a strength rather than a weakness?
I don't know enough female leaders to point to one and use her as an example(Can anyone recommend excellent biographies of women in power?). So for fear of overstepping my bounds I'm going to stick with Jesus. Was Jesus a good leader? I'm reading through Mark right now, taking notes on Jesus and have found him to be more shrewd than I have hence remembered. He's bold, even sounds sort of bossy at times and he's very empathetic, quick to listen, even to pause and be re-directed in his plans (think of the women who bled for years and interrupted Jesus' resurrection miracle for Jarius' daughter). Of all leaders I've seen, I'd like to be like this one. Under Jesus' banner, women can lead.
Women can lead with power and wisdom, if they are acting like Jesus. So here's the follow-up question. Have you ever seen a woman lead like Jesus? What was that like?