I took a few minutes in between cooking and laundry, ironically enough, to read an article in the Chicago Tribune today about power. The article, “Women and Power”, explored the definition of power that is met by the women on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list, and whether Forbes’ definition of “money, access, and connections,” is really the measure we should be using. Not surprisingly, most, but not all, of the women on the list have more money at their disposal than the rest of us.
Of course, first there had to be some talk about the disparity between men and women, the difference in the standards to which they are held, the corporate boy’s club, etc. I didn’t find this as interesting as I did the quotes from a few very intelligent women that were interviewed about what they thought of this list. First, a woman named Nilay Yapici, who is a “postdoctural fellow in the laboratory of neurogenetics and behavior at The Rockefeller University in New York.” I’m going to go out on a short limb here and guess that this woman is brilliant. While her point of view that there should be more scientists and researchers on that list is certainly biased towards her profession, I think she is spot on. She asked, “Who is really powerful: the person who gives the money, or the person who has the idea and makes the discovery?” According to Forbes it’s the money. But I tend to agree with her underlying point, the people that make it happen aren’t given nearly enough credit. Obviously the research doesn’t exist without the funding, and having the position to control where the funding goes gives that power, but shouldn’t the brain that solves the problem get some too?
Next they asked psychotherapist Simone Kornfeld, (again, probably pretty smart) about supermodel Gisele Bundchen holding the number 83 spot. First she noted that while Bundchen may be a very savvy businesswoman, her presence on this list is an acknowledgement of the “reality that beauty is power.” Whether we agree that it should be or not, I would bet that most women who grew up in this American society would have a similar reaction to mine: smirk…..pppfffttt…….shake of the head……sigh…..ain’t that the truth. But where Simone Kornfeld goes next fascinated me. The article says that having Bundchen on that list “probably provoked the most eye rolls.” She says, “We push women to have beauty all the time, and then we get mad at them when they do.” It’s such a sad statement, but I believe she is right. Girls are pushed to reach an impossible standard, and when 99% of us can’t meet it, we respond with envy, anger, gossip, and rejection.
I will admit, I am happy to be nowhere near the top 100 list. I don’t want the power to make the decisions that those people have to make. I don’t want to spend hours on my appearance every day with the worry that I would be caught with a bad hair day. But of course there is some awe (envy) in watching these power players live out their lives in very public fashion. I think that I’m mature enough to be done worrying about meeting societal standards that I can’t/don’t want to meet, but I won’t pretend that I don’t slip sometimes and fall to the temptation of making fun because the internet makes it easy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.