Seeking Powerful Older Women

powerful women, stereotypes, aging, role models

Seeking Powerful Older Women

{updated 2.7.18}

When you think of ‘powerful’ and ‘women’ who or what comes to mind?  By definition, powerful means “having great power, prestige or influence”. In 2017 women began asserting their voices and demanding more access to the world–in all areas of life. The #MeToo movement is still demanding a lot of attention and we are seeing some shifts in thinking and many changes as those who manipulate women are being pushed aside. This article is less about the political movement and more about aging women and our role in the world to shape policy, advocate for women and change public perception. Most important for me is the ways we as powerful women can  provide inspiration for ourselves and those following in our footsteps.

 

Here’s what I know about powerful older women. It’s not about thinness or whiteness of skin. It’s not necessarily the woman in the business suit or the one who’s successfully managed to hide her age through expensive plastic surgery and cosmetics. Power isn’t simply about having money or a visible position in the world. It doesn’t disappear when we hit menopause–the age of the crone. Power is strength and vision, commitment and beliefs–women who have a desire to make change in the world–even if that change is “only” in their tribe, or their small town, or work environment.

We can admire and gush over Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Maxine Waters and other prominent women but we also must look farther and wider. Society has shaped our view of what power looks like and it’s misleading. The original article started with listing and imagining very visible women–actresses (not actors), politicians, and CEOs (rare in number). I failed to consider women who remain invisible on a grander scale for whatever reason, women who don’t fit the cultural definition of powerful. Our unsung sheroes.

Let’s create different definitions. Let’s pay more attention to the women around us, instead of been influenced by media-produced and carefully curated images telling us who we must consider powerful or important. And, it’s worth noting that our culture, still, in 2018 isn’t predisposed to talk about power and women in the same sentence.

We must look inward and acknowledge ourselves as powerful voices in our world. If we can’t see and acknowledge our own strengths and capabilities we become stuck behind some wall of “But I’m not ________”.

At this stage in my life I want to see women who have navigated the waters successfully, whether in their professions or some other prominent way in their environment.  Role models. Women who aren’t afraid of their age or their success, comfortable in their own skin and proud to wear the mantle of power as well as share that power with others. And I want to nourish my own sense of purpose and power, along with that of the women I reach in my work and in my daily life.

10 Comments
  • Editor (Retired)
    Posted at 00:05h, 28 January Reply

    Walker, I can’t believe there are no comments on this one. My great-grandmother was a powerful woman, or at least she seemed so to me as a child. She was the matriarch of an unusually large family. I think she was held in exceptional high regard by the entire family, adults and children alike. She had lived a long life and done many things, and everyone respected her as a font of wisdom. Her opinion and advice were listened to. (Not powerful in the worldly sense as Hillary Clinton is powerful. Hillary’s power stemmed directly from her positions as senator and secretary of state, and from her connections.) I think throughout history, the grandmother figure is an archetype of the powerful woman.

    In the sexual realm, powerful is often seen as a dominant woman, a strong woman, a tall woman, even a woman with muscles.

    • Walker
      Posted at 09:29h, 28 January Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I think a powerful woman, in any context, is one who is comfortable in her own skin and able to navigate the world in her own terms. She works for good, rather than tearing people down. In sex? I don’t know how that works. Sex for me is about coming together as equals.

      • John
        Posted at 20:14h, 04 February Reply

        “Coming together as equals” — I think that’s the ideal for many people. I’ve always found that super intelligent women are the most sexy. Of course, there are so many variables in the word “equal.” I wonder if that’s one reason many women are into physical fitness? Don’t women want to be equal to their lover in physical strength, as well as intelligence and every other way? Like intelligence, I think physical strength makes a woman sexy, possibly in part because it’s seen as somewhat of a role reversal. And it’s a reason men are into physical fitness. Men don’t want to be less equal than their woman, either. What think you?

        • Walker
          Posted at 08:22h, 08 February Reply

          John,
          I’ve never given any thought to physical strength as it relates to equality and desire in relationships. I don’t think that most women, certainly not older ones, think they need to be as strong as a lover–that’s not the way most of us are wired.
          The article was written to talk about women as role models, as individuals who are coming into their own–very little to do with their relationships to men.

  • Lorraine C. Ladish
    Posted at 12:25h, 07 February Reply

    Yay, glad I can comment! I loved this part: “Women who aren’t afraid of their age or their success, comfortable in their own skin and proud to wear the mantle of power as well as share that power with others.” … I´ve written a lot about my lifetime struggles with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, losing it all at 46 and so on. At 54 I do feel the best I´ve ever felt and I don´t mean physically only – although that too – mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It´s been quite the ride to reach this point. To address the comment above about fitness etc. I started my fitness journey to cope with mental health issues, and I can say it´s helped me a lot (in addition to medication)! I continue it for the same reasons … and also to hopefully allow my body to keep up with my neurotic mind. But yeah, your post is not about that!

    • Walker
      Posted at 12:30h, 07 February Reply

      Thanks Lorraine. Sharing your story is a great example of how we can find our way through the things that get us down. You’re a great example of someone who has created her own version of life after 50, with style and grace and lots of stamina!

  • Liz Applegate
    Posted at 13:56h, 07 February Reply

    This paragraph gave me goosebumps: “Let’s create different definitions. Let’s pay more attention to the women around us, instead of been influenced by media-produced and carefully curated images telling us who we must consider powerful or important. And, it’s worth noting that our culture, still, in 2018 isn’t predisposed to talk about power and women in the same sentence.”

    Oh my goodness yes!

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:59h, 07 February Reply

      Good! Glad it resonates. I’m more aware than ever of the external powers that try to shape us.

  • Shari Broder
    Posted at 15:21h, 07 February Reply

    Love this post! I just saw the movie “The Post,” and grew up in Washington during those days and recall my admiration for a few women role models like Kay Graham, Gloria Steinem and others. Nowadays, the list of strong women is a lot longer so our daughters have many more role models.

    • Walker
      Posted at 15:56h, 07 February Reply

      I saw the movie as well, thought it was well done; though I don’t remember enough about what was going on in the political arena. I’m glad for role models for us as well as our daughters and granddaughters!

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