Dreaming 5 Ways the World Could Change for Women - and Men

Once per month I meet with 10-12 other powerful women, age 19-70, for something called the Women’s Dream Action Circle. I scoffed at the title when we first met six months ago. How silly and open-hearted and impractical! Now I get the name.“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities,” women’s activist Gloria Steinem says. “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”DreamingAppreciative Inquiry, which involves working WITH strengths instead of only tackling problems—a fairly new, very effective way of getting things done—is also based on the power of dreaming. It’s step 2 of the Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver process.Sometimes this question of when the world going to change for women feels so complex and daunting, all I have energy left to do is dream! And it’s a bit of a paradox because dreaming ultimately is what gives me energy to get back to activism.So here are a few ways I dream the world could, just might, if we can help it, change for women. Dream with me now:

  1. Chivalry 2.0! Men wake up, mostly on their own (with some help from women), to how much the world must change for women and for everybody and start talking about gender balance, leadership parity, feminism, the works. Men suddenly aren’t able to take it anymore—the violence against women; the lack of balance in our institutions; not having enough time to spend with their kids. And they rise up. They start talking about how too few women are in the board room, stop voting misogynists into office, and start advocating for women’s ideas, not because they’re women’s ideas, but because they’re good ideas. It starts to feel like chivalry all over again, except brand new. Men step up for women and women step right back up for them. Kind of like that scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere shows up for Julia Roberts and she “rescues him right back.” Ok, maybe that’s a stretch. But you get the point. Men begin to understand how we all need each other.
  2. Women DIY! Women get angry, hurt, tired, strong, transformed, and centered enough to go ahead and CLAIM the power they deserve in major institutions. We continue the work so many throughout history began for us, and we do it ourselves. We start national conversations like Anne-Marie Slaughter did last year, and WE RUN FOR OFFICE and win. Women’s conferences and gatherings continue to pop up everywhere we look, there are more demonstrations in the streets, we do the work of system-shifting largely by ourselves. Some of us take the time to teach men how they can best support us and make big invitations for them to join us, but mostly we are busy inventing new realities with or without them. Eventually they want in.
  3. Everything Is Connected. In this dream, society finally wakes up to intersectionality! It becomes clear that all the –isms, all the things out there that divide us and discriminate against so many of us, are connected and dependent on each other. Slowly we begin to understand that the only way sexism and gender imbalance will shift, in America or anywhere else, is if we start looking at racism, classism, homophobia and transphobia, etc. and get to work undoing all of these things together. It doesn’t happen all at once, but we see that we can’t effectively tackle one without the rest. Our separate organizations move more and more toward this theme. Maybe one movement for equality gains speed and brings women’s leadership parity along with it. The story moves in many directions, but “everything is connected” starts to take on a whole new meaning and feel much more concrete.
  4. Business Like You’ve Never Seen It. In this dream, women and men reinvent business and change our relationship to money and it’s actually pretty fantastic. But somehow (I can’t quite see it, help me out if you do), this also solves the problem of gender bias and systemic violence against women.
  5. Artists Lead the Way. Art and music have always been a part of movement building. So in this scenario, while many of us work to improve our institutions and try to treat each other better, artists watch and take note and essentially sing our dreams and hurt and visions for the future back to us. It feels like the 60s and 70s again, except it’s all different. Many of us, entire generations maybe, experience a profound change of heart and slowly change our attitude toward women and even gender. Men start looking at their own gender bias and experiment with new models of leadership; women start looking at their own gender bias and step into their power. We walk out of systems or lifestyles that no longer serve us and walk on to create new systems and lifestyles that honor and respect women. Art guides us and sustain us along the way.

What do you think? What other dream scenarios come to mind?The thing about dreaming is we have to do it for ourselves, no one else can. No matter how much we want them to do it for us or dream with us.As that seemingly paradoxical name of my Women’s Dream Action Circle says, dreaming means little without action. And we can’t act wisely if we don’t also do the vulnerable, tough, easy, messy, fun, strategic, intuitive work of dreaming, too.