To talk about gender issues is to enter a potential minefield. For good reason. Historically, gender and racial differences have been used to stereotype women and blacks and limit them to societal roles that ultimately serve to preserve the dominant culture. This history along with the potential for further abuse raises the dilemma of how to deal with differences that may be real, that diminish no one, and that may be useful in understanding and interacting with one another.
Here’s my entry into the minefield. Today’s New York Times tells the story of Hope Solo, goalkeeper and one of the heroes in the recent US soccer victory over Brazil. In 2007 the US team lost the semi-final match against Brazil 4-0; Solo, still grieving over the death of her father, was benched. After the game, she criticized the coach and stated that she could have saved all those goals. The team members’ reactions against her were severe and durable. She was banished from the third-place game and from the team flight home from China; she was ostracized by team members who had been her friends. Even one year later, having made a critical save in the 1-0 gold medal win over Brazil, Solo described some members as still being “standoffish.”
The ambivalence of the situation is captured in a statement by Julie Foudy, a former captain of the American team. “I still think the argument of team chemistry is not gender based” even after she just described how she thinks men would have handled the issue differently. Is it difference or no difference? Let me make a case for difference, not a better or worse difference, but a difference that is worth understanding both for its strengths and limitations.
Lately I have been writing about Love and Power as two ways all systems – from the individual to the team, the organization and the nation – express themselves.
The Love orientation focuses on our commonality, our oneness; differences are played down; the focus is on our connectedness to one another, our mutual support in the service of a common goal. The taboos of Love systems are actions that separate us from one another.
The Power orientation focuses on our separateness, our independence, the elaboration of our difference. The taboo of Power systems is anything that constrains our freedom.
The terms Love and Power may be their own minefield: Is one weak, the other strong, one good, the other bad? In Creating Robust Systems I do my best to make the case for how both orientations are essential to creating sane and healthy human systems, and how dysfunctionality – from minor to catastrophic occurs in systems of Love without Power and Power without Love.
The unanswered question is this: Would it make a difference if the Women’s Championship Soccer team saw themselves as a system in which Love predominates over Power, to see how Love underlies their strength and success along with the relational vulnerabilities it entails?