Powerful Women, Powerful Messages
When Lauren Fleshman asked us to come to the Muse Conference because she, Sally, and Kristen Kirkland from EMC were going to be on a panel, we weren’t sure what to expect. Lauren had been raving about last year’s conference. David (who shared his takeaways in Muse-ing on Superheroes), Heather, and I road-tripped down together with different mind-sets. The kick-off was a ceremonial “Jingle Dance” by Umatilla ceremonial dancer, Acosia Elk, followed by 19 interviews and panels that lasted the entire day. It was tightly-packed and emotional. Here are some more moments that stuck, here to inspire.
I was hoping to come out of the weekend with a sense of inspiration, to learn how a group of women who didn’t know each other could come together to create a positive force in the world; the very thing that the Volée is about. I hoped I would come away with some more guidance for shaping the future of our own powerful team.
Maranda Pleasant, founder and publisher of three publications, uses her writing, photography, and art to inspire passion by telling the stories of the voiceless. Maranda rejects the notion of keeping ourselves small to fit in to societal norms:
“We are trained and conditioned to base our work on external approval and validation. We support a feeling that we need to be liked… and that is the bullshit koolaid that we need to stop drinking.” - Maranda Pleasant
Each of us have been violated or diminished to a certain degree. I thought a lot about the Volée, about the fact that many of us have been forced to feel small, quiet, and to stay "pretty". Instead of conforming to societal norms, we have the power to stand together, to take back these labels that have been stamped upon us. Together we can redefine new standards for ourselves, and share our stories creating one collective voice that is all in on a woman up world.
Many conversations that arose at the Muse conference revolved around traumatic events, which can shape passion and our purpose. Hala Khouri, Yogi and creator of Off the Mat, Into the World, called attention to the fact that “the wound is our gift”. She used the term "post traumatic growth...With the right balance of trauma and support, we can be really interesting people and we can do really inspiring work." With a strong support team, we can tackle the hard stuff; the moments and things that inhibit our ability to respond or to cope. I am thankful for the women of Oiselle flying with me, and hopeful for that support the Oiselle Volée lends.
In a room filled with brilliant, powerful, creative, inspiring women, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit small. What mark could I, Heather Stephens, leave on the world? Just as this unsettling feeling began to fester within me, the CEO of Pacific Superfood Snack Company, Sarah Pool, took the stage.
“All of us here today face adversity every single day of our lives. That voice in our minds that tells us that we’re not good enough. That voice that tells us that someone else’s opinion about how we should be, how we should look, how we should walk, how we should talk, how we should think, who we should become, is more important than our own uniqueness." - Sarah Pool
Her words resonated with my discomfort and forced me to take a good hard look at the biggest opponent standing in my path to my superwoman self. It’s always going to feel safer to sit quietly and to listen to the small little internal voice that says: “Maybe share your idea tomorrow instead of today. Who are you to have an opinion? You don’t deserve to stand in the spotlight.” Sarah’s words gave me a new lens to view the room filled with brilliant, powerful, creative, inspiring women. These women started their journeys with the same feeling of uncertainty that I had. Their magic started to take shape when they learned how to turn down the volume of their smallest voice and started to stoke the fire of the superwoman voice that existed within.
I went in with my guard up. I was afraid it would be women telling me what to do, or “how to be a leader.” I’m a skeptic by nature. But since Lauren recommended it, and I trust Lauren completely, I allowed her to lead me to this circle of women.
When Nikki Myers, Y12SR founder, started to speak, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and the day got real for me. Nikki is an accomplished yoga therapist, teacher, businesswoman, recovering addict, and somatic experiencing practitioner whose focus is trauma and its place in our human experience:
“Yes, there are times when trauma overwhelms our capacity to cope and respond. But every experience is a valued and important piece of your personality. You have to welcome and entertain them all.” - Nikki Myers
Yes. I want to welcome and entertain all of my pieces. I know I will work with this amazing woman in the future.
Next, Kyleanne Hunter 10-yr Marine Corps attack pilot and gender advocate for the military, breast cancer survivor, now PhD student, discussed some of the commentary she has received for her work, including an accusation that she is the “Top Vagina Jihadist” (?slur or compliment?). Her wisdom:
“When you put yourself out there, don’t read the comments.” - Kyleanne Hunter
At the end of the day, 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi gave us all the ultimate reality check when she detailed her fight for human rights in Iran while facing family and personal persecution. “I love my family, but I love justice more.”
And my final lesson from the weekend: when I am in major superfan mode, my default is to offer Oiselle clothing. Safe to say I gave away some French Fleece this weekend. My love language is Oiselle.