26 Mar 2009

'Walking with Feminists' managerial course

My best friend Melody Wittgenstein recently returned from a management training course (she’s setting up her own landscape gardening business). The ‘Walking with Wolves’ course run by the Institute of Leadership is an intensive two-day course exclusively for women. Melody had a real soul searching time. She sat in a circle under a juniper tree and talked about a wide range of topics, including depression, low self-confidence, low self-esteem, self-harm, being totally lacking in assertiveness and all the other challenges facing women in managerial positions. And yes, that’s right lady readers, as that wilful title so rightly pre-supposes, she then walked with wild wolves. Naked.

Well she wasn’t meant to be naked, but Melody insisted.

Pauline Stewart, winner of the 1987 ‘Business Woman of the Year’ Award, explains “As part of the course we match the alpha female behaviour within a wolf pack to the behavioural characteristics of today's successful business women.”

According to Pauline, and to other people who know absolutely nothing about wolves (or women…), the alpha female plays a pivotal role in every pack of wolves. Along with the alpha male, they control access to resources, exploit other pack members' strengths and weaknesses, and they can expertly manipulate situations and individuals. As leaders they are confident, socially independent and good at turning a situation to their advantage. “These are highly intelligent creatures”, said Pauline to Melody. “Examination of the alpha wolf's strategies provide real food for thought about the way we can usefully assert ourselves when it matters.”

Oh really Pauline? On the contrary, I would frame your analysis as incredibly sexist and brimming with the ignorance of a thousand Grazia magazines. What on earth do women have in common with wolves? Why do you think these kinds of courses don't exist for men? We should be embracing the ‘female economy’ in the workplace, not trying to imitate vicious bestial killers, who dine on the hearts of little babies and chickens in rural Bedfordshire. We should embrace those 'female ways of knowing' which involve increased listening, more emotional displacement and self-estrangement, rather than the argumentative ways of men and wolves. If more women were to enter Parliament the world would be a better place, not simply because their insights would inform new policies, but because their presence holds the possibility of transforming the ethos of the political ‘establishment’. True they haven't actually done that, but still (I call for All-Female short lists and Proportional Representation!) Anyway, if such a feat were achieved it would stand testament to the possibility of liberating the work ethic from centuries of masculine norms, thus saving the world.

This is not a Charlize Theron film, nor is it an opportunity to denigrate women to the level of animals. Think outside the box, Pauline, pick up a vagazine: Melody and her colleagues should have gone walking with a pack of wild Feminists. Walking with feminists is far more dangerous and would provide a much more enlightened observation of a highly intelligent creature.

What do you think? I’ve set up a little vote at the side of the page: which pack of feminists would you most like to walk with? The Gals from Seneca Falls; The Militant Suffragettes; The Bluestockings or The second-wave Bra Burners?

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