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the power issue 2000
women & power
by Rachel Resnick
what makes you feel powerful?

Power bars, power lunches, power yoga, power brokers, power suits, power bras -- power bras? What do YOU think of when you imagine women in power? Strippers swinging their tits? Moms spanking their kids? Movie stars firing their directors? Bloodlusting, barebreasted amazons? Blissed-out earth mamas? Knife-wielding wives? Dot.com dames? Vengeful witches? Highwire bitches?

barebreasted amazons?

THE BOOK asked a range of L.A. women what made them feel powerful. We tried hard for a splash-mix of blue-collar, white-collar, celeb and non-celeb, young and old, black white brown yellow purple and green -- as a gesture toward L.A.'s dizzingly diverse populace.

We were stoked by the responses! Read on, and see if your own sense of power cranks up a notch.

I feel powerful driving my car. I labor happily under the illusion that I am an incredible driver, (not true) and that I rule the roads. I am the Roads Warrior. I exert my power verbally. By twisting my words around a turn of phrase. When it sings over the plate, when I hit it out of the park, I win the war of the words and feel free.
Carrie Fisher, writer, actress.

Money. Money money money.
Money, diamonds, tennis shoes, money.

Caroline Tweedy and Vamonica, LAX transport employees.

I've grown up with the idea of being powerful because of my size, so it was about embracing that size at age 17 or 18. I feel most powerful when I'm not fighting it. Powerful doesn't mean I don't have the normal things like fear and doubt, but I don't allow them to dictate my actions. So like a kill in volleyball, that's a physical moment, but what makes me feel powerful is all the stuff that led up to that moment.
Gabby Reece, beach volleyball player.

I don't like the concept of individual power. The way I create power is by corralling the powers of individuals together, and organizing them. If someone's exerting power, it's usually over someone else, and inherently there's something exploitive about that. Whereas people exercising their power collectively, that's something powerful and strong and good.
Triana Silton, labor organizer, Local 1877, Justice for Janitors strike.

Power is having writers for glossy magazines call you up and ask you what your definition of power is. You exert power by making them wait for your answer.
Anne Beatts, comedienne, writer.

Motherhood. Giving birth with a fifty hour labor and no drugs made me feel powerful, and how amazing it is to be a woman and be able to do that. I exert my power by trying to stay positive.

Rosanna Arquette, actress.

When you go on a critical patient call, you are basically God. You have the power to save someone. Something as basic as a choking might be critical. They were just eating, and you fish out a hotlink the size of your arm. You've prevented braindeath. It's just a totally bitchin' job. I help people. And I'm on my own. I'm independent. I don't have to be a wife to be a functional person in this world, I don't have to have kids to be productive.
Pat Morse, veteran paramedic.

stalking the stage in my kickass gogo boots...

Knowing that I own the room. Stalking the stage in my kickass gogo boots, singing like a woman possessed.
Erika Amato, lead singer of Velvet Chain.

What really makes me feel good, powerful, is God in my life, Jesus in my life. Plus my family, childrens, then my job. That's the main thing that makes me feel good. He gives me strength.
Maria Martos, immigrant from Nayarit, Mexico, mother, bus driver.

I'll be 80 in September, I look like I'm 60 and feel like I'm 30 and act like 20 and I'm the happiest I've ever been. When my husband Ben and I came back to Hollywood from thirty years in France, I sold the Examiner the idea of a column. Getting a column out every week made me strong. I became the strong one. When Ben died, I flowered. At his death, lots of people were upset that I flowered. Since then I've really come into my own.
Norma Barzman, one of original Hollywood Blacklist.

Being submissive makes me feel powerful.
Monah-Li, fashion designer.

I feel very powerful because I always know when I have a rip in my pants. I can squeeze into places no one else can. I fit in a duffel bag with my legs around my neck.
April Tatro, contortionist.

When I was sixteen I gave birth to a baby boy with missing heart chambers. He lived until the day before his first birthday. I became anorexic after he died. I don't know how I got through it, but seeing my son fight for his life the way he did made me hold onto mine. The strength my son gave me makes me a powerful women.
Dalia Lopez, peer education/HIV counselor at LA Free Clinic, mom.

Honesty. Speaking my mind.
Heather Graham, actress.

As a garment worker and a woman, I know I have power because I have made an impact. I have defended my own rights and fought for respect for workers. I have also raised a family and having children and working full-time, I have struggled. Many people think women are weaker, but we are strong when we value ourselves.
Graciela Ceja, garment worker 18 years, Mexican immigrant.

women are already powerful from the moment we're born

Some days a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Nice and spiky! How do I exert my power? Y'know...I'm a woman! W-O-M-A-N! Women are already powerful from the moment we're born. The best use for power is to show understanding and compassion through thoughtfulness. I've learned that from being a mother.
Trudie Styler, producer, actress, activist, wife of Sting, and most of all, mother.

Driving fast or doing nothing.
Deanne Stillman, writer.

Power rests gently in my hands. These hands are what I use to chop and mix for the making of meals. To say "fuck you" to bad drivers, caress the faces and bodies of oh-so-good lovers. Or give myself pleasure on loveless nights. There is strength in these hands. The way they braid my daughter's hair. Hold the pen and write poetry. There is no-one that can see these hands, beautifully gloved in the blackness of my skin; there is no-one that can watch them curl tightly into two defiant fists, and tell me that history does not hold them as a symbol of power.
Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, native of Ghana, writer, editor.

The fact that I can just smile, and, not only get what I want (most of the time), but cause a bulge in some guy's trousers. When the smile fails, my command of the English language, you know, like, totally makes me feel as though I can talk my way into, out of, or through any situation.
Brandy Alexandre, ex-porn star.

Being in the ring, feeling the ropes, the mat beneath my feet, grappling with my opponent, and then picking up my opponent and slamming them to the mat and going for the pin.The hands of the fans reaching out and touching me as I make my way to and from the ring.
Cindy Taylor aka "RIO STORM," professional wrestler.

Knowing that we (people, things, earth, all beings) are all Equal AND all Different. How do I exert my power? Ouch! It's tough living from that place!
Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Abbott of Zen Center of Los Angeles.

At 30 mph on a horse and swinging a big stick, I am queen of the world. Horses are the great equalizers. I'm more of everything when I'm on one.
Jennifer Olds, poet, polo player, student, and mother.

I feel powerful in platforms.
Jessika Wood, painter, artist, girl.

Most of us don't say, I feel powerful -- not in the main. Though I do realize I am powerful because of what I represent as a very active and productive woman of my age -- which is creeping up there.
Angela Lansbury, actress.

As a civil rights lawyer, it is my responsibility to see that the legal system does work even for those without money. When the workers ask me why I am so committed to fighting sweatshops and to defending their humanity, I tell them that I believe that using my power in this way is defending the humanity of all of us.
Julie Su, lawyer with Asian Pacific American Legal Services, defended El Monte Thai sweatshop workers.

My only sense of power these days exists in the yielding of 'self' at the end of a yoga class; in 'savasina'-- a total surrender where there is no struggle; when boundaries don't exist, when past and future aren't linked in platitudes like 'everything happens for a reason', when one's place in the world feels, for that moment, known.
Lizzie Borden, director, screenwriter.

The power that I am is this beautiful clit and cunt between my legs.
Pommela de Terre, ex-dental hygienist, ex-stripper.

having a lot of birds and water around is power

The more I resist cynicism and meanness, the more powerful I am. For a long time I wasn't sure how.Now I think I'm getting more of the hang of it. I don't have a television, or read the newspaper, and I live in a beautiful, small, slow town in a third world country. Having a lot of birds and water around is power. It's powerful to have a small tribe of really honest friends.
Joy Nicholson, writer, former stylist, world wanderer.

Money. Not doing what I don't want to do.
Eve Babitz, writer.

My power comes from within. I am my toughest critic and if I succeed in being pleased by something I have created -- like perfecting my favorite dinner: yellow split peas with crispy basmati rice -- I feel downright omnipotent.
Mary Sue. I have to say that I feel most powerful when the restaurants are totally swamped, and every minute of my day is crammed full of meetings, and I DON'T FEEL OVERWHELMED. When it all works like a well-oiled machine it's an amazing feeling. Susan
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger
, chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook authors, radio and TV personalities.

My business power is derivative. I am powerful because my clients are powerful. I understand it is not about me. It is my job to guide my clients in exercising their power. But what makes me feel powerful? A perfect triple pirouette, making good decisions, running fast, conquering my fears, being asked my opinion.
Melanie Cook, lawyer to the stars, dance teacher, soccer Mom.

Clarity equals power.
Judith Freeman, critic, writer.

When I was drumming a whole lot with my band in NY it made me feel like I had disappeared. I would not feel my physical body but just pure energy, and I'd meld it with the sounds and the people in the room I was performing to. It was like a wave, a constant wave, that flowed out through the entire place and came back to me.
Tia Sprocket, multi-instrumentalist.

I don't feel that we ourselves 'generate" power, I feel that we channel the energy available in the world. I don't feel it's "my" power. I think we often mistake power for dominance, for control. I feel most powerful when I feel least "I"--when I'm very simple, just a conduit.
Janet Fitch, writer.

To be free. I feel more powerful when I keep it quiet. I think nobody knows how much power I have. It's like when you have a turbo engine -- you don't put it on full gas unless you're going uphill.
Veronique Vial, celebrity photographer.

Every time I put a needle into a patient, I imagine I am releasing dammed energy from a river. When a patient yells and screams, energy releases and is restored in a patient's body.
Dr. Victoria Liao, acupuncturist, herbologist, chiropractor.

There's always that feeling of power when I can surf better than the guys out there. I am my happiest when I'm in the ocean. When I surf, I'm able to blend the power of the ocean with my own.
Ashley Sherwin Lloyd, one of the world's top female longboard surfers.

When I step out to dinner with my distinguished husband on one arm, my handsome just-graduated from college nephew on the other, and I'm wearing a black miniskirt, sheer black lace shirt, and high black Gucci stiletto heels. I feel powerful because even though the vet said my dog is in end stage renal failure, and should have been dead last August, because of the intense care I've given him (dialysis twice a day) he's alive 9 months later.
Jo Giese, writer.

There's one customer who always complains. "Why do you order if you hate the food? Why put yourself through it?" I say. I'm real direct. I try to communicate. But people don't always listen. When they do, that makes me feel powerful.
Waitress. Name of waitress and establishment withheld on request.

a fresh bikini wax, and my Gucci python stilettos

Being happy...that and a fresh bikini wax, and my Gucci python stilettos.
Katherine LaNasa, ex- pro ballet dancer, mother, actress, Mrs. French Stewart.

Not wanting anything more than what I have -- that AND writing and performing my shows, rousing an audience, having the audience rouse me. ALSO --- Joshua Tree, any time spent there makes me feel powerful.
Ann Magnuson, actress, journalist, performance artist.

Power is everywhere all the time. It's in every conversation we have, every deal we make, every face we kiss. It's in the hands of every driver, every player, every hater, every lover. It can be used or abused. It can be about pleasure or desire. But desire only exists where pleasure is absent. Power is everywhere all the time.
Barbara Kruger, artist.

My power comes from having "Fuck You" money. I never actually saying fuck you. Instead I have a really naughty smile and a kind of dirty look around the eyes, and I only do the projects I want to do.
PJ Torokvei, post-op transsexual, screenwriter, producer, director.

Cooking and sobriety. When I cook for friends and family, I feel like an earth mother, feeding the weary travelers on their various quests. Being sober eighteen years, I feel an inner day-to-day power that has grown like the tree rings on a redwood, adding up to something like that purple heartwood you find in a really great tree.
Jo-Ann Mapson, novelist.

When the Death card comes up in a reading and I know I can transform someone's fear of Death and destruction into rebirth and a new direction.
Julie Feldman, astrologer.

the ability to say "fuck it" and mean it

The ability to say "fuck it" and mean it. That's power. And despite all the naysayers, despite the racism, ageism and sexism rampant in the entertainment industry and the world in general, I keep laughing, saying "fuck it!" and jumping off the cliff.
Sid Clifton, director of TV development at Film Roman,
writer, mother, wife.

I feel powerful when I think that my mama picked cotton and my daddy picked fruit and that they pushed and clawed their way out of that life and gave me and my sisters a better one.
Earlene Fowler, mystery novelist and first generation American-hillbilly.

Being attacked by my 200-pound male mountain lion "Phoenix" and living to tell you all about it!
Mollie Hogan, Founder and Director The Nature of Wildworks Wildlife Care Center.

Eating.
Maya, 7 years old.
Love.
Pindella, 5 years old.
Drinking.
Cheyenne, 5 years old.
Three sisters at Topanga's Earth Day celebration.

Wearing shoes that stilt me up to 6'1" makes me feel powerful. I like to tower. Even Jimmy Carter was tall. Less obvious is the power I feel when I, however fleetingly, annihilate my ego.
Christine Ben-Yehuda, reporter, event planner for "Sweet Relief."

The experience of pushing my baby out, and her lying there on my chest, and knowing I did it. I did this. It wasn't done to me.
Cordelia Satterfield Hanna, professional labor companion, homebirth mother.

I exert my power through my writing, and midriff T-shirts.
Sharon Yablon, playwright.

When I think of what makes me feel powerful, I remember smashing girls' shins with my hockey stick, tackling women on a muddy rugby field, beating a friend in arm wrestling. I think of clomping around in beat-up combat boots; speed-driving a cherry red metallic pickup in sexy clothes and high heels. Cumming multiple times. Exhibitionism. Anger. My tongue as branding iron. My words a fiery plague. Men desiring me. Dreaming of me. Money. Escaping traps, changing. Eating fear. Big silver wrist cuffs. Travelling far away. Not staying still. Staying still. What makes YOU feel powerful?

rachel resnick's novel go west young f*cked-up chick, is out in paperback.
visit rachelresnick.com°

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