When I looked up the definition of “power,” several words came up that were accurate, but disconcerting — authority, control, strength, force — often connected to “over” as in “control over, authority over” and so on.
In the introduction to her excellent new book, “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” feminist and activist, Gloria Feldt writes:
We can start by changing the very meaning of power from an oppressive power-over to an expansive concept I call the power-to. And if we muster the courage to stand in our power and walk with intention, we can achieve our highest aspirations at work, in civic life, and in love for good — by which I mean we can transform power relationships for our own good and create good in the world for others.
This kind of power is at the very heart of Arianna Huffington’s success.
I jumped on The Huffington Post bandwagon — as a reader — almost from the start (full disclosure: I now write weekly for the site, focusing primarily on issues that are important to people over 50) and have seen it morph from its business and political roots to become the diverse content powerhouse it is now, with sections devoted to style, entertainment, health, travel, technology, divorce and more, while maintaining its strong political voice. In fact, only 15 percent of the traffic comes for politics, showing just how far The Huffington Post has evolved. Arianna and those with whom she shares editorial power — the editors, bloggers, and readers — have their fingers placed firmly on the global pulse… attracting nearly 25 million unique visitors to the site each month, and counting.
The concept is simple: invite people to create communities through blogging, commenting, and sharing on other social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We, the people, become the arbiters. By sharing her powerful position — as the leader of this site — with us, she made The Huffington Post even more powerful. I have been able to write about feminism being the new moral compass for change in the world, aboutfeeling invisible after turning 50, the mistakes many of us make in midlife, and about what we feel like when our hair starts to turn gray. All of us who regularly blog for the site can raise important issues, and start big conversations which often generate hundreds of comments, and continue on other social media. It’s exciting and empowering.
With the sale of The Huffington Post to AOL, Arianna is the toast of the media world (old and new), and rightly so. She created something with a relatively small investment of $1,000,000, (and many skeptics), and a few years later, sold it for $315 million. That’s pretty powerful stuff. However, even though this marriage between The Huffington Post and AOL seems to make good business sense on many levels, there will be detractors, some of whom have already started to air their views in the media.
Why? Arianna figured out early on that the key to power was to share it. And that makes some people uncomfortable, especially those who run traditional media. Here’s a snippet from an article by Washington bureau chief of The Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz:
Whatever her site’s flaws, Huffington saw a void in the market in 2005, well before Politico, The Daily Beast, or Twitter existed. And that says as much about the old media giants as about her business judgment. “Why didn’t The Washington Post or The New York Times or CNN create The Huffington Post?” Jarvis (Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York journalism professor) asks. ‘It’s too populist for them. They still think they’re the source of content and value and didn’t see the value in other people’s content.’
We, especially women, have a natural desire to share what we know with others dating back to the proverbial picket fence that separated yards where women would share gossip, news and recipes. As I see it, The Huffington Post is one great big virtual fence, on which readers and writers can casually drape their arms and engage in the conversation. In this arena, no one dictates the discourse… except us.
In “Daring to Be Ourselves,” a beautiful book filled with quotes from some of the world’s most influential women, activist and actress Jane Fonda had this view of power:
Women view power differently. It’s not power over; it’s power with. It’s about empowering others.
From the same book, Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute, said:
What would happen if women became empowered and could lead from their core basic values? Not just put women into a structure that is up-down power, like ‘I have power over you,’ but what if women could actually influence the way power is wielded in the world from a core feminine place?
It’s ironic that my recent article on The Huffington Post — “Feeling Invisible? Readers Speak Out” — ignited a big conversation with hundreds of comments about how people over 50 feel ignored, pushed aside, stripped of power, and filled with fear about the future, even though we are part of the largest demographic in history, when the person behind the site hosting the discussion is a role model for all who are afraid of speaking up, speaking out, taking risks, and a woman who firmly believes that by sharing power, anything is possible.
Learn from Arianna Huffington, as I have: stay current; share power; maintain and grow your network of contacts; be on the lookout for opportunities; engage in technology and social media; take care of your health (a “top read” post on HuffPost this week is an interview with Arianna about the importance of sleep); connect with the world; and keep a positive attitude. It’s simple, really: believe in yourself and miracles can happen.
The most important lesson we can learn from Arianna Huffington, though, comes from her best-selling book, “On Becoming Fearless”:
We have so much potential, yet we hold ourselves back. If women of all ages are to take their rightful place in society, they must become fearless.
Powerful words . . . from a powerful woman.