Book excerpt: 'The Feminine Revolution'

Sarah Spain interviews powerhouses Amy Stanton and Katie Montiel (27:33)

Amy Stanton and Gatorade's Katie Montiel discuss building positive female role models, keeping girls in the game and being authentic in the workplace at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit. (27:33)

Excerpted from The Feminine Revolution: 21 Ways to Ignite the Power of Your Femininity for a Brighter Life and a Better World, by Amy Stanton and Catherine Connors.

As we've already seen, throughout history, women have been perceived as irrational. Wild, untamable women are an archetype that goes back to our earliest stories. Often that archetype is explicitly associated with nature. Consider the spirited goddesses of the Earth and the seasons. Homer's hymn to Demeter is his only poem about a female goddess-and it's entirely about the time that she overwhelmed the world with an explosion of emotion and in the process created the four seasons. Nature itself is associated with the feminine-we refer to Mother Nature, after all, not Father Nature. So is Fortune-the unknowable whims of the universe-which is always characterized as a lady. (Niccolò Machiavelli said, "Fortune is a woman." And because she is a woman, she cannot be predicted or controlled. Likewise Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "What inspires respect for woman, and often enough even fear, is her nature.")

Some of this is rooted in long-standing (male) fears about female disobedience. So much of the architecture of (most) societies has long depended on women's compliance-their willingness to stay in their proper place (the home and other domestic spaces) and do the work assigned to them (child-rearing, caregiving, household management). And so "disobedient" women who follow their own desires and reject social convention have long been deemed "wild" in the most negative sense. They are, in this view, literally antisocial: they are indulging their animal natures rather than conforming to the norms of civilized society.

Such wildness, of course, also rejects the norms of the good girl. And despite the many benefits to embracing those norms (see Chapter 11), there are also powerful reasons to-at least sometimes-ignore them. Clarissa Pinkola Estés explains this beautifully in Women Who Run with the Wolves: While it is useful to make bridges even to those groups one does not belong to, and it is important to try to be kind, it is also imperative to not strive too hard, to not believe too deeply that if one acts just right, if one manages to tie down all the itches and twitches of the wildish criatura, that one can actually pass for a nice, restrained, subdued, and demure lady-woman. It is that kind of acting, that kind of ego-wish to belong at all costs, that knocks out the Wild Woman connection to the psyche. Then instead of a vital woman you have a nice woman who is de-clawed. Then you have a well-behaved, well-meaning, nervous woman, panting to be good. No, it is better, more graceful, and far more soulful to just be what and as you are and let the other creatures be what they are too.

Connecting to our impulses toward wildness and unpredictability, to our ability to track with the mysterious movements of nature and the universe, to our capacity to embrace uncertainty and "go with the flow" is, in other words, a means of connecting to our natural selves. And even if you don't buy that there's anything naturally feminine about this, it's hard to dispute the power of connecting to your vitality and putting a high value on your emotional and spiritual freedom. Moreover-and this is especially important for those of us who don't aspire to goddess-like levels of free-spiritedness-it makes us happy. Research has shown that connecting to the wild does meaningfully boost our psychological well-being. Even just embracing uncertainty brings pleasure to our lives, in part because it adds spice and color (as one author points out, "spoiler alerts" acknowledge that knowing what's going to happen in advance takes away the fun).

Embracing uncertainty and "going with the flow" also puts us in touch with remarkable powers of creativity and learning. It allows us to experience things we wouldn't otherwise. It expands our experience and capacity for exploration. Think about traveling in a foreign land and losing your way: stressful and uneasy moments aside (assuming you prefer to be in control), getting lost may end up among your most memorable experiences-you couldn't have planned (or controlled) it if you tried.

Letting go is a path to growth. Who knew?!

Copyright © 2018. Available from Seal Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.