Actress, author and activist Jane Fonda urged women attending the first Time for Our Power! Conference in Asheville to claim their voice as strong women and “own” their leadership abilities.
Through leadership qualities such as vision, empathy, courage and passion, women can “become the change we seek,” Fonda said in her keynote address to about 300 women gathered at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium last Saturday.
Fonda’s talk focused on women’s ability to lead, while also touching on everything from her opinion of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to what she learned from her activism during the Vietnam War.
Men and women work differently in leadership roles, Fonda said, with men tending toward a top-down approach while women favor a “circular approach” that’s more inclusive. “It’s not that women are morally superior to men, it’s that they don’t have their masculinity to prove.”
Fonda, 70, said she saw that firsthand in her early experience with antiwar activism. She said that President Lyndon B. Johnson admitted later that he was afraid of being seen as an “unmanly man” for pulling out of Vietnam. “No wonder those guys are so afraid, and continue to be afraid, of premature evacuation,” Fonda said to a round of applause.
Here’s Fonda on other topics:
• On Obama: “For the first time, the Democratic candidate is a man who has the capacity for feminist leadership.”
• On her activism in Vietnam: “I made a terrible mistake in North Vietnam”—but Fonda said she learned from the episode. “You never want to discount the criticisms.”
• On abortion: “Reproductive choice is not about the fetus at all. It’s just the most recent strategy to deny us a fundamental human right. … It’s an issue of power, not an issue of the fetus.”
• On marriage: “I’ve been married to three very different men, and all have been wounded by masculinity.”
In the end, Fonda told the group to lay claim to their leadership strengths and support one another. The results can shake the world, just as tectonic changes can reshape the globe, she said: “I’m here to encourage you to be volcanoes.”
The conference, organized by Maureen McDonnell, who works as a conference coordinator, and Lisa Watters and Patty Levesque, both Mountain Xpress staffers, included three days of talks and workshops on topics ranging from health care and business to environmental issues and the arts. The group is considering making the conference an annual event.