I’ve just read the latest installment of the Jane Yellowrock series, Broken Soul, by Faith Hunter. And I’m delighted to report that this series is getting better with age, which isn’t always true, so I’m quite happy when it is. And I love Jane. Just like I love Anita Blake, Meredith Gentry, Pia Cuelebre, Mac Lane and Catherine Russell (Cat). These are powerful women who make me swell with pride that I share their chromosomal makeup. I am woman, hear me roar. In Jane’s case, that is a literal statement.
There are so many things I enjoy and relate to in these strong, fierce women, and I know I’ll have more to say along the way as we journey together with these blogs. But the subject at hand today is the amazingly realistic way Jane (like Anita, Merry, Cat, and the others before her) assume the mantle of power and authority to take up leadership roles and guide their people away from danger and toward safety, redemption, connection, and fulfillment. What I find particularly poignant and authentic is the relatively reluctant way Jane steps into her role, but how, once she decides to go there, she picks up the scepter of leadership with strength and purpose. It’s a beautiful thing to witness. And it’s inspiring to experience the journey with her.
Why wouldn’t someone want to assume the position? It comes with power, authority, respect and deference. People in leadership positions have all sorts of folks sucking up to them and telling them all sorts of things I, for one, want to hear. Like how fabulous I am, how smart, beautiful, clever, witty, funny, strong, real, whatever it is I want people to think about me. And leaders have followers–individuals who live to fulfill our every wish. What’s not to like? Sure, that all comes with a lot of responsibility and accountability and an obligation to meet certain minimum standards. And the reality is that the higher the position, the more burden you get with all the perks.
We could take a page from some of my old government contacts and accept all the fun parts of leadership and sort of forget about the rest of it. You know, take what you like and leave the rest? What’s so terrible about that? Sounds pretty good on the surface to me.
Except, like the price Jane Yellowrock must pay to bend time to her purposes in Broken Soul, there is a price for taking without giving back and exercising power without compassion or compunction. But the reality also is that lots and lots of toxic leaders are placed in positions of power and authority who then abuse that power, sometimes in incredibly egregious ways. I left a job in the Pentagon once because I couldn’t stomach the miscarriages of justice that occurred in the name of kissing some jerk’s ass. And there are so many terrible examples of toxic leaders in the world today both in American politics and corporations as well as in the rest of the world.
But I’m digressing fairly far afield, so back to the topic at hand, which involves women in power positions. And the women who inhabit my beloved fantasy books are decidedly not toxic. I think that a healthy dose of reluctance in accepting positions of authority and power speaks to someone who understands the difficulties of leadership and is therefore probably qualified to exercise it. Like Jane. She is no power-hungry megalomaniac. But she is a predator, and she never wants to put herself in a position of being prey. Which, in her case, means taking charge and living large.
Which Jane does with aplomb. And grace. And compassion. But what I also enjoyed reading in Jane’s evolution from a lone hunter to a responsible and effective leader was her uncertainty and incredulity that anyone would ever take her seriously in such a role. That felt so authentic to me. Because if we aren’t questioning ourselves and our qualifications to be doing the things we do, especially when our actions impact other people, then we are probably on a slippery slope to egomania. So Jane’s introspection and moments of self doubt are probably indicative of someone well qualified to lead.
And the doubt and introspection are well founded. Lonely is the head that wears the crown and all of that. Lonely and scared and angry and guilty, in fact. Comes with the territory as leaders like Jane make life and death decisions with less than perfect information. Jane experiences first hand the unfortunate results of actions she had taken thinking she understood the situation and finding out belatedly that she was missing crucial facts. Which resulted in good people dying. No wonder Jane is reluctant to assume the position. It’s a painful and difficult thing to do. Kind of like a bad game of Twister.
And maybe women think more about all of the consequences of power and authority more than men do. Or maybe I am extrapolating from a pathetically small sampling of me and Jane and Anita and Cat. But, as I always do, I figure if someone is writing about this, and millions of people are reading about it and voting with their wallets and their reading time, there must be a horse in there somewhere. As in, where there is smoke there is fire. Most of the time.
So, for me, women in positions of authority are not only hot as hell (just ask Bruiser), but also smarter than the average bear. Or Beast. What do you think?