Passionate Empathy, Feminine Energy, and Isabel Allende

E for Empathy: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

Have you ever been moved by a stranger’s suffering or joy? Have you ever been moved by art or literature or a performance? Has that stirring ever moved you to take action?

Photograph: Koen Van Weel/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph of Isabel Allende: Koen Van Weel/AFP/Getty Images

One of the gifts of a storyteller is empathy. Isabel Allende mixes the perfect amount of humor in her storytelling to temper the harshness of life’s reality for so many women around the globe. I laughed and I cried and was also inspired while listening to her TED talk.

At one point, Isabel talks about an argument she had with her daughter – who said “feminism is dead.”

Yes, for privileged women like my daughter and all of us here today, but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world who are still forced into premature marriage, prostitution, forced labor — they have children that they don’t want or they cannot feed. They have no control over their bodies or their lives. They have no education and no freedom. They are raped, beaten up and sometimes killed with impunity. For most Western young women of today, being called a feminist is an insult.

 

I am a feminist. I don’t understand people who don’t embrace feminism.

In our species, the alpha males define reality, and force the rest of the pack to accept that reality and follow the rules.The rules change all the time, but they always benefit them, and in this case, the trickle-down effect, which does not work in economics, works perfectly. Abuse trickles down from the top of the ladder to the bottom. Women and children, especially the poor, are at the bottom. Even the most destitute of men have someone they can abuse — a woman or a child. I’m fed up with the power that a few exert over the many through gender, income, race, and class.

Abuse hurts everyone. It creates a cycle of distrust, disembodiment, disempowerment, and disconnection. So much to be said on the subject, and Allende brings up many points that are deeper than they may first seem. She tells the stories of a few people who survived (accepted) abuse, and/or took action against it. Maybe we can be inspired to take action in our own small ways to make a difference in our lives, communities, and perhaps even the world.

I think that the time is ripe to make fundamental changes in our civilization. But for real change, we need feminine energy in the management of the world. We need a critical number of women in positions of power, and we need to nurture the feminine energy in men. I’m talking about men with young minds, of course. Old guys are hopeless; we have to wait for them to die off. (Laughter) Yes, I would love to have Sophia Loren’s long legs and legendary breasts. But given a choice, I would rather have the warrior hearts of Wangari Maathai, Somaly Mam, Jenny and Rose Mapendo. I want to make this world good. Not better, but to make it good. Why not? It is possible. Look around in this room — all this knowledge, energy, talent and technology. Let’s get off our fannies, roll up our sleeves and get to work, passionately, in creating an almost perfect world. Thank you.

Isabel Allende is a Chilean author who has written the following books:
The House of the Spirits, La Gorda de Porcelana, Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna, The Stories of Eva Luna, The Infinite Plan, Paula, Aphrodite, Daughter of Fortune, Portrait in Sepia, City of the Beasts, My Invented Country, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, Inés of My Soul, The Sum of Our Days, Island Beneath the Sea, Maya’s Notebook, Ripper, and Zorro. To learn more about her life and her work, click Isabel Allende.