Discussion of Power with Men 101 starts at around 18:00.
Money Speaks Transcript:
Anna: So let's go back to when you discovered this woman who I now know, thanks to you. But what did you see and what made you think that this was something that you needed?
Valerie: So her name is Kasia Urbaniak and she has a school called The Academy and the very first time I heard about her I was reading an article. It was last fall sometime, right around the time that the Me Too movement started and she had a course called Cornering Harvey. It was really about verbal self-defense. How to break that freeze I was mentioning earlier when you get stuck. And it just completely... I could relate to it on so many levels.
Valerie: And so I started finding out more about her work and heard that she was having this Power with Men 101, an introductory intensive workshop, a couple of weeks ago at end of June, to really dive into and understand better what the invisible architecture of power dynamics. So that is what piqued my curiosity because, not only for myself, being able to engage... even though I'm working exclusively with women right now, it may not always be that way but it's also a matter of trying to support them because many of them are working in a coed context and certainly in a more masculine paradigm, trying to transform that.
Valerie: So that's why, for me, it really sparked to the idea of how to take more initiative in terms of asking for what I want and feeling that I can do that, being comfortable taking that space and not feeling so guilty about it sometimes.
Anna: Awesome. So it sounds like you were motivated to even take this to help other women but in terms of just your own life, were you more feeling like it hit you in your gut professionally or personally, because, I mean, power with men... It's funny because even if you choose to work with women, you're certainly not somehow leaping out of patriarchy. So what was your biggest motivation, is that fair to ask?
Valerie: It was definitely twofold. I'm actually going to be taking her entire program called Foundations of Power in the fall. So this was the level-set I needed to take, but the real reason why I did it was, not only that I felt like I needed it, personally, for my own internal healing work and to explore those spaces of internalized sexism that I hold onto. And it usually happens when I'm bumping up against resistance, either within myself or with other people in my interactions and dynamics with men.
Valerie: So in my personal life, there's certainly these places within my own marriage, trying to explore not only not always having to be the caretaker and being able to be on the receiving end... That's part of that she talks about is that power dynamics there is the dom and the sub but the dom is about putting your attention outwards and that the sub is about receiving. And I want to be able to be more comfortable in that mode of being able to receive because I think that's part of how I get to the burn out that I feel like I have to do it all and be it all.
Valerie: So that was an important part of it, but then also that I want to be able to use it in my work. But there was an absolutely personal component to it as well.
Anna: Absolutely. \We've got to hear about this workshop. I've got to hear about this workshop. I'm dying.
Anna: But I think ... You mentioned that you went to school in an all girls Catholic school and something that's really alive for me right now is ... We know each other from the entrepreneurship world and so I feel like there's this ... in a post Me Too or maybe even prior to Me Too and all of these sexual harassment things that are coming out about women in the workplace and specifically entrepreneurship and here we are in Silicon Valley, which is a whole other level of bro-y harassment. There's this separation that's happening where it's like if it's not outlined as being a female space, we can assume it's at least a more male, in terms of the culture, it's going to be predominantly men and, at least culturally, it's going to be very male. And then so women, more and more, are not retreating but creating their other spaces.
Anna: All the time I hear about another all women conference, all women networking, all women this. And you and I have met at an all female networking event and that was one of the first issues that I had was sometimes I don't actually feel safe in these spaces because in my life, which we'll get into when we get into my stories around Me Too and stuff, I actually find that being around a lot of women can be challenging. But that's not my question for you. My question for you is do you feel like ... Good God, what is my actual question? Do we think that we're actually "empowering women" when we create these spaces that are these safe bubbles where women totally get to be empowered because everybody's women this and that? Are we really setting them up to then step into an actual world where it is men and women and male led? Do they actually have the tools to really be able to hold their own in these spaces from your experience? Is that a fair question?
Valerie: Yeah, yeah. Totally. And this weekend intensive was all women. So just tying it directly to that, it was a safe space where we were trying on things that were men who were there that we were practicing with in the afternoons. It gave me an opportunity to try things on for size and be more playful when I felt really supported and where the women there just understood and believed what I had to say or my perspective or my experience, because many of them had it as well. And so that camaraderie or that connection that was built through the weekend allowed me to have more courage to try things on for size that I wouldn't probably normally. I would have shied away from or not been as bold in a coed space. And I'm hoping that I'm already feeling like I'm able to take that part. That was the women only space and now I can apply it to my default world where it's mixed, and bring that courage along with me.
Valerie: But also that eventually, we'll be able to have conversations and more work done in circle with with men and women together. But at least for right now, I know, personally, part of my healing journey is I really need to be away from those influences to be able to drop in in a new and different way. So that's been my personal experience. For some women I don't think that's as much of an issue, but I think that building that sense of community connection is super critical.
Anna: One last little segue before we jump over to Valerie's recap and that's actually to hear from Kasia herself. So as I was re listening to our interview, I noticed that we jump into using words like dom and sub and assume that we're all on the same page with this and since this is, effectively, a recap of somebody's work, I think it's important for her to give us the definition of dominance before we just start using it. Because dominance is a word that could be easily seen super sexual or even sexualizing Kasia herself because she is an ex-dominatrix and it's also a word that's part of the BDSM acronym, so what is it? Bondage, Dominance, Sadism and Masochism? I think.
Anna: I'm not part of the community myself, but I understand that definitely, especially after 50 Shades of Grey came out, there was a lot of misinterpretation as to what that means and I think it's easy to see it as ... I don't know. Like a dude just basically being physically abusive toward a woman and be like, "Oh this is a healthy BDSM relationship." So I just figured rather than us try to put words into that, let's just hear from Kasia herself, just a couple of minutes and then we'll get right back to Valerie.
Kasia: There's this really beautiful ideal that I really believe in, that all human beings are created equal and I'm not in this conversation trying to discount that fundamental spiritual truth. I think that in a given context people play roles. And those roles, fundamentally, can be broken down into submissive and dominant. In a context, like I'm teaching. If I'm teaching I take a certain role. As a student you take a certain role. If two people are talking to each other and you observe their bodies and you observe their energy fields, what they're doing with their attention, you'll notice that there's a dom and a sub and that in conversations where it feels totally equal, what's actually happening is that they're switching. They're switching. A person puts attention on something, another one responds, follows their lead. It's the kind of dance, who's leading and who's following, organically switches and moves. And without this polarity and without this dynamic, without somebody being on top and somebody being on bottom and then switching, there's no movement. There's actually ... Nothing new can be discovered.
Kasia: And rather you signal to others that you're an authority figure or you are one to be taken care of, has everything to do with what you do with your attention, how attention and energy move in a dynamic. So really simply, really simply, the dom puts attention on the sub and gives instruction. So I, literally, look at you. Put my attention on you and tell you "Move three inches to the left." Right? The sub pays attention to themselves, receives the attention and instruction. This plays out really naturally in conversation. This really plays out really naturally in exchanges. And what happens is when there's a dynamic that's stuck, or two people aren't actually meeting each other and there's no intimacy, what's happening is this switching is no longer fluid or somebody's not fully inhabiting their dominant or submissive role.
Anna: Okay, I hope that was enlightening. I know it was for me the first time I heard it. So I'll be putting a link to Kasia's website in the show notes, so you can check in on that, but for now, let's get back over to Valerie and hear about her experience.
Anna: You had some homework leading up to it. Was there anything that came out of that or really as the workshop where things really got real?
Valerie: We had a Facebook group that we were participating in and homework and videos and assignments that were sent for the whole month beforehand. And there was a lot that came up in that and we shared our experiences on line remotely. And the biggest thing for me... Kasia talks about how it's hard for women to ask for what they want. In many ways we are conditioned to not ask for what we want. And in many ways we sometimes don't even know what we want because our desires, from a very early age, many of them were told pretty much from our first sexual experience that there's danger. Or not even experience but desires. That when boys first show signs that they're encouraged. "Oh look at how cute. Bobby's starting to like girls." And for girls, and this was definitely my experience where all the messages I got around the fact that I was starting to come into my own sexual self was that that was a bad thing or it was dangerous or to be protective. So that then cascades in many ways.
Valerie: Now, you layer on top of that for me that I also had this history of childhood sexual abuse and for me, in many ways, I do feel like spaces where men are present, there's this possible danger that is not even rational sometimes. But it's an underpinning to a lot of different interactions and communication and that's, for her, where it really lies, is around communication. It doesn't matter if you're in a personal relationship or in a professional environment. Those power dynamics within interpersonal relationships are where it all starts.
Anna: Yeah, I definitely, going back to the little concepts that I've taken in from her, one of the first homework assignments that she gives you is to just write out what you would ask, I think, specifically of a man, and she just tells you don't even try to be rational with it. Just ask away. What's the craziest thing... And I found myself being, within the realm of what a man might actually do. What could I ask for? This and that. And I indulged it a little bit. And yeah, some of it was just stupid, like, I don't know, give me a foot massage right now. I don't know. Dumb things. But there is this reluctance of I don't want to ask for too much because everybody has a hard life and you don't want to take up too much space or be too needy, or God forbid... so I definitely think the ask, it starts in every aspect of your life.
Anna: Last week with Julia Carpenter we talked about women negotiating their pay and this and that. And then I shared my own experience of some stuff I haven't really gone into but I do think that it does come down with just giving yourself permission first and foremost to just ask for the things you want. And so when people are blasting women, women just don't apply for jobs. Well, we've been told our whole lives that we should just bake cookies and be happy with what we've got.
Valerie: Yeah and put other people's comfort before our own in many ways, right?
Valerie: That there's this caretaking quality that... we've been conditioned to think about and that that is always part of the calculous. That's always part of the equation that we're thinking about. And for me, the asking practice, which is the first exercise that we did, the first assignment, there was two things that came up for me. The question is I could ask blank, and you put some man that you know. You at least need to know their first name... "I could ask blank for blank." And then you put something that you want. And it could be anything. And you're supposed to do it 50 times, just straight. And it's not like you're ever going to ask them. You're just writing it down on paper. And it was so difficult for me.
Valerie: Number one, I couldn't think of 50 different men, even though that's ridiculous, right? And then also, I couldn't think of anything I wanted, and these are two situations and what she had us do subsequently. So we had to do this asking practice over and over and over again in different iterations, was look at well, you know lots of men. Who made the cut? And for me, in some ways, I could only ask things, even just hypothetically, of men that I trusted. So I discounted a huge swath of men that I've known in my life that I wouldn't ask them for anything. I didn't trust them enough to ask them for anything.
Valerie: And then in terms of my wants, it's like, you have a lot of other wants, why didn't you put those down? And in many cases, I could only ask practical ones or things I know I would get a yes to. I wouldn't ask for anything that I thought I would get a no to or I thought it would get laughed at or dismissed.
Anna: Can you give some examples that you feel comfortable sharing of what was a totally practical ask? Or maybe even what was a crazy ask? Did you hit an upper edge of crazy ask that you remember?
Valerie: Oh well that was the part, the first time we did it, they were mostly things about household duties, or my day in day out responsibilities, so everything from "Will you wash my car?" To "Will you take my kids for the night? Have a sleepover?" To "Come clean my house." And then there were some things, like men that I knew that had positions of power, for example, they're executives or own their own companies, "Would you hire me?" And those were difficult to even write down sometimes.
Valerie: And these are men that I know and trust. But the really wild and crazy ones, I didn't even explore those until later on and it's everything from asks that are pleasurable, things that just feel good, like you were saying with the foot massage to financial asks like "Will you pay $5,000 so I can go get my photography updated for my website?" New branding photography, right? That's something that I need. Fuck, why not? And then everything to really crazy, outrageous asks and those, in many ways were hard because I could barely even do the basics, right? The upper limits of what I felt like I could ask for, what I felt I could legitimately ask for, and that's what I realized through this practice was that in many ways. I not only wasn't asking, but even when I was asking for things, I didn't believe that it was okay for me to be asking. And that really, that was a place inside myself that my own worthiness or my own... just being able to ask for it, that I just thought that it wasn't appropriate or that it somehow says something about me.
Valerie: Last week, the double bind that she was talking about, that you're either too much or not enough. That women get caught up in, often. And trying to walk that fine line. I mean it feels like a tightrope sometimes. Can we just be and not be constantly attacking ourselves or be doubting ourselves around how to perform in this society, basically?
Anna: Okay, so... I don't know what all happened this weekend so we've got one the asks. And I have to still keep laughing and picking on you because part of our work as you being my leadership coach has been like you, straight up looked me in the face, well, you know, ask that, like "What do you want?" I'm like, "I don't know." It's so funny. You've given me homework now that I've been applying for jobs and this and that, you had me do this essay, listing these things that I want and then I think you wanted me to list the resistance I felt as I was writing it. And I put in caps locks at the top of the sheet, I was just like, "I THINK THIS WHOLE THING IS TOTALLY UNREALISTIC. THERE'S NO WAY I'M GOING TO FIND A COMPANY THAT FITS THIS PROFILE."
Anna: And I had everything from values, what type work I'm doing, my environment, my schedule, all these things, especially around the values I felt like I had the most resistance, but, so yeah, it's so funny to hear you having the same dilemma on the receiving end. It's just been a challenge, too. But okay, so you had the asks. What were some of the ... You already talked about this hinting that you were "practicing on men" so I know my ears picked up. I can't imagine other people didn't, so what is it you were practicing on men? I'm dying to know.
Valerie: So, she had us in the actual workshop when we got there. Number one, we went downstairs. It was in New York City in Manhattan and at a wellness center, but we were down in the basement that had natural light coming in but she had it set up with roses and just this very... candlelit, candelabras and it really had a certain mood about it, even when we walked in and she walks in and she's in full dominatrix mode. She's got thigh high boots on and she's got this amazing, just incredibly seductive outfit on and she's got her crop.
Valerie: Just out the gate I realized "Oh fuck. What have I gotten myself into?" But it was amazing because she was not only modeling, she is really embodying this sense of being able to show up cleanly, if you are playing a dom role and in her terminology, within any conversation, within any relationship her idea of equality is this idea of being able to not get stuck in either position, that you'll effortlessly go back and forth and that there's a natural flow to it. That sometimes you're going to be the one giving attention or giving instruction and that sometimes you're going to be the one receiving. And I definitely am more on the masculine or dom side of my energy. And in the roles that I play often.
Valerie: But part of it was this idea you have to be able to know how to do both. You have to know how to be able to be able to receive and be on the sub side and surrender into that and what that feels like. And so there are a lot of exercises that we did together, pairing off where we were, for example, just seeing each other. We were just thriving, looking, and giving attention and witnessing the other person in a way where they could really receive that and feel like they were being held. Held in attention but also just held in their humanity. Being really received and accepted for who they were.
Valerie: And so we practiced that with one another and then some people would get up and practice it with Kasia. But then in the afternoon, we were actually doing some of this in terms of doing it with men and really being able to put our attention on them in a way that they felt held. And that was what was really interesting about this. Yes, there was this sexual context that she comes from, her background, but it wasn't sexual at all.
Valerie: She's using her language and her framework but we're applying it in ways that were everyday situations so that was the part that was really interesting to me. Because at times, my past, I wanted to stay away from anything sexual, especially in the workplace. Any sense of femininity or any assumption that you're using that part of your power to get ahead, I always was, "Oh, no, anything but that." But she was talking about just reclaiming our playfulness, being able to reclaim our own sense of pleasure as a way to reclaim our power.
Anna: Okay, I'm going to go a little story coach mode here, because we're friends and I'm allowed. I need you to paint me a picture, with visuals as to what it meant for you. What did you actually do? During the afternoon, you've got men. In my mind, I see you in the clip on thigh highs, they're sitting in chairs with a ball gag in their mouth. I need you to paint me a picture as to ... Are you talking to them? Are you ordering them around? Is there pain involved? How are you holding these men? I feel like a porn director right now.
Valerie: No, I'm glad you're directing me because it totally helps. Because there was so much. It was three days so there's so much there to unpack, but I'll share my experience. There were men that were just everyday guys. They were fully clothed. Just really cool men. In this case, in the exchange I was doing, they weren't necessarily talking back to me. The gentleman that I chose was sitting in a chair across from me. I was dressed in my power dress, but no heels or anything. No dom boots. And I was doing the description practice, so I was holding him in my attention by describing him and what I saw. And how he was receiving my attention. And doing it in a way that then, ultimately, he could relax into it. And for me, the real challenge is doing that and not shying away from it.
Valerie: My heart was beating, absolutely out of my chest. I've got a whole room of women looking at me. I've got one guy in front of me. Two other guys behind him that are watching. Kasia's right next to me and I start with, "You have two eyes." And I just start describing him in a way that all of my attention is on him. And the goal is to get to a place where you can see in their body that they release, that they relax and surrender. And that process of holding your own attention, being aware, but also then putting your attention out on somebody else often you want, when you're uncomfortable, your attention will go inwards and that's sometimes... you and I have talked about this. I am working with a speaking coach because even though I can do workshops, the idea of being on stage and speaking on stage is still a little nerve-racking to me because all eyes are on me. And that, I go internal.
Valerie: So part of this was for me being able to put my attention outside of myself and feel comfortable with that dominant position and do it where I wasn't feeling insecure inside. Really that all my attention was on him and the pleasure around being able to hold somebody and allow them to relax into that. That's something that I know how to do in workshops but it was interesting to do it in this context, which definitely had more of a– it wasn't sexual but it was definitely more sensual–kind of context, but then being able to take that confidence of doing that, sitting with discomfort and moving through it and being able to actually have him respond in a submissive way.
Anna: Yeah, I guess I've got two questions with it. Which is, one, what was it... I'm assuming that there's a moment where you even dropped into feeling comfortable in taking that position, but then also how did you know in this man that he had dropped into a submissive position?
Valerie: So we start about, I don't know, three feet away. And as you continue to hold his attention, proximity, right, like how close you are to somebody has an impact. There's a weight to your attention. But so, in this context, and this is not a context that I could apply literally to anything outside, probably my personal relationships but it still had power that helped me beyond.
Valerie: I moved closer to him and as I moved closer, I got even more nervous, but I held my attention and it wasn't until I actually put my hand on his head, so there was physical contact, where then all of a sudden I felt more connected to him. And it wasn't about me any longer. I really appreciated this idea of him being able to feel my attention and feel that I was holding him or accepting him or really just being very, very present with him. And in that physical touch, I was able to actually, then, get him to literally... I could feel it in his body. His head relaxed and he actually hadn't been smiling the entire time and he actually smiled and giggled almost. And just completely relaxed into my hand. And that was amazing. That was something that I've never experienced in quite that way. I mean, I've been married for 21 years, but it was a very different kind of exchange of power that was eye-opening.
Anna: Well, it sounds like with Kasia, she really, when she's instructing you with the dominant position, this idea of holding your attention on somebody, putting all your presence onto somebody else is a way to assert dominance, which is... If somebody were to just naturally think this idea of dominating somebody else, there is such a violent feel to it and everything you're saying here sounds super gentle and I can't help but wonder whether there is a different way that a woman would dominate or at least, you, specifically because there was such care in this that I'm hearing, which is totally not how I would think.
Anna: And if I can share one thing, I was debating whether I'm going to share but I'm just going to share it anyway. But since, you've introduced me to this woman, I've had a few conversations about this whole dominant thing. One, in particular, with a girlfriend of mine where I was sharing this story ... I'm really going to regret sharing it but I'm going to do it anyway. But a friend of mine, platonic friend, he has an injury of some kind, like an IT band injury so he, in order to get a really strong massage, he'll ask people to actually step on him.
Anna: So he asked me to do that and I was like, "okay." At first, I was like okay. And so we had one instance of this where I was basically... I hope he never hears this. He knows that this was a moment for me. But anyway, I was basically, at one point, literally hanging on to the baseboard of this bed. He's on the ground. I'm stepping all over him and he's literally, at one point, whimpering in the fetal position and there was a part of me that... I don't know what the right descriptor word is, but I felt... things. I felt things. And it was something specifically in this... I have the power to hurt him or back off. It wasn't necessarily a sexual thing. It was definitely it felt like a power dynamic. He could be in pain, but I have control over whether I actually step off of him.
Anna: I suppose he could knock me off or whatever, but there was definitely... I knew... There was a point at which I was like "This is probably too much." But then I didn't back off until he made it super vocal. So there was definitely this power exchange that was very interesting. And then I'm talking with a girlfriend of mine about this and we were talking about how it seems like with these dom/sub relationships... I'm speaking very much in the sexual context here, it's almost always women in the sub, men in the dom position and I'm like if I have any curiosity, it's actually the inverse which I shared with some BDSM people and they were like, "Oh if you're curious, you can practice on... this guy basically offers up his girlfriend who's a sub."
Anna: And I was like, "No offense, but it's not just the sub situation on a woman. There's something specifically about a man in a sub position." Which the point I'm trying to make here, is I'm talking about this with my girlfriend, I said, "I can't tell whether this is a healthy curiosity or if it's almost like a violent response to patriarchy" of my definition of how a dom thing would be to attack in some way in response to... I don't know, be an angry woman or something.
Anna: So I have no question to you in that. I just wanted to share it because this is what has come up since you started to do this work. So it's your fault. No, I'm just kidding. But I think, I guess I wanted to share it because it was hearing you speak about this, it was such a gentle power that you were taking on. So I guess, if I do have a direct question in the back of my twisted mind here, is what did it feel like, after you know that this person has submitted to you, what did that kind of power feel like for you?
Valerie: So you brought up a couple of things that are probably important to articulate. One of which is what she means by dom is the idea that your attention is on the other person and you're giving instruction or you're somehow connected to them. And the receiving part of it is... The power exchange is not about domination how I would typically think about it, where it's like I'm trying to get one over on you or I'm just trying to get what I want. It's actually in service.
Valerie: So I am totally connected in this example to him and what he needs. And so I knew it was the right amount of touch, pressure... There was one woman who literally put her head... the guy was kind of a dom in his normal life. He had such dominant energy that she ended up needing to put her foot, just like you were saying, on him and that that's where he could really relax. He wanted to feel and that was what helped him to feel. So it's not about me and my needs, in this context. It's really about the other person.
Valerie: And there was something that really struck me, it's my big takeaway from the weekend is that you have to be connected to yourself first to be able to feel and read what's going on in the relationship and she said, "you can't move faster than you can feel."
Anna: I love that so much. This is the third time I've heard it and it hits me in my gut every time. Can you please repeat that one more time because I want to make sure everybody hears it as many times as I have.
Valerie: Well, this was the context. We were talking about moving too fast and not being able to feel the other person and if there's resistance. And so she said, "Hey, impatience will fuck you every time and if you aren't paying attention to the feelings within you, if you move faster than you can feel, then you may hurt somebody." And so it's about being not only connected with yourself first and foremost so you can read inside your body what's going on energetically between you and this other person, but then being able to also read the other person and what their needs are. Because sometimes we are not actually giving enough pressure or we're not actually, they want more. They want more but we're not reading it correctly because we're anxious ourselves or we're feeling like this isn't appropriate. We're putting a lot of stuff on communication.
Valerie: So when I teach leaders, this is something that comes up a lot is that you have to be many ways. And if you're not really conscious of that and thoughtful about how you put your attention out to the people that are reporting to you, then it can become this dysfunctional relationship where they're just telling you what you want to hear or they're scared about pleasing you as the leader and you're not actually engaging them and getting the most out of that relationship of their capacity and of their potential. So putting your attention out to the other person, really making it about their needs, it's not about your own needs in the dom position. It's about their needs.
Anna: That's so interesting. I did want to touch a little bit on this impatience thing because you've talked about it, this quote, "Impatience will fuck you every time." I mean, I think there's so much to be learned about power and dominance, I guess, in this case from that more female perspective. Because when I think of impatience... I work equal parts with men and women and at times I almost prefer to work with men because there is this speed of getting stuff done.
Anna: I can give a guy homework or vice versa if we're partnering on something. There's this speed to where there's like the space between idea and execution is really short and that's usually seen as a good thing about me because they don't stop and talk about their feelings all day. They just do stuff and hashtag hustle all day. And there's this glory to just getting a lot done and getting a lot done in a short amount of time and yet I think, because we've both identified as being a little bit, at times, being masculine in our work style, and I think of it in relation to my action. I'm an action oriented person and not always a stop and strategize for a million years.
Anna: So again, I just keep thinking how there's a lot to be learned about dominance from a more female perspective because that impatience. Didn't you say something like impatience is a sign of insecurity?
Valerie: Yeah, because it's more about you rushing through and it's usually out of this place of our own anxiety instead of really sitting with the situation and sitting with wherever the other person is. Kasia talks about how this idea of resistance is not a bad thing. You're actually hunting for the cringe or the resistance because that shows you where, where there's something important to people behind it.
Valerie: It's interesting because we often take no, especially for me, and many times in my life, I've taken no as a sign of there's something... I've taken it personally. This says something about me. And what she was trying to explain is like "Hey, no, that's the invitation to ask more questions and to play in that space, to understand why that person is responding that way."
Valerie: She explained that, for men, if they don't know, if they're unsure about something, they'll often say no. Whereas women, if we're unsure about something or if we're a maybe, we'll often say yes. And I've found that a lot. There are times where I've been on the fence but I've still agreed to it, which is ridiculous. That's one of those internalized sexism things that is present in my relationships and communication that I'm trying to really be present with and slow down. So yeah, I'll just talk out of impatience or my speed will be fast because I'm unsure of myself in that dynamic. And so slowing ourselves down and just being able to not only feel what's present for us, but what's present for the other person will help give you the roadmap that you can follow those impulses, you can follow that connection. You don't have to figure it out with your head.
Anna: Yeah, that's making me think of our public speaking stuff and yeah, I think this rushing definitely has come up for me at times. If I'm being asked to do something I'm uncomfortable with, and I feel like I'm the one who's making this sexual, but I just thought of it definitely in a sexual thing where you're like, "Ah, what's happening here." Just rush through and act like it didn't actually happen. That was vague and probably just needs to be dropped.
Anna: Okay, so I do want to be mindful that this is technically a podcast about money and we're using power as a proxy for money. Oh gosh, I have a couple big questions. You know what? I'm going to save the money thing.
Anna: So what would be something, coming out of this weekend, and if there's something big that we're missing in this weekend, please do go back there, but what are some of the take aways that you're thinking about or implementing, really, in this world? I know that your leadership coaching predominantly focuses on women now, but I do believe that we're still within a patriarchal society so even if you're working with women, it's still within a male dominated thing, so there's escaping men as the point of that, but I mean, with this new found understanding around yourself in your dominant power, how are you approaching things differently professionally, personally, but as it relates to money? That would be a question. Or are you?
Valerie: Well, I think there's two different things. You and I have talked before that sometimes money means lots of different things. And sometimes talking about money is actually the easiest part, which it's difficult. But sometimes when we're talking about money, we're hiding from the real conversation and sometimes the power dynamics are a part of that, or our own healing work that we're shying away from.
Valerie: But for me, it's coming in two ways. Being able to feel more legitimate in terms of my own leadership, embodying my power, having a voice in these conversations in a way and being more visible, because that's for me, going to not only be in alignment with the work I want to do, that I've wanted to do since I was in college. But then also, hopefully, be able to attract clients and work that I can feel good about and feel successful, not only monetarily, but also just in terms of the values that I want to be aligned with and in integrity with.
Valerie: So for me, there's that personal level that even though I've made money before, I've not ever really felt as successful because I wasn't talking about or doing the things that I felt like were transformational. So this work will continue to allow me to explore that and work with clients with that for themselves.
Valerie: But I think, also, and we're maybe going to talk about my personal money story later, but it's also helping me in my personal life because both my husband and I are a little conflict avoidant, especially when it comes to money. We're both pleasers in our own ways and being able to just be present for those conversations and not necessarily always be domming it or whatever, but just more being able to be clear about what my wants and needs are, to be able to listen and really receive where he's coming from and not have it be... so many things projected onto it. Because I don't know about you, but I've been married for 21 years now and money conversations can be difficult in relationships. Navigating all of that, we have very different styles and different tolerance for risk and so being able to go into these conversations with more personal confidence about just asking for what I want or that my wants are legitimate.
Valerie: Because in the power dynamics of our relationship that in many ways, I fell into the trap of the independent woman. I normally was helping and being the homemaker in some ways. I also had my business on top of that. So I was taking care of the kids and working. That both of those domains were my responsibility and that sometimes, I wasn't making as much as he was and that led to power dynamics in our relationship. So we're trying to unpack all of that and be present with what is now, where we want to go together and this ongoing work, because this was the first weekend I did with Kasia, but I'm going to be going back in the fall and doing three more intensive weekends in the fall, so I'm hoping to be able to continue to do this work and use it, not only in my personal, but my professional life.
Anna: Awesome. So I do have a question, but yes, we will definitely be having you back to hear your more complete money story and then I've already teased that I want you to be coming back on so you can walk me through sharing my own Me Too stories. That's all about power dynamics and money and ways in which I didn't fully even realize that until recently.
Anna: But do you want to start to wrap up, but I have one question that I did not warn you about beforehand because I don't even know, fully, how I'm going to ask this question. So I'm just going to dive into what's on my mind. So you and I are both striving to be allies, as both feminists, but then also allies to women of color who have been very much excluded from the feminist conversation. So. My question, first of all, with this workshop, you said there's other women that it's on this workshop. Is it fair to say that it was predominantly white women?
Anna: Okay. Do you feel comfortable sharing how much the workshop cost?
Valerie: This workshop, I think was around $1,500.
Anna: For just the weekend.
Valerie: For the intensive, yeah.
Anna: Wow, okay. I better up my rates.
Valerie: That may not be exactly right, but it was right around there.
Anna: I mean, it was a decent chunk of change for a weekend getaway. So I think that there's a stereotype about the white woman being more weak, I would say, and then the woman of color... I would say specifically black but then I would say certain Latinas as well have this strong woman thing. If you see in movies, they're usually the ones that are strong, help their friend, who's giving words of wisdom to the fragile white woman who's floundering and doesn't know what to do with her life or this and that.
Anna: And I think that right now, we're at this time where we're seeing a lot of... Insecure comes to mind. So Issa Rae does Insecure where she wanted to display, basically, a weak black woman because there was such a stereotype around this strong black woman thing. And I think on a surface level, when you think of if somebody were to be portrayed as being strong, then that would be a benefit. They would be in a higher power position, but I find that, instead of that being a benefit to women of color, there's almost a dehumanizing that comes from determining that they're almost above having feelings or troubles. That they're not somebody that you should ever worry about or feel sorry for, if that's a positive thing.
Anna: So I guess that this whole, what you've seen with the power dynamic, the power play and this and that, do you have any thoughts about whether... God, I knew I wasn't going to be able to actually tie this up in a neat little bow. But I guess, one, do you have any thoughts about this? And I guess... This is my direct question. If my hypothesis is correct, which is that it's really not benefiting women of color to be seen as "strong." Is it ultimately actually even benefiting men to be perceived as strong or is it a moot point because of our patriarchal system that does favor a man, particularly white men as the higher and it's a completely different conversation. I know this is totally not fair, because it just came to me this morning and I was like-
Valerie: Well, it's not a matter of being not fair, it's just there's so much in that. So I think... There's two different pieces, if I understood correctly the question. There's the question about women of color and how is it different for them and the different kind of challenges that they face.
Valerie: But then there's also this question that you just ended with around men always having to be strong. And I think for women of color, it's an ongoing question for me around how does this work apply, how is it different? I did try to connect with and speak with a woman of color in the class and talked with her, but I think that this is around what Kasia was teaching us was around interpersonal, right? So a conversation where you're talking one on one with somebody. There will be more work around groups and leading larger teams and all of that later. But for this it was just one on one conversations.
Valerie: And I think that this question of legitimacy and feeling like we can step out and ask for things, and what we're allowed to ask for and all of that and exploring that. There are different experiences for women of color, and I want to acknowledge that up front, that I don't even fully understand all of the dynamics that I'm trying to listen present for and learn. But I think that there is a need for all of us to explore within ourselves where there is internalized repression, no matter what it is. Sexism, racism, but also internalized domination.
Valerie: Where do we take and hold the oppressor? And this is ongoing work that I'm trying to do. It's coming up in this, this idea of being thoughtful of the other person, what are their needs instead of just what are your own. And I think that in our society in a lot of ways, dominance and submission is muddied. It's dysfunctional. It's not actually working effectively and that's the problem that we keep bumping into.
Valerie: So I'm starting with myself and I'm starting in a context that will help me be able to understand those dynamics I my own personal exchanges so that when I'm working as an ally, as I'm collaborating with and co-creating with women of color, I'm mindful of that so that I can make space, so that I can be in the submissive role. That I don't always have to be in the dominant role and that I can receive and learn and follow women of color. Because I think that that's such an important piece to women's solidarity, to any kind of liberation movement is that white women, like myself, can actually step back and not always feel like we're always trying to gun for that dom role or that leadership role, that there's that give and take that can be present in terms of leading and following, being able to do both successfully.
Valerie: I think for men also. Men being able to relax and learn how to follow, learn how to surrender and not have to always be the strong ones. Patriarchy and masculinity, the construct of masculinity ties them up. Gender norms tie them up and set them up for failure in many ways just as much as it sets women up for failure. So trying to explore all of that as a whole ecosystem that there's things that we can all learn and where we can lead and follow and that we need to do this together.
Valerie: Kasia definitely spoke to the fact that, hey, we need to include men. This is not a demonizing of men. If anything, it was a celebration of them in many, many ways. But trying to understand how do we clean up our communication? How do we make it more effective so that we can be seen and we can feel like we have a voice but also so that we can allow men to be able to really receive and give in a way that feels like they have a sense of purpose and that they can contribute in a meaningful way to women.
Valerie: And that's something in the conversations that I've been having with men in my own life, this question mark around Me Too of what now? Just trying to navigate these spaces where gender dynamics and power dynamics are present. And that, I think, we can only figure out together. It's not about just putting women on top and having, in the same old way of being and just having them dominate men. It's learning how to give and take, how to play in these spaces more effortlessly and really be connected again, not only with ourselves but with each other. Because I think for men, they have to disconnect to be in society often.
Valerie: I mean, I think it's an ongoing question in my mind of how this applies and how to make sure that it's not just about white women continuing to dominate. So I think it's an important question to ask. It's one that I want to continue to explore and explore in community. But I do think for, whether it be women of color and white women, whether it be men and women, any kind of dysfunctional sort of power dynamics, it's getting back into that flow of being able to not have it get stuck so there's one class of people that are marginalized, who are in this powerless place and that they feel like they can access the power that they have. Because all of us in different ways, we have probably more power than we think. So it's being able to really explore those spaces instead of shying away from them and just... that's what I would encourage everybody is just to think about where do they have power? Where do they feel powerless? And coming back to just having a voice sometimes, being able to just ask for what you want on a most basic level helps to get those juices flowing in a way where then you start to feel more empowered to affect change or step into leadership capacity or opportunities elsewhere, out in the community, in your professional life. That's the ongoing work I think.
Anna: Cool, cool. As I made my call for women of color who might want to share their story, I would love to hear actually from a male perspective on this dom versus sub, somebody who's actually done their work. So putting it out in the universe, if somebody has already been doing their work around this stuff, I am definitely curious because I think that you and I have both worked with men quite a bit and I'm always surprised with how easily and comfortably men go into a submissive position and you can see ... It makes me step up in a way because I can see I guess the power that I have in this space, but the responsibility is actually a better word. The responsibility because you have somebody that you're holding space for and I think it's definitely become super visible how much men are pushed into disconnecting soulfully from themselves.
Anna: So you mentioned that this is part one of a few series that you're going to be taking with Miss Kasia, and I'm sure I'm botching her name each time, so I'll apologize. But just from this first weekend or this first bit, because I know there was some pre-work that you guys were doing. What would you say were your top, I don't know, two to three aha moments from just thus far? And I know this is all still processing for you but what did you really walk away from the weekend feeling the most impacted by?
Valerie: The top three, definitely that concept around don't move faster than you can feel and being really thoughtful about following and being connected to my impulses. Because that for me, I often, pace wise, I love to go fast and I think I miss a lot when I do that. And it's easy to gloss over things. So just being less impatient and really dropping into it.
Valerie: The second thing is around this idea of just trying to be present and accepting of my own wants and needs and when I'm asking for things. Number one, just exploring this space of why I don't choose to ask sometimes and testing and sensing what the resistance, what's the reservation. And being willing to sit with the discomfort of trying on a bigger ask. Or trying on a different approach to how I ask for things. Not only in my personal life but even in the context of work and professional life. That's something that ... I'm trying to be more legitimate, feel that inner authority around the things that I ask for. So that's definitely another piece to this for me.
Valerie: But the last piece is just around getting more comfortable with being in a sub position and receiving and what that looks like and feels like and this is ... I'm still in the process of all of this stuff and this journey's going to be continuing for me. So I'm looking forward to playing with that and experimenting since I do have more of a dom or masculine energy at times, is just being able to relax and be in that mode of receiving and letting that nourish me. Those are my big top three.
Anna: Thank you. I'm going to add my take away from the take aways that you're taking away. It's very meta-take away. But one of the things–I don't remember at what point you told me this, whether it was from an article or some of the pre-homework you were doing–but it's following up on this idea of freezing. So we introduced, or you introduced talking about this idea of freezing, whether it's a dude just straight up saying something inappropriate and you're like, "I don't know what to say," and you freeze. Or you're just feeling backed into a corner with a question, whether it's "Why should we hire you?" What's a famous line here? "What's your unique value proposition?" That's my favorite one here in the Bay Area, but it's just the idea of just buying yourself some time by asking a question. I think you had mentioned that and I used it myself, I don't know, a few days after I heard it from you, where I was having a conversation, mostly with guys and we were talking about the podcast and these guys were asking me these probing questions like, "So what is money to you?" And da da da da.
Anna: And I started to say, "Well, I guess from doing this podcast I would it's a tool. It's a thing that you can use to do things." And this guy bounced back with, "A tool or a resource?" And I felt like, I'm sure he didn't mean to challenge me, but I felt... I froze a little bit. And it was a dumb question but I was... and then in that moment I just bounced back with, "What's the difference?" And then he froze. And it was like this freeze vortex. I felt like I was doing something so defiant, but I'm the only one that actually realized it.
Valerie: Yeah, and those little moments, that's the powerful thing, taking the attention off yourself, which is putting you more in the sub position and putting it back on them gives you a moment to compose yourself and hopefully get to a place where you can break the freeze. But yeah, no, I'm glad you mentioned that because I forgot to follow up on that.
Valerie: But her work, if you sign up for her newsletter, I think it is, her list, you can get the video and instruction around that breaking the freeze as well as the asking practice.
Anna: Yeah, oh yeah. That's true. Definitely get on her email list because I did that. I haven't paid for any workshops yet but yeah, one of the exercises was just practice asking ridiculous questions and that was super fun. I shouldn't say ridiculous because she doesn't say ridiculous. I called it ridiculous. And then I think the freeze. I just see that being so powerful for me. Just this week I was negotiating pay for a new contract that I have and there was moments where I felt myself panicking, this and that.
Anna: It's such a little break to be able to ask a question. And this was with a woman, so I think this goes beyond even gender dynamics. I know I've had women ask me why should people hire you? What's your ethos? What's your unique thing? What's your shtick? So I think it goes far beyond, but that's all I've got.
Anna: We will definitely, I'll put a link to Kasia Urbaniak's website and if you get on her email list, you'll see some of the homework prompts that I mentioned here. That's the only work that I've done, but she's got some great articles. But Valerie, if people want to connect more with you as your work as a leadership coach, we didn't even get into this at all but she also, here in the Bay Area, runs Anger Release Parties that I definitely could use, probably 15 of them. But where could people connect with you further?
Valerie: Yeah, so probably the best place to go is my website which is valeriemoore.com and that will give you access to not only my events, be able to contact me, but also my social media.
Anna: Well thank you so much, Valerie, and this is just a see ya later, for now.