I’ve long been a fan of women, especially mothers. Having grown up as the only male in a family of women, I’m guessing it’s something about what interpersonal neurobiologists Diana Fosha and Marion Solomon identify as women’s “tend and befriend brain,” which positively resonates for me. I like being in the presence of women. They feel familiar and safe; the gender most likely to consistently answer The Big Brain Question “Yes” for me.
As a result, I’m hopeful that the world will not only survive, but thrive in the coming years due primarily to the hearts, minds, brains and spirits of women working in the world more and more as a collective body. Women’s capacity for compassion, creativity and connection, for organizing and building organizations and enterprises that are humane and sustainable, is evidencing itself over and over again all over the globe. Ode Magazine has called women organizing themselves for good works the “not-so-secret secret to changing the world.” The magazine offers examples from Rwanda where women now make up half the lower house of parliament, and from Bangladesh where Nobel Prize winner Mumammad Yunus’s microcredit movement supports thousands of women as they strive valiantly to lift their communities out of poverty. Men in Bangladesh, it turns out, can’t be trusted with microcredit.
Our Daughters as Positive Deviants
Women planting seeds for change have been showing up around the world in the form of Positive Deviancy for awhile now. Essentially, positive deviants are those people unwilling to simply accept the conventional wisdom and the status quo, especially when it’s clear that doing so leads to ongoing pain and suffering, not just for women, but for everyone.
The world is full of prime examples of women demonstrating what it means to be a positive deviant. They are probably best exemplified by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s popular saying, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Elena Simons, known as Wonder Woman in her native country, is such a history-maker. And she has fun while doing so, mixing humor with social critique in “Fungagement” as the head of the Buyer’s Army – a battalion of pink bereted and pink booted women shoppers with matching pink shopping baskets based in the Netherlands. Their mission: encourage stores to carry organic, freely traded, animal-friendly products.
New York based, Dr. Jennifer Leigh, founder of Honor the Girl, is another exemplar of Positive Deviancy. Her mission is “to honor the girl to better the world,” as she organizes Pajama Parties, overnight gatherings for teen girls all around the country. At these PJ soirees, kids not only connect and have great fun, but they talk about the cultural messages and technological changes that impact their lives and how to positively deal with them. These young women get exposed to all kinds of creative possibilities for supporting one another, each in her own unique brand of positive deviancy.
Another positive deviant can be found in Jennifer Buergermeister, founder of the Texas Two-Step Yoga Tour! Jennifer is committed to bringing the transformative aspects of yoga to all of the Lone Star State. For starters. Her work to unify the unifiers serves as a meta-reminder that the illusion of separation is a persistent one all around the world.
Clear about the transformative, integrative potential of physical movement, still another example of a positive deviant is Stephanie Ludwig. She resigned safe, secure work with her local church and, working in concert with women in the national office, brought a chapter of Girls on the Run® to Flagstaff, Arizona. Girls on the Run is an experiential learning program for girls age eight to thirteen. They skillfully combine training for a multi-mile run while simultaneously encouraging positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.
Difficulties with Deviancy
Western culture frequently works against the cultivation of positive deviancy. Mostly, kids are encouraged to conform, to be compliant, to uncritically obey elders and other authorities. In that environment, it’s difficult to nurture the internal resources required to step out and grow up to be a Rude and Bold Woman. Similarly, peer pressure to conform is also difficult to flourish in the midst of for most kids.
Positive deviancy is especially difficult to accomplish without positive encouragement and support from parents, teachers and clergy. Parents essentially need to encourage their kids to become “outlaws” in the best sense of that word. It’s the outlaws after all, those who refuse to be bound by silly, oppressive and unfair laws, who most often work to get them changed.
Deviancy Begins at Home
To support and encourage positive deviancy, parents have their work cut out for them. Why? Because encouraging and supporting such qualities in children often invites first questioning parental authority right where we all live. And after you’ve been the boss of your kids for 10 or 12 years, changing the nature of the parental relationship is not such an easy thing to do. But one sure way to encourage positive deviancy in our children is to model it – for mothers (and fathers) to become the epitome of positive deviancy themselves.