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What do you think makes some people powerful?

By lexalee ( Updated: 2014-07-16 17:45

A few weeks ago, China Daily posed a question: How do Western people see powerful women? Submissive, subservient, domestic, sweet - these are qualities in women most Chinese men prefer. Before the 70s, women's lib and the feminist movement in the US, the image of the perfect woman was like that, too. She was the heroine in popular media, the leading lady in movies.

At some point, actresses who wanted more challenging parts realized it was more interesting to portray a different type of woman. The rich, attractive, villainous, vindictive Alexis in the 80's hit miniseries Dynasty was 100 times more intriguing than the sweet and saintly Krystal, new wife of Alexis' former husband. They were polar opposites. I didn't like either one. Alexis was evil and Krystal was maudlin. But Alexis was undeniably more interesting.

American women are still learning how to be both powerful and feminine. It's not easy. They don't want to just act like males and make the same mistakes. They prefer to work with people rather than dominate them. They want their strength, knowledge, and abilities as women to be just as valued as those of men. Intelligent males know that there have always been strong, intelligent women, though they haven't always been acknowledged, and still aren't, in many countries.

Power is inherently intriguing. A powerful person attracts the interest of both men and women because power is perceived as some combination of qualities such as charisma, wealth, intelligence, and sexuality. If such people are also beautiful, that just makes them more intriguing. The world is inclined to put such people on a pedestal and see them as more than human. Power may be more in the perception of others than in truth. Does money make you powerful? If you have nothing else, it helps make you look powerful, but only as long as your money lasts. Money alone buys you a house of cards, nothing more.

A weaker person is intimidated and attracted by power. A powerful person may choose a weaker mate, one who does not pose any significant competition or challenge. This is the more typical arrangement in China - a powerful man marries a trailing wife. As an American woman, I think it much more interesting when a man and woman are both powerful, such as Bill and Hillary Clinton - both smart, strong, articulate, competent, and confident, one a former US president and the other, perhaps a future US president - unprecedented in our history. They've been married for decades. Hillary has been the anchor in the family. It hasn't been easy; sometimes it's been ugly and difficult, but their marriage is stronger because they've worked hard at it. Gotta respect that, no matter your politics. I can't think of a better example of a power couple who've earned their place in the world.

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