Kalyani Dixit on how women can use and share their power to help others
March 8th is International Women's Day #IWD2020, a day we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year, after listening to Pat Mitchell's podcast "dangerous times call for dangerous woman" [click here to listen], Our Words Matter talked to a number of women who might call themselves 'dangerous' - women who embrace risk for the sake of advancing good, even if it's dangerous.
In this interview, Kalyani tells us how ‘power’ isn't just the ability for women to change the global climate, it's the ability to live their lives as autonomously as possible.
Each of us have our own way of describing what being a dangerous woman means. What does it mean to you?
A truly dangerous woman (much like a dangerous man) is probably someone who is carrying a weapon and acting in a threatening manner (and we should not emulate that at all)! In a less literal sense, being a dangerous woman is to live life on my terms without bending to other people’s expectations; questioning everything and examining your own opinions and biases. However, it makes me sad that women who live their life in this way are considered “dangerous”, instead of just being... themselves.
In what way would you describe yourself as a dangerous woman?
I’ve always had too many opinions and too few filters, and I have never had a problem with challenging views (both other people’s and my own). I am totally unwilling to let other people tell me what I can and cannot achieve by myself. I have been very fortunate to have amazing people in my life to guide me, but at the end of the day, my opinions and actions are totally my own, even if that means acting against someone’s advice!
Pat Mitchell talks about dutifully following her own grandmother’s words: “Falling on your face is at least falling forwards.” What are the words you have always lived by and why?
I often say to myself, and my friends when they need a bit of support: “Feel the fear but do it anyway”. We come across many things in our life which are totally outside our comfort zone, but those opportunities are often the most beneficial in terms of personal and professional growth. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and letting your fear stop you from doing something new, sometimes it’s important to march right up and open the door (even if your heart is beating erratically).
In her book, Pat talks about how as a global community of women, we are at an intersection where the risks are bigger but so are the opportunities to lead toward a more just world. What opportunities, and risks, do you see yourself taking that will lead to positive change for future generations?
At a basic level, I think women (and men) have an obligation to ‘pay it forward’. I wouldn’t be where I am if teachers, mentors and colleagues hadn’t taken time out of their lives to give me advice and push me towards new opportunities. I think it is important that I do that for other people when I have the ability to do so. On a more global scale, it is incredibly important to put our collective feet down and demand what we are entitled to. If we continue to be afraid of the consequences of challenging the status quo, we won’t ever get anywhere.
The word ‘power’ takes on different dimensions depending on the lens you look through. Bella Abzug predicted that in the 21st century, women will change the nature of power rather than the power changing the nature of women. Ideally, how would you see women using and sharing their power and what impact do you see this having?
‘Power’ isn’t just the ability to change the global climate, it is the ability to live your life as autonomously as possible. Daily exercises of power, whether it is in your workplace or at home, will make the real difference in the lives of women and other minority groups. The other aspect of this is that if you already are in positions of power, you should seek to empower those around you so they can make autonomous and individual choices too.
We currently live in a very divisive and divided world. To mend our global community, we need innovative and creative solutions to challenging issues. What issue, or issues, concern you the most and what will it take to solve it.
This is really a matter of “too many issues, too little time!” For me, climate change and sustainable development are always front of mind. It is incredibly difficult to continue BAU when (for example) the Amazon is burning and realistically, there is very little you can do to stop it as an individual. Other issues such as public health and resource allocation branch off and intermingle with climate change in really scary ways. It’s going to take something truly shocking to change the way governments and large corporate bodies operate. We should continue to ‘vote with our money’ and be an example wherever possible by showing family, friends and colleagues how easy it is to use sustainable options and keep demanding answers from your local council and businesses.
Kalyani is a solicitor at Meredith Connell in Wellington, New Zealand. She has been actively involved in Community Law since 2016, in Otago and in Wellington, particularly in the Refugee and Immigration practice. She is also the Wellington Young Lawyers’ Committee Treasurer and Competitions Officer. YLC is a committee of the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Law Society, and supports lawyers 0-5 PQE in their transition into the legal profession.