{ 4:30 minute read }

Everything I design for clients has a solid rationale and relevant meaning behind it. It’s needed as proof I have done my homework, have listened to the client, and have understood their goals and objectives. So what’s the rationale behind the 13 “stones” that make up “the pathway” in the new Prouty i•Will logo mark?

Have a calculator handy? Punch in 13 x 28. You should arrive at 364. Hold onto those numbers for a moment.

As I elaborate on what these figures mean, it may sound a bit too woo-woo. Please note I am seriously allergic to woo. It’s also in part why I shared the meaning behind the logo mark with my internal team only, not with the client ~ although I should give them the benefit of a doubt. They may have embraced it. The rationale I presented for the client was sound and relevant to what Prouty i•Will is.

What is Prouty i•Will? It is an experiential development program designed for women at the director level and above who are poised for next-level leadership. Prouty iWill is a unique year-long experience (as in a journey, a path forward, guidance and direction) that inspires women to think, learn, and lead differently; to connect with other smart like-minded women and stretch in ways that expand the whole person. (Prouty i•Will is a production of The Prouty Project.)

In other words, empowering women to become empowered leaders employing strategies not found anywhere else — and therefore the logo mark itself had to be unique, unexpected, and versatile.

In researching for this project, I realized that there are scores of conferences, seminars, coaching sessions, luncheons, and speaking events all over the world designed to help empower women in their careers and in their lives. Why so many?

To answer “why 13 stones” for the Prouty i•Will logo mark and to answer, in part, why there are so many organized efforts designed to “empower women” may lie in theory, historical context, and the calendar we keep.

Way before the Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 (the one we use today), there was the lunar calendar. A year had 13 months, the number of full moons in a year, each month having 28 days. (13 months x 28 days = 364 days in a year) The lunar calendar also coincides with a woman’s cycle, the well-documented average being every 28 days. The moon has always had a mystical connection to the feminine mystic and power.

photo of lunar moon waxing waning phases

Photo credit: Ganapathy Kumar via Unsplash.com

The Gregorian calendar is solar-based and designed so the Catholic church could have their say on which Sunday Easter fell each year. However, I view the Gregorian calendar as one more way to erase an era when women were leaders (and scholars, priests, developers of medicine, agriculture and the arts).

The lunar calendar harkens back to a gynocratic age where neolithic society (in theory) was matriarchal. Paternity had not yet been discovered and childbirth a mystery. Because of this, women were worshipped and considered superior beings able to bring life into the world. (Among their many other talents.)

The lunar calendar harkens back to a gynocratic age where neolithic society (in theory) was matriarchal. Paternity had not yet been discovered and childbirth a mystery. Because of this, women were worshipped and considered superior beings able to bring life into the world. (Among their many other talents, like maintaining peace without force.)

For 5000 years or more, the gynocratic age flourished in peace and productivity. Women were spiritual leaders and understood the medicinal power of plants. They cultivated art and culture. (Archaeologists conclude that many of the ancient cave paintings discovered in France and Spain were painted by women. The evidence is found by studying the handprints discovered alongside these paintings. They are distinctly female).

outline of women’s hand paintings discovered in ancient caves
Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

It wasn’t until the paternity and the known sexual cause of childbirth did things make a slow and painful shift. Men understood they had ownership of children. Women gradually lost their freedom, mystery, and superior position. Once Christianity and the church took root, it was pretty much all downhill for women and girls.

There is speculation of this history that a predominate matriarchal society ever existed. Even feminist scholars debunk it as in Cynthia Eller’s book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future.

But I’m not so sure. There is a growing amount of historical, archaeological, and current evidence that matriarchal societies did and still do exist. Many Native American nations have always been matriarchal based. Today there are six known matriarchal societies that have been thriving for centuries: Mosu, China, Bribi, Costa Rica, Umoja Kenya, Minangkabau, Indonesia, Akan, Ghana and Khasi, India.

Photo credit: ADEK BERRY ~ Getty Images
The Minangkabau people are a part of the largest surviving matriarchal society encompassing approximately four million people as of 2017. The common belief in this culture is that the mother is the most important person in society. Women rule the domestic realm of life.

But let’s get clear about what it means to live in a matriarchy or patriarchy society. While a matriarchy is understood as a governing body run by women, it is also shown to be gender-egalitarian and consensus-based, actively promoting peace and sustainability. Patriarchy is “rule by the father.” There’s not been anything remotely egalitarian about it.

While there is evidence that matriarch societies did and do exist, in our country, patriarchy immigrated from its European origins. When European explorers and settlers came to America and encountered Native Americans, they thought the men were “pussy whipped” because they consulted with their women in most matters.

And so for much of human history as we know, it has been male-dominated, so much so it not been identified as a concept, like democracy, autocracy or oligarchy, until now. As Jane Austen’s character Anne Elliot in Persuasion says: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.” You might even say that patriarchy’s particular power is its capacity to make itself as invisible as possible; it tries very hard not to draw attention to the means of its endurance.”

faces of women congressional and professional leaders

Image credit: Christina Animashan for Vox: The Striking Parallels Between 1992’s “Year of the Woman” and 2018

So the question lies, if we name the underlying invisible mechanism at play, i.e. patriarchy, will that be the key to its demise? With the rise of the #MeToo movement and a record number of women being voted into Congress, four women in the run for president, and with a growing understanding that educating women and girls globally is a critical component to combating climate change, there lies the evidence that a real change is demanded, necessary, and can no longer be ignored.

I designed the Prouty i•Will logo mark with 13 “stones” as a reference to a time when women were leaders in every sector and in every egalitarian sense. I believe there are so many programs designed to empower women to become empowered leaders is because of the centuries of oppression and denial of women and their abilities in a system they did not create. Women have to work twice as hard to achieve a foothold, let alone their dreams ~ women of color much more so. Among my women friends, we confess we are just so tired of being afraid all the time. All of us can recall the times where we were hushed, demeaned, denied promotion, sexually harassed, or just could not get a word in edgewise.

This isn’t to say I demonizing men as men can and should be part of the solution. I’m pointing as many have before to a centuries’ old system that allows for bad policy and bad behavior. I’m also a firm believer that if you make something better for one group of people, everyone benefits. There may come a time in the not too distant future that a matriarchy or patriarchy will not matter if everyone, no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation are treated as equals and have equal access to opportunities. No doubt it will be women leaders, perhaps even the women empowered by Prouty i•Will included, who will lead us into that reality.

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