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Allies, Sisterhood, and Making Change with Brenda Bryan

Brenda Bryan came out of the womb wondering why women have it different than men. She’s worked in the Women’s Movement for over 45 years. She shares her insights into allies, sisterhood, and being a change maker.

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Meet Brenda R. Bryan

Brenda R. Bryan is a kick ass Inspirational Speaker, Transformational Coach, and Mastermind Facilitator. Women hire her to unmask and nurture their genius, empowering them to live in the strength of their passion. Teaching through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and stages around the country, she demonstrates authentic, warm-hearted humor with a deep wealth of knowledge of how important communication is to feminine power.

Brenda began working in her passion of building community and supporting women in the early 1970s. Graduating with a degree in Communications, she became active in the Women’s Movement. Through her activism, Brenda acquired lasting skills in group processing, facilitation, and leadership. For the past 45 years, she has continued to build her tool kit to support women’s empowerment

Brenda is the creator of the Raise Your Voice program a five step path to unapologetically claim your destiny, harness the power of your fiercely feminine intuition, and finally breathe life into your biggest dreams.

Website: http://brendarbryan.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YourTransformationalCoach/

Jen McFarland, host, Women Conquer Business

About Jen McFarland, CEO, Women Conquer Business

Jen McFarland ditched her comfy C-suite tech project management job in pursuit of freedom. Jen’s goal is to help business leaders like you vet ideas, take ownership of their projects, and incorporate digital marketing from day one.

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Transcript: Allies, Sisterhood, and Making Change with Brenda Bryan

Hello and welcome to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this week show, we talk about allies, sisterhood, and making change with inspirational speaker, transformational coach, and mastermind facilitator Brenda R. Bryan. All that and more, here on Women Conquer Business.

[music] Hello and welcome to the Women Conquer Business Podcast, featuring discussions with your host, Jen McFarland. Every week, I discuss a different aspect of building a business while balancing it with an incredibly busy life. I share experiences, successes and failures, and answer questions submitted by you, the listener. Thanks for tuning in. Lets get started. [music]

Brenda R. Bryan is a kickass inspirational speaker, transformational coach, and mastermind facilitator. Women hire her to unmask and nurture their genious, empowering them to live in the strength of their passion. Teaching through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and stages around the country, she demonstrates authentic warm-hearted humor with a deep wealth of knowledge of how important communication is to feminine power. Brenda began working in her passion of building community and supporting women in the early 1970s. Graduating with a degree in communications, she became active in the women’s movement. Through her activism, Brenda acquired lasting skills in group processing, facilitation, and leadership. For the past 45 years, she has continued to build her toolkit to support women’s empowerment. Brenda is the creator of the Raise Your Voice program, a five-step path to unapologetic claim your destiny, harness the power of your firstly feminine intuition, and finally, breathe life into your biggest dreams. Please welcome Brenda Bryan to the show. So tell me how you got here. You’ve done so many things. You’ve had an amazing journey so far. And I see tremendous things for you in the future, but how did you get here? What all have you done that you want to share with everybody?

As I said one time in a presentation, I said, I came out a raging feminist and I said, “I don’t know how they become so raging.” But apparently, I did [laughter]. But I came out knowing [laughter]– I came out knowing that there was something widely wrong with the way things were. And even to the point– I remember having a conversation with my mom, I was five, and I said, “So mom, so why do you have dad’s name?” Because I knew that her family name was [Verdi?]. And she says, “Well, that’s what we do.” And I said, “That’s wrong. That’s never going to happen to me. That’s wrong.” Right? And so it was the beginning of really what would be a lifelong journey to look at what I feel is a structure that is disrespectful, that doesn’t value us, that doesn’t support us. And that’s why I became a– why my feminist views are so important to me. They’re at the heart of it. It’s about equality and I see men as being as much in pain as women are. They just don’t know the pain they’re in because they are in more privilege sometimes, not all men because you can’t make a blanket statement like that.

Yeah. And I’ve had a lot of conversations with my husband about that because now that we’re going through another way of all of us being more vocal about things, then we have conversations about that. Like, “I don’t really feel all of– I don’t feel like I have that much privilege.” I’m like, “Well, you have more, but you don’t have all of it either.” And then here’s the interesting thing because I’m reading a book right now about systems thinking because I’m a systems thinker and for social change. And part of it is realizing your own responsibility. And I think that that’s true of privilege or even feminism. What part is mine?

Yeah. Well, [crosstalk].

How am I still supporting this system that I say that I don’t like? And how is it that I’m benefitting and what am I going to do about it?

Well, I was working in a women’s center that I helped found, and the leader of the NDB party came to me and said, “You’re going to have to tone down on your lesbianism.”

What party is that?

New Democratic Party, Canada. I’m Canadian.

We’re going to have to–

I’m Canadian.

Oh, I didn’t know that you were Canadian. Oh my God, I don’t speak Canadian. Are you going to be able to understand me?

Did you understand me so far?

I mean, I’m from Idaho. So kind of. So there’s that.

You’re just outside the wheelhouse anyway. It don’t matter.

I’m totally outside of it.

It don’t matter to you what I say.

So what’d you do about your lesbianism? You just put that away [laughter]?

Yeah. I packed it up and put it on the shelf again, not. Because that was a position in that, a lot of the straight feminists who were working for change, take as the whole, “Ball-buster bitch. You’re trying to castrate men.” It’s like why do you have to go there? What we’re trying to do is actually get pay for work for equal value. We want to just stand in our own right as a woman. And of course, that stigma still stands. There’s a lot of women who say, “I don’t want to be known as a feminist.” It’s like, “Well if you don’t want to have respect for other people and you don’t want to stand for yourself then don’t be calling yourself that. That’s okay.” But reality is that feminism is really about bringing our society into just behavior where we’re all taking responsibility for the quality of life we’re manifesting in. That was not so easy in the ’70s and the ’80s. It’s not so easy now.

It’s not so easy now. I would still say that I’m more of a Susan B. Anthony feminist than a glorious [item?] feminist. Yeah. And I do think that that’s where the movement loses a lot of people. It’s the, “Well, I’m married. I don’t want to bust my husband’s balls. That’s not interesting to me.” But at the same time, if we want equality and equity and all of these other things, it does come with a certain amount of having the hard conversations which some people are going to this is busting balls, when people don’t understand that equity doesn’t mean other people lose.

You’re right. And that’s the hard part about this. We’re are so conditioned for a black and white or a win, lose, power over. And when we talk about power from within and we talk about who’s showing up with the ability to be inclusive, you can be different – thank God – but there is something that’s true about all of this. And as I said, we all have red blood running through our veins and we all have some very basic needs that all of us need to be have met. And when one of is not having that need met, then all of us are suffering from that. And that’s where we’re trying to guide the conversation to a place of, how can it serve you to put so much money in that bank at the cost of the people who you’re not giving paid vacations to, you’re not giving maternity leave to, you’re not providing decent healthcare? But you get to work off of the back of all of your employees. When you go to meet your maker which, if that’s your belief system and I don’t know what that looks like, to be honest with you. I have no idea what that [crosstalk].

It’s Alanis Morissette. Have you seen that movie? Maybe not [laughter].

Yeah. I haven’t seen that movie, but.

No, there’s a movie where the whole time they’re talking about God, God, God, God. And in the end, Alanis Morisette comes down and she’s God. And I was like, “Oh my God. This is so perfect. Okay. I get this now. I’m with you.”
Right. But it’s in the image, right? And how all the words that we use have a context in which we understand it. And in that context of which we understand it, it is not necessarily expanded to what it really is. And we don’t actually check in to say, “What does your God look like?” Or “What does your Creator look like?” “What does spirit look like for you?” Or “What path of spirituality do you follow?” “What makes sense to you?” My past partner and I, we used to go to church of nature. Every Sunday, we were all hiking on some trail taking in what was a given which was the beauty of nature. And that’s what fed our souls. So we have to find our pathway forward.

I’m celebrating a new year. I go to the church of baseball and the season just started [laughter]. But to your point though, we have a mutual friend, Cole Reed, who is a local artist here in Portland and an amazing woman. And I told her I had a dream–? Yeah, we’ll call it a dream. Anyway, about Jesus and she’s like, “Was he black? [laughter].” I was like, “Uh.” and her wife, Dayna, was standing there and I’m like, “It wasn’t like that.” And she was like, “Oh, okay. So it was Jesus then.” Like if it wasn’t like I saw a person, the picture that is hanging all over the universe except in certain places.
Baffles my mind. It’s like, “Excuse me? How did that person get to be blue-eyed and blond-haired, exactly living in [inaudible].” I don’t understand. Explain this to me.

It’s called conquests and the winner gets to pick the pictures apparently.

Well, and they raised a lot of mighty armies in order for that conquest to happen. And I think that’s why it’s so hard to speak up. And is that in the truth of that, it’s been brutal. It’s brutal to speak up. Sometimes it’s brutal to stand for yourself. It’s brutal to push up against the known structure and say, “I’m not taking it anymore.” Which is why community becomes important. Which is why we have to find allies. Which is why we have to find sisterhood. Which is why we have to help each other is because it is brutal and a system that’s been capitalized, literally capitalized off the backs of everybody else. They’re not going to let go without a fight. And the fight isn’t about weapons. The fight is about consciousness. And having a sense of what the dialogue needs to be that helps us unite. That helps us to accept the diversity and within that diversity see it as a creative force for change. And how do we get that dialogue going?

How does that dialogue start, from your perspective?

From my perspective, it’s usually how I meet somebody and just [poll?] the space to see their soul. And where I drop the interpretation of who they are is I don’t know who they are. My conditioning is, I see you as female because you’ve presented that way. But I don’t know what your heart is until I create the dialogue with you to find out what that is. So that’s where I want to show up most. Is how do I drop all pretense of knowing and open up to adjust the potential of being curious and being in wonderment about, “Well, what can we speak about that would be fun for us to have a conversation about today?” Which is where this conversation even started couple weeks ago, right? It’s like, “Let’s just have some fun about not having the conversation.” And so when we can drop our defenses, when we can drop needing to know and just be in the curiosity and the wonderment, what that does is it starts opening up the dialogue for hearing what the person is. And you meet them at this level of like, “Wow. Tell me more about that. Well, how did you experience that? Well, what would you do with that? Well, how has that influenced what you do now? How has that given you the momentum to be an entrepreneur? Or the momentum to be an artist?” Because it all comes from the seed of– in us, there’s a purpose we’re born with and then we have to fuel that purpose somehow.

I love that. And oftentimes, I feel like we live in a world that has a horrible disinterest in curiosity.

Yeah. Which surprises the heck out of me because–

Me too.

–it’s like, “Really?” Life is full of adventures. Yet, how do we go on an adventure? And we can’t on an adventure without some curiosity about, well, what would happen if I put my finger in the socket here? And we did that as kids, right? We learned a couple things from that. But we also learned to mix colors. We also tried different paint pallets. We also tried using different instruments. And we were that when we were a kid. And I think we have to go back to that childlike nature where we kind of go, “Wow. If I want this to be different, what do I have to light up in my curiosity, in my childlike nature that would let me see this from a different viewpoint?”

I agree. I also think people need to travel–

Oh, yes.

–and meet new people. Even if you can’t afford to fly overseas, just go to another state, talk to somebody that you maybe wouldn’t normally talk to just to learn and see something new. And I think that– I actually think that that brings out that childlike nature a little bit.

I think so too.

You know what? I think it really does. And that’s one of the things. My husband and I travel overseas a lot and there’s no Americans. People from all over the world and then not a lot of Americans. And I’m like, “Hey, guys. You can still believe that you’re from the best country if you want, but go check it out. There’s a whole big world out there. Make sure. Get curious about that.”

Yeah. Well, you do need– what makes you the best? You need to have something. Best with [inaudible]–

What’s your basis.

–comparisons, right? Good, bad, or best, right? So what are you actually doing that would show you that, yes, indeed, we carry a quality of best because we do provide the liberties that we say we provide? But that’s not true of the States. I love [inaudible] movie, plant the flag. Would you go to 17 or a number of different countries and checked in with them about different things if they were actually using the Constitution of the United States as a parameter and they were doing the things that we should be doing? And there’s so much room for us to take care of our children, to take of the health issues, to take care of social injustices, to create quality of life and working [inaudible], in order to try to just keep roof over your head is not necessary. It’s not creating the kind of the society that actually enhances what we could really be doing. So how do we make those shifts?

I agree with you. And I think that, as you were talking, I’m like, it seems like you and I have had a conversation around the stories we tell ourselves at some point. And it sounds to me like, we all have, as a nation, at different times these tapes running in our heads like, “We’re the best.” Or “We couldn’t possibly change this because X, Y, Z reason.” right? We can’t provide healthcare for everybody. But they do.

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. It’s out there. In fact, there’s working models of it being absolutely an amazing thing. But they do it in the context of not only that but they’re also teaching kids how to cook in school, and they’re showing them how to do gardens. And they’re putting in exercise programs. They’re doing a holistic relationship to the qualities of life that matter to them and how they implement that in their society, in their culture, in the ways that they hold it together. We’ve lost context to that. And so we don’t have a sense that’s possible because media, those in control, don’t want you to have that sense and so you hear nothing about those other things. Which is where we go back to travel, right? When you emerge yourself in societies that have it down and can help all these different layers of things that need to be supported and taken care of. And you see it in action. And nobody in that– I mean, people get sick, yes. People have their issues because they’re people, they have belly buttons, we know people have issues. But there are cultures out there where they have identified and addressed and shifted the way that they value the human capacity. And we’re not even close to doing that yet.

So how do we start to, I guess, pull the thread to start unraveling the sweater on these stories? How do we do that? When you say it’s about consciousness, can we dig a little deeper on that? About how we can even make small changes within our communities around that?

Well, I think it is an issue of choosing and intending to make yourself aware of what’s going on. Being aware of the issues. Now, not necessarily by just reading mainstream news or anything like that, but talking to your neighbor and checking in and delivering a meal to somebody who’s been shut-in or in the hospital. Doing the things that make us human and then having conversations about that. And then looking at as we get 2 people and 8 people and 20 people and 50 people and 100 people and 1,000 people we then consciously start to find a way in which our vote and our behavior start to create the container in which we get control. And that’s really what the woman’s movement was about. And what the peace movement was about. And what the gay movement is about LBGTB– there’s too many letters in there. What we’re about is saying, “Let’s have the conversation about what it is to be you?” And then, “How can I support you in being more of you?” And then, “How can I show up to be more of me?” because I’m open to showing up in that way. But we have to take the step ourselves to say, “What would it be like for me if I really challenged is this belief system really mine or have I been handed it to me?” And when you get in– and that’s why I do the body-centered therapy work I do. That’s why I do the kind of the emotional-intelligence work I do because it starts with us understanding, “Where have I bought the lie? And how do I hand the lie back over?” Right? And having [inaudible] when we see that, it’s like there’s something’s not right here, it’s not fitting. Then being able to step into the [acquiring?] the curiosity and the wonderment of like, “Something’s not right. What is it? What part am I playing in that?” And this is the accountability part – right? – where we as individuals get to go, “How am I contributing in that? Oh. I don’t want to know about that,” so in not deciding not to be part of it, I’ve allowed it to escalate to this point. And now that it’s so intrusive, I have to do something, and maybe I’ll blame the people who have a voice because that way, if they shut up, I’ll be okay.” It’s like, “No. It doesn’t work that way.”

Yeah. I think personal responsibility is a big need alongside curiosity. I also think that– one of my favorite quotes– so I’m a recovering English major, which we can talk about at some other time [laughter]. But one of my favorite quotes, actually, from my entire bachelor’s degree in English was, “Not to decide is to decide,” and I think it’s actually from Metamorphosis, if I remember right. And so like, “look what happened to him.” I know. You just shuddered a little bit. It’s interesting because a lot of people don’t realize that. When you’re telling somebody, “I don’t care,” and they act on the basis of you not caring, then what else did you expect to have happen?

Well, in ignoring, doesn’t mean that the river isn’t still flowing and the flood is coming your way, and that’s essentially what it boils down to. It has to rise to a level of crisis. And even when you tell people that it’s coming, they’re still like, “No. I don’t see it yet.” It’s like, “Well, are you going to be standing up to your knees in water to know that it’s coming?” So in the political arena or in our personal accountability arena, it’s been a place where it’s been acceptable to ignore, and I think that’s where our duty lies right now, is to say, “Tell me what you’re thinking about that and tell me how you formed that opinion and tell me how you think that opinion is serving you.” Right? Because I have a different opinion based on different information, and I’m curious as to whether your interested in having a different viewpoint because it’s not about me needing to convince them of something, but inviting them into the conversation where the dialogue becomes equal. And the inquiry as to, “What would you like to see different and what are you willing to do to have it be different?” because it’s not going to change by pointing your finger and saying, “If only they would, my life would be okay,” which is– we started this conversation with, “Well, how did you get on this journey?” Well, that’s what was happening in the women’s movement. “If only they would allow me to be equal, then I’d be equal,” and in the frustration of knowing that that was never going to be the answer, I started looking for a new platform, and that’s when I got involved with the healing arts, which is where I went into a much deeper spiritual path around, “If we’re all considered one in an energy field and I’m contributing to that energy field, how do I take responsibility for what I’m contributing? Really take responsibility for what I’m contributing. So what healing do I need to do around wounds that keep me angry and locked up and in pain? I can only do the healing that is mine to do.” But in doing that, I create a ripple effect that allows other people to potentially say, “Well, that works for you. Maybe it’ll work for me if I actually look at what it is I need to let go of, what it is I need to speak to, and what I need to step up to,” because those are all components of change in the world.

Right. So tell me about what you do now and how you help people with those things.

Well, 45 years of kind of looking out I started out in the women’s movement. I mean, I started out in the church movement. My dad was a deacon, and I got involved with the church. And I got involved with circles in the church. And I took the lead in my high school. And then, when I went to college, I just went to college and learned how to smoke dope and drink beer and be an artist, right [laughter]? And the minute I graduated, I moved across the street from the women’s center and went to my first women’s encounter group, and I was like, “Holy shit. This is interesting, [those stuff?].” Right? Because inherently I said I came out [inaudible] but I hadn’t had the body of work. In Nova Scotia, the consciousness was not– you weren’t going to find a lot of feminists books. And you weren’t going to find a lot of lesbian [movement?]. And me and my six friends in my basement started the lesbian movement and all that.

So let me tell you this, right? A day or two ago, our principal job was to recruit straight women. I mean, that was our job at the time. Because we were hiding. We were hiding behind whatever platform we could stay safe in. And so journeying forward what I do now, and I have a program Raise Your Voice. And it really is an– I put everything that I’ve done. Everything that I know. Everything that I care about can be delivered through that platform of really what is it we dream about and how do we get there. What is it we need to know about ourselves in the emotional intelligence [inaudible], we need to own and be accountable for? What do we need to communicate that we’ve not been able to step up to? And in communicating that, how do we create an active plan that then lets us deliver on what we really want?
So we go back to the dream, right? But the dream needs to be managed from a place of deeper purpose, deeper what I call radical self-love. And the reason I use the radical self-love is self-love is not just getting your nails done and having a bath. Radical self-love is really dropping deeply, deeply into a sense of purpose, a knowing about yourself that you matter and that what you do matters and how you feel about yourself matters. And when we own that, then we start to really change the energy field in which we’re doing our work. And we start to attract people to us that also want to live in that joy, in that heart, in that vibrancy, in that path of being excited about the life we’re creating. To me, that’s what matters, is that we get excited about the life we’re creating and that we come from a place of heart around it.
That is so beautiful. So how can we get in touch with you?

I have a website. It’s www dot Brenda R Bryan, B-R-Y-A-N, dot com. And I have a phone number, 503-728-8700. And I have a Facebook page. You just [do?] Brenda R. Bryan and you’ll find me. And so at any point you want a conversation, you want to connect, please, this is the thing that brings joys to my heart. So it is my sense of self says that my work is to offer my gifts, and I’ve been offered amazing gifts. And I’m trying to find a way to deliver them. And through my program, Raise Your Voice, my prayer is that I’ll be able to do that.

That’s awesome. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you for having me. We had a great conversation.

Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah.

Thank you for listening to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. And thanks again to our guest Brenda Bryan. Please join us next week when we talk to Sarah Olivieri, a nonprofit strategist with a passion for helping organizations thrive in the digital age. If you enjoyed today’s show, be sure to share it with a friend and thanks for listening.

[music] Thanks for listening to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. You can find us online at www.jenmcfarland.com/podcast. You can also connect with Jen on social media @jensmcfarland on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. This show is produced in Portland, Oregon by Jen McFarland Consulting. Women Conquer Business is available on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and many other podcast apps. [music]

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