“Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.”

Jelaluddin Rumi, mystic Sufi poet, 13th century

Recently, I was invited to give a lecture in Rome for WIN (Women’s International Networking) at an international conference about women’s leadership. WIN’s founder Kristin Engvig and her team have developed an innovative and holistic approach to women’s leadership. About 700 women from all over world gathered here to get inspired and encouraged to restore the feminine balance in their companies and in their private lives.

Kaouthar Darmoni taking picture at WIN conference

I was there to inspire and to dance with 700 businesswomen. To hang with such a big crowd for four days is quite a thing. I always get nervous before I speak and dance for academics and corporate people. Classical (i.e. conventional, conservative) institutions often view my work as ‘original’ (i.e. alien, provocative). Some organizers announce me as their ‘mystery guest’ – to not scare off the ladies!

So I got nervous… Although I have been giving this kind of lecture for years, it always feels like my maiden trip. This time, to make things worse, I got sick during the conference. All my old insecurities surfaced and I panicked “Who do I think I am, daughter of a suppressed Arab Muslim culture in North-Africa? What am I thinking, presuming to lecture hundreds of western women about emancipation and femininity? Am I really going to challenge these accomplished women to align their wombs with their brains? How can that make any sense to them?!”

These brilliant CEO’s, vice presidents, managers, project leaders, counselors and consultants have been trained to think, to rationalize and to analyze. And look at me: nothing to offer but my dance and some ancient wisdom. “Who am I to teach these girls about enhancing feminine leadership in business? To show them how they can tune in to the subtle vibrations in their wombs? How can I inspire them to listen to their vagina’s?!”

I felt terrified, feverish and sick. I had been vomiting all night; I hardly slept and imagined all kinds of disaster scenarios. “If I do my usual stuff – Goddess Dance and CocoCabasa – nobody will take me seriously. If I try to make these women dance, shake, undulate and show them how to be playful and sensual with their bodies, they will laugh at me. I will look ridiculous. I’m about to ruin my professional reputation!” In short: I had to find another theme for my plenary. And I had to do it fast.

I spent a whole day sick in bed writing and re-writing a ‘professional’ speech based on ‘serious’ information from my academic background in gender studies. I added professional ‘case studies’ from my work as a consultant and a coach in the corporate world. But the more ‘serious and professional’ my speech became, the more desperate I got. In the end, I just closed my eyes and slept.

On the morning of my speech I woke up and did my prayers. I asked all my goddesses for guidance. I opened my Persian Quran, the ‘Methnawi‘ of Jelaluddin Rumi, one of the greatest mystics of Islam 13th century. The book fell open at these lines: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” Ah, Rumi never fails me. Forget safety. That was my theme, and that’s what I transmit to women: to dare! To dare be feminine at work! To get out of your ‘masculine’ comfort zone! So practice what you preach, Kaouthar! And walk your talk…

In less than an hour I wrote a new lecture and created a set of goddess dance movements, chose my music and made a new plenary concept. I delivered the documents to the technical team and went back to bed.

As I went on stage, that afternoon, I was still feverish and shaking. In front of me I saw a mass of hundreds of women in the dark, and I was standing there alone in the spotlights. I don’t really remember what I did or what I said… I was in a kind of trance, floating, transported on the wings of the goddesses. I only remember the laughter, so much laughter; hundreds of women (and some men) laughing. And I remember the overwhelming sensation of bathing in the energy of 700 wild, sensual, playful wombs. It was powerful beyond measure, vibrant energy beyond words. Pure grace, pure magic.

For one second I thought: “Imagine these 700 wild wombs entering any institution, any organization; nothing would resist the change!”

Nobody could resist such feminine leadership, not even IS. That conviction filled me with immense joy and hope: feminine leadership is not a mirage. It is real.

My plenary was one of the highlights of the four-day conference. The nicest feedback came from a Canadian manager who had been delegated by her company to review the conference: “This was a great conference about feminine leadership, but I don’t know how to write in my rapport that the nicest discovery was my leadership from the vagina! My boss would think that I had gone nuts in Rome!”

So ladies (and gentlemen): destroy your reputation, be notorious…

PS. Don’t forget to leave your comments below! I’d love reading your opinion!

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    4 thoughts on “To Women in Business: “Destroy your reputation; be notorious!”

    1. Avatar
      Bianca Dekker says:

      Dear Kaouthar,

      The feelings you write about…the insecurities…I know this so well.
      In our own authentic way, we are the best.
      But if we want to do our best, then we start using our heads and all kind of nasty things will surface.

      While the only thing we need to do is just being ourselves. Show our insecurities, our vulnerability.
      Just tell the world: I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers.
      But….who has!!!!

      It is showing this vulnerable sight what is so full of female energy. Everything is oke, all.things can and may be felt and lived.
      Including everything: shadow and light.

      Dancing with you really changed my life. Not by using my head but listening to my heart.I’m really grateful that I met you 11 years ago. It was like you planted a seed. And from that time a beautiful flower is growing. Bigger and more beautiful every year.

      So I’m sure you have planted a lot of seeds with your performance.
      Trust me…..



    2. Avatar
      Kristin engvig says:

      Wonderful. We loved having you at the WINconference. Thanks for your openness and wonder-filled presence. You really moved and transformed people in few minutes… I feel like you a lot. Pioneering is really something. Thanks for being with us with such noble works. See you next time as we and all the women support each other

    3. Avatar
      Jean-Paul Kruk says:

      Lieve Kaouthar,

      Het doet me deugd dat je zo openhartig over je gevoelens (nervositeit) bent. Je kwetsbaarheid is juist je grote kracht. Deja vu. Feest der herkenning. Mensen durven vaak niet uit hun velige comfort zone te komen en out-of-the-box te denken. Buiten de lijntjes te kleuren. Daar heb je courage, moed voor nodig. Onderbuikgevoelens kunnen angst (bijv. voor het vreemde), wantrouwen, maar ook hoop in de hand werken. Kansen voor het oprapen, als je ze maar wilt zien. Rumi en ook de Amerikaanse auteur, Brene Brown (De Kracht van Kwetsbaarheid; De Moed van Imperfectie) tonen aan dat je angst moet laten varen, dat je moet durven (be bold, dare): je leert door te doen.

      Het citaat van een passage uit een speech, bekend als De man in de arena, van Theodore Rosevelt (23 april 1910, aan de Sorbonne,in Parijs) spreekt boekdelen:

      ” Het is niet de criticus die telt, niet degene die ons erop wijst waarom de sterke man struikelt, of wat de man van de daad beter had kunnen doen. De eer komt toe aan de man die daadwerkelijk in de arena staat, zijn gezicht besmeurd met stof, zweet en bloed; die zich kranig weert; die fouten maakt en keer op keer tekortschiet, omdat dat nu eenmaal onvermijdelijk is;
      die desondanks toch probeert iets te bereiken; die groot enthousiasme en grote toewijding kent; die zich helemaal geeft voor de go
      goede zaak; die, als het meezit, uiteindelijk de triomf van een grootse verrichting proeft, en die, als het tegenzit an als hij faalt, in elk geval grote moed heeft getoond …”

      N.B. Waar man en hij in de tekst staat kun je ook vrouw en zij lezen.
      Stel je kwetsbaar op en sta in je kracht.

      Jean-Paul Kruk

    4. Avatar
      Benedetta-Mabruka says:

      Kaouthar, thanks for such an effort and for the wonderful gift you left us…the amazing discovery of feeling a vibrating body, full of feminine energy and grace. I will never forget your teaching, and yes, I will dare to be feminine! 😉
      With immense gratitude, hoping to meet again soon,

      Benedetta-Mabruka 😉

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