Ep 44: Deborah Heifetz and Martha Eddy: Reclaiming the Female Body for Power in Negotiation


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Wow, what strange, nerve-racking and global times we are living in. This pandemic certainly underscores for me how interdependent we all are and how important it is – MORE THAN EVER – that we pull together to create a more livable, humane, pleasurable and sustainable world. There is great power in where we place our attention – and we can focus on the positive world we are trying to create – the diamonds that form under great pressure, the lotus flower than blooms out of the muck. To quote a signature message of this podcast (Pete Drucker) “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Our podcast today focuses on negotiation skills for women, and the body. This topic evokes a lot in me. In fact, the night before I recorded it, I woke up at three in the morning and wrote down these thoughts.

• First, that (as my last guest Thomas Hubl suggested), “the feminine” is the body;

• That my body didn't belong to me for a lot of my life;

• That my sexuality also didn't belong to me until I did a lot of work to reclaim it;

• Regarding the phrases “I want” and “I need”, which are so important in negotiation and conflict resolution -- I wasn't supposed to have wants, and I'm not sure about needs either. As a girl in my family, I was supposed to serve, and I was supposed to accommodate;

• It was hard for me to have a clear connection to my “yes” and particularly to my “no”. And, if not connected to your “no”, it can be difficult to walk away from a negotiation -- which is fundamental to power;

• I didn't feel safe claiming value, a popular negotiation concept, because I was taught so deeply that I was supposed to let a man do that;

• Though, throughout the course of my life I have cleared out a lot of unhelpful acculturation, I'm aware of the depth with which these ideas still live in my body.

My two guests in this episode, Dr. Deborah Heifetz and Dr. Martha Eddy, are both dancers and embodiment conflict resolution experts. Among other cool things about Deborah, she served as a special advisor to the crisis management team of the Israeli police and acted in Track II Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. She currently lives in northern Italy where, with her husband and other Italian changemakers, they are working to have their geo- region become a prototype for human scale, community-based sustainable development.

Martha is an author, researcher and worldwide lecturer on somatics (i.e. the body as experienced from within), peace and violence prevention and the role of the body in negotiation. She lives with her family in New York City.

As I recounted my 3a.m. thoughts to the two of them, Martha shook her head in agreement. As someone who is so deeply experienced with the body, she affirmed that my reality is pretty universal to women. She’s not aware of many, if not any cultures that uplift the strength and value of the female, such that the female body, or our experience as females in the body, comes forth as power automatically. It's like “swimming upstream to find our power and reclaim it” she says.

For Deborah, the first trauma she experienced was being born female. She had three older brothers, a very patriarchal father and mother, and felt inherently less valuable. She says, “ I was the whipped cream on the cake, but I didn't want to be the whipped cream, I wanted to be the cake. I wanted to be where the action was, where the real politic was.”

In talking about the inspiration for her work, Martha talks about the influence of her gender-fluid parents, her father who had sexual relations with men and liked gardening, her mother who liked to shoot out windows with her BB gun, and her very sensitive brother, who was not allowed to be the way he was in the very macho and rough climate of Spanish Harlem in New York City.

Deborah says “the body is the central location for social change -- that it all begins with the body.” Martha concretely observes that young women who literally can pull their own body weight up, have a different kind of agency, a different kind of ability to self protect. We women “need to self-assert, without hiding, to step, forward to stand up. These words mean something” she says.

Please enjoy these two unique voices and share with us in the comments below “What is your experience of the body in negotiation?”

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