Heroine’s Journey to Futures

In our International Women’s Day 2024 feature, Lenka Chobotová explores the intersection of futures and foresight with gender equality.

In 1990, psychologist Maureen Murdock wrote The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness in response to widely popularised and archetypical hero’s journey,  introduced by Joseph Campbell in Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949. He contemplated: “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological tradition, the woman is [already] there. All she has to do is to realise that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” To which Maureen responded that while that may be mythologically true, there is a psychological depth that is missing:

“For contemporary women, this involves the healing of the wounding of the feminine that exists deep within her and the culture.”

Both the Hero and Heroine’s journeys portray a transformative quest that leads to a radically new, future self – but each follows a different story arc in response to a rather distinct motif or pull of the future(s). The hero receives the “call for adventure” from the external world, whereas the heroine navigates 2 callings – one that is expected of her in striving to succeed in a masculine world and an “inner calling” coming from a desire for self-worth and wholeness. 

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to honour the Heroine’s journey taken by so many women before, including the woman in futures. In particular, I would like to celebrate four powerful shifts, necessary in face of a dominant (and largely masculine) system. Since myths are the place where meaning is made and systems where it is experienced, I will lean on four System Mythologies in an attempt to bring new, feminine stories to the quest for wholeness – within them and our societies.

1. The Purple Shift: Employing Intuition

While the dominant system longs for the known, certain and measurable, the Purple Shift is about going to the hidden, deeper narratives while actively sensing and probing for new meaning with our intuition. I like to think of intuition as evolution’s longitudinal learning system, hidden in the unconscious and speaking in the language of metaphors. Our inner power shift is to proudly employ it in service of surfacing insights, decoding system narratives and strengthening our agency to reimagine what is into what might be.

2. The Green Shift: Weaving Networks

While the world is still seduced by singular heroes that beat the odds on their own, the heroine’s power is woven tightly with her communities. This power shift happens when one leaves the “expected identities” assigned by the masculine world in favour of reconnecting with the authentic, feminine self and communities that embrace it.  Weaving such networks of change is a delicate act of nurturing and allowing herself to be nurtured. Because in the end, as Robin Wall Kimmener wrote in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, “All flourishing is mutual”.

3. The Blue Shift: Unmasking Systems

Two young fish swim along and bump into an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?” This parable by David Foster Wallace might also illustrate the heroine’s perception shift: away from predominantly internalising her responsibility for the exterior conditions towards recognising “the obvious” system structures that are at play.

4. The Red Shift:  Building Movement

With previous perception change comes also a powerful responsibility shift: from constant effort to better herself to a sharp focus on bettering the system. And from trying to earn the right to her futures – to claiming them. While the traditional hero journey sees life as a game to be won, the heroine that employs her intuition, weaves in her communities and unmasks the oppressive system(s); stands ready to lead in brave ways that only future myths will tell. It’s time.

I have been lucky to meet many heroines demonstrating one or more of these shifts.

Here are four extraordinary futures women that helped me on my own heroine’s journey and that I intuitively thought of when recalling these inner power shifts: Evy Peña, Carol Tang, Tanja Hichert and Cat Tully.

PS: Special thanks to my mentor and myth-buster, Andrew Curry, who introduced me to Systems Mythologies a year ago and continually keeps shining more light on my own futures journey.