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CHARISMATIC MOMENT ARCHIVES: Are Men & Women Equally Charismatic?

Edward S. Brown III

The Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute defines "charisma" as the creating of illusions to impact the emotions and psyche of others through the use of flair, finesse and glib language. The idea of the charming and engaging individual takes on different dimensions when applied to males and females. The difference is analogous to a fragrance smelling different on a man than on a woman. Such contrasts beg the question as to whether men and women can be equally charismatic. A man characterized as suave and debonair may be seen as charismatic. Where similar traits characterized by a woman might be deemed sexy, sultry or scintillating. But is this charisma? If not, charisma is either a term reserved strictly for men or the definition has to be expanded to encompass the differences in expression of both genders. A key point to note is that a person may not be generally accepted as charismatic when he or she crosses the gender line for expression. For example, charisma is often viewed as imparting the gender traits within its definition and does not necessarily allow for men to take on traits deemed feminine and vice versa. Terms such as flamboyant, outlandish or ostentatious might apply, but charisma is arguable.

In viewing this hypothesis of charisma being gender specific, under the terms of Core Edge's definition, women can be charismatic, but it manifests itself differently than that that of men. In a patriarchal society, the traits deemed charismatic are often attributed to men, but the idea that women may take on similar traits and not tarnish their femininity should be accepted. The singer Madonna reportedly exhibited traits believed to be masculine in her ascension to stardom. She was focused, brusque, ruthless and committed based on biographical accounts. It was her unorthodox approach that aided her success which defined her charisma. To say that a learned behavior cannot apply to a particular gender would create the slippery slope of discrimination. But we would be naive not to observe the differences in expression. If we are referring to the illusory aspects of interpersonal communication which charisma imparts, could we suggest that men are apt to create illusions that connect; whereas women are less inclined to demonstrate similar proclivities? Again, we would have to expand its definition merely for inclusionary purposes. While Denzel Washington, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Smits may be deemed charismatic, they exhibit it differently. The same would be true for Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts.

Is charisma equally distributed among the sexes? Based on our analysis, charisma is subjective and intangible. It can be compared to being physically attractive. If enough people believe that you are attractive then you are deemed attractive. However, how charisma plays out is often deemed more masculine within a male dominated society. It is no accident that it may be easier to randomly recall men who are deemed charismatic than women. Often there may be a general consensus when naming men, but when it comes to women, we may have to ponder a little longer in our listing. The term has not been traditionally used to describe women. As the role of women has drastically changed, the dynamics that create charisma would naturally level the playing field to encompass personal expression in this arena also.

The onslaught of the philosophy of charisma has created excitement for both sexes. The discussion, up until recently, was null and void. It was not and could not be seen as a legitimate philosophy when there wasn't any serious studies on the subject. Now that the discussion has begun, it becomes even more interesting for both genders to utilize this new information in the realm of marketing as a competitive tool. Those who use charisma to separate themselves from competitors as well as seek personal fulfillment will have the advantage and ultimately end up redefining it-whether male or female.

Ed Brown is a Principal of The Core Edge Image and Charisma Institute, Inc. Contact Ed at ed@core-edge.com.

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