Happy July 4! What Madonna Said About Voting and Sex Still True

by Gloria Feldt on July 4th, 2012
in Leadership, No Excuses, Politics, Power, Women & Politics, Women's History and tagged , , , , ,

So here’s the lesson for July 4, Independence Day 2012:

On July 1st, Mississippi legislation that mandates that all abortion providers be registered OBGY-Ns with hospital visiting privileges was to go into effect, because two of the three doctors at the only clinic providing abortion services in Mississippi do not have visiting privileges (undoubtedly yet another consequence of the war on women with abortion as its frontline).

Good news is, the Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a suit and temporarily stalled the enactment of the legislation, which has nothing to do with medical necessity and everything to do with using the political process to restrict reproductive sell-determination for the women of Mississippi.

Photo Credit: Madonna dons an American Flag and little else in her 1990 ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign.

 Therefore, the only solution to these assaults on women’s freedom and equal rights is participation in the political process. This to me is what Independence Day celebrations are all about—or should be. And as we enjoy those barbecues and fireworks, remember what Madonna says about voting being as important as sex.

Because as usual, the Material Girl tells it like it is.  As do my great colleagues Molly Dedham and Christine Eads. I’m fortunate to be a “Regular Broad” on their terrific Sirius XM radio show called “Broadminded.” The interview excerpted below is from my first “Broadminded” interview.  We talked about a range of political issues, including the imperative to harness our sister courage—joining with our sisters–as we use our cherished American liberties to influence the policies we want.

Q: Gloria Feldt is an amazing woman, she’s definitely an unbelievable broad. She was the former CEO of Planned Parenthood, she’s a professor of women’s studies. She wrote a book No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power. Gloria, welcome to Broadminded, we’re glad to have you here.

Rutgers Center for Women in Politics said women in politics is going to happen again, the last time it was so ripe and it was this exciting it was 1992. What sets the stage for this coming back?

Gloria: If you remember 2010 was called “the year of the conservative women” and that sort of fizzled. What happened in the 1992 “year of the woman” is an object lesson.

Because that was the year that women were really ticked off…about Supreme Court rulings   that threatened to take away their reproductive rights. They were ticked off about Anita Hill and how she had been treated by the guys in the senate when she said that she had been sexually harassed.

And so women voted in droves and elected a record number of progressive women to Congress.

Well guess what? In 1994 we got the Gingrich revolution.

So the object lesson is that in 1994 women stayed home from the polls in exactly the same numbers that additional women had come out in 1992—and lost many of those seats.

Q: Let’s think about that. You’re saying we’ve got to pay attention to 1992 and you just explained why. So what’s happening here is politics comes in, people come in, and it changes women’s rights. We don’t use our power. Why does it work in 1992? Why does it change in 1994? Now we’re in 2010, so can you kind of speak to that to kind of bring it all to one spot.

Gloria: It’s always easier to get people activated when they’re angry about something specific and you can mobilize that anger. But politics and also advancement in the workplace are things that you have to sustain. People do not give you power. Why should they stand aside? You have to claim the power that you have. And in politics the power of the vote is the first and most important citizen power.

Women don’t run for office in the same numbers men do. I wrote an article in 2008 thinking I was going to be talking about how women were coming to the fore in politics, and that was going to be a year of the women. And everyone was saying it then because Hillary Clinton was supposed to be a slam dunk to become the Democratic nominee, and on track to become the first woman president. Well guess what, that didn’t happen, did it?

Because if women don’t pay attention, then nobody is going to step aside for them. The doors are open, but nobody walks you through them but yourself.

Q: Can we just concentrate one second on voting. It drives me absolutely crazy. A woman who calls herself an advocate, or stands for something but doesn’t do something as simple as go to the polls and vote, cast a vote. I don’t understand that.

Gloria: Right Christine. It’s become easier to do that. You can do early voting, you can find ways to cast your vote.

Q: There is no excuse.

Gloria: There is no excuse. And we need to tell that to our sisters. People are busy. Women have extremely busy lives. And so it is very easy for something to come between you and voting. And also, you hear politicians trying to persuade us that, oh it won’t really make a difference. But it does make a difference.

Q: I want to say too that this is important, you’ve got to be careful about, a lot of women don’t realize how powerful the vote is. So before we start blaming, they’ve got to understand how important it is. I really didn’t figure that out until I was older. I didn’t really get it until I was in my late 20s, maybe early 30s, about voting and how important it is. I had passion about things, I would get mad about things I could definitely point the finger and say, “that’s wrong” but how do you make the difference? And it comes down to the vote, and voting records of the people that you are going to vote for.

Gloria: It comes down to voting not just in the general election, by the way, because most races are determined in the primary, especially state and local races. And even congressional races. They are decided in the primary because most districts are either heavily democratic or republican. So if you don’t cast your vote in the primary, only, at most, 25 percent of the voters do, you have lost your voice.

Q: Remember when Madonna came out with that flag? And she did that campaign about voting? That was in the 90s, and that just went right over my head. I think for most people it did because we were in our 20s, we were thinking about boys and drinking and college and partying. If you think about it, that was a major statement for women back then. It’s also an age thing too, you know so much more, I think, women are getting smarter. Some of the best ages, late 30s and early 40s, we start really coming into our own and understanding power. You’ve studied this so you should know.

Gloria: I’ve studied it and I’ve lived it. One of the things you were just saying made me think about, ‘my vote does count.’ My vote counts but my vote counts more if you and I go vote together and our two votes count yet more if we each take another sister with us.

Q: Look what just happened; you’ve got 6,7, 8,10 people. The three of us, if you took somebody and they took somebody, and that all adds up.

Gloria: It all adds up, that’s right. One of the things that I talk about in No Excuses, one of the nine power tools I share with women, because I didn’t want to blame women for not doing these things, I want to help inspire them and give them the tools to actually do these things. It is the power of the sisterhood. I call it “sister courage.”

Very often women isolate themselves because they are so busy. We’re dealing with our kids, we’re dealing with our work, we’re afraid if we take time off for the kid that we’re going to be treated badly at work. We’re afraid of all kinds of things. So we think we have to solve our own problem ourselves.  We are responsible to deal with our own problems, but if we look around us we will most certainly find at least one other person who shares that issue and who is willing to talk with us and then if we join together and strategize with courage to put the issue out there, we can usually make some change.

Q: And so that’s leadership skills?

Gloria: That’s leadership.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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