Tale of Two Elizabeths: Bringing Hope to New Hope

By Tamara Fagin, Guest Blogger

I did not grow up watching Elizabeth Taylor on the silver screen. If I did, I’m sure that like many young people who did come of age with her (like my parents), I would have been utterly distracted by her dark-haired beauty, her striking violet blue eyes and all of those marriages. She was a superstar.

I, on the other hand, came of age during the 1980’s. During a period of tumultuous change – somewhat like now come to think of it. I witnessed (on television) the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fallout of Chernobyl and individuals, families and institutions grappling with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Elizabeth Taylor that I grew up with was the most famous AIDS activist in the world.

Sex, AIDS and No Hope. I remember my oldest uncle telling me, as I prepared to go to college, how young people now didn’t have to wait to get married to have sex like his generation did, but that having sex might kill them. HIV/AIDS put an end to the care-free sexual revolution.

I never imagined that less than 2 years later my youngest (and favorite) uncle, Uncle Bernard, would tell me that he and his boyfriend, Harold, were both HIV- positive.

Uncle Bernard and Harold lived in the quaint artist colony of New Hope, Pennsylvania, a popular weekend getaway for many in New York and Philadelphia. I spent many happy weekends and a summer living and working with them – dancing to Madonna’s Vogue and other 80’s hits with Harold at the Cartwheel, dining at Chez Odette’s and sipping wine like a bona-fide grown up at art gallery openings.

But, AIDS changed all of that. By the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, New Hope’s gay population was devastated by the AIDS epidemic. There was essentially NO HOPE in New Hope. Every week seemed to bring more bad news: someone else was in the hospital with Kaposi Sarcoma or Pneumocystis pneumonia; another friend was no longer able to work and was being evicted from his home; a neighbor had a T-cell count of 4 and had jokingly given each a name (the average count for these infection fighting cells is 500 to 1,500). Dark humor for dark days.

Those of us who lived through this era will recall the hysteria that spread through America regarding how this disease might be transmitted. It was like the dark ages – HIV-positive children, such as Ryan White and Ricky Ray, were shunned and not allowed to go to school or their homes were torched by mobs who feared the spread of AIDS. And, to make matters worse, some praised God for killing the homosexuals and drug addicts with AIDS. It was a lonely time for people living with HIV/AIDS; and my grandmother, a devout Catholic, left the church and prayed at home for her youngest son.

Acting; New Hope. Many stayed at home, afraid. But, thankfully, others, such as Elizabeth Taylor, got angry and courageously took a stand. By her very public actions, she provided new hope for a cure, a vaccine and a better life for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Elizabeth Taylor lost 2 close friends to AIDS. She took the pain of her loss and turned it into something positive – a global movement that changed the way many people viewed AIDS and its victims. She was quoted on CNN.com as follows: “Everyone was talking about AIDS, but talking behind their hands[.]” … “But nobody was doing anything about it, including myself. And then I got really angry.” … “People were telling me not to get involved, I got death threats, I got angrier and angrier. So I put myself out there.”

She tirelessly used her superstar power to raise awareness about the disease and funds ($270 million) for the fight against HIV/AIDS. She is an inspiration to me.

AIDS at 30; Action Required. This June will mark 30 years since the first AIDS case was reported.

So, where do things stand? We understand the disease a lot better now but we still have no vaccine. Certain populations in the U.S. and around the world are “safe” while certain (especially, people of color) are far from safe from HIV. People are living longer and more productive lives with HIV but every 9 and ½ minutes someone in the U.S. is infected with AIDS. (www.nineandahalfminutes.org)

There is still much to be done.

Continue the fight and stand up to those who would take funding away from groups like Planned Parenthood who provide crucial preventative care, education and screening to at-risk populations. Stand up to attempts to repeal provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act that protect people living with HIV/AIDS from insurance industry abuses. Stand up against the mob mentality of the religious right that in the name of budget balancing efforts is trying to erode what took activists like Elizabeth Taylor 30 years to accomplish – do not take your rights and the rights of those less fortunate than you for granted. Inaction when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention and research is tantamount to negligent homicide or worse. Don’t look the other way. It is your time to act. . Fight for what is right. Use your voice and your voting power to provide hope for a cure and a vaccine.

In memory of Bernard Genest, Harold Wireman and their good friends in New Hope & Lambertville and the two Elizabeths, the famous actress to many, but to me, the fearless and powerful AIDS activist.

Tamara Fagin is a recovering tax attorney, mother of two, wife of one, and closet activist trying to get the courage to Embrace Controversy and Create a Movement.

For Afghan Women, “Finding Voice” Is a Revolutionary Act

As Egypt continues to roil with change and I receive news daily about the UN Commission on the Status of Women 55th session that will convene in New York starting February 22, my No Excuses focus on women in the U.S. is shifting to global mode. And when my fabulous feminist journalist friend Lynn Harris told me about her work with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, I immediately asked if I could share it with you. Please read her post below, let us know your thoughts, and if you’re moved to action you’ll find out how you can help.

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across the website for The Afghan Women’s Writing Project, but once I did — and read prose like, “Our burqas are jail made of fabric” — I couldn’t tear myself away.

As I soon learned, the all-volunteer AWWP runs secure online writing workshops, taught by accomplished female American writers, for women in Afghanistan, some of whom participate in utter secrecy, hiding laptops under burqas or walking four hours through Taliban territory just to upload their poetry. With teams in the US and Afghanistan, AWWP has also opened a safe space in Kabul for participants to write and gather, with the longer-term goal of helping open Kabul’s first women-only Internet cafe.

Transfixed, I e-mailed the AWWP’s founder, novelist and journalist Masha Hamilton, to ask if it’d be ok if I pitched a story about the group. Somehow, a few months later, I’d become the AWWP’s (pro bono) public relations coordinator.

What inspired — and inspires — me? First, the almost unimaginable contrast between our freedom to blog and Tweet all day long, versus their culture’s demand for their silence. Second, the notion that for these women, “finding their voice” — a phrase that often sinks into cliche — is a revolutionary act that truly has, in many cases, allowed them to take some small, previously unimaginable degree of control over their lives. (One participant, inspired by the experience of writing, found a way to pay off her own bride price and arrange to come to the US for study. In fact, she tells her — still unfolding — story in the February 5 Guardian). Third, this part of the AWWP’s mission statement: “We believe that the right to tell one’s story aloud is a human right.”

An essential element of the AWWP is the website, where the writers’ harrowing, hopeful work is published. We invite you to read their poetry and prose — and just as important, to comment on it; their desire is not just to express, but also to reach out from their isolation and connect. You can also learn more about the AWWP at a series of “living room” fundraisers held in New York City, and elsewhere in the US and abroad, during the week of February 14. Information about the New York event (February 16), and how to find out about others, appears here. You can also email me here.

The Women’s Eye Sees the 9 Ways


Interview by Pamela Burke of The Women’s Eye Blog: Gloria Feldt On 9 Ways To Embrace Your Power

"The Women's Eye" Herself:Pamela Burke

29 Dec

Gloria Feldt has a passion for bettering women’s lives. She’s a renowned activist, commentator, teacher, and author. In her early years as a mother of three living in west Texas, she called herself a “desperate housewife.” Yet she rose to find her voice as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood from 1996-2005.

“It’s up to us to develop a more positive relationship with power, to define power on our terms and embrace it…” Gloria Feldt

Her most recent book “No Excuses–9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power” has been received with widespread praise. It’s been called “groundbreaking” and “attitude-changing,” and “the most daring.”

I’ve known Gloria for several years now and have attended her inspiring lectures. She’s certainly embraced her own power as her book is climbing best-seller lists. I am delighted I had the opportunity to ask Gloria how she finally found her own identity and to get her advice for others we begin 2011…

EYE: You’ve wrestled with finding your own voice throughout your life. Do you think the struggle is finally over?

GLORIA: I am only now truly finding my own authentic and unedited voice. It was a great privilege to be able to make my passion for women’s equality and justice into my life’s work for 30 years.

But what I discovered is that just as I’d allowed myself to be subsumed and led by what the culture expected of me as a young woman, I did what was wanted and needed of me to advance the cause as a movement leader.

Then, the first book I wrote after I left Planned Parenthood started out as Kathleen Turner’s biography, “Send Yourself Roses,” but to be marketable it became her memoir. I was the co-author, yet writing in her voice. Writing someone else’s life is like getting a year’s free psychotherapy.

I was confronted with the reality that I’d done it again—followed the same pattern of subsuming my voice to others.

So now, in this third act of my life, my power struggle has been to get clear about and stay with my own intention: to write my fourth book in my own true voice that speaks to other women about our ambivalent relationship with power.

And I’m very pleased with the response from women of all ages like comments you can read on Manisha Thakor’s website. She’s the founder of the Women’s Financial Literacy Initiative.

“Women can now raise money as well as men, are trusted by the voters more than men, and when they run they are statistically as likely to win.”

EYE: What inspired you to write “No Excuses”? Was it your personal experience?

GLORIA: They say you write the book you need to read. “No Excuses” turned out to be exactly that. The direct trigger was when I researched an article for Elle Magazine in 2008. I looked at the many organizations that help women run for office.

I found that despite their excellent programs, they have scarcely moved the dial in the last two decades. Women are 51% of the population, 54% of the voters, and 17% of Congress, 23% of state legislatures, and 10% of the mayors of the 100 largest cities.

But what really blew me away was to find that it was no longer external barriers holding women back. Women can now raise money as well as men, are trusted by the voters more than men, and when they run they are statistically as likely to win.

Lilly Ledbetter and Gloria Feldt

EYE: Can you give an example of a woman who conquered injustice and used her power well?

GLORIA: Lilly Ledbetter is a great example. When she found out that she was paid less than her male co-workers at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, she began the fight for women and girls who deserved equal pay for equal work.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed by President Obama in 2009 insuring that employees can challenge pay discrimination.
Other examples are Margaret Sanger, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many young women today like Emily May who started iHollaback, a movement dedicated to end street harassment as you can see in this video:

YouTube Preview Image

Another interesting person is Courtney Martin who interviews the next generation of activists in her new book “Do It Anyway” and urges young people to engage in philanthropy.

YouTube Preview Image

EYE: What do you think is holding some women back?

GLORIA: It turns out that the same dynamics exist in the workplace as well and in personal relationships. Women have an ambivalent relationship with power. Not necessarily less ambition than men, but less intention to hold positions that society deems powerful.

You can’t win public office if you don’t run. You can’t become an executive if you don’t put your name in the hat. It matters that we do reach our full potential including taking our rightful equal place making the policies and products that affect our lives.

EYE: You talk about Kathryn Bigelow winning the Academy Award and how that could have been a more empowering moment for women. How?

GLORIA: She could have said, “I am honored to be the first woman and I hope that my success will inspire many more women to do what I have done, as well to encourage the Academy to look to the many talented women directors.”

Sally Hawkins, the star of the movie “Made In Dagenham” about the 1968 strike by women workers at Ford Motor Company in the UK over gender pay discrimination, said this to journalist Jessica Wakeman at thefrisky.com: “If you’re a woman and you say that you’re not a feminist then you’re an idiot, basically. How can you not be passionate about our rights? It doesn’t make any sense.”

That’s the kind of comment that Bigelow might have made if she wanted to be more than an Oscar winner but also a woman who helps other women succeed.

“It’s up to us to develop a more positive relationship with power, to define power on our terms…”

EYE: You say women are stuck. We’ve broken the glass ceiling in so many places, yet you say we haven’t reached our full potential. Why?

GLORIA: Ambivalence about power stands in the way. Every door has been opened at least once and we’ve changed the laws. We’ve come a very long way. I celebrate that. To complete the journey though women must continue walking through the doors that are open.

No one will do that for us. Why should they? It’s up to us to develop a more positive relationship with power, to define power on our terms and embrace it, stand in it, and walk with intention to lead our own dreams.

Power over is oppression; power-to is leadership. Power over is from Mars. Power-to is from Venus. Women love having the power-to.

EYE: You quote Roseanne: “The thing women have to learn is no one gives it to you—you have to take it.” Is that the best way to gain power?

GLORIA: It’s the only way. And don’t expect anyone to attribute more power to you than you attribute to yourself.

EYE: Why do some women come to power and then, as you say, step back?

GLORIA: It’s hard to change a culture while you’re living in it. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier not to take on the responsibility of power, or even the responsibility to make our own choices. Sometimes, women become discouraged or are coopted by those who belittle them when they strive for more. There are many reasons but I say there are no excuses any more.

“When you can stand in your power, it’s no longer as enticing to play the passive-aggressive…”

EYE: You say we take the boniest part of the chicken and leave the rest. That’s not exactly a compliment. What do you mean by this?

GLORIA: Women are socialized to think of others first. That’s not a bad thing, or wouldn’t be if men were also socialized the same way. Recently I said in a speech to a group of women that no one loves you more because you’ve used yourself up for them.

A murmur or recognition went across the auditorium and it was the most quoted line in the post-event blogs and comments. When you can stand in your power, it’s no longer as enticing to play the passive-aggressive or the martyr as many of our own mothers did.

EYE: You call your book a “battle cry for women.” What is it they have to do to gain this power you say is so important?

GLORIA: I think I said it is a clarion call. Wake up, sisters. Use the 9 Ways:

EYE: In spite of a lot of negative stats about just how far women have come in some respects, you seem optimistic. Do you think women are beginning to take on this “No Excuses” attitude of yours or do we have a long way to go?

GLORIA: Both. I wrote “No Excuses” to speed the dial of progress. At the current rate, it’ll be 70 years till women reach parity. I don’t think that’s right or fair. And besides, I can’t live that long. And as an activist for 40 years, I want to see us do better.

That’s why I devote at least half the book to the 9 Ways, specific and practical “power tools” women can use to help themselves cope with the challenges, stand in their own power, and ultimately to lead unlimited lives. I invite readers to my website www.GloriaFeldt.com, and especially to join the conversation on the 9 Ways blog, www.GloriaFeldt.com/9ways.

EYE: Are you feeling more power within yourself now with the publication of your book?

GLORIA: Absolutely. And I remind myself of No Excuses’ lessons several times a day. I revised my language several times in this q and a to avoid self-deprecating comments that diminish how I represent myself and thus dissipate the power of my words and ideas.

EYE: Thanks, Gloria. There should be No Excuses after reading your 9 Ways’ List!

Want to Help Start a Girlution?

My friend Tamara Kreinin (pictured here), who is executive director of the United Nations Foundation Women and Population program,  sent me several e-mails during the last couple of weeks announcing that she was about to begin blogging. Seemed a little quaint that she was fretting about whether she was getting the art of the blogpost right, given that I get messages from e-consultants daily telling me blogging is already dead.

Well, you and I know blogging is alive and well. So all of you  who can’t fit an entire story into a 140-character tweet or a text, please join me in welcoming Tamara to the international league of bloggers. I am delighted to cheer on the inspiring new girls’ movement she’s initiated by re-publishing her first blogpost as a guest post here at Heartfeldt. If you want to help the Girlution in the U.S. and overseas, check out the Girl Up website to learn how.

The Girlution Girls of New Orleans

Dec 17 by Tamara Kreinin

If you want to help start a revolution to help the world’s girls, look no further than “Girlution” in New Orleans!

I met some remarkable girls at the Louise McGehees School in New Orleans who — along with Girl Up Teen Advisor Katherine Cochran — created Girlution. The idea behind this unique movement is that girls are the solution to ending global poverty and that every girl should be given an opportunity to develop to the best of her ability. The team invited me to discuss the programs Girl Up is supporting, including the Berhane Hewan program in Ethiopia that has helped girls delay marriage and pregnancy.

(NB: check out this video about Girl Up)

YouTube Preview Image

Girlution is truly a “for girls, by girls” movement! The girls have come up with sophisticated ways to raise money for the Girl Up campaign. They have a thermometer that rises as funds are raised (don’t you want to help them exceed their goal?!), a tribute list to honor those who have given, a thank you letter that goes to each donor, and they read campaign finance reports to expand their donor prospect list (be careful, you might be on it!). I brought some Girl Up give-aways for the Girlution organizers, but the first thing Katherine said when she saw them was, “Oh good, we’ll raffle them off to raise money so that the girls of Malawi can go to school.”

But these girls are far more than just fundraisers. They are educators and advocates as well. I walked through the school and saw Girlution everywhere I turned, on the splash page of every public computer, the signs on the doors, and the bulletin boards. I’ll be back next semester when they roll out a middle school curriculum for their schoolmates across the way, and begin taking Girlution to other schools, and perhaps acquire billboards!

The Girlution girls ask us all to “help spread the word. 600,000 million girls + 600,000 million solutions = Girlution! Visit their blog to learn more:/ or go to www.girlution.org.

p.s. I went home to my usual spot in New Orleans, opened a newsletter from my friend’s Methodist Church, and, there was Girlution — my friends had already made a gift! If you want to know how girls help girls, follow Girlution

“Real” TED and TEDWomen: What’s Next?

I’ve been meaning to cross post CV Harquail’s excellent wrap up of the TEDWomen conference and the panel held in New York to discuss ways of fostering greater inclusion for women, people of color, and ideas that have not traditionally been chosen by the TED curators. Here is it is, full force and unedited.

My only additional comment is to suggest that the value of the controversy that emerged from TEDWomen has been significant. I hope that by raising consciousness we have opened up a path for gender parity in all such conferences and other “thought leader” events. Because after all, women do have at least half of the big ideas!

I’d love to know your thoughts now that the conference is over and we’ve all had some time to process it.

“Building on TED and the TEDWomen Conference: How Can We Make Conferences More Inclusive?”

We made a big start towards answering this question at our roundtable conversation after the TEDx636 NYC/ TEDWomen simulcast event. Our panel, organized by Natalia Oberti Noguera and sponsored by NYWSE, included  Brittany McCandless (moderator), Adaora Udoji, Liza Sabater, Ritu Yadav, and me.

201012131218.jpgThis post offers my personal, subjective summary of the conversation and the actions steps that were recommended. As my fellow participants, organizers, and allies share their perceptions of the event and ‘next steps’, I’ll share these ideas and resources too.

Although our panel was diverse in terms of age, expertise, professional domain, culture, and racioethnicity, we shared the same over-arching goal: inclusivity and diversity not only at conferences, but also in the larger ‘world of ideas’.

Liza Sabater led off by describing a history of her efforts with others to get more women onto panels at tech events. Liza noted that very early on, people created a wiki where women in tech with interesting things to say were recommended as speakers and panelists.  Adaora Udoji described a similar effort that she’s been involved in to create a directory of women and men of color for corporate board membership.  Activists in the tech community  and beyond continue to point conference organizers to these lists of available speakers, and generate new and up-to-date resources. Most recent is Sara Holoubek’s initiative, the Field Guild to Female Founders, Influencers and Deal Makers.

The sheer number of directories like these, and the sizes of the database of nominees they contain, puts the lie to the claim that “there aren’t ‘enough’ women”. If conference planners were to use these resources, they could find many qualified speakers from diverse groups. And, using these resources, conference planners could help to alleviate the tokenizing experience that both Liza and Adaora mentioned, where the same one or two women, or people of color, are being asked to represent over and over again.

Despite having an abundance of women available to speak, conferences still lack gender parity. So, there is still work to do to get these women into panels and onto speaker lineups so they can bring their big ideas into the conversation.

Four Strategies

We came up with four different, complementary strategies:

  1. Advocate for Gender Parity at TED and TEDx
  2. Advocate for Gender Parity at every conference, with a more general campaign
  3. Create alternative conference spaces built on inclusion and diversity as a foundational principle
  4. Create ad hoc, smaller scale opportunities for women (and men) to share their ideas publicly

1. Gender Parity at TED and TEDx

Taking ideas and comments from my own blog posts and from insights by Michelle Tripp, we’ve started a few microactions directed at influencing TED itself. Some tactics are loosely organized in the SHE Should Talk At TED campaign, (#SHEtalkTED), initiated by Debra Condren, Gloria Feldt and me, and anchored on Facebook. We are working on a button that can be shared to nominated women as potential speakers for TEDs and TEDxs. And, we will soon send a formal invitation to TED organizers to invite them to a conversation about inclusion. she talk ted.jpg

There is also the Dubai-based campaign sponsored by Susan Macaulay at Amazing Women Rock. Susan has been advocating for more women speakers at TED events for the past two years.

She has also posted more than 200 TED and TEDx talks by amazing TED women (http://www.amazingwomenrock.com/ted-talks/awr-ted-talks-list.html) on her site. She updates the list regularly, and tweets several TED women talk links daily on Twitter from @AmazingWomen (http://twitter.com/AmazingWomen).

Amazing Women Rock - Search_1292258742937.jpeg

2. Advocate for Gender Partity at Every Conference, with a more general campaign

Natalia Oberti Noguera has started a broad campaign for inclusion: #MoreVoices. #Morevoices includes a Tumblr, a hashtagging campaign, and an action on IfWeRanTheWorld: “add #morevoices to conferences”.

Rachel Sklar’s #ChangeTheRatio effort, begun last year, is one we should continue to embrace. #ChangeTheRatio includes a Tumblr and a speaker series, as well as a @ChangeTheRatio Twitter account and hashtaging. Rachel’s efforts are targeted more at tech events, but the awareness of a need to #ChangeTheRatio of men and women, to achieve #GenderParity, is something that helps not only the tech community but also the larger public community involved in discussing ideas.

Sara Holoubek’s initiative, the Field Guild to Female Founders, Influencers and Deal Makers, has a web page where people can nominate interesting women and keep track of the growth of the Field Guide.

3. Create alternative conference spaces built on inclusion and diversity as a foundational principle

If you were designing, from the ground up, a scalable conference about ideas that embraced inclusion of women and men, and people of different cultures, races, abilities, and orientations, it would probably not look like TED.

Sure, it might have strong branding, a great reputation, a significant online distribution, and weighty influence in the tech, entertainment, and design world conversations, but it might not be organized around a ’singular, great, individual giving a speech’.A Field Guide.jpeg

An inclusive conference might include team presentations, interactive conversations, tummeling, unconferencing, and a whole range of learning and discussion strategies that are implicitly less hierarchical than having everyone watch the ’sage on the stage’. It would not depend on the transmittal model of learning (where wisdom flows from the speaker to the passive, receptive audience) and involve more co-learning, facilitated discussions.

Conference spaces themselves would be designed to facilitate interaction, many modalities of learning, opportunities for reflection, and even opportunities for practicing new skills. Liza Sabater continues to look for funding for a conference along a more inclusive model, focused on tech. There are surely others with a similar interest– and you should follow Liza on Twitter @blogdiva.

TED is a terrific event but it is not the only way great ideas can be shared, be spread, and become influential. There are other models, and new conferences can and should be created along these additional models.

4. Create ad hoc, smaller scale, frequent, local opportunities for women to share their ‘Big Ideas’

201012131216.jpg

One argument that is offered to explain the under-representation of women at TED and other conferences is the belief that women are scared or otherwise ill-equipped to speak in large events like these. I grant that there may be some truth to these claims of reticence, despite the presence of truly outstanding women presenters like the women who graced the TEDx636 stage last week.

Certainly, the kind of ’sage on the stage’ presentational style expected at TED is something that is learned. And, other modes of public idea facilitation are also learned– one may be born with the inclination, but the skills themselves can be taught, learned, and developed.

To develop their presentation skills, women could participate in ongoing public events like IGNITEnyc, FRED Talks, CreativeMornings (events and videos sponsored by Emily Cohen), NerdNite, and more. (Send me links and I’ll add them here).

This strategy also helps directly with the main goal, getting women’s ideas into the larger conversation.  At these ad hoc events, we can present ideas to each other, talk about them together, and then share them more broadly with our own networks.

There is an abundance of terrific women, with great ideas worth sharing. And, there is an abundance of tactics and strategies for working towards the overarching goal: gender parity, diversity, and inclusion in all conferences and in influential conversations about ideas.

Whether you gravitate towards a TED-specific effort, a broader inclusion effort, a ‘we can build it’ effort, or joining ongoing programs to add you own and others’ voices, there is a way for you to join in.

Hit those links, above, and get on Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere. Let’s hear you — add to the #morevoices for #genderparity in the world of Big Ideas.

See Also:
Speak Up, Speak Out, Take The Stage: The World Needs More TED Women at AmazingWomenRock.com

Wearing the Shirt: There are No Excuses for Anti-Gay Bullying

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing convictions put into action. Thanks to Jessica Haney of Crunchy Chewy Mama for writing this blog post inspired by the power tool “wear the shirt” and for submitting her photo.

Although I mostly think Erica Jong was wrong-headed in her Wall Street Journal piece last week where she said attachment parenting keeps women in a prison and out of politics (see my response and other links here), I do have to admit that, in choosing to stay home with my children, I am not out there in public schools being an active straight ally for LGBT youth as a classroom teacher. And with another suicide now by a boy who left behind a note that he was sick of being called “faggot” and “sissy,” I feel sad to be out of that role.

I used to sponsor the Gay/Straight Alliance at the high school where I taught English, and I attended a handful of Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conferences then and before that while I was an undergrad and a graduate student. I got on the email list for film producer and distributor (and Respect for All Project creator) GroundSpark (formerly Women’s Educational Media) which recently sent a newsletter with this information about the sad story of Brandon Bitner, who took his life last week, leaving a note that said he didn’t want to be called names anymore.

I am so sad for this latest victim of society’s narrow ideas about gender. Since my recent post about gender-typed baby clothes, my 4.5-year-old has reported at least two different people — other kids, both boys and girls — telling him that boys don’t wear pink. And of course after the flap about the 5-year-old boy who was Daphne for Halloween, it’s clear that people still have a whole lot of issues that might negatively affect my son. I already worry that he’s going to get his ass kicked as a short kid, a kid who is sensitive to others’ feelings and assumes that strangers are all as nice and heartfelt as he is, a kid who likes to sing and who uses his hands way too much when he talks.

I even have a poem that references these concerns in the current issue of Hip Mama. It’s called “White Male,” and in it, I grapple with my having created such a privileged creature. Although the poem sort of dismisses the notion that it’s as much of a hardship to be short (and red-headed) as it is to face racism or sexism, and the poem wonders if my son will ever “get it” about systemic discrimination and about his own privilege, I do have to realize that he is going into a heterosexist world where gender-based expectations can do plenty of harm. I can already see trouble coming, with boys at the neighborhood Halloween parade wielding guns and getting off of the power play. I wish parents would take a stand for peace.

In writing that poem about white male privilege, I think I lost touch with the intersectionalityI studied in grad school in women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati. I just wish crappy stuff didn’t keep happening to remind me that no one is free when anyone is oppressed.

About the photo:
This shirt was created years ago by high school students for an LGBT dance when I was part of the Northern Virginia Safe Schools Coalition.

There are, indeed, no excuses for bullying, period.

And I wish it was really all good.

Check out the It Gets Better Project to let LGBT youth know it doesn’t always suck this hard.

It's Up to Women to Organize

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis reviewed No Excuses on her blog Grade A Entrepreneurs. She has generously allowed me to reprint the article here on Heartfeldt. I posted it here because Marylene speaks to so many important leadership issues for women.

Gloria Feltd at Marian'sLast Friday, Marian Scheuer Sofaer invited a few friends for a breakfast in Palo Alto, CA with Gloria Feldt, who presented her now famous book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power. A great intimate setting early in the morning that did not diminish Gloria’s energy and determination to fight for the cause of women: “Women today,” she said, “are in the midst of an unfinished revolution.” While it is true that women have come a long way (“maybe”), parity is still not here – women’s salaries are still lower than men’s, and as of September 2010, the United States ranks 73rd among 186 countries in its percentage of women serving in national parliaments (not to mention the dismal percentage of women in the boardrooms, etc.). “Women need to lead their own way forward.”

Gloria Feldt states the problem unambiguously: “By far the most confounding problem facing women today is not that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the open doors in numbers and with the intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all.” The former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (who had given birth to three children by the age of 20), Gloria Feldt offers a relevant flashback on Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), who opened a birth control clinic in 1916. Not only did she transform her convictions into actions, she did not ask for permission: she did it.

The book evolves around a very interesting analysis of the relationship of women to power. Most of the time, “power” boils down to being a demonstration of force, through attitudes, rhetorical means and the like; in other words, the word denotes a “power over” things, situations, or people. This is a vision of power with which women are traditionally uncomfortable, as it reeks of centuries of servitude and bullying. Implicitly getting back to the actual etymology of the word, Gloria Feldt exhorts women to understand the term as designating “the ability to,” and speaks of a “power to…” This means: the capacity to accomplish things, and before anything else, the faculty of ridding oneself from the fear of coming across in an unfeminine fashion or a sort of “bluestocking.”

This latter is a term that ended up being used derisively to stigmatize educated women in the 18th century, targeting the members of the Blue Stockings Society, an important educational and social movement created in England by Elizabeth Montegu (and to which the first woman-programmer in history, Ada Byron Lovelace belonged!) Continue reading “It's Up to Women to Organize”

It’s Up to Women to Organize

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis reviewed No Excuses on her blog Grade A Entrepreneurs. She has generously allowed me to reprint the article here on Heartfeldt. I posted it here because Marylene speaks to so many important leadership issues for women.

Gloria Feltd at Marian'sLast Friday, Marian Scheuer Sofaer invited a few friends for a breakfast in Palo Alto, CA with Gloria Feldt, who presented her now famous book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power. A great intimate setting early in the morning that did not diminish Gloria’s energy and determination to fight for the cause of women: “Women today,” she said, “are in the midst of an unfinished revolution.” While it is true that women have come a long way (“maybe”), parity is still not here – women’s salaries are still lower than men’s, and as of September 2010, the United States ranks 73rd among 186 countries in its percentage of women serving in national parliaments (not to mention the dismal percentage of women in the boardrooms, etc.). “Women need to lead their own way forward.”

Gloria Feldt states the problem unambiguously: “By far the most confounding problem facing women today is not that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the open doors in numbers and with the intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all.” The former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (who had given birth to three children by the age of 20), Gloria Feldt offers a relevant flashback on Margaret Sanger (1879–1966), who opened a birth control clinic in 1916. Not only did she transform her convictions into actions, she did not ask for permission: she did it.

The book evolves around a very interesting analysis of the relationship of women to power. Most of the time, “power” boils down to being a demonstration of force, through attitudes, rhetorical means and the like; in other words, the word denotes a “power over” things, situations, or people. This is a vision of power with which women are traditionally uncomfortable, as it reeks of centuries of servitude and bullying. Implicitly getting back to the actual etymology of the word, Gloria Feldt exhorts women to understand the term as designating “the ability to,” and speaks of a “power to…” This means: the capacity to accomplish things, and before anything else, the faculty of ridding oneself from the fear of coming across in an unfeminine fashion or a sort of “bluestocking.”

This latter is a term that ended up being used derisively to stigmatize educated women in the 18th century, targeting the members of the Blue Stockings Society, an important educational and social movement created in England by Elizabeth Montegu (and to which the first woman-programmer in history, Ada Byron Lovelace belonged!) Continue reading “It’s Up to Women to Organize”

Help Girls Make Change

Friends, I received this from Tara Roberts, a young woman with a mission to empower girls that I think is so worthy. I’ve voted and encourage you to do so too.

I traveled around the world interviewing girl and young women change makers for 10 months last year. Now, I hope to create an interactive online network called “girltank” to connect these dynamic young women and support them in changing the world.

And all I need is your vote. By October 31st. For a $15K grant to build the site.

The site will offer video clips of the young women, forums, blogs, how-to podcasts, a resource directory, and online workshops. Each element will allow the young women to get to know each other, grow their capacity as leaders, learn more about areas that have a global impact on women, and receive support around their work to change the world. I also hope the site will inspire other girls and young women to get involved.

I promise that it will be very exciting! 🙂

Thanks in advance for your help!

http://youtopia2010.uservoice.com/forums/81825-youth-issues

(Psssst – And feel free to pass the word!)

Investors Put Gender on the Agenda

This article was originally published in Businesswire. Whatever works . . .

A coalition of global investors, managing over US $73 billion in assets, called on companies across the world today to increase representation of qualified women on boards of directors and in senior management. The call from Pax World, Calvert and Walden Asset Management, comes in response to a survey of 4,200 global companies that found only 9.4 percent of directors on corporate boards were women.

These findings have led a number of mainstream investors to identify gender balance and diversity as a strategic issue in their investment activity. The investors in this new coalition have asked 54 selected companies from across the business spectrum for greater clarity about gender balance within their organizations.

“We view gender equality and women’s empowerment as strategic business and investment issues,” said Joe Keefe, President and CEO of Pax World. “When women are at the table, the discussion is richer, the decision-making process is better, management is more innovative and collaborative and the organization is stronger. Because companies that advance and empower women are, in our view, better long-term investments, we are encouraging companies in our portfolios to enhance their performance on gender issues.”

The investor initiative is a response to the Women’s Empowerment Principles1 recently developed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Global Compact. The Women’s Empowerment Principles are designed to help companies take specific steps to advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

“For Calvert, gender equality is an important aspiration for our own business as well as the companies in which we invest,” said Barbara J. Krumsiek, President & CEO, Calvert Group, Ltd. “In order for companies to reach their full potential, they must create an environment in which women are treated equally, where they hold key leadership positions, and are full participants in decision making. For this reason we created the Calvert Women’s Principles, on which the Women’s Empowerment Principles are based, and welcome this opportunity to work with other institutional investors to advance gender equality.”

The members of the coalition are all also signatories to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). “This engagement shows that gender balance within senior corporate management is not just a social issue but also a shareholder issue,” said James Gifford, Executive Director of the PRI Initiative. “In an increasingly complex global marketplace, companies that effectively attract, hire, retain, and promote women are often better equipped to capitalize on competitive opportunities than those who do not.”

The PRI coalition also reports increasing recognition of the value of board diversity by regulatory bodies worldwide. Three European countries have passed legislation requiring that either 30 percent or 40 percent of board members be women (the Netherlands, Norway and Spain), with four other countries considering similar legislation (Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden). In the United States the Securities and Exchange Commission adopted new rules for proxy disclosure, beginning this year, that include a requirement for companies to disclose how their nominating committees consider diversity in identifying board nominees. With its establishment of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, the recently passed Wall Street Reform also acknowledges the benefits of diversity in management, employment and business activities.

“Simply put, in the U.S. and globally, we believe that equitable and inclusive work environments are good for society, good for the economy and good for business,” stated Heidi Soumerai, Senior Vice President and Director of ESG Research at Walden Asset Management in Boston.