How Far Women Have Come and Where They’re Going

by Gloria Feldt on March 8th, 2012
in Activism, Feminism, International, Leadership, No Excuses, Women & Politics, Women & Work, Women's History, Women's Rights

“As an activist for women through almost four decades, I know that no movement for social justice moves forward without struggle, nor does forward movement necessarily go in a straight line.”

Today, March 8, is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day . Some decry its commercialization, as corporate sponsors have realized it’s in their best interests to appeal to women who make over 85 percent of consumer purchases around the globe.
But it’s a day whose meaning inspires me to think back to a very special moment on September, 1995.

I was attending the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where hugely ambitious and thrilling goals were set for improving the lives of women, and by extension their families and the world.

The official conference was in Beijing, but the much larger convocation of activists from nongovernmental organizations—40,000 enthusiastic women and a few good men like my husband—was literally stuck in the mud in Huairu, a suburb an hour’s drive from the city.

Thousands of sleepy people had arrived at dawn on the morning of Sept. 6, to stand packed together under a roof of brightly colored umbrellas, jockeying for the few hundred seats inside the auditorium where then first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton was slated to give a speech.

Thanks to my training in clinic defense, which had taught me how to form a wedge and move expeditiously through even the most aggressive crowd, I was fortunate not only to get inside but to get a seat. The program was running late; Hillary was running even later and the crowd was getting restless.

Just as it seemed a revolt might be brewing, Shirley May Springer Stanton, the cultural coordinator of the conference, sauntered onto the stage and began to sing a capella, ever so softly: “Gonna keep on moving forward. Never turning back, never turning back.”

Then she asked the audience to join her. Pretty soon the house was rocking. By the time the first lady arrived and gave her brilliant “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights” speech, it truly felt like the global movement for women’s rights was unstoppable.

Hillary Clinton, Beijing 1995

It was, you might say, an ovular moment.

Where are women today? How far have we come?

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Has the “War on Women” Gone Too Far?

by Gloria Feldt on March 5th, 2012
in Activism, Gender, Health Care Reform, Leadership, Media, Politico Arena, Power, Reproductive Health, Women & Politics, Women's History, Women's Rights

Surely Politico jests. I’m sure you can add to my examples:

Politico Arena asks:

Democrats are raising money with a petition against the “Republican War on Women.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, repeated the jibe Sunday on “Meet the Press” when asked about Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments on contraception.

Now that Limbaugh has apologized, will voters see “war on women” language as overkill? Particularly those who oppose the Obama administration’s contraception coverage policy on moral/religious grounds?

My Response: You’re kidding, right? There’s hardly even a truce.

Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute as she asked her university to cover hormonal birth-control and the subsequent fury that caused many of his advertisers to abandon him (and his very lame non-apology apology) was one small skirmish in the much larger and ongoing war on women being waged by an ideologically driven minority who would much prefer that women had remained barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

Just this past week, Roy Blunt and other Senate Republicans sought to pass legislation that would allow any employer to deny preventive contraceptive health services to their employees on the basis of any religious or “moral” objections. As though women are wanton hussies with no morals or religion.

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Sexist Screed Gone Too Far-Now Rush Must Go

by Gloria Feldt on March 2nd, 2012
in Feminism, Gender, Leadership, Media, Politico Arena, Politics, Power, Women & Politics, Women's History

It’s Women’ History Month. Let’s make Rush Limbaugh history. Here’s one action you can take. Stay tuned, and scroll down to the bottom of the post for more every day.

Politico Arena asks:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has been heavily criticized by the Georgetown University law student who he called a “slut” after she testified on Capitol Hill about women’s access to contraception.

“I’m not the first woman to be treated this way by numerous conservative media outlets, and hopefully I’ll be the last,” Sandra Fluke said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” “This is really inappropriate. This is outside the bounds of civil discourse.”

Although Limbaugh infuriated Democrats by calling Fluke both a “prostitute” and a “slut,” he has shown no signs that he’ll issue an apology.

Should Limbaugh issue an apology? Or will the media firestorm blow over?

My Response: No apology is good enough. Rush must go. Period.

Women have had to put up with his “feminazi” epithets for far too long,

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And Then They Came for Birth Control

by Gloria Feldt on March 2nd, 2012
in Gender, Health Care Reform, Leadership, Politics, Power, Reproductive Health, Women & Politics, Women's History, Women's Rights

As the Senate took up the Blunt amendment that would allow any employer to refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees based on an undefined “religious or moral” objection, women and men are asking me every day what in the heck is going on—are we back in the dark ages? Why do we have to keep fighting these battles?

I recently had the chance to give my answer to that question when I talked with with iVillage host Kelly Wallace and 2012 Election Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger (aka Punditmom) about the many attacks on birth control and abortion. On her own blog, Joanne wrote:

“I feel like I’m living in the time of Hester Prynne and her Scarlet Letter in light of the ongoing and escalating attacks on women’s health, especially when it comes to anything concerning our ‘lady parts.’ Some women on the right say birth control has nothing to do with our health. I say, “What?” ...are we headed back to 1850 or is this just a blip on the political radar?”

There are unfortunately some people who never made it out of the 1850’s or at least the 1950’s.

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Is Fox News Swinging Left?

by Gloria Feldt on February 15th, 2012
in Activism, Election Watch, Leadership, Politico Arena, Politics, Power

Hahahahaha. I’ll believe this when I see it but it was fun to contemplate whether Fox will swing left any time before hell freezes over. Can MSNBC’s ratings be that high that Fox is running scared?

Arena asks:Is Fox News swinging left?

My response: Fox is starting to report the news instead of parroting right wing screed? What a thought!

Could this move be related to something in the headlines today, a new feminist channel announced by Alltopic to compete with Google’s, signaling a renewed interest in these issues? Or to the obvious national consensus that birth control is actually a basic element of health care and should be covered as such? Or has Rupert Murdock’s corruption scandal made even Roger Ailes rethink the ethics of running a media outlet on ideology rather than, well, news?

[Photo: Roger Ailes at Fox News. | Reuters ]

I’m not going to switch my viewing habits anytime soon, but it is heartening to see that worshipers of marketplace economics are susceptible to the same marketplace economics. Maybe I’ll be a little less annoyed in the future by television screens in public places blaring Fox newscasts.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

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Women See Red, Get Over Komen Pink, and Embrace Power

by Gloria Feldt on February 7th, 2012
in Activism, Gender, Health Care Reform, heartfeldt-intro, Leadership, Politics, Power, Women & Politics, Women & Work, Women's Rights

This commentary was published yesterday on the Daily Beast with the title “Komen Incites Women’s Tahrir Square Moment.” If you haven’t read it there, please hop on over and give me a share, stumble, and/or comment. There’s quite a lively conversation going on. Then come back and tell me what you think here.

Mostly, I’d like to start a conversation about taking the great passion this kerfluffle between Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood has generated and catapult it into a more vibrant, durable, and most of all proactive women’s movement. Clearly, the huge outpouring was about more than the two organizations themselves. There was a lot of pent up readiness for activism and just plain demanding respect as women–as persons–with brains, hearts, and moral autonomy–not as subjects of society’s political whims or social narratives that we did not write.

Let me get off my soapbox and let you read on….

“I am off to feed my daughter (with breasts that were examined by Planned Parenthood doctors when I had no health insurance).”

Allie Wagstrom, a young mom in Minnesota whom I know only via Facebook, posted this on my page after she heard the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, parent of the ubiquitous pink-ribboned “Race for the Cure,” bowed to political pressure from the right and announced last week that it would no longer fund breast exams and breast health education at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen’s astonishingly sloppy handling of the situation (for which they have now apologized and semi-retracted) put a black mark in indelible ink on their sweet pink ribbons.

Planned Parenthood Supporters
Planned Parenthood supporters demonstrated following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on Feb. 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington., Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

Facebook popped a picture of Cynthia Nixon, the lead actor in the Broadway drama about ovarian cancer, Wit, next to Allie’s comment in an advertising tactic. Nixon’s bald head and gaunt face shocked the breath out of me, while social media exploded with the wrath of millions of women who felt scorned by a charity for which they had raced and purchased pink products they didn’t need.

Why this outpouring, even from women who had never openly supported Planned Parenthood?

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Another Year of the Woman? Really?

by Gloria Feldt on February 1st, 2012
in Election Watch, Feminism, Gender, General, Leadership, Political Strategy, Politics, Power, Women & Politics

There was a short piece in Monday’s USA Today saying that 2012 is shaping up to be another “Year of the Woman.” And they did have some very good news numbers to back that notion:

…a notable number of candidates are running in potentially competitive races in both the House of Representatives and Senate that could send a wave of female lawmakers to Washington in November. If so, it would reverse the 2010 election trend that saw the first dip in female representation in the House since 1978 and only sent one woman, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, to the Senate.

In the 2012 Senate lineup, there are 10 female candidates — four Republicans and six Democrats — seeking office. Of the six states with female Democratic candidates — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin — none has ever elected a woman to the Senate.

Republican women are running in Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico.

I want to believe, oh how I want to believe. These numbers, though inching up, still represent a mere fractional increase—even if all of them are elected—a probability somewhere around that of hell freezing over.

At the rate we have been going for the last 20 years and since the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992, it will take 70 years to reach gender parity in Congress.

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State of the Union Speech: Almost the Obama We Voted For

by Gloria Feldt on January 25th, 2012
in Economy, Election Watch, Gender, Leadership, Politics, The Economy

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been a harsh critic of Obama’s leadership or lack of it since he took office, not because I supported Clinton (which I did but I got over it), but as someone who understands the responsibilities of a chief executive to create meaning, articulate a vision, and put forth an agenda for people to work from. From the time he was elected until now, his vision kept shrinking rather than expanding and his penchant for appeasing even the unappeasable has been nothing short of maddening.

That unwillingness to put a stake in the agenda ground left the Democrats in Congress adrift. The result has been that even when Obama scored accomplishments such as heath reform, it never felt like a victory. Because it was never clean cut, never a righteous fight.

But I have to say he knocked it out of the ballpark tonight in his State of the Union Address (full text here). His energetic delivery, piquant story telling, and frequent appeals to the highest American values made me remember the Obama I voted for in 2008 and thought had disappeared entirely.

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Will Tonight’s State of the Union Address 2012 Soar?

by Gloria Feldt on January 24th, 2012
in Economy, Election Watch, Health Care Reform, Leadership, Politics, Reproductive Health, The Economy, Women & Work

I’ve been critical of the President’s leadership in the past, and wrote this about a previous State of the Union address. But I’m rooting for him to be at his rhetorical and persuasive best tonight, not so much for his re- election prospects as for the good of the country.

Candidate Obama had a large vision during his campaign and it called us to our higher selves. In part his decisive 2008 victory was due to America’s exhaustion with George W. Bush. But a big factor was Obama’s vision and his promises to lead a progressive agenda once elected.

Instead, once elected, he focused on small vision projects and on doing deals rather than articulating the ideals that had propelled him into office. Tonight’s speech gives him a new opportunity– the last such chance he’ll have during this term–to give people that bigger vision and not just to say things that are safe. To come out swinging at the Republicans

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Leadership Lapses on Payroll Taxes

by Gloria Feldt on December 19th, 2011
in Election Watch, Leadership, Media, Political Strategy, Politico Arena, Politics, The Economy

A political consultant who taught me lots about the workings of the lawmaking process when I was new to retail politics told me that politics is in the end all theater. Rarely has his analysis seemed as accurate as watching the House Republicans today try to justify holding American citizens in a state of suspended animation, wondering what’s going to happen to their paychecks next year or whether their unemployment check will continue to come. One aim of the Republicans is to get voters to hate government, and that seems to be the one thing they are succeeding at. So I found Politico’s question today a little facile, but I answered it anyway. I’d love to know what you think , please.

RejectedArena Asks: House Speaker John Boehner has predicted that the House will reject the Senate-passed payroll tax holiday bill during a vote today. The two-month package would extend rates on the payroll taxes that fund Social Security, unemployment benefits and Medicare by increasing certain home-mortgage fees.

If paychecks go down in January 2012, who will they blame: House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Congress in general or President Obama?

It’s clear that the Republicans orchestrated all of this. Why is there even a question?

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