Three Reasons to Sing Happy Birthday to Alice Paul Today

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“I never doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary equality.” – Alice Paul, suffragist and author of the still-not-ratified Equal Rights Amendment.

Alice Paul had a singular mission, from which she never strayed: women’s full and unequivocal equality.

Today, on what would be her 128th birthday, I sing her praises and birthday wishes for at least three reasons.

First, She lived her principles—“wore the shirt” as in Power Tool #6. Interestingly, though today most of the opposition to women’s equality comes from the fundamentalist denominations of many major religions, Paul credits her religious upbringing for her deep convictions about the righteousness of women’s suffrage and women’s equality in general. As her biography on the Alice Paul Institute’s website says:

Raised in an area founded by her Quaker ancestors, Alice and her family remained devoted observers of the faith… As Paul noted years later, “When the Quakers were founded…one of their principles was and is equality of the sexes. So I never had any other idea…the principle was always there….

This upbringing undoubtedly accounts for the many Quaker suffragists including Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, both whom Paul admired and considered role-models. Alice’s faith not only established the foundation for her belief in equality but also provided a rich legacy of activism and service to country.

Second, Alice Paul was a crackerjack organizer.  While the trajectory toward greater liberties for women perhaps seemed inevitable by the early part of the 20th century, Paul knew that real systemic change comes when courageous people, willing to embrace controversy and confront injustice, organize to make it happen.

While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, she joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She was quickly appointed as head of the Congressional Committee in charge of working for a federal suffrage amendment, a secondary goal to the NAWSA leadership. In 1912, Alice Paul and two friends, Lucy Burns and Crystal Eastman, headed to Washington, D.C. to organize for suffrage.

With little funding but in true Pankhurst style, Paul and Burns organized a publicity event to gain maximum national attention; an elaborate and massive parade by women to march up Pennsylvania Avenue and coincide with Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration. The parade began on March 3, 1913, with the beautiful lawyer, activist, and socialite Inez Milholland, leading the procession, dressed in Greek robes and astride a white horse.

The scene turned ugly, however, when scores of male onlookers attacked the suffragists, first with insults and obscenities, and then with physical violence, while the police stood by and watched.

The following day, Alice’s group of suffragists made headlines across the nation and suffrage became a popular topic of discussion among politicians and the general public alike.

And third, Paul knew that even when victory is won, a viable movement must continue to be proactive, with fresh initiatives to keep expanding the progressive agenda that had propelled the suffrage movement in its early days but that had all but been lost once the 19th Amendment to the U.S. constitution giving women the right to vote was ratified in 1920.

So she wrote the original ERA, introduced in Congress in 1923 as the next step she thought the women’s equality movement should take.

Paul also started the National Women’s Party, believing that without a political organization’s clout, women’s concerns would never be taken seriously by politicians. Paul was also one of the few women’s suffrage leaders who realized that getting the right to vote was necessary but not sufficient to enable women to be equal partners in society.

“When you put your hand to the plow,” Paul said, “you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row

Forty years ago the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) finally passed out of the U. S. Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified

And we are not at the end of the row yet.

This constitutional amendment that would–IF it had been ratified by 3/4 of the states by its ten-year deadline in 1982– have ensured equal rights could not be denied on the basis of gender is back on the front burner, thanks to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s introduction of a resolution on March 8th (International Women’s Day), 2012, but it has not yet been passed. Baldwin’s resolution would have eliminated the time limit for the ERA to be voted on by state legislatures. And only three 3 more states are needed to finish the job.

Alica-Paul-March

Though Paul’s dream of an ERA didn’t pass in her lifetime–she died in 1977–and might not pass in mine, her courageous leadership to initiate this drive for full legal equality for women did foment many advances in employment via Title VII of the Civil rights Act, sports and educational opportunities via Title IX, more women running for political office, and so much more. Could Paul have envisioned Hillary Clinton’s race for president? Or that we have now had three female secretaries of state in a row?

Alice Paul’s life illustrates brilliantly that one person taking action can make an enormous difference. Her leadership legacy lives on, vibrant and bearing witness to the significance of her life. It should inspire others who struggle for social justice to risk taking the leadership for what they believe.

So let’s sing together: Happy birthday to you, dear Alice Paul, and thank you for your vision, courage, and persistence for women’s equality.

 

 


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.

Happy 2013: Why Women Must Change Our Narrative to Break Through to Leadership

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves define us and how we engage with our world. It’s time for women to write ourselves a new narrative. So when asked to write  for the fabulous new “Kardashian free” women-owned and focused website Vitamin W  (you may recall the “She’s Doing It” column on Amy-Willard Cross who created the site), I decided to put this idea out to you. (Thanks to Debra Condren for the “Fork in the Road” photo that illustrates this perfectly.)

fork-in-the-road-condrenJudging from the unusually large number of tweets and retweets, it hit a chord.  Here’s the original post on Vitamin W.

I want to start a conversation that will lead to specific initiatives of all kinds—social, political, workplace, personal relationships. Let me know what you think, and what you’d like to see.  I’d very much appreciate your comments, shares, and tweets.

With a virtual thud, the Catalyst 2012 Census of Fortune 500 companies hit my e-mailbox:

NEW YORK (December 11, 2012)—Despite high-profile news about gender gaps, equal pay, and women on boards, once again the needle barely budged for women aspiring to top business leadership in corporate America, according to the 2012 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors and 2012 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Executive Officers and Top Earners.

Ouch. For 50 years of the venerable organization’s existence, which began at that pregnant moment when second wave feminism would about nine months later birth Betty Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, Catalyst and its sister organizations—now numbering in the thousands devoted to research on and advocacy for women–have shaped the public conversation about women by using the most dismal data to highlight seemingly intractable problems.

Information has its own power. Quantifying discrimination can motivate companies to change hiring policies or politicians to change laws. Just as important, documenting the absence of females in powerful positions performed a crucial consciousness raising function women needed in those Madmen days. For just as fish can’t see the water they swim in, many women—perhaps most at the time—accepted the way things were as the way they had to be.

I counted myself among them. I wasn’t one of the first feminists, though I was an early adopter, despite living in wild and wooly West Texas where men were men and women were screwed if they wanted to be anything other than housewives and mothers of large broods.

But this is 2013, people. The old narrative no longer works. It’s time to change that negative focus on today’s problems to a vibrant positive story about solutions for tomorrow.

We have to face the fact that women have been stuck at under 20 percent of top leadership positions across all sectors for almost two decades, according to the White House Project Benchmark study, but not let ourselves be defined by it. Shifting the narrative would foster a new wave of breakthroughs that I believe can catapult women to leadership parity by 2025.

After all, women have the purchasing clout of 85 percent of consumer goods sold, constitute half the workplace and 54 percent of the voters, and earn 57 percent of college degrees. So why does the narrative remain numbingly the same, creating so little progress that at the rate women are ascending to Congress it will take 70 years to reach parity and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg predicts that it could take 500 years for women to reach parity at the top of the corporate ladders?

Why? Because power unused is power useless. The problems have been researched and documented ad infinitum. We can continue to rail against them and get the same results. Or we can create a new, positive and solution-focused story about how women can achieve parity, and barrel right on through to make breakthrough progress in the 21st century just as the second wavers did in the 20th.

Power and energy come from going into new spaces, not from standing still or remaining mired in half-century-old tropes.  It’s difficult to make the shift for three reasons we must understand if we are to change them.

JK-Rowling-you-have-everything-insideFirst, like those proverbial fish, it’s hard to see beyond the constructs and constrictions of one’s own culture. And let’s face it, it’s in the best interest of the existing power structure to diminish the women’s movement, declare it dead, and dismiss its gains. In reality, feminism has become the predominant social value for both younger women and men today whether they claim the name or not. Women in their 20s, 30s and even 40s don’t just see a world different from their mothers’ experience, they live in a different world. Still, it’s a world where they are repeatedly told what’s wrong with them, that the workplace is rigged against them, and the double burden of managing family and work will fall to them, so they should curb their ambitions. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Second, when you fight an adversary for a long time, you can become its mirror, locked into a Kabuki drama. US women have had a very good year politically, thanks in no small part to well-timed misogynist revelations by the likes of Todd Aiken and Foster Freiss who seem to have failed sex education. We reelected a pro-choice president and defeated the guy who saw us only in binders for heaven’s sake. We elected a record twenty women in the Senate (still at that 20 percent level, but up from 18). Yet, I am bombarded with pleas for money from women’s organizations asking me to fight back against the latest attack, rather than fight forward for an agenda of their choice, pun intended.

Even newer, edgier women’s groups such as Hollaback and Ultraviolet (both of which I admire greatly) operate primarily from a position of reacting to gender based discrimination. Slutwalks, heralded as the new women’s movement are anything but — protesting but not creating systemic change.

And third, at some level, we’ve been co-opted into the culture of oppression, become drunk on the nectar of fundraising and support building made easy by sounding the alarm rather than leading to aspirations. I once had a fundraising director who became distraught when we won a political battle. “How will I raise money,” she fussed, “when I have no devil to fight?”

Instead let us ask, “Why do we need the devil to fight when we could be calling upon everyone’s higher angels to accomplish the next big steps for women?”

Almost all Americans now think women should have equal rights. The world is ready for equal rights—are we?

According to negotiation expert Victoria Pynchon, women work 20% longer and 10% faster to get the same reward as men. Women must stop focusing on those studies that decry the 23 percent wage gap and attend to the solutions: ask, expect, demand, intend, insist upon equal pay. And in every sector’s parity gap, the same scenario exists. Nobody will step aside for us once the doors are open. Women have to walk ourselves through. And the story we tell ourselves about ourselves will either propel or limit us.

It’s up to women to change the conversation. We must shift to a new vision of what is possible for the continuing advancement of women to full equality, and how it can be done.
To start from a position of believing we deserve it, and create a new narrative based on the possibilities for solutions with which we can shape a future where all women and men can thrive.
To embrace wholeheartedly this truth: we’re powerful as hell and we’re going to take our rightful place in politics, work, and personal relationships now and forevermore.

 

 


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.

Outsider Fits No Political Box, but Declares Choice Because “I Hope It Gets Better”

This is a powerful personal essay guest post on American culture and politics from my colleague, Tamara Fagin. Her title was “Random Musings From the Frontline” but I don’t think it’s random at all. I believe most Americans feel like outsiders at some time in their lives, and who have had the experience of being bullied or feeling like we have been treated unfairly because of our birth origins.

We are a nation of diverse heritages, a salad bowl of tossed differences rather than a melting pot where we all blend in together.

How does Fagin tie her personal experience as a one-woman salad bowl of cultures who always felt “different” with how she came to choose a candidate for president? Read on…and tell us your experiences.

All or for much of my life I have felt like an outsider.  Bullied in a sense for giving a damn.  I have early memories of eye-rolling, smirks or quiet taunts. This was not the punching, hair-pulling, tripping garden variety of physical bullying and worse, rather the insidious kind that eats at one’s insides and makes one eat lunch in the high school bathroom (it was clean and a friend joined me).

It was the one-off comment from the popular, All-American high school cheerleader that goes unanswered by one’s peers and one’s teacher. When I answered a question in A.P. U.S. History class, our teacher asked the class, “Why can’t you guys answer that question?  Tamara just moved here from Japan.“  The cute blonde cheerleader girl shouted, “She’s an import!” I can’t remember what happened after that.…

I just remember that I wished that we were back in Japan.  And, I wished that she knew the deal.  But, c’est la vie or shikataganai, as the Japanese say.

Note to Mr. M.:  you should have called her on that.  You should have never made that comment to the class about me being able to answer the question.  I was new to the school.  I was miserable.  I missed my old school, my old friends, my old beaches, my old Japanese nightclubs, my old routine and I missed Okinawa, Japan.

Note to educators everywhere: you make the bullying problem worse when you do this kind of comparison thing. It doesn’t work for parents when they say to their kids, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother, Johnny?”  Why the hell do you think it is going to make your domestic darlings try harder?  It just doesn’t.  It breeds resentment.  It pits us against them.  U.S. blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful against different. But, to borrow a phrase from my LGBT brothers and sisters, IT GETS BETTER.

In 5th grade, my family moved from the quaint, hippy town of Boulder Creek (nestled in a majestic Redwood forest atop the Santa Cruz mountains) to the small tropical island of Okinawa, Japan. I attended 6th grade at the brand new Amelia Earhart Elementary School and then attended the brand new Kadena High School (actually served grades 7 – 12). Both were on Kadena Air Force Base, one of the largest Air Force bases in the world.

My dad, a veteran of the Korean War, is a patriotic American; he is pretty much as American as you can get.  Born in Aldenville, Massachusetts in 1933 to a physician and homemaker (this moniker does not do her justice—she ran the hospital and the family home which was attached to the hospital).  My dad was the 4th born of 8 boys. The first 2 died in childbirth.  My grandfather delivered my dad and all of my uncles in their hospital in Western Massachusetts.

My mother was a Japanese woman born on August 25, 1945 in Hiroshima, Japan; a mere 2.5 weeks after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb ever there.  My mother died a week before I began law school from stomach cancer.  We do not know if it was related to the bomb.  We will never know.  What I do know, is that life will never be the same for us with her gone so young.  She was only 47.

I am half Japanese.  I lamely joke that I was made in Japan but born and assembled in the U.S. of A.  Certified American.  Not an import. So, like our dear president, I am 100% American; and Mr. Trump and similar doubting Thomas’s (birthers—that term does a dishonor to mothers everywhere IMHO), I can produce my birth certificate but I choose not to. You are a bully, sir.  All that money and “hair” and you are a disgrace to this country.  But freedom of speech is king and you are free to make an ass of yourself.  Make my day.  Be my guest. Master Trump and Ann Coulter types only help my cause.

I leave for Japan on Thursday.  I wanted to be here for this historic election.  I am going to Japan with my husband to retrieve my maternal grandmother’s ashes and import them to the good ol’ U.S. of A.  It was not an easy call for me.  I have procrastinated all year trying to figure out what a Japanese woman born and raised on a tiny island off the coast of Hiroshima during the Taisho Era would have wanted.  It upsets me and is really ironic that I never discussed this with her.

You would have thought that this might have come up while my mother was dying in a hospital in Kobe, Japan.  You think this might have come up when I visited my grandmother all of those times while I was attending Tsuda College in Tokyo or when I was in Hiroshima doing research on social programs for the elderly. You think that this might have come up because I was a tax lawyer and even practiced estate planning law toward the end of my legal career.  How could I have been so negligent?

When my grandmother had a major stroke last year, I was not able to talk to her or her caregivers.  It seems that even Japan has enacted patient privacy laws.  There was no advance health care directive or power of attorney on file.  I was not her guardian.  She had no living children or heirs according to the official Japanese Family Registry – my mother never registered my brother and me.

What was my dear obachan?  A ward of the state?  She had 1 living younger brother – a man I did not know.  How could I not know her only living brother? He lived less than an hour away from her?!

I appealed to the hospital staff in Akashi from my home in California. I sent desperate faxes of pictures of me with my grandmother.  I had Bullet Train passes with dates of trips that I had saved from Tokyo to Nishiakashi.  I had pictures from April of 2006 when I took my husband, daughter and then 1 year-old son to visit her.  None of this worked.

I enlisted Japanese friends who were respected professors and government employees to contact the hospital on my behalf.  I was told to get to Japan ASAP.  I hired a lawyer.  He drew up the paperwork.  I was finally able to see her… but it was too late.  She was gone… or almost gone.  I visited with her for 2 days.

Going through everything in my head.  What could I have done differently?  I should have visited more.  I should have called more.  What a mess.  What a frickin’ mess.

I returned to California beaten.  Very unsure about whether being half Japanese, bi-racial, bi-national was worth it.  I didn’t get to have nice holidays with my grandparents.  I hardly ever saw them growing up.  I could not communicate with my grandparents until I was in college because I did not speak Japanese.  My mother translated everything.  Why couldn’t I just have grandparents who popped over and watched my soccer games like everyone else?  Why? Why? Why?

The day after I got home from Japan, I woke up and checked my email. My grandmother had died last night I was told.  She probably died when I was on the plane coming back. “What would you like us to do with her stuff?” they asked.

So, now I prepare feverishly to go to Japan with my husband.  We will go to the Buddhist temple where my grandmother’s ashes are stored, meet with her only surviving brother – who is understandably disappointed with me for my complete failure to handle this in a timely, efficient and appropriate Japanese manner, meet the real estate agent who has recommended that we cut the price of my grandmother’s modest home by 50% in order to sell it (we have had no offers for 9 months but it went on the market right after the Tsunami, hardly a good time for a quick sale) because it is on the proverbial slippery slope —the same sloping mountain side it has been on for 60+ years without incident!  We will try to eat some good sushi (Jiro Dreams of Sushi; Jiro-sama, please save us a seat at your sushi counter – a big seat for my husband and regular one for me onegaishimasu), see some cool stuff, soak in a nice onsen and purchase a new, state-of-the-art rice cooker.

So, how will I be treated in Japan as a hapa haole or as the Japanese say “hafu” (means half)?  I don’t look Japanese.  I somehow got all of the haole genes. I am often mistaken for a Latina. I use that to my advantage whenever I can. 😉

I am more Japanese than most folks would ever imagine and certainly more Japanese than pretty much any Japanese-American you would meet in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo or San Francisco’s Japantown.  I have been to more places in Japan than my mother and grandmother combined and more than most Japanese nationals I know.

So, let me tell you how I will be treated.  I know this well from past (painful) experience, and I doubt that things have changed much in the last year.  I will be treated with the utmost respect and polite distance.

Japanese people, bless their hearts, will use the appropriate honorific speech for someone of my educational background, gender and age.  They will be REALLY nice to my husband.  He will be treated like the prince that he is. 😉

I will be told umpteen times how good my Japanese is (even though it will never be really good) and how well I use my chopsticks (even though I am not so good at using chopsticks; my Jewish husband has much better form than I do, and I ask him to teach our kids!). And, people will be shocked when I tell them that my grandmother, grandfather and mother were Japanese.

I mean… jaw-dropping SHOCK will pass across their faces.  It will be fun for the first day and after that it will get old.  I will wish that I can just blend in and go on with my business.  But, that will never happen as long as I look the way that I do, walk the way that I do (like an American – taking up too much space and too proud), talk the way I do and look people in the eye with a little too much intensity and directness.

I will tell people that I’m half Japanese and people will shake their heads and crinkle their brows and try to compute that… “Hontoo ni?” Really? Yes, really.  There will be a disconnect.  But, no matter how good my Japanese is, no matter how much Japanese history, proverbs and strange only-Japanese people know kind of stuff I know, I will always be an outsider to them.  I will always be a gaijin (literally – outside person).

I was made in Japan – my mother was very pregnant with me when my mom and dad fled Japan for America.  My father worked for the U.S. government and wrote his Congressman and the Embassy/Consulate and requested an emergency transfer back to the United States for himself and his pregnant Japanese national bride.  Somehow they agreed.

Somehow the story of my affluent maternal grandfather, Mr. Noboritate, and his henchman (including the local police) and their bullying of my dad and my mother struck a chord with someone. Somehow his concerns for my mother’s sanity and the well-being of his unborn child resonated with someone fairly high up somewhere.  My grandfather was a nutcase.  He threatened my mother with a knife when she told him she was going to marry my dad.  She was young.  My dad was 13 years older and had been married before.  I get it.  I would not have blessed that marriage either… but a knife?

Really?

It was the 1960’s when my parents delivered their engagement news. Don’t kid yourself that the revelation of their marriage plans would have fared much better in the good U.S. of A where miscegenation was still against the law in a staggering number of states.

In spite of the challenges and my mother’s broken English, their love thrived and they were married until my mother’s premature death.  My maternal grandparents, on the other hand, divorced when my mother was still in elementary school.  This was the early 1950s and divorce in Japan at the time was unheard of and women’s rights in Japan was even more remote (or not even a concept yet!).

My grandfather was so unfit that even the desperate Japanese Army in the waning days of the World War II would not conscript him.  He was a flat-footed, he was mentally unstable, he was the only eligible bachelor on the island left for my unfortunate grandmother to be set up with in an arranged marriage.  He was a jealous, drunken fool and liked to beat her and chase her with a knife around the house.  She hid in the closets until he would fall asleep.  I can only imagine the horror.

At some point it must have become unbearable.  She made the Sophie’s Choice-like choice of staying with the madman or leaving my young, vulnerable mother to be cared for by his relatives.  She fled to Kobe—I guess she had a brother up there.  I’m not 100% sure.

I should have learned more about this sordid chapter of the Noboritate family history.  But now it is too late. They are all gone. How this must have felt, I can only imagine.

Anyway, I’m half Japanese and half French, I typically say; even though my dad is really of French-Canadian descent.  But, I am really 100% American.  I do not feel like an import.  I feel American.

Do I drive a Japanese car?  Your damn right I do.  I love my Lexus.

Do I like Japanese food?  Of course, I do.  I grew up eating steamed white rice every day.

Do I worship the emperor?  Are you kidding me? Of course, not.  No way.

I am 100% American – that I’m sure about.  But, I feel very conflicted these days.  Elections and the Olympics tend to do that to me.  I feel confused. Do I cheer for Japan or the U.S. in Women’s Soccer?  I usually go with whoever is winning. 😉

I don’t fit into any neat racial boxes and neither do my kids (it gets more complicated for them!).  At some point you have to wonder, what is the point?  My daughter is ¼ Japanese, ¼ “black” (well, technically, her paternal grandfather was from Trinidad, and my ex doesn’t like the phrase African American so I will honor her wishes here), ¼ French-Canadian and ¼ French (but my daughter’s paternal grandmother was born and raised in Algeria – so does that make her North African? She sure as heck did not feel French when they were forced out of Algeria and had to settle in the South of France – but that is another story for another time).

I don’t fit into any neat political boxes either and hence my dilemma this morning.  I need to fill out my ballot.  I need to turn that in tomorrow and really start focusing on my trip.  Argh… What to do?  I’m socially hyper-liberal and moderately fiscally conservative.  I am pro-choice and pro-parents’ rights but pro-tax reform and like the idea of a flat tax with credits/exemptions to address equity concerns (as long as they don’t wreck the simplicity/efficiency of the flat tax).

I am liberal and even libertarian at times but I support better food labeling, better environmental and food safety regulation and I support our military but I want our troops the hell out of Afghanistan.  I support our bases in Japan but I desperately want to go there and tell the troops – please, please, please leave the local people alone.  Respect them.  They may not look like you but they have sisters and mothers just like you do.  Do not abuse them.  Do not rape them.  Treat them like you would like to be treated.  Get along.  Be an example.  This is all they know about America.  Do not tarnish that.

To make things even more interesting, my family and I lived in Columbus, Ohio for most of 2011 and part of this year.  We also visited this summer.  It was insane the amount of political ads that were on the radio, T.V. and EVERYWHERE.  I feel for my fellow Ohioans… you must be SICK TO DEATH of this election.

I am so glad I got to know you better Ohio. I was fortunate enough to get to know Jennifer Brunner, the first female Secretary of State of Ohio and the author of the new book, Cupcakes and Courage (about her unsuccessful U.S. Senatorial campaign – looking forward to reading that on the plane to Japan), her amazing sister, Andrea Dowling—you are so supportive, welcoming and warm—the best qualities of a Midwestern woman, and my senpai and fellow Bryn Mawr alumna, Pari Sabety.  On the other hand, I was also fortunate to attend an intimate lunch with Senator Rob Portman and Jewish leaders (thank you Bob for that invite).  I met all of you in my first month or so of moving to Columbus.  It was quite an introduction to Ohio politics.

OHAYOO Ohio! Good Morning, O-H-I-O!  Thanks to the time change, it is still morning in California.  It has always struck me as funny that ohayoo in Japanese means good morning.  They are pronounced the same way.  Must be fate that I married two Ohioans and that many Japanese companies, such as Honda, have such a big presence in Ohio.

So, Ohio. You have been on my mind and most Americans’ minds lately. There is less than 12 hours to go until my polling station closes in California (thank you CNN for the countdown!).  I may be conflicted, confused, wishy-washy about many things and who or what propositions I’m voting for but one thing for sure is that I am going to vote.  I will take my kids with me and let them watch me vote.  I will make a big deal of walking to our local fire station or biking there (weather permitting) and exercising my right to vote.

I urge you to get informed.  You still have time!  Please vote.  And, get your neighbors, the elderly, the young hipsters, everyone, to vote. Teachers please share with your classes that you voted!  Take this opportunity to teach what is right and what is truly 100% American.

Our presidential vote in California might not count…but vote to reelect President Obama anyway to send a message if you value tolerance and inclusion. And, we have so many important issues on the ballot—issues that affect our schools (California Propositions 30 and 38), our streets, our safety (such as those regarding GMO-labeling (California Proposition 37)), human trafficking, the death penalty. Get out there and vote.  Proud to be an American, a Californian and half Japanese.  Feeling very patriotic and optimistic. PEACE. LOVE. OUT.

TAMARA MAYUMI GENEST FAGIN resides in Los Altos, California with an active elementary school duo and a great mensch of a husband with an even greater sense of humor.  She is a dedicated (and sometimes overzealous but well-meaning) community organizer and is the current Director of Development of The Fit Kids Foundation in Menlo Park, California (www.thefitkidsfoundation.org – please LIKE us on Facebook!). She is a proud graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Harvard Law School and was a Fulbright Scholar to Hiroshima, Japan in 1991-1992.  She also attended Tsuda College (1989), Stanford Law School (1995-1996) and a ridiculous number of other schools.  She loves to cycle, hike, cook, read, watch sports and hang out with her awesome friends and family. This is her second blog article.


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.

The 2012 Election: Could our reproductive future be even worse than our past?

Double bonus of Sister Courage today! This is a guest post by a woman leader I admire about a woman leader I admire.

Both have made many contributions to women’s reproductive rights, health, and justice. But neither Carole Joffe—author, researcher, and professor at the UCSF Bixby Center—who wrote this piece, nor its subject, filmmaker extraordinaire Dorothy Fadiman, is about to slow down her quest for women’s full equality. It’s my honor to feature them on Heartfeldt.

They raise profound questions voters must consider when they go to the polls. For those who say so-called ‘women’s issues’ are peripheral to the political debate, I say our daughters’ futures hang in the balance. What could be more important?

Watching the haunting images in Dorothy Fadiman’s new compilation, “Choice at Risk,” drawn from her award-winning PBS abortion rights trilogy, is even more unsettling than it was before.

For years, I have shown Fadiman’s films about abortion to students, finding her work the most effective way to communicate to young people both the horrors of the pre-Roe v Wade era—as shown in her Oscar-nominated  film, When Abortion was Illegal—and the continual threats to abortion rights since legalization.  The third film in the trilogy, The Fragile Promise of Choice, offers a searing portrayal of the violence and harassment that abortion providers undergo as they struggle to meet the needs of their patients.

But now, writing these words, I feel that this talented filmmaker, by editing her 2 ½ hour body of work into clips and mini-docs, is showing us in chilling detail, not only our past, but our possible future. A future, moreover, that may be even worse, in some respects, than the pre-Roe era she has so ably documented.

How could anything be worse than the era of the back-alley butchers and women attempting to self-abort in dangerous ways?

Here’s one set of circumstances that could conceivably be worse. Even in the pre-Roe era, the medical community had the authority to approve some abortions, when the life or the health of a pregnant woman was at risk, or when serious anomalies were detected in the fetuses of pregnant women. To be sure, like so much else in American society, class privilege was a factor here as well: middle and upper class women were far more likely to obtain so-called “therapeutic abortions” than poorer women. But at the least, there existed a consensus among physicians, and among most sectors of the general population, that certain situations warranted an abortion, even if the procedure was not generally available.

That consensus, however, is not shared by the contemporary Republican party. The 2012 Party platform calls for an absolute ban on abortion, and contains no language for exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or—astonishingly—threats to the life of the pregnant woman. Recently, the Orwellian-named “Protect Life Act,” (H.R.358 passed in the Republican-controlled Congress by a vote of 251-172, (including 15 Democrats who voted with the majority). This bill, among other things, stipulates that hospitals may “exercise their conscience” and refuse abortions to women in life-threatening conditions. Given the slim majority Democrats now hold in the Senate (which has prevented this bill from being voted on in that body), and given the certainty that President Obama would veto such a bill, so far this legislation has gone nowhere.

But what would happen with this kind of bill if Republicans controlled the Senate? And would a President Romney sign such a bill? In recent days, in light of the media circus that has surrounded the Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remark about “legitimate rape,” Mitt Romney has stated that while he supports the overturning of Roe v Wade, he favors exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the pregnant woman. But that is not very reassuring. Because during the Republican primary season, when asked by Mike Huckabee, a leading power broker in the Religious Right, if he supported “Personhood” amendments, Romney’s answer was an enthusiastic  “absolutely!”

Memo to Mitt Romney: You can’t both be in favor of exceptions to an abortion ban and “absolutely” support Personhood amendments. These amendments make clear that a fertilized egg has the status of a living person—under this logic, aborting a fetus conceived as a result of rape or incest would be the same as murder.

But what about when a pregnant woman’s life is at stake? Whose life would take precedence then, the woman or the fertilized egg inside her? While the overwhelming majority of Americans would say of course the woman’s life should be saved, here is what Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the Religious Right had to say about such situations:  “I believe that if you have to choose between new life and existing life, you should choose new life. The person who has had an opportunity to live at least has been given that gift by God and should make way for new life on earth.”

So this is the situation American women face as we head into the November 2012 election: the Republican presidential candidate has, in his career, been all over the place with respect to abortion, but currently, at best, would allow abortion only in very limited cases; his vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, doesn’t even approve of those limited exceptions; the current Republican Congress is on record saying its OK to let pregnant women die in hospital corridors and be refused life-saving care.

Fadiman’s “Choice at Risk” project provides a constellation of easily shared short media bites, all of which bring this possible future into focus.

If women, and the men who care about them, don’t want Mitt Romney picking the next Supreme Court Justices, or Paul Ryan being one heartbeat away from the presidency, or a House and Senate controlled by fanatics deciding on public policy, there is only one way to prevent all this: Vote.

 

Dorothy Fadiman has been producing award-winning documentary media with an emphasis on human rights and social justice since 1976. Honors include an Oscar nomination and an Emmy. Subjects range widely from threats to fair elections to progressive approaches in education to a woman’s remarkable healing from a spinal cord injury.

She is the author of PRODUCING with PASSION: Making Films that Heal the World. Films related to women’s reproductive rights include: 

  • CHOICE: Then and Now: From the Back-Alleys to the Supreme Court & Beyond
  • WOMAN by WOMAN: New Hope for the Villages of India and
  • FROM RISK to ACTION: Women and HIV/AIDS In Ethiopia.

 

Carole Joffe, PhD, is a professor at the UCSF Bixby Center’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) Program and a professor of sociology emerita at the University of California, Davis.  Her research focuses on the social dimensions of reproductive health, with a particular interest in abortion provision. In January 2010, Dr. Joffe’s book, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, was published by Beacon Press. In 2010, Dr. Joffe received the Irwin Cusher Lectureship by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.  In 2006, Dr. Joffe was awarded the Public Service Award by the Academic Senate of the University of California, Davis.


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.

Margaret Sanger’s Obscenity?

Happy birthday, Margaret Sanger!

This column is in honor of either the 133rd or the 130th birthday of the founder and best known leader of the American birth control movement. Ever vain, she lopped three years off her age in the family Bible.

But her strengths far outweighed her foibles. Last night, I went to a screening of “Half the Sky”, a documentary film made from Nick Krisof and Sheryl WuDunn’s blockbuster book. While Kristof and WuDunn are lauded for saying women’s rights are the great moral imperative of the 21st century in their new book, Margaret Sanger said the essentially same thing 100 years ago.

Yet the same battles over women’s bodies and lives are still being fought today.

I wrote the column below (originally published in the New York Times in 2006 ) to mark the 90th anniversary of her first birth clinic. It seems a worthy tribute to Margaret Sanger today, regardless of how many candles should be on her cake.

By the way, the Times gave the column its title, and I hated it. I added the question mark today. Let me know what you think, about that and about the rest of the story.

 

When you tour the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s restoration at 97 Orchard Street, you walk through the experience of the immigrants who arrived in waves at the turn of the 20th century, often to live five or six to a tiny room. According to the 1900 census, the 18 wives in the Orchard Street building had given birth to 111 children altogether, of whom 67 were then alive.

A 40 percent infant and child mortality rate sounds shocking now. Back then it was the norm. Maternal mortality was 99 percent higher than it is today; 40 percent of those deaths were caused by infection, of which half resulted from illegal or self-induced abortion. Birth control was to revolutionize women’s health. But it would take a social revolution to get there.

In 1912, Margaret Sanger was a nurse serving poor Lower East Side women like Sadie Sachs, a mother of three who had been warned that another pregnancy would kill her. When Sadie asked her doctor how to prevent pregnancy, he told her to tell her husband to sleep on the roof. Pregnant again, Sadie self-induced an abortion, contracted an infection and died.

Sanger began to address women’s lack of information about birth control by writing a sex education column called “What Every Girl Should Know” for The Call, a socialist newspaper. But in 1914, a warrant was issued for Sanger’s arrest. She stood accused of violating the Comstock law, which made it a crime to circulate “obscenity” through the mail.

Passed in 1873 in response to pressure from a crusader named Anthony Comstock, the law defined information about contraception or abortion as obscenity. Comstock boasted that he destroyed hundreds of tons of “lewd and lascivious material,” including 60,000 “obscene rubber articles,” otherwise known as condoms.

In place of Sanger’s column, The Call ran an empty box that read: “What Every Girl Should Know — nothing, by order of the United States Post Office!” Never intimidated, Sanger published “The Woman Rebel,” a periodical intended to challenge Comstock laws directly. She then fled to Europe, where she visited a birth control clinic in the Netherlands and began to envision setting up a network of clinics throughout the United States.

By the time she returned to America, public opinion was swinging her way, and she sensed the time was right for action. On Oct. 16, 1916, Sanger opened America’s first birth control clinic in the Brownsville district of Brooklyn. Her sister, Ethel Byrne, was the nurse; it would be some time before they could get a doctor to join the effort. Handbills in English, Yiddish and Italian advertised the clinic throughout the neighborhood.

The police closed that clinic 10 days and 464 patients later. But Sanger, who would go on to establish the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had founded something much larger than a clinic: she ignited a movement for women’s reproductive freedom.

During the 20th century, this movement won such decisive victories that today many people cannot believe they could ever be reversed: birth control and then abortion were made legal; better contraceptive methods, like the pill, were developed; and the government started financing family planning for low-income women. Today, more than 99 percent of Americans have used birth control.

When Sanger opened her clinic, women wouldn’t get the vote for four more years. And yet the debates of her day over suffrage and contraception sound strikingly familiar to modern ears. Would such policies promote women’s equality or destroy the family? Would they advance justice or spread promiscuity? Where was the line between medical care and pornography? The answers, then as now, depend on your views about women, sex and power.

The current struggle over birth control, abortion and sex education make clear that courageous actions like Sanger’s are as necessary now as they were 90 years ago. For if anyone doubts that women’s reproductive freedom has been crucial to American progress, I recommend a short walk through the lives of the women of 97 Orchard Street.

 

 

 


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.

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

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.

Will Equal Pay Make You Submissive in Bed?

I raise this question because today I experienced the disorienting juxtaposition of Equal Pay Day with the retro notion that women’s growing economic power makes us want to be dominated during sex.

Equal Pay Day marks the day in April when women wear red to signify we’re in the red, earning (by 2011 calculations) but 77.4 cents to men’s $1. And for African-American and Hispanic women the differential is significantly more extreme.

This marker of financial non-power came just after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker disappeared the state’s equal pay law. It also coincided with author and journalism professor Katie Roiphe’s implausible analysis of the S and M-loving novel Fifty Shades of Gray.

A paradox in her own mind, Roiphe opines:

“It is intriguing that huge numbers of women are eagerly consuming myriad and disparate fantasies of submission at a moment when women are ascendant in the workplace…when—in hard economic terms—women are less dependent or subjugated than before.

It is probably no coincidence that, as more books like The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy and Hanna Rosin’s forthcoming The End of Men appear, there is a renewed popular interest in the stylized theater of female powerlessness…We may then be especially drawn to this particular romanticized, erotically charged, semi-pornographic idea of female submission at a moment in history when male dominance is shakier than it has ever been.”

Really? And whose preferred narrative do we think this zero-sum “power-over” social model is?

Even if we bought the logical framework, assertions of female dollar dominion are greatly overstated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 28.9% of wives in dual income families out earn their husbands. If my elementary school math holds up, that means more than 70% of men still out earn their wives.

And because women don’t negotiate as aggressively as men and don’t toot their own horns as flagrantly, each woman who works for pay outside the home (note the language here, Hilary Rosen) gets ever-farther behind in the paycheck race, amassing a half-million dollar average deficit by retirement age.

Here’s a dandy little chart created by Catalyst that lays it out starkly.

Men Hold the Vast Majority of Positions of Power (and Remuneration) in the United States.

Table: Percentage of Women and Men in Positions of Power in the United States, 2011

Women Men
% of CEOs in the Fortune 500 3.4% 96.6%
% of Top Earners in the Fortune 500 7.5% 92.5%
% of Executive Officers in the Fortune 500 14.1 % 85.9%
% of Board Seats in the Fortune 500 16.1% 83.9%
% Working in Congress 16.8% 83.2%
% Working in Senate 17.0% 83.0%

Sex and the Power of the Paycheck

For men, the “mine is bigger than his” ideal, whether we’re talking paycheck, possessions, or penis, isn’t mitigated by any cultural narrative of a presumed desire for powerlessness. So why should a desire for powerlessness be inherently true for women?

Which doesn’t mean women don’t experience real power ambivalence issues, as I found in my research for No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.

It’s hard to change a culture while you’re living in it, and there’s a big risk in upending any power structure. You lose the comfort of familiar misery. People say bad things about you. You have to actually think. To make choices and take responsibility for what you choose.

Co-option becomes rampant on all sides of this equation. The rewards of living within the patriarchal narrative are so high and the benefits of bucking it so low. Why else would Tina Brown publish Roiphe’s logically torqued submission theory?

But think about the alternative to embracing the power of the paycheck:

Think of all those freezing days in January, when the dark comes early. Those miserable gray mornings in February, when the ground is covered in slush and the car refuses to start. Those blustery days in March when spring seems like it’s refusing to ever come. Think of working all those days for nothing, zilch, nada. That’s what pay disparity looks like.

The late Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson quipped that “women are just men with less money.” That’s not funny if you’re a woman struggling to raise a family on your own, and it’s not right or just regardless of one’s financial position.

So it’s incumbent upon women to do as PBS “One-on-One” host Maria Hinojosa said as she wrapped up a New York Women’s Agenda panel on equal pay with an exhortation to action, “You have to learn to eat your fear, to turn the tables on the power relationships.”

Pay Disparity = Power Disparity

For as long as women are paid less than men for the same work, women will have less power in politics, in the workplace, and in personal relationships.

Economic inequality narrows the possibilities to define our lives at work, in politics and civic life, and in our relationships. True economic equality, on the other hand, would allow us to redefine the meaning of consent, sexual and otherwise, and create healthier relationships that are mutually rewarding in all spheres of life.

This kind of power to, not the domination-submission framework of power over, is what our country needs to assure that the intelligence and capabilities of all our citizens are used most effectively. Even those—male or female, high earners or not—who like to be spanked now and again during sex.

I hate to throw water on Katie Roiphe’s latest feminist-disparaging theory, but I feel a lot sexier after I’ve earned a nice book advance or a fair speaking fee than during an economic dry spell. And after I’ve deposited my money, I’ve never once had a fantasy of being submissive. Not even when I’ve out-earned my spouse.

Personally, I find paycheck power—mine, that is—quite an effective aphrodisiac, with no concomitant need to be subjugated or humiliated. But I do get off on verbally spanking legislators who don’t support equal pay policies.

Here’s a link where you can use your power to tell your members of Congress to vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act. Maybe our collective voices will whip them into submission.

Do it right now. I promise you’ll get a thrill.

And then, walk through the doors of power that have been opened for you; join me on Thursday, April 19, 2012, in a teleconference event, Sister Courage: How Movement Building can Break Glass Ceilings and Change the World. This Ten Buck Talk is sponsored by The Daily Thrive, a She Negotiates project.


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.

Are You Angry Enough to Embrace Your Power To Act? (3 Signs You Are)

Get power-to without leaving home!

Join me for a No Excuses Facebook chat on my fanpage Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern, 2pm central, 1pm mountain, noon pacific, etc. I’ll be on video, you’ll be able to ask questions and talk with others via chat box. It’s easy. Really. And there will be giveaways! Let me know if you’re coming here.

In decades of experience as a women’s advocate, I’ve learned people can be inspired to action by one of two things: anger or aspiration.

A roiling, boiling anger is propelling women — even many who’ve never been activists before — to embrace their “power to” to take leadership and make change. They’re making their voices heard over the din of political rhetoric they might shun under other circumstances.

There was no one trigger, rather a succession of insults. I talked with Richard Lui about them this week on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. Here’s a smattering:

  • After 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to speak about why contraceptives should be covered by insurance…
  • After the stunning optics of an all-male “expert” panel pontificating on women’s reproductive health before a Senate committee (also all-male because the women on the committee were so incensed they walked out)…
  • After shock jock Rush Limbaugh denigrated Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute (can one be both—don’t sluts give it away?) and demanding to see videos of her having sex…
  • After bills like those in Texas and Virginia forcing women seeking abortions to submit to 10″ ultrasound “shaming wands” (as Doonesbury dubbed them), an AZ bill requiring women to bring notes to their employers verifying they take birth control for health reasons not pregnancy prevention or risk being fired, and a Tennessee bill that mandates public reporting of the doctors by name and the demographics of each patient…

Women are rightly furious.

Why is this happening?

Writer Susan Swartz, who blogs at Juicy Tomatoes, notes, “It’s not just the warbling of a choir boy who believes that sex should only be for procreation and wants to turn the country into a theocracy. It’s a growing roar against women with one wild-eyed effort after another to attach new laws to women’s bodies.”

Hillary Clinton take at the Women in the World conference in New York recently was, “Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.”

Have women finally stopped playing nice about all these “power over” affronts? Here are three signs that tell me the answer is a resounding YES!

  1. Individuals aren’t waiting for someone else to tell them to take action. They’re just doing it. Like Sandra Fluke—who now says she’d consider running for elected office. Go, Sandra, you’ve sure got my vote!
  2. Pro-woman legislators, previously silent, are filing in-your-face bills that smoke out those cruel and unjust measures that shame, blame, and make women barefoot and pregnant again. The antidotes? Requiring men seeking Viagra to first have a cardiac stress test and rectal exam or watch videos of treatment for prolonged erections to one that would restrict vasectomies to men who are at imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.
  3. Between the spontaneous petitions, thousands of smart-ass but well taken questions on TX Gov. Rick Perry’s Facebook page (“What kind of tampons do you recommend, Gov. Perry?” “I’ve been researching chastity belts and would like your opinion.”), and constant chatter about the issues, I haven’t heard this decibel level of righteous anger since early 2001.

In my book No Excuses, I urge women to redefine power from the oppressive power over, rightly resisted by many women, to the expansive leadership implied by power to.

So yesterday on my Facebook page, I asked: “Are women finally getting angry enough to embrace their power to?”

Hong Kong spa director Shoshana Weinberg asked in response: “Why does it have to be anger? Can’t love get us there?”

My answer was:

Love without using our power to stand up for ourselves got us into this pickle. Anger is a good motivator to action. But you are right, anger isn’t enough. After we get riled up by anger, we need aspiration. Aspiration to use the “power to” for good. For me, that’s another, more intentional word for love.

More on aspiration in another post. But for now, I want to know:

What about you? Are you angry enough to embrace your power to? How?

And PS: Want to talk about the concept of power to and the Power tools in No Excuses? Join me this Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern for a chat on my Facebook page. It’s easy! Full info and instructions here.

This article originally ran in a blog post for FORBESWOMAN. Check it out here.


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.

Wear The Shirt And Make Women’s History

“Well behaved women rarely make history” ~ Laurel Thatcher UlrichWear the Shirt and Make Women's History Photo, Gloria in TShirt

I often wear a t-shirt bearing historian Ulrich’s advice because people react with a chuckle and it starts conversations. Conversations we need because women’s history is rarely given its due.

March is Women’s History Month, so designated because history has largely been framed through the male lens, recorded by male pens, and thus not surprisingly showcases men as the protagonists and the leaders; women, if noticed at all, play supporting roles (unless of course they take “male” personas, such as generals).

Yet women were everywhere, giving birth to everyone, among many other accomplishments. I’ve often wondered whether, if women had been documenting history for the last millennium, keeping peace and making things rather than making war and destroying things would be the central organizing narrative.

Then, once history is made, it seems so normal that it can easily be taken for granted. When I asked my grandson if he would vote for a woman for president, he responded “Yeaaah” in that drawn out way that made it sound as though I had three heads to ask such a dumb question.

And Sunday’s New York Times front page boasted a photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde—with little comment about what a power shift those two symbolize. Yet, as Lagarde said at the recent Women in the World conference, the global financial meltdown might not have occurred if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters—or at least Lehman Brothers and Sisters. History has consequences for the future.

Women’s History: A Revolutionary Shift

Until the 1970’s, the topic of women’s history was virtually nonexistent in public consciousness. It wasn’t until 1978 that the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women first initiated a “Women’s History Week”. They chose the week of March 8 to make International Women’s Day—established in 1909 to highlight the need for a strong working women’s agenda—part of it.

The response was so overwhelming that by 1987, the entire month of March was designated as Women’s History Month by a bi-partisan Congressional resolution.

The inception of Women’s History Month marked a revolutionary shift in thinking about whose actions are worth recording. Yet most history curricula still under-report women’s history and history made by women.

When I show students in my Women, Power, and Leadership class, most of whom are Women and Gender Studies majors or minors, photos of two dozen of the most influential women in American history, few recognize anyone other than perhaps Gloria Steinem in her aviator glasses. They all recognize pop culture icons such as race car driver Danica Patrick. But few if any know about Ada Lovelace who created the underlying concepts that enabled Steve Jobs to envision Apple. She’s been called the first computer programmer.

Ever hear of her? Not likely.

History Sheds Light On Today’s Struggles

That’s why during our annual attention to Women’s History Month it’s as important to learn and to teach history as to celebrate it.

With recent legislation on the state and federal levels seeking to force women to endure jamming unnecessary ultrasound probes into their vaginas, allow employers to deny women health services, while the Paycheck Fairness Act languishes without a hearing in Congress and the motherhood penalty for female employees remains rampant, it’s urgent that women’s historic and contemporary struggles for our most fundamental rights are studied and understood.

By “wearing the shirt” (No Excuses Power Tool #6), we begin to appreciate our own history. And when we know our history (No Excuses Power Tool #1), we can create the future of our choice.

Eleanor Roosevelt realized this and that’s why she became more or less the first blogger. She wrote “My Day”, a 500-word syndicated newspaper column six days a week from 1935 until her death in 1962 in order to influence policy through a medium accessible to a woman. “Without equality,” she said, “there can be no democracy.” She was more noted for her work to advance racial equality, but she clearly included women in that declaration: “The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”

The gravel-voiced former congresswoman, Bella Abzug, once said, “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.”

We’ll know we have social and political gender parity when women’s visibility in the making of history, and in the telling of it, will be, well, just normal.

This article originally ran in a blog post for FORBESWOMAN. Check it out here.


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.

How Far Women Have Come and Where They’re Going

“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?

Here in the United States, that moment can seem long ago. Today, women are aghast that presidential candidates are railing against birth control (yes, birth control!) access for American women, and members of Congress argue against funding for international family planning services that could reduce the millions of unsafe abortions and risky pregnancies that cause 500,000 unnecessary deaths each year globally.

But the U.S. women’s movement can take inspiration from working in sisterhood with women from around the globe. When the United States failed to meet its commitments to the global public-health community, many developing countries began funding these essential women’s health services beyond all expectations and the European nations stepped in to fill much of the void left by America’s abdication of leadership.

Women’s economic development projects are also fueling economic growth around the world while bringing greater equality to the women in their societies. Sex trafficking and other acts of violence against women, long merely routine facts of life for women, are becoming subjects of international media attention and human rights action. And female heads of state have been elected in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

  18 female elected heads of state

And though the U.S. has yet to follow suit, Hillary Clinton almost broke through that “highest and hardest glass ceiling,” is serving the country with great distinction as Secretary of State. And that puts her in a position not just to talk about, but to implement her declaration that women’s rights are human rights at the highest policy levels.

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.  All of us who support it must have the political will, courage, commitment, stamina and a never-ending creation of inspiring initiatives that touch real people’s lives. A movement, after all, has to move. Power and energy come from moving into new spaces, not from standing still.

On this Women’s Equality Day, we can proudly acknowledge that women have changed the world, much for the better in terms of justice and equality. That’s exactly what scares our adversaries and causes the kind of backlash from those who do not want women to be able to stand in our power and walk with intention to our own unlimited lives, as the Power Tools in my book No Excuses show how to do.

One of those Power Tools, “Employ Every Medium” was used very effectively by a group of African women who attended the Beijing conference and told their story about how they stamped out spousal abuse in their village when they had been unable to get their local law enforcement officers to do it.

The women banded together, took their cooking pots, and took up positions outside of the homes of men who had committed violent acts against their wives. They banged on those pots so loudly that the whole neighborhood came out and took note. And after a while, the men came out of their homes and agreed to change their behavior.

Each country today has different reasons to bang their pots on this International Women’s Day 2012. But the refrain for all of us who aspire to global justice for women is the same.

Gonna raise our voices boldly, Never turning back. Gotta keep on moving forward, Never turning back, Never

This article originally ran in a blog post for WOMEN ON THE FENCE. Check it out here.


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.