Posts Tagged ‘convictions’

Enter the Wear the Shirt Photo Contest

No Excuses Power Tool #6 is “Wear the Shirt.” It’s a metaphor for sharing your convictions with others. Whether it’s a slogan, a DIY ensemble, or your Feminist Majority “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt, it’s important that we wear our shirts proudly. That’s why I’m hosting a Wear the Shirt photo contest.

Send me a photo of you in your favorite message shirt, and I’ll include you in the slide show on my homepage. One lucky winner will receive an autographed set of my four books, including No Excuses.

I would love for you to participate in this opportunity to socialize and share your favorite shirts! There are three ways to participate:

1. Take a picture of yourself in your favorite shirt and send it to me in an email.
2. Post the picture on your blog and let your readers know about this contest! E-mail me and I’ll link to the post and also put it on my Twitter and Facebook page.
3. Tweet your shirt and about the wear the shirt campaign, linking to @GloriaFeldt.

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Power Tool #6: Wear the Shirt

“I love your T-shirt,” chuckled Jenny, my twenty-something personal trainer, as she stretched my aching legs. “I never saw that before.”

I hadn’t noticed which of my many message T-shirts I had thrown on when I rolled out of bed before sunrise. Most of the folks who populate New York’s Columbus Circle Equinox gym sport workout clothes that bear designer labels, but seldom do I see any that pack a message punch. I figure my chest is valuable real estate—why not use it to communicate my convictions?

I looked down and saw that I’d grabbed one of my favorites: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s wry observation became one of the guiding principles of the women’s movement during the 1970s, and living it seems as natural to me now as balance ball crunches do to my lithe trainer.

Perhaps because of their delicious candor laced with felicity of expression, these words have become a slogan for boundary-breaking women everywhere. But just because it’s proudly emblazoned on mugs and bumper stickers and, yes, T-shirts, doesn’t mean we should let the message be reduced to merely a personal assertion of gutsiness. The context of Ulrich’s observation, the thing that actually makes it true, is both personal and political. Although history is often taught in schoolbooks as a sequence of significant acts by Important Men (and the occasional important woman), what Ulrich recognized is that making history is a communal act, requiring us to break the boundaries of what is considered proper behavior.

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Recently I spoke to the first “class” of Progressive Women’s Voices, an exciting new program of the Women’s Media Center, where I serve on the board. I was asked about the lessons I learned leading a social movement where I worked a great deal with the media and messages as vehicles of social change. Here are my comments:

Once, soon after we arrived in New York, my husband Alex and I were on the corner of 57th and 8th talking rather intensely with our realtor. A homeless man approached us and asked, “Will you give me the money for a lobster dinner?” We paid no attention and went on talking about our apartment options.

“Will you give me the money for a lobster dinner?” the man repeated a little louder. Again, we didn’t respond. Again the man made his request. At this point, my Brooklyn born husband quipped back, “What’s the matter, a hamburger isn’t good enough?” The man pulled himself up to full height, puffed out his chest, and precisely enunciated every word as he retorted: “Answer the question as asked!”

The lesson is this: when you are making change—and with Progressive Women’s Voices (PWV), we’re changing the way the media portrays women and women’s stories and issues–we do not answer the question as asked. We determine what we want the question to be and start there.

Your passion for your substantive areas of expertise and the power of your knowledge are key elements to enable you to frame the questions as you think they should be. That’s the obvious part.

But the most important thing is that you must also learn to embrace controversy, not run away from it if you want to use your message to get your ideas into the political and cultural bloodstream. Here’s why:

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