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.


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.

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.

“Wear the Shirt” becomes a metaphor, then, for taking a bold stance about your convictions, and not hiding your light under the bushel basket. When you wear the shirt to the grocery store, the gym, or to pick up the mail, you are inviting people to have a conversation with you.

What shirt expresses you? If you’ve got a photo, or can take one, of yourself in a sassy shirt, I’d love for you to share it here. We’ll start a photo gallery next week, so send me an e-mail with your photo if you’d like to be included.


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 6 C’S OF WHY WE MUST EMBRACE CONTROVERSY

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:

Politics writ large is the clash of uncertainties from which social realities are constructed (as I’ve quoted political scientist Walt Anderson in my podcast).  You are groundbreakers. Your mission is creating new social realities.  We tend to recoil from controversy, women especially. Learning to walk into the wave of controversy and ride it rather than backing away from it is by far the most important political communication lesson I learned and that I want to impart to you.

Like Margaret Sanger and Rosa Parks, we are revolutionaries. We are insurgents. We are a movement. And a movement has to move. Forward. More or less together. And when we do that we will make some waves. We will create some controversy. We will tick some people off. That is a good thing.  Parks and Sanger had to do civil disobedience—so our task is easy, we just have to use our freedom of speech.

We must learn not just to deal with or dodge but to embrace controversy. Controversy is your friend. Think of 6 “C’s”:

Controversy is the
Courage to risk putting your
Convictions out there to the world, using the controversy strategically, because controversy is a Clarifier—it gets people’s attention so you can use your platform to present your
Case at a time when people are paying attention, and therefore controversy is a
Change agent—because to make change you have to make people think  differently, learn new things, and clarify their values.

Martin Luther King said, “The true measure of a man (and I am sure that today he would add ‘or woman’) is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of controversy and change.”

So learning to embrace controversy–not for its own sake but for what it can do to create those new social realities—is the most important lesson I’ve learned.

Do not answer the question as asked unless it is the question you want to answer.


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.