5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay

This was in my Twitter feed today to remind me it’s Equal Pay Day:

I don’t know about you, but I’m sooo tired of hearing that same statistic over and over in the annual communal outcry about the lack of equal pay.

So being a practical activist, I put together these five things you and I can do today to bring about equal pay.

Continue reading “5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay”

How “Play Like a Girl” Went From Epithet to Compliment

I’ve never been to a professional hockey game nor wanted to. I stay far away from sports bars.

But I do resonate with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky whose pithy leadership advice is, “Don’t skate to where the hockey puck is. Skate to where the hockey puck is going.”

I love the direction the hockey puck is going for women in sports.

That’s why why I’m excited about Take The Lead’s upcoming “Play Hockey Like a Girl” panel in Phoenix, AZ on November 11. More later on that.

My own sports story begins in elementary school. I was often humiliated by being the last person chosen for the softball team.  Probably today to make all children feel equally worthy, they draw lots or number off. But when I was a girl, I was the epitome of the dreaded epithet, “Play (whatever) Like a Girl.”

Except for the spelling bee. Everybody wanted me on their team for that. How “like a girl.” Another story for another day.

The more I failed to perform well at sports, the less I played, and the klutzier I therefore became.

I lived with three loving but busy adults for the formative first six years of my life and was rewarded for being quiet. Oh, they enrolled me in ballet and tap, in stereotypical girl child fashion. I was cute in my pink ballet tutu. But I was also the slightly chunky one on the end who was never quite on point. In tap, I was a total disaster, the top-hatted, foot-clicking version of Wrong Way Corrigan.

It was expected that my boy cousins and playmates on the block would be active and boisterous. I envied them. Tried to run after them, and have the scars to prove it.

My Turnaround

It wasn’t until years later, after I had children and was starting to thicken around the waist, that I was motivated to engage in any significant physical activity.

It started slowly with 10 or 15 minutes of exercises I learned from a women’s magazine. Periodically I would run laps around the nearby football practice field. (We lived a block from the real Friday Night Lights.)

Thank You, Jane Fonda

But I lacked the tenacity or lung power to stick with running. About when I hit 40, though, Jane Fonda released her exercise videos. I did one almost every morning until I got hooked on exercise endorphins and couldn’t start the day without feeling the burn.

Thank you Jane, for changing the lives of many women by showing us how to exercise like a girl and love it.

Here a shout out to Bernice Sandler is overdue–the “godmother” of Title IX, the 1972 legislation that had brought equity to girls in various aspects of education, but is best known for requiring schools to provide boys and girls equal access sports.

The value of participation in sports for girls and women is profound: learning leadership skills, physical discipline, teamwork, and how to compete in a positive way understanding that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and you come back to play again another day.

I wanted to continue to improve rather than go downhill physically at middle age. So I hired a trainer and began to build upper body strength for the first time. Wow. What a difference it made. I began to feel a mastery over my body and my physical prowess that I’m guessing male children learn by the time they are five years old.

The definition of “play like a girl” was clearly changing. When my husband and I were visiting friends around the 30th anniversary of Title IX, their nine-year-old daughter Sarah came racing home breathless and sweaty from her soccer practice. My husband said to her in his old-fashioned “like a boy” way, “You must be a tomboy.”

Sarah looked at him like he had two heads and replied, “What’s a tomboy?”

That was when I knew a true shift had taken place. And the trajectory has continued. Parity in funding and public attention to women’s sports has not been reached–far from it. But the days when Billie Jean King had to play a man to get attention are long gone. Over a third of high school and college women participate in sports. Women’s college basketball teams often play to sellout stadiums, and women are making a living in every sport from rock climbing to car racing , as well as in other professions that support sports, such as media announcers, team administrators, sports medicine, and much more.

Women in sports is a big deal now. As the much touted Always advertisement illustrates, “Play like a girl” is no longer an epithet but quickly becoming the best compliment we can give.

If you’re in Arizona, come join Take The Lead and a panel of distinguished women in sports, sponsored by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

Ticket purchase details are here.

Sponsorship opportunities are here.

 

 

How Can Women Reach Parity in Elected Office?

I just finished recording this Blogtalk Radio program “Feisty Side of Fifty” hosted by the wonderful Eileen Williams. The other guest was Terry Nagel, currently mayor of Burlingame CA, now running for San Mateo County Supervisor–a woman who walks her talk.

Feisty Side of Fifty Blogtalk Radio 3/15/11

Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts on Eileen’s main question: How can the U.S. get more women in elected office?

To Run the World (Better), Power Up Feminism

In the Spring ’09 edition, On The Issues Magazine writers and artists discuss feminist and progressive values that transcend politics — our Lines In The Sand. I’m pleased to have been asked to contribute this article to the mix.

Were you thinking we were done with elections and could take a few minutes to celebrate a pro-woman administration and a Democratically-controlled Congress that appears ready to embrace pro-choice and pro-equality measures? Sorry, my Sisters. Elections are never over when they are over.

Candidates are already gearing up for 2010 and 2012. It’s critically important that feminists review the lessons of 1992 and its parallels to 2008 so we can avoid repeating mistakes—and more urgently, so we can charge ahead with strategies that advance a bold vision of gender equality and justice.

After all, men have been making America’s political decisions for over 200 years now, and I don’t need to tell you it’s not a pretty picture. Women, especially those not afraid to identify themselves with the F-word, are the change we need. But whether women will be the change we get depends on whether we use the power we have.

For the one constant in politics is that every victory sows the seeds of the next defeat and every defeat sows the seeds of the next victory, unless eternal vigilance is applied. This means using a movement mentality that continually advances bold new ideas and keeps its grassroots watered.

Ideological Whiplash Sneaks Up
A quick look back: 1992’s “Year of the Woman” was deemed a transformational moment similar to 2008. The nation was ready for change, tired of Republican presidents who took us into war while taking the economy downhill, and disgusted with wedge-issue politics that kept the country fighting about abortion and homosexuality when people were hurting from bread-and-butter woes. Women voters were especially outraged (read that, “activated”) over the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill after she accused the eminently unqualified conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

“Year of the Woman.” Then, Boom! The Right came roaring back.

Then, Boom! In 1994, the right came roaring back with the Gingrich Revolution and ultra-conservative “Contract for America,” (or as I prefer, a “Contract on America”). Republicans, mostly of the hard right variety, grabbed a net gain of eight Senate and 54 House seats.

Karan English, a pro-choice Democrat supported by Emily’s List, typifies what happened. English was elected to Congress from Northern Arizona’s swing District 6 in 1992. Though backed even by “Mr. Conservative,” the late Senator Barry Goldwater (who in his inimitable way said that “all good Christians should kick Jerry Falwell in the ass”), she was defeated in 1994 by Limbaugh-like Republican J.D. Hayworth.

Far from being passé, conservative political strength regained its headlock on Congress and the national psyche. This scared the bejeezus out of Bill Clinton’s still wet-behind-the-ears administration. In Texas, George W. Bush defeated Governor Ann Richards that same year, setting the stage for his 2000 presidential win, which by any measure has been devastating to 20th century advances in civil rights, women’s rights and reproductive justice.

It’s tempting to credit the likes of Gingrich and Bush’s spinmeister Karl Rove with right wing resurgence. But this ideological whiplash could have been prevented if only the women who turned out to vote in droves in 1992 had returned to the polls in 1994. Instead, women demonstrated voting power, and then too many vanished from the political firmament. The right, on the other hand, never, ever goes away.

In 2008, Ann Kirkpatrick reclaimed English’s district (now redrawn Dist. 1) for the Democrats by beating extreme right-wing incumbent Rick Renzi, again securing even some conservative endorsements. But will she keep the seat in 2010?

Get Serious About Gender Parity
Power unused is power useless. It takes sustained ethical use of power to get and secure liberty. Yes, women friends, we must understand that power is not inherently bad; it’s our responsibility to use power in the service of feminist values both in political office and in influencing policy decisions. Feminists must get a bigger vision for feminist and female equality in making public policy, and mean business about achieving it by date certain. NOW has begun to identify what that agenda includes. My take is that we all know it when we see it, so don’t let the lack of a document agreed to by every women’s group keep us from taking action without delay.

It’s true that gender politics has become more nuanced, as the paradox of faux feminist Sarah Palin illustrates. But that makes it even more important to support women (and men–see below) who explicitly and publicly support feminist values and policies. That’s not necessarily partisan, incidentally, since the Republican party was first to support the ERA. it’s all about who wields voting power most effectively, and the Republicans’ shift to the right because of right-wing organizing precinct by precinct is yet one more cautionary tale.

Deal A Three-Handed Strategy
This three-point strategy will get us our rightful half of the policy-making pie: 1) elect women with feminist values; 2) promote women for appointive office, and 3) mobilize movement and grassroots support for policies that will secure equality and justice for women.

1. Elect women (and men) with feminist values
Women make up only 17 percent of the U.S. Senate and 16 percent of the House. At the current rate of increase, it will take 70 years to reach parity. Personally, I can’t wait that long. It’s well past time for women to have parity in all decision making bodies, especially the reins of political power. So let’s set specific goals and hold ourselves accountable to reach them:

  • 50 percent feminist legislators by 2015. They may be male or female, but all must proactively support progress toward gender equality in a legislative agenda and in electoral office. It’s going to take both men and women to make change, so why not bring men into the effort for gender parity?
  • Full gender parity in Congress and state legislatures by 2025. If nations as diverse as Sweden (47 percent) and Rwanda (56 percent) can do it, why can’t the U.S.? Not surprisingly, the quality of decisions improves when women exceed the UN’s “critical mass” definition, or 30 percent, and, according to the World Bank, the more women in parliament, the less corruption. So everybody benefits.

2. Promote women for appointive office
Essentially the same commitments apply as in the electoral strategy. Think about the judiciary, for example. Dahlia Lithwick speculates on what we mean when we say there should be more female judges and why it matters. But suffice it to remember how Sandra Day O’Connor cobbled together majorities to hold onto Roe v Wade’s ever-diminishing thread during her tenure. Multiply this by cabinet posts, and local, state and federal commissions, and the impact is exponential.

Go for it. Seek out an appointment. It’s also a good way to get your feet wet and prepare to run for office yourself.

3. Mobilize movement and grassroots support for women’s equality and justice
We need to dramatically beef up support and encouragement for women officials at all levels of government through a strategic coalition of the burgeoning existing organizations dedicated to recruiting and training women to run for office. The infrastructure is there, but could easily be leveraged with some forward looking leadership.

Get us our rightful half.
In regard to taking on issues, here’s a reproductive justice example that applies, too, and to any measure. In 1992, a raft of state anti-choice ballot initiatives were soundly defeated. One I had to contend with in Arizona as CEO of Planned Parenthood was rejected by a whopping 67 per cent to 33 per cent, causing pundits and pro-choicers alike to declare that the nation had decided, once and for all, that abortion should be legal (as if once-and-for-all could ever be in a democracy). Well, in 2008, South Dakotans faced and defeated a ballot measure almost identical to the one rejected in Arizona in 1992. Now, several states are mounting draconian egg-as-persons initiatives for 2010.

We should change the dynamic by mobilizing supporters around initiatives like the Prevention First Act and the Freedom of Choice Act at state and federal levels.

Activists need to act, so let’s act from the power of setting our own agenda rather than reacting to attacks from the other side.

Hard Times Make Good Chances
Gender parity won’t solve all problems, but women’s lives will be significantly better and our laws more just if we commit to carrying out these three strategies.

The current economic mess is the best opportunity we will ever have to hasten the pace of change toward gender parity, since people are more open to breaking boundaries during chaotic times. But like any profound change, it won’t just happen. It’s up to women to elect, promote, and mobilize our way to equality and justice.

The Value of Work Deja Vu All Over Again

There has been a marked change in the estimate of [women’s] position as wealth producers. We have never been “supported” by men; for if all men labored hard every hour of the twenty-four, they could not do all the work of the world. A few worthless women there are, but even they are not so much supported by the men of their family as by the overwork of the “sweated” women at the other end of the social ladder. From creation’s dawn. our sex has done its full share of the world’s work; sometimes we have been paid for it, but oftener not.

Any idea when this statement was made? OK, a clue: I recently ran across it in a speech given by Harriot Stanton Blatch at a suffragist convention–in 1898.

Blatch went on to raise issues much like what Ai-Jen Poo said at the “Unfinished Business” program 111 years later,  what Moms Rising has organized itself to organize the troops about now, and what dozens if not hundreds of bloggers will be talking about this weekend over at Fem 2.0:

Unpaid work never commands respect; it is the paid worker who has brought to the public mind conviction of woman’s worth…If we would recognize the democratic side of our cause, and make an organized appeal to industrial women on the ground of their need of citizenship, and to the nation on the ground of its need that all wealth producers should form part of its body politic, the close of the century might witness the building up of a true republic in the United States.

Yep, don’t agonize: organize. Band together to make the workplace and worklife such that people of both genders can both earn a living and have a life. This is the necessary next wave of the feminist movement, one in which both men and women must participate. Because these days, men want to participate in their children’s lives as women have always done. Family-friendly policies benefit everyone. But many if not most men are afraid to take paternity leave or a sick day to take care of an ailing child. And those not in paid employment, as well as the growing number of freelancers and caregiving workers, often have no health care benefits or paid sick days.

As the workplace moves ever closer to gender parity because employers need the skills of both men and women; as the ailing economy moves ever closer to one in which both partners must work outside the home to make ends meet, and as the cultural power balance between partners becomes increasingly equalized because of growing parity in income generation, the work that both do at the office or at home–or in someone else’s home–must be valued and supported accordingly.

Let’s not still be having this debate another 100 years hence. Check out the campaigns over at MomsRising.com to find out how you can help make the needed changes.