5 Tips to Carpe the Chaos and Thrive

NAFE, the National Association of Female Executives asked me to write a “Five Tips” article for their latest newsletter.

I chose to write about 5 tips for using chaos as opportunity, or as I’ve put it in No Excuses power tool #5: Carpe the Chaos. I recently spoke on this topic to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Women’s Roundtable and the International Museum of Women. In my experience as a leader,  it’s a useful concept that got me through tough times when many people thought there was no way to succeed.

There IS always a way, and it really helps to see the opportunity when others see only negativity in change and chaos! Here’s the post:

Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power has stood near the top of Amazon’s leadership booklist since it was published last October. A teen mom who became CEO of the world’s largest reproductive health provider and advocacy organization, Gloria learned leadership on the job. Now she’s a sought-after speaker, author, and consultant. Here are her tips on how to turn chaos into opportunity:

1. Think positive. Be like Monty Python: Always look at the bright side of life. You might as well. Chaos is inevitable because change is inevitable. And whoever is most comfortable with the ambiguity change creates is most likely to thrive, not just survive.

2. Seize your moment: Paradigm shifts don’t happen in moments of stability. Wars, depressions, diseases like HIV/AIDS, social justice movements—these all cause social turbulence. “Normal” patterns are interrupted by technological innovations—television, the pill, cell phones, Twitter. When there’s a mess to clean up, they always bring in the women, right? If a woman can offer a solution and it works, they no longer care whether you have a higher-pitched voice and don’t follow football scores. Seize the advantage when boundaries are hazy because the world is open to new solutions.

3. Take the lead. A leader is anyone who gets something done. When I was leaving my first CEO position, a board member asked me what I thought the chief qualification for the job was. I blurted out “raw courage.” Courage to act even in the midst of chaos is the core of leadership: to own responsibility when you don’t have total authority, to make decisions when you know none of the options is perfect, to lead even when you’re quaking in your boots.

4. See through other eyes. Learn from others even if their views might differ from yours. Sarah Palin seized chaos during McCain’s 2008 faltering presidential race. She took the opportunity offered to join the ticket. After the election, Palin sensed that the aggrieved base of the party was eager for her brand of rhetoric, and seized it.

5. See the potential. Since innovation usually comes from people not regarded as the norm—like a dorky teenaged Bill Gates creating Microsoft in his garage—we often don’t see it coming. Our instinct is to seek stability. That squanders the incredible potential of disruptive change to create new channels of opportunity, more inclusive vocabularies, and better technologies. Chaos means boundaries are fluid so you can accomplish things you might not have been able to do otherwise. Carpe [Latin for “to pick or pluck”] the chaos.

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.

Giffords Tragedy: What’s the Message to Young Women?

I wrote this article as an exclusive to the Women’s Media Center, and reprint it here with permission. It can’t begin to describe the pain in my heart for those killed or injured, their families and extended networks of friends.

When an angry young man aimed his semiautomatic handgun at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson Safeway store on Saturday, he didn’t just critically wound her and kill or wound 19 others. He fired a shot through the heart of American democracy.

It will fall to rising leaders like Giffords—and girls like nine-year-old Christina Green, killed by the assailant’s gunfire just days after she was elected to her school’s student council—to transform our political community to one where differences can be debated safely and policies decided without fear for anything but re-election prospects.

I feel a deeply personal connection to those horrendous events that occurred during the latest “Congress on Your Corner” public meeting the third-term Democratic congresswoman has held routinely in her district.  Though I was witnessing them from New York, I’m a resident of Scottsdale, 120 miles north of Tucson, and from 1978 to 1996 was CEO of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. I know the state’s wild-west politics quite well. And I’m so familiar with violent extremist attacks upon reproductive health providers that my first reaction was to swing reflexively into “how can I keep colleagues safe and courageous” mode.

Ironically, a moment before the carnage, I was urging Arizona Democratic party activists via Facebook to stop arguing about arcane party rules and get on with fixing the state: to stand firm against roiling bigotry toward immigrants, slashing public education funds while advancing legislation to allow guns in schools, and other  retrograde policies that threaten to make the state an object of derision throughout the country.

Almost immediately after the shootings, I received messages inviting me to a candlelight vigil at the state Capitol. It’s important for people to come together to share their grief while they are absorbing the reality of an unspeakable crime.

But as important as a candlelight vigil might be to heal the rips in our individual souls, healing the social fabric requires infinitely stronger threads.

Nor is it sufficient for public officials to issue statements of shock and condolence, or to lament the decline in civility. No, they should be joining hands together with other community leaders in massive outrage. They should be challenging and changing the systemic dysfunctions that allow the loudest, angriest, most disruptive voices to dominate the airwaves, define the public debate, and heat up the rhetoric to the point that unstable personalities like Jared Loughner inevitably boil over.

We can’t depend on the current leadership of the hypermasculinized political culture that  Jessica Valenti, Feministing executive editor, describes in The Guardian. Our idealization of violent masculinity she says spills over into the political discourse, and is emulated by right-wing women like Sarah Palin, whose electoral target map placed Giffords in her gunsight. It’s a problem Addie Stan described in Alternet as the “Tea Party culture of intimidation.” But the real problem is that the rest of us speak up too little.

Meaningful change will come only if the response to this rupture of democratic process is for those of us who have been underrepresented to multiply our engagement with it. “Hatred can’t be cured,” said a politically active Tucson friend in one of the many e-mails and calls I received over the weekend. Perhaps that’s true, but if we have a chance to remake a civic culture in which such vitriol is at least neutralized, the change will come from leaders like Gabby and what Christina might have become, and they must have the visible, vocal support of the rest of us.

The natural human tendency is to back away from public service after such a frightening episode. But the best way to honor the sacrifices of public servants like Gabrielle Giffords—as well as Judge John Roll who was killed in the attack and all the others—is to create a culture that lifts up and protects leaders who won’t be deterred by anti-government ranting.

Giffords was one of the youngest woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives when she took office January, 2007. I attended her swearing in that day—both of them. The first one was by the first woman speaker of the House, newly elected to that role; the second a symbolic oath administered by former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt in the Capitol rotunda.

“I am very cognizant of those women who made it possible for me to be here,” she told me later in a phone interview. “There is much work still to do. We have not yet achieved full equality… Because I know the work of other women pulled me up, I want to mentor other women and get more women into the pipeline to run for office at all levels.”

I don’t know if Gabby had a chance to meet Christina Green who came to that meeting at Safeway to learn more about politics.  In an MSNBC interview, Christina’s mother Roxanna Green described her daughter–born on 9/11/01 and featured in a book called Faces of Hope, picturing babies born that day. “She’s the face of hope, face of change, the face of coming together as a country to stop the this violence…. She wanted us all to be strong and courageous and brave like she was.”

If there is a lesson to learn from the horrible episode, it is less about decrying our declining civility and more about teaching everyone from their earliest years how a democratic government works. How to debate and discuss issues vigorously, how to embrace controversy in a positive way to elevate public awareness of the issues. To let the passion for public service that drives Gabby Giffords inspire us to emulate her leadership until there are so many of us we cannot be silenced. And to hold close the American values of tolerance and pluralism, of optimism that we can solve problems, and believe that though we are many, we can come together as one to do so. That we are the government.

Actually Gabrielle Giffords herself said it best last year at a Holocaust memorial event, the month after her office was vandalized in apparent retaliation for her vote to support the health reform bill:

‎”We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair.”

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 These GOP Women Candidates Good for Women?

This Time Magazine article— “A Breakthrough for the GOP: More Women Running”– is prime proof of why the Democrats must prioritize recruiting and supporting progressive women candidates.

These “Mama Grizzly”  GOP women candidates are co-opted into being just like their right-wing male counterparts–doing nothing to help women. Like Sarah Palin, most oppose the Fair Pay act and economic policies that would enable women to have equal opportunities in the workplace. They oppose a woman’s right to reproductive self-determination even as they claim their own. Women make up to 60% of the Democrats’ voter  base. Will the Dems step up to the plate?

Watch this video of the panel I moderated at Netroots “Why Women are the Key to Progresive Electoral Victories” to see what panelists Joanne Bamberberger, Pam Spaulding, Barbara Lee, Roxanne Conlin, and Maria Teresa Kumar had to say on the topic.

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.

What’s Sarah Up to Now?

I’ll betcha Sarah Palin’s mother had to ask that question often when she was a child: What’s Sarah up to now?

I’ll be talking about that along with Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn Monday early morning on “Canada AM”, which is CTV’s equivalent of the “Today Show”, so I’ve had to think about the answer to the question more than I might have liked.

Palin has officially stepped down from her post as governor of Alaska as of today. And we’re all abuzz asking why and what is she going to do next: Were some of those ethics charges about to bring her down so she struck a deal? Was she unable to deal with the stress, as her daughter’s baby-daddy Levi Johnston speculated? Is she just after the money she can make with her book and speaking engagements? Was she angry about her treatment by the media?  Did she calculate that if she wants to run for president in 2012, she’d be better off not racking up more of a record since her political juice with her state legislature seemed to have been heading south?

Any and all of those are possible. And perhaps she simply had the audacity of nope. As in “Nope, I won’t finish my term because who wants to be a lame duck?” By that logic, if my child is going to reach majority at 18, should I stop being a mother when he’s 16 1/2 so that I’m not a lame duck? If the PTA president is elected to a two-year term, should she step down after a year-and-a-half so as not be a lame duck? Or wouldn’t we call all of those examples blatant abnegation of responsibility?

So far, public reaction has been bad for Sarah, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll:

Overall, the new poll found that 53 percent of Americans view Palin negatively and 40 percent see her in positive terms, her lowest level in Post-ABC polling since she first appeared on the national stage last summer as Sen. John McCain’s running mate…57 percent of Americans say she does not understand complex issues, while 37 percent think she does, a nine-percentage-point drop from a poll conducted in September just before her debate with now-Vice President Biden. The biggest decline on the question came among Republicans, nearly four in 10 of whom now say she does not understand complex issues. That figure is 70 percent among Democrats and 58 percent among independents.

Her speech announcing her impending departure was practically unintelligible. She had her lines down a little better by the time she held her farewell picnic this afternoon in Fairbanks and turned things over to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, also a Republican.

As I said previously, Palin is out but not down. While I have no inside track on why she resigned before her term was to end, I am inclined to think her erratic behavior has something to do with the way she learned to control her environment by being unpredictable.

Whatever the reason, we’ll find out soon enough what Sarah will be up to next. And whatever it is, I’ll betcha it will drive the Republican party establishment stark raving mad.

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.

Palin Out But Not Down

America’s most famous female point guard has dribbled off the court…for now.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

But don’t count her out. Linda Lowen at About.com describes cheering crowds for Sarah Palin in Auburn NY last month when she visited the home of William Seward, whose purchase of Alaska was deemed folly at the time. Little could the public back during Andrew Johnson’s presidency have known our frozen new territory would one day spawn Palin.

Twitter was predictably awash in clever tweets, many snide and yes some sexist ones that I won’t dignify by repeating here:

Misha1234 RT @cbn2: “I love my job and I love Alaska…but I’m doing what’s best for Alaska.” – Sarah Palin (Last part is *true*.)

RosieCaat Sarah Palin‘s political ambition combined with her intellect is like putting a jet engine on a golf cart; lots of horse power & no steering

garybc RT @LouYoungNY: For everyone who was tired of Michael Jackson dominating the news: Sarah Palin heard you.

Lowen has this right:

To say she received a hero’s welcome would be an understatement. She rode in a parade down streets jammed with gushing well-wishers. Local television showed smiling faces — young, old, male, female — all saying how attractive she was, how sweet, how much they admired her.

She has deeply devoted, dedicated supporters.

On that day, Palin enjoyed a kind of rock-star celebrity that was a far cry from her more pedestrian day-to-day dealings with legislators back home in a state where her approval ratings have dropped significantly since she stepped onto the national stage.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza thinks she resigned to prepare to run for president in 2012. Others are sure she’s escaping some sort of scandal about to break. Some assume it’s pure petulance coupled with the looming storm clouds on Alaska’s financial horizon. Or, who knows, maybe she saw Russia about to take some sinister action while she was looking at it from her porch.

MY prediction? Palin has big money contracts for media gigs and her book, has pr handlers who have helped her orchestrate her rollout as “the voice of the Republican Party” and position her for a presidential run. Her speech was rambling, filled with platitudes, and nonsensical, but that has never bothered her dedicated supporters.

Palin may well have resigned because there was a scandal brewing and/or she has big problems in Alaska, as many have speculated. But this resignation is her way of staying in control, of asserting her power. Her gutsiness would be admirable if it were possible to see any reason other than self serving ones for this move.

Count her out for the moment, but not down.

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.

Afghanistan to Alaska–Who Respects Women Less?

The Twitterati loudly retweeted their rightful shock this past week as women around the internet e-mailed one another to organize protests against Afghan president Karzai’s signing a law a that allows fundamentalist Muslims to enforce Sharia, including requirements that women must submit to sex with their husbands at least every four days, thus effectively legalizing marital rape.

Meanwhile, 300 courageous Afghan women exercised their right to protest this barbaric law by staging a public march to their capital. They were met with over 1,000 counter-protesters, some of whom threw stones, spat, and called them whores, which tells you exactly where their stupidly misogynist heads are.

For those who want a way to voice their opposition immediately, here’s an action you can take to persuade President Obama to act on his statement that this law is intolerable. And here’s how to deliver the same message via text to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But lest we in the U.S. become too self-righteous, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s nomination of far-right attorney and her longtime Hummer (what else?)-driving political ally Wayne Anthony Ross for attorney general is clear evidence that the same misogynistic strains are yet to be rooted out here. Fortunately:

Palin’s hopes for a swift confirmation process were dashed April 10 when Leah Burton, a veteran lobbyist on children’s issues and domestic violence, submitted a letter to the Alaska State Judiciary Committee claiming that Ross publicly defended spousal rape. According to Burton, who detailed the allegations for me, Ross allegedly declared during a speech before a 1991 gathering of the “father’s rights” group Dads Against Discrimination, “If a guy can’t rape his wife, who’s he gonna rape?” (In a subsequent letter, Ross denied the remark and claimed, “I don’t talk like that!”)

Burton said Ross’s statement was consistent with his overarching attitude toward women’s issues. She claimed that he once said during a debate on the Equal Rights Amendment, “If a woman would keep her mouth shut, there wouldn’t be an issue with domestic violence.” Burton also maintained she has been in touch with “a number” of domestic-violence victims who witnessed Ross make “horrible” statements, but are too intimidated to speak out.

Alex Koppelman notes in Salon that “26 Democrats joined nine Republicans in voting against Ross on Thursday, while 23 lawmakers (it was a joint session of the state House and Senate) voted to confirm him. It was the first time in Alaska history that the legislature has rejected a governor’s appointment for an agency head, according to the New York Times.”

Still, I must wonder what those who defended Palin here at Heartfeldt last fall are thinking about this. What do you think? Was she oblivious, obtuse, indifferent, or in agreement?

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.

Pow! Bam! Comic Books on Today’s Women Leaders Pack a Strong Message

Superheroines, Quemosabe!

If art imitates life and pop culture depicts contemporary life most real and raw, then these new Female Force comic books deliver a powerful message that women in top political leadership have truly saturated our cultural consciousness.

There’s irony in that Female Force’s creators at Bluewater Productions are male, but also an important question of whether one gender is more likely than the other to see an opportunity and take a risk to grab it. And perhaps, as marketing guru Richard Laermer says in the video, this is just another business venture and it will sink or succeed based on whether anyone buys these comics.

Traditionally, comic book buyers have been largely male–though I certainly remember in my youth racing to the news stand on Sundays for the latest“Archie” comic books, mainly to see what Veronica and Betty were up to. I liked Veronica better because she had dark hair like I do.

And that’s probably the key here: will enough young women see Michelle and Hillary and, goddess help us, Sarah as characters they can not only relate to but characters that capture their imagination sufficiently that they will buy the comic and even return to purchase the next episodes? What do you think? Has the female superheroine saturated our consciousness sufficiently to make comic books about female leaders not just a momentary fad but a sustainable classic?

While thinking these questions over, feast your eyes on these graphics (with thanks to Jill Miller Zimon for calling this to my attention):

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.

Sarah Palin’s New Clothes

Hopefully this will be the first, last, and only time I
write about Clothinggate. But strangely, this latest episode
in the continuing "As Alaska Turns" soap opera has made me
feel a surprising twinge of maternal instinct for Sarah
Palin. She's so miserably out of her league that her pathetic
rant against McCain-Palin campaign operatives who spilled
the beans about her profligate clothing expenditures and
other bizarre behavior--whether accurate reports or not--
filled me with an unusual desire to help her out with a
little advice from Mom.

Sarah back in Alaska with her old clothes
So, first of all, Sarah, Honey, you gotta understand that
when you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas. And
those particular political dogs in the party of your
choice don't care a whit about you. 

They didn't allow you to speak when McCain conceded? 

Why would you have expected otherwise? Silencing women has
been part of your party's platform for years now, since they
banished Mary Crisp and jettisoned their groundbreaking
support for the Equal Rights Amendment. Just like the expensive
clothes they bought you, you were window dressing for the
Republicans' desperate atempt to hold onto their
power, Joe or Jane the Plumber and all the rest of us, including you,
be damned.

Second, realize that the mouths that roared about you are
one of three types:

**Those who thought putting you on the ticket was a mistake 
  from the start
**Those who have their own political future to promote and
    don't want you in the way
**Those who are just the run of the mill embittered,
   angry losers and lash out at you because you're convenient: the most
   obvious of many wrong decisions John McCain made, the best media-bait,
   and frankly because you've made yourself a highly visible target.
Or maybe it's all of the above--and also as you would say in your
imitable way of sucking up airtime when you have no idea what the
answer to the question is. 

Perhaps now that you have time, Alaska being a fairly small
state to govern, you'll read the many comments of feminists
and former Clinton supporters here on Heartfeldt. Talk to them.
Learn why your future will be better served by
becoming aligned with the more progressive and pro-woman
part of your own party, or perhaps even the Democrats.
Because just possibly you can see now all that drivel you've
been fed about how women have full equality and equal treatment
already wasn't exactly true. 

Face it. You've hitched your political wagon to the wrong horse.
Those guys just wanted you when it was useful to them to have
a fresh faced red-meat anti-choice woman
shilling to and for their patriarchal base.
Do you get that now?

I hope you've learned a few other lessons from the experience too.
Like maybe greater empathy for all us other women whose rights
and choices you've opposed. 

You're young, smart, and power hungry. You'll do fine in the future
either as a politician or talk show host.

Katha Pollitt has written this "sayonara" that will
really annoy you, but you and I know this isn't good-bye.

But, listen to me, Sarah. Think about it. And don't let yourself
get caught again up on your high horse like the emperor,
with or without your towel.  

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.

Moose, Mousse, and Spalinism by Robin Morgan

Guest posting again! This was just too good not to share, especially with some folks who  have been commenting on Heartfeldt. recently. Award winning author of 21 books, and feminist leader Robin Morgan takes laser-beam aim at a few “feminists” who have taken to the blogways lately to support John McCain and Sarah Palin.

You might have noticed a recent media burp—gassy, though blissfully short—about a handful of faux “feminists” backing the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. I won’t name these women out of concern that feeding their misplaced sense of self-importance may risk them bursting into shriveled balloon ribbons of overextended ego. If you’re addicted to surreal humor you can find such SP supporters (I call them Spalinists) via Google—if you lack an excuse to put off, say, cleaning the garbage pail, and if you can manage it without bladder-challenging fits of hilarity at the cognitive dissonance invoked by juxtaposing words like “feminism” and “Palin.”

But if any actual feminists are concerned about the effect on Women’s Movement institutions and energy of this clutch of “formers” (a former chapter official of a national feminist organization, a former editor of a feminist publication, former Democratic funders, former Hillary supporters, and so forth), let me reassure you. The “trust date” had already long expired on these women, who’d been voted off feminist leadership posts, or fired, or quietly asked to resign. Some are confessed consultants to the campaign whose candidates they now—surprise!—endorse. I never imagined I’d see a “feminist” mercenary. But then I never heard of rats climbing onto a sinking ship, either.

Spalinists traipse around with their candidate, grinning and applauding her, sometimes getting paraded out to take a bow at a rally. They sound off about how she’s the target of sexism. (She is. D’uh. But being a victim of misogyny does not necessarily a feminist make—or we’d never have had Liddy Dole. Or Britney Spears.)

Spalinists claim they support the GOP ticket (while conveniently ignoring McCain) because: A) Palin is secretly brilliant, B) she is a feminist who only differs with the Women’s Movement in opposing abortion; C) us “elitist” Women’s Movement types who supported HRC but disavow SP are “anti-working-class women,” and—here it comes—D) Spalinists want to “teach the Democratic Party not to take women for granted.”

Oh, as Joe the senator says, lord love ya.

A) Anyone who hazards arguing that Palin is brilliant is herselfmorethana few watts short of a bulb. Palin is calculating (you betcha’!), or McCain wouldn’t be hemorrhaging from her stab-him-when-he’s-down wounds as she hypes her 2012 campaign before his is formally pronounced dead. But any real intelligence remotely attached to Palin gleams in Tina Fey’s eye.

B) If you still need a list of all the feminist agenda items (in addition to abortion rights) supported by the vast majority of U.S. women—but opposed by Palin—see When Sisterhood Is Suicide, or check Palin’s positions vs. the to-do list on any honestly feminist website: Feminist.com, Feministing.com, NOW.org, Feminist.org, Vday.org, EqualityNow.

C) Don’t you love it when wealthy nouveau-Republican women (confusing moose with mousse?) know best what working-class women need and want—better than working-class women who are actually feminist activists? Oh please.

D) If Spalinist women wanted to waste our hard-won suffrage, and truly cared about punishing the Dems for not taking women seriously enough, why didn’t they endorse the Green Party ticket: two women, both people of color (Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente), whose candidacies, though symbolic, at least share a pro-feminist platform? (See “The Other Nominees,” by Nida Khan, on the Women’s Media Center site.) If you claim you want to drive a party toward feminism, strategically you’d pressure from the left, not the right. But “teaching the Democratic leadership a lesson” brings us to the heart of it: Since when do feminists sacrifice women’s basic survival needs in order to impress men?

Still, here’s the good news. Their 15 minutes of infamy now over, even Spalinists must know they’ve blown whatever wobbly “former” creds they might’ve once had in the Women’s Movement. Their only hope lies in becoming guests on some future tacky talk show hosted by Palin—on Fox News, no doubt.

This commentary was written by Robin Morgan for The Women’s Media Center (www.womensmediacenter.com). The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making women visible and powerful in the media. Full disclosure, I serve on the WMC board of directors.

Why Appearances Matter–and Corrupt

In response to comments both pro and con on my previous post here, I have been thinking a lot about why it matters that Sarah Palin uses her looks, her cutesy down-home phrases, her flirty moves. All politicians use whatever it is they’ve got to appeal to voters, after all.

In fact, each and every one of us uses whatever we’ve got to appeal to our “publics”, even if that’s only to negotiate who’s cooking dinner tonight within our immediate families.

Goodness knows, I use my Texas sayings and small town upbringing all the time in my speeches and writing. I do it to engage people, because I like those stories, and because it authentically shares a lot about who I am. I also own up to wearing lipstick, and I have a penchant for clothing that is both tailored and just a tad funky, like Sarah Palin’s black suit, severe but for the peplum flourish.

In our society, it is well known if not well acknowledged that physical appearance makes a big difference in how positively we are received by others, however fair or unfair that may be. And that there is always some element of sexual tension in attractiveness, however, much we might try to take that out of the equation.

But the real issue is that Sarah uses her style and uses it  brazenly to cover up for utter lack of substance. I don’t mean that she’s not smart–she’s plenty smart to have amassed the power she has and to have won the elections she has won. In the big boy power games, as she did in high school basketball, she has always excelled, and as I said in previous posts and comments, you do have to respect her for that.

But power devoid of empathy is dangerous. Power devoid of information is dangerous. Power devoid of actions for the good of others is amoral if not immoral. Power devoid of the honesty and/or perhaps the ability to answer reporters’ questions is devastating to the integrity of the political process. It corrupts, makes a mockery, of democracy.

Abraham Lincoln’s personal narrative of small town, humble beginnings and self-taught law education is revered, not for their own sake but because his political actions served the public good. I see absolutely nothing in Palin’s “accomplishments” except an opportunistic march to power for its own sake. I see much to fear and to fight in the political philosophy to which she has hitched her wagon. I see deliberate dishonesty in her brassy rejection of Gwen Ifill’s debate questions.

The big question raised by Sarah Palin’s candidacy (and John McCain’s choice of her for a running mate) is this: In our Rovian world, where George W. Bush got away with the artful dodge so blatantly–and with the complicity of the mainstream media– have we become so inured to this corrupted way of evaluating people for public office that we’re going to let the right wing get away once again with electing yet another vessel for their mean-spirited agenda?

I say voters’ answer to that this time around must be a resounding “No!”

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.