In your junior high science classes, how many female scientific pioneers were in your textbook? I doubt more that there were more than a handful. In freshmen geometry class, did you learn about any famous female mathematicians? Probably not. I did not know about Sally Ride until I graduated from high school and even today, I could not tell you about any legendary female mathematicians. Pioneering women have been historically absent from all school subjects, not just science and mathematics, since the dawn of the schoolhouse.STEM

Even these days, when more women are going to college than men in this country, there is still a lack of women entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career fields. The reasons for the interest gap are complicated, according to Christi Corbett, senior researcher for for the American Association of University of Women.

“The direction of scientific inquiry is influenced by the people doing the work,” Corbett told me over the phone. Women comprise of about only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in STEM-related fields. One can concur that women must then only make about 20% of the decisions in, say, scientific research.

Corbett helped compile Why So Few?—a comprehensive report that tries to solve why so few women are entering STEM fields.

Read More

alicepaul

“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.

Read More

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves define us and how we engage with the world. It’s time for women to write ourselves a new narrative, so when asked to write a piece 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.

fork-in-the-road-condrenJudging from the unusually large number of tweets and retweets, it has hit a chord.  Here’s the link to 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 initiatives 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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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 it’s frontline).

Photo: Madonna dons an American Flag and little else in her 1990 ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign.

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.

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 [link to each of them]. 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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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?

Read More

“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

Read More