Friday, March 30, 2007

Op-Ed panel next week in NYC...

Point blank, women need to write more op-eds. So if you're in NYC, check it out!:

"Voicing Your Opinion"

Op-Ed pages are a powerful forum for public discourse, and a well-written piece can affect social change. But with limited page space, editors tend to favor the powers-that-be. Enter the Blogo-sphere and on-line citizen journalism, opening the field to a broader range of voices. Media opinion-makers explore the impact of this new phenomenon.

Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times
Tunku Varadarajan, Editorial Features Editor, Wall Street Journal
Matt Stoller, political activist/blogger
Sheryl McCarthy, Columnist, Newsday; Board of Contributors, USA Today
Andrzej Rapaczynski, Editor and Director, Project Syndicate
Catherine Orenstein, contributor, New York Times, Washington Post (moderator)

When: Wednesday, April 4, 200706:30 PM - 08:00 PM
Where: NYU Steinhardt Barney Building, 34 Stuyvesant Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, at 10th Street)
Go to to register. The event is free.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My next one...

Friends have started to ask me what I'm working on next. I'm thinking of working on a book with the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. As such, I've been scouring the shelves for books on women and leadership. (If you know of any good ones, please send me a post!)

As far as I can tell so far, the few books on leadership aimed at women seem to focus on ambition, promise power, and encourage readers to cultivate a “bad girl” attitude in order to achieve it. Their titles are telling: Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do, by Kate White. Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess by Susan Jane Gilman. And most recently, Am-BITCH-ous: Learn to Be Her Now by Debra Condren. I have to say, I love absorbing these books and more or less laud their bad-ass bad-girlness. But I have two qualms with this general approach:

1) Teaching women to be smartmouthed goddesses or gutsy and amBITCHous can't take place in a vaccuum. It's not just inner change, but external change that's needed (the personal is STILL political, no?)

2) These titles leave me wondering, is it possible to claim ambition as a virtue for women without having to claim ourselves as "bitches"?

I welcome any thoughts.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Sing It!

Continuing the thread on women academics writing "crossover" books, George Washington University English professor Gayle Wald recently came out with what looks like a fantastic biography, Shout, Sister, Shout: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and to great critical acclaim. Since Marco and I just rented Walk the Line, I'm goin' straight out to buy some Sister Rosetta as a supplement! Looking forward, too of course, to the book. (Kudos, Gayle!)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Meanwhile, down in South Carolina...

Of course, not only are the girls in NYC going public and making noise this week. Check out my friend and colleague Alison Piepmeier, Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Department at the College of Charleston, in an ABC news interview about the anti-abortion legislation passed this week in her state.

Read more about the scary legislation here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Generative Women, Exciting New Ventures

What a generative few weeks it's been for the girls here in NYC! Just bursting to share news of my friend Rebecca Segall's new venture here on the Upper West Side:

Writopia is a new afterschool writing center offering community and creative writing workshops for young writers, ages 12-18. Rebecca (left) -- who is herself a brilliant writer and from whom I've learned a great deal about writing nonacademically -- launched the site last week, and if you know people with kids who are into writing, please please pass it on. My Marco designed the cool logo.

And attention women writing books about women's lives: I may be a bit late in the discovery, but because I just learned about this, I just have to pass it on:

MotherTalk is a place where readers and writers connect through literary salons, blog tours, podcasts, radio, writer's community, and more. What an ingenuous idea. I already adore these people and hope to learn more later today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Women’s Studies Work Outside the Ivory Tower…?

Last night I finished teaching a 5-week online seminar for scholars in women’s studies on translating their ideas into book proposals for a trade (aka nonacademic) market. A shout out to all you fabulous participants! This group was great, and some book contracts are certain to follow.

One question a friend taking the course asked me toward the end was how I decided to bypass the traditional academic path and whether I’d recommend the path I’ve chosen instead to others currently situated in the academy.

I’ve never regretted my decision to bail on the academic job market as soon as I finished my PhD. It was tough telling my beloved dissertation advisor--though believe me, she was relieved when I eventually got the words out because I went through half a box of Kleenex before I could even speak so she must have thought I was about to reveal that I had some fatal disease. “Let a thousand flowers bloom” was her response, much to my relief. I imagine not all of them are like that.

After the degree, I spent a year as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, then as a Research Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. I knew I wanted to write for a popular audience—that was why I’d left academe. I’d grown weary of writing prose that came to feel like a straight-jacket on me and was anxious to join the fray of young women then writing about feminism. Katie Roiphe’s The Morning After, you could say, was my motivation. I wanted to take her and others on in print, and in a way that I, too, could be heard.

So I tried to become a freelance writer. I was in the ridiculously lucky position of having funding to do this (not something I would encourage anyone to count on – long story). Though it may sound idyllic, I hated it. Lack of structure, lack of accountability (I didn’t have an agent or a publisher yet), and lack of a community doing the same thing I was doing (I was new to NYC at the time) made me feel extremely isolated and I sunk. When you start out freelancing for magazines, you spend 90 percent of your time pitching editors and 10 percent writing actual articles. Launching the web-journal The Scholar and Feminist Online at Barnard during this time saved me. But I did manage to write an article for Psychology Today that got me the attention of an agent, and ultimately, that connection changed my life.

Two books later and with the support of an incredible writers' group, the Invisible Institute, behind me, I'm still not writing full-time, nor would I choose to be. I need structure and colleagues like I need oxygen. I learned this when I went to work as a projects director at the National Council for Research on Women, after my Barnard gig was up. I worked for NCRW 4 days a week and wrote on the 5th. I wrote early mornings before work and weekends. This carried me through the completion of my first book (a co-edited anthology) and a draft of my second (Sisterhood, Interrupted). I left my staff position at NCRW in July, because I was ready to shift the balance.

Writing now makes up about 50 percent of my week. The other 50 percent I spend consulting and working on special projects for women’s research and policy centers. I’m freelance again, but this time, it works because I’m working with organizations and I get to go to office places. Believe me, this makes a huge difference. After having suffered the isolation of writing a dissertation and then some painful years trying to write freelance full-time, I still get turned on by things like staff meetings and supply closets.

Would I recommend the path I’ve taken? I admire and have huge respect for my friends pursuing academic careers and would never say one route is better than another. It’s more a matter of what perch you want to offer your contribution from, and in what voice. And, most importantly, your tolerance or capacity for risk. Leaving a stable job with benefits is risky and not for the faint of heart. I personally couldn’t have done it without support from family and, for a while, a husband.

But now here’s my plug: Feminist thinkers trained in the academy are so often experts at producing trenchant cultural analysis. We need this, and we need this stuff in public venues. The under-representation of women’s voices and the lack of women- and girl-centered topics in mainstream media coverage is nothing short of appalling. Feminist scholars have this incredible opportunity to frame popular debate. Can they do it from academic perches? Possible. But not easy. Which is why the National Women's Studies Association and I created this course (“Making It Pop: Translating Your Ideas for Trade”)—to help those who have committed themselves to academic careers and academic contributions also consider crossing over and learn to write for trade. The Woodhull Institute is another organization helping, and encouraging, women scholars to write for popular audiences. They offer amazing writers' retreats, which I highly recommend. And then there's Katie Orenstein (see previous post!), out there teaching women experts of all stripes and fields to write op-eds.

It's a propitious time to be thinking about popularizing your thoughts and your writing if you are a feminist scholar because of these resources and trainings that have recently emerged. Stay tuned for more from me, too....The NWSA course may be just the beginning.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Our girl Katie!

Be sure to check out Thursday's New York Times article about my good friend Katie Orenstein's forward-looking efforts to get more women--across generations--to pour their passion into writing op-eds. Go, Katie. You give me hope.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sisterhood Interrupted....Continued

Previous post aside, I find that I can't help but somehow join the fray--though I offer these thoughts in the hope of increasing understanding on both sides. In response to the TMC thread, where commentors ask why do young feminists want to be included by established organizations / movements to begin with:

Of COURSE rejection is disappointing to younger women who want in to older women’s clubhouse—and why wouldn’t they want in? These are good jobs, with good benefits, for the most part, in organizations that younger feminists believe in. Something missing from the TMC convo is the fact that what goes on in some feminist organizations goes on in the workplace more generally; lack of mentoring among women is not a problem among feminists alone. Men have been pulling each other up the ladder for centuries; women are newer at it, and perhaps, in an economy of scarcity where there’s still the perception that only so many women can hold top positions in corporations or have their own break-even nonprofit, women have not yet mastered the art of sharing power. I absolutely salute the younger women who are forming clubhouses of their own, but I agree with Patti Binder, who comments:
But is that really the best and most effective message larger organizations have to give younger women? Don't feel welcome here so go elsewhere and do your own thing?

Again, the feeling of rejection is mutual. WomansSpace, a self-identifed second-waver, comments:

It never occurred to me that your generation wouldn’t even bother to read second wave literature. That is a painful rejection when I can so clearly remember, in a zen sense, thinking about your face, long before it existed....I do not own feminism. I was but a tiny cog and was part of its creation and Ms. Valenti's understanding and mine are so different and they are different in places where I hurt. I want to see continuity in what I helped start and instead of continuity.... well I see naked, anorexic, long haired women on trapezes.

Ouch. But there IS continuity. It's just hard to see it amidst all the emotion and commotion--as I write about in my book. I look forward to the day when we stop fighting each other and see our way through to the larger issues that threaten all women’s integrity and well-being.

From Onlydom to Sisterhood....Interrupted

Time to turn my attention from only-childhood to sisterhood.

I’ve been following the thread on TPC in response to Jessica Valenti’s “Feminist Sorority” and am struck once again by the way feminists are repeating the personal, political, ideological infighting of the past—only this time, with a generational veneer.

I salute Jessica for raising these issues, and I can’t wait for the release of her book (I’m with those who think the cover is savvy, though I understand the critique). It’s the response to her article that concerns me more than the article itself. So much pain, accusation, and hurt—on both sides. Where is this taking us?

Coming back from a talk I gave at Rowan University last week to kick off Women's History Month, where the audience was part NOW founders, part undergraduates, and part faculty/staff, I’ve been thinking a lot about how young(er) women and veteran feminists can speak to each other in tones that enable their message to be heard. And the need for media-savvy feminists to forge bridges that steer the conversation away from intergenerational catfight and back to the issues we care about in common. I sincerely believe we have more in common than contradiction. And that the ever-widening age gap has the potential to diminish us all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Only Child Goes Global

On March 22, the International Center in New York (a place where 2,500 newcomers to NYC come to each year to learn and practice English and become more familiar with American culture) is hosting a reading of Only Child. After the reading, Daphne and I and contributors Alysia Abbott and Alissa Quart will lead a discussion about growing up as an only child in America. The audience will be invited to share both their personal experiences and the cultural context of growing up as an only child here or in other parts of the world. Come one, come all!

Where: 50 West 23rd Street 7th Floor, ICNY Lounge
When: 7pm
(It's free!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hear Us, in a click...

Check out our nationally syndicated radio broadcast, Viewpoints

Daphne and I also did a podcast with Deborah Harper for PsychJourney - will post soon!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Only Childom Issues in the News

Two interesting pieces in the news last week pertaining to onlydom:

One on China:
China: Reining in the Rich on One-Child Policy

And one that reflects on work/family policy here in the US:
The Motherhood Experiment

Very clever the way this second piece, by Sharon Lerner, links women's work/life issues, fertility rates, and national policy. Lerner notes that the U.S., with its largely hands-off approach to family policy, spends far less than other wealthy countries on child care while guaranteeing no paid parental leave--all of which leads women to feel that they must choose either work or motherhood. "As a result," she concludes, "being an employed parent may be more difficult here than in countries now experiencing even the most severe baby droughts."

Now here's the part I love: Counter to the rhetoric of family-values champions, the promotion of larger families and the promotion of women's careers may go hand in hand. Keep an eye out for Lerner's book--it sounds smart.