Friday, February 29, 2008
[Obama] is pushing against conventional—and political party nominating convention—wisdom in five important ways, with approaches that are usually thought of as qualities and values that women bring to organizational life: a commitment to inclusiveness in problem solving, deep optimism, modesty about knowing all the answers, the courage to deliver uncomfortable news, not taking on all the work alone, and a willingness to air dirty linen. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is taking a more traditional (and male?) authoritarian approach.
...As a woman, Clinton feels constrained to portray herself as tough, competitive, willing to take on the bad guys. She has to be more male than men, in the same way that women are reluctant to leave the office early to pick up their children at day care because they fear they will not be thought of as serious about their careers, while men are applauded for doing so.
Obama can raise possibilities that are off the table for Clinton. She needs to tell us that she can solve our problems. Obama seems comfortable in what we think of as a female role: not overpromising what he can accomplish, and telling us that the work of change is ours as much as it is his.
What do the women's leadership research gurus out there think of the way all this is being framed? (Paging my girls at Catalyst! See also comments by rhetoric scholar J.K. Gayle on previous posts.)
Again, kudos to feministingfor the heads up. Image cred.
For a more interesting take on identity politics in this election, check out the brilliant Ann Friedman's latest over at The American Prospect, in which she notes that just because the Democratic candidates are a woman and black man does not mean this is the first election to hinge on candidates' identities. Identity isn't the problem, pretending it doesn't matter is.
(Thanks to Court for the heads up.)
China’s fertility rate is now extremely low, and the population is rapidly aging, especially in urban areas. Experts have warned that China is steadily moving toward a demographic crisis with too many old people in need of expensive services and too few young workers paying taxes to meet those bills.
Good riddance to the policy, I say. Because here's some backstory:
In the 1980s, officials routinely forced women to abort fetuses that would have resulted in above-quota births, and both men and women were often forced to undergo sterilization operations.'Nuf said.
Enforcement of the policy has softened markedly in recent years, with most areas relying on fines to ensure compliance. But scandals over forced abortions continue to arise periodically. The restrictions also have deepened a severe imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls in the population because many families have used selective abortions to ensure the birth of a son, the traditional preference.
Not that I'm anti-having-an-only-child, of course! I, for one, very likely will, having found love late in life as I have, and I think an only sounds great! And China, of course, is just a very roundabout way to refer to Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo the anthology, which is jumping the numbers on Amazon again now that it's out in paperback--whohoo! My coeditor Daphne and I got together yesterday to do a little happy dance. Though she fell asleep in the cafe. She's 7 months pregnant with #2.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It comes as no surprise that women born at different times in history are going to differ in their attitudes across the board--though the realization does seem to be news for some. In the history of feminism, generational differences has been a central theme for decades. Think back to the 1970s: Betty Friedan (who was by then middle-aged) vs. the radical feminists (who came out of the New Left and antiwar movements and were generally in their 20s). They wanted different things. Some wanted change at City Hall, others rooted their politics in the bedroom. They fought for equality, and fought each other along the way, often destructively. So my question, always, is how do we fight and debate without tearing ourselves apart? How to adamantly disagree and still find the common ground? The questions were relevant in the 1970s, and they're relevant today.
And speaking of, I'm currently gathering data and ammo for the talks I'm giving around the country for Women's History Month and would love to be pointed to any articles you've seen that focus on this latest generational division among women. The way it's all being framed has tremendous consequences, I believe, for the future of women's organizing, for the health of intergenerational relations, and for national politics overall. Thanks in advance for any links. Please feel free to post em here in comments--along with any thoughts of course!--or email me.
P.S. The intergenerational panel I'm traveling with through 2008 may be coming soon to a campus near you! Our March is pretty filled up, but we're booking into the fall, so for more info, please click here.
Intimate Justice at Bluestockings NYC!
Intimate justice – doesn’t the sound of it just make you want some?
It was a beautiful scene on the evening of February 13th: a venerable old feminist bookstore, chock full of folks to celebrate the publication of Making Love Playing Power: Men, Women and the Rewards of Intimate Justice by my pal, Ken Dolan-DelVecchio. What an amazing book!
I was admittedly thrilled, but nervous, when upon our arrival at Bluestockings Ken asked me to introduce him. Given my heartfelt respect for this man and the work that we share, I of course, said ‘yes.’ I knew I could find the words, because in my mind, well, perhaps mostly in my heart, I knew how ready we are for a book like this, and how urgently it is needed.
This is because those of us who transgress the lines between doing ‘therapy’ and social justice work try to open our clients and families to new ways of seeing their lives. In my clinical work, I pursue the questions that might help someone see possibility where previously there was none. In this book, Ken provides a clear map of how gender, race, class and sexual orientation influence power in a relationship – and how the imbalance of power is at the root of most conflict. This dynamic is generally not talked about – even by supposed ‘experts’. Ken helps focus our understandings of how we are taught to be male or female, and what cost that exacts from relationships with those we love. This book enacts the revolutionary ideas that men are fully capable of deep intimacy and connection, and women, of empowerment and self-love.
With so many self help books on the market, it is so refreshing to find one that has a chapter entitled “What Patriarchy Teaches Men.” AND it is written by a man. I can only begin to imagine the ways in which sharing this book will enhance my clinical work with couples and families. The dominant psychology of our culture teaches us to look inside the person or relationship for “the problem.” Yet “the problem” is so often outside of the relationship – and the tricky thing is, we don’t talk about it. As a culture, we don’t acknowledge the ways in which the presence or absence of racism, poverty, gender privilege, or heterosexism (to name a few) shape and give meaning to our lives. Instead, we couch the struggles in pseudo-diagnostic terms: “communication problems”, “anger management,” “codependency.” We thus never get to talk about or take action against the structures that support these hierarchies of privilege and oppression within which all families live.
As the mother of an almost teenage boy, I am also deeply concerned about the ways in which he is taught by our culture to be a man. Can he stay the big-hearted, emotional and tender person I have known for 12 years? Must he become indoctrinated into the traditional world of masculinity? I know all of the rhetoric about how men have changed, but has the culture of masculinity? (that’s a whole other blog!) I see the extreme self reliance, the inability to ask for help or be viewed as dependent, in many “younger” men in my practice. I know Ken shares that concern for his son and share that in his dedication: “For your generation, may you know love more than domination and truth more than fear.”
Making Love Playing Power: Men, Women and the Rewards of Intimate Justice is the relationship guide we have been waiting for. Thank you, Ken, for opening so many possibilities to couples and families. Your clarity, dedication and tenderness shine through!
You can reach Jacqueline at email@example.com.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Celinda also noted the following 5 things about this extraordinary election:
1. The magnitude of the gender gap has reached historic proportions.
2. Turnout models have never been so off.
3. The extent to which the economy has supplanted Iraq as the #1 issue is momentous.
4. Early voting is 4-5 times what it's been in the past.
And my personal favorite:
5. Younger voters are turning out 2,3, and 4 times as much in certain states as in the past.
Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2001 and 2003 worked during their pregnancy compared with just 44 percent who gave birth for the first time between 1961 and 1965, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns: 1961–2003, analyzes trends in women's work experience before their first child, identifies their maternity leave arrangements before and after the birth and examines how rapidly they returned to work.
Women are more likely to work while pregnant than they were in the 1960s, and they are working later into their pregnancies. Eighty percent who worked while pregnant from 2001 to 2003 worked one month or less before their child's birth compared with 35 percent who did so in 1961-1965.
Women are also returning to work more rapidly after having their first child. In the early 1960s, 14 percent of all mothers with newborns were working six months later, increasing to 17 percent within a year. By 2000-2002, the corresponding percentages had risen to 55 percent and 64 percent. (The period of analysis is restricted to women who gave birth by 2002 because some who gave birth in 2003 did not have one full year of employment data by the time of the interview in 2004.)
-- In 2001-2003, 49 percent of first-time mothers who worked during pregnancy used paid leave before or after their child's birth, while 39 percent used unpaid leave. Twenty-five percent quit their jobs: 17 percent while they were pregnant and another 8 percent by 12 weeks after the child's birth.
-- Forty-three percent of women in 2001-2003 used paid leave after their child's birth compared with 22 percent before their child's birth.
-- Sixty percent of mothers with a bachelor's degree or more received paid leave benefits compared with 39 percent of mothers with a high school diploma and 22 percent of those who had less than a high school education.
-- Eighty-three percent of mothers who worked during pregnancy and returned to work within a year of their child's birth returned to the same employer. Seven in 10 of these women returned to jobs at the same pay, skill level and hours worked per week.
Hmmm. Very interesting.
I met Kathleen at their book party earlier this week and was appropriately star struck.
But what I want to share via Gloria this morning is something she shared with us at PVW a few weeks ago. She was asked about the lessons she learned leading a social movement where she worked a great deal with the media and messages as vehicles of social change. And she told us about the importance of embracing controversy--something I'm still learning. I seem to keep playing it safe when reporters contact me to talk about intergenerational divide among women around the election. I'm working on how to respond without fueling a notion of "catfight." Still working on it. Meanwhile, Gloria's general comments to us are now posted on her blog, here.
In a nutshell, the 6 C's of Embracing Controversy:
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.
May we all learn to follow Gloria's example, I say. The woman knows from whence she speaks.
To commemorate International Women's Day, GWN is hosting several fantastic readings and, in collaboration with SIC (Smart Is Cool) Movement, a fashion show, all at the New School next Saturday, March 8 (5-7pm). It's a day to encourage girls of all ages everywhere in the world to put pen to paper and explore the beauty and power of their unique, creative voices. And it's a day to celebrate girls, girl writers, and overall girl awesomeness.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
On Sunday, right smack in the middle of the Oscars, at 9pm, there was a one-hour show on Only Child on WKCR, 89.9FM. It will soon be available for download from the WKCR website. It's a This-American-Life style arts show called Studio A, and the host is Michelle Legro. The show includes a long interview with us (in which a preggers-again Daphne tells why she’s having number 2 and I ‘fess up to my newfound embrace of a hoped-for only), a reading from the book, some interviews with oc experts, and some readings by other onlies.
And on April 7, 2008 Daph and I will be teaching a Mediabistro intensive on putting together anthologies, here in NYC. Come one, come all! You'll learn about the process, from soup to nuts: how to write a proposal, find contributors, manage and edit submissions, work with purchasing editors, make the best use of your in-house publicist, and learn how to self-publicize (yep, no getting around that, case in point). You'll leave with a timeline in hand detailing the process by which you could reasonably expect to complete a salable anthology. Mediabistro also has a nice lil article on anthology making, by one of my fave ladies Rachel Kramer Bussel, available on their site.
Doing this anthology with Daph changed my life, for reals. For one, it launched me into the book publishing world. Writing my essay for it helped me come to terms with my own experience of being an only child who got divorced. But more than all that, it gave me a taste of writing collaboration at its best. For that, I am forever grateful to our amazing contributors, my agent Tracy Brown, and to Daph.
"For actress Geena Davis, who had galvanized women with movies such as Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, and her recent television role as the first female president of the United States (Commander in Chief), 'where are the girls?' was a question that needed to be answered. She started her own non-profit, and with the help of USC Annenberg School of Journalism professor Stacy Smith, Davis began research to assess portrayals of males and females in children's media. On January 30 and 31, 2008, at the University of Southern California, under the auspices of GDIDM, she presented the findings at a forum for studio heads, writers, educators and students."
Findings available here.
The New York Times reported last Monday that people who lack health insurance tend to receive cancer diagnoses later in the stages of their illness, making treatment more costly and survival less likely ("Study Finds Cancer Diagnosis Linked to Insurance"). This finding, though horrific, is fairly predictable given previous research on health insurance coverage. Numerous studies have shown that lack of health insurance can be detrimental because uninsured patients tend to not receive regular or preventive care, their undiagnosed or under-medicated conditions thrive in the absence of such care, and when medical crisis escalates, they find their way into the emergency room and subject to exorbitant medical bills.
What is unusual – indeed frightening – about the study reported in the Times is that the findings apply not only to those with no insurance, but also to those who are insured by Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor adults and children. Medicaid should work like private health insurance, offering its subscribers access to preventive and acute-need health care on a timely and low-cost basis. However, it is well known that Medicaid reimbursement rates to doctors are lower than reimbursements from private insurers, and come with a tremendous amount of bureaucratic paperwork. Many medical professionals opt to not provide treatment to those covered by the program simply because it is not cost effective to do so.
The result: expanding inequality in access to health care with truly dire health consequences.
In this election year, any politician who tells us that universal health care is not needed to fix the U.S. health care crisis is avoiding a painful truth. Expanding Medicaid is not an option if we want to ensure health care access to everyone. We need to look back to the dark days of Hillary’s universal health care plan failure and critically analyze what happened with it in order to create a fresh version that will be palatable to policymakers and the public. Maybe a decade later, we’re ready to make a critical move.
* Thinking of joining a nunnery?
* Feeling asexual and just want to cuddle?
* Swinging and loving it?
We want to see/hear/read your stories! Audio stories are great, too. CDs may accompany the anthology.
SEND YOUR CREATIONS TO THE FORTHCOMING ANTHOLOGY:
"Desire: A Girl's Guide to Dreaming - Queer Women of Color Writing Critically on the Erotic" (working title)
We invite people to share their experiences and thoughts on sex, lust, love, relationship, desire, the erotic, being stone, being poly. How do you envision, enact, do sex? And not. This anthology is about opening up language, story, healing.
Is it okay to ask your queer of color fam to cuddle, without it being sexual? What does it mean to touch and connect with people without wanting sex, without it being sexual? What is erotic? How is it lived by queer women of color? If people are looking for liberation in their bodies, in their shared connection with people, what does that look like? What does queer sex feel like, taste like, dream like? What if you could dream your way out of survivor, into thriving, into living and creating intentional relationships that heal, rather than sting, love and push through all the bifurcations of our lived lives. How do you touch your way out of colonization, how do touching and connection become a way of resisting colonization and objectification, and healing from rape, assault, sexual abuse, physical abuse? What language is used? What words are created? When we are in desire, the articulation of the possible, how do we free ourselves, how are we already free where we see traps? Where are you, finally, free? In desire, are you free?
A sense of humor is a must in all relationships; we seek levity and gravity, fun, light energy that is also deep, connected, and profound. Funny stories, essays, and work with a twist all welcome. Send beautiful words, art, funny anecdotes, poetry, images, stills of performances to email@example.com. The deadline for sending work is 1 March 2008. If you desire a land address for mailing work, contact us at the above e-mail address.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Pak Soo Na and Sherisse Alvarez
Monday, February 25, 2008
As Goodman explains, "He was the quality circle man, the uniter-not-divider, the person who believes we can talk to anyone, even our enemies. He finely honed a language usually associated with women's voices." She quotes political science professor Kathleen Dolan, who sees Obama as "the embodiment of the gentle, collaborative style without threatening his masculine side." Dolan adds, "He's being more feminine than she can be. She is in a much tighter box."
Goodman offers a brief history of leadership studies and concludes with a provocative question: "So, has the women's movement made life easier? For another man?"
I spoke to Goodman for her piece but she didn't end up quoting me. I wish I could have referred her to both Renee Cramer and J.K. Gayle, who were having a similar conversation here on GWP, while I was off feeding sheep!
In his astute response to Renee's post, J.K. Gayle shares some great links, which I wanted to share with everyone here. Comments J.K.:
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, the world’s greatest scholar on womanly discourse and on presidential rhetoric, has conceded (to some of us at a conference recently) that Barack Obama is using feminist rhetoric. Kohrs Campbell is the one who wrote that famous “Hating Hillary” article a while back, in which she looked at the rhetorics of hate around Clinton. (I asked if she thought Toni Morrison, who endorses Obama, could fairly call him, if elected, “our first woman president.” Kohrs Campbell, who likes the idea of a true woman president sooner rather than later, replies: “yes, you could call him a ‘womanly’ presidential candidate.”)
In a related post, Hugo Schwyzer offers "A few notes on feminism, symbols, and youthful Obamophilia."
(Ellen, ask me again, and I will refer you to GWP readers!)
FINDING YOUR SUBJECT, FINDING YOUR VOICE: A Seminar in Personal Nonfiction
When: Sunday, April 13 at 11 am - 3pm, April 17 at 6 pm - 9 pm.
Where: New York City
To see more details and RSVP, click here, call 6464350837, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And here's our course description:
So many of us want to put our ideas or personal experiences down on paper, but don’t know how to find our medium or shape our raw material into stories. In two intensive sessions, we will seek to find the topic, style and genre for that which we most wish to express. We will start by asking ourselves questions about what we have experienced in our lives. What’s notable about us and what are we experts in? What are our motives for writing? What specific goal are we hoping to achieve by writing about our lives? After taking a hard look at our interests, work and life experiences, we will figure out whether they will intersect with an audience, what sort of audience, and how to position our ideas and ourselves in order to reach that audience. With this accomplished, we will build out our best article, essay, blog, or book ideas. By the end of the class, each student will have either a story pitch, an outline for a short article or an oped, a start on a personal essay, or an idea for a book or a blog. These written frames will serve as the culmination of our in-class exercises, group conversations, and at-home writing in between the two sessions.
In order to get a better sense of voice, story and topic in non-fiction, we will read a selection of modern essay writers (among them Joan Didion’s Goodbye To All That, a selection from Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight, a Mary McCarthy personal essay etcetera). In order to get a better sense of blog personae, content, and voice, we will look together at range of blogs with strong personal voices and discuss. For those who decide to create their own blogs as a means of personal expression, we will create them on-site, along with names and domains, learning about blog style, purpose, and community along the way. We will discuss how blog writing differs and overlaps with more traditional forms of personal writing as well.
The Institute is housed at Paulsdale, Alice Paul's birthplace and family home - a remarkable place. There will be hot chocolate :)
More info, and to register, click here.
Nobel awardees Marie and Irene Curie and literary giants Mary Wallstonecraft and Mary Shelly already top their list. But what of great queens and stateswomen? Heroines and pioneers? Inventors and moguls? Literati. Artistas. Revolutionaries. ... . and so on. They're looking for mothers-daughters famed in their own right -- who may have worked together or inspired (or even infuriated) each other.
If you've got a suggestion, please send your name and email (to be queried with similar women's history questions in the future!) to Jessica Seigel at JS@jessicaseigel.com.
(Photo is Anna Magnani & Marisa Pavan playing mother and daughter in the 1955 film, Rose Tattoo. Clearly my head is still in movieland, coming off the Oscars last night. Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn, anyone?)
Meanwhile, this here's a pic of the sheep ranch where my father and I were staying. I attended my first 4-H Club meeting. I rode with the rancher, who is also a friend, on his horse-drawn sleigh to feed the sheep. I'm trying to find their website to share -- will circle back with that soon!
Friday, February 22, 2008
Juno: I Don't See What Anyone Can See in Anyone Else, But...
Entertainment Weekly has an interesting piece about why Juno is hitting an unexpected chord with audiences, who are apparently aching for movies about independent, unique, and strong female characters. It’s true–most “chick flicks” are formulaic fantasies that include weddings, make-overs, unlikely romances that work themselves out just before the credits, and a wardrobe designed by Patricia Fields.
I have to say: I loved Juno. I loved it so much that I saw it twice (though once was on a pirated copy at my friend’s house).
I also have to say: I work with 16-year-olds, and Juno is almost as much of a fantasy for teenage girls as Enchanted was for their little sisters.
Do real-life, knocked-up girls really have the “choice” that so many Americans have been fighting for for decades?
Do they really have the maturity to handle teen pregnancy in stride PLUS the support of their parents, friends, and nerd-stud boyfriends?
I’ve worked with girls who have had babies and known girls who terminated pregnancies. Many did have some support from their families, friends and boyfriends, but most did not have their shizz together, as Juno might say.
To be fair, Juno’s message is not that teen pregnancy is easy for the girl. Throughout the movie, Juno is faced with a host of obstacles, from good ol’ teen angst to problematic adoptive yuppie parents. Everyone stares at her enormous belly when she walks down the hallway at school, and she jokes that her classmates call her the “cautionary wale.”
However, in the end, Juno is able to persevere because of her inner-strength and amazingly strong support system. The movie’s supporting cast is stellar, especially her dad, step-mom and cheerleader best friend who is “into teachers” (props to whoever came up with that detail cause there’s always ONE like that at every school).
Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think back to my own high school and wonder how Juno would have fit in. When I was 16, I had heard of a couple of pregnancies (and I’m sure there were many more than the ones I knew about), but no one ever walked around with a bump. I wonder if these girls really felt like they had a “choice,” or if teen pregnancy was so socially unacceptable in our upper-middle class suburb that abortions became foregone conclusions.
On the flip side, I’ve worked with girls in low and lower-middle income schools who decided to carry their pregnancies to term. And they always kept their babies. None of them were like Juno–mature enough to realize that they weren’t ready for motherhood AND strong enough to go through with an adoption.
These 15- and 16-year-old girls knew that having a baby was going to make it hard to stay in school, get a good job etc., but as far as I knew, none of them considered giving their babies up. I think it just seemed like an emotionally impossible decision for a teenage girl who loves and wants to be loved.Juno is a heroine, but like most heroines, she’s not quite real.
(Cross-posted on Crucial Minutiae)
"People feel more free to pick and choose their life trajectories and feel less compelled to marry," says Stephanie Coontz, professor at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and research director for the Council on Contemporary Families. "It's a sea change."
The article notes that nearly 40% of all American babies were born out of wedlock in 2006, an all-time high, government statistics show. That's more than twice the rate in 1980, when 18% of children were born outside of marriage. The fastest-growing group of unwed mothers: women 25 to 29. The number of babies born out of wedlock to women in this age group was 10% higher over the course of one year (2005-06). About half of unwed mothers live with boyfriends.
And speaking of CCF, I'm busy reading the entries for CCF's 2008 Media Awards while I'm away - fantastic reading, all!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
here.) Currently, Elizabeth continues blogging and serves as Program Coordinator at the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership.
Ah, Interweb Mythology. The NYTimes article Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain highlights the myth that men and boys dominate the internet while women and girls aren't really active world wide web users. Despite the fact that many, many individuals have spent time debunking this untruth (ie, statements of statistics, explanations of cultural expectations, discussions of female visibility, etc), articles like this one still seem to be very necessary in terms of making known the work female internet users.
Specifically, the article concentrates on a recent Pew Institute study that documents that girls (ages 12-17) create more content than boys while also pointing out the gendered differences in technology careers:
The “girls rule” trend in content creation has been percolating for a few years — a Pew study published in 2005 also found that teenage girls were the primary content creators — but the gender gap for blogging, in particular, has widened.This article strikes me as a great start to a bigger conversation about gender, blogging, and technology.
As teenage bloggers nearly doubled from 2004 to 2006, almost all the growth was because of “the increased activity of girls,” the Pew report said.
The findings have implications beyond blogging, according to Pew, because bloggers are “much more likely to engage in other content-creating activities than nonblogging teens.”
But even though girls surpass boys as Web content creators, the imbalance among adults in the computer industry remains. Women hold about 27 percent of jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What's your take?
PS And what's up with the boys versus girls title? Anyone put up a "opposite sex keep out" sign on her/his website recently? Anyone?
Crossposted at A Blog Without a Bicycle
Starting about two centuries ago, families in Western Europe began to shrink, and then -- country by country, continent by continent -- the rest of the world followed suit. The trend is so big that it may rein in the world population's exponential growth, perhaps even causing it to stop growing altogether over the next century. But exactly why families are shrinking is a mystery.
Hmmm...Well, why may be a mystery, but what it's like ain't. More on that, of course, in the book :)
(Image cred--oddly, a site for pets! No subcontext there - total accident. I saw the image and thought the bone signified historical artifact -- not dog! Oh well.)
This Bridge Called Barack
Andrew Sullivan recently wrote that Barack Obama is the only presidential candidate – either Republican or Democrat – who can bring the United States out of the morass that is the “Culture Wars” and into a saner, more peaceful future. Sullivan wrote that Obama is the candidate who can “bridge th[e] widening partisan gulf” in American politics, suture the fissures created by divisive discourse on religion, and connect the generational divide that typifies Baby Boomer Era politics and rubs those of us in Generations X and Y the wrong way.
Sullivan pictures Obama as the bridge to the future that Bill Clinton sold us on, the bridge to the 21st century. And Sullivan’s right. It is useful, indeed, inspiring, to envision Barack Obama and his candidacy as a bridge that takes us beyond where the Clinton administration left off, and from which the Bush administration has tragically backtracked.
This vision – of Obama as a bridge – is a powerful one for many reasons. But for me, its powerful because it brings to mind the mind-blowing, transcendent work of Gloria Anzuldua. Hermana Anzuldua wrote Borderlands - La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which was published by Spinsters/Aunt Lute press in 1987 and went on to become an often assigned, much cited, lovingly read classic in feminism, Chicano/a studies, and queer theory. In elaborating the title of that book, the late Anzuldua wrote, “the Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle, and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.”
Barack Obama inhabits these borderlands. As the African American son of a “white” Midwestern woman and an African man, he lives on the borderlands of racial identity in the United States. As someone who has lived with varying degrees of material comfort, as a former community organizer with an Ivy League education, he occupies the borderlands of social and economic class. As a man who publicly celebrates being married to a strong woman, and the father of two daughters, he lives on the borderlands of gender relations. As a person who has lived for extended periods abroad, in developing nations, and who has crafted a persona of calm and compassionate rationality on the world stage, Obama has potential to change the face of the United States in the international arena; he is on the borderlands and the frontier of US foreign policy.
As a powerful campaigner who connects as well in small settings as large venues, indeed, Obama shrinks space with intimacy.
But it is not Anzuldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera that Sullivan’s piece evoked for me – rather, it is her earlier work, the edited volume that she and Cherrie Moraga compiled, titled, famously This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, and published in 1981.
That groundbreaking collection was utterly transformational – for scholarship, for women of color, for me (a Midwesterner, a “white” girl), when I read it in college in the early 1990s. The book juxtaposes disparate female voices, in a multitude of languages, attitudes, genres and guises. In it, writers like Audre Lorde call for a “radical restructuring” of the United States – they call for liberation, justice, and subversion. They argued that these transformations could occur in the most intimate of places – the home, the person, the body – as well as in the halls of government and the workings of the law.
NPR’s Tom Ashbrook noted in an interview with Sullivan that Obama’s candidicay, at this particular point in US history, is like a “miracle of American culture.” Anzuldua’s writings, her demarcation of the borderlands, her indigenista mestijae message, her ability to collaborate, to hold onto her idea of self while transcending identity politics – those, as well, are miracles of a truly American culture. I see them embodied in the Obama campaign.
Anzaldua’s writing was called, by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez in their weblog’s obituary for the author, “honest as a cactus.” Obama would likely smile at that phrase. Certainly he has his own tendencies for telling prickly truths, like when he famously spoke about raising auto emission standards, not at an environmental rally, but in front of United Auto Workers members and assembly line workers in Detroit, and when he is frank about the costs of some of his proposed programs, and candid about the costs of the campaign on his personal life.
Some feminists have argued that Hillary Clinton is the candidate we must support, primarily because she is a woman. And lately, supporters of Clinton have accused Obama of sexist language on the campaign trail, as when he said that she “periodically” attacks his campaign, when she’s “down” in the polls.
But my brand of feminism is an anti-essentialist, transformational politics. It is not a reductivist regressive identity politics that sees insult and victimization in the most innocent of phrases. Barack Obama’s very identity requires an anti-essentialist stance. And his refusal to play the race card in the face of clearly racializing language from his opponents refuses the victim cast. Like Anzuldua’s writings, the potential of Obama’s candidacy is “transformational,” as Sullivan writes – transformational of the culture wars, of America’s image abroad, of our sense of responsibility to each other, and of our cynicism and apathy towards “politics as usual.”
In his hybridity, in his transformational and historic campaign, in his focus on empowering and employing the grassroots of American democracy, I see Obama as the most feminist candidate currently running. Certainly, he is a bridge – not a bridge to the dubious promises of the 21st century; but a bridge that evokes the promises of the borderland, the understanding and acknowledgment that American democracy has, as Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga reminded us, been built on the backs of others who came before.
He is A Bridge Called Barack.
You can reach the author at email@example.com. And thank you to Shira Tarrant for making the connection!
Patti Binder, Guest Blogger, promotes girls' organizations and girls' leadership at Whats Good for Girls. Full disclosure-- she's also the Deputy Director at GEMS and the Board Chair for Girls Write Now.
NOW-NYC presents the Susan B. Anthony Awards tonight with three NYC girls' organizations receiving recognition. While NOW-NYC's parameters for the award are to honor grassroots activists dedicated to improving the lives of women in New York City, I'm very pleased they have chosen three girls' organizations to honor, that are all WGFG FAVES, no less.
Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls
Girls for Gender Equity
Girls Educational and Mentoring Services
Film maker Rachel Fleit will also receive an award.
Congrats to NOW-NYC for recognizing three outstanding girls organizations!
Wanna come? Deets below:
Ceremony and Reception | February 21, 2008 | City Hall | 6 PM | RSVP 212.627.9895
Cross posted at Whats Good for Girls
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
There's a pro-Hillary letter going around that I thought I'd post here, since tomorrow's GUEST POST is pro-Obama. (Please note: this is not Girl with Pen playing it both ways, but rather Girl with Pen very much wanting to maintain an open forum where readers and guest posters are free to share their opinions!) Here's the letter, for those who might be interested, with info about how to sign on, below....
Feminists for Clinton
We are women who support Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States. We do so because we believe that she will be the best president for the entire country. And as feminists, we also believe that Clinton is the best choice for attending to issues of special importance to women.
We write to you now because it's time for feminists to say that Senator Obama has no monopoly on inspiration. We are among the millions of women and men who have been moved to action by her. Six months ago, some of us were committed to her candidacy, some of us weren't, but by now we all find ourselves passionately supporting her. Brains, grace under pressure, ideas, and the skill to make them real: we call that inspiring. The restoration of good government after eight years of devastation, a decent foreign policy with ties to world leaders restored, withdrawal from Iraq and universal health care: we call that exciting. And the record to prove that she can and will stand up to the swift-boating that will come any Democratic nominee's way: we call that absolutely necessary.
Clinton's enormous contributions as Senator, public servant, spokesperson for better family policies and the needs of hard-pressed women and children are widely known and recognized-even by her opponent. Her powerful, inspiring advocacy of the human rights of women at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1994 was heralded around the world as a stunning departure from the normal anodyne role of First Lady. Corporate special interests managed to defeat the health care program she advocated in 1994. But she kept on fighting, acknowledging her mistakes, and in ensuing years she succeeded in winning expanded coverage for children. Now she has crafted the only sensible and truly universal health care proposal now before the voters.
On the Iraq war, many of us believe she made a major mistake in voting for Joint Resolution 114 in 2002-along with the 28 other Democratic senators, including John Edwards and John Kerry. But we also note that her current opponent, when asked about that resolution in 2004, responded that he did not know how he would have voted had he been in Congress then. We do not know either. But we do know that at the time, his opposition to the war carried no risks and indeed, promised to pay big dividends in his liberal Democratic district.
Now, the two candidates have virtually the same plan for withdrawal from Iraq. And on the critical, broader issues of foreign policy, we believe that Senator Clinton is far more consistent, knowledgeable, modest, and realistic-stressing intense diplomacy on all questions and repairing our ties with world leaders.
We are keenly aware right now much is at stake-not just on national and international security, but on the economy, universal health care, the environment, and more. Our country needs a president who knows the members and workings of Congress, and has a proven record on Capitol Hill of persuading sympathizers, bringing along fence-sitters, and disarming opponents. There is an irony in her opponent's claim to be able to draw in Republicans, while dismissing her proven record of working with them as a legislator. We need a president who understands how to make changes real, from small things like the predatory student loan industry to large things like the Middle East. Hillary Clinton has the experience, knowledge and wisdom to deal with this wide range of issues.
Our country also needs a president who has a thorough mastery of "details"-yes, details - after eight years of Bush and Cheney. The job of restoring good government is overwhelming, and will require more than "inspiration" to accomplish it. We believe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many more can be restored to full and effective functioning only by a president who understands their scope, regulations, personnel, problems and history. Knowing these "details" and acting on them are essential to begin the healing and recuperation of the country.
How many of us have heard brilliant and resourceful women in the workplace dismissed or devalued for "detail-orientation" in contrast to a man's supposed "big picture" scope? How many of us have seen what, in a man, would be called "peerless mastery," get called, in a woman's case, "narrowness"? How many women have we known-truly gifted workers, professionals, and administrators-who have been criticized for their reserve and down-to-earth way of speaking? Whose commanding style, seriousness, and get-to-work style are criticized as "cold" and insufficiently "likable"? These prejudices have been scandalously present in this campaign.
With all this in mind, we believe that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for president, because she is the surest to remove the wreckage and secure the future. Politics is not magic. Hillary Clinton as president promises what government at its best can truly offer: wise decision-making and lasting change.
If you wish to sign on, please send your name to Ellen Dubois (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please include any relevant affiliations and titles.
Ellen Carol Dubois, Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles Christine Stansell, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago
From the book's description:
Each contributor tackles complex issues facing mothers and society today. Whether it’s a mother teaching her children to live ecologically responsible lives, a mother struggling to get out of poverty while raising her kids, a mother’s response to her child being sent to Iraq, or a mother voting for the first time, each writer forges the link, the crucial relationship, between the personal (life with family) and the political (life in the world) to give voice to, and thus empower, other women to realize and seize their collective political clout as mothers. Written by and for mothers, The Maternal Is Political is crafted to help motivate us to discover, appreciate, and use with greater effectiveness our tremendously powerful (and too often underutilized) political votes and voices to create positive social change.
(Thanks to Helaine Olen , who has an essay in it that I can't wait to read, for the heads up.)
GUEST POST: Helaine Olen is the coauthor of Office Mate: The Employee Manual for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job, with Stephanie Losee. Helaine's work on parenting, families, books, feminism, politics, personal finance and career strategy has been published in numerous print and on-line publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon.com, AlterNet.org and The Los Angeles Times, where she wrote and edited the popular “Money Makeover” feature. Her essays have been published in Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit and Devotion as well as in the upcoming The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Social and Political Change. Helaine is supersavvy, sassy, and a very welcome addition to the blogging scene. Here she is!
Wouldn't It Be Nice?
Cali Williams Yost, the work/life blogger for Fast Company, thinks a recession could be good for the cause of balance. Sure, there will be a few companies that turn to the tried and true method of firing as many people as they can get away with and forcing the survivors to work 60 hour weeks. But they are so unenlightened! As Ms. Yost posits:
In a recession, more needs to be done with fewer resources. It’s even more critical that your employees are at their most productive and your work-flow and communication management is at its most efficient. Studies show that flexibility to help employees manage their work+life fit results in increased productivity, more efficiency, and better communication.
Finally, companies that need to cutback will use flex to creatively downsize. By offering to reduce schedules or a transition people to project-based, consulting work, employees who otherwise would lose their tie to the organization can stay. When business turns around, those companies then have the option of offering those employees a return to a full-time schedule.
Methinks Ms. Yost has been drinking a wee bit too much corporate Kool-Aid. Wherever she got this delightful idea from, it’s not from working in an actual office during a recession. In my experience, they always come for the part-timers first no matter how short-sighted that approach might well be. The folks who survive the purges are expected to put in 10 to 12 hour days. And while I’ve known a few people desperate enough to work for their former employers (you know, the people who used to offer them benefits) on a contract basis, I’ve never known one who went back to them when the economy improved. Frankly, I know more who opted out of the paid workforce entirely.
Could it be different this time? Hey, anything is possible. But given that most companies are already asking their employees to give them their lives (remember, 40% of American employees work 50 hours a week and up and that’s in a good economic climate), I wouldn’t bet on it.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This just in: B-Word, publishers of acclaimed independent magazine Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, is pleased to announce the launch of its redesigned website, www.bitchmagazine.org. Bitch, of course, is the whip-smart, groundbreaking national magazine of feminism and pop culture critique that since 1996 has informed, challenged, and entertained generations of supporters. Why the new site?
"Because brainy feminists need more intelligent, independent media in their lives!," says the B-Word team. "And with this website, we’re able to continue critiquing all that’s wrong (and the few things that are right!) in the world of pop culture."
As they describe it, thanks to the generous support of more than 400 individual donors B-Word and Bitch were able to expand upon their mission and take the first step in evolving into a multimedia organization that, like the magazine, is supported by readers. The site will be noncommercial and offer content free of charge because "In accordance with its mission of critiquing advertising-driven models of media, B-Word seeks to prove that even in this world of hyper-commercialism and consumerism, a reader-supported publishing project is possible."
The website will feature blogs from founders and staff, an online version of the Love/Shove column, and an organizational blog sharing the happenings at B-Word and Bitch. And due to popular demand, all content from sold-out back issues and will be posted, along with selected content from issues still available.
Very, very cool.
here.) Currently, Elizabeth continues blogging and serves as Program Coordinator at the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. Elizabeth has been one of my bloggy mentors, and for that, I'm forever grateful. Here's Elizabeth!
To celebrate V-day this year, I read the latest collected "writings to stop violence against women" - A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer edited by Eve Ensler and Mollie Doyle. Written in a style reminiscent of the monologues featured in the Vagina Monologues, this anthology is filled with short pieces from a wide range of accomplished authors, poets, playwrights, and reporters.
I read this collection in two sittings - which is not something I would necessarily recommend. Although the writing is easy to read given the diversity of provocative styles, the content of many of the essays is heavy. For those who have experienced physical violence or sexual assualt, some of the narratives could be triggering. The call to action that these pieces create, however, is powerful. The message of
the V-day movement is clear in this collection - until the violence stops. Until, because there are so many activists working towards making a world without violence against women a reality. Until, because there still is a long way to go (as the FAQ in the appendix makes clear with useful statistical references).
The piece that most resonated with me was Ensler's "Fur is Back." This essay humorously illustrates what it's like to be that girl at the party who is seen as such a "Debbie Downer" because she just can't see the humor in sexist-racist-homophobic-classist-jokes or shut up about the current crises facing the world. As someone who has frequently been accussed of being a mood killer because of my insistence on not taking off my feminist hat (which means I can't laugh at anything! because feminists have nooooo sense of - patriarchal - humor), I appreciated Ensler's meditation on this topic. For me, "Fur is Back" was also good food for thought about how it is important to consider the best way to connect with different individuals based on their standpoint - humor sometimes trumps straight talk, questions sometimes trump answers, dialogue sometimes trumps lectures, etc.
A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer was definitely the best V-day gift that I've ever received. When you are looking for something for that someone special next year in mid-February, consider getting this text gift-wrapped!
Cross posted on A Blog Without a Bicycle
Monday, February 18, 2008
I haven't quite figured out that auto-post feature, but I've found a solution in the meanwhile -- his name is Marco. While I won't be able to respond to comments while I'm gone, I'll be checking in from time to time and look forward to responding upon return on Sunday. Have a great rest of the week, all, and a heartfelt thank you in advance to you amazing guest posters!
CNN now has a 3 minute video up from their 1-hour exploration of race, gender, and politics on Friday. In it, CNN's Randi Kaye talks with a group of women about the "unavoidable issues of race and sex over Clinton and Obama." And speaking of spectacle, on March 31, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at my alma mater (the University of Michigan) will be offering one of theirs. The event is called "Status and Spectacle: Stagings of Gender, Race, and Class in U.S. Popular Culture" and I wish I could teleport and attend. The poster they sent me has this amazing image of the Hollywood Canteen for Service Men, white service men casually strolling in on one side, "colored" service men rigidly lined up on the other, waiting, it seems for the white boys to go in. Among the topics to be covered: southern culture, white manhood, and the 1956 assault of Nat "King" Cole; Gretchen Wilson and the country rhetoric of the "virile female"; and clashing configurations of class, race, gender, rank, and celebrity at the Hollywood Canteen.
(The event will take place from 4-6pm at the Michigan Union, for those in the area! For more info, call 734.764.9537)
More before I leave, though, I promise...
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Join Salma Hayek, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Hudson, Glenn Close, Julia Stiles, Ali Larter, Sally Field, Marisa Tomei, Calpernia Addams, Rosario Dawson, Kerry Washington, and musicians Common, Eve, and Charmaine Neville on Friday and Saturday, April 11 – 12, 2008 for V-Day’s mega two-day anniversary celebration in New Orleans at the New Orleans Arena and Louisiana Superdome - V TO THE TENTH. And to learn about the Katrina Warriors Network, click here.
On Feb. 28, six of the amazing teen women from the collection Red: The Next Generation of American Writers—Teenage Girls—on What Fires Up Their Lives Today will be at the Tenement Museum Shop here in NYC. Many of these girls, daughters of immigrants and daughters of New York, will read from their published work and be introduced by their editor, Amy Goldwasser. I heard the girls read at the book's launch party a few months ago, and agree that they are strikingly honest documentarians of their own lives. And, as the event description notes, "they believe they can effect change, stop cutting themselves, stop global warming, stand up to bullies and racists, be president. They are the best shades of red (not pink), a little bit angry, a lot passionate, fired up, primary-color invested in their causes."
Thursday, February 28, 6:30 PM
Tenement Museum Shop
108 Orchard Street at Delancey
And while I'm on it and feeling all Valentiney today, thought I'd share something I wrote last spring, when Marco moved in with me and bought me a mezuzah as a gift:
IMAGINE my surprise. You, a Puerto Rican from the South (let me say it) Bronx who had never attended a seder, never set foot in a synagogue, who knew Judaism as H&H bagels, Hollywood moguls, and odd looking men in black hats. You, a curious blend of cocoa bean, Cuban rhythm, good ole American diner, and deco movie palace. With you, I find myself able to share -- and dig into -- my Jewishness in a way I hadn't with the earnest parade of appropriate Jewish suitors and boyfriends and yes, one highly appropriate husband, who preceded you. One marriage down, a Jewish divorce behind me, and a life of wonder ahead, I consider you, oddly, my guide....
(Love you, babe!)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
“Before an opening performance, when I am feeling like I really need an affirmation, I’ll send myself a big bouquet of roses. Why not? Why should I wait around and hope that someone else will send me roses? If someone does, that’s delightful and I will receive them with pleasure. But if no one does, I won’t have to be blue.”
Love the attitude. Love the two women behind this book. And on that note, do check out Gloria's beautiful new website which features the Send Yourself Roses blog, where Gloria asks us to share what we have done lately to "send yourself roses", without waiting for someone else to tend to our needs. These two leading ladies will be in conversation tonight at The 92nd street Y in NYC, 8:15 pm, and at Barnes & Noble near Lincoln square on February 18 at 7:00 PM.
The book makes an excellent Valentine's Day gift for the single and coupled alike. And hey, if you're romancing an only, what better gift for your one and only than a book called, um, Only Child?! It's a stretch, I know, but really just wanted to let folks know that on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 9pm on WKCR (89.9 FM in NYC), there will be an hour-long program ("Studio A") airing featuring only child-ness. Everything you ever wanted to know -- from a literary perspective, that is. Our host for this one, MFA student Michelle Legro, asked Daph and me some of the most thoughtful questions ever about being writers and onlies. Some fresh new writing about onlyness will be read on the show, too.
(The program will eventually available as a download, so Mom, in case you miss it....)