Friday, February 1, 2008

Sisterhood Is...Tough

Hey - wait - before I sign off for the weekend, just wanted to post this MOST interesting portrait of feminism across generations by Susan Dominus today in the NYTimes.
Featured are Jessica Valenti of my alltime favorite blog, and Marcia Pappas, who took over as president of the New York State chapter of NOW the same year Jessica founded the blog (2004). Pappas was the one who issued a press release this week proclaiming that Edward Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama was a betrayal of women. responded (on the blog), “Wow. This is completely unhinged, and frankly, mind-boggling....All I can say is, NOW-NY does not speak for me. And it does not speak for all feminists.”

The NYTimes article, called "Feminists Find Unity is Elusive," ends with this:

"The two women should probably talk. Surely, there’s a message board somewhere big enough for both of them. We already know they have a lot in common."

I'd like to see that conversation take place. In fact, I'd like to moderate. I know, I know, I should be careful what I wish for. But seriously, women across generations need to talk to each other, and not just at each other. Which is what we all more often do.

And please note: I took the feministing icon from the left side of the banner over there so as to be sure it does not look like the mudflap girl is giving NOW the finger. Though I admit it was iconographically tempting, that's not what I'm about.


Veronica said...

You should propose such a panel for the next NOW conference in Bethesda...hint, hint. Yeah, I know, I'm a trouble maker. :)

Claire said...

I would love to see a panel like this! It's long overdue.

Anne Libby said...

A panel would be great...but I also think that care should be taken to not make this into a generational problem.

Having been a feminist in and around corporate America for over 20 years (and in academia for a few before that) I've watched how hard women have worked to manage our emotions, in an attempt to avoid being labelled "hysterical".

Feministing's use of the word "unhinged" was brilliant and spot on.

There is a right time and place for a sincere expression of emotion: it is not in a press release. In this case, NOW-NY does not speak for me, either. (And, in age, I'm closer to Pappas than I am to Valenti.)

But I view all of this as a good sign, actually -- this is a "problem" of diversity.

Leaving aside the question of whether Pappas spoke individually or institutionally, isn't it kind of great that these two women were free to let loose with their opinions?

What we've learned since I was a young feminist is that feminism is strong enough to contain our differences, and even our paradoxes.

Veronica said...

blending all the issues...anne, i think you pin-pointed one reason why i think some younger women might not understand hillary. some of us don't know a time when women had to be like steel just to make it. but as you said, it is a problem of diversity - a diverse set of views within feminism that keeps us all on our toes.

Anne Libby said...

Veronica, you have totally put your finger on it.

I'm in the next wave, so don't fully understand the experience of the women in Hilary's generation, either. Early in my career I was heartbroken to feel rebuffed by older women I had hoped to find as mentors. (I did wind up with great mentors. Men.)

Here's a story though. Early 90s, at a weekly Monday meeting of the top 20 managers in our 1000 person division, where I was one of maybe 2 or 3 women. A much loved colleague had died on the golf course over the weekend. With the best of intentions, the group's President asked someone who had been there to tell us what happened.

As John started to tell us how Phil had died in his arms, I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom so that nobody would see me cry.

A friend and mentor had died, but it was not okay to cry. So that's part of what it was like for the second wave.

But what was it like for women in Hilary's age group? I don't know. More recently, I have developed a mentoring relationship with a woman about her age -- I'll ask.

Now *there* is a panel discussion I'd love to attend: let's really listen to stories about what it was like earlier on.

Because clearly, as you indicate, it matters.

Jacqueline said...

Deborah.......Count me in! I too would love to see a panel like this! I have had the experience of wonderful women mentors over the years - some relationships were more problematic than others, but was that just because of our gender?
I tire of the media's portrayal of 'catfights' among women - when we know that women are generally the ones who hang in there and try to work it out, despite how painful it can get. As a family therapist, I see it happening in families all the time.
Anyway, how do conflicts between men get talked about?

Deborah Siegel said...

Anne, Veronica, Jackie - I love this thread you've got going. Important points everyone makes, entirely. I'm feeling so turned off at the moment by NOW, because of Pappas' move. But I know there are other NOW chapters, including some led by younger women -- Sonia Ossorio here in NYC, for one -- and I shouldn't lump them all together. I'd love to hear what Sonia felt about this too - will ask her when I see her next, at the Women's Media Center training, where she's participating in the Progressive Women's Voices program with me...Will post on any convos with her here.

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