Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director—for The Hurt Locker which also won best picture of 2009—stood holding her two Oscars, looking completely flustered. Seeing her under the spotlight, one coveted golden statue grasped in each fist, I was struck by how accurately she mirrored where women in the United States stand today. We’ve got the evidence of success in our hands, and everyone in the world seems to be looking on, but we don’t quite know what to do about it.
There are more ironies in this picture. Bigelow’s film is a raw, violent portrayal of the war in Iraq, with no women as major characters—hardly a chick flick, despite some interpretations that it puts a feminist lens on masculinity and the senseless violence of combat. Yet it did not go unnoticed that Bigelow herself is gorgeous, gracious, and above all says not one word about the fact that she is a woman—indeed, she seems even more flustered when the obvious is called to her attention by inquiring journalists.
That she wasn’t the first of her gender but the fourth to be nominated—the first was Lina Wertmuller in 1976—similarly speaks to both the progress women have made and the newness of our tangible triumphs. After eighty-two years of Oscars and over four hundred best director nominees, presenter Barbra Streisand was finally able to pronounce upon opening the envelope, “The time has come.” Without question, the time has come. That’s why No Excuses is foremost a book about hope and possibility. But it is also an urgent call to action.
I wrote these opening paragraphs of No Excuses in a fit of passion while watching the Academy Awards. They were actually among the last words I wrote. It took a year to crystallize the metaphor that felt exactly right.
Nick Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn say the moral imperative of the 21st Century is the empowerment of women in their book Half the Sky. Marketers know women buy 85% of all consumer goods and thus hold the reins of their success or failure. McKinsey and Co. studies find that companies that have larger numbers of women on their leadership teams have better returns on investment. The public generally trust women candidates more than men.
In No Excuses, I say women don’t yet know what to do with the power everyone else knows we have. That the time has come for women to embrace that power. What are your thoughts? What examples in your own life or your observations about others makes you think this is or is not women’s moment?
Left: No Excuses officially launches! My reading at Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle in New York.
Center: (Left to right) author of Black Women’s Lives, Kristal Brent Zook; media commentator Keli Goff; and Feed Fund co-founder Lauren Bush share their stories and discuss the 9 Ways power tools with me at the launch of No Excuses, Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle on 10/5.