Interview by Pamela Burke of The Woman’s Eye Blog: Gloria Feldt On 9 Ways To Embrace Your Power
Gloria Feldt has a passion for bettering women’s lives. She’s a renowned activist, commentator, teacher, and author. In her early years as a mother of three living in west Texas, she called herself a “desperate housewife.” Yet she rose to find her voice as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood from 1996-2005.
“It’s up to us to develop a more positive relationship with power, to define power on our terms and embrace it…” Gloria Feldt
Her most recent book “No Excuses–9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power” has been received with widespread praise. It’s been called “groundbreaking” and “attitude-changing,” and “the most daring.”
I’ve known Gloria for several years now and have attended her inspiring lectures. She’s certainly embraced her own power as her book is climbing best-seller lists. I am delighted I had the opportunity to ask Gloria how she finally found her own identity and to get her advice for others we begin 2011…
EYE: You’ve wrestled with finding your own voice throughout your life. Do you think the struggle is finally over?
Your heartfelt responses to Amy Ferris’s extraordinary post “I Matter” tell me I’m not alone in being moved by it. Amy’s plunge into the coldest, deepest wells of pain–her courage to swim around in those emotionally drenching experiences, then emerge to share them– and at the same time to share her liberation from the most debilitating parts of her story.
All compelling stories require an antagonist as well as a protagonist, it’s tempting to see Amy’s mother as the villain of the piece. But I’ve also been thinking about something my friend Angela (not her real name, pending permission) said to me one day last February, as we were power walking along the canal near my Scottsdale home. Basking in the desert’s relative winter warmth, I was delighted that Angela had found two days to pop over for a visit after a board meeting in California. Her distinguished career includes having led important nonprofit and governmental organizations in two countries; now she serves on 10 prestigious international boards.
I wouldn’t ordinarily post a recipe here–other than a recipe for using the 9 Ways power tools –but I wanted to post this on Facebook and my fanpage has no place for posting word documents any more. So here you are. Something to warm your heart and tummy on a cold day.
Texas Head Start Chili Con Carne
Back story: I learned this recipe from the moms of children in my Head Start class in Odessa Texas, sometime around 1969 or 1970. It’s the real deal—no fancy stuff and minimal ingredients. We made vats of it for fundraising dinners. Head Start was new then and the name of our nonprofit organization, Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin, reflected the Great Society’s ambitious intention. Head Start has proven its worth over the years and is one of the few Great Society programs still around; this recipe is equally durable.
There’s an easy way to make it and an authentic way. I find the easy way close enough to authentic in taste and texture that after you wrestle with the dried chilis once just to say you can, it’s not worth going to the trouble and mess again.
When I pulled the recipe out of my file on Christmas, 2010 to prepare it for friends, I noticed that the crumbling, yellowed, grease-spotted hand written recipe I’d used for years was on the back of the Planned Parenthood (formerly known as) National Executive Directors Council 1980-81 budget. So I thought I should digitize it for all eternity because life would be hell without great chili once in a while. And great chili is the one thing you can’t call and order for delivery in Manhattan—or at least I haven’t found any this good in the city yet.
Over the years, I’ve often made this chili for PP staff and volunteers. Once in AZ, it was central to brokering cooperation between the persistently competitive Phoenix and Tucson affiliates. In New York, every year I’d make it for the PPFA management team. And many times, I’ve shared the recipe in staff newsletters upon request.
The recipe is so simple that you’d think I’d have it memorized. In recent years, however, I’ve made green chile stew more often than this bowl of red. Thus I’m out of practice and thought it would be a good idea to look back at the recipe.
I start by cooking two pounds of dry pinto beans in a separate pot or crockpot slowly, with water and salt (and if you wish, throw in some garlic cloves), for several hours or until they turn very brown and the bean liquor tastes rich. You won’t need all of them for the chili, but as long as I’m cooking them I make extra for future purposes.
Sit down. Pour yourself a cup of tea and know that you are going to need some time to read author Amy Ferris’s story slowly and carefully. It will sear you. It will uplift you. I encourage you to write your thoughts about it here too. Thank you, Amy for sharing it.
First, here’s the cover note Amy sent to me, inviting me to post it so all of you could read it too, then her essay in full:
i wrote this essay about a week, week and half ago, on the advice of my amazing therapist. i have been dealing with such deep shame, deep doubt… and she helped me pull this up and out. and on the page.
righting my life. or … writing my life. as the case may be.
i’ve sent it to 3 people for both a reaction and their advice where to place it/put it. three amazing writer friends – two who are survivors, and one who just came out. they were – without sounding too bloated – absolutely amazed by this essay. they were so taken aback by my truth, my story… this piece.
i wanted to send it to you, after seeing on your blog that you are asking for stories.
this is my story.
it’s very painful.
it’s very raw.
it’s very liberating.
i am so fucking proud to have been able to write it, say it, share it, give it, open up an heart or two. make a difference.
i hope it saves many, many lives.
and i hope, deeply, more than anything, that my story gives women courage to stand in their truth, to tell their story … and that they too realize that their lives matter oh so much.
It’s been quiet here with the holidays taking people’s attention. And I’d just about run out of 9 Ways stories to tell. Then in the “what you need is there if you can see it” mode, Shay Pausa’s story landed in my inbox. Shay has a video production company, ChiKiiTV, and in full disclosure is currently making a new speaking reel for me. Trust me, if you have video production needs, hire her. She wrote to share how her experiences and feelings as a woman in the workforce matched my findings in No Excuses. Here’s Shay’s story:
Truthfully, I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist yet as I read your book and watch your presentations, I know that I am and always have been. I struggled from the time I entered the business world at 17 years old to be taken as seriously as my male co-workers. I made attempts to be unattractive so that my superiors would see that I was a smart, assertive hard worker. I was passed over for promotions and opportunities repeatedly. I was even once was told by the hiring manager that though I was the heir apparent, the executive team could not “picture” me in the job. They hired a man with 5 years less experience from outside the company. But I did not give up and I stayed at that company until I got the promotions. At a certain point, I brought up my concern that I was not being given deserved promotions based on my sex and age. I got the next one. What they feared even more than a smart woman who can call a spade a spade was a lawsuit.
“Stories are medicine for our false isolation. A way to forge connection and community and help shift our course . . . the seed forms of culture we carry around within us.” ~Nina Simons, founder of Bioneers
Your story is your power and your truth.
My friend, the master storyteller and storytelling teacher Laura Simms, sees stories as a path to healing oneself and the world. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, told a story that changed how Americans thought about slavery and intensified support for abolition. It became the second best-selling book of the Nineteenth Century, behind only the Bible, itself a collection of stories.
In fact, throughout the writing of No Excuses and on the 9 Ways Blog, I’ve been most inspired by the stories of women, and men. They have moved me, mentored me, and taught me. I hopes their stories do the same for you when you read them.
Shannon Drury of The Radical Housewife is the lucky winner of my Wear the Shirt contest. Thanks to my stellar team of interns, Gabrielle Korn and Dior Vargas for making the selection, because I love all of the photos. But I guess the rule that one should never try to compete against a small child still holds, and Shannon’s exuberant daughter Miriam in her shirt proclaiming “Feminism runs in our family” won the day.
Shannon is a writer, an at-home parent, and a community activist who has been blogging about parenthood and politics since 2006. She is a prime example of Power Tool #8: Employ Every Medium. The accessibility of blogging and social media has truly changed the political landscape by making it possible for everyone to speak at the same decibel level. Shannon writes about gender, politics, and parenting, among other topics. I’ll be sending a set of my four signed books to Shannon, and maybe Miriam will read them, too, in a few years.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. You can view the complete slide show of all the entries here.
And by the way, though this contest is over, don’t hesitate to send me more photos of you in shirts that proclaim your convictions. I’ll keep posting them and I am sure readers of this blog will keep enjoying them. Most important, keep wearing them!
On a snowy January day in Grass Valley, California, 250 women packed the Holiday Inn Express conference room, the only place in the Northern California town of ten thousand large enough to hold such a crowd. Even in good weather, it would have seemed remarkable for so many bright-eyed activists from a sprawling rural area to spend a full day in a cramped meeting room discussing what they were “going to do about it.”
The “it” was each individual attendee’s passion. I’d been invited to speak about “Sister Courage” at this first See Jane Do Passion Into Action conference, organized that winter day in 2010 by Jesse Locks and Elisa Parker, a dynamic duo of young women who created the hub for activism and social change called See Jane Do. But I ended up learning more than I imparted. It was an eye-popping experience.
Blogger Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish is an amazing woman. I was so moved by her how she used the three principles of movement building: be a sister by reaching out to others with similar concerns, have the courage to raise issues that you feel are important, and put the two together systematically to create movement. Watch the video of Beth telling her story of why and how she persuaded Brita to offer recyclable water filters to US consumers. I knew I had to highlight it in No Excuses the moment I heard about her.
What’s your story? How have you been able to use movement building principles to achieve a goal? What was the issue you wanted to take on? What was the result?
In this video, women wearing their virtual shirts put their convictions into action. But they didn’t do it alone.
In No Excuses, I show how to apply movement building principles to any area of life. Those principles can be described as Sister Courage: be a sister. Reach out and ask for help when you need it. give help when someone else needs it. Have the courage to raise issues. Put the two together with action and you have a movement.
Think about it. When you needed to plan Thanksgiving dinner, didn’t you call on your sisters to help you plan the menu and distribute the workload? Those same skills can be incorporated into the workplace and in politics.
Wednesday, Oct. 2-Nov. 13, 2013Gloria will teach a 6-week online course "9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career".This is a Take The Lead event in partnership with Arizona State University Online. Participants will receive a certificate to enhance their resumes along with practical skills and understanding of power dynamics in the workplace. Don't miss this opportunity and register today!