Power Tool #7: Create a Movement

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.

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Wear the Shirt: Win Fabulous Prizes!


Want to see who’s wearing the shirt? Click to open this post and watch the slideshow! (You could be in it.)

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Enter the Wear the Shirt Photo Contest

No Excuses Power Tool #6 is “Wear the Shirt.” It’s a metaphor for sharing your convictions with others. Whether it’s a slogan, a DIY ensemble, or your Feminist Majority “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt, it’s important that we wear our shirts proudly. That’s why I’m hosting a Wear the Shirt photo contest.

Send me a photo of you in your favorite message shirt, and I’ll include you in the slide show on my homepage. One lucky winner will receive an autographed set of my four books, including No Excuses.

I would love for you to participate in this opportunity to socialize and share your favorite shirts! There are three ways to participate:

1. Take a picture of yourself in your favorite shirt and send it to me in an email.
2. Post the picture on your blog and let your readers know about this contest! E-mail me and I’ll link to the post and also put it on my Twitter and Facebook page.
3. Tweet your shirt and about the wear the shirt campaign, linking to @GloriaFeldt.

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Wear the Shirt Can Spur a Movement

Last Monday night, thanks to my great friend Dede Bartlett’s orchestration, I had the pleasure of speaking about No Excuses at the New Canaan (CT) Public Library. What made the event really special was that two of the women I interviewed for the book were present.

So I invited Sophfronia Scott, writer and founder of Done for You (a service that helps authors write and package their books) and executive coach Bonnie Marcus, who also hosts the “Head Over Heels” radio show, to share their stories with the audience.

Both demonstrated power tool #6: wear the shirt, by revealing their authentic selves, their passions, their aspirations.

Marcus described how she went to a job interview at a cardiac center with no management experience– in fact, no business experience whatsoever, and yet by showing her passion she got the job. “I talked about my passion for cardiac fitness,” she said. “I had been teaching aerobics. I talked about how the mission of their company resonated with me because my dad had a heart attack at fifty-seven and my family completely changed our lifestyle at home, becoming more active and eating heart-healthy foods. I showed the cardiac center how their mission and message was my way of life. They hired me! Certainly not because of anything but my passion and energy for the company and their mission.”

Scott told us how she decided to tell the world (via a powerful blog post January 1) that 2010 would be her year of living fearlessly.

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Wearing the Shirt: There are No Excuses for Anti-Gay Bullying

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing convictions put into action. Thanks to Jessica Haney of Crunchy Chewy Mama for writing this blog post inspired by the power tool “wear the shirt” and for submitting her photo.

Although I mostly think Erica Jong was wrong-headedin her Wall Street Journal piece last week where she said attachment parenting keeps women in a prison and out of politics (see my response and other links here), I do have to admit that, in choosing to stay home with my children, I am not out there in public schools being an active straight ally for LGBT youth as a classroom teacher. And with another suicide now by a boy who left behind a note that he was sick of being called “faggot” and “sissy,” I feel sad to be out of that role.

I used to sponsor the Gay/Straight Alliance at the high school where I taught English, and I attended a handful of Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conferences then and before that while I was an undergrad and a graduate student. I got on the email list for film producer and distributor (and Respect for All Project creator) GroundSpark (formerly Women’s Educational Media) which recently sent a newsletter with this information about the sad story of Brandon Bitner, who took his life last week, leaving a note that said he didn’t want to be called names anymore.

I am so sad for this latest victim of society’s narrow ideas about gender.

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Power Tool #6: Wear the Shirt

“I love your T-shirt,” chuckled Jenny, my twenty-something personal trainer, as she stretched my aching legs. “I never saw that before.”

I hadn’t noticed which of my many message T-shirts I had thrown on when I rolled out of bed before sunrise. Most of the folks who populate New York’s Columbus Circle Equinox gym sport workout clothes that bear designer labels, but seldom do I see any that pack a message punch. I figure my chest is valuable real estate—why not use it to communicate my convictions?

I looked down and saw that I’d grabbed one of my favorites: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History. Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s wry observation became one of the guiding principles of the women’s movement during the 1970s, and living it seems as natural to me now as balance ball crunches do to my lithe trainer.

Perhaps because of their delicious candor laced with felicity of expression, these words have become a slogan for boundary-breaking women everywhere. But just because it’s proudly emblazoned on mugs and bumper stickers and, yes, T-shirts, doesn’t mean we should let the message be reduced to merely a personal assertion of gutsiness. The context of Ulrich’s observation, the thing that actually makes it true, is both personal and political. Although history is often taught in schoolbooks as a sequence of significant acts by Important Men (and the occasional important woman), what Ulrich recognized is that making history is a communal act, requiring us to break the boundaries of what is considered proper behavior.

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Empowered Women Realize the Importance of Financial Independence

“I don’t want to, you know, say to Joe, ‘Hey Joe, can I have a hundred bucks for this?’ . . . I think it’s important for every woman to have her own money and be independent.”
~Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and the first woman in that role to continue her professional employment

One of the things that often keeps us stuck in a bad situation is money. Lack of money, or poor money habits, can keep us stuck in a dead end job or in a bad relationship, all because we’re afraid to head into the murky waters alone. But financial independence is a critical part of stepping into your power. Financial expert Manisha Thakor knows a lot about that subject. Hear what she has to say about it:

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Power Tool #5: Carpe the Chaos

Political talking heads slicing and dicing Nov. 2’s election results had previously declared this to be the year of the Republican rightwing woman. It wasn’t quite. Still, it’s a dagger to the heart of social justice feminism that the nation’s first two women of color elected governor are not women who support women’s rights to economic and reproductive justice–the two fundamental building blocks of women’s power and agency in this world. We have a lot of work to do.

It’s our job to find the opportunity–to carpe the chaos. To be a beacon of light when so many of our leaders are co-opted rather than courageous, and to take the initiative without delay. Post-election regrouping with its inevitable jockeying for power is the perfect launching pad for future victories. On the positive side, the Colorado ballot initiative that would have given personhood rights to the fertilized egg but not to the woman failed by a three-to-one margin. So let’s build on that to foster the paradigm shift in gender power that is sorely needed.

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Embracing Controversy Means Standing By Your Convictions

Tuesday’s elections were disappointing, to say the least, for me as a progressive woman. But this isn’t the time to throw up our hands in defeat. It’s time to regroup and lead ourselves forward. Today I listened and tweeted up with the Name It Change It campaign. I learned that their polling data backs up my contention that it’s a good thing to embrace controversy, rather than run away from it, if you’re a woman in politics (Republican or Democrat–as pollster Celinda Lake commented “Sexism is one of the very few bipartisan things”).:

Celinda Lake, of Lake Research Associates, spearheaded research measuring how gender-based attacks negatively affect voter perception of female candidates…Lake explains, “Up until this research was conducted, I often advised women to ignore toxic media sexism. But now, women candidates are equipped with evidence that shows they can recover voter confidence from sexist media coverage by directly addressing it, and standing up for all current and future women leaders.”

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Different Approaches to Controversy Yield Different Results

I can’t think of a better example of controversy well-taken than then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s thoughtful speech exploring the role of race in American history, delivered in Philadelphia in the spring of 2008. In response to exploding controversy around his relationship with his pastor and mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who had made inflammatory (and frankly racist) remarks in his sermons, Obama rode directly into the wave of controversy. He didn’t deflect or minimize it, but took the festering issue of race in America head-on, thus defusing criticism, positioning himself as a courageous truth-teller, and building respect and enthusiasm for his candidacy among voters hungry for change. He turned a powder keg of a controversy that could have exploded his presidential campaign into a brilliant platform to teach about a subject so sensitive that it is often avoided in public discourse.

I sincerely doubt Obama or his campaign advisers would have sought out this controversy, but when it came up, they realized they had been handed a priceless moment to demonstrate genuine leadership. I believe this was the turning point that led him to victory, and that if Clinton had treated the equally vicious sexism thrown at her with the same directness and candor that Obama confronted race, the outcome might well have been different.

Sometimes we embrace controversies that have turned up on their own. And at other times, we need to create our own controversies in order to get things moving. In other words, there are controversies we make and controversies we take.

What are your own examples of embracing controversy? Did you make the controversy or did you take a controversy that came to you? What did you learn from your experiences?

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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt