The post-election buzz is all about how 2012 was a pivotal year, the demographic shift toward non-white voters and millennials finally kicked in, women finally exercised their electoral power, and yada yada. This is true, and we deserve to celebrate for a few minutes.
But elections come and go, pendulums swing, and no shift happens by itself—people have to make it happen.
That’s why social movements are forever, if they remain relevant and keep them. I was honored to be interviewed by NYU’s Margaret Sanger Papers Project regarding my views of the woman who started the American Birth Control Movement and the organization that would become Planned Parenthood, her work, and what I learned from her leadership. Here you go—let me know what you think.
Margaret Sanger Papers Project:Many years ago, you were a teenage mother living in Texas. Can you describe that experience and how it has contributed to your personal and professional life?
Gloria Feldt: I relate to the hardships of young parents. I have been driven by a passion that my daughters and all future generations of women should have the information, aspiration, and access to birth control and abortion services that give them the ability to determine the course of their own lives. Like Margaret Sanger, I believe biology should not be destiny and no woman can call herself free till she can own and control her own body. The birth control pill represented that liberation for me. It enabled me to start college and build a career. And to become financially independent–economic justice is the second factor, after reproductive rights, women must have to be full and equal citizens, but you can’t have that unless you can make your own sexual and childbearing decisions.
Could there be a more perfect day for a book urging women to embrace their power?
Thank you for making No Excuses “the little book that could.” It had a 9-month stint on amazon.com’s leadership and feminist theory bestseller lists. It has inspired many, even changed a few lives, and moved me to create a new No Excuses Leadership Workshop in addition to keynotes and panels.
I interviewed amazing women for the book, and I was curious what they’ve learned about power and leadership since then. Today, the “She’s Doing It” weekly series will start answering that question.
The first is a woman I admire greatly for her astute political analysis and smart writing. Keli Goff is the author most recently of The GQ Candidateand you can catch her regularly on The Dylan Ratigan Show. She’s a contributing editor at Loop21.com and blogs at www.TheHuffingtonPost.com. Follow @KeliGoff on twitter. Now, read more from her here:
Gloria: Was there a moment when you felt very powerful recently?
UPDATE 2/7 : Karen Handel resigned her position at Komen this morning, angrily claiming she was right, everyone else was wrong, and that she would be telling her side of the story. Oh sister, this plot just keeps thickening!
It’s been quite a week for the women of America, as two women’s health care icons, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood squared off. I’m not sure why Planned Parenthood waited so long to tell people the Komen Foundation had decided last December to discontinue funding them, but I do know if the women’s movement seizes this moment, which has obviously cracked open something much larger than any particular organization, it can create an amazing resurgence that will last another generation.
At last, women saw enough red to get over the pink, the fear, the preference to play victim rather than embrace our own power. And that’s exactly how to stand down ideologues terrified of women getting a fair shake and the small but powerful fringe obsessed with other people’s sex lives. (read the rest here).
Here’s a round up of some of media that caught my attention during the past week. I’d love to capture other stories you particularly resonated with—so please post them in the comments section below.
I’ve known Phoenix City Council candidate Brenda Sperduti as a civic activist for over 20 years. Because I so often encourage women to run for public office, it’s only right that I do what I can to highlight the accomplishments and character of those I’d like to see making the decisions at all levels of government.
Special note to my Phoenix friends: Early Voting deadline is fast approaching and the election ends November 8th. Please remember to cast your vote. For election information, click here.
After my keynote at the AAUW national convention last Sunday, I overheard an attendee tell her friend about the graphic I’d used of a hot dog with “No More” written in mustard on it. I didn’t have to say a word when I put the graphic on the screen for the entire audience to start laughing at the shared awareness that I was referencing now-former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Stupid). And that by implication I was referencing the fatigue and disgust so many people feel about the seemingly unending waves of philandering politicians who thus far have been almost entirely male.
The late Bella Abzug used to say that we would know women have made it when a mediocre woman was as likely to be promoted as a mediocre man. Similarly, we know women have made great strides as leaders when we have to acknowledge imperfections at the same time that we celebrate elevations to power. Thanks to The Daily Femme writer Sara Messelaar, whose thoughtful piece asks important questions about how women leaders–or any historical figures–should be judged. Be sure to read to the end of it and then share your thoughts!
Just around the corner from my home here in Berlin, the tram stops at the intersection of Berliner Alley and Indira-Gandhi Street. For a long time, whenever the voice in the tram announced “Indira Gandhi Straße,” I thought: “she must have been a really great politician.” That feeling of her “greatness” quietly settled into my subconscious–the very reaction public memorials are supposed to foster in the first place. Mission Public Remembrance Accomplished. Woman’s History Month finally got me to take a real look at Gandhi’s story. I’m really glad I did, because Gandhi’s story is a complicated, unsettling, shocking chapter in women’s history.
Gandhi (who is not related in any way shape or form to Mahatma, by the way) served as the Prime Minister of India for four terms—longer than any other female Prime Minister in the world. Her position as the leader of the world’s largest democracy was especially impressive, since even today women in India struggle for equal treatment. As Cristen wrote, women are so disregarded in India that they don’t even have adequate public bathrooms for them. Gandhi, however, never let any of that get in her way.
“If women want any rights more than they got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” –-Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883, former slave, abolitionist
During the last 50 years, thanks to feminism and other civil rights movements, reliable birth control, and an economy that requires more brain than brawn, women have broken many barriers that historically prevented us from partaking as equals at life’s table. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing trajectory. All of my Women’s History Month posts come from a place of profound appreciation for the shoulders I stand on. Women like Sojourner Truth who had so much courage, clarity of vision, and leadership savvy.
I found feminism when I was a desperate housewife in Odessa, Texas in the 1960′s. After volunteering for civil rights organizations, I had the epiphany that women should have civil rights too. I “discovered” the new Ms Magazine. Then, I joined the National Organization for Women a few years after its 1966 founding, as an at-large member. Soon, I’d find the half-dozen other at-large members in West Texas’ expanse. It was a heady time of firsts for women; still, few of us could have predicted either the stunning advances or the discouraging setbacks ahead.
Fast forward to Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking presidential campaign that didn’t take women into the presidency, but came close enough that no one will ever again ask whether women are smart enough or tough enough to do the job. Today even right-wing Republicans realize putting a woman on the ticket symbolizes electrifying change. Women earn 60% of college degrees, reproductive technologies have changed the power balance in personal relationships and we’re closer to parity in earnings than any time in history.
Still, the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the doors in numbers and with intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all. Probing history, there seems to be a recurrent approach-avoidance pattern.