As Feminists Debate ‘Lean In’, Real Feminists Just Do It

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of the bestselling book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” has coined an upgraded mantra for feminism, “Lean In.”  She exhorts women to “Lean In,” so that they can reboot feminism while achieving corporate equality.

“Lean In” was released in March 2013, and immediately struck a raw nerve with feminist pundits who struggled to reconcile “Lean In” tactics with helping the feminist movement accomplish its goals.  Equal pay and reproductive freedom were the core feminist issues in the 1970s; they are still the core issues in 2013.

Gloria Steinem, an icon of the feminist movement, defines feminism as “complete social and economic equality between men and women — not man-hating, angry women, as pop culture often makes feminists out to be.”  The image of man-hating, angry women has been so effective in shaming and alienating women that many of them refuse to call themselves feminists and have distanced themselves from the movement.

Kristopher Wells, assistant professor and associate director, of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, University of Alberta, studies and writes about the power of demeaning words.

“There are many ongoing challenges within the feminist movement, including an entire generation of young women who think that feminism is the new ’f-word’ and don’t want to be associated with it. So yes, a cultural shift is needed, as is ’re-education’ as to what feminism actually means and represents to women and to men!”

Misrepresenting the word feminism has had a ripple effect across social and economic norms.  For more information on this ripple effect, refer to the infographic, “You Say Feminism Like It’s A Bad Thing.”

Infograph about Feminism

Not all women grapple with an allegiance to feminism, and for those women “Lean In” is simply another way of looking at what they have done all along.

Linda Lingle, an Energy and Education consultant based in Washington, D.C., has worked and “Leaned In” on political campaigns for years.  She was most recently involved with Elizabeth Colbert Busch’s 1st Congressional District special election.  She believes for equality to happen, women must have a practical political presence at state and federal levels.  During the interview, she pointed out that while there are only 20 women Senators, their numbers are now strong enough that they are introducing legislation for equality.

But she acknowledges that women have a long way to go in achieving political equality and she attributes the inequality to the age-old practice of gerrymandering.

“Gerrymandering is one of the things that hurt Elizabeth the most in this past election,” she said.  “Being a woman didn’t hurt Elizabeth in her district, but being a Democrat and being consistently tied to Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat that Southern voters don’t like, did.”  Colbert-Busch’s South Carolina 1st District is 75 percent white and Republican.

Lingle reiterated that while gerrymandering has happened for years at the state and federal levels it is starting to influence local elections.

“Women must become politically involved to effect real change,” she said. “Otherwise gerrymandering will continue to perpetuate ideologies and agendas that have historically discriminated against women and minorities.”

Other women believe that creating collaboration among women and involving men will help feminism “Lean” successfully.

Deborah Young, Ph.D., a plant pathologist at Colorado State University, believes that for feminism to succeed, women need to continue to bring other women along.  Thirty years ago the state of Arizona hired Young as the first female county extension agent.  She was responsible for working with farmers in rural Arizona.  When going to visit a farm, she made it a point to drive up to the farmhouse and introduce herself to the farmer’s wife first.

“These were family farms and the women contributed as much as the men did,” Young said.  “I wanted to make sure these women knew I valued their expertise and wanted to include them in any discussions about their farms.”

Madi Lapidot, Board President of Har Shalom temple in Fort Collins, Colo., works closely with families to help build a strong community.  She is also a working mother of three and believes that women must include men in any discussion about equality, particularly as their role in the family expands.

“It’s complicated,” she said. “There’s very little acknowledgement that men and women are different.  There is an innate, integral difference that is exacerbated by socialization.”

Gloria Steinem seems to agree when she pointed out what the debate surrounding “Lean In” has ignored.   “I would say the most radical thing in [Sandberg’s] book, and perhaps in the long run the most important, is that she suggests that fathers can equally raise children and be equal at home.”  She continued, “I have not seen that in the coverage of her book.  Maybe I’ve missed it.  She also says the most important career choice you will make if you want to have children is who your partner is.  I don’t see that discussed either.”

Women Can Begin To “Lean In” By Becoming Contributors

Video Transcript

Genevieve Berry: Women face obstacles to equality every day. To overcome those obstacles women must step up and see themselves as contributors. Nancy Ogren, Director of Pathways to Wellness, explains how women can do this.

Nancy Ogren: This is the place in life where we also see ourselves as part of a collective rather than I’m by myself in this.

Genevieve Berry: Warren Buffett recently said that women are the key to America’s prosperity.

Nancy Ogren: In my picture of me at whatever point in life I’m looking at myself I want to see
myself as where do I belong? Where am I going? How am I stepping up?

Genevieve Berry: As everyone steps up, feminism isn’t just about women.

Nancy Ogren: We’re all either, either we’re contaminating or we’re contributing, and there really isn’t, it’s sort of like a resounding yes or a no. We’re either contributing or we’re not and that’s contamination. So, see yourself as a contributor,

Genevieve Berry: Contamination exists, but we don’t have to be a part of it.

Nancy Ogren: “I’m going to give you something of myself” that’s the ultimate contribution, and as you give of yourself, you create in others a confidence that you didn’t even know you created for them.  Because if you can contribute, they can contribute and we’re all in this together, so we all must contribute. And the contaminators don’t serve anybody.

Genevieve Berry, unfinishedbusinessblog.com.

Why the Koch brothers’ newspaper takeover could impact women’s rights

Women’s rights, specifically reproductive justice rights, haven’t been identified as a front-and-center issue on the Koch brothers’ radar.  A recent review of their political ideologies and current outcomes indicates that affecting policies about women’s healthcare is a high priority for them. Allowing them unbridled access to mainstream media, such as their proposed newspaper buyout, [1] appears to have the potential to create serious setbacks for the reproductive justice movement.

The Koch brothers have never commented publicly about abortion but according to a 2011 report titled, “The Koch Brothers What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right” by the Center for American Progress Action Fund [2] the top policy issue on the Koch brothers political agenda is the repealing of health reform. Abortion and access to birth control continue to dominate the healthcare reform debate in this country.

Kari Ann Rinker, a writer for RH Reality Check and former State Coordinator and Lobbyist for Kansas NOW, lives in Wichita, Kan., and believes that because women’s healthcare has become so ensnared in the political landscape abortion and access to birth control are just a means to an end for the Koch brothers.

Even if that’s true, those “ends” are having a very real impact on women’s abilities to make their own decisions about healthcare and access to abortion, in states targeted by the Koch brother’s political machinery, as Kansas women can confirm.

Home to the Koch family, Wichita, Kan., has been the site of unrelenting acts of anti-abortion terrorism culminating in the murder of Dr. George Tiller in 2009. The Koch’s have never publicly commented about the terrorist activities or groups, but as Catholics [3], their religious affiliation ties them to a very strong anti-abortion ideology.[4]  Regardless of their personal beliefs, their current political maneuverings have produced outcomes in Kansas that support the anti-abortion agenda while severely restricting women’s healthcare options.

In 2012, moderate Kansas Republicans [5] were soundly defeated by conservatives who were heavily funded by Americans for Prosperity; a group backed by the Koch brothers. These same moderate Republicans had previously blocked a Tea Party led House from passing stringent abortion laws. Former Senate President Steve Morris (R-Hugoton) [6] said that the Koch brothers helped fund the campaign, so they could use Kansas as a testing ground for their ideas. “They said it will be a ultraconservative utopia,” Morris said of the Kochs.

In 2013, Governor Sam Brownback, a Koch-backed, pro-life candidate signed into law some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws [7] in the nation, clarifying  women’s reproductive rights in the ‘ultra conservative utopia’. To learn more about a woman’s rights in a ultraconservative utopia refer to the ‘Women’s Guide’ provided below.

Since the New York Times broke the story about the Koch brother’s possible newspaper takeover, there have been non-stop discussions both for and against the takeover. The recurring theme in all the discussions is whether or not the Koch brothers will treat journalism and news with respect and objectivity [8]. Ken Doctor, in his article “The newsonomics of the Koch Brothers and the sales of U.S.’ top metros” [9] refers to this concern as the “rupture of public trust.”  Transparency is the key to maintaining public trust.

And transparency has never been the Koch brother’s calling card.  Jane Mayer’s 2010 article in the New Yorker [10] perfectly summarizes the brother’s modus operandi; “’The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called ‘the largest company that you’ve never heard of.’”

Given the Koch brother’s carefully cultivated lack of transparency combined with the current political outcomes in Kansas and the ongoing national debate about abortion and access to birth control, the women’s reproductive justice movement appears to have little to gain from a Koch-backed newspaper buyout.

Links:
[1]  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/business/media/koch-brothers-making-play-for-tribunes-newspapers.html?ref=media&pagewanted=all
[2]  http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/regulation/report/2011/04/04/9399/the-koch-brothers/
[3]  http://www.nndb.com/people/707/000170197/; http://www.kapaun.org/pages/publications/quest/archives/Fall2012_quest.pdf
[4]  http://www.pewforum.org/Abortion/Religious-Groups-Official-Positions-on-Abortion.aspx
[5]  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/08/14/koch-brothers-and-kansans-life-alliance-that-killed-kansas-moderate/
[6]  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/steve-morris-kansas-senate-koch-brothers_n_1757928.html?
[7]  http://www.kansas.com/2013/04/19/2769496/brownback-signs-sweeping-anti.html
[8]  http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-koch-brothers-20130429%2c0%2c4766912.story
[9]  http://www.niemanlab.org/2013/04/the-newsonomics-of-the-koch-brothers-and-the-sales-of-u-s-top-metros/
[10]  http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?

Womens Reproductive Rights

Resources Women’s Guide:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/steve-morris-kansas-senate-koch-brothers_n_1757928.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/kansas-abortion-restrictions-pass-senate_n_3025379.html
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/04/16/attorney-for-anti-choice-stalking-suspect-has-ties-with-radical-anti-choice-groups/
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/06/20/co-opting-jewish-faith-hits-all-time-low-with-anti-choice-wailing-wall-memorial/
http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/kansas.html
http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/04/22/17862329-brownback-adds-handwritten-message-on-anti-abortion-bill?lite
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/opinion/sunday/courage-on-abortion-in-wichita-kansas.html
Singular, S., “The Wichita Divide The Murder Of Dr. George Tiller And The Battle Over Abortion”.  St. Martin’s Press, 2011

What’s in a word, Bitch?

Colorado’s women legislators show they can bring the change, is it enough?

Colorado now leads the nation in the number of women elected to its state legislature, with 42. Colorado’s 42 have been heavily involved during the 2013 session in sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills that will create significant changes. Is it enough to persuade Colorado women of all ages to step up and insist on equal political representation at all levels of government?

Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins,  believes that having women more evenly represented in the legislature this year has made a significant difference.    “I’m proud to be a woman serving in the state legislature with the highest percentage of women in America,” Ginal wrote in an email interview response. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our legislature, where 42 of the 100 members are women, has become a leading voice driving debate in our state, and even in our nation, on important economic and social issues.”

But being effective drivers for change has not translated into equal political positions,  and therefore equal laws, for women in Colorado or anywhere else in the United States.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up 50.8 percent of the total population and 47.2 percent of the working population; conversely, figures from The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures show that women make up only 24.1 to 24.2 percent of all state legislators nationwide.   While the numbers are an improvement over past years, it’s a far cry from equal, and current laws about women’s healthcare choices, tax benefits for middle-class single mothers, equal pay and more show an ongoing bias and disparity.

Colorado’s 42 have confronted controversial, messy and sensitive issues during this session, resulting in bills that allow for stricter measures for gun control, legalized civil unions, comprehensive sex education for all school age children, and the potential for a statewide health cooperative.

Local women’s organizations agree that the women legislators are making an impact with the type of bills they promote. Lisa Radelet, Communications/Pubic Policy Director, Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center, said women understand how legislation affects their lives.

“Women seem to understand the real world impact that legislation has on the lives of women and families – whether it be the negative impact of abortion restrictions or the positive impact of access to birth control and preventive health care for women and comprehensive sexual health education for teens,” Radelet said. ” Women get it when it comes to these issues. ”

In spite of their accomplishments; Colorado has never elected a female governor, senator or mayor of any of the larger cities. There are no women in statewide elected office now, and only one, Rep. Diana DeGette, in Colorado’s nine-member federal delegation. Lieutenant governor is the highest state political office held by a woman in Colorado.  Besides New Hampshire, which has an entire female congressional delegation and governor, most states are experiencing a similar disparity in representation.

This disparity in representation is one of the key threats to women’s rights.

Monica McCafferty, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, said: “It is critical that women are adequately represented in the government so they can protect women’s personal and economic rights.  Without female representation, basic rights such as access to birth control have become a symbol of equality instead of a personal choice.”

Women have demonstrated that they are effective politicians; women’s rights are at risk, what will it take for women to move forward and insist on equal working relationships in politics?

Katie Groke Ellis, board president for the Colorado Women’s Lobby, and past member of The White House Project, believes that many women have become so politically disenfranchised that they don’t see themselves as political leaders;   “At the White House Project, we used to say ‘a man wakes up in the morning, says I can do that and runs for office.  A woman has to be asked three different times by three different people, before she will seriously consider running for office.’”

Colorado’s 42 seems to have achieved part of the answer, but if history is an accurate indicator, they can’t succeed alone. It’s time for Colorado women to recognize how important equal political representation is, step up and say, “Yes, we are enough.”

Video transcript:

Genevieve Berry:  As more women pursue leadership roles, they are finding it necessary to reframe themselves.  Debbie Svitavsky, a local women’s counselor, talks about the reason many women struggle with this process.

Debbie Svitavsky:  Most women don’t really understand their own worth and their value.  They’ve grown up believing that they’re less than, they almost put themselves in a box instead of really understanding their greatness and their power.

Genevieve Berry:  Recognizing that things must change, that equality is not option and that old stereotypes do not work anymore, women are stepping up and doing whatever it takes to create a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Debbie Svitavsky: For a woman to really move from a place of victimhood into a place of empowerment really needs to take, there is a shift that needs to take place, in how she values herself. How she looks at herself and how she can actually heal those parts of her that are telling her that she is still small and still invisible.

Genevieve Berry:  By embracing personal power, today’s women are taking the most important step towards making a difference.

Genevieve Berry. Unfinishedbusinessblog.com

A strange thing happened to me on the way to Weld County

The news article, In Weld County A New Plan B, was not the article I had intended to write when I sat down to complete my latest class assignment.  My intention was to interview experts in Weld County who would be knowledgeable about impacts to the community stemming from  the 2010 Weld County Commissioners decision to stop providing Plan B (emergency contraception commonly known as the morning-after pill) at their clinics. I expected to find opinions on both sides of the fence.  Instead, I found that the experts  I attempted to contact in Weld County were either unable or unwilling to respond.  Bottom line; no one would say anything and it shocked me. In fact, it still does.

It’s been my experience that when the response is disproportionate to the question being asked, the response is the answer and their response was disturbing; because by refusing to take part in this discussion they are at best condoning the compromise of  choice and at worst advocating it.

Personal choice is not something that we can afford to incrementally dispense with because, today. it doesn’t effect our lives.  The Greeley community seems to understand that, even if their leaders don’t.  A  poll conducted by the Greeley Tribune on Jan. 26, 2013 showed that 67.19% of the people interviewed believed that the Weld County commissioners should reconsider their decision about the morning-after pill.  Recently, Planned Parenthood, who operates the only TWO clinics in Weld County that dispense emergency contraception, have gathered over 60 signatures in a petition that concludes by saying,  ” The Commissioners should revisit this decision, in a public meeting, with expert medical testimony. The women and families of Weld County deserve a commission committed to transparency and a healthy community.”

Based on the strange thing that happened to me on my way to Weld County, I’m afraid they’re in for  an uphill battle.  For almost three years this group of county commissioners has effectively boxed in choice and may have realistically eliminated it for a vulnerable part of their community; all the while avoiding paying any of the costs associated with finding emergency contraception elsewhere. No wonder they won’t comment, but what do other social service agencies, a local university Community Health department and other experts have to gain by refusing to comment?

Since I don’t have any answers, maybe I should ask Flo about it.

It’s not about choice, it’s about spermhood

Well, I thought, at least it doesn’t smell as bad as I remember. The smells of stale urine and unwashed bodies have stubbornly embedded themselves in my memory, causing an involuntary gag reflex to kick in when I walk into a nursing home and catch the first whiff. I knew Mackenzie Place had lots of visitors on Sunday afternoons and I hoped I could interview an older woman about choice and abortion without gagging.

Approaching the lobby I noticed a petite lady sitting in the corner; she looked at me with a sparkle in her eye and said “Hi, I’m Flo.” I smiled nervously, sat down and introduced myself. Looking me over, she announced “I’m almost 82 years old and I’m done. If I had my choice, and of course I don’t, I’d be gone. I’ve had a marvelous life, full of adventure and love and I don’t want to hang around and watch myself decline.” Murmuring agreement, I asked, “About choice, do you think a woman has right to choose to abort? Why do you think it bothers men so much?” “Well” she replied, “I think it is a woman’s choice to abort and she should only do it when she has to. Men don’t give a damn about the women; it’s all about their male heir. It’s like women are hurting their manhood, their spermhood.”

Startled, I looked at her; that idea had never crossed my mind. But as I listened, for little over an hour, to her enthusiastic description of a life defined by 56 years of marriage and her husband’s interests, I realized that maybe Flo had an insight into men’s psyche that I hadn’t recognized.

I am looking forward to discovering if Flo has a valid point as I cover stories about choice and abortion.