Tag Archives: Feminism

We liberal women owe Hillary our support

Five days before the all-important Iowa caucus, CNN ran a story about why “women” are wary of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The reporter based this generalized conclusion on one visit with a group of middle-aged women gathered for conversation and Chardonnay.

Their reservations were not the understandable concerns of conservative voters who differ with Clinton on issues from abortion rights to amnesty for immigrants.

These were liberal women — educated, middle-class, Midwestern voters like me who came of age at a time of unprecedented gains in women’s rights.Hillary magnet

Unlike me, these Iowa voters were women whose fear or reluctance to proclaim themselves feminists could tilt the race against a woman whom the New York Times is calling “one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.”

Let’s examine these women’s concerns point by point:

  • Point 1: Hillary is less “authentic” than Bernie Sanders, they said. She displays what one columnist calls a “plasticity” that leads some to conclude she is merely ambitious. She wants to be president and has cast herself accordingly — especially in the U.S. Senate and as Secretary of State.

Think again: Where some see plasticity, I see professionalism and poise. What some denigrate as ambition, I call a singular focus.

Unlike so many women her age — who have moved in and out of the work force, setting aside their careers for families and channeling their talents into unpaid labor — Hillary Clinton has built a career as a consistent champion of women, children and society’s marginalized. Her post–First Lady life has given her a global perspective that Bernie Sanders lacks. And one that none of the Republican candidates seems to value.

  • Point 2: Hillary stayed with Bill Clinton for political reasons, the Iowa women said. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, whom Mrs. Clinton admires, Hillary took a shrewd look at her marriage and concluded that the partners could do more good together than alone.

Consider: The Clinton Foundation has raised $2 billion, with more than 88 percent of those funds going directly to programs. The foundation’s five interest areas include climate change and global health, and its Clinton Global Initiative focuses on education for girls and reducing gender-based violence. Surely the wine-drinking women from Iowa aren’t opposed to that.

I find the criticism of Bill and Hillary’s marriage particularly odd — and disingenuous— when it is leveled by women, historically the keepers of family ties. What Hillary has chosen to live with in private is not the public’s business, but it is a matter of our concern. No divorced woman would be elected president. Hillary knew that. And whatever sacrifice she made on behalf of her ambition (a word considered pejorative only when applied to a woman) is not merely self-serving.

It’s time for feminist women to recognize the literal and symbolic importance of electing a liberal female president — just as African Americans saw the meaning in electing a first-term U.S. senator to the highest position in the land.

  • Point 3: Hillary and Bill represent the past. The Iowa women noted a malaise that they called “Clinton fatigue” and seemed to lean toward Sanders for the same reason that young people do — his impassioned if impractical call to throw out the old political system in favor of a “Democratic socialism” that no contemporary U.S. Congress would abide.

Let’s get real: Sanders is 74 years old. He officially became a Democrat only after launching his presidential bid. His celebrated “America” ad — an emotional, narration-free pitch — is set to a 48-year-old Simon and Garfunkel song.

But no one declares him “dated” or “inauthentic.” None of the Iowa women claimed that his quarter century in Congress makes him a candidate of the past. Failing, perhaps, to remember that Ronald Reagan took office a month shy of 70 and began his battle with Alzheimer’s disease barely into his second term, supporters don’t see Sanders’ age as a potential handicap.

I respect Sanders’ doggedness and his focus on income inequality. His presence in the race has drawn Hillary to the left and rightfully earns him a spot in her cabinet. But I also believe he is getting a pass — on age, authenticity, ambition and temperament — that is not being granted to his more able and experienced challenger.

The women of Iowa better wake up, and quickly. I’m a fan of Paul Simon’s songs, too, but unless more women of all ages who benefit from feminism are willing to stand up and support one of the movement’s true champions, then come November, I fear, we’ll be humming not “America” but “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

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Flipping the bird at Thanksgiving

It’s not that I’m an ingrate or fail to recognize the many unearned blessings in my life.

I simply want no part of Thanksgiving.

I don’t need the 4,500 calories that the Average American consumes in the carbohydrate- and gravy-laden meal served on the fourth Thursday of each November.

I don’t want to expend the time or money shopping for food, and I’m even less interested in spending days preparing it.

Instead, after having to cancel a visit to see my sister in Colorado because of work, I am spending Thanksgiving the way I wish I spent more weekends — with no plans at all.Flipped Bird

Turkey rebellion

Here are five reasons why sitting out this most overrated of holidays feels like the right thing to do this year.

No. 1: The food is predictable. Dry turkey, drier stuffing. The only color on the traditional Thanksgiving table comes from whatever centerpiece the hostess has assembled. Everything else is shades of brown and tan, like those suburban subdivisions I used to pass on my commute to work.

And what guru decreed that the traditions can never change? Put fresh green beans instead of canned in the infamous Midwestern casserole? Heresy. Bake the sweet potatoes with soy milk and ginger instead of butter and brown sugar? I made that mistake only once with my German-Catholic in-laws.

No. 2: I hate football. It’s boring. It’s slow. Its players have inflated pocketbooks and egos. I’ve wasted way too many Thanksgiving “holidays” pretending to be interested because the noise of the television drowned out any conversation in the room.

If women spent Thanksgiving watching Norma Rae, Tootsie or name-your-favorite-Meryl-Streep-movie at full volume while men overworked themselves in overheated kitchens, Thanksgiving would have been cancelled years ago.

No. 3: Thanksgiving is a sexist holiday. (See above.) Dad’s job — the role of any father from a bygone era — was to sharpen the knife, carve the bird and later ask from the easy chair when pie would be served. Mom’s job was everything else.

Even in my own nuclear family, with sons raised to be progressive, the men turn to me (the one who works full time and is in graduate school) with the wide-eyed question: “So, what are we doing this year?”

No. 4: I feel too somber to host or attend a meal. My mother died in September, and I think the best way to honor the woman who introduced me to feminism and the necessity of breaking social codes is to avoid repeating the obligation she dreaded every year.

In fact, Thanksgiving hasn’t been the same since my husband’s sister and children’s godmother, Peggy Studer, died in January 2011. Peggy was the family’s center. She held us together. Sure, she cooked too many potatoes and preferred pumpkin pie to pecan, but her humor and bold bitching about the timeless traditions never failed to make them fun.

No. 5: I don’t need Thanksgiving to remind me to be grateful. A Buddhist friend introduced me to the practice of gratitude in 2010. We spent a year exchanging a gratitude list by e-mail every night.

On the inevitably difficult days — those low times that later help us recognize real joy — I can always lift my spirits by reciting or writing down a list of why I’m thankful.

For my health, my home, my husband and grown sons, my job, my friends and family, my silly dogs, my sense of purpose: I am truly grateful. And that’s enough for me to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

 

‘Overserved’? Certainly, and workplace sobriety underrated

By this point in the news cycle, even the most blasé sports fan in the Upper Midwest knows that Norwood Teague has problems — legal, psychological and, likely, alcohol-abuse problems.

The former athletics director at the University of Minnesota was said to have been drunk at a president’s retreat in mid-July when he sexually harassed two senior-level women. He resigned August 7.

Amid the media firestorm that has ensued — with more women coming forward to say Teague harassed them and the U of M president backing away from his original claim that his golden boy had merely been “overserved” — one question has yet to be asked.

Was it appropriate, or advisable, for alcohol to be served at this work-related function at all?

Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, a recovering alcoholic, was the first to say that Teague’s alcohol consumption at the retreat was “no excuse” for his boorish and illegal behavior. True enough. But can the U of M be held accountable? Who was minding the bar at the taxpayer-supported leadership retreat? How was Teague allowed to get this drunk?

Attorney, women’s advocate and human resources consultant Gina Franklin counsels employers to “turn around” the assumption that alcohol is a bonding agent and a necessary source of creative inspiration at work.Gina_Franklin

“That’s the ‘Mad Men’ philosophy of life,” says Franklin, a senior associate at W.J. Flynn and Associates in Eagan, Minnesota. “We think it’s seriously dated.”

Franklin, like me, is an old-school feminist who would never blame women for harassment or assault. But we share the perhaps prudish and politically incorrect opinion that sobriety in professional settings is a protective tool.

As an HR coach, what would you say to Norwood Teague?

Now that he’s resigned, he needs to think about: “How do I address this so I can be employed again?” If I were his coach, I would say: “Go get an alcohol assessment and really learn if there is abuse or addiction. Put together a plan for how you’re going to better understand this. Have this be part of a life-changing event.” I think an employer would give some credit to the proactive nature of that.

Employers that cater to younger workers, especially, promote alcohol at workplace functions or after long days at the office as a well-deserved stress reliever.

If our clients have an occasion to provide alcohol at an event, we work with them not just around policy but the whole culture of consumption:

  • You can serve alcohol in limited amounts, such as two drink tickets per person.
  • Remind everybody of the organization’s harassment policies and code of conduct.
  • Provide food at the event. Stop any access to alcohol after dinner. Instead have a speaker or entertainment — and then provide cab rides home.Drinking at work

What role does alcohol play in sexual harassment?

Alcohol is a factor in the majority of these crimes. It goes almost hand in hand. Alcohol removes inhibitions, and it compromises judgment.

While I was in law school in the early 1980s, I had a public debate with my law professor: Is alcohol a mitigating factor when sentencing a sex crime? My response was: “No, it’s not a mitigating factor. The individual made a choice to consume to excess and his judgment was impaired.” I was unequivocal about it. If you use alcohol as a mitigation in sex crimes, then you’re always going to mitigate. Always.

Your daughters are 18 and 21. How do you caution these young women about mixing alcohol and work, without missing out on the networking and relationship-building that often happens at work-related events?

I have to think about that as a woman every day in my world, and both my daughters and my stepdaughters, who range from 28 to 38, ask me how I do it. I talk about compromise. If consumption of alcohol would compromise your thinking and decision-making and put you at risk, that’s not a good plan. There are men who would take advantage of that.

Since I quit drinking five years ago, I’ve noticed how often workplace socializing is tied to alcohol — and I’m increasingly ill at ease with the assumption that everybody drinks. How can employers support people who don’t drink, whether they’re recovering alcoholics or abstain for other reasons?

We advise employers to have non-alcoholic choices for employees, just as you’d have non-meat choices for meals. If I were the HR person, I would meet with any employee whom I knew was in recovery and develop strategies for how to navigate those events. I’d give that person advice and support.

The U of M incident — or multiple incidents — has helped many of us recognize the prevalence of sexual harassment, despite women’s gains in all sectors of society. Or is harassment tied more broadly to the prevalence of rape and domestic violence?

Sexual harassment was not a subject when I started in the workplace. I’m 62. I’m literally a grandmother in terms of the women’s movement and the subject of the relationship between the sexes. I founded a rape-crisis center in the 1970s as an undergraduate in Nebraska. It still serves victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse.

For years now women have been coming forward to say: “No, we’re not going to tolerate sexual assault.” Prevention of sexual harassment — and recognition of harassment — evolved from that.