Tag Archives: Feminism

Dude, Lean Back

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It is equal parts hilarious and depressing that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was called out for repeatedly interrupting Megan Smith, chief technology officer for the United States, while trying to talk about diversity and women in tech.

The SXSW panel, which hosted Smith, Schmidt and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, was about innovation in tech, and so the conversation turned to attracting new talent and bringing more women and people of color into the field to spur new ideas.

It seems that the crowd noticed that Schmidt was regularly interrupting Smith to share his own views about diversity, so someone in the audience brought it up during the question and answer period. According to a report from Karissa Bell at Mashable, the questioner asked, “Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I’m wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times.”

I work in law, not tech, but I can tell you that this problem is every bit as common, if not more so, in the law. And, no, it’s not equal parts depressing and hilarious. There’s not a damn thing funny about it.

And I absolutely love what Judith Williams, head of Google’s global diversity and talent management program, did here. When you’re the woman being interrupted, trying to keep talking over your interrupter or saying, “Don’t interrupt me. Let me finish. Wait,” can, in that wonderful double-bind world in which we operate, cause you to be perceived as “shrill; too sensitive; pushy.”

So having another woman step up and say, as Ms. Williams did, “Are you aware that you keep interrupting her?” is wonderful. We should do it for each other way more often.

Another thing I do is, when a woman proposes an idea, and everyone goes on talking, and then, a few minutes later, a man proposes the same thing as if it were his own idea (and, believe me, most of the time even he thinks it’s his idea because . . . Patriarchy), I say, “So you agree with Mary? You’re endorsing what she proposed a few minutes ago?”

This stuff apparently isn’t going to change on its own.

Picture found here.

Thanks for the Sisterhood Moment

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I haven’t had a weekend off in at least three months. So when Friday afternoon rolled around and I realized that I can take THREE WHOLE DAYS OFF this holiday weekend, I was ecstatic. I made a list of errands as long as my arm and started in on them last night. This morning, before noon, I managed to get my handyman in to fix a drawer that wouldn’t stay closed; wrassled hoses to put fresh water into the hot tub that I drained Friday night; threw in a load of laundry; got to the gas station, the dry cleaners, the bank, the organic butcher’s, the grocery store, and then, as a reward, to the liquor store — before coming home to bake meat pies for tomorrow’s dark Moon meeting.

The liquor stores in my part of Virginia are all staffed by people from India. I don’t know why, but they are. I got a bottle of very good bourbon and got in line. The lovely lady behind the cash register was trying to explain to the old white guy, — and trust me, I know this type: he was a successful lawyer a few years ago before he retired and took over from his wife the job of going to the grocery store (his plastic bags with white bread, tomatoes, steak, and dish detergent were on the counter) and he made a pretty good living being rude and argumentative to everyone he considered his equal or subordinate — that the bottle of scotch he wanted to buy was not the one that was on sale. The clerk clearly knew her stock and even I could understand her explanation that the scotch he selected, while almost like the (less expensive) one on sale, was different. But Mr. Privilege wasn’t buying it.

After a minute, she took him back to the aisle to show him the difference. He stormed past me, knocking my purse off my shoulder and ignoring me even when I said, “I’m sorry; was I standing where you wanted to walk?” After a few minutes in the aisles, they came back with a different bottle and she rang it up for him. He continued to argue with her, just to show that he wasn’t going to be cowed by a simple brown woman with the facts on her side.

He left, another woman from the heart of Virginia got in line behind me, and the cashier said, “Sorry about the delay.” I said, “No worries. Those old white men. You know, they just have to be right.”

The woman in line behind me said, “Isn’t it true? So many of them are like that. I tell my husband, ‘You were born an old fart.’ They just can’t let anything go.”

I said, “Guys like that man, they were born privileged and they still can’t figure out why throwing their privilege around doesn’t work the way it used to.”

“No,” she said, “they can’t.”

And then all three of us cackled and had a good moment that gave me the goose bumps that are a sure sign of real magic worked.

So if you’re an old white guy acting like that and you imagine, as you get into your car with your cheap scotch, that you sure showed us, well, keep it up. The ONLY thing we three women had in common was how much we’re no longer willing to yield to you. But thanks for the sisterhood moment. You created it.

Picture found here.

And, ps, none of us looked like the women in the picture. I had on my Omega sweatshirt and my Wendy Davis running shoes. You get the idea.

Extremely Powerful and Unable to Get What We Want

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It’s surprising how powerful feminists are. No, really. Sure, we can’t get any of the things we really want: ERA; equal pay for equal work; access to health care unimpeded by other people’s imputed Bronze Age religious beliefs; generally equal representation in the White House, Congress, SCOTUS, and governors’ mansions; some cracks in the glass ceiling; help with the housework; or even comfortable high heels.

But we sure are powerful.

We caused, by my unofficial count, 9/11, Katrina, and, now, it turns out, pedophile priests.

You think they’d be worried about pacifying such powerful creatures, giving us what we want so we’d stop causing such horrific disasters, attempting to appease us before we strike again, but, oddly, no, that’s not the Xian nutjob reaction to our amazing powers.

My head hurts.

Picture found here.

Monday at the Movies

I am so going to see this movie. I’ll probably take about a case of tissues with me, but I am going to go see it. If I can, I’m going to take G/Son with me.

I don’t know about you, but the Patriarchial trope that women are cute, or sexy, or even beautiful when they’re angry always impressed me as one of the most dangerous. (OK, maybe just after “She asked for it,” but, still.) I don’t get angry often (no, really.) With my Sun in Pisces and my Ascendent in Gemini, I’m better than is good for me at seeing both sides of everything. As a Pisces, I have borders that are way too permeable and can almost always tell what others are thinking, understand their point of view, see why they act as they do. It took me most of my life to get to the point where I can (usually!) tell the difference between what someone else thinks and what I, myself, actually think.

But as someone slow to anger, when I DO get angry, I’m really angry and it’s usually over something pretty egregious. (OK, there was that time I went ballistic over whether to use a “see, e.g.” signal in a citation or a “Cf.,” but that was really because the other side had already worked my last Southern nerve way too many times.) The Patriarchial joke that women are cute, sexy, beautiful, etc. when angry is really a way of ignoring women’s anger. It reinforces that we’re here for absolutely NO other purpose than to be attractive to men. Even our anger doesn’t have any real place in the world except to allow them to be amused by us. It’s funny that we’re angry. We’re like silly little animals, yapping over something, but so cute that it just makes them pat us on the head.

And, you know, fuck that bullshit.

But I love the way that the title of this film: “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” turns that bullshit on its head. Yes, yes we are. We are beautiful in our power, and our anger, and our outrage. We are often at our best when anger rises up within us and we stand up for ourselves, our daughters, our nieces, our grandmothers, our friends, our great-great-many-times-great granddaughters. We are mighty, and graceful, and we are drop-dead gorgeous when we are angry.

As a postcript, I’ll add that I’ve been reading Joan C. Williams’ book, What Works for Women at Work and she’s one of the first women I’ve read who speaks meaningfully about the conflict between generations of women, perhaps because her book is written with her daughter, Rachel Dempsey. And after watching the trailer for She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, I do want to say: Dear Millenials, we did this for you, too. You’re welcome.

/hat tip to The Greenman

Monday Night at the Movies

If you’re looking for a movie to get you in the mood for Samhein but, like me, you’re not a fan of most horror and monster movies, you can’t do much better than Bell, Book, and Candle.

Wikipedia tells us that a bell, a book, and a candle were used to excommunicate someone from the Catholic church. Of course, made in 1958, the movie ends with our modern Witch giving up her powers to fall in love — it was either/or. Hence, the excommunication here is of the Witch from the Craft.

But that need for the woman to abandon her powers was not unusual for that time. Many movie plots were based around career women giving up their careers when they fell in love, independent ranch-running women who fell in love and moved inside to cook and have children, women whose careers ruined their families. The tv show Bewitched was centered around Darren’s demands that Samantha give up the powers of her Craft and her, always unsuccessful, attempts to comply.

And, of course, there’s the lovely song of the same title.

Let’s make a list. What do you watch to get you in the mood for this time of year?

Thursday Evening Independence Day Poetry Blogging

Let America Be America Again
~Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Crowdsourced Clothes Shopping

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OK, I know someone’s already made the t-shirt that says, “Rosa Sat. Wendy Stood.” I want one; who’s got it?

Today, Texas Governor Rick “Oops” Perry took a potshot at Wendy Davis because she was a teen-aged mother who, through more hard work that Perry can ever imagine, pulled herself and her children out of poverty (getting her health care from Planned Parenthood) and earned a law degree.

I know a little bit about being a teen-aged mom, raising a child on my own, and getting a law degree. And, like Wendy Davis, I support a woman’s right to choose. I made my choice, and it worked out wonderfully for me. But I’d never impose my choice on another woman.

Shame on Rick Perry.

Picture found here.

Dead DOMA Potpourri

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* Yesterday, I posted about chef & historian Michael Twitty’s wonderful letter to cooking show personality Paula Deen. He’s posted a follow-up today and it’s every bit as wonderful as yesterday’s. Discussing how he learned about his ancestral history, Twitty says:

Now I know we were enslaved. Slave is an identity, enslaved is a condition.

You should definitely read the whole thing.

And you can listen to Twitty discuss Baltimore’s Afroculinary history and current food deserts here.

* I had serious plans to get to sleep early last night.

Then, Wendy Davis’ filibuster hit Twitter.

I’m an old woman with a once-broken ankle that still swells by the end of the day and demands to be elevated. I need to sip water just to get through a conference call. I can’t imagine standing, without even sitting or leaning on my desk, and with no water or bathroom breaks, for 13 hours.

But Wendy Davis did it.

One fifty-year old woman put her ankles and her back muscles and her vocal cords directly in the gap and said, “You. Shall. Not. Pass.

I can’t do what Wendy Davis did, but I am a Witch and what I can do is work magic. And so I cast a circle and called those whom I call and I did what I do and I sent what I send. And today I wore a scarf with both Coyote and Hare.

And although Rick Perry has called another special session for Monday, at which the abortion restrictions will likely pass, Wendy Davis won an important victory last night.

I think that it’s really important to reward good behavior. You can donate to Wendy Davis’ re-election campaign here.

*BTW, grammar and law nerd that I am, I was fascinated with Motivated Grammar’s discovery about the Texas Rules.

Claire Cardona wrote at the Dallas Morning News’s filibuster liveblog:

“Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, raised a point of order on the filibuster because Davis had help from Sen. Ellis to readjust her back brace. […] but Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, brings up a part in the rules that would permit Davis to sit. […] Zaffirini notes that the rules said ‘may not lean on his desk, his chair, and that note doesn’t apply to Sen. Davis.’”

The rule in question, which I think is Senate Rule 4.01 [PDF, p. 8-9], reads:

“When a member has been recognized and is speaking on a motion to re-refer a bill, he must stand upright at his desk and may not lean thereon (61 S.J. Reg. 1760, 1762 (1969)). When a member has the floor and is speaking on a bill or resolution, he must stand upright at his desk and may not lean or sit on his desk or chair (61 S.J. Reg. 1059 (1969)).”

Of course, we all know what is meant there, that the intended interpretation is gender-neutral he. We see such usages regularly, probably think little of it, and move on. To claim that the use of he in this rule means it doesn’t apply to a woman is crazy, surely.

Or is it? During a filibuster, pedantry is everywhere. I learned but one thing from the time I volunteered at a Model Congress convention: intent and common usage mean little as the parliamentarian sifts through Robert’s Rules of Order to decide which of the fourteen simultaneous objections takes precedence over the rest. Grammatical pedantry, so often out of place, is only fair in this situation.

. . .

I’m no legal expert, and I’m certainly not an expert at what terminological choices are taken as given in the Texas Senate rulebook, so take this discussion with a grain of salt. But Zaffirini’s argument isn’t without merit. I found no declaration at any point in the Senate Rules that he is to be assumed as gender-neutral. In fact, there are eight instances of “his or her” in the rules — one occurring in the first sentence of Rule 4.01, the very rule being debated. If he is understood to be gender-neutral in the third and fourth sentences of Rule 4.01, why is he insufficient in the first?

. . .

It’s all hair-splitting, of course, but it’s a hair that may need to be split. When the issue at hand is so entwined with gender, maybe it’s a good time to examine our assumptions, starting with a little pronoun.

* Dear Xians, Please listen carefully.

Your bible (or, more accurately, your current interpretation of your bible) is not a Get Out of Bigots’ Jail Free card. We all get that your new meme is that you’re being persecuted simply because when you try to persecute other people those other people now fight back and sometimes call you on your bigotry. It’s such a transparent and fifth-grade-style ruse that it’s really amazing you’d even imagine that it would work. Sure, you have First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. You’re free to adopt a religion based upon bigotry and hatred and you’re free to talk about it. But others are also free to adopt other beliefs and to talk about what bigots you are.

Waving your bible around won’t change that. Besides, people who supported slavery waved their bibles around. People who opposed equal rights for women waved (and still wave) their bibles or korans around. Antisemites waved (and still wave) their bibles or korans around. And you know what we call those people today? Bigots.

Obviously, bigots don’t stand up and say, “I hate gays because I’m a bigot, and I get off on hating them, and it helps me to displace my own shadow issues.” No, they always stand up and say that their bigotry is based upon god’s law, or the bible, or whatever.

You’re on the losing end of history, the backwards curve of the arc of the moral universe, but, yes, you have First Amendment rights to hate in the name of your god and to express your hatred.

And we have the right to call you bigots.

Get over it. Be gone, before someone drops a lion on you, too.

* David Whyte writes:

The very shape we make with our bodies when we hold the conversation between the solid ground we stand on and the horizon to which we go, is the complete journey in itself. Our body’s intent, the way we hold that strange and very passionate here to there, far inside us, is the momentary representation of the whole conversation, the whole journey. There is no need to move a single inch. From that place we are ready, once again, to get up and go.

~ Thoughts from Avignon: © David Whyte 2013.

I want to remember this tomorrow morning on the treadmill.

Picture found here.

Once There Were Women . . . .

Medicine for the Whole World