Category Archives: Barefoot Frontrunners, Then and Now

Wise Women Know and say NO

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Wise woman know and say NO to repeal of ACA.  Hell No.  That is exactly what the following Republican congressional members have done.  Representative Shelly Moore Capito’s no vote, and Republican  Susan Collins, Republican Senators for Maine, & Lisa Murkoski have all publicly expressed their no to the repeal.  They will not vote against ACA with no replacement arrived at by congressional meetings.

They demand a negotiated and public work  by congressional meetings that flesh out the potential, the real promises that can be made to the American people.  Senator Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Representatives Jody Hice of Georgia and Ileana Ros-Lehtiner of Florida have all indicated they cannon accept the repeal of the ACA without a health care replacement that covers all Americans in need of coverage.

Democratic congressional members have been vocal all along with the chicanery and bluster of the GOP bully tactics not close to representing the democratic process.  Unfailingly we have heard Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Representatives Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters expose the underhanded attempt to bully through the repeal of ACA at the expense of the people who would suffer from losing coverage and losing treatment.

Hurray for these women who have stood tall in their ability to lead as congressional representatives.  Well done.

UPDATE:  John McCain stands tall for stating and remaining committed to saying No to the Repeal without a plan in place to replace the Affordable Health Care.  The work continues and what we see here is democracy at work, and a break in the GOP front that has thwarted forward motion to put aside the repeal, and address the needs of the people to be served.

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Thanksgiving: the year of gratitude 2014

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Thank you all -you who have subscribed-  for bringing to the site your experience, your value to the conversation of who women and the men who live with them  are and the passage of women through these years of change.  This site and the book in process are all about my gratitude to the women and men who brought to the world the value of the freedom and  dignity of all people.  If you view this site and come to a better understanding and appreciation of the women in your life, then you contribute by your presence to this conversation.

It goes without saying and yet it must be said that women and men have come along together in the past fifty years, transforming how we live and what is important given our freedom to choose our identities, our function and our impact on the world.  There is more to go, for sure.  Miles and miles.  While the groundwork has changed dynamically altering the course of our mother’s and grandmother’s history, even so each generation takes the understanding further and deeper into the psyche of how we understand ourselves and each other.  We bring a context of feminism-seeking equality into the courts of law and congress -even as women’s rights continue to be attacked.

We – us human beings- men or women have the challenge of passing forward the advances we have been handed by the generation who sought and found a way to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through personal and social liberation honoring and trusting ourselves and each other.

For all this, and for your company on the road, I thank you and the opportunity every day presents to fulfill our hopes and dreams for ourselves,  for our families, our communities and for those who struggle with oppression and constraints to their every day liberties to expressing their lives as they desire.

Sore is the condition of our hearts as we watch Ferguson unfold.  Brings back the confusion and chaos of the civil rights movement of Watts and the streets of New York where the sense of the loss with just the barest potential of redemption is painful.  But we moved on, it got better for African Americans and for all of us really these forty years.  We are pressed again to look where we don’t want to look and feel what has us recoil with the knowledge of the miscarriage of justice and the sinister mechanism holding it all in place.  We will continue.  We will find our way through.  But just like the 60’s, we can’t see how or when. Looping back to pick up the policies and people left behind is where we must look for the tomorrow that surely will come.   It is we who see the group excluded from a place at the table who must demand the changes necessary so that young men of color, and the women whose hearts have been broken over and over again know we are here.  WE are here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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1964-2014: Overview of the feminists who led civil rights

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INTRODUCTION:

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men,”  Gloria Steinem.

The women who came before the paths to equality were established, before the roads were cleared, without the contextual or political framework of support, these are the barefoot frontrunners.  For many of us the challenges met granted access and choices to live our lives as we have, a range of options opened for us significantly in the late 60’s.   Names like Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Betty Frieden came through to us, in the news and in the women’s studies classes newly offered on the university campuses. (Chapter 2:  History of feminism)   Information and experience of these events were in the back ground.  Hard to imagine the isolation many women experienced in various parts of the country when they first heard of these women and the choices they sought for women.  Hard to imagine when today our iPhones, 24/7 cable news and constant connection allows us to get any amount of information and be in touch moment to moment with life around us.

But the osmosis of the 60’s culture that provoked questions with no answers that we lived through with no road map and  no guarantee of finding a right path was how it was.  In the 1848, in Seneca Falls, reform of slavery was the beginning of feminism for men and women.  Estelle Freedman, Stanford University in her work No Turning Back,  points out that reform of equality and injustice was and is the basis of all feminism (Chapter 3:  Earliest feminist)  Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood wrote a book on “Comstockery” in protest to the lack of  family planning work.   The women and the children they bore were the source of  the unpaid labor  in the farms and in the factories, her book declared in the 1940’s.

Most certainly the game changer was  birth control pill in 1964.( Chapter 4:  1964 Game changer)  The ability to  provide choice and liberty to women nationwide show up in the timeline as the pivotal moment when women came through and to power.  Civil Rights 1965 provided the legal status of women to move forward into the equality and affirmative action  shifted women’s access into college and jobs not available to them previously.  With these changes, Individually or collectively women brought new conceptions to their lives in this significant time of sociopolitical history.(Chapter 5:  Sociopolitical advances in Feminism)

Ironically,  most of us were only vaguely aware of the groundwork and advances provided by the women who came before us.  Those who stood to represent  the Women’s Liberation movement were considered angry feminists or a joke by some, both men and women.  For many women, feminism was not achievable or desired or seen as representing the identity of choice.  The discussion across the country in the early 7 0’s that showed up on black and white television and in the magazines didn’t seem accessible or desirable, even  alien to many women.  (Chapter 6:  Personal is Political)

Estelle Freedman in No Turning Back:  The Feminist Resource Site states it clearly: there are many forms of feminism.  (Chapter 7:  Equal Pay Amendment) Equal pay for equal work is  a serious conversation today that has gained recognition because Pew Reports that 47% of all households have women as the head of the household supporting the family.   However, a depth and strength of that position seems juxtaposed with the condition of poverty and lack of education for women not only in other parts of the world.  (Chapter 8:  Barefoot Frontrunners Here and Now)   As we recognize the value of the validity of equal pay becoming a reality, the contradiction of women living in poverty with little potential for a future and reduced access to education seems glaringly wrong.  Freedman points out this realm of feminism addressing poverty and lack of education here and world wide is very much the next chapter of feminism.

When you consider where and how the women’s movement and the goals of feminism came into public awareness  in the late 60’s, it comes to the sexual freedom. (Chapter 9:  Sexual history of feminism)   Strident assertions of equality and lack of tolerance for sexism came together demanding change in the atmosphere of the antiwar and civil rights protests and demonstrations.     For men and women, our politics, our  lifestyles chosen in the late 60’s and 70’s corresponded with the way we held our sexual role and identities.  Women gave up dresses for blue jeans, joining the men in the symbolism of the non traditional counter culture attire worn by both. Men and women had long hair and wanted to be seen without the limitations of sexual role and identity.  Men grew beards, women didn’t wear make up or bras to make that point of not being man or woman but human being.  The style of dress and appearance was taken on by socialites and film people who identified with the process of sexual freedom being expressed.   Sexual freedom, personal choice and defining one’s life as a woman were  a consequence of the social change underway across the country.   Brought on by the consciousness raised about the Viet Nam war  to movements addressing the need for change in our draft system, our politics and the racism and sexism now seen and recognized through the crack in the solidity of the country.  New thinking and new choices made for the changes underway. Why is this important to record?  Because the next generation needs to know how change came underway that resulted in the laws of equality and justice; they need to know the value of a society that was in tumult and the results of that time of change.

The story of liberation for women is personal and is marked by the options and choices made by the women in this study ( femChapter 10:  Education and  the choice of  feminism).  Women are victims of their sexuality and their roles as women throughout the world.  Matt Damon has a new non profit that addressed putting wells into areas of poverty around the world to free up the use of girls and women to carry the water.  He sees that education of the girls is a possibility if those ancient roles of women are eliminated by water wells.   Women are punished for their sexuality we know this, clitoral mutilation, sale of children for prostitution and marriage, bride burning, stoning of those accused of adultery all exist in lands far away.  Girls who grow up on the streets of urban cities of the United States, without education and in poverty, are subject to disease and abuse also are victims of their sexuality.  When we talk about feminism, there are so many realms of what it is that is wanting to have women aware of the potential of a life of dignity and choice, and part of the ambivalence toward the term feminism is the lack of inclusion women feel in this process.  This is true now and as much as it has been all along.

Personal experience of the women who came through these times are an indicator of how far we’ve come and the cost and path of feminism for countries overtly and beneath the surface punishing women for being women.  The path of the women who came through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s to now have much to show us in terms of what the authentic process of change in their personal stories. (Chapter 11:  Essays)

How women have been viewed and researched sexually leads to the recognition that with liberation came new questions about and from women about the role of sex in their lives.  How it was approached then and now shows the changes underway that brought us to where we are now, what the choices around marriage, children and lifestyle have become and where they came from are all within the research discussed. (Chapter 12:  Sexual studies and their politics)

THE WORK AHEAD

The work of feminism has presented the means to equality, justice and choice to women, as well as political power.  The changes can be measured in how the current generation of women represent themselves and what their expectations are in their participation in work and home.  (CHAPTER 13:  New World of feminism) Today, women choose to be married or not to have a family.  Women choose to have partners for birthing a child, or surrogates or donors.  Women through the Affordable Care Act are not dependent on an employer or marital state to have their own healthcare, their own 401K.  Women of all ages consider themselves to the responsible for their own income; more women are working all through their lives was evidenced in the women interviewed.  Retirement is not something that either men or women can assume will be in their lives.  Their stories convey the balance and process by which the personal became political through the evolution of change in the past fifty years, still weighing the cost and benefits to equality.

Finally we meet some of the women who have been the barefoot frontrunners breaking new ground from where they stood and what their perspective yielded in the creation of their lives within the context of modern feminism.  (Chapter 13:  Markers of the new feminism)   Those who participated in the interviews provide the essence and meaning to an impersonal process through which they gained access to lives of their own design.  The juice of the story of these women and their  lives describe what we must know are acts of courage.  Our witness to the coming through of the disempowered, left behind and discounted has the potential of  granting us understanding and compassion for all  the women throughout the world.  Many  stand at the doorway, risking life and limb literally- to imagine a life of  dignity, respect and freedom.  The context for modern feminism includes their freedom as connected to our own, their worth as a value to our own and a future we will all share,

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The Integrity of the right to choose

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The Integrity of the right to choose to end a pregnancy is very real, and under attack and duress.  The question is by whom and for what purpose?  There is a serious attempt to reduce women’s rights and revert the  1973 before Roe VS Wade decision, and given the fact that the abortion rate is equal to that prior to Roe Vs Wade, it makes no sense. What is the basis of these attacks on Women’s Rights?

Is Blatant sexism sometimes  so broad and so in the grain of the surface, that it is barely noticed in the conversation around women’s right to choose?  The recent Supreme Court decision, and  Republicans in general come from the place that women are not adult enough, not smart enough or sophisticated enough to make the right choices for themselves.  Like keeping candy away from the child, out of the house and out of reach,  here is the assumption that taking the decision to make a decision by a woman is somehow similar to keeping candy out of reach to a child.  Ergo, the child will not eat candy that is bad for them if you take away their ability to choose.  Women will not make the choice if they don’t have the right to choose.  The same arguments have been made about women from the 1800’s by both parties, not just republicans:  that decisions need to be made for women and children by men.  Voting, driving cars, owning real estate, working – all of these were considered outside the range and responsibility level of women at one time, not that long ago.   But in the fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights of women, responsibility and choice have moved forward the dial of responsibility and integrity for women.  Women have chosen the road to equality by  taking responsibility for areas of their life that go with the rights they hold to manifest their lives from their choices.    Now in 40 states across the country, there is the attempt to  make decisions for women about their right to choose to take to term a pregnancy.

The facts are that abortions are at the same level in be 2014 that they were in 1973fore Roe VS Wade.  Greater access and education on birth control has brought the need and use of abortion down to the rate it was pre right to choose.

Roe VS Wade happened in 1973, the dawning of the visibility and the significance of civil rights-ushered in a time where women could had legal right to make their choices given their lives, and their circumstances.  As Justice Ruth Ginsberg has stated repeatedly:  women of means have always had the alternative of choosing to end a pregnancy as there has always been places women could go to get the help they needed.  The same women who helped women with childbirth helped women end pregnancies.  It is only the poor women who will suffer if the attempts to reduce women’s right to choose is taken back.  Back to the 1950’s, back to another time.    There is an attempt to turn back the clock, turn back the civil rights of women to make their own decisions is at the base of the efforts to go back in time.  As Hillary Clinton has said:  Women’s Rights are Human Rights.  There is no turning back.

By attempting to reduce women’s rights by eliminating the use of abortion in those states, there is an assumption that by having the option of abortion, women will mindlessly choose abortion who would not otherwise.  I totally disagree, and know the seriousness with which a woman approaches an abortion.  It is not an easy slide to make the decision.  It is a dilemma, it does require and is given consideration and women are more than capable of dealing with those decisions responsibly, with courage and integrity.

The catholic church represents one end of the spectrum where any interruption of a pregnancy through birth control is a violation of the potential child.   Barrier birth control or contraceptive birth control pills fall within this realm.  Then there is the IUD.  Perhaps it has not been fully recognized that what the IUD contraceptive method does is by its placement in the uterus, the body will reject any potential embryo when the menses cycle occurs.  Essentially the IUD serves the same function as abortion.  The continuum from diaphragm to medically inducing the expelling of an embryo are the range women have as choices in being responsible for themselves and any child that might result from their carrying it to term.

Integrity is the right word in terms of how women come to evaluate this scale of choice and responsibility.  It is not the easy way out as often assumed by those who denigrate women’s ability to choose what is right for them.   Because an IUD is available doesn’t mean that the GOP or the states that want to reduce women’s rights to choose  should outlaw their use.   Nor should they reduce access to  induced abortion.  The availability of the IUD and abortion are choices women are capable of making for themselves.  Women are not children for whom you need to limit choices and for whom others need to make decisions.  The prism of perception that allows attitudes that mitigate or challenge the ability of women to choose for themselves  falls into the range of the older days of institutionalized patriarchy.

There are women who will consider ending a pregnancy, there are many who will not for a variety of reasons not related to religion or even prior understanding of what they would do in that situation.  It’s a here and now experience that draws on the character and identity of the women and her mate, and her community.  She is right to make the choice that is right for her.

Integrity also in dealing with the process of releasing this potential life from your body is an experience women share, because rarely is there a listening for experience.  No one wants to hear that the hormone level of pregnancy is at one high level, and one measure of determining the embryo has left the body is the dramatic drop in the level of hormones, which can be quite devastating.    As a result, the emotional and hormonal experience for most women who experience spontaneous or induced abortion is difficult.  Women get little compassion for this process and rarely speak of it.  The procedure itself has to be right on the same level as an invasive root canal.  Women don’t choose to have these experiences, they choose to take the measures that responsibly deal with a pregnancy that they don’t want to bring to term.

The experience of the abortion and compassion for the women are not generally in the conversation.  It’s  as if they don’t deserve that response.  Truth is that the use of abortions though legal since 73 has dropped  drastically.  There is less need for abortions and less use of abortions now.  The most vulnerable groups to have unwanted pregnancies are those who don’t expect to have sex and therefore are not prepared, like teen agers and women over 50 according to the research.  Since their first visit to Planned Parenthood, girls have been informed about sexual responsibility, regarding unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases.  Schools are prepared to respond to the interests of learning about sexuality and responsibility for sexuality.  All of this has an impact on the fact that there are less unwanted pregnancies, and a significant drop in abortions.

Women are not children who have to be protected from making their own decisions and need the law and a congress ambivalent about women’s rights to make decisions for them.  Not now, not ever.  Fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights cannot be washed away in a sea of false cause in an attempt to retrieve a past we have left behind for the better of all.

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt: Catalyst and Leader 1930-1960

Eleanor Roosevelt:  Catalyst and Leader 1930-1960 began to gather women to take their parts in taking care of the people she saw languishing on the streets of Washington:  women, children and the elderly were the most vulnerable people.  Mrs. Roosevelt is said to have taken a part in the Commission on the Status of Women begun by more than a few presidents that proceeded and represented the basis for the Woman’s Movement.  The New Deal that came through her husband’s work many attribute to the engagement of Mrs. Roosevelt who ventured from the White House and her Upper Class standing to come to see and understand the needs of the country at different points in time.  Rarely referred to as a feminist, she represents everything that is powerful about women coming together for social change.

PART I:  HISTORY 1930-1960

Ruth Rosen, University of California social historian describes most specifically the process of change that from the early Women’s Movement prior to 1963 throughout the backlash against feminism in the 80’s to the rise of global feminism in the 90’s.  She chronicles the rise of effectiveness of the women’s movement to unintentional consequences by President John Kennedy in 1961.  The women who had been a part of his successful run for President were invited to participate in the “Commission of the Status of Women.”  These women were particularly skilled and educated and once brought together came up with grievances toward women.   “Once women get together and talk, they identify the issues and from their ability to establish a language have the basis for social change,” is how Rosen describes this process then, now, here and globally.  She has interviewed the women on that commission, and met with the women who she feels were the “reason for the results that happened for the Women’s Movement.”  Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chairperson of the Commission and they were effective in what they presented to the public, but did not get the results they wanted from within the structure of the government.  In 1966, they formed an independent Women’s Movement to have their issues and grievances for women addressed and acted upon.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was being presented for a vote and Rep. Howard K. Smith, chair of the House Rules did not want to see the Equal Rights Bill pass for racial or country of origin civil rights and so added, sex to the bill with the assumption that  would result in the bill failing to pass in congress.  Instead Title 7, Equal Rights Amendment in the Civil Rights Act passed changing the course of history.

Rosen stresses two significant accidental contributions by President Kennedy and Rep. Howard K. Smith that provided the playing field for real change to happen for women.  The other factor attributed to the social change underway was the fact that the women who participated in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Students for a Democratic Society created a “manifesto” in 1965 to 40 women active in civil rights, student and peace movements that produced “discussion and action toward the goals of feminism that would be debated over the next three decades.”

Rosen credits the middle class value of education for women that came up in the 50’s, the Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden, as the source of the language, noise and productive political actions of the Women’s Movement.  She describes how women came to identity the “injuries of sex” and once identified and brought to language gave found for “the real genius of the Women’s Movement.”

It has to be said that the 1964 change of women having access to birth control pills correlates with the changes women brought to bear in social policy, and shows up in the fact that all changes of significance happened for women after 1964.

Part 2:  War against Women

Politicus.com among other sources has a list of 65 state legislative proposed actions to limit Roe VS Wade.  Their statement is:  “When one group of people display inordinate animus and enmity toward an organization representing a majority of the nation’s population, it is either because of ideology or conditioning spanning centuries.  In American, over 200 years of slavery has left an indelible streak of racial bigotry that persists today despite a civil rights movement and election of an African American President.  Despite women’s suffrage and feminists movement in the last century, women are still regarded as second class citizens by a stubborn patriarchal element in government incited by evangelical Christians.  The evangelical element is so enraged over women gaining a semblance of equal rights and the right to choose their own reproductive health, they naturally extended their hatred of women to an organization that primarily serves women and their health issues.”

Relative to this interview with Ruth Rosen, my question was-given the current state of the GOP war on women-should the Women’s Movement be reignited, recharged, regrouped?

Dr. Rosen’s answer was a surprising – no,  Her position is that the Women’s Movement has created millions of women on their jobs, in their communities, in education, in their churches who are representing the need for action relative to the goals of the Women’s Movement.  “It was a brilliant success” because women themselves bring to their homes, communities and work places, their unions the integration of the work that needs to continue.  The need for childcare, was a current example Rosen gave that is significant for women today.  Googling women’s organizations, it is clear that there is evidence that backs up Dr. Rosen’s view.  She doesn’t see a gathering of one Women’s Movement even within states as effective as compared to the effectiveness of  how women are participating now, mainstream, everywhere.   A Women’s Movement now  would produce more “significant differences,  more conflict”  than collaboration in Rosen’s assessment.

So surely the internet is a means to connect, identify issues and form action that brings women together.  One such group that came to mind was momsrising.org  that I brought up to Dr. Rosen.    They have no central office, all are in their homes all across the country and address women’s and civil rights; their recent work had much to do with the success recently of paid family leave.  Bringing up concerns nationwide that effect all moms, all families is a source for  changing policies by their presence on the internet and at the White House.  Dr. Rosen does know this group and speaks highly of their work as representative of women creating social change for the better.

PART 3: Women coming out to vote for midterm election

Dr. Rosen expressed strongly that it is very important for women to get out the vote for the midterm elections.  It is a known fact that women generally do not get out to vote for the midterm, but getting more seats in the house is really important this election.  Here is where women can get together however they do their votes in,  and encourage each other to get their vote in and counted.  All women need to be concerned about the 700 bills in play in congress and in 40 states, designed to silence the women and throw away decades of progress in civil rights and equality that have deeply contributed to the current choices available to women.  Our daughters, their daughters may not know how it is they got to have the choices they have, the platform established by the Women’s Movement and the debt we all owe to those who brought equality as a practice into our lives.  Getting out the vote for the midterms was the recommendation of Dr. Rosen.  The women’s vote is critical and many speak about that on the various political analysis cable news shows.  This is an important year, and the huge difference can be made by the women who were identified as having been a large part in President Obama’s success in his election.

This is the year to take action and vote in response to what President Obama said recently at a Planned Parenthood conference, that the legislation in 42 states banning or severely limiting the right to choose  is an “assault on women’s rights, and an attempt to roll back the clock for women to 1950.”  Statistically the number of women who generally don’t vote at the midterm elections if they do vote can create the tipping point needed to have the number of  GOP seats reduced and the country to move on to future rather than attempting to return to the past..

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Arriving at 70: you bring it all with you

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Happy Birthday Phyllis, Victoria,- and Sally, Jim and Annetta:

Here you are,  my peers and as we move into our 70’s, here’s what I see:   we turn 50, we reach 60 but we arrive at 70.  We bring with us a wealth of experiences, a depth of understanding with greater compassion beginning with ourselves.  We begin to know our place is to give what we have, deliciously doing that from the resources which we now can identify and share.  Those chapters in our lives of love and loss are now the strength of our character and can move mountains if we so decide to do that.  We function really well in groups because we relish the enthusiasm around life that has brought us to this day.  That’s why it is that you arrive at 70:  you bring it all with you.  Now you can see how all the parts fit together:  that without what seemed like a difficult and possibly emotionally costly event that changed the course of your life, you never would have made the changes you made.  The dead ends, failed relationships, hardened lines drawn were the sign posts that led you to look where you had not before, move in directions you hadn’t considered and find the path that led you to your own integrity, your own particular design of the life you hold so well today.

For the women interviewed about their passage, there are some observations that were commonly perceived and their gift to the world is all they have brought to the table, and it’s considerable since these are the women who lived through the past fifty years of women’s rights,  civil rights and the quest to equality as a lifestyle not a concept.

We find each other in all the right places, church, women’s groups, writing groups, YOGA classes, dance groups or in Phyllis’ case in Dragonboat Racing~.  Our interests and commitments determine our friends and our paths.   We take courses and workshops.  We have over the years been to the borders of new beliefs and practices through our  associations with groups, and with some lifestyle trainings and courses, such as  EST, tantra, Morehouse™,  Awakening Joy, Wisdom Connection, Women at Woodstock to name some offered in Northern California.   These experiences have served to offer the option of deepening our knowledge and practice of our sexuality, spirituality, consciousness raising and politics.  There are more doors of interests opening and not less as we arrive at 70.  Our time is filled with things we want to do-we wake up early in the morning, too early it feels like sometimes, but it’s because there are so many things we want to do, are thrilled to partake in and our days are full of events and people with whom we want to lives our lives..

Women’s groups have been and continue to be a source of continuing to identify, express and meet new desire and new commitments. Some of us maintain friendship and sisterhood, not particularly identifying as feminists, but truly we have lived the paths of the feminist.    We’ve walked through life’s darkest hours together, kept each other company in moving through significant life event.   In  groups,  we are more at home with ourselves, feel more engaged in our lives.  It has to be said, that we have been each other’s guides and partners  throughout our lives oct often.  WE use the  conflict and differences we meet as a source of  creative solutions.    We hear and know each other and are there for each other over decades.  It’s like our community is not located in a particular place, but is represented by in the things we are about, the opening of passions and wants that recognized and spoken of are incorporated into our lives.

So happy birthday septuagenerians- Phyllis, Sally, Vivien, Jim and all!

Bring everything you have to this time in your life, it turns out it’s all been useful and a part of the mosaic of who you are.  Your value is tremendous, and you are the benefactor of all you have cared about, loved and fostered.  It is a fantastic time to be alive.

Only thing is you will like I say be awakened early in the morning with fragments:  the things you want to do increase rather than decrease, and there is much for you to do, much for you to contribute.  Find an avenue, platform or highway or dragon boat to share the wealth of your  knowledge heart and skills.  Get out on the tennis court, go out to the dance floor,  invest in life around y ou, and bring your friends with you.  They will love  and enjoy who you are because they see what lies ahead for themselves,  a promise of all the living that is there to be lived.   They find more of themselves in you being you.  Full dial!

 

 

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2011 Gabby Giffords A Return to Who We Are

Gabby Giffords on floor of congress
Gabby Giffords on floor of congress

AUGUST 1, 2011

We all watched the stunning debt crisis drama unfold, with a President and a congress moving toward the congressional vote and its outcome on  August 2nd, 2011.   It was impossible not to see or hear the threats hourly of potential disaster  for our nation world wide as the date approached.  The media,  cell phones,  the radio, cable news 24/7 and on the internet were non stop. Our response probably was to distance ourselves from the emotional content as threat and intimidation prevailed whenever we tuned in.  We watched as expert after expert, politician after politician warned the other party of their failure to fix the situation, while it seemed our future lay in the balance of this debt crisis.

For some,  the repetition and emotional content escalated to a point where we disengaged.    Of course, a non response becomes a response really, but serves us when in a state of helplessness and powerlessness.  We were  spectators at a political brawl.  It was like watching a hair pulling bar fight from people you’re relying on to keep sane, -like seeing two dignified people in suits & tie loose themselves to the furor of the moment. Days dragged on. Dire and hostile comments continued.   A President we saw getting more gray hair before our very eyes.

CSPAN showed us the milling around of people on the congressional floor as it all continued.  Then in the midst of the gloom and doom without announcement really, there was suddenly an opening.  A few people turned to someone who had entered and was now seen.  There she was, the congresswoman from Arizona, smiling.  Her first public appearance since being shot in a shopping center where others were killed by a constituent who came with a gun.

At her side was her astronaut husband Mark Kelly.  More people were now seeing she was there and even from the grainy CSPAN picture, you could see the spirit and the feeling of the people on the floor lifted several levels above where it had been.  Senator Giffords  was there because she insisted on on having the vote of the people she represented as their congresswoman count.  Only Debbie Wasserman, also of Arizona and Nancy Pelosi were aware she would be on the congressional floor for that hour of voting.

She raised her hand as the stirring of her colleagues turned toward her as they became aware of her presence,and waved.  Then the murmur of her presence became a roar from all  the people in the hall.  Republicans, democrats who seconds before held themselves to harsh polarizations, threats and defense now moved toward the her small elegant frame.   Tears came down the faces of so many.  Gabby was a portrait and a reflection of all that is alive and cannot be extinquished regardless of the strife, the acrimony, the pain and the gun.

Her soft strength impacted one and all and many of us at home who happened to be watching TV found ourselves weeping. Weeping for the celebration of her return to the floor of congress after her life threatening assault;  weeping at the miracle of seeing how each congress person around her was no longer their identity or  their party position, but a human being rejoicing in the face of the courage and real strength of this delicate and insurmountably present congress woman Gabby Giffords.

Gabby reminded the nation of who we are and what we value by her mere presence and her tremendous fight to return to herself, to her job and to the people of this country.   That was a moment, a time to see what we truly value and what really sustains our lives in this moment of truth on the congressional floor.  She brought the congress and the nation to a level of humanity, a return to who we are.

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly continue their work on gun control legislation, worked with the families of Newtown, Sandy Hook.   She stood with the President on the gun control bill that failed.  In her very posture, even at the disappointment of a bill that would make guns less accessible to those who would and do harm, her strength prevails.  She and Mark Kelly continue on with their unrelenting  pursuit of guns registration  and responsible gun registration through their grassroots organization:  Americans for Responsible Solututions.  A frontrunner always, her presence a gift and a reminder always of the strength of character that reminds us all of what is possible and worthy of our passion.

 

http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org

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2009: Eve Ensler woman of the world

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Eve Ensler is the epitome of the barefoot frontrunner.  Recently in Oakland, California, she presented her new book Eve Ensler In ‘The Body of the World’ at the First Congregational Church.  When she took her voice and passion to the stage for ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ she gave reality and structure to the internal dialogue unacknowledged by women, to themselves, even to each other.  She  filled the stage with laughter and satire and a look at the area of women’s lives that prior to her creating the context had no place to be.  Intimate and gripping accounts had every woman, and the men, have knowledge of themselves in such a way that we were forever changed.  So the new book, ‘In The Body of the World’, was welcomed by most who knew of her work, were moved by her work and saw this book as a continuation of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and the V Foundation.

 The Vagina Monologues

Since ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ Eve took her interest, her passion and her relentless stand for women and their vaginas to all parts of the world.  She knew of her own pain, the rape she had experienced by her father, and she opened herself up to conversations with women about their pain.  She listened as much as she spoke.  State by state, country by country she was introduced to the full impact of the suffering women have experienced around the world.  Then she found in the Congo the ultimate discovery of the women systematically raped in the wars there among tribes.  Raped as a means to dominate and control the beaten tribesmen conquered by soldiers at war, paid mercenaries among them.   These women were raped repeatedly and left for dead in their villages by soldiers, then rejected by their communities because they were raped.  Eve -through the V Foundation helped fund the House of Joy where these women could be medically treated for their damaged vaginas and bodies and spirits.  Five years ago in San Rafael, California, I heard Eve speak about this experience and the impact it had on her.  The rapes and the violence actually had a cause Eve reported.   The particular chemical harvested in the Congo used for our cell phones, lap tops and computers was the source of the wars between the tribes.  That message resounding through the auditorium was stark as we sat in stoney silence, our cell phones in our purses or back pockets.

 

In The Body

The “femicide” in the Congo was shocking enough of an experience to stir and awaken Eve.  As she reported in Oakland this week, it was a wake up from her “somnolence,”  living in a state of half awake and half asleep in order not to see the pain of the world.  But then the tumor that was found and her uterine cancer that was diagnosed  and that became her teacher.  In connecting with her body which she had done her best to avoid, she now discovered the experience of her connection of her body as a connection to the world.  This is the material of the new book:  ‘Eve Ensler In the Body of the World.’ 

She questions how the tumor got into her uterus, surmises that the the latin word for uterus is hysteria, and how the work hysteria has been used to  disempower, disregard and dismiss women.  Eve challenges the understanding of the word hysteria often used as a description of women in a way that demeans their impact.  She poses the question:  is  hysteria a word used  as a means to diminish the wisdom of  women  for feeling what they feel and knowing what they know.  If so then, the choice to feel and be alive to the world is to share the pain and respond with responsibility.  Another option is the one Eve said she chose for many years, distraction, business, constant change.  For Eve, she has chosen to move toward the knowledge and the wisdom and the healing possible in her own cancer, in her own life and in her participation with women around the world.

The book and the work of Eve Ensler is the work of feminism, the global inclusion of the women of the world and the surroundings that create the conditions in which they live.  She is a Barefoot Frontrunner who has taken on areas of raw exposure to conditions suffered by women all over the world,  From the places of shame  hidden by static systems of belief, she presents an understanding and a perspective that allows new understanding, new interpretations and women to be brought to the level of honoring the feminine.  Breaking the chain of systematic abuse and denigration, Eve Ensler brings compassion and understanding to the table of life, world wide.  Be it the women in our military service, the women in the Congo or the young women who grow up in  poverty unseen and unheard.    For Eve Ensler our  seeing and recognizing our sacred duty as human beings to do our part and wake up to those conditions that allow the assault of women everywhere to continue is our job.  And our future.

*Barefootfrontrunner.com soon to be available

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1973-2014: Women in the workplace

 

From 1973 to 2006, a major shift in women being head of the household and supporting their families was reported to have grown from one in ten to one in five as reported by Maria Shiver and the Center for American Progress.  41% of mothers are the primary breadwinner, it has been reported by the population reference bureau in 2012.  It  was reported that 27% of Latino and 52 % African American  children are being raised with their moms as the primary provider of the family income.  Sheryl Sandberg’s book, ‘Lean In Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ brings up the question of what the past forty years of progress have meant to women in the workforce.  The frontrunners who brought to their work in 1940 the first workers rights and through the process of gaining the ERA and Lilly Ledbetter have what seems like the opportunity to fulfill their working lives as they desire.

THE GAP

What holds them back from taking on leadership is the basis of the chapter in Sheryl Sandberg’s book on The Leadership Ambition Gap.  Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, brings up the question of the source of that gap.   She takes us through an argument about the fact that the sex and gender bias through which the past decades have provided a more level playing field , for women has brought us to where we are today.  But gender stereotypes-attitudes and ways of being that are approved of by the social peers of women, both men and women, have an undeniable impact, and they remain with us.  She says that most leadership positions are held by men.  Men are more risk friendly and take on projects that have a more uncertain outcome potential, unspecified means to accomplish the tasks than women.  Why  that is Sandberg says as she looks through her own experience as Facebook COO hiring the women who come aboard is that most women are not “worried about having it all-they are worried about losing it all.”

FEAR

Women, she stresses demonstrate a need to be liked as a primary concern and leadership by men and women are negatively assessed about women who show what could be called assertive behavior.  Women judge each other  negatively for office behavior acceptable if a man does the same behavior she reports.  Fear of not being liked, fear of failure, being shown up as inadequate Sandberg reports is an internalized restriction that holds women back from wanting to be successful.  This internal barrier has women hold back from opportunities that are seized by their male co workers.

HANDS UP-A SEAT AT THE TABLE

She demonstrates this further in the book by an example of a meeting where she observed women not putting “their hand up,” not trusting their place, their contribution- that what they offer has value.  These are women with fine educations and success in school and in the workplace.  She gives an example of her own hesitancy and embarrassment as it represents her peers. Even if encouraged to participate in a non hierarchical patriarchal business model such as Facebook, she works through to new behavior at the table with hands up and engaged not as automatic, but a rideover the tendancy and propensity she has experienced within herself.  She recommends that women be aware of the go to place of doubt, factoring it in and choosing response that better represent the value of participation and contribution.

POWER OF SPEAKING THE TRUTH

Pretty amazing stuff coming from this COO of Facebook, Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business who speaks directly to the heart of the matter for women today who unintentionally hold themselves back and need to Lean In and bring themselves and their talents to the world.  The “power of authentic communication” that she stresses as the antidote to the challenges of leadership by women.  “Seek and speak” our truth is her recommendation in the goal of true equality.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

Sandberg references the hard work of the frontrunners before us.  She quotes Gloria Steinem who marched the streets in the 70’s and gained recognition of the fact that women had a right to work, that work was needed by women as well as men.   For men and women fulfillment and the production and function of work is a source of  gratification and esteem, and in itself a reward for both men and women.  Accordingly, Steinem conveyed the need  for equal access to the benefit of the work and the compensation.

FRONTRUNNERS

World War II brought women into the workplace as 16.1 million Americans were drafted into the war.  Over that period of time, the jobs in the shipyards, in the factories, on the farms were taken by women.  Rosie the Riveter is symbolic of all the wren who took the jobs for men and in that period of time, worker’s rights were born.  In the ship factories of Richmond, California as well as other locations.  Many of the women who came to California left South Carolina, Georgia and Texas as well as other places.  When the men returned, their jobs were returned to them and most of the women returned to the home by 1945 as housewives and mothers.  The economy was such that the birth of the single family home through the accessible Veteran’s loans for housing and college changed the dynamics and potential of how women lived their lives.

The VA loans for all the soldiers with home purchases, and all the appliances and furniture needed for the home produced a bustling economy by 1950.   An ideal was established, a new concept really, of the woman in “home making ,” which was taught in colleges as well as strongly encouraged in the social milieu of the 50’s.  Prior to World War II, most families lived with grandparents, parents and children not so much for sentiment, but as a unit responsible for keeping the family going with the wives and children by age 7 at working on the farms, in the factories or in the shops.  Prior to World War II and The New Deal, there was no social security for elders, no medical or social assistance for children or mothers.  The church and the families were the source of support for the widows or those families where help was needed.  The divorce rate was 4%; it was not uncommon if a parent left the home that he or she was never heard from again, and the family and church picked up the slack to aid the family.

The single family home left the mother in the suburbs.  The dysfunction of unhappy wives was a new concept really, not one recognized prior to this new family phenomena.  Masters and Johnson did their studies on women who were unwilling or unable to satisfy their partners in bearing children or as a comfort to the needs of the father.  1950’s was also the highest level of alcoholism recorded, and at that time, the dawning recognition that alcoholism was not just weakness of character, but a condition requiring help from a community such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Women did work out of the home who were single, but often were required to give up their jobs once married.  It was the Viet Nam war that allowed women to come out of their homes again given the measures of who worked in the job market at that time.  In 1964, birth control became available to women altering their lives forever allowing direct responsibility for their sexuality.  All of these changes allowed  women to seek and place value on their lives and for their lives.  Recognition of the choices they now had often came through contact with the issues around the huge social change shaking up the established order in the form of civil rights and the antiwar movement.   As the deaths of soldiers happened all over the country, the urban concentration of protests to the Viet Nam war brought recognition across the country of the need for change, and the need to end the war.  Black and white televisions in the homes united the country in terms of access to information and experience of the Babtist Church in Alabama band the three little girls killed in Alabama had what would have been local, of national consequence.

Women were talking to each other as they volunteered in the movements.  They began to identify and participate in what would be called the second wave of feminism, the women’s movement of the late 60’s.  Historian Ruth Rosen in her book The World Split Open identifies the Women’s movement progression at that time.  Through the Commission of Women’s Issues engendered by John F. Kennedy in 1961,  a document identifying 47 sexual injuries to women in the work place and home impacted and encouraged the later development of a very vocal Woman’s movement in New York City and Chicago in particular. By all accounts, the Women’s movement was a white middle class movement and challenged women, engaged them to a point, but did not reach the majority of women.

Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique, also challenged women to consider a whole other level of understanding about their sexuality.  For those women, their roles, society’s view of them and the contradictions they experienced provided a new awareness of themselves. It was far from comfortable, particularly as women found their differences in how they responded to the times that challenged the a priori of what it was to be a successful woman.  Those who did respond to the revolution with its shrill demands for change found themselves on a path with no guaranteed destination.  Without protection or structure, they were the barefoot frontrunners. Ridiculed within the family and the communities in which they lived and worked, they were called “strident and bossy” and unfeminine.  Within the Women’s movement itself, a great deal of conflict prevailed as to the means to bring about sexual and social equality for women.

For the majority of non urban women who were not in college or academic environment, there was no real understanding of the need for the struggle underway, no way to assimilate what seemed alien to what they knew of the world around them.  As they report these years, the effect on these women was to distance themselves from the stereotypical feminists.  As some other women made new decisions, taking on new responsibilities to determine their lives, and dealing with the hard work of establishing new identities, most women at the time steered clear of the conflict within themselves as well as the building of external pressure from a changing society.

But for all women, the doors that opened with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Affirmative Action directive were recognized.  More women in college and in jobs that had not been accessible to them was the result through affirmative action.  Life was changing across the US, but played out dynamically and emphatically in California, New York and Chicago.    Roe VS Wade in 1973 turned the tide even further to greater choice options in determining how women lived their lives.  Work became central to many women’s lives, and the value of full participation that began in the 80’s has set up further choice for women.  The result is the as noted that 41% of families have women as the head of household and family provider.

Gloria Steinem has maintained consistently the value of work to women as the means to personal power and determining their own destiny.  Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, points out that women have not taken full advantage of the opportunities that are available to them in the work place.   Sandberg states that the march to true equality is not over but must continue to be the fight for women to be at least half of the leadership in business and in government.  That is the question of the day,  but does true equality represent the percentage of women in management?  More the case is the discovery made pubic by Google that women in the tech industry don’t stay on.  They don’t stay on, Google execs have hypothesized because they are not seen and heard and given a platform to contribute what is distinctly theirs to contribute.  Feminism is really not about which sex you are, but about the distribution of power.  Power to be seen, heard and responded to by building new strategies envisioned by women in the workplace, in our politics, in our universities is the new world many feel must come to bring about the sustainable future we all hope to embrace.

Interestingly enough, that’s what Warren Buffet said as well this past weekend.   He said we need to be open to the contribution of women in the workplace and they should be represented fully.   It is an inside job for the women-knowing their responses and measuring the corrections that have them act in accordance with their desires and wants.  For all the right reasons, men who support women taking on leadership in the world are bringing about  a new world and a new society of inclusion and promise.

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1940-1960: barefoot frontrunners and the new feminists

Revolutionary SistersThe Barefoot Frontrunner breaks the rules, finds her own path, and leads to places that have never been before.  The Barefoot Frontrunner’s response  to the pain in the world is to take the step out and towards a place lacking support, guidance or protection.  The indignities and injuries of the world are made visible by their simple acts of courage.  The Barefoot Frontrunner takes their vision of the world, and makes ours better.  These changes came from cracks in the solidity of positions held in society.

World War II presented the opportunity for change because women went to work for the  100’s of thousands of men overseas in the factories and on the farms.  The Anti-war and civil rights movements brought women together and the effects off the dissension and conflict gave access to the break of agreement in how women perceived themselves and their place in the world.   But it was all very personal also for the frontrunners.  Without protection or structure, establishing a foundation of support among themselves and in society, they made individual choices.  Decisions made that altered their lives came at a cost often, and the price for personal liberation came through recognition of the social changes around them.   Doors were opened sometimes accidentally, as in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where the addendum for female liberation was thrown into the bill by those hoping that addition would kill the passing of the Civil Rights Bill.  Equal Rights would follow but living their lives blurred the personal and political lines that supported their passage to liberation.

WHO ARE THE WOMEN

Looking at the lives of women, the frontrunners from 1960’s,  there were some ahead of the line, some following and some observing with reservation about the wisdom of the changes they saw underway.  If you had a television, or read a newspaper, the evidence of chance was there but not all women felt called to participate.  This work, Barefoot frontrunners seeks to provide the historical context and the personal experience of the women who lived this history.   Barefoot frontrunners emphasizes that the place of women in our society, and their freedom to choose is a relatively new adjustment in political and legal structures of our society.  Barefoot frontrunners seeks to alarm those who may not have noticed that what  has been accomplished is currently in question in 40 states, where the right to choose is being challenged.    The relevance of women given the privilege of choice and the support of society to full equality in the work place that came from the social revolution to the halls of congress and in the courts was a passage we must not  forget.

There is the question about our responsibility in educating and supporting women throughout the world who remain in sexual and social roles without freedom or dignity, and empowering of women struggling in poverty and lacking choice and opportunity right here in this country.

Where the work of liberation and equality advances here and in the world is where the next frontrunners will be found, and where the work that has been done continues.  In the board rooms, on their jobs, at the PTA meetings and in political groupings, their eyes are on the prize of women world wide having access to expressing their lives in the work place and in their homes, and bringing to their sisters world wide the privilege of self determination.

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