I appeared on PBS’ To The Contrary, and discussed gender roles in government, LGBTQ athletes in the Olympics, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Watch here:
Let’s just be done with excuses for why women aren’t running in Democratic primaries, shall we? Let’s be done with excuses for why it is always some other man’s turn.
Yes, we know who gets invited to the golf course.
We got it.
Yes, we know that you find our ambition grating, our knowledge overwhelming, our qualifications a symbol of being “too establishment” or a liability in our “ability to connect.”
We know that you are delving deep into the psychology of why women don’t run, how we have to be asked several times, and how if we just thought more highly of ourselves then maybe it would happen.
We are also uninterested in you blaming us and our inner states, personally, for why centuries of male dominance are continuing today — even though none of the men who are actually holding the power mean it in any sort of oppressive way, lass.
We are up to our ears with Republicans who fundamentally disrespect our humanity and Democratic men who are said to be better for women than, well, the women who are the backbone of the party.
I stopped accepting your excuses for why women aren’t taking the elected seats years ago; you can still tell them to me, and I will listen. I will nod for your reasons, for even if I haven’t heard them before, together they make the most lovely quilt we can present to our daughters with the shrug that maybe their generation can do better.
Well, no. I refuse to teach my daughter that women should wait their turn.
I got angry the first time I took her out in a baby carrier to get out the vote and realized that in the allegedly most progressive corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia we were working to elect nine men and no women. In the Democratic Party. Four years later, in 2017, Arlington Democrats added literally one woman to the picture — out of nine candidates they wanted us to elect. Now, in 2018, we have what The Washington Post calls “two newcomers [battling] for Democratic nomination to Arlington County Board.” No shade to these lovely men, but there is nothing new about having men hold the gavels and women hold the clipboards, and I’m just done.
Those moments in life when we stop accepting our own excuses are the most powerful. I am no longer accepting my own excuses about why I cannot run for office — if you know me personally, you know my No. 1 line is that Arlington is a big pond with political people from D.C. who have a long line of succession, and if I lived somewhere else, I’d do it. I realize now that my excuse sounds a lot like another patch on the quilt of excuses for why Charles is almost always in charge. I am giving up my own excuses now about why I can’t run for office. I can run for office, I’m just not doing it right now. I encourage you to give up your excuses with me.
The #MeToo reckoning has only started to reveal the routine and gratuitous presence of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in the lives of women and girls. It’s going to be a long, slow burn of new stories coming to the surface, some of them shocking and others as duh-tastic as possible (you mean that pompous guy who was known for treating his employees like shit and the “pro-life” congressman who obsessed about controlling women’s bodies all day long on the House floor were treating their women employees like their own personal sexual property? NO WAY!). There will be more backlash, and considering who is president of the United States, it is going to be terrible.
Meanwhile, a whole bunch of us still need to raise our daughters.
I’ll be honest, I find this a particularly challenging moment to parent a girl who is getting ready to go to kindergarten. Here is where I’ve landed:
I’m no longer turning off the radio or television as these stories come up on the news. As much as I would like to, I can’t protect her from every sexist thing in the world. If she asks what these stories are about, I’m going to tell her the truth in age-appropriate terms (such as, someone didn’t respect her body, and only you get to decide what to do with your body).
I’ve been thinking a lot about the encouragements we give our children to give someone a hug. This isn’t a new line of thought for me, but it seems to take on new urgency in this moment. Why are other people telling my daughter to go give someone a hug? Why am I? As it pertains to teaching her how we act around family and close friends, there is balance to be found here, but I’m also getting increasingly uncomfortable with suggesting physical contact if she clearly doesn’t want it.
Donald Trump is not a person we talk about in neutral terms. If there is one thing I want my daughter to remember about growing up during the disastrous period of Donald Trump’s presidency, it is that we did not look the other way — we spoke up and we took action. Donald Trump’s disrespect for women and girls is but one of many hate-fueled reasons on his part as to why his presidency should never be normalized before our children. I still remember looking at her the morning after the election and crying. My political work is, in part, a fight for her.
If the Access Hollywood bus won’t pick him up to remove him from the Oval Office where he clearly doesn’t belong — it is up to us.
Note: Today, Leeann Tweeden said Sen. Al Franken forcibly kissed her and released a picture of him groping her as she slept. Sen. Franken apologized. On June 7, 2008, I published an OpEd in the Star Tribune with Shannon Drury with the same title as this piece standing up for Al Franken just before a difficult Democratic primary, in which the center-stage issue for him was controversy over rape jokes he had written for Saturday Night Live. The piece was influential in his moving forward, and noted that we were the current and immediate past presidents of Minnesota NOW. Tonight, I hurt. This is what I have to say on November 16, 2017, under this same title. What kind of candidate truly respects women?
Why are we asking the wrong questions?
Why is the most sought-out speech for a feminist woman the praise or denunciation of a man in politics?
Why are our voices most compelling when we are supporting the guy, taking down the guy, or sharing our pain? Why are the roles available to us cheerleaders, hecklers, and the injured? When will we get to be the referees and the players?
Why are almost all the political leaders men?
Why is the partisan divide more powerful than public disgust with men sexually assaulting women?
Why did white women vote for Donald Trump? Why do they think white supremacy will give them an advantage when so clearly, white supremacy and sexism are inextricably interconnected? Do we hate ourselves that much?
Why are creeps cultivating support from feminist women and using the little political capital we have when they know they are grabbing ass and even if we don’t know that, we’ll be the ones left to pick up the pieces later?
Why are men so loved for repeating feminist women’s words, including within the women’s movement?
Why are we knowingly tolerating posers? Who don’t we know is a poser?
Why are women being raped, harassed, propositioned, stalked, and belittled in spaces that call themselves progressive?
Why are we not connecting politicians crapping on a woman’s right to abortion to those politicians cupping women’s asses or refusing to meet alone with us? Why are our bodies an open buffet when our minds are shoved off the table?
Why are we not collectively demanding that they all resign, including the president of the United States, Donald Trump?
Why are we being used? Why are we allowing ourselves to be used?
Where are the men who proclaim to be our allies? What is the true end for which we are the means? Why aren’t they working on the men who would never listen to us in one-on-one conversations instead of being the women’s columnists in The New York Times? Why aren’t they using their platforms that are supposedly all about advancing women to demand that women sit on the platform?
Why are we weaponizing lecherous men against women? Why do we ask the wrong questions and point fingers in the wrong directions?
Why? For God’s sake, why does no man seem to respect women? Who can we trust? When will we be free? Why, Al, is the joke coming back to us?
Math is real. Bernie Sanders is going to lose the Democratic nomination for president. Yes, he is staying in the race and still collecting protest votes, and part of that process means pretending like he can win. But he can’t, and he knows it. We all do.
There have been aspects of his candidacy that are just on fire: The crowds, the youth, the focus on income inequality, the critique on conservative tilts within the Democratic Party, the visible changes in the campaign’s approach to racial justice in response to heckling from Black Lives Matter activists at Netroots Nation last summer. His vision is bold and that rocks. He has made more people believe government can be a force for good, and that’s an admirable and necessary lift after decades of right-wing demonization of public infrastructure and services.
But there are things about his candidacy that are crazy-making! The snide subset of online supporters who will try to gaslight you out of every possible critique one could have of his platform and campaign — like a nightmarish neighborhood White Castle that never closes, they are always there to make you feel sick by informing you the messiah already did that, and your concerns aren’t valid.
The relentless focus on Wall Street is ridonkulous. I have been joking for months that I need to print up some panties that say “THIS IS NOT WALL STREET,” because the very real assault on reproductive rights and the humanitarian crisis that has ensued is but one strong example of how not every urgent problem facing our society can be blamed on a banker. And these issues of inequality that can’t be blamed on Gordon Gekko are not a ‘distraction.’
After admiring Bernie for some time, I transitioned to full-fledged #BernOut a few weeks ago. The wagging finger while Hillary speaks; the comments about her ‘ambition’ and ‘qualifications’ that working women know all too well; the lack of support and visibility for critical races down the ticket. He has not been visibly cultivating relationships with women’s organizations, more often picking fights with them. Bernie has a gender blindspot and it’s big enough that you can drive several semis full of pushy, underpaid, and undervalued women behind him.
It is for these reasons I vom in the back of my throat a little every time I hear the suggestion that Bernie is the figurehead for the future of the progressive movement. I am tired of having white people with dicks lead the thing that gets to be called progressive, while women and people of color who try to break into the top leadership roles are painted as ‘big money’ or ‘establishment’ or ‘under-qualified.’
I am tired of seeing so many supremely qualified women and people of color doing substantive work for the white people with dicks, but never getting promoted to the public seat when the boss retires. There is always another white man who steps in to the wild applause of the good old boys, and hardworking women waiting for the turn that will never come within the party infrastructure.
There is always a 100 percent pro-choice rating for the new guy to brag about and pivot (and by the way, when 100 percent pro-choice rating means someone who never apologies for abortion and refuses to vote for any bill or budget that bans abortion funding, you let me know, and I’ll decide those words mean something other than ‘garden-variety, weak-kneed Democrat.’). The newspapers will quote economic justice advocates, who are almost always white men, who suggest that EMILY’s List and other efforts to elect women into office aren’t really progressive and kind of a relic of the past.
It’s been a few years since I was invited to an event with “the candidates’ wives” but almost all the candidates who make it past my local primaries are still white men. I’m done.
Frankly I cared and still care more about the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat in Maryland than I do the presidential. Last night Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) lost to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). In her concession speech she said that Maryland is about to have “an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state.” This is a problem all over the country.
And now that Bernie Sanders is going to lose, it’s time for him to look around and consider his second act. Howard Dean took his loss and gave us a Democratic majority at the federal level — and while that group was far from perfect, it enabled huge legislative accomplishments.
Bernie is not that guy. He is the guy that is about building not a majority, but a movement. (Which is no knock, it takes all kinds.) Once the electoral pressures subside it’s time for him to expand that movement.
Just imagine if Bernie continued going around the country after he drops out of the presidential race, this time embarking on a listening tour. If Bernie would take the time to listen to the lived experiences of people who suffer from identity-based discrimination, and bake it into his wonderfully feisty approach to income inequality — just imagine how much better the progressive movement could be.
I don’t just want Bernie to fight for the soul of the Democratic Party; I want him to fight for the soul of a progressive movement that continues to second-tier the concerns of women and people of color. Rightly or wrongly, he is a white man and he will be more listened to when he raises these concerns. After Bernie Sanders drops out he should take on identity-based discrimination with humility, listening tours, and his trademark passion.
I appeared as a panelist on this week’s To The Contrary, and discussed young women in politics, women and the draft, and football and feminism.
You can watch a video of the show here:
For decades, Cosmopolitan magazine has been enthusiastically converting the mainstream, feel-bad-about-yourself mythology of girl-meets-guy into a mainstream, monthly infection. You’re supposed to only want guys (duh), and be validated through men (it’s so exciting!), and make yourself pretty so he’ll like you (eat a smaller lunch and tone those glutes!) and taking this matter into your own hands is empowering (and here are some bonus sex tips to help make him moan, because the sex is about the pleasure, or at least his).
Telling women that male-dominated workplaces are great places to score a date is taking this yuck to a whole new level.
From The Best Places to Meet a Guy (emphases mine):
Hot spot: A Fortune 500 or tech company
The draw: How’s this for a fab job perk? Twenty-two percent of people met their spouses or long-term significant others on the job, according to a survey by Vault.com. But all careers are not created equal, guy-wise. If you’re searching for a new position, consider working for either a Fortune 500 company (75 percent of incoming full-time associates at top banks, many of which are in the Fortune 500, are guys) or a tech company (men make up 75 percent of the technology workforce, according to the National Science Foundation). Hint: Once you’re in, join the office Super Bowl pool.
Find it near you: Visit hoovers.com for a list of companies. The following Fortune 500 companies have an impressive guy-to-girl ratio:
- California: 75 percent of new hires, as of their latest report, at Cisco Systems, an Internet networking business, are male; cisco.com.
Hot spot: A political rally or campaign
The draw: The hottest political organization these days is the Save Darfur Coalition, which is dedicated to ending the genocide in Darfur, the western region of Sudan in Africa. Stars like George Clooney are getting involved in the movement, and the number of members (read: smart, passionate guys) is rapidly increasing. If you feel fired up for the cause too, check out upcoming rallies, vigils, roundtables, and concerts. Or join a political campaign. The best part: Many senatorial and gubernatorial campaign teams are male-dominated. The atmosphere is intense (you’re all working hard toward a goal: the candidate winning), and there’s a set end point (the election), which lends itself to a live-for-the-moment attitude that’s conducive to love connections.
Yes! This is real! ZOMFG. Cosmopolitan is proudly presenting the glass ceiling as an aphrodisiac. Why rage against the machine when you can run your leg alongside it? You are being encouraged to research companies run by dudes not so you can demand answers or take away your business (which would be totally valid ways to seek empowerment), but so you can seek a job for the purpose of finding someone to bang you. Not once is it suggested that seeking a job in one of these boys clubs might be about advancing your career or the status of women (which would also be totally valid ways to seek empowerment). Nor is it suggested there is something wrong with these ratios.
But wait! Not only are men doing it pretty much by themselves in the big companies for the big salaries, they are also doing it in politics. It’s even “the best part” that “many senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns are male-dominated.”
While holding individual women and their sexual choices responsible for the second-class status of women is not a feminist activity, we have every right to be concerned that Cosmopolitan is suggesting that women should go into male-dominated workspaces on the prowl for mating partners. This kind of sludge serves to reinforce sexist ideas about women in the workplace and suggests that we might be working hard and showing enthusiasm not because we care or want to get promoted, but because we want to get laid. All while managing to simultaneously avoid addressing and also celebrate the skirts off the power differential of a man pursuing a more junior woman in the male-dominated workspace.
Cosmopolitan calls itself a “cheerleader for millions of fun, fearless females who want to be the best they can be in every area of their lives.” In 2014 it’s hard to believe the best we can be is holding fewer than one in 10 of the top-earner slots in Fortune 500 companies and maybe also taking it on the copy machine.
If you would like to see Cosmopolitan stop turning “Lean In” into “Sleaze In,” drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.