Friday, November 14, 2008

Kansas City Rocks!

We had an incredible experience yesterday in Kansas City. First we did a very interactive, intergenerational workshop over at University of Missouri-Kansas City where we met fascinating local women (many of them named Linda?!) from the YWCA, The American Association of University Women, the incredible UMKC Women's Center staff and board, and so many more.

One of the big insights that came up from that experience was a question:
When do we, as feminists, confront sexism directly and when do we deal with it indirectly instead?
It seemed like so many of the experiences and anecdotes that women of all generations brought to the table were focused on this difficult negotiation. In order to get the progress we so desire, do we swallow some of our ire when a sexist guy says something inane? Or is it our responsibility as loud and proud feminists to call him out regardless of the fall out?

As if that conversation wasn't rich enough, we still had the big event to come. Yesterday evening we had a panel in honor of Ruth Margolin, Founding Director of the UMKC Women's Center. There was a huge crowd (300+) in the absolutely beautiful Kansas City Public Library-Plaza Branch. After wine and cheese we migrated into the newly renovated auditorium and got to hear some wonderful words about Ruth Margolin's fiery character. Apparently she was never afraid of being a loud and proud feminist! It was so special to be having our dialogue in honor of her legacy.

The audience brought up a range of issues; everything from women in the military, pay equity, body image, abortion, Clinton's infidelity scandal, Sarah Palin, and racial tensions within feminism were a part of the conversation.

Thanks to all who contributed your insights and questions. And thanks to everyone at UMKC, especially Brenda Bethman, for making this really exquisite event and experience possible! And a special, special thanks to Maria Teresa Petersen, who stepped in for the much missed Deborah Siegel with grace and eloquence. Maria Teresa was fantastic. Check out her organization, Voto Latino, here.

*The Kansas City Star did a great write up of the event. So did The Pitch, Kansas City's weekly, but check out the title! "Meow Mix"? Come on people, this is exactly the point of our panel. When men disagree, it's called a disagreement. When women disagree, it's called a cat fight. Thank goodness we're reclaiming the frame!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We Got to Wear Shades

We've just finished our panel at George Washington's Elizabeth J. Somers Women's Leadership Program and I have to say, we all feel tremendously encouraged by the amazing women we met there and just a bit proud of our own little quartet for prompting such great questions and reflections from the audience. Topics of conversation during the Q&A included: race vs. gender in the election, work/family balance, public policy approaches to rape and sexual assault, "opting out," dealing with anti-feminist crap from insecure boys, beauty standards and their sources, abortion, equality vs. elevating women above men, women in politics, intersection feminism etc.

Thank you to Dean Heller and all those that joined us in the conversation. The future is looking pretty bright...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Washington DC, Here We Come!

As the election heats up and women's role in politics becomes even more important to discuss across the generations, we're headed to the heart of it all for two exciting panels. The first, unfortunately not open to the public, is an evening talk at George Washington University where we will be speaking to the young women and faculty of their wonderful Elizabeth J Somers Women's Leadership Program. We're excited to hear what the community there is thinking and feeling, and to share a bit of our own experiences and passions.

The second stop in DC will be
The Association for Women in Communications Annual Conference where we are the lunchtime keynote address. This will be a fun change of pace for us, as we most often speak with college audiences. We can't wait to hear what professionals of all different ages are thinking about, especially with regard to communication in our complex times. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Airport Reflection

Check out an essay from Kristal that I posted over at feminsting. An excerpt:

They were interested in fashion, and topics such as weight gain, designer
brands, drinking, and parties. Oh, and they hated long flights.

Their conversation got me thinking about women and power. Maybe I was being
too hard on the girls, but I wondered: with the myriad of options available
to them in this day and age of possibility, achievement and access, why were
they missing out?

Why hadn't any of the things feminists had been writing and speaking about
(and living) actually translated into their lives?

Of course there are pea-brained young men out there too. But there was
something about these two women that was especially unsettling: perhaps it
was their profound vulnerability, I thought, in a world that will so quickly
leave them behind.

Or maybe it was the fact that they seemed so disinterested in their own
potential -- their own present, as well as future power.

Or maybe I was just a 40-something old fogy, witnessing that perfectly
normal phase that so many young people go through as they struggle to find
their way into adulthood. I've been there. Maybe they'll pull it together
eventually, I thought, and find their own unique passions.

And when they do, I hope that feminism will be there -- ready to help make
the journey beyond fashion and fake eyelashes, into true power.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Than a Mother-Daughter Debate

Right before heading out to our Harvard panel, I discovered that famed-controversy starter Linda Hirshman had used me as the lead to her latest provocation. Basically, she argued that the woman's vote in this election could be boiled down to a mother-daughter dynamic. Here's a piece I wrote in response, which argues essentially that intergenerational interactions within feminism are most productive, joyful, and fortifying when they acknowledge all of our complexity. I used my disappointing and exciting experiences along the way on our still-building tour as evidence. An excerpt:
I have gained an immeasurable amount from the wise, older women who have challenged my views on this election and other issues within a context of complexity. These women have made me a better thinker, a better writer, a better feminist, and a better human. And because of them, I will not cower, but I promise to be grateful. I will not forget, but I must also move on. I will not be a dutiful daughter, but I promise to be an impassioned, authentic, and brave inheritor.
Thanks to Debbie and Kristal for the encouragement to pen this piece on the way home Saturday morning!

The WGLs Go to Harvard

We're back from our WomenGirlsLadies event at Harvard, orchestrated by the Harvard Women's Center--a center which didn't exist, we learned, until just 2 years ago. Not that Harvard hasn't been in need of this center or anything before then (ahem). Shout outs to Susan Marine, Sandra Ullman, Natasha, Annemarie, Andreas, and the rest of the crew over there for bringing us to town (we had a blast!), but mostly for the important work you do on campus all year long.

We always try very hard to turn the panel (subtitle: A FRESH Conversation about Feminism across Generations) into audience conversations, and after our presentation this time a very interesting Q&A ensued. Courtney is writing about it in her column today over at The American Prospect, so stay tuned.

And ohhh but it's been an interesting week in the land of intergenerational feminist convo around the election! In case you missed it, here's a quick recap:

Amy Tiemann in Women's eNews (with a follow-up on her blog)
Amanda Fortini in New York Magazine
Rebecca Traister in Salon
Linda Hirshman in Slate

Commentary to follow--I'll be doing a podcast this morning over at with my 2cents on it all and promise to post the link.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Feminist Awakening at Age 14

The WGLs as a group do not support the same candidate, but I just had to share this post from 14-year old feminist Samantha French, over at my blog today, Girl with Pen. It begins:

As we all know, the buzz around America’s college campuses is Barack Obama and how he represents change for America. According to the media, he has overwhelming appeal to the country’s so-called “youth.” And it’s true. The phrase “yes we can” is being inhaled faster than pot brownies and Jell-O shots at a frat party. However, what the media seems to be consistently ignoring is the opinions of the country’s real, good old-fashioned, disenfranchised youth: high school students. Who are almost unanimously pro-Hilary.

OK, so I’m dreaming.

As a female freshman in Bard High School Early College, one of New York’s more liberal high schools where nearly two-thirds of the student body are females, there is not huge support for Hillary, which makes me sad. Many people at Bard, both male and female, support Obama because they are “tired of the Clintons” (a notion which they have obviously been fed by their parents. Think about it: the last time a Clinton was in office they were eight at the very most).

At first, I agreed with them. My dad’s a die-hard Obama supporter and so are a lot of my friends. But the turning point came for me when I saw how upset and truly devoted Hillary was to the race after her defeat at the Iowa caucus. The moment that the cameras revealed her sad eyes, I realized that I was seeing in her something rarely seen in any presidential candidate: a human being. While my father continued to be very pro-Obama (re-recording Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” titled, I Want Barak,)—and put pressure on me to agree with him—I felt a connection with Hillary after that night.

Sam is a student at Writopia Lab, a writing enrichment program located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Feminists Gettin' Intergenerational at The New School...

Here's a recap of the intergenerational feminist panel I spoke on last week at The New School, organized by Ann Snitow. (Thank you, Kristen, for that incredibly thoughtful write-up!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

WGL @ The New York Times!

Check out the guest blog Debbie and I did for our favorite gal, Marci Alboher, who runs the Shifting Careers blog over at The New York Times. An excerpt:

DS: I’m noticing that the younger women in our audiences frequently talk about a lack of mentoring at nonprofit organizations. The older women we talk to—the college professors, the nonprofit execs—tell us younger women expect too much from them. Why do you think there seems to be such a disconnect in expectations at this point in time?

CM: I think we were a generation told, “You can be anything!” and we mistranslated it as “I have to be everything.” Our outlandish expectations of our mentors are just a reflection of our outlandish expectation of ourselves. The hardest thing is to find balance between going for your wildest dreams and having reasonable, healthy goals. Any advice?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Intergenerational Feminist Series at

The intergenerational convo continues to heat up over at Jewcy. Check out our third round in the series on this election, feminism, and dog whistles. Don't ask, just read.

Three Generations at SUNY-New Paltz

Here's a shot of yesterday's intergenerational feminist panel at SUNY-New Paltz--Amy Kesselman, Elizabeth Gross, me (Deborah), and Heather Hewett, who graciously organized us all.

It was humbling to share the stage with Amy, a second-wave radical feminist/now historian, who shared a number of zingers herself, including: "Coming out of the 1950s, everything looks like progress." Amy is currently working on the history of women's liberation movement in New Haven and I can't wait to read what she has found. Elizabeth--a very savvy sophomore who turned 20 yesterday and who heads up the only feminist group on campus, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance--spoke beautifully from her heart. (Welcome to the 20s, Elizabeth! The 30s get even better!) We talked a lot about forms of social activism, current attitudes toward political engagement, what issues we'd fight for, and what "the personal is political" still means to women of different ages. And we talked about the role feminism plays in our life. Amy has written how "Feminism saved my life." I talked about how "feminism launched my life." In Elizabeth's words, "Feminism is me." I wished the WGLs could have been there to hear Amy and Elizabeth--they both moved me to my core.

Monday, March 24, 2008

WGL at Eastern Michigan University

WGLs immersed in post-panel conversation with audience members, and signing books!

Deborah to Speak on Panel at New School 3/27

So this week, I'm intergenerational-panel-cheating on my colleagues who have affectionately become known as the WGLs. But when Ann Snitow calls, I jump. And so, I of course said YES to participating on a panel this Wednesday at The New School in celebration of Women's History Month.

Ann is coeditor of The Feminist Memoir Project and a founder of New York Radical Feminists (circa 1969), the group that brought us the Miss America Protest that put women's liberation on the map, and so much more. The panel, "Feminist Generations/Feminist Locations: The Continuing Vitality of Feminist Thought and Action," will take on the state of feminism across generations. Joining Ann and I on Thursday will be:

AI-JEN POO of Domestic Workers United
MEREDITH TAX of Women’s World
(a founder of Boston’s Bread & Roses – 1969)
CLEOPATRA LAMOTHE of Women of Color Collective, Lang
ERICA READE of Moxie, Lang College Feminist Club

When and where, you ask?

66 WEST 12TH ST., ROOM 407
6:30-8 PM

For more info, please contact Soraya Field Fiorio,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Bluest Eye

We had this amazing realization on our tour launch about the book The Bluest Eye by the always deep, complicated, and imaginative novelist Toni Morrison. It turns out that it had a huge impact on three out of the four of us (we've charged Gloria with reading it immediately) and our paths towards feminism(s). Here's a reflection I did on Morrison, her work, and its interaction with feminism over at feministing.
Our realization is complicated, as even Morrison herself doesn't identify with the feminist label and, in fact, loathes it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Student Newspaper Coverage of WGL

Thanks to Lindsay Knake of the Central Michigan Life newspaper who did a great piece on our recent panel at her school. The lede:
Writer Deborah Siegel and the other panelists of "WomenGirlsLadies" are looking to change the way people view feminism.

Notice this great pic, which captures the moment Gloria nailed me with the hardest question of the night about women's voting power. Gees, that lady knows her stuff.

I have to say that Knake's article was a great improvement over the pre-event coverage which lead with the cringe-worthy: "Students can take part in a university-sponsored 'girl talk' tonight." Pass the nail polish and don't you dare freeze my underwear girlies!

But seriously, thanks to everyone at CMU, especially Jill who made it all happen. It was an absolute pleasure!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hello, Mt. Pleasant!

Well, Courtney pretty much summed up our travel adventures yesterday and I got nothin' to add. Except that I think I may soon be offering seminars in the Siegel Slip, as I am more than happy to share my line-busting, rule-breaking tips for the good of well-behavin women waiting unnecessarily in lines at airports across the land. Oh--one more thing. Miss Courtney, tomorrow, *I* call the cute black sweater dress and boots.

Thank goodness our travel misadventures nevertheless got us to Mt. Pleasant this morning, because I loved loved loved our visit to Central Michigan University. The students we spoke to today are amazing, and inspire me. During the day, Gloria and I talked to a group of Honors students about the pressures facing "academically gifted" women, while Kristal and Courtney spoke to a journalism class. After the big evening panel, we asked the audience to fill out forms telling us what they, as younger women, would like to say to older women, and vice versa. And we asked the men in the audience to tell us what they think about feminism, or what they'd like women to hear from them. We'll be posting some of the responses here, and my copanelists will be coposting at their various blogs as well. The responses are just too darn good not to coshare.

For more on today, here's the take from our resident young'un over at feministing. And do check out another intergenerational conversation Miss Courtney is participating in--about the election--over on Jewcy, along with Wendy Shanker and Bitch PhD.

(Heads up Kristal and Gloria: I think Courtney may be intergenerationally cheating on us over there!)

Adventures in Intergenerational Feminism!

Debbie and my insane travel adventure starts at 11am in Boston, ends at 6:30am in Lansing the next morning. In between:



Gut-busting laughter with two other writer ladies; convince train conductor Mr. Dickerson to find us a New York Times when we tell him how cute he is

Train to Newark

Airtrain to Terminal

Wildly understaffed pub-burgers, salad, and fries hit the spot

Flight delayed for totally unknown reasons-sky is a beautiful, clear blue

Sit at counter and argue/coddle/flatter Delta staff until they get us on a flight to Chicago on American; I learn the ways of the Siegel slip (rules do not apply to this woman); team up with Mary Ellen, our friend from Jersey who is also doomed in trying to get to Lansing

Go back to baggage claim to get bags

Convince grumpy American staff to give us tickets

Go through security again, this time we are marked as possible terrorists and asked to go through a special screening; we set off the special alarm and it says EXPLOSIVES in huge red letters; machine is broken; we are not terrorists

American flight is delayed

Receive call from Orbitz TLC that flight from Cincinnati to Lansing was also delayed so we could have just taken that

Fly with the violent taste of warm chocolate chip cookies wafting back from first class

Get to Chicago, see every other hotel shuttle but ours

Get to hotel, go to bed

Get up at 4:45 am, Debbie and I put on the exact same outfit (black dress, tights, black boots)

Barely make the shuttle, airport is mobbed; commence Siegel slip again

United staff spends twenty minutes trying to find us a staple for our tickets

Go through rigorous security again; this time the woman asks us if we would like a private room to be patted down; we consider it, but decide she’s not our type

Get on tiny plane; passengers are rearranged to balance out the aircraft (that tiny)

Get to Lansing and meet Kevin who drives us the hour to Mt. Pleasant

8 moving vehicles, 2 rigorous pat downs, 5 grumpy airline workers, and almost 24 hours later, we arrive

Lots O Intergenerational Political Talk Over at Jewcy

Check out this intergenerational conversation about the election that I'm having--blog style--over at Jewcy with the always gut-busting Wendy Shanker and the always brilliant Bitch Ph.D.

We're at Central Michigan University today, talking to journalism and honors students, lunching with brilliant comparative literature, sociology, and women's studies professors, and looking forward to a great panel tonight. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Generation Me

I wrote this column for the American Prospect Online on my generation and narcissism--a big topic of conversation among frustrated employers in the workplace, disillusioned young people, and everyone in between. It seems that despite the fact that some research confirms that we are more self-focused than previous generations, new research disputes that finding.