Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thank You Arizona State University!

We had a fantastic event this month at ASU. Here's a picture of the crew of us--this time we were grateful to be joined by Maria Teresa Kumar, of Voto Latino, and Brittany Collins, an amazing ASU student.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Women and Power: Connecting Across Generations

Check out Marianne Schnall and Patty Goodwin's piece on intergenerational feminism in anticipation of the Omega Institute's upcoming conference. I'll be speaking, along with Helen Thomas, Gloria Steinem, and many, many more. After introducing the three of us, they write:
So what do these three women have to talk about? Are they on the same page or at each other's throats? The cross-generational cartoon stereotype depicts a 60-something, white, man-hating, frizzy-haired feminist sneering at a spoiled, bulimic, twenty-something slacker. And some pundits would have you believe there's a vast generational divide, with not only divergent life experiences, but rivers of misunderstanding and resentment flowing through it.

But Courtney Martin doesn't entirely agree, and points to the media spreading common misconceptions about younger women including "the notion that my generation, the younger generation, is entitled, and ungrateful, or out of touch with what feminism means. That is something I hear bandied about a lot, particularly in mainstream media spheres."

Monday, July 13, 2009

The (Happy) Female Breadwinner

Check out this interesting podcast by Michelle Haimoff where she interviews Judith Rosenthal, a financial advisor and the primary breadwinner of her family, about the way female breadwinners are depicted in the media, the cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity, and the myth of "having it all."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Call it a He-Cession

Check out my column, largely inspired by our conversation Saturday, on men's involved in feminist activism. An excerpt:
The truth is our fates are inextricably tied together, not running on two parallel tracks. When men lose their jobs -- and, indeed, they have at a higher rate than women recently -- American families all suffer, just as they suffer when women are paid unequal wages or fired for missing work to take care of sick kids or an elderly parent. Newsflash: Men aren't from Mars and women aren't from Venus; we're all struggling to make healthy, meaningful lives on the same damn planet -- and it's time we started acting like it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Photos from Dads, Dudes, and Doing It

It was sort of emotional for each of us in different ways to be talking about our fathers. I was missing mine who died almost 15 years ago, Deborah's pregnancy hormones exacerbated her weepiness when relating her own childhood to the twins she and Marco will soon welcome into the world, Courtney talks about how her father resigned from an all-male club when she was born because he didn't want to belong to an organization that wouldn't allow his daughter to be a member, and Kristal riveted us with her touching story of having used her newly hatched journalism skills to track down the father who had been absent from her life almost since birth and persuading him to attend her graduation with a PhD at age 27. Here we're answering questions after we told our own stories at the Brooklyn Museum yesterday. L-R: Gloria, Deborah, Kristal, Courtney

Here's Elizabeth Sackler, whose vision and philanthropy made this event possible.

Signing books afterward. We appreciate everyone who attended on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Let us know your afterthoughts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gearing up for Dads, Dudes, and Doing It with Notes from Daddy Land

In preparation for our Dads, Dudes, and Doing It event coming up, I wanted to share some posts from The Man Files -- a regular feature by author/blogger Shira Tarrant -- over at the group blog I edit, Girl w/Pen. The latest entry, titled "Stuff Hallmark Doesn't Put on Father's Day Cards," is by Men Speak Out contributor, school social worker, community activist, lecturer, and writer and a founder of The Real MEN’s Project, Dani Meier.

As Shira explains, Dani writes about his experience as both a custodial and non-custodial parent. This stuff doesn’t fit neatly on a Hallmark card, but it should! It comes from the heart and speaks to so many, whether we are fathers, have fathers, or watch our children’s relationships with their own dads unfold.

You can read Dani's post right here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thank You Princeton!

We had a great event last weekend at Princeton, despite having to compete with raucous reunion festivities. (It turns out that Princeton alumni are very serious about their reunion-ing.)

Some of the great questions/insights that audience members brought up included:

What happens when women become more financially or professionally successful than their male partners? One woman in the audience feels that the contrast cost her a marriage!

We need to expand the work/life conversation beyond "get as much help as you can" in privileged circles. How can we see it as a collective fight, not a personal failure?

Are women biologically predisposed to want to spend time with their babies in a way that feminists don't feel comfortable admitting? An OB-GYN assures everyone that no woman can possibly know how she'll feel (in terms of desires around staying home or getting back to work), until she's in that post-birth moment.

Perhaps the 1970s feminist movement was not as cohesive as it is somehow portrayed to younger women. Would love to talk more about this...

Thanks to the amazing organizers, Amada, Jennifer, and Chloe, and all of those who came out for the event!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dads, Dudes, and Doing It at the Brooklyn Museum June 20 @ 2pm

Is the relative explosion of Mr. Moms proof that things are finally changing or is it just a temporary sign of the dire economic times?

In a world that is finally waking up to women’s sexual fluidity, are men going to be left out in the cold? And, why are some women still attracted to assholes, in reality, if they claim to be so interested in sensitive men, in theory?

When are more men going to care about work/family balance? And what the heck is the role of men in the feminist movement, anyway?

These are just some of the questions that your WomenGirlsLadies team with tackle in this provocative discussion at the Brooklyn Museum right in time for Father’s Day. Representing the perspectives of four unique generations, we’ll wrestle with women’s ever-evolving relationship with the men in their lives—fathers, partners, and sons—and the men out in the world—from Rush Limbaugh to Barack Obama.

Here's some of our recent audience reaction: Shelly Heller, Director of the Women’s Leader Program at George Washington University calls us, “engaging, clear, direct, and often extremely personal,” and Maya Wainhaus, Program Coordinator at 92YTribeca, says “The panelists left the whole room feeling energized and ready to take charge!”

Come and join the long overdue conversation, with special guests Susan Faludi, Jessica Valenti, and Trey Ellis among others. The event is FREE but bring your voice!

We're thrilled that the event is co-sponsored by the Women’s Media Center, 85 Broads, and the National Council for Research on Women too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gearing Up for Princeton

As we're preparing for our much-anticipated appearance at Princeton's alumni weekend, (Saturday, May 30, 4pm in McCosh 10) we've been mulling over some of the most important questions these days concerning women and work/the economy. Here are a few we've come up with:
What was the climate for women and work when and where you were born, and how did that inform the way you grew up thinking about your own possibilities?
What do you think is peculiar about your generation's relationship to work and/or money? What's media hype (i.e. my generation=entitled) and what's accurate?
What is the unfinished business of feminism, esp, when it comes to work and family issues?

Holler if you've got other suggestions.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bea Arthur: How One Powered Women Spoke Up

[Note: I'm sharing this article I wrote about Bea Arthur's passing here because the character she played on "Maude" was such a classic depiction of the generation of feminists during the 1970's. Of course, those sophisticated women like Maude in New York were way ahead of me and my peers out in West Texas. Still, the fundamental human stories have always been the same across time and generations. You can see additional video and photos here.]

4/25/09 Actress Bea Arthur died today at age 86.

She was a Tony-winning stage actress when Norman Lear saw her and tapped her for a guest role in his famous "All in the Family" series, where she played Edith Bunker's mouthy liberal cousin Maude who was always at odds with Edith's conservative husband Archie. "Maude" soon became a sitcom of its own, and Arthur's character continued taking on the significant social and political issues of the day--speaking up about all those subjects we were warned against bringing up in polite company, from sex and infidelity to politics and activism to death and depression.

It was the mid-1970's at the height of second wave feminism, and if ever there were proof that feminists have a sense of humor, it was in Maude's way of playing even the most serious of subjects for laughs.

In this classic exchange between Maude her husband Walter, who arrives home to find Maude distraught, the show dealt with abortion--a first on a major sitcom to do so forthrightly.

Walter: Maude, did you wreck the car again?

Maude: Did you hear that, everybody? DID YOU HEAR THAT? Not "Maude, are you sick?" Or "Maude, are you unhappy?" Or even, "Maude, are you pregnant?" No, "Maude, did you wreck the car again?"

Walter: You're right, darling. You're absolutely right. I'm sorry. So tell me, are you sick?

Maude: No.

Walter: Are you unhappy?

Maude: No.

Walter: Are you pregnant?

Maude: Yes.

They go through all aspects of the decision process. Maude, already a grandmother in her late 40's, decides she should not go through with the pregnancy and has an abortion. Watch the video to see how her daughter speaks of abortion as it should be.

It was a little slice of realism rarely seen today, when the option of abortion is so often pushed again into the virtual back room and rarely mentioned in pop culture; the movie "Knocked Up", for example, uses the euphemism "rhymes with smashmortion" rather than mention this--the most common women's surgical procedure--by name. And soap operas are famous for those well-timed miscarriages that avoid the sticky subject of real women making reproductive choices, while leaving the full drama of mistimed pregnancies available to their script lines.

After "Maude", Arthur had a chance to open up for public discussion yet one more previously off-limits topic: aging, especially the issues women face aging in a youth-oriented culture. She played Dorothy on "The Golden Girls," the NBC comedy hit that ran from 1985-92. The show explored the lives of three older women sharing a household in Miami with Dorothy's widowed mother, Sophia (played by Estelle Getty). Besides Arthur's character, there was Betty White playing the ditsy Rose and Rue McClanahan as the sexy senior, Blanche.

Arthur won Emmys for both "Maude" and "Golden Girls". She was inducted into Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2008, an honor well-deserved for her lifetime of extraordinary work.

But personally, I am most grateful to Bea Arthur, (and of course to Norman Lear and everyone associated with "Maude") for bringing the reality of unintended pregnancy and abortion out of the back room and into the real human story where it belongs. May she rest in peace and her memory be a blessing to us all.


Monday, April 27, 2009


Check out this wonderful intergenerational feminist blog, 72-27, by a couple of Christian women. There is incredible depth and breadth in the topics they discuss. An excerpt:
By making known what is happening to our sisters around the world, we may be doing our little part to pull up the shades, let in the light, and increase awareness of how much work we have yet to do to help girls and women dream their dreams and experience the light of education and empowerment. And we need men to help, too. Women can’t do it alone, because we’re all in this together. Jesus told us not to hide our light under a bushel, so we need to spread the light we’ve been given.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Princeton or Bust!

Good news all you Jersey gals and guys--we're headed to Princeton University on May 30th for the alumni festivities. We'll keep you posted on timing and exact location. Thanks to Amada, at the Women's Center, for making it all happen!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The End fo the Women's Movement

Check out Courtney's take on Unfinished Business, an intergenerational event at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. An excerpt:
In today's climate of shaky economics, smaller and smaller subcultures, and lightning-speed information, a feminism based on picket lines and in-person consciousness-raising groups is next to impossible. I wish that we could all come to terms with that. Instead of pining over days far gone or talking about how we might resurrect them, we could put our energy into supporting the good work on the ground going on right now -- the Young Women's Empowerment Project in Chicago, the Student Action with Farmworkers in Durham, Exhale after-abortion counseling in Oakland, Domestic Workers United in New York, and more. We could revise our expectations -- not a few giant fireworks but so many little sparks; not worldwide protests but effective public-awareness campaigns and advocacy and service provision; not a unified body but a courageous and creative culture.

And don't miss Debbie's great live blogging of the event.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sisterhood is Powerful for a New Generation

Chloe Angyal, a senior at Princeton who attended our panel last week, was inspired to write this op-ed about sisterhood and feminism for the Christian Science Monitor. Congratulations Chloe! Here's an excerpt:
Everywhere you look, young women are taking action to carry on the work done by previous generations, and not just in the area of reproductive rights. Women are reading, writing, blogging, voting, protesting, educating, speaking, and working to build on the progress – political, legal and cultural – that older women have worked so hard to achieve. As women we all need to remember that we're on the same side.

That's what sisterhood is, and it can be a powerful thing.

That's not to say women shouldn't support other women simply because they happen to have the XX chromosome in common. But in order to ensure continued progress for women, older women need to form relationships with younger women instead of fearing us or belittling us. Even when we don't agree, women need to engage with one another's ideas and intellects, instead of going for the modern-day jugular of appearance and weight. We won't always agree, but we must always treat each other with respect, and we must applaud, and listen to women when they speak out in a world that seeks to silence them.

Check out Chloe's great blog too!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feminism and the New Great Depression

Check out Elisabeth Garber-Paul's take on the panel over at RH Reality Check! An excerpt:
Looks like feminism’s at a crossroads, and there’s a very surprising group that could hold the key to the future of the movement: men. (So does this mean I should go buy my goldfish a new bike?)

Reflections on Last Night's Great Event

Thanks to everyone who came out last night for our lively discussion about feminism, work, and the economy. The 92Y people made us feel right at home, creating a beautiful event complete with fun music and seamless visuals. There were so many interesting points brought up, both by our panelists (if we do say so ourselves) and the amazing audience--which was refreshingly intergenerational with plenty o' great men representin'. Here are just a few of the things that I (Courtney) will be chewing on for awhile:

* There is an opportunity, this economic downturn, for all sorts of gender shake-up. When we're forced to recognize that old styles of leadership and assumptions about gender roles are no longer valid, we can get even the most reluctant folks to try a more enlightened, equal approach. The media coverage of this phenomenon has been totally unsatisfying (dads who cook! women who work! what a revelation!), but in truth, there is something interesting going on.

* American workplaces won't change--in policy or culture--until men take this on as their own issue just as women have for years. If they can't do it under this big tent movement called feminism, maybe they can invent their own way of owning the issues. I recommend John DeGraff's Take Back Your Time organization as one way for men to test the waters.

* When older women are happy with younger women, they refer to them as empowered. When they're irritated, they call us entitled. The real meaning of entitlement is "a belief that one is deserving of certain privileges or rights." Sounds like what feminism had in mind all along, no?

* The word "choice," as you might imagine, came up an awful lot. Gloria Feldt, who is part of the ungeneration and has been through a lot of life, gets irritated when women lament how difficult it is to have so many choices. Debbie Siegel, 40-years-old and facing lay off woes with her husband, talked about men being in a unique position to choose how they want to remake masculinity in this age of uncertainty. Elizabeth Hines, in her early 30s and 9 months pregnant, talked about how it never seemed like there was a "choice" to be had in her family. Women worked through motherhood, no question about it. I am really interested in the idea that feminism is too often cast as heroism instead of self-respect. In other words, it's been perverted to meant that you choose yes on everything, rather than carefully choosing autonomy, health, fulfillment, and yes, family, if that's what you want. I think our outlandish expectations for ourselves mixed with that sense so many women have that only they can make the dinner, have the talk with their teenage daughter, clean up the living room etc. well enough, perpetuates this sense of never being enough, either in work or family.

We'd love to hear if you attended--what were your take-aways?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Join Us for a Fresh Conversation!

Young women don’t know anything about the history of the women’s movement, or what’s still at stake. They want to be the CEO of the company after a month of making copies, even in this failing economy!

Older women can’t let go of their leadership positions! I tend to just look to older men in the company to mentor me because then I can avoid all the weird jealousy and judgment that comes from older women.

Sound familiar? Too often finger-pointing statements like these are declared by frustrated leaders by the water cooler and back and forth via email by younger women sick of invisibility. With all the important work to do, it is time that women of all ages talked and listened to one another instead of rehashing the same cliquish complaints in isolation. It is time that we reopen a dialogue about women’s lives, power, entitlement, and empowerment. Gloria Feldt, Elizabeth Hines, Deborah Siegel, and Courtney E. Martin—four diverse, feminist authors and activists representing generations from Generation Y to pre-Baby Boomer—will do just that in honor of Women’s History Month on. Come and join the long overdue discussion, co-sponsored by the Women's Media Center and 85 Broads.

When: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 @ 7pm

Where: The 92nd Street Y-Tribeca, 200 Hudson Street

Some Choice Pics From Kansas City!

Gloria demonstrating that trademark enthusiasm.

Courtney signing books.

Kristal talking about the depiction of working women and welfare.

Work and Life: An Intergenerational Conversation

Check out our brand new piece, in honor of Women's Day, over at the Women's Media Center. An excerpt from Gloria's wonderful take:
Where do you life?

Isn’t that one of the identifying questions people ask new acquaintances? The four of us—feminists spanning five decades—might answer by describing the physical housing we find for ourselves in each of our generational life cycles. But in a larger sense, a generation views the world from where it “lives” and interacts uniquely with such circumstances as the current economic recession.

Deborah has just turned 40. She and her husband will soon look to buy a home larger than the one-bedroom they own, while trying to have their first child. Marco’s job was recently eliminated; still, at the midpoint of life, they can reasonably assume that investments will regain their worth and better income-earning days lie ahead.

Deborah’s two years older than I was when my youngest graduated from high school.

Elizabeth, 33, is pregnant with her first child, due in April. She and her partner Jessica rented a two-bedroom apartment two years ago because they planned to have children. Next they want to buy a larger place, possibly in suburbia, though the economy gives them pause.

Same sex couples would never have lived together openly, let alone get to experience the joys of children, in 1958. That’s when my Aunt Ida, bless her, died and left me $550 in savings bonds she’d bought from her meager department store clerk salary—exactly what my then-husband and I needed for the down payment on our tract house on Bonham Street in Odessa, Texas. (“Friday Night Lights” fans, that’s a block from Permian High School; yes, my children graduated from the mighty Mojo.)
And Courtney, our 29-year-old millennial, bought her first home last year. Her long-term significant other recently moved in with her, but not until she’d followed her mother’s advice to live alone for some years first.

I’m 67. Like most women from the post-WWII cohort, I was married with three children and keeping house, not building a career, in my twenties. Where Courtney wants work-life balance, I just wanted to work—and not in a “help wanted, women” tagged job. Even women with jobs couldn’t get credit without male co-signers. Buy a house? Laughable. Those injustices made the personal political for me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Courtney on the 50th Anniversary of Barbie

As Barbie turns 50 this year, and I turn 30, it seems an opportune time to reflect on just how much, or how little, Barbie really causes problems for little girls' self-image.

Here's the received, feminist wisdom: Barbie's freakishly tiny waist and history of self-abasement (most famously in 1992 when she said, "Math class is tough!") influences girls to have impossible standards for ideal beauty and underestimate their own intelligence.

My own mother, a second-wave feminist and therapist to boot, tried to minimize Barbie's ominous presence in my life to no avail. I would beg, steal, and borrow just to get one of those stiff plastic ladies into my hot little hands.

And here I am, a couple decades later – happy with my curves, convinced of my own intelligence, and unabashedly feminist.

Read the rest here.