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.