The day after my very first appearance on New York cable TV—it was the 80s, so cable was new and small—I got a message at my office at the National Organization for Women where I was VP. It was from a well-known Dr. Oz-type doctor who did health reports on one of the big TV networks. I had no idea who he was, but my colleagues were all excited, thinking that this could be a real break for us to reach a bigger audience. He had seen my appearance on the local cable program, where I was speaking about women’s rights and equality, and he wanted me to call him.
I was nervous, but I called the number at the TV network that he gave me. It was his private line and he picked up the phone himself. As … Read More »
In the middle of nothing—that is, nothing but sand stretching in every direction—there is a peculiar oasis. It has huge palm trees with thick rough trunks and wild leafy tops placed in a grid: six by six. No oasis anywhere in the desert has palm trees that grow in a grid like a Cartesian plane. But here at New York University (NYU)-Abu Dhabi, this oasis of sorts is both the center of a contemporary university campus and the perfect metaphor for the unique type of global education that the university offers. Is this the kind of global education that will bring together the next generation globally? I’m not sure.
I was visiting NYU-Abu Dhabi as a stopover to visit my mentor, Carol Gilligan, and her husband Jim, on the way home from a visit to India. The two contexts, side-by-side, present … Read More »
The United Nations declared 1976-1985 the Decade of Women, which created an international consensus on the importance of women’s political and social equality. The African Women’s Decade began in 2010. And in the United States, analysts have called 1992, 2012, and 2013 the Year of the Woman. For the last forty-plus years, since the student revolts of the ‘68 generation, media pundits, activists, and cultural savants have repeatedly announced that women have toppled male hegemony. Recent books, even those written by men such as The Athena Doctrine, explain that women’s ways of thinking or leading will lead to greater success in our highly interdependent, networked world.
It’s now women’s time. Finally. After many, many millennia of male domination, patriarchy is dying and women are stepping forward. Let’s heave a big sigh of relief and embrace the new era of women….
Well, I … Read More »
Last month — Women’s History Month- – I was struck by an exchange between Sheryl Sandberg and Gloria Steinem at the Women in the World Conference because I felt it captured important generational difference among feminists. Business Insider reported that Sandberg asked Steinem if we’re in the midst of a stalled revolution for women. In other words, since the late-1960’s, women have seized opportunities and moved into all arenas of public life, but the percentage of women at the top has stayed between 15-18% for years. In no sector of public life — including the nonprofit arena — have women reached even 20% of the top positions consistently. To Sandberg, that was a sign of being stuck. But not to Steinem. Steinem argued that women are “at a critical mass stage” and getting more resistance. She further argued that revolutions create new kinds of work … Read More »
March is Women’s History Month. Doesn’t that sound dreadfully boring, like some required course from college? These thirty-one days actually commemorate women’s courageous struggles for self-determination and justice but with that almost academic label on it, it all seems rather, well, passé. History, obviously, is all in the past. So, what if we re-named March “Women Making History Month”? Because this month in 2012, we certainly have some history-making to do.
These placid and well-intentioned commemorations blunt the restless spirit that we are supposed to be celebrating. It’s the same with International Women’s Day, March 8. We note this day in history because of a series of revolts in the first decade of the 20th century by women garment workers who went on strike against brutal working conditions. In the former Soviet bloc countries, this day morphed from being a rallying … Read More »
When you think about women and spiritual practice, what pops into your mind? Leggy ladies in tights doing a downward dog? Wafty women in white flowing robes dancing among flickering candles? Pop cultural images of women interested in spirituality often imply that the goal of spiritual practice for women is to become hyperfeminine. (Click for a send up of the “Yoga Girl” image.) Yoga or sacred dance are beautiful, and we certainly need more beauty in the world. And yoga can lead to significant transformation—the inspiring story of Ana Forrest is just one testament to that—but too few of us set our sights on real, tangible, spiritual evolution as the goal of our practice. Becoming more fit and calm and lovely is fine. But becoming more femme is hardly a transformation that’s going to rock the world. As Ken Wilber … Read More »
In January, Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti made a gaffe that has sparked a worldwide protest among young women and their supporters. Sanguinetti was speaking about women’s safety at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School when he suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” There you have it: that old canard that women provoke rape and sexual assault. (A colleague told me that overalls happen to be the garment that attracts rapists most often–I don’t know if it’s true or where she heard that but apparently it’s because they are easy to get off quickly. Not because they are so alluring…) Two women in Toronto responded immediately–calling for a “SlutWalk” to protest the prevalence of blame-the-victim attitudes that make women’s sexuality such an area of inner and outer conflict. The idea has caught … Read More »
This past weekend, I had the pleasure to meet two teen girls adopted from China by friends of mine. The girls are poised between childhood and adulthood where the big questions—who am I? What am I going to make of my life?—are looming. During a conversation, someone mentioned something about “girl brains.” The phrase went by quickly, and I almost didn’t notice it. Then one of the girls asked directly: “Are the differences between the sexes biological or cultural?”
After our conversation, I began to wonder: how does this popular notion that women and men have different brains affect these girls’ ambitions, hopes, and dreams? Despite all of the celebration of how great the female brain is—how it will be much more useful in the world of the future—it seemed that she had already begun to wonder if she had gotten … Read More »
A few news events have caught my eye this past week—particularly, the Orthodox Jewish newspaper that photoshopped Hillary Clinton out of the iconic Situation Room photo and The Atlantic Monthly’s report “Danger: Falling Tyrants” by Jeffrey Goldberg on the move toward democracy in the Middle East. But it was an email exchange with one of our former editors/writers, Maura O’Connor, who is reporting from Afghanistan where she’s embedded among US troops, that made me think about these events in the context of our responsibility, as sophisticated postmodern individuals who are living in a pluralistic global society. We often literally brush up against those who have very different worldviews—radically different ways of understanding reality and human relationship.
Maura told me that she and a friend, another young American female journalist, were talking about whether to wear headscarves in … Read More »
“My generation, really sadly, is not going to change the numbers at the top. They are just not moving. We are 50% of the population, in my generation there will not be 50% of women at the top of any industry,” said Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg at TEDWomen. I felt a kind of cold chill hearing that. Sandberg is in her early forties–the generation that grew up believing that the world was wide open to women and that nothing could stop us. Now, as she notes, it’s pretty obvious that we’re a long way off from achieving parity at the top in business, politics, law, science, or academics. Estimates say that it will be at least another hundred years before the U.S. Congress is half women and half men. Moreover, in terms of equality at home, Sandberg notes that there has been even … Read More »