Category: Feminism


Time to Be Human: Gender Liberation and the Creation of a New Culture

28th April

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 »


Akin and the Medieval Worldview of the Right

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Culture, Feminism, Gender, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized, women. No Comments

29th August

As I picked my jaw up off the floor after hearing Rep. Todd Akin’s now infamous statement that women’s uteruses have the magical power to resist impregnation in the case of rape, I wondered, “Where could he have gotten that idea?” Laura Helmuth, writing for Salon.com’s XXfactor, noted that his “statement was a crystallization of Akin’s worldview: sexist, blame-shifting, and profoundly ignorant.”

Then it clicked for me — yes, it’s a worldview but in a much deeper way than Helmuth realizes. The Onion hit the nail on the head when one of their “experts” noted that “It’s almost as if these people are unaware that the Enlightenment, the scientific revolution, various civil rights movements, and the entirety of social progress over the previous several centuries even occurred.”

That’s right. Akin’s views are positively medieval. I mean this literally. Medieval means prerational. And the problem is that rationality, the capacity to … Read More »


Happiness and Having It All

13th August

Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s recent article in the Atlantic,“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” has once again raised in public a question that has been privately vexing women for the past several decades (…or longer): How can we pursue our talents and contribute to culture significantly and be the devoted mothers that so many educated women want to be?

How do we slay this dragon? Slaughter, who should get many kudos for her frank presentation of the whole megillah of this dilemma for women at the highest echelons, falters here. Sure, I agree when she says that we need new values to make this work. But which values? The tricky thing is that there are two competing value sets from the two spheres of modern life: public (business and politics) for men and private (children and home) for women. The private sphere’s system … Read More »


Gloria Steinem & Sheryl Sandberg: Different Revolutions for Women?

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Feminism, Leadership, women. 1 Comment

10th April

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 »


Women’s History Month? What about “Women Making History Month”?

13th March

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 »



SlutWalks: Feeling Free vs. Being Free

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Culture, Feminism, Women's liberation. 20 comments

15th October

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 »



The Puzzle of Postmodern Women’s Leadership

19th April

“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 »


For the 100th Anniversary of Int’l Women’s Day

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Culture, Feminism, Uncategorized, women, Women's liberation. 1 Comment

8th March

As our sisters in Egypt risked their lives by marching in Tahrir Square today, it made me think about those of us in the West who have already won the right to walk where we please, say what we want, and pretty much do want we want with our lives. Even so, the changes here have been relatively recent, and the patterns in our psyches to take the subordinate position and to hold onto our sense of having been wronged, victimized, are still so strong. Somehow I can’t help but think that our sisters in Egypt would want us to step beyond these patterns and take up the responsibility that comes with opportunity. We are very much missing at the top.

So, while I find the video below very powerful–and realize that many women even in the West are struggling for … Read More »


A Feminist who has a Male Spiritual Teacher?

25th March

Fourteen years ago, I was forty years old, had recently received my doctorate from Harvard where I’d worked with Carol Gilligan in a small research collective that was charting new developmental pathways for girls and women, and had co-authored a bestselling book about how to transform the mother-daughter relationship in the hopes that the next generations of women could grow into fullness and power. While I couldn’t say that it was consciously intentional, my life was an almost systematic search for the keys that would unleash new potentials in women, and between women and men, that would transform our culture. I started with feminist activism and consciousness raising, moved to psychotherapy, tried assertiveness and other forms of skill-building training, and then to the dynamics of human development. Where was the lynchpin? I asked. How could true partnership and equality between the sexes become a living reality? … Read More »


In Honor of the Extraordinary, Courageous, and Obstreperous Mary Daly

Posted by Elizabeth Debold in Blog, Culture, Feminism, women, Women's liberation. 1 Comment

14th February

I’ve been very remiss in not noting Mary Daly’s passing on January 6, 2009. The New York Times did a very respectful obituary, noting the significance of her contribution to feminist and religious thought. Daly, in case you don’t know her, was a powerful theologian. One of the first women to study theology and, from the inside of a Roman Catholic institution, to take apart the dominant idea of God as male. Her 1973 classic, “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation,” blew the Church doors off and sent a fresh wind through the old sacraments. I was actually surprised at the respect that the Times showed to her–because Daly, a radical lesbian feminist, pushed her points so far that she made it easy to be dismissed by the status quo. But that would be a mistake–anyone … Read More »





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