A white Republican challenging black students’ right to vote has a 97% success rate at removing these young minority voters from the rolls. Is that what we want for North Carolina?
It is starting to sink in that North Carolina’s new voting laws go way beyond voter I. D.–which is problematic in itself–and lead straight into voter suppression. Now the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state for alleged racial discrimination in the laws. We thought era of poll taxes and bogus literacy tests was over in North Carolina, but now it looks like Justice Department intervention is necessary to keep our moderate Southern state from tumbling into new era of voter suppression.
As the Raleigh News & Observer editorial said today:
After that [Jim Crow era] period of voting restrictions, North Carolina developed a system that encouraged voting by all. It adopted early voting, same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-years-olds and did not require that voters present a photo ID. As a result, North Carolina rose from the bottom 12 states for voter turnout during all of the 20th century to 22nd in 2008 and 11th in 2012, a modern record high for North Carolina.
That election process was good enough to sweep Republicans into large majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and to elect the first Republican governor in 20 years, but Republicans worried that it was too good to keep them there. They sought ways to make voting harder for groups that disproportionately vote Democratic, and they wrapped every gambit into a bill that Gov. Pat McCrory signed, saying it was all about ‘common sense’ safeguards to protect the election process.
I wanted to highlight one cautionary tale that came up this spring and summer. Richard Gilbert is the Chair of the GOP in Pasquotank County, NC. He made big news this summer when The Rachel Maddow Show came to NC and shined her media spotlight on Gilbert and his efforts to kick college students off the voting rolls at one of the nearby schools. He challenged 59 student voters at Elizabeth City State University, a historically-black college founded to train teachers. Gilbert has never brought residency challenges against students at Mid-Atlantic Christian University, a predominantly white college also located in Elizabeth City.
What I didn’t realize until recently is that Gilbert has an astonishing success, as reported by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, via The Progressive Pulse: of the 59 students whom Gilbert challenged, only three appeared before the Board of Elections hearing. These three students had legal representation from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Two of the students were allowed to stay on the rolls, and one of them voluntarily cancelled her registration. So with his 59 challenges, Richard Gilbert had a 97% success rate in having black students removed from the voter rolls. If that is not racial discrimination, I don’t know what is. Imagine the barriers set up for those challenged students, having to come to an 8-hour Board of Elections hearing, ideally with legal representation. The Board of Elections also took students’ failure to appear as “evidence of conduct” that they do not intend to be domiciled where they are registered to vote, which seems very unfair. These challenges could have been factually baseless yet practically effective nonetheless, since only 5% of the challenged students were able to participate in the hearing.
This is exactly the sort of interference that must be stopped. Similar tactics could be used to challenge elderly people, poor people, and others who don’t have the time or resources to mount legal challenges to their voter registration. And, these tactics and others such as election day poll observers (which will also be allowed now in increased numbers) an create a discouraging atmosphere of intimidation. For every challenge, obstacle, or barrier put in the path of voters, how many people will not even show up on election day, or will not be able to wait in long lines to vote? Florida’s election debacles serve as a cautionary tale of what not to do, and yet North Carolina is following down the path of shortening Early Voting just as Florida did.
What is especially scary is that when Richard Gilbert challenged the candidacy of Elizabeth City State College student Montravius King, who was running for city council, Sue Myrick of the conservative John W. Pope Citivas Institute found time in her schedule to attend the meeting. Civitas seems to be studying Gilbert’s tactics, and Gilbert himself says he is ready to “take this show on the road.”Fortunately, Montravius King prevailed in his defense of his residency requirement, which has huge implications for students’ rights to vote, as well as running for elected office. But you can be sure that these challenges will continue.
Attorney General Holder, welcome to North Carolina. We’re need all the legal firepower we can get to restore equal voting rights to our citizens!
Foushee and Tiemann receive votes from NC 23 Senate Executive Committee; Foushee wins on second ballot
My first foray into politics came down to an exciting conclusion last night. At the Senate Executive Committee Meeting, all seven candidates gave brief speeches. Notably, each of us expressed sincere appreciation and respect for the committee, who were handed a very difficult task of appointing a State Senator in a district where the citizens were very interested in having their say. The committee took their work very seriously and we all agree that the process was fair.
After each of us made our three-minute concluding remarks, the committee made its decision about who would replace our revered outgoing State Senator Ellie Kinnaird. The first round of voting was very encouraging: the votes were split evenly between Valerie Foushee and myself! This moment was full of possibility, and honestly blew my mind a little bit. It felt like all my synapses fired at once, and time slowed down as we awaited the final decision. The committee went to confer once more, and made their final decision. When they voted in the second round, all the votes went to Valerie Foushee.
I send my congratulations to Senator-Elect Foushee. I truly like and respect her as a person and a leader. I am taking a couple of days to discern my next steps. Seizing the opportunity to run for this appointment created a unique experience: going from a summer standstill to what felt at times like a “pop quiz primary.” I enjoyed myself and had the opportunity to meet a LOT of people in a short period of time. During the appointment process’ three week sprint, I was able to attend over a dozen community events, from development discussions in Orange and Chatham Counties, to the Bringing the Dream Home/Moral Monday Rally in Chapel Hill, to the Chatham Democrats Unity Breakfast, and worship at Rev. Anthony Davis’ Mitchell Chapel AME Zion church yesterday morning. I hit the ground running on August 19th and just kept going.
I feel encouraged by last night’s voting: I faced the challenge of name recognition, and it was an uphill challenge to seek an appointment to this very important seat as a first-time candidate. Becoming one of two candidates who received votes from the committee feels like strong validation to stay involved.
So this is not an end, but a beginning. I will be working to get more Democrats elected up and down the ticket in 2014, and beyond that, I will explore the best way that I can serve my community.
Thank you to all who supported me, encouraged me, and met me along the way! A special thanks to my family, who are always there for me. Here I was with Michael at the end of the evening, still smiling….
Senate Executive Committee Chair Ted Benson just sent out an email on behalf of the committee while I was writing this post, so I will share that as a close:
Dear fellow Democrat:
We are writing as members of the NC Senate District 23 Executive Committee, recently charged to select a person to complete Senator Ellie Kinnaird’s term. We want to thank you for your comments at our public information session and for your personal contacts with committee members through your calls, emails and in-person discussions. From the moment our committee was tasked with this important assignment we worked diligently to learn about the candidates and to listen to the public.
For the first time in recent history, Republicans control the Governor’s office and both houses of the NC General Assembly. This circumstance made the selection process even more critical, and difficult. The voters will have a chance to express their judgment on Republican leadership in next year’s elections. We are confident that we Democrats can work together to strengthen our party in a way that will serve the interests of all North Carolinians, including the most vulnerable.
We have selected Valerie Foushee to finish Ellie’s term. She will have to go before the voters on May 6, 2014 in the Democratic primary and if she prevails there, she will have to go before the voters again November 4, 2014 in the general election. Ultimately, voters in NC 23 District will decide who best represents you in NC 23, as they should.
We would like to express our appreciation, admiration, and respect for all the candidates. We were blessed to have seven outstanding citizens who are willing to serve in the current political climate. Every candidate has substantial strengths. We would have been well served by any of them.
Now, we need to come together as Democrats to reverse the current efforts to dismantle years of progressive NC policies. Our task was to select one person to fill out the remainder of Sen. Kinnaird’s term. It has been a very difficult decision. We have done our best.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Wanda Hunter, Samantha Cabe, Don Knowles
It would be an absolute honor to succeed Ellie Kinnaird in the North Carolina General Assembly, representing Orange and Chatham counties. These are trying times for North Carolina. The extreme policies enacted by the current Republican majority in the General Assembly do not represent the will of the people. But even now, we have a vital opportunity to reach out to a wide range of voters. I will do all I can to galvanize the Democratic base, independents, and moderates who are looking for an advocate to stand up for their concerns and values in Raleigh.
I have been writing about leadership for the entire life of MojoMom.com, and worked with many community groups and activists. Today I am taking a big next step: I have asked to be considered for the appointment to succeed retiring North Carolina State Senator Ellie Kinnaird.
For years I have hoped that people would wake up to the importance of their state legislatures. Let’s face it, there isn’t too much that excites people about their state government, and it is easy to forget about it when things are going well, but it’s always extremely important. As much as people worry about who represents them in Congress and holds the Presidency, your State Legislature may have a much more direct impact on your everyday life. And this year, we have had a very rude awakening here in North Carolina, as our new Republican majority went on a tear to enact extreme legislation, from cutting public school funding by more than a half billion dollars, to restricting women’s reproductive health care (the “motorcycle abortion law,” that’s us), to hastily passing the nation’s worst voter-suppression laws after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act. Yes, our Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, has literally become the new poster boy for voter suppression.
On the positive side, we have a massive social movement in Moral Mondays spreading across the state (and nation!), with thousands of people showing up to peacefully air their grievances with our elected leaders.
So now the time has for me to step up, and I am throwing my hat into the ring to represent Orange and Chatham counties in the State Senate.
Here is a selection from my letter to the Executive Committee who will make the nomination:
North Carolina has a special spirit: truly friendly people, a creative thread that runs through many aspects of life, high-quality public schools, and beautiful landscapes from the mountains to the ocean, to name a few. All that is being threatened by the extreme actions of the new Republican majority in the General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory. As we now find ourselves fighting for basic civil rights, the hands of time are truly being turned back to an era that I can’t even fathom. I am concerned that North Carolina might become a place that I could no longer recommend as a destination for people from all over the world. I had several people ask me that question this summer, whether they should move to North Carolina, and I told them to come–and help us fight to restore the state’s progressive nature.
I am pro-business and many businesses have thrived here, including Red Hat, where my husband Michael works as the Vice President for Open Source Affairs. I believe business leaders want good schools and clean air and water as much as anyone else, and in fact they depend on top schools and a high quality of life to fill their employee rosters from within North Carolina, as well as recruit top talent to the state.
I believe we need to dedicate ourselves over the next 6-8 years to building a strong Democratic and progressive base in North Carolina: communicating our values and how we can be pro-business without creating policies that crush everyday people, recommitting ourselves to public education, protecting clean air and water, and recruiting and training the next generation of leaders. I have been working on these issues through many channels for years and I would be honored to bring my experience and insights to the North Carolina State Senate, representing the people of Orange and Chatham counties.
It is clear that North Carolina is at its heart a moderate state, one that leans purple and even blue and embraces many progressive values. People want jobs and a good education for their kids, not voter suppression, a repeal of the yacht sales tax, and regressive social policies. We need to keep harnessing the energy of the grassroots to regain power and move the state forward.
Women here in North Carolina are reeling as our state legislature has unleashed a sneak attack against women’s reproductive rights, attaching anti-abortion proposals to bills that were originally about banning foreign laws from being used in NC courts (commonly known as the anti-Sharia law) and motorcycle safety. Yes, motorcycle safety. The General Assembly was supposed to be wrapping up their session as soon as possible, with looming issues of tax reform and the state budget that still need to be finalized, yet the new Republican majority who campaigned on “jobs, jobs, jobs” decided to take on this major social issue at the eleventh hour.
So this issue has been looming large in our minds as hundreds of women have shown up in the chambers of the General Assembly, and thousands have gathered each week for the Moral Monday protests, now approaching their 11th week.
I have been thinking a lot about the abortion debate. I think it is framed all wrong. Our brains are so primed to have a “meet in the middle” approach to our social debates. It’s no secret that the media is pressured to provide “both sides” even on an issue like man-made climate change or vaccine safety—issues on which there is a large preponderance of scientific evidence on one side, and a small number of very persistent dissenters on the other side. Yet even if 99% of climate scientists believe in climate change, most interviews feel obligated to include input form the 1% vocal minority.
On abortion, I do acknowledge that there is a wide range of personal feelings and moral beliefs about this issue, which will remain divisive. But the two “sides” are asymmetric. Pro-choice covers a whole lot of ground, even leaving room for doubt and uncertainty. Anti-choice is unflinchingly restrictive and punitive.
Here’s the essence of the asymmetry: If we pass pro-choice laws and you don’t want to have an abortion, you never have to have one unless you change your mind for your own personal reasons. You get to live out your personally held beliefs in your life under this legal system.
If we pass anti-choice laws, the anti-choice people are then controlling the bodily integrity, autonomy, and important life decisions of every woman in the state. Millions of women will no longer get to live out their beliefs, and may have their health or life threatened as a consequence.
Even more unfair is that many anti-choice people will find a way to get an abortion if they or their loved one needs it. The privileged men in the General Assembly know that not only will they never have to face an unplanned pregnancy themselves, but if their wife, daughter or girlfriend should ever need an abortion, they can afford to make this available to her one way or another. (Hypocricy much?) In the meantime, poor women will be either forced to continue a pregnancy, or risk an unsafe illegal abortion.
So I believe that if you do seek a middle ground on the abortion issue, you land firmly in pro-choice territory.
If you hope you’ll never need to have an abortion, but realize that any woman including you or your loved ones could potentially face an unexpected, difficult or life-endangering situation requiring one, you are pro-choice.
If you would not presume to tell another woman what do to, you are pro-choice.
If you prefer that your daughter does not become sexually active at a young age, but would not force her to become a mother against her will, you are pro-choice.
If you would like to see the number of abortions reduced through means that help and respect women, such as increased access to health care, birth control, and medically-accurate sex education, you are pro-choice.
I have never liked the terms pro-choice and pro-life and have struggled to find better labels. I support a reproductive rights framework. And today, thinking about North Carolina, I feel like the sides are Allow Abortion versus Outlaw Abortion. The new laws restrict abortion, but I know that many of the people supporting the laws would Outlaw Abortion if that was an option. Lawmakers have been very cagey about this, but the “pro-life” activist supporters have openly said that if they can’t outlaw abortion outright, restricting as much as possible is a good incremental option. The new restrictions being passed this week could close 15 out of 16 abortion clinics in the state by requiring unnecessary renovations costing millions of dollars.
The effect of these restrictions will be to push women toward later abortions or unsafe abortions. The effect will be to control women by controlling our reproductive destinies. We need women to truly realize these stakes are high, and immediate—across the country!—and keep standing up to fight for our right to comprehensive reproductive health care. We want our health care decisions to remain between us and our doctors, not controlled ideologically-driven politicians whose actions have shown at ever turn that they do not really care about the well-being of women.
“Don’t tell me what you believe; show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you believe.” Unfortunately, this is where we are headed right now in my beloved state of North Carolina:
This week I joined thousands of my fellow North Carolinians to protest the General Assembly’s extremely un-representative actions that are tearing apart the fabric of society in our state. People of all races and walks of life came together in support of voting rights, education, and economic justice. The NAACP-led coalition was truly a “big tent,” including preachers, doctors, mothers, farm workers, lawyers, elected officials, people looking for jobs, LGBT activists, Planned Parenthood, and more, all gathered to insist that the needs of all the people in our state be considered and represented by the General Assembly. About 1600 people joined in the rally, including 150 people were willing to be arrested as they expressed their opinions inside the General Assembly. The Raleigh News & Observer has extensive photo coverage online, which I highly recommend. It really hit home to me to see many of my friends arrested in this manner.
Since the Republicans gained control of the State Senate, State House and Governor’s Mansion, our elected officials have acted like the state is their plaything, for the amusement of their cronies and the very rich. I recently heard about a scientific discovery that haunts me as I think about the lack of representation we are getting right now. Scientist-historians at the Library of Congress have found a draft of the Declaration that shows the work in progress of creating a new kind of nation: Thomas Jefferson had written the word “subjects” to describe the people of the 13 colonies, but he then obliterated it and replaced “subjects” with the word “citizens.” This reminds me that our country really was a bold experiment that required courage and creativity. It was DIFFERENT to think that the power and legitimacy of a government came from the people, and existed to serve the people, rather than an all-powerful King. The Republican majority in North Carolina would like to act like the whims of the 110 Republicans in the state House and Senate plus Governor Pat McCrory and his “budget director,” conservative mastermind Art Pope, can dictate the future of 9.75 million North Carolinians with no consequence. The Moral Monday protests are showing otherwise, and are capturing the attention of citizens across the state and even the nation.
I am speaking as someone who technically might “benefit” on a very superficial level from Republican tax cuts. My tax bill might go down a little bit, but along with many people at Moral Monday, I see the well-being of the state of North Carolina as more than a slightly increased bank account balance. I certainly don’t want a tax cut for the well-off to be created on the backs of struggling families. What do I want to see? I want my child and all children to have a solid public education, as mandated by our NC State Constitution. The Republicans have cut vital Pre-K education for thousands of kids, eliminated a BILLION dollars from the education budget, and want to divert public school money to private school bills through vouchers.
I want families who are struggling economically to have a safety net to help them make it through this recession. The Republicans have slashed unemployment benefits as families are still struggling.
I want all children to grow up in healthy families. The Republicans want to kick pregnant women out of Medicaid, and rejected federally-funded Medicaid expansion to 500,000 North Carolinians who could have gained health care. I want my daughter to have medically-accurate sex education and access to reproductive health care as she grows into an adult. Republicans want to legislate medically-inaccurate, conservative political language into public school sex education; are putting up obstacles to health care access to teens (requiring notarized parental permission for STD screening or mental health care); and are attacking reproductive rights every chance they get. You may have heard more about the legally-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds in Virginia, but our lawmakers decided to stick it to women first here first in North Carolina.
Twelve years ago, my family was drawn to North Carolina from Silicon Valley by the dynamic software company Red Hat. We love it here. We plan to live and work here for the rest of our lives, but truly feel that the strength of our state is under attack right now. Businesspeople I talk to want to be able to hire people within, and recruit employees to North Carolina based on excellent public education, beautiful environment, and a healthy state. As a business owner myself, I am dismayed and embarrassed by the destruction being wrought by the Republican majority. 2014 is coming sooner than we think–and we need the citizens to stand up, demand to be heard, and turn back this tide as soon as possible.
“Why I’m being arrested” by Carol Teal
“North Carolina’s Tug-of-War” by Chris Kromm, Sue Sturgis, The American Prospect
What happens when a state becomes more progressive and more conservative at the same time?
Planned Parenthood’s “Mad Men” protest. “We like watching Mad Men, but don’t want to live in it.”
Legislation to Watch list by NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina
[I plan to add additional links and photos later but want to share my impressions now as a work in progress.]
Time is flying by. If you have kids in school you are most likely feeling the vortex of the end of the year approaching (or even here this week in some parts of the country).
The truest thing I heard as a new mom was, “The days are long but the years are short.” Now I feel the acceleration of time more than ever. Months race by, feeling like not much more than a week or two at times. I haven’t been writing as much in Mojo Mom mode lately, but a recent piece by psychologist Madeline Levine inspired me. In her New York Times article “After the Children Have Grown,” about the transitions beyond the mothering years, her concluding paragraph felt like a great jumping off point to me:
In order to continue to parent our grown children well, we might usefully acknowledge and start to prepare for the separations that start early and accelerate in high school. Gracefully and gradually, we must eventually give up our front and center position in their lives, learn to be quieter, to give fewer answers and to ask more questions. Our children’s independence is a reminder of how much we had to give and all that we have accomplished. It is a pleasure to remember that it is not a form of abandonment but an expression of a job well done — and is something to keep in mind as we move back into the center of our own lives, in ways that will make our children proud.
No matter how old your children are, what can you be doing now to prepare or the road ahead? It never ceases to amaze me to realize that for many of us, we will spend more years of our life in relation with our adult children than we spent raising them. Levine’s article touched me so much because she was writing as a woman with a big career, who still acutely feels the losses of the end of mothering three young sons who are now grown. It is a different perspective than we typically hear–even career Moms get the end of childhood blues sometimes–and her writing is heartfelt and eloquent.
I am disheartened by the female infighting that has cropped up around Sheryl Sandberg’s new book and website, Lean In. Unfortunately, conversations among women who have different perspectives have quickly broken down into women who mostly agree on many important issues calling each other bad feminists.
What is going on? Several things, I think:
* Pre-publication media puts out snippets of information which understandably leads people to make snap judgments before the whole book is even available to read. The media loves controversy so is also prone to publishing controversial excerpts (remember The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother excerpt in the WSJ, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”?) an then fanning the flames when strong feelings arise.
* Women are sensitive about work-life-success-balance-parenting issues, and judgments. I understand why. We live in a world where we are easily criticized for our “choices” (actions that may have been decided by free choice or necessity or circumstance) and we can become defensive or judgmental ourselves. I know that I get triggered by the ideas discussed in Sandberg’s book. There are two sides of the coin: it can be empowering to think that women can do more things that will help them lead and succeed. But at the same time, it can be exhausting to see how far we still have to come, and think that we have to do more, do more, do more….making ourselves acceptable through the magic of effortless perfection, an unattainable ideal that sets us all up to fail.
* Sandberg was frankly unlucky to have her book and website launch come at just the same time that Marissa Mayer ended telecommuting for Yahoo! employees. It is therefore easy to lump Sandberg and Mayer together as tough women CEOs who are giving more ordinary women a hard time, whether or not that is true.
* Is there a double standard? As high-powered privileged women, Sandberg and Mayer are being judged pretty harshly for not representing Everywoman, but would Jack Welch, Jeff Bezos, or male Silicon-Valley execs be expected to do so? In the case of Mayer, probably not, though it seems pretty unfair that she got to build a nursery for her baby right next to her office, while at the same time making a blanket proclamation that took away telecommuting from ordinary employees. In the case of Sandberg, who is consciously starting a social movement, she really needs to consider a wide variety of women’s needs and experiences. But we need to read Sandberg’s whole book to know whether she takes the whole system into account, rather than expecting women to solve everything themselves on an individual level, or just make themselves better to succeed in a man’s world.
As reported by Lisa Belkin on the Huffington Post, Sandberg acknowledges the need for both individual effort and systematic change:
“This is the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation. The chicken: Women will get rid of the external barriers once we achieve leadership roles. The egg: We need to eliminate the external barriers to get women into these roles in the first place. Both sides are right. They are equally important. I am encouraging women to address the chicken, but I fully support those who are focussing on the egg.”
So what does this have to do with my grandmother and the “Kidpower screen door”? I learned the hard way with my grandmother that if we have to agree 100% to be able to talk with one another, we are going to miss out on a lot of valuable communication. I loved my grandmother but I was really intimidated by her, particularly when I was young. She was not soft and cuddly, but flinty, dedicated, smart–and a product of an entirely different era than I was. Her mother was actually a women’s rights supporter from the early 1900′s, and I feel that I come from a long line of incredibly strong women, but my grandmother was a young married mother in Peoria, Illinois in the 1940′s and 50′s. She went to the same high school as Betty Friedan, but a few years earlier. So there she was in the crucible of the pre-feminist, pre-Feminine Mystique era, in may ways trapped in the Mystique, whether she would identify her life that way or not. She was very smart and college educated, but her husband (my grandfather) refused to let her get a paid job outside the home, even when her youngest child went to college, because that would make it look like he was not doing his job supporting her.
So fast-forward 40 years and imagine me talking to her about Hillary Rodham Clinton in the early 1990′s when I was fresh out of college, making my way in the world. I was impressed by Clinton and by the fact that she had her own work and identity. The one time I tried to discuss this with my grandmother though, I said something awkward about how it was inspiring to me that Hillary Rodham Clinton did more than just work inside the home and take care of her family, and my grandmother immediately teared up and said, “Why isn’t that enough?” I was so embarrassed for hurting her feelings like that. That pretty much closed the door on further conversation, but I really wish she was still here to talk to, because being older and more experienced myself I can appreciate where she was coming from: how smart she was, how hard she worked for her family, and how she operated in a world with very constraining options. But at the time, the differences in our perspectives were just too great to overcome. We would never say something hurtful to each other intentionally, but when we reached awkward territory, we didn’t have the skills to keep going without hurting each other. As a result, we were not able to talk honestly and to learn as much as we could have from each other.
So I honestly wish that my grandmother and I had more genuine common ground, and I also wish we had the technique of the “Kidpower screen door” to help us. I am excited to share this because my Mojo Mom and Kidpower worlds have finally intersected! Kidpower founder Irene van der Zande and I are collaborating on the new research project (and soon to be book), Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.
But the “screen door” idea is directly from Kidpower. Screen doors let in air sunshine and keep out bugs. The Kidpower screen door is a mental technique for filtering out hurtful language while collecting important information being conveyed by someone who might be harsh or insulting. If a teacher says to her student, “Your work is late! You are so lazy and you need to turn in all the work that is due,” that is a combination of insulting language and important information. The kids should not throw out all that information into the trash (as they would do with a purely insulting comment). They need to filter out the insult, being called lazy, but take in the information that they need to complete their work.
I am not saying that Sheryl Sandberg’s work is insulting, but it might trigger strong emotions in readers about differences of opinion or approach. The Kidpower screen door can still help. The Lean In book and website, might contain a lot of great information. It’s almost certain that I won’t agree with all of it, but I should not just throw the whole book into the trash the first time she says something I disagree with. I watched one of the videos on the Lean In website, the training on “Power & Influence” by Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld. The video teaches us about different ways to present ourselves, “playing high” or “playing low” status, and how both techniques can be useful. I definitely had a mixed reaction to the presentation, but I did learn something from it. It is odd in part because Gruenfeld brings to the forefront things we don’t think about consciously very often, body language, power and influence. It was frustrating and depressing to be reminded that women have to walk a very narrow path of safety–a combination of authoritative, yet also approachable, that is difficult to navigate. Too approachable and you aren’t taken seriously. Too authoritative and you are too uppity, or bitchy, or “who does she think she is?” But Gruenfeld is not necessarily trying to say that is how things should be; she is describing where we are now.
Lot of material to put into the hopper, and filter out using the screen door when necessary. I have ordered Sandberg’s book and I plan to post a full review after I have read it.
I have many thoughts about Sheryl Sandberg’s new “Lean In” project, but before I get into the heart of that discussion, I just wanted to give a shout-out to women’s circles. Whether you call it a support group, a consciousness-raising group, a sewing circle or a Mojo Mom Circle, women have been gathering to talk and plan since they first sat around a campfire–which is to say, forever. Doing it in a thoughtful way with a group of women whom you trust can change your life! I am part of an Advisory Circle of about a dozen women. We have been together in an evolving form for about six years now. We’ve provided support, inspiration, guidance, advice, and collaborative career opportunities for each other. Our circle has intentionally focused on career development as well as personal support, and we have generated well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars of business opportunities for one another. So it’s not all banana bread and a shoulder to cry on, though we are good at that too!
Women’s Circle resources include:
The free Mojo Mom Party Kit that I offer though this site is a good way to get started, particularly if you are looking to gather a group of new mothers. You can receive the party kit by instant download by signing up on my home page, www.AmyTiemann.com or www.MojoMom.com The party kit goes along well with my book, Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family.
The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and The World–The Essential Guide to Women’s Circles A classic book by Jean Shinoda Bolen.
Books by Renee Trudeau: I got to know Renee well when we worked together on the collaborative book, Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow. I appreciate her wisdom and compassion as she guides mothers. I highly recommend her books, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and her brand new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. Renee offers Personal Renewal Groups for mothers, organized through her website.
In today’s “Ask Amy” column, a man wrote in to get advice about the fact that his son’s wife had decided “(after three years of trying to have a baby) that she just doesn’t want to be a parent.” And the letter writer and his wife were concerned that they couldn’t get their daughter-in-law to talk to them about this.
Amy Dickinson rightly advised him that as much as he cared about this issue, it was not his business and “this crisis should not be mediated by someone who does not have a personal stake.”
But advice-giver “Ask Amy” missed a golden opportunity to talk about the fact that you just cannot assume that you know what is going on in other people’s lives, minds and hearts. What does “three years of trying” to have a baby represent? Obviously they were open to having children. Maybe she had a medical problem that she does not want to discuss with her in-laws. Maybe she had a miscarriage. Maybe they endured expensive, painful, or inconvenient fertility treatments. It could be the height of cruelty to ask this woman why she doesn’t “want children.” Of course it is an issue between the couple, to decide whether they would then want to consider adopting a child, but it is nobody else’s business.
I feel sensitized to this issue because I have been through this myself to a degree. It was easy to get pregnant with my daughter. During that time I was a school teacher, so my husband and I “started trying” in the fall, so that I could have worked through June the next year. Our baby was born at the end of August, so it took us less than 4 months to get pregnant. A few years later, we decided we would welcome a second child, but this time I did not get pregnant. I went in for a fertility evaluation, and the basic result was that everything looked fine, my hormones were okay, and there was no obvious reason why I could not get pregnant. The next step would have been to get a hysterosalpingography (HSG) examination,* which is an X-ray exam with injected dye. Honestly, even that seemed like an invasive step that I was not eager to take, especially it it would need to be followed by more invasive steps. Or I could have taken the drug Clomid, which facilitates ovulation, but might result in multiple births. We looked at both of those options, and considered the experiences that friends had with fertility treatments, and decided, “No, thanks.” We just didn’t want to go down that road. If I was trying to conceive my first child, I would have been willing to try more technology. But as it was, we had one wonderful child, and our hands were pretty full at that, so we decided to just keep trying and accept whatever happened at that point. We were open to a baby or another several years, but as it worked out, I never did get pregnant again, so today we remain a happy family of three.
I am fortunate that no one has ever grilled me in an obnoxious manner about why I “chose” to have an only child. IF it comes up, I usually just say, “we were open to having more, but it wasn’t in the cards. And, one was enough to rock my world.” So having one child was not exactly a choice, as in, not exactly life following my Franklin-Covey detailed master plan, but I have found that since there is in fact no such thing as an ideal life, I am happiest when I am able to appreciate and accept the pretty darn wonderful life that I have been given.
*Looking back, I know I could have endured a hysterosalpingogram, but my personal reaction to it told me a lot about how I felt about embarking on the road of fertility treatments. Today I just read that this exam itself sometimes clears out a blocked fallopian tube. I wonder if that’s really true. If I had known that at the time, maybe I would have made a different decision. On the other hand, this blog post “Hysterosalpingogram–the patient’s version” by moosh in Indiana, reminds me about why I passed on the HSG test.