Politics and other awkward stuff

A Woman’s Place is in the House. . . The Peoples House.

Forget rocking the cradle. It’s way beyond time that women rocked the system — and the Oval.

Play like a girl. As a challenge to our country, this seems a timely invite to up our game and finally put a homegirl at the helm. Seriously, it’s been three hundred years, people. Don’t you think it’s about time we made there’s a woman in House (the one with the Oval Office) where she belongs? It makes me just a tiny bit outraged that, though women are the other half of the population, they still haven’t been able to sit behind the desk in the Oval. We pride ourselves on being an enlightened country, of having an advanced culture, yet other mainstream countries have boasted women leaders for decades. Where is ours?

Yes, we finally have women candidates but the welcome mat has repeatedly been askew. The ERA, a critical step towards equality, is still waiting, along with a host of other approved bills, to be passed. When it finally does, how much it will erase both the mindset of ingrained patriarchy? Yet, can the reservations about having a woman leader really surpass all that their male counterparts have wrought for decades? In my mind, for one thing the ‘hand that rocks the cradle’ would be less inclined to slam it on the nuclear button. A woman, especially a mom, would be more than hesitant to send their own and other mothers’ sons, as fodder to fight endless, escalating battles.

We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly. Margaret Atwood

Helen of Troy. Indira Gandhi. Golda Meir. Margaret Thatcher. These iron maidens didn’t bring the warm and fuzzy. They brought their A-game, exactly what their countries needed in their time. They led their countries to war within a male hierarchy, conforming to values that allowed them to lead in the first place. Today’s Angela Merkel of Germany, Britain’s Theresa May and the European Union’s Christine Lagarde know how it’s done because they, too, had to overcome gender bias. At times, they had to outmen the men – in heels.

I’d like our country to have the chance, to see for ourselves in this critical moment in time, what America would look like with a woman in charge. It certainly couldn’t do worse than the current appalling incompetence.

More than 50 years ago, tiny Sri Lanka was the first to break the political gender barrier, with India following a few years later. As of November 2019, 15 women leaders serve their countries as president, prime minister or chancellor. Shocker, those countries are thriving — and none of them are in the Americas. Today only 56 of 146 nations have a female head of government. The fact that we still have not reached that point is in itself cause for a collective head scratching!

In business, there are still more leadership seats where the glass ceiling is neatly intact. Apparently, the idea of women as true equals seems as surreal as aliens landing in NYC. While it’s true we are hardly the only place in the world where patriarchy rules, we should be committed to putting equality, in all dimensions, on the menu. Even in my own little world, I saw lines drawn within the advertising agency my husband and I partnered jointly. I created and ran the business, was its creative arm, social media and promotion maven; my husband was the PR counsel. Yet, I had to constantly remind clients, who insisted on talking to ‘the owner’, that I was their person. Even in our less than big business, the ‘boss’ meant male.  

Some leaders are born women. Geraldine Ferraro

If women did man the Oval, perhaps infant mortality wouldn’t number among the highest in the civilized world. Maybe 1% of the population might think twice about wallets equaling finances of 3.6 billion people. A mom Potus might be more concerned about climate change when it could end the world as we know it for our children. And as women, who represent 80% of consumers, a female leader might better address sustainability, food technologies and pharmaceuticals. 

In this land we call home, we have certainly seen much change, although gender stereotypes, repression and omission still exist in spades. Women represent half of law school graduates; but only a third are lawyers, 15% are federal judges or law firm partners. Half of med school graduates are women but only 25% become doctors. Women make up a quarter of the US Congress, ranking us 97th among 193 nations worldwide in the percentage of women in the lower house of Congress. Currently, women comprise 6 of the 50 state governors, 20 of the 100 US Senators, as well as the first woman Speaker of the House. Women vote more than men, which is understandable since we had to fight ferociously for the right men took for granted. More women than ever are participating in the political process, but still the operative word is participating – not leading.

Empowering women can change everything. But first, we need to change minds. No, we are not the weaker sex. We are not run by our hormones nor do we run away from confrontation or difficult decisions. We communicate differently not less effectively. We have more estrogen than testosterone, but that enables us search for solutions first instead of knee jerk physical reactions. Hey, but if you want to talk physical, I dare any man, if indeed it was biologically possible, to go through childbirth. Then we’ll chat about who’s the weaker sex.

Winning the popular vote, Hillary Clinton got closer to the presidency than any other woman in history. The jury is still out on this year’s election. We’ve all heard the running commentary about whether the US is ready for a woman president, yet my answer is always the same ‘When WILL it be?’. Every man on this planet was born of and nurtured by a woman. I think the time has more than come to at least place her at least next to him.

“Men can boast about occupying top slots in history’s long list of conquering maniacs, bloodthirsty tyrants, and genocidal thugs.” said Steven Pinker of Harvard University. “Women have been and will be a pacifying force. Traditional war is a man’s game.” Amen.

I’d like to think if women held an equal share of leadership, she and her international sister leaders would find more creative, persuasive and collaborative ways to solve conflict. Are woman always steady as they go? Nah. We’re human. Sometimes we won’t be on our game (and no, not because of hormones).  Still, domestic pressures, geopolitics, economics, and a million other global issues have existed throughout history. It’s unrealistic to expect either male or female would bring an overnight change.

In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders. Cheryl Sandberg

Trust me, this is not a diatribe about men. I’ve had a dad, a wonderful husband, gave birth to a male I adore and I have 5 little grand men I love to the moon and back. Boys are urged to behave one way and girls another yet stay at home dads can be as nurturing as women, some even more so. Men have invented incredible things; they’ve walked on the moon. I’d never suggest a world without them (well, maybe sometimes). I never claimed the globe would spin perfectly on its axis if women ruled it, but you have to admit it ain’t working well at the moment, right? John Lennon sang ‘Give peace a chance’ and women are way overdue for their chance. Having a chance at anything men have had inborn should never have been a question in the first place.

Would a woman in the White House cause the world to suddenly link arms and sing Kumbaya? I doubt it, though it’s a nice thought. I’m certainly not in government and I’m hardly perfect so I have no expectations that just installing a sister girl in office would transport us to Utopia. I’d like to believe, though, that there might be better, more innate ways of changing war, terrorism and poverty narratives. Certainly all the dudes who’ve ruled the world until now haven’t exactly done a bang up job and at the moment, the bar is so low, my youngest grandboy could limbo through it. 

After 300 years, have women more than earned the right to take a shot, and their rightful place in the best seat in the house. The White House.  

Hell, yeah.

Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

Not In Kansas Anymore

1-ZMe3JQIH1vs4C7H4-X3P6A

Boy, has this place changed, Toto. Some days our America seems as unfamiliar as Oz. We’ve seen odd characters with no brain, heart or courage in abundance but enough about politics. We’ve been in twisty, scary situations before. In fact, history is full of times when the red, white and blue was as divided as the Hatfields and McCoys, complete with messy family food fights.

It’s been said this past election didn’t divide America – it revealed it. Racism and xenophobia are hardly new; they are just more butt naked than we’ve seen them for awhile. Did we think political paranoia left the building when Joe McCarthy did? Ha! We might have been a teeny bit convinced that we made healthy improvements in womens’ rights and sexual choice tolerance, but no. And immigrants? Fear of the ‘other’ is stoked daily, as you wait. Every culture has gone through a purgatory of prejudice and alienation when they arrive on our shores, but, these days, the Statue of Liberty hides her face in utter shame.

For 243 years, America has invented, innovated, inspired and banded together for better. We’ve dominated both outer and cyberspace. Baseball, blue jeans, jazz and rock ‘n roll are as American as too many guns, slavery and the atomic bomb. Everything is big in America – buildings, landscapes, cars, business – and dreams. To many, their dream is elusive along their respective Yellow Brick Roads.

But few things in life are linear – and history isn’t neat.

Over the decades we’ve seen riots, scandals, assassinations, world wars and cold wars. We’ve struggled with healthcare, financial reform, racial strife, taxes and political mayhem. There’s little we haven’t seen. When elections were over, protests were heard, amendments enacted, and we usually went back to business as usual. No matter how politics, cultural roots or societal platforms differed, we united as AMERICA, not a polarized land of misfit toys. Continue reading “Not In Kansas Anymore”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Making America ‘Real’

American-Flag-Faces

Immigrant makes good. That’s the dream every pilgrim held as they sailed to these shores and it came true for some — not all. If your eye or skin color didn’t match the Mayflower brand, you had a tougher time and some were often stuck in time; the wrong time. The dreams of today’s immigrants are no different. Armed with culture, appearance and beliefs dramatically different than ours, that big open door often gets stuck. Many Hispanics, Muslims, and Vietnamese find themselves outside looking in, a ‘no vacancy’ sign neatly posted. Many achieve US citizenship but will always seem less than equal to natural born Americans. Most ironic is that many of those ‘less thans’ have fought and died for the country they’ll never achieve ‘same’ status in.
 “The McNichols, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis, too
The Blacks, Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
Come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothin’ in their bellies but the fire down below
They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago they’re still dyin now
The hands that built the country were always trying to keep down”     Bruce Springsteen
Nearly 40 million American neighbors, co-workers are foreign born. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t get that memo. Watching the Charlottesville, VA protests, the often hidden underbelly of American prejudice raised an ugly head. It was hard not to be ashamed and indignant hearing the hateful rhetoric and bizarre beliefs. We are all people whose ancestors escaped caste systems, brutal prejudice, and pillaging to come here. We don’t get to vanquish others and still pretend to be the good guys. Newsflash, people – there is no making America ‘white’ again; it never was in the first place. So those Neo-Nazi flags, the KuKluxKlan torches? Um, no, not in MY America.
I have blonde (helped a little) hair and blue/green eyes. Didn’t put in the order for it, especially as an Italian American, I just came that way. But what if I didn’t? Anyone who’s struggled to pick a paint color for their living room, knows there are dizzying shades of white. We mix different genres of design style and call it ‘eclectic’ and our blended cuisines become chic ‘fusion’.  Yet, we somehow can’t find the coolness in the people variety.
When I was in grammar school, one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known arrived from Argentina. My town was so white bread, so generational in its population, that her pierced ears alone made her exotic if not suspect. Her parents’ warmth and love each time I visited their apartment made me feel more welcome and understood than I sometimes did in my own home. More than 60 years later (gulp) I still treasure my beautiful Argentine friend, partner in crime at our all-girls high school, bridesmaid in my (first) wedding, and still one of my dearest friends. When my youngest daughter was small, her lifetime friend came from Japan. That little girl learned English with the help of my daughter and her best bud (son of my best bud) who patiently pointed out trees, clouds, and other sights each day in car pool. Now both young moms, they still hold each other in heart, separated only by ocean. Hey, how else would my daughter have discovered those Japanese donuts with potato filling she loves? (I’ll still pass, thank you)

Continue reading “Making America ‘Real’”