As I was deciding what to post today, I came across and article written by our President for Glamour Magazine. As I read it, tears hit my eyes and a swell of pride hit my chest. This is my President. He gets it. So rather than give you my commentary, I decided to just insert his words. Thank you Mr. President and Thank you Glamour Magazine.
You can read it below or online at Glamour Magazine where the article originated. Glamour Exclusive: President Barack Obama Says, "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like."
"There are a lot of tough aspects to being President. But there are some perks too. Meeting extraordinary people across the country. Holding an office where you get to make a difference in the life of our nation. Air Force One.
But perhaps the greatest unexpected gift of this job has been living above the store. For many years my life was consumed by long commutes—from my home in Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, as a state senator, and then to Washington, D.C., as a United States senator. It’s often meant I had to work even harder to be the kind of husband and father I want to be.
But for the past seven and a half years, that commute has been reduced to 45 seconds—the time it takes to walk from my living room to the Oval Office. As a result, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time watching my daughters grow up into smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women.
That isn’t always easy, either—watching them prepare to leave the nest. But one thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman. The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.
In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.
So we shouldn’t downplay how far we’ve come. That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work we need to do to improve the prospects of women and girls here and around the world. And while I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws.
In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.
This is something I spoke about at length in June at the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women. As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave. One of my heroines is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American to run for a major party’s presidential nomination. She once said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’ ” We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Now, the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling. I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family. Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices. And the reality was that when our girls were young, I was often away from home serving in the state legislature, while also juggling my teaching responsibilities as a law professor. I can look back now and see that, while I helped out, it was usually on my schedule and on my terms. The burden disproportionately and unfairly fell on Michelle.
So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.
And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.
So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.
We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.
We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.
We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry.”
As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.
It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.
The good news is that everywhere I go across the country, and around the world, I see people pushing back against dated assumptions about gender roles. From the young men who’ve joined our It’s On Us campaign to end campus sexual assault, to the young women who became the first female Army Rangers in our nation’s history, your generation refuses to be bound by old ways of thinking. And you’re helping all of us understand that forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise. These stereotypes limit our ability to simply be ourselves.
This fall we enter a historic election. Two hundred and forty years after our nation’s founding, and almost a century after women finally won the right to vote, for the first time ever, a woman is a major political party’s presidential nominee. No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America. And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality.
I want all of our daughters and sons to see that this, too is their inheritance. I want them to know that it's never just about the Benjamin's; i'ts about the Tubmans too. And I want them to help do their part the ensure that America is a place where every single child can make of her life what she will..
That's what twenty-first century feminism is about, the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free."
boom. microphone drop.
What a great way to get inspired before the weekend.
I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming response to Wednesday's post: Bloomingdale's: another example of what is wrong with the profession of marketing". It was a difficult post for me to write because I struggled to be neutral. I am passionate about what I do and have a special place in my heart for marketing that is target to women because I understand what it means to capture the hearts and minds of the female consumer. There is power in supporting and lifting up women in today's culture like there has never been before. It is because of this that I fight for women every single day.
Your responses and readership to the post (my most successful post to date) let me know that there is outrage and concern out there. This concern doesn't just come from women but men as well. We want more from companies and brands and we will speak out about it and "vote with our wallets". It isn't about being a feminist or overly sensitive. It is about understanding the responsibility we hold when we broadcast a message to the world. You came in droves to read this post and whether that was out of curiosity, agreement or concern is irrelevant, you came, you read, you provided feedback both here and on social media and you shared. You may not realize this, but in doing that you helped support my purpose. This is no small thing to me. Thank you is not enough.
If you see any marketing or advertising directed at women that you love and think lifts up women and girls, send them to me. I would love to focus on the good stuff that is out there, and there IS good stuff out there. Let's talk about them and support their business...it's all about voting with our wallets.
October 11th was International Day of the Girl. I was blessed to attend and speak at a fundraising event with Girls Inc. Pacific Northwest a few days before to celebrate the occasion.
The event is a day to celebrate the "strong, smart, bold girls of the program and showcase all that the organization does to promote and lift up these girls so that they can live independent, successful lives.
Hosted by Jenny Hansson, anchor for KOIN TV got the afternoon started by welcoming the attendees and offering her story and the support she received from those around her, I spoke with Jenny, an awesome woman who gets up every day at 2am to anchor the sunrise news. Yes, that is really early but she said it was a small price to pay to live out her dream.
Hands down, the best part of the whole event was the girls.. About 20 plus girls were there in total and they greeted guests with enthusiasm. They also each took lead at tables around the room to showcase some of what they experience with Girls Inc. PNW. A few of them were selected to get up on stage, no easy task for anyone but even harder when you are young. Many survey's done with people of all ages say that a lot of people fear public speaking more than death. YIKES.
That makes what these girls did all the more amazing. For most of them it was the first time they had ever been in front of an audience. I am not understating how amazing it was to watch them in action. For most of their speeches I was a puddle of tears. No joke. I was so overwhelmed with the intelligence, enthusiasm and fearlessness of each of them as they explained who they wanted to be and why Girls Inc. is helping them make their dreams a reality.
Just my luck, I was the final speaker of the day and directly followed all of these girls. Talk about intimidating. There was nothing I could say that would appeal to the audiences desire to contribute to Girls Inc. more than what these phenomenal young women did. I had a job to do though and so I got up on stage and let the room know that they just saw the REAL reason to donate and support. There was really only one question to be asked...
will you stand in a girl's corner to help her be strong, smart and bold?
This truly was an amazing experience for me. Not only did I get to live out my dream and speak to a room about girls but I got to see what happens when we support girls and lift them up. I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend a Friday. I have to thank everyone who came to support the event, especially my friends and family who came to support me and this great cause. I also have to thank Girls Inc. PNW for doing what they do and letting me play in their sandbox for a bit with some amazing girls who inspired me to keep following my path and be
strong smart bold
How great would it be to keep the momentum train going? If you would like to donate to Girls Inc. PNW and support these girls, send me an email I can help get your donation over to the group. Hope to hear from you soon.
I was recently on a plane having a lovely discussion with the woman sitting next to me. She was in her 60’s and was asking me about what I do which then flourished into a really great conversation on gender, workplace, the past and how far we have come etc.
After about an hour or so she got up to use the restroom. When she was gone, the man sitting on the other side of me tapped me on the shoulder “I couldn't help but over hear your conversation, do you mind if I ask you something?”
I of course agreed and this was his question...
"What do you say to boys so they don’t feel emasculated?"
I did a double take unsure if I had heard his question correctly and asked for some clarification. In short he proceeded to explain that he works for the federal government and that in his experience the government and other companies are giving jobs to women instead of men and that the woman are never “thought leaders” and often not deserving of the job but only get it because they are women and that is the big push right now. So do I speak to boys so that they don’t get discouraged by this?
It is not often that I am left , and speechless. In this moment, however, I was. He was not rude but there was something in his tone that told me I needed to tread softly. (also not really a strong point of mine) An airplane is not the best place to have a conversation like this...while there are emergency exits, they are not exactly an option.
But here is the thing, some of what he said isn't necessarily wrong. Across the nation there are programs working specifically to help women get jobs and research shows that women are getting employed in record numbers. But does that mean they are "stealing" jobs from men? Are they not qualified?
I would argue that they are very qualified. In fact women are working to get qualified, consider this:
Women are making all of this headway because they have chosen to go out and get educated. While there are programs for women today (thank goodness), they aren't just given to women. Women are working for them. Need proof?
As I thought about how I would respond to this gentleman, I realized that providing all of these stats and other similar ones was probably not going to make him feel any better. Instead I focused on the fact that what I speak about is not focused on emasculating anyone or saying that any one gender is better than another. I also tried to express that at the end of the day, it shouldn't be about one gender being better than another, one race better than another, one sexual preference being better than another. It's about providing opportunities for EVERYONE that is willing to go after it.
Our conversation was nice. He accepted my explanation and gave me a few things to think about as well. At the end of the day isn't that what it's all about?
I am not sure that this post was necessarily about anything in particular. I just felt like the experience should be shared. So, there you have it
Why She Buys - Bridget Brennan
I grew up in a single-parent household. That particular single parent changed a time or two but alas, most of my life I lived and primarily dealt with one of my biological parents. I was and still am the oldest of 6 children as the result of 3 marriages. I fall in to all of the typical birth order statistics. I tend to lead my siblings around, sometimes dragging them against their will. I want everyone to get along and I try to help everyone even when they aren't asking for my help and yes at times I think I know better than they do. I have that personality trait that thinks I have to make everything better or at the very least okay. I always believed that if people left a place, time or thing with a great feeling that everything else in life would be great too. So, as I grew up, I took charge of things. I was/am stubborn, opinionated, driven, loud, inpatient, anxious, empathetic and I expect a lot from just about everyone and everything which means I am often disappointed.
It is with all of these attributed that I attacked life. From the earliest memories I have, I wanted to be a part of the action. My partner in crime, was my slightly younger brother (17 months apart) and if he was going to do it, then so was I. I drove big wheels, played in the mud, told wild and crazy stories and as some family members love to remind me, I even talked FOR my brother as his "official advocate".
I do not know where these personality traits come from. If I look at my parents, sure I suppose they have one or two of the traits between them but neither manifest in quite the same way that I do. It is because of these traits that I always thought I would be more. I don't know if I had identified what more meant but I just knew it was more than what others expected from me and I always felt the need to prove people wrong in how they saw me. Oh yeah, I was that kid.
As I got older, you couldn't tell me nothing. I was head strong, independent and looking for something. In hindsight I realize that I was looking for me. Corny? Maybe, but I was looking for what my purpose was. Some may have said I was a little lost and at times I won't lie, I felt that way but it really was all in search of that purpose, that reason for being.
My path to purpose had a lot of bumps and bruises that we will save for another post. (yikes) The reason I mention this journey and these personality traits is because of an article I read today. The article posed the question "are you holding your daughter back; 5 ways to raise girls to be leaders". I want to spend the next few days discussing this idea. In order to do that I have to tell some of my story.
Let's all admit that in the late 70's and early 80"s there wasn't a whole lot of discussion about raising daughters to be leaders. Yes there was a lot of bra burning or just going bra-less but it was more about the women themselves seeking something for themselves. Today we live in this whole "save our girls" world, which don't get me wrong is great and I am a part of it, no if's and's or but's about it but back then it was just different. (I say this because I want it to be known that there is no judgement in what I am writing about today. They were different times.) Saying all that, I will tell you that I do not ever remember a time in my life where an adult told me "that I wouldn't do something because I was a girl". I was told I couldn't do things because I was ugly or dumb but never because I was a girl. (yes I realize the other ones are horrendous too, but that is a whole other post too.)
I tried out for just about every sport, club or organization in junior high, all in search of my purpose, I never thought about whether or not I could or couldn't because of my gender. I actually tried to be on the wrestling team and now that I think about it, I was told I couldn't do that one because I was a girl and there weren't any other girls for me to compete with which I thought was lame but didn't really give it any thought beyond that. I started work at an early age and always had a very easy time getting jobs, they were all basically awful teenage jobs but they were jobs. In every single job I ever had, I wanted to do more, make more and rise in ranks. It had nothing to do with whether or not I liked the job. It had everything to do with the fact that I just knew I was meant for more. More of what, was really still the question. In the process of this I didn't pay gender any mind. I just kept working and trying to do more, make more and be more.
When my career finally took off is when I started to see it. The quiet comments about a girls attire in the office. The mumbling about a woman in the office who said too much too loudly or "aggressively". I started to pay attention to where people say, what they wore, how they were talked about, promoted and/or rewarded and that is when my eyes opened up. I was hitting a lot of road blocks and suddenly I saw one of the reasons why.
Before you go getting bent out of shape because you think I am blaming all of life's problems on gender bias, I beg you to stop.
that is not what i am saying.
I am simply saying that for the first time in my entire life I noticed gender and the way in which it was dealt with. I still had this mindset that it had nothing to do with me. I would coach my little sisters or the girls and women who worked with and for me what to "look out for" and to be careful about "what they said or did" around certain members of the team and I actually though I was helping them, I thought I was doing a good thing.
Nobody was going to tell me what I could and couldn't do with my career because I was a female, it was me after all, BUT I was ignorant enough to think it applied to other's and that by telling them what to look out for I had done my due diligence.
boy was i wrong.
You see gender bias and sexual harassment, unfair treatment because of gender, race or anything else isn't something we should be "warning people about". It is something we should be speaking up about, talking about and eradicating from our workplaces but so many of us think it has nothing to do with us until...
that one day it happens to you.
to be continued...
Read what happened on that day for me this Friday In the meantime check out the source articles below for some great reading on gender in the workplace.
This week has been an interesting one for women and sports so for today's post I am going to keep it simple and share three amazing things in the world of sports that happened this week.
Wednesday was the 43rd anniversary of Title IX. Title IX didn't just change the world of sports for women, it can be said that it was the catalyst for much more. I speak on Title IX often and the fact that it finally gave women a place to experience competition, team work and the drive to succeed in something beyond patriarchal expectations. For this reason I share with you this article from ESPN about the "9 Things we Wouldn't Have Without Title IX".
Another amazing thing that happened this week is Melissa Mayeux. Don't know her? Well she is a 16 year old from France who just made history in the United States. She has become the first woman to be added to the Major League Baseball's international registration list. This doesn't automatically mean that she will one day play in the big leagues, it is a huge step in that direction and she is only 16. Imagine what could be. .
The last thing is a little different. It is two of my favorite people for telling it like it is who got together to put someone in their place in a respectful and hilarious way. This week a sports writer by the name of Andy Benoit decided to tweet his feelings about women in sports with the following three Tweets.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Well Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler to the rescue. Amy made a visit to the set of her old friends show Late Night with Seth Meyers to revive one of their best skits from SNL, REALLY with Seth & Amy. Check it out below.
What's the point of this post? The point is to get this type of news into the lexicon. Things are happening for women in sports and that means something not just for sport but for our culture. It is the continuation of Title IX, it is the continuation of equality and equal pay movements. Anything we can do to bring that dialog to the forefront is a win.
Junior High is a tough time in most kids lives. It is often full of name calling, backstabbing and in general most teenagers long to be part of the in-crowd. It is at this age that we rarely look at being different as an attribute, it instead is seen as something to be ashamed of and is ridiculed by many. It is safe to say that for a lot of people, junior high sucks. Sorry, but it is true. That is why the story I recently found on Yahoo was all the more refreshing to see.
A couple of girls from Portland, Oregon (yeah for the hometown team) named Avery Burn and Genae Vanek came up with a great way to engage their fellow students in something positive. The girls are involved in a great organization called "Destination Imagination". "DI" is an organziation that is helps kids learn in new and diverse ways by pushing them to through creativity. Their site describes it this way:
For Avery Burn and Genae Vanek they saw a need in their own backyard. They saw how much girls their age struggled with self esteem. Rather than sitting around, they decided to do something about it.The project was simple really, provide pocket mirrors to the girls in their school with affirmations written on them.
Some may laugh at this concept, Current research out of Carnegie Mellon University suggests that "positive affirmations" can increase a persons esteem and make them perform better.
They used stress as a starting point to determine how people performed when under high levels of chronic stress. They found that people under this level of stress actually correctly answered 50% less problems during the experiment. "But notably, this effect was qualified by whether the participants had an opportunity to first complete the self-affirmation activity?
These girls probably didn't know all of this before starting their project, but what they did was afford their fellow students a positive way of looking at things that actually could improve how they do at school which of course then leads to feeling even better about oneself. So creates a cycle of positive reinforcement leading to positive results. Why am I telling you about this? Simple, I believe in spreading positive content. I believe in lifting up others. I believe in taking action. That is what these girls did and it's pretty fantastic.
But they aren't done. They turned this into a project called "Love My Reflection" and they want to go nationwide with their message, not just providing these mirrors to more girls but also hosting events and groups that can continue to provide a positive space for these middle school aged girls. It is important to know that during middle school a girl's confidence often plummets and we generally start see a change in in academic performance as well. The change of schools, hormones, social media and other factors come in to play. That is why this is so important. This is the time we need to support and affirm our girls.
They have a "GOFUNDME" page to raise money for the cause, http://www.gofundme.com/lovemyreflection I donated just last night and got a personal response from Avery's mother, Annie. I told them I wanted to help in any way I can so the first step in that is spreading the word. Check out what Annie wrote to me below
Let's help these girls help hundreds, even thousands more to be confident. You can even check out their website. www.lovemyreflection.org
To learn more about Destination Imagination, click on the logo.