Lisa Madigan and the Tightrope We Walk

I’ll never forget the day I went back to work after giving birth. I had taken every single day of maternity allowed here in California and was still nowhere near ready to leave my infant son. I spent the day choking back tears and feeling too nauseated to even eat anything. That went on for the entire first week. At the end of that first week, I confided in a coworker that if I ever had another child, I didn’t think I’d be able to go through leaving him or her again.

And I didn’t. Two years later, I gave birth to my daughter and I’ve worked out of my home ever since.

That’s why I felt a slight tug of the heartstrings when reading about Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan and her decision not to seek higher office. Madigan, considered somewhat of a rising star in the Democratic Party, has been rumored to be considering either a run for Governor or for President Barack Obama’s Senate seat in Illinois. Madigan even made a trip to Washington recently where it was rumored she had been asked to run for the Senate seat.

Instead, she chose to stay right where she is and seek reelection as Attorney General. Her main reasons being her four and one year old daughters. She hasn’t ruled a run for higher office in the future, but for now she wants to be with her little ones.

As part of WomenCount and as a woman whose become an advocate in trying to get more women to run for office, I feel disappointed that Lisa Madigan isn’t going to be running for a higher office anytime soon. Another woman in the Senate would be amazing, another female governor even more so.

But as a mom, I get it. I know because I lived it. It’s the fact that we, as women, are the ones forced to make these choices is unfair. The truth of the matter is no matter how much we encourage women to run for office or how young we get them to start, most of them will have to stare down motherhood at one point or another.

That’s why it’s so important that we create a more family friend environment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an empty office turned into a lactation room in the House. To some this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s those kinds of steps that bring us closer to actually finding some kind of balance between motherhood and a career.

Another important factor is getting the men involved. In my house, I’m blessed to have a husband who does a decent share of the household duties. The best part is that my son sees him doing them. So while I’m trying to raise a daughter who is strong and independent, who might run for office someday, I’m also raising a son who understands that the responsibility of the family falls on both parents.

I respect Lisa Madigan’s decision so much, because I understand it. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t wish it were different. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t women out there walking the tightrope and making it work. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Linda Sanchez, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and numerous other women in states legislatures and elected positions across the country.

We can make this work. We can find a balance and we can make our country more family friendly. We can raise sons that will make sure that their wives have as many opportunities as they have. We can achieve 50% representation in government. We can, because we’re women and we’re in this together.

Feminism: Time to Stand Together

I recently read an article in the Nation that sparked a heated discussion over on MOMocrats and then later on Twitter. And though all the ladies involved certainly remained respectful and kind while discussing the topic, it still left me thinking about it all day. And now here I am at almost midnight writing about it.

The women’s movement, or feminism, or whatever you want to label it, has to be the most frustrating battle ever fought in the history of the world. Why? Because it should be over by now. It’s 2009. We should not have to STILL be fighting for equal pay. We shouldn’t just NOW be writing laws to offer better maternity care and leave. Domestic violence is the dirty little epidemic that should have been drug out from beneath the rug long ago. And in 2009, we should not have to be explaining to women in other countries why being tortured and raped on a regular basis is not how life is supposed to be.

And we certainly shouldn’t have to be screaming at the top of our lungs to ensure we see a third female Supreme Court justice. I mean really, even if it does turn out to be a woman (which it better) it’s still going to be infuriating. We’re celebrating only the third, in 200 years? Give me a break.

So why do I think that this battle has not been won? Because the women’s movement has never really been able to mobilize as one group. The closest we saw was the women’s suffrage movement and they were a force to be reckoned with. When all of them finally stood together as one voice, they were unstoppable.

They stood up and said, We are moms, we are young single women, we are daughters, grandmas, and sisters. We are women. And we deserve the right to vote, and you’re going to give it to us.

And they did.

That is why now, more than any other time in history, is it important for us as women to embrace the labels we wear. So what if you don’t get the mommy thing. You want your career instead. Great. But you want equal pay to do it too, right? You want the same opportunities that are given to your male counterparts so you can climb just as high on the corporate or political ladder as the guys, right? Of course you do.

And moms. You’re a mom. You want maternity leave, health care, and the ability to work and raise your child, or stay home. You want to breastfeed in public without worrying, or maybe you want to formula feed without ridicule. You want to make sure your children have a good education and are healthy. Right?

Well, these are ALL of our goals. We’re all in this together. But instead of getting that, people have to divide up by sides and create this divide that doesn’t need to exist. And that’s why the women’s movement still has so many struggles to fight, because we can’t rise up together.

What we, as women, need to do is break the barriers in between us. The barriers of race, of social status, family status, career status, and stand as women. We are seeking the same thing here. The failures and wins of each feminist are the failures and wins of women everywhere.

The time for talk is over ladies. We’ve talked ourselves to death. The time has come for us to stand together once again, like the suffrage movement. And tell the world that we are here and we are not going anywhere. And we are in it together.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “Men say we are ever cruel to each other. Let us end this ignoble record and henceforth stand by womanhood.”

Amen, sister.

Old Stereotypes Die Hard


In honor of Women’s History Month, a lot of publications and websites have come out with articles about the history of the women’s movement and how far we’ve come. And though in some areas that might be true, many women feel we’ve got a long way to go to truly reach gender equality here in the United States and especially in other parts of the world. The current women’s movement is not just about laws and fair pay but about changing a biased attitude that has been around far too long.

Attitudes like the ones expressed in an article in the Vatican’s newspaper titled, “The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax ” examine how the washing machine has done more for the women’s movement than any other invention in recent history. The article also tells the tale of how the increase of women in the workplace was in large part due to the washing machine. Once we had help with the laundry, we could go to work elsewhere. It was a small step, but an important one.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, keep in mind the gender biases that still exist. As well as the reasons why a Presidential Commission on Women is so vital not just for protecting and preserving our rights, but about helping to change the stereotypes that still run so strong.

Let the world know that we are not here because of washing machines. We are here because we are strong enough and smart enough to be here.

IOWA’S STAND FOR GENDER EQUALITY

It looks like if you’re a woman who wants to break into politics, Iowa might just be the place to start. Last Wednesday, Iowa made a bold stand against gender bias by requiring “gender equality” on all local boards and commissions appointed by city councils, school boards and county boards of supervisors.

The Iowa House passed the bill in a 71 to 27 vote. If the bill becomes law, “gender equity” will be required on all local boards and commissions starting January 1, 2012. Women make up 51% of the population in Iowa, yet only 18% percent of current members of four key local boards and commissions are women.

Read the rest of my latest post on WomenCount

A Single Woman

There are so many women that deserve recognition during Women’s History Month (as well as the rest of the year), but Jeanette Rankin’s place in that history is pivotal.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin was the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives and the first female member of the Congress. She was known as the Lady of the House.

Rankin was a pacifist. She voted against both WWI and WWII, the only person to do the latter.

Read the Rest of My Post at WomenCount’s Blog

Women Count


Join The Call For a Presidential Commission on Women

On the day that President Obama was inaugurated I had a really sweet moment happen with my 3 1/2 year old daughter. After waking from her nap that day (having spent a busy morning watching the festivities on TV) she came in and sat next to me. I was watching the parade and she was quickly enthralled with it as well. So much so that she didn’t even want me to change it to Dora. As we watched the new President wave and smile my daughter asked me a question. “Mommy, when I grow up can I be President like Barack Obama?” I could feel pride welling up and I looked at the the TV and then at her and answered, “YES, you can.”

I didn’t feel it was the right time to explain to her about the struggles of women suffrage. Or Hillary’s failed attempt at accomplishing the same feat my daughter was beginning to consider. Its hard to know what to tell her. Because I want her to have as much a chance of being President as any boy her age will have. But will she?

I like to think so. As long as women really come together as they once did to demand the right to vote. I see it on the communities like Twittermoms, Twitter itself and all the other amazing bloggers and other great women that I’ve come to know in the last year.

Women are coming together and finding a united voice. A voice that is a force to be reckoned with. It seems that now the time is right for women to step up and demand their place in the world and in Government. That’s why I was so happy to find WomenCount.org.

A great group that is ready to take the new Women’s movement to the web and help unite women everywhere in making our voice heard. But the message is a new one, because time have changed. 2008 has shown us just how far we’ve come and how much more we have to travel.

The first step? Well taking the lessons learned in 2008 and moving forward. As taken from the WomenCount.org website those lessons are,

• As the economy became the single most critical issue in the election, the role that women play in our economic structure has never been clearer. Women are the backbone of the nation’s workforce and control 70 percent of its buying power.
• The candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, while inspiring women and girls around the country to imagine what can be, exposed extreme gender bias in the media and throughout our culture.
• Women, who make up 56 percent of the voting population, were targeted as never before as the critical bloc that would determine the outcome of the election.

One of the first things President John F. Kennedy did after being elected President was convene the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. That was 47 long years ago. The time was right then, and it’s right again.

Join WomenCount and myself in signing your name to the petition to encourage President Obama to create a Presidential Commission on Women. It’s our time to take control and make sure that opportunities for women continue to grow. Do it for yourself, for your sisters, for your friends, for your motehrs & grandmothers who fought so hard as well, and for your daughters.

Help me in ensuring that when I tell my daughter that Yes, she can be President, that I am telling her the truth.

Visit WomenCount.org TODAY and sign your name so that you can make the next chapter in the Women’s movement one that counts.

With last week’s historic passing of the historic Lily Ledbetter act and President Obama’s pledge to make women’s rights’s a priority now is the time. Please join me by not just signing the petition, but encouraging others to do so as well! Tweet about, blog about it and let’s spread the word ladies!

Our time us NOW!

Defining Women and the Enigma of Sarah Palin

It seems odd that only last week I wrote a piece for the WomenCount blog about America’s first woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross. I was truly inspired by her story, her time as governor, and all that she did afterward.

Now, less then a week after reading about this first woman Governor, I hear the announcement that one of our seven current governors is resigning. Sarah Palin announced Friday that not only would she not be running for a second term as Governor of Alaska but that she would not even be finishing out her current term. On July 26 she will step down as Governor and turn over the reins to Alaska’s lieutenant governor.

Sarah Palin has been somewhat of an enigma since the day she was announced as John McCains Vice Presidential pick for the 2008 presidential election. With Hillary out of the running, Sarah Palin was quickly thrown into the role of being the voice of women across the country. The only problem is, she wasn’t.

She simply became the only voice. With so few women in office, a magnifying glass is placed on the few that are. Especially politicians such as Palin who manage to stay at the very top of the news cycle.  But the media are not the only ones who have been putting Palin under the magnifying glass.

Every mistake and quirky personality trait has been constantly analyzed and either been trashed or hailed as gospel by women from both sides of the feminist divide. In fact, Palin’s rise to the top of the political spectrum was almost like drawing a line in the sand between liberal and conservative feminists.  A divide that other female politicians have been trying to close, not widen.

The bottom line is Sarah Palin does not define what it means to be a woman. But for as long as she is the only one out there, people will mistakenly think she does. The solution is simple. If we have more women in office the definition of a woman would no longer be limited to the oddities of Sarah Palin and her political career choices.

We are women. We are old, we are young, we are black, and we are white and every color in between. We are single, married, and divorced. We are gay, we are straight we are moms and we are successful career women. We work from home, we work on farms, and we work in skyscrapers. We are as far right and as far left as they come. We are women. Now is our time to stand up and define ourselves.

By increasing the number of women in office the media will be forced to stop defining women by just one person. Maybe even be forced to stop trying to define women at all and simply let us get to the task at hand, making the world a better place.