September 30, 2014

White privilege… born to win

The police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri makes me think of privilege more and more.

How disappointing that so many of us white people “just don’t get it.”

On August 28, 2014, Charles M. Blow wrote in his NYT op-ed: “When one has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic identify, one is in fact privileged in that society.”

Unearned privileges are things like: Race/ethnicity. Gender. Sexual orientation. Class. Physical disability. And so forth.

Privilege doesn’t mean one is evil or bad. And, of course, those with unearned privilege are often allies of those without the privilege. White people marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heterosexuals fight for marriage equality. Men are feminists who fight for women’s rights.

But Nicholas Kristof writes about “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.” Apparently, “many white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting…in Ferguson.” Kristof notes that “A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race it getting more attention than it deserves.”

I’m flabbergasted. Do white Americans actually think that just because we elected Barack Obama, we live in a post-racial society. I’m not only flabbergasted – I’m really angry. The U.S. is still a racist society. Just read the research.

Kristof pushes back against what he calls “smug white delusion.” Kristof gives details like: The net worth of the average black household is 5.7% of the average white household. American whites own almost 18 times more than blacks – and that’s worse than Apartheid South Africa back in 1970. And all that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The facts are appalling. White privilege is very very very real. Yes, even being poor and white is better than being black in the U.S. of A.

And then there’s the great opportunity of education. Yes, indeed. But as Kristof notes, black kids grow up in broken schools. So this society fails them.

Kristof ends with a starting point for conversation and change: “…[T]hose of us in white American [must] wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges…. [T]he first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites.”



Filed under: Social Commentary

September 27, 2014

Basic rights for women…from Hermione

Do you know who Hermione is? She’s one Harry Potter‘s pals. We’ve watched her grow up.

And even if you don’t know Hermione Granger is, you want to pay attention to a woman named Emma Watson, film star, graduate of Rhode Island’s Brown University.

But most importantly right now… Emma-Hermione-Watson is the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. And just a few days ago, Hermione  Emma announced the HeForShe Campaign at the UN.

Watch it on YouTube. If you work in the social justice movement, make all your staff and board members watch it. Talk about what it means. It’s time to use the word “feminism” without silly comments and denials and …

Watch Emma. Speak out.

And by the way… Emma refers to Hillary Clinton’s famous speech to the UN’s Fourth Women’s Conference. Beijing, 1995.

Women’s rights are human rights. When will we win the war? And always remember…There are men who are true feminists. And there are very definitely women who are not feminists… even though some of them think they are.

Filed under: Social Commentary

July 5, 2014

U.S. independence day … how’s that going?

Today is July 5, 2014.

Yesterday was July 4th, U.S. independence day. The annual big day when the U.S. celebrates its specialness, its greatness – even more than the U.S. does seemingly every day every year always.

But some people asked us to reflect, not just celebrate. Some writers challenged us all, and challenge us regularly . . . To truly examine. To question. To acknowledge – and fight – racism, sexism, poverty, corporate power, the 99% and the 1%.

If one is really and truly American… Then maybe U.S. independence day should be a bit more about self-examination and evaluation… Just a bit more of that than celebration.

Sixty-Five Million Left Out of July 4th Celebration by Bill Quigley

“The greatest time bomb ever laid beneath history was laid 238 years ago today.” Our Most Important Struggle Remains: “To Be Self Evident.”

“How do we restore the sense that it’s still terrific to be Amerian?” Celebrate the Revolution – And Keep It Going by Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger

It’s getting worse, not better.

Filed under: Social Commentary

March 17, 2014

Hiring women? Check out this 1943 guide.

I am sure that many of you have seen this. It’s amusing. And then we say to ourselves, “Of course, we don’t do this now.”

But maybe we do? There isn’t gender equity yet – not on any country in the world – except Iceland, which actually has a law and studies progress. I wonder if there was the same “guide” for “hiring men?” Would you like to make a bet?

So check out these tips – for men supervising women in the workforce during WW II.

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work award and to deal with the public efficiently. (Hmmmm… Flirtatious? Wouldn’t work if they didn’t have to?)

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are included to be cantankerous and fussy. (What can I say? Really?)

3. General experience indicates that “husky” girls – those who are just a little on the heavy side – are more even temperated and efficient than their underweight sisters. (Wouldn’t you just love to see the scientifically-valid research that documents this statement?)

4. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick, and wash her hands several time a day. (I know that, for me personally, tidy hair is a constant stress. And I’m always worried about my lipstick, e.g., picking colors and keeping it fresh for that next gentleman, or husky woman, or that elderly cantankerous gal who might come near me.)

5. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a women – it breaks her spirit and cuts her efficiency. (Isn’t it marvelous that men are insensitive clods who don’t mind the harsh critique and ridicule offered by those all-too-qualified male bosses? Wow.)

I’ve just picked 5 of the 11. I cannot pick more. Because actually, this isn’t amusing. This was real. Some of this is still real. Yes, still real. But since it’s politically incorrect (and illegal), the behaviors may be more subtle.

What do you experience at work – whether you are a woman or a man?



Filed under: Social Commentary

May 1, 2013

Rallying for the rights of women

In April, I spent several days at the Planned Parenthood Federation conference in Washington, D.C. What a marvelous experience.

President Obama joined us and spoke. The only sitting president to have done so. His remarks remind us all of basic human rights for women.

At the conference, I met women and men who provide excellent healthcare around the United States…from breast exams to birth control, testing for sexually transmitted infections, quality science-based education for youth, and abortions.

Over and over, research proves that Americans want comprehensive sex education. Over and over, research proves that Americans want to plan their families and know the full range of options. Over and over, research proves that when women control their own sexuality – including choosing when to have children – families are stronger economically.

And Planned Parenthood is always here…celebrating 100 years in 2016! Planned Parenthood cares no matter what.

Did you know that it was clergy of many faiths who joined up with Planned Parenthood back in 1916 to help women? Yes, the clergy. And at the PPFA conference, various clergy speakers said such beautiful things:

  • Religious freedom does not mean stopping others from choosing. Government cannot privilege one religion over another. (And here’s my comment: The conservative, fundamentalist religions promote laws – government intervention – from birth control to marriage equality. I thought we had a separation of church and state in the U.S.)
  • The New Testament talks about the beauty of sexuality and spirituality. We must exercise our own sexuality wisely. And, because life is previous, let’s not create it carelessly.
  • For people of faith, it’s time to reclaim churches, mosques, and synagogues. It’s time to take back god from the fundamentalists.

And here’s one of my favorite statements from a religious leader speaking at PPFA: Our society – each of us – must commit to the moral agency of women.

So why are we fighting this battle again?! And the battle seems more aggressive and vicious. State by state, pockets of elected officials and radical citizens are adopting laws that reduce women’s rights. State by state, fundamentalist officials and citizens seek to control my life and yours.

A colleague said to me this week, “This is the last breath of a dying culture.” Fighting against birth control and abortion (and fair pay and so much more) is an attack against the basic civil rights of women. Fighting against marriage equality is an attack against the basic civil rights of our gay and lesbian community members.

The last breath of a dying culture. A culture that still believes in patriarchy. A culture that believes in passé traditions like male dominance, white supremacy, heterosexual primacy. An old fashioned culture with old fashioned beliefs that just don’t work anymore. And these are beliefs that the majority of Americans do not accept.

That’s right, the majority of Americans support birth control and access to abortion, equal pay for women, no more patriarchy, marriage equality. Our younger community members have no problem with interracial marriage and life partners.

But that old culture…it’s gasping. The vicious attacks – the viciousness of the attacks – is a last gasp. Know that, you who fight so viciously. Know that you are in the last throes of an old culture. You are losing. The rest of us will win.

Martin Luther King Jr. was right. That the arc of justice – while moving painfully slowly sometimes – does move towards justice.

Basic human rights for women will triumph. Basic human rights for people of color will triumph. Basic human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered friends and neighbors will triumph.

Always, there will be people and movements that will fight for social justice.  Planned Parenthood is one of them. We provide extaordinary healthcare. And we fight for social justice. Forever.

Filed under: Social Commentary

March 16, 2013

The power of vulnerability – for life and fundraising and…

This is an amazing video. For your personal and professional life and for my personal and professional life. I collected so many important tidbits… About the purpose of research. About the the concept of connection … which is, of course, relationship building … which is an essential part of fundraising and board development and nonprofit management and life.

Ms. Brené Brown describes herself as a research storyteller. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN.

Her research and her stories can help us understand how and why people do or don’t connect. Her research and stories can help us as human beings – which helps us as professionals, which helps us as fundraisers… By the way, you’ll find a number of YouTube videos from Ms. Brown.

Filed under: Resources / Research

January 22, 2013

40 years safe and legal

Today, January 22, is a very important day for many of us around the world…the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous ruling in Roe versus Wade. A triumph for so many U.S. women and their families.

I’ve been a donor to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for years and years and years. I’m a proud board member of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). And my life partner and I just changed our will to include PPSNE.

“Care. No matter what.” That is the promise of the Planned Parenthood movement worldwide. It’s a promise made every day to the women, men, and young people who rely on their personal right to make their own decisions.

Family planning is a deeply personal and often complex decision. None of us knows the personal situation of another. As we in the Planned Parenthood movement say, “I am not in her shoes. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.”

An issue yesterday, still today…and tomorrow, too.

  • Watch this 90-second animated video, Not In Her ShoesThe video gives some great tips about how to encourage people to have an authentic conversation about difficult issues.
  • Watch Forty Years Safe and Legal.This 4-minute video honoring the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade features archival footage, historical photos, news clips, and new interview footage with Sarah Weddington and Cecile Richards.
  • Read Gail Collins’  great column in the New York Times. Watch this episode of the  NBC show Parenthoodwhich prominently and sensitively featured Planned Parenthood. Read the Salon article about the amazing Parenthood episode. Read this MSNBC article about the public’s strong support for abortion rights. And read this eye-opening report by the Guttmacher Institute about restrictions on abortion access across the United States.

Save and legal is the key. That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court decided on January 22, 1973. Thank you for that decision.

And now what? Continued vigilance. Continued commitment. Safe and legal forever and everywhere.

Filed under: Social Commentary

January 18, 2013

I get so angry that I rant and rave…

Sexism: I’m the founder of the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island…leveling the playing field for women and girls. Despite progress, it’s still a disadvantage to be a woman in every country in the world, including the United States. In fact, the most gender equitable country in the world is Iceland.

Check out the commentary on this article, “11 Qualities of a Perfect Woman.”  Check out the film “Miss Representation,” which explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women produce underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. Read Gail Collins’ 01-10-13 column in the New York Times, “The Woes of Roe.” Ask yourself – and your legislators – “What Happened to the Violence Against Women Act?”

All this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We have to keep fighting to level the playing field for women and girls. It’s called social justice and basic human rights!

Gun control: I am so tired of guns in the U.S. I’m so tired of the ranting and raving about “protecting myself” so I’m gonna have a gun. And if everyone had had a gun in the Aurora cinema, everyone could have stopped that guy. Really? With all your training from the NRA, you could distinguish the good guys and the bad guy? Or would there be some innocents shot, too?

I subscribe to Reader Supported News, a great compiler of news articles in the U.S. and elsewhere. Check out Juan Cole’s article “Gun Murders vs. Terrorism by the Numbers.” Read Bill Moyers’ commentary about guns. Read Robert Reich’s article “Debt Ceiling and Guns, “Using Presidential Authority.” Go for it even more, Mr. President! How about Tom Engelhardt’s article “The Pentagon as a Global NRA.” By the way, apparently the NRA was not always so ridiculous about gun control. Check out Jill Lepore’s article in The New Yorker, “Battleground America.”

Always remember, the U.S. spends something like 7 times more money on defense than multiple other countries combined. Golly gosh… I am so pleased that we can kill so many more people so many times – and destroy entire countries and societies. Thank heavens we can! Yippee!

By the way, reading Cole’s article reminds me: how about ending this stupid war on terror. Wars are supposed to have an end. Enough with the war. Terrorism won’t end. It’s with us forever. Consider it a police action. And enough with the absurd theatre of airport security and screening. What a bunch of crap. Let’s not forget “The Colossal Blunder That is the Iraq War.”

And let’s end another war, the war against drugs. Oh please. All the research says that the war on drugs didn’t work, isn’t working, doesn’t work, and won’t work. How ironic is it that the U.S. provides the guns (gun control anyone?) for the cartels to fight the war for drugs? And U.S. prisons are full of marijuana smokers or small sellers. And most of them are not white. Racism anyone? By the way, why is President Obama so bothered by decriminalizing marijuana? Read Naomi Wolf’s article in the U.K.’s Guardian.

One final thought…all the secrecy about security. Check out this RSN article by Daniel Ellsberg, “Secrecy and National Security Whistleblowing.” Another by the way: Daniel Ellsberg is one of my heroes.

Okay, it’s Friday night. Close to 8 p.m. in my office and home. I’m stopping now. I’m thinking of dinner and some frivolous movie. Family time. Personal time. And since I’ve ranted and raved in this blog, maybe I won’t do that with Tom this evening.

Please can we fight for change? This is the war need to fight – here at home…the fight for social justice…the war against the war against women…racism…the fight to protect without guns…and so much more.


Filed under: Social Commentary

September 23, 2012

Election time in the U.S.

Getting closer and closer

My life partner, Tom, made an interesting statement yesterday: “Capitalism is NOT democracy.” Obvious, I guess. But in the U.S. – or certainly with certain people and candidates and companies and political parties – capitalism and democracy are pretty much interchangeable.

Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Capitalism is an economic system that is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods and services for profit.” And what about democracy? “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.”

Sure. Yes. Capitalism is good. But not always and not totally. Good government ensures that capitalism doesn’t infringe on democracy. Good government compensates for the ills of capitalism that threaten democracy.

But government doesn’t so much compensate for the ills of capitalism in the U.S. Not anymore. And this election is yet another test of how U.S. citizens will respond to what’s happening in this country. Sadly, I don’t have too much hope.

Filed under: Social Commentary

September 23, 2012

Political ranting

Because I'm really worried about the U.S. election

Check out these marvelous articles in Reader Supported News.

— “…the biggest underlying problem America faces – the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the very top that’s determining our economy and destroying our democracy…” From economist Robert Reich.

— “…killing the American dream…” From author and activisit Naomi Wolf.

— “we now have a record of what our modern day wealthy gentry really thinks of the rest of us…” From Bill Moyers and Michael Winship.

Filed under: Social Commentary

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