Taking Our Political Voices to the Next Level

Tue, October 14, 2008

Women in Politics


Put a couple hundred women bloggers in some conference rooms for ten hours and what do you get? Well, I suppose there could be many answers to that question, but when the get-together is three weeks before one of the most important elections of our time, the answer is this — an emerging force for change.

Tanya over at Not My Gal wrote about yesterday’s BlogHer DC conference, and one of the commenters got very snarky, saying (and I paraphrase), that women will never become a power in politics or business because we can’t get beyond talking and chatting, sharing and caring. Men will continue to be the dominant force because they act unilaterally instead of collaborating.

Hmmm. To that, I say — not so much.

There may be the tiniest grain of truth in that generalization, but the whole “decider” thing hasn’t worked out so well in the last eight years, so it’s time for these guys who like to take charge in the boardroom and the political arena to step aside.

One truth I learned pretty early on, especially when I entered the world of law as a young associate, is that there are times when we, as women, need to step up and take what we believe is ours. Whether by nature or by socialization, women tend to be “askers.” I discovered there were definitely times I needed to push that little voice of uncertainty to the back of my mind, and don the mental cloak of being in charge. For better or worse, we’re a society where image sometimes counts for more than substance. If we have substance AND image? SCORE!

So, if there was ever a time to stop asking and start taking control and power over our voices as a tool for change, it’s now.

I had the sense, especially during the keynote speech with Carol Jenkins of the Women’s Media Center, Lesley Stahl, Liz Mair of the RNC and Mary Ann Akers of the Washington Post, that things are being stirred up. Winds are blowing and moving things around and that always leads to change. We’re not at the level of a collective tsunami or a hurricane yet, but dust devils can swirl things around enough to get attention, and you never know what that can lead to.

There are plenty of times in nature when little breezes are destined to become gale force winds. We just have to know how to capture the powerful force and turn it into something positive. I have a feeling things are going to be quite different in the next four years. Think we should go for it?


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4 Responses to “Taking Our Political Voices to the Next Level”

  1. Nerdette Says:

    I think women tend to be good listeners as well, whereas men tend to want to tell or declare. :) Also I think men and women tend to have different ideas or constructs of power or influence. I have joked with some of my Latina friends that we need to build an “abuela” tag for our outreach programs — Grandmothers rule the roost in much of that community! Some of the menfolk don’t get it, but believe it or not, the person that drove home the power of the Abuela is an Army recruiter. He always did better with his recruiting when he got her approval first.

    Was so nice to meet you!! And it was so nice to meet women of so many generations :)

  2. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah Says:

    I felt the conference yesterday was very empowering. While I was unable to attend your panel (I never even considered that they might put my presentation up against yours) I felt like the closing keynote was inspiring. Women can matter in politics and we should.

  3. Leslie Bradshaw Says:

    Joanne ~ Great post and thanks for taking the issues of women-driven-action and what-women-bring-to-the-table head-on.

    I absolutely agree with you and with Tanya: The ability to collaborate and listen is paramount in every layer of our lived experience. From personal relationships on through to our jobs; beyond this, it becomes that much more important, as more folks are at the table… from a single business, to our entire economy, from local to state to national to international relations… true leadership, true democracy and true governing blends collaboration, listening, deciding, thinking, debating/arguing, and so on. All of those things and then some.

    That’s not to say decisiveness has no place. There are times when a final decision has to be made and not everyone is going to agree. Obviously. However, I would argue in most situations that the greater the dialog and the more open decision makers are to hearing and understand one another, the outcome is going to have a greater chance of being successful on a wider-scale.

    Thanks again for the thought-evoking post and so great to see you both. Great job Joanne on your panel as well :-)

  4. Christine Koh Says:

    So interesting to read your wrap, following my first BlogHer in Boston (you can read my wrap here).

    Also, love that you describe yourself as a “recovering attorney” — I describe myself (and did so at BHB) as a “recovering academic” (spent 10 yrs as a music and brain scientist before leaving the field).

    One of the amazing things about this blog journey has been meeting so many talented, smart women who have forged their own paths. Hope to meet you at some point in the future!


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