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Posts Tagged ‘opinions’

Disagree With Me — Please!

In behavior, blogging, books, family, Media on December 21, 2011 at 3:19 am
Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah in a heated conversa...

Image via Wikipedia

Seriously.

If there’s a trend in the larger culture that dismays me it’s the dicing of discourse into niches of head-nodding agreement — “where never is heard a discouraging word.”

Or screaming, red-faced, poster-waving, tear-gassed rage from the OWS crowd or online insanity where anonymity, as The Guardian recently put it, has released the handbrake of civility.

This is nuts.

The whole point of living in a larger society is interacting with others, even (especially!) people whose economic and political values horrify us — whether that means we support a woman’s right to abortion, to name only one example, or remain fiercely opposed to it. Without the back-and-forth, give-and-take of argumentation and debate, what can we possibly learn about how others think?

Or alter their beliefs? Or they ours?

I don’t mean childish and self-indulgent name-calling, insults or ad hominem attacks, which, here in Washington has so eroded our respect for elected officials that Congress’ approval rating is now at an impossible low — of 9 percent.

I grew up in a family of table-thumpers. Raised voices were the norm. We live for a ferocious intellectual argument, and take this style so for granted that it takes fresh eyes and ears to point out how frightening and odd it can appear to others; at our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding in September we were talking about…who knows what?

It sure wasn’t what some might have expected, an evening of romantic and loving memories, just the usual blablabla of firmly-held opinions being lobbed across the tablecloth like conversational grenades. It takes a tough hide and strong ego to withstand most of what passes for dinner-table conversation in my family of origin.

Which also leaves me really impatient with people who utterly refuse to hear — even acknowledge — the ideas of those they disagree with. I still subscribe to the New York Post, (right-wing) because even when I don’t like what they’re saying,  they’re also speaking for many others who feel the same way.

The whole point of my work, this blog, my articles and my books, is to stimulate discussion.

Not just polite agreement.

The floor’s open!

Just Say No

In aging, behavior, books, business, children, domestic life, family, life, love, women, work on July 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm
Conflicting Emotions

Image via Wikipedia

It’s two letters, one syllable.

Why is it so hard to say?

Because we have conflicting needs and desires.

I recently turned down three offers to speak to audiences about my new book.

One would have had 3,000 people on-line; another 30 people in a room a 45-minute drive from my home and the third maybe 60 people in another country. None of these people thought it odd, or rude, to ask that I speak without any compensation or any guarantee of book sales. Just “exposure.”

Of course I want to sell lots and lots of my books. I want and need to meet new readers. But with gas at $4 a gallon and my time billable at $150-200 hour, being asked to just give it away really annoys me.

Why exactly am I expected to donate my time, energy and skills?

So now I don’t.

It feels really good to finally start saying no. (It doesn’t have to be rude or have any affect at all. It is, as they say, a complete sentence.)

We’re all trained in the art of nay — or yay — saying. I grew up in a family of people who were/are extremely determined to get their way. People who consider me stubborn and hard-headed, who’ve also met my family of origin, get it.

There was little negotiation, often their way or the highway. So “no” became a fairly useless response, if I wanted to have a family at all.

The first man I married won my heart through his unblinking ability, on Christmas Eve after a toxic little maternal encounter, to say “No” to the whole thing. We left. I would never had mustered up the nerve to tell her enough! Thank heaven he did.

Women are heavily socialized from childhood to make nice, keep everyone happy, givegivegivegivegive (in), no matter our true, private feelings on the matter. The woman who dares to be the first to buck that trend, to ask for a raise, refuse to make team snacks or host Thanksgiving is often vilified for being so….demanding!

One of my favorite books is “Women Don’t Ask”, which explores this issue in detail.

It can take years, decades, even a lifetime to locate your spine and keep it as stiff as rebar when needed. Saying no, despite the conflict, anger, frustration and recrimination it can create, (and, oh, it does!) is a powerful choice if all you’ve been saying — reluctantly, resentfully — is yes. (Sigh.)

So much easier to avoid conflict by caving, keeping everyone else happy, wondering when you might finally muster up the nerve to say NO and mean it.

What have you begun saying no to?

How does that feel?

Women, Speak Up! I Can’t Hear You

In behavior, blogging, books, culture, journalism, Media, news, politics, Technology, US, women on February 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm
Mug shot of Paris Hilton.

No, sweetie, Not you ! Image via Wikipedia

Why do most women — certainly educated Western women with unimpeded access to telephones, the Internet and media outlets — still remain so invisible and inaudible?

I don’t mean the images or inanities of women like Paris Hilton or the Kardashians.

Quick! Name ten well-known and highly-respected women whose opinions carry national or international weight: Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel and…the list quickly dwindles when it comes to females currently known in the media as an expert on much of anything.

Until or unless women claim the same intellectual space, jostling elbow to sharpened elbow with all the men who feel utterly confident speaking their minds, we will remain unheard, our deepest concerns unheeded.

I loved, loved, reading an op-ed this week in Canada’s national daily newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail, arguing for the retention of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan by Alaina Podmorow, a 14-year-old Canadian girl who founded a charity for Afghan woman and girls.

She did so after hearing, and being inspired, by Sally Armstrong, a fellow Canadian — albeit a few decades older — a journalist whose passion for women and world affairs lit the fuse of activism in a little girl. That’s my kind of girl power!

And how often do you read, in a national newspaper with the stature of The New York Times or the Globe, an op-ed or letter to the editor written by a woman? Let alone a young girl?

How about….never?

Here’s a great, angry piece published this week in Canada, in a national chain of newspapers, by Katherine Govier, a Canadian author and former journalist:

We were treated to the news last week, via the New York Times, that Wikipedia, increasingly the go-to reference for historical and contemporary general knowledge, has a dark secret. It is chiefly written by 25-year-old males.

Help us and save us.

It’s true. A study has shown that only 13 per cent of the hundreds of thousands of contributors to the “collaborative” online encyclopedia are female. Of the 87 per cent who remain, and are male, the average age is mid-twenties. Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation (a woman, oddly enough), says this came about because of Wikipedia’s nature. It is skewed toward aggressive hackertypes who are obsessed with facts and reflect the male-dominated computer culture. They are, furthermore, imbued with a sense that it is really important for everyone to know about Niko Bellic, a character who is a former soldier in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. He gets an article five times as long as does Pat Barker, a (female) British novelist in her late 60s. That is, he did until Gardner herself added background to Pat Barker’s entry.

So this is how it works. Women have to step up and become Wikipedia contributors.

This isn’t a new problem. Sigh.

Women, still, are so often socialized from earliest childhood to be “nice”. How many of us, still, are raised with the appalling and powerful imprecation: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.”

I like Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s version: “If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me!”

Women are so often told to be quiet, be nice, calm down, sit back. We need to be shouting!

Whether in print, television, radio, in blogs, letters to the editor, anywhere that makes clear we have strong opinions and they deserve serious attention. And yet, and yet, depending what sort of culture and community you live in, there are often strong imperatives, religious or political or economic or familial, that stay our hands and still our tongues.

Enough already.

Here’s a quick tip on getting your voice heard, fast, in a letter to the editor, from a terrific blog on women’s voices and how to make them heard loud and clear through traditional media.

Have you spoken out — whether at a town or city council meeting? Letters to the editor? An op-ed?

Do you think we’re being heard?

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