On Anne's Mind

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A Father's Day Wish: Engaging Men As Gender Allies

June 13, 2019

Father’s Day, coming up this Sunday in the U.S., is an emotionally-loaded day for me. 

First, because I miss my own father. Vince Doyle was not only a wise and fun (!) Dad to his seven children, he was also the greatest ally and mentor an ambitious young woman, negotiating gender land mines in the 1970s and '80's, could have asked for. 

Second, it triggers deep sadness that my son, Kevin, now 27, missed the invaluable gift of growing up with the security and encouragement of knowing his Dad always had his back. Because his father died when he was only seven, I've sometimes teased that I deserve special treatment on both Mother's and Father's Days. Of course, Kevin never bought that, because he and I both always knew that no one can ever replace your father. 

But there's another reason why this holiday celebrating men is an emotional trigger for me. It's also a reminder of the disproportionate power that men have over the lives of everyone in the human family, long after childhood and our own fathers are only memories. 

Sexual harassment, date rape, domestic violence, pay inequity, toxic work cultures, extreme laws violating women's right to privacy and deeply ingrained patriarchal bias that continues to deny girls and women equal opportunities to put their talents to work as leaders and decision makers for the human family are all perpetrated and/or perpetuated by men.  Males behaving badly are just the tip of the iceberg. What's most devastating is the the apathy of the millions of men who are unwilling or simply uninterested in understanding the sexism, bias and blatant misogyny that every little girl must deal with throughout her lifetime. 

The extreme "heartbeat" laws that have been passed In the U.S. recently, primarily by male lawmakers, punish women while ignoring the role and responsibilities of men in procreation. If we want to end abortion, as this thoughtful USA Today article pointed out, then we need to "Hold Men -- Fathers of Unplanned Children -- Accountable." When women are expected to be society's caregivers, men are allowed to be careless.  

I’ve been outraged for decades over the gender violence and bias that goes on and on, despite all of our talk and hand-wringing. That's why it gives me hope to encounter Jeffery Tobias Halter, who is one of only a handful of men who are working every day to engage males as gender allies. 

The Founder of YWomen, Jeff took the stage for his TEDx talk wearing red high heels to make a point about how differently men and women move through the world.  He believes, and I think he's right, that the big breakthrough in eliminating gender bias will come when Fathers stand up and demand change -- for not just their own daughters, but for the world's daughters. 

Jeffery was my guest on this week's POWERING UP podcast. It's one of my favorite interviews. He's fun, he understands the issues and he believes, "It's time to stop telling women to lean in, and start asking men to stand up!" 

So Happy Father's Day. I hope you'll celebrate by sharing my conversation with Jeffery and his "Father of a Daughter" iniative and "Male Advocacy Profile" tools with the fathers in your life. Women and girls needs all the great male allies we can get!  

Was Garden of Eden a #METOO Moment?

February 6, 2018

Tamara Kolton is a rabbi and psychologist in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  She is writing her first book, “Oranges for Eve: Walking The Way of the Divine Feminine.”  In this commentary, she makes the case that the first and most memorable Bible story was also a #METOO moment.  She left me with plenty to think about. 

The Rage & Resilience of Gymnast Sister Survivors

January 29, 2018

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are aware of the paradigm shifting events that unfolded over the past few days in a courtroom in East Lansing, Michigan, which is only an hour's drive from my home.

 

One hundred and fifty six (yes, 156!) courageous girls and young women stood before a judge and, in often quivering voices through bitter tears, told their stories of years of sexual abuse (camoflauged as "medical treatment"!) by child predator Dr. Larry Nassar. For decades - DECADES - this evil man repeatedly sexually assaulted hundreds of world-class, young, female gymnasts entrusted to his care. Some only SIX years old. 

 

Nassar is headed to prison. 

 

It's believed to be the biggest scandal in the history of sports. The stories of the "sister survivors" are ugly and heart-wrenching. But they are the tip of the iceberg. 

 

Equally depraved are the dozens of adults at Michigan State University and the USA Gymnastics community who ignored or refused to believe years of warning signs and complaints from young girls who sensed something was very wrong with the "treatments" he gave them for their pain. Those heads are just beginning to fall with the forced resignation of MSU President of Lou Anna Simon and the entire Board of USA Gymnastics.  

 

Our cultural tetonic plates are shifting.  As one survivor put it, "This is what it looks like when little girls grow up and become powerful women demanding to be heard."  We must learn from this depraved lesson so that future generations of little girls (and little boys) are no longer ignored when they raise alarm after alarm. They must be heard, believed and protected. 

 

The coverage here in Michigan, which is at the center of this tempest, has been intense with outstanding journalism shedding light and turning up the heat on this evil.  Here is a quick summary of the major players and the best coverage on each I have found.  I hope you will read, weep and believe.   

 

Key Players:

  • Dr. Larry Nassar - Now a convincted child molester who will spend the rest of his life in prison, Nassar was the USA gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University. Who was/is Larry Nassar? 
  • Sister Survivors -- Who knows how many Nassar painfully violated; 156 told their stories to the world in court, including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. Remember this name: Rachel Denhollander. She is the courageous young woman who finally broke this perversion wide open by taking her story to the Indianapolis Star (2 years ago) and filing a lawsuit.  Please read her "The Price I Paid" commentary in the NY TIMES. And then listen to Aly Raisman confront Nassar in court.  
  • Judge Rosemarie Aquilina --  For seven days this  transformative judge did something highly unusual. She cleared her docket to make time at Nassar's sentencing hearing for any and all who wanted to speak to be heard. At first they thought it would be 88. But the calls kept coming as more and more of Nassar's young targets courageously stepped forward. The opportunity Judge Aquilina created for survivors to be heard and the support she gave them allowed the world to comprehend what happened and to react with appropriate vengence. This excellent Atlantic magazine article captures Aquilina's important role.  
  • Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon -- Once highly-regarded, Simon served as president for over 14 years. The MSU Board of Trustees, stunningly concerned more about its University brand than its students, circled the wagons around her with a vote of confidence less than 10 days ago. Unfortunately, she will be remembered for her complacency (if not cover-up) in this nightmare and the stunning ARROGANCE of her resignation letter. 

  • Investigative Journalism 
    -- That Larry Nassar is headed for life in prison and the survivors of his crimes are finally being heard is evidence of the importance of investigative journalism. The Indianapolis Star first broke this story two years ago. The Lansing State Journal, the MSU Student Newspaper and the Detroit Free Press have followed with oustanding additional coverage. But my favorite piece is the powerful commentary by sports columnist Shawn Windsor. His fury flames off the page as he tells one of the truths behind this story: society values boys over girls. Here's: This Isn't Penn State; It's Worse. 

 

Finally  -- I'm numb and sick over all of this. But I'm also in awe  and inspired by the courage of the amazingl little girls who grew into incredibly strong and powerful women who refused to be quiet. It took an incredible, tenacious young leader to unleash the power of this young sisterhood. They gained in strength as each stepped out of the shadows and felt their collective strength grow in that courtroom. They are an example of the power of the next generation of young women who are just beginning to hit their stride. 

 

They will not settle for "being one of the boys" or being silenced.  They are taking the baton of empowerment from generations of women who have gone before. Me Too; It's About Time; and "We're Coming For You Larry!" are just the beginning. Long may they lead!  

 

 

 

Insightful Voices on What's Next After #METOO Cultural Explosion

December 31, 2017

The New York Times recently gathered seven wise women for an insightful, roundtable discussion of the challenges and complexity of moving forward in the wake of the Silence Breakers and #METOO explosions of 2017.  One year of outing predators is just the beginning. How do we turn this moment of cultural reckoning into a positive turn on our evolutinary wheel?  Lots of thoughtful insight in this fascinating discussion about Work, Fairness, Sex and Ambition. 

Vital Voices Helps Women Move the World

December 30, 2017

Vital Voices is one of the most effective global organizations I've discovered that is helping to move the world forward through women's activism, advocacy and leadership. Since its founding 20 years, ago, Vital Voices has conducted more than 400 programs, serving more than 15,000 women in 181 countries.

They've also delivered 600 emergency assistance grants to survivors of extreme forms of gender-based violence and invested $11 million in direct assistance to its network leaders on every continent.  

If you're interested in learning more about this outstanding, change-agent, global organizationshere's more. 

Bullying Boys and Bystander Enablers

October 13, 2017

 

Dear Global Friends/Thinkers,

 

Are you as shell-shocked as I am by the barrage of cultural and physical bullying dominating America's mindset?  The dysfunctional, nasty and even criminal behavior is so pervasive, with fresh examples coming so fast that I barely have time to soak in the implications of one before I'm stunned by the next. Las Vegas. Harvey Weinstein. Roger Ailes. "Don't you dare 'take a knee.'" Women's health is against my religion! Charlottesville. "Fire her!" I look at major news stories in a cultural context. Not as isolated events, but as connected threads and bellwethers of the society we are weaving. I'm distraught about the direction my country is heading. Bullying, backlash, fear and male power seem to be unchecked, while millions of bystanders lacking courage or moral fiber quietly enable the dysfunction. Where are our leaders?  

 

Here a few of my thoughts on current examples of America in cultural crisis. 

  

Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Scandal. Are you surprised? I'm not. Disgusted, yes. And furious that powerful men continue to prey on young women. Whether it's Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, John F. Kennedy or sexual trafficking, domestic violence and child marriage, this has been going on for centuries.  Do I think that this scandal is a sea change? I doubt it. Instead, I see the present reaction to the Weinstein, Ailes and Cosby sexual assault scandals as very similar to our behavior following mass shootings, such as the recent massacre in Las Vegas. Big stories grab the headlines and our national attention for a few weeks, at most. But nothing will change. We'll continue allowing citizens to stockpile weapons of war, and boards of directors will continue protecting sexual assaulters who are good for the bottom line. Not until dismayed Americans DEMAND change and stop looking the other way, ignoring the rumors, doubting the victims and accepting "boys will be boys/locker room behavior," will anything change, except for one predator finally getting caught.  Sadly, our iceberg of sexual assult and hostile work environments for women is as large as the national arsenal of American citizens. 

 

Take-A-Knee --  I see Colin Kaepernick as a leader. A patriot willing to risk his career to help our nation live up to our ideals of equality. Becoming the "more perfect union" our founding fathers and mothers imagined and fought for, doesn't just happen. It takes courageous leadership.  Not just in the beginning, but always.  Athletes, beginning with other NFL players and growing to include the WNBA, high school students and entertainers who have followed Kaepernick's lead to protest police violence that disproportionately affects African Americans are not disrespecting our flag or our troops. They are taking responsibility as active citizens. Challenging, perhaps shaming us to live up to our purported values. Disrespect for our "united nation" is not taking a knee during a song. It is flying a Confederate flag, insulting a United States senator who was a prisoner of war, groping female citizens at will, tempting World War III. 

 

Quarterback Cam Newton Insults Female Sports Reporter -- I was not the least bit surprised to hear Panther QB Cam Newton's insulting response to an excellent question from NFL beat reporter  Jourdan Rodrigue. "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said, chuckling. "It's funny." No it's not funny. But the good news is that none of the other male sportswriters in the room enjoyed his joke. They met his comment with stoney silence. Then, multiple male journalists around the country wrote commentaries criticizing Newton's neanderthal behavior. Dannon Yogurt dropped him as a product spokesman.  It's not just in the world of sports where females have endured unwelcoming (and much worse!) work environments. It is only when male colleagues get "in the game" with us as vocal, active allies that our culture will truly overcome sexual harassment, misogyny and both conscious and unconscious bias. Thank you guys! 

 

Suspension of ESPN Host Jemele Hill -- Because I was one of the first female TV sportsbroadcasters in this country and helped open sports locker rooms to female reporters (1978-1984), I want ESPN host Jemele Hill to succeed. That's why I initially thought she made a mistake in calling President Trump a "white supremacist" on Twitter.  A "personal twitter feed' for a public figure is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. I thought she crossed the line between sports commenting and political commenting. But she persisted in speaking up about national issues that concerned her. Now, ESPN has suspended her for two weeks.  Raising your voice during times of crisis when too many others are silent, takes courage. So, instead of criticizing Hill, I'm wondering why a sports commentator or NFL athletes should be held to different standards than our President -- who has called for the firing of both Hill and kneeling NFL players. Keep raising your voice, Jemele.  We need you -- not only covering sports, but speaking your truth as a woman of color refusing to be silent about racism.  

 

Bernie Sanders Opening Speaker for Women's March Conference --  I don't get this. If your slogan is, "It's Our Time to Lead," why would you not model your own motto? Of course men are essential allies in the fight for women's equality. When Susan B. Anthony opened the very first National Conference of American women in Seneca Falls, NY in 1948, Frederick Douglas and other men were with her. But Anthony and other suffragists led the convention. Bernie Sanders is one reason why the historic opportunity to elect the first woman president slipped away; perhaps for my lifetime. So, I won't be at the Women's Conference to hear him speak, although it is being held this month here in Detroit. Instead, I'll be in Houston at the World Leadership Conference of the International Women's Forum. And guess who we'll be inducting into the IWF Global Hall of Fame? Hillary Clinton, a leader who has done more to advance women and girls all over the world than Bernie Sanders has ever thought about.  

 

Battle of the Sexes. Finally, if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go see Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone as the legendary Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as self-described "male chauvanist" Bobby Riggs.  It's great! And take a few Millenials with you (my 24-year-old son, Kevin, loved it.) Hopefully, the movie will inspire them to pick up the torch of women's equality. Millenials are my greatest hope for once again hearing women Roar. 

 

Raise your Voice!  Anne 

A Severe Case of Testosterone Poisoning

March 22, 2017

"Where in the world is Anne Doyle?" "What happened to you?" "Why have you gone silent, Anne, when we need your voice more than ever?" Those are some of the email comments I've received from many of you lately. It's nice to be missed. 

There's a simple explanation for why you haven't heard from me for several months. I've been struggling to recover from a severe case of testosterone poisoning.

You may never have heard of this debilitating condition. But chances are you're infected, as well. Because the PH Power Balance (testosterone/acidic;estrogen/alkaline) in every nation on earth is perniciously distorted. And the USA is no exception. Testosterone levels in our public domain are off the charts, while our cultural estrogen is dangerously diminished. 

Like Kryptonite to Females. So what's the problem? For female human beings, I submit that repeated exposure to excessive levels of testosterone has the same impact that Kryptonite has on Superman in the DC comics universe. With every breath a girl or woman takes, her female powers are diminished by our toxic cultural air. 

Unlike Superman, however, we don't instantly notice the debilitating effects that excessive testosterone exposure has on us. After all, when everyone around you displays the same symptoms -- showing little more than polite anger over centuries of legal, economic and social servitude; continuing to raise the next generation of daughters and sons to unconsciously, passively accept our dysfunctional status quo; and being ever-so-careful to protect fragile male egos -- it's easy not to notice how distorted our culture has become. 

November 9th Overdose. It was in the wee hours of November 9th, 2016 that testosterone poisoning finally got the best of me. When it became clear to me (and to a stunned world!) that Americans had turned their backs on one of the most qualified humans ever to run for president of the United States and, instead, handed the controls of our national 747 over to a narcissistic, lying rookie without a pilot's license, I was physically sick. I had finally succumbed to the particularly virulent strain of raging male hormones that has infected our country and is metastacizing rapidly.

I slipped into a deep funk and, like Superman, needed to retreat to my "fortress of solitude" to regroup and regain my strength.

Of course I emerged, briefly, to participate in the Women's March in Washington, DC on Inauguration weekend. But even that experience was bittersweet. As I marched shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of of thousands of other outraged Americans, I couldn't help but wonder to myself, "Where were all of you in October when there was still time to prevent our testosterone-addicted nation from driving itself right off a cliff?" 

If you bristle at my use of the term "testosterone poisoning" to name the USA's greatest weakness, before you lash out at my resistance, I hope you will watch, Equal Means Equal -- the devastating and definitive documentary on the state of women in America. We are in free-fall.

And if you have a hard time recognizing situations and environments where testosterone has reached crisis levels, look no further than the recent performance on the global stage of our U.S. president who wouldn't deign to even glance at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, let alone shake her hand for the cameras. Our Testosterone-in-Chief is more comfortable groping women than acknowledging a female who is now widely regarded as the new leader of the Free World. 

PH Power Imbalance Impacts Both Genders. When I first started tracking the cultural impact of excessive testosterone levels, I thought it was only females who suffered the consequences, beginning with the loss of entitlement for themselves and other women to equal power with men to make decisions for the human family. It's my explanation for why 54% of white American women who voted in our recent presidential election chose a deeply flawed male over a highly-skilled member of their own tribe to lead our nation. But it doesn't explain why women of color -- 94% of African American women and 68% of Hispanic women -- made the opposite choice. Could it be that women of color are more resistant to the intoxicating power of white male testosterone than white females? 

The more I thought about all of this, the more I realized that males also suffer from the testosterone/estrogen power imbalance. Could it be a factor in the male bystander syndrome Harvard Business Review tackled this month? America's hormonal power imbalance, may explain why so many good men remain silent bystanders as other males behave outrageously toward women  -- from sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace to gang rape, both physical and legislative. 

I suspect, regardless of gender, we're similar to frogs dropped into comfortable, warm water who never realize, until it's too late to jump for safety, that they are being cooked into lethargic paralysis. It's the cumulated effect over time that does us all in. 

An Old Soul To The Rescue. It was Tamara Kolton, a humanistic rabbi and dear friend who heard the wailing of my wounded spirit and retrieved me from my funk. She is much younger than I, but an old soul who understands the fire in my belly that has long fueled my quest for gender and human equality. 

"Anne, millions of people are in the same emotional funk you are these days," she told me. "But part of why your pain is so deep is because everything you believe in has been shattered. You've lost your work purpose. Your heart is broken." 

As she spoke those words, my heart sped up, my chest tightened and my eyes filled with tears. I was stunned at how emotionally I reacted. 

"You should write about your pain," Tamara told me. "It's a very personal story, but people can relate. You have a sense of history and the generations of courageous women who risked so much and worked so hard to get us to this point. Too many American women have no personal sense of the Sisterhood Struggle that brought us so close to an historic breakthrough." 

Tamara stirred my creative embers that have been stone cold for months. I've started writing again, working on a new book that is very different from the one I was writing before the world changed on November 8th. I do have a sense of where this book is headed, but a writing journey can take you in unexpected directions. As someone famous once put it, "I have to write to know what I think." I'll keep you posted. 

My Anguish Ripens to Rage. I was lucky enough to have parents who started immunizing me from early childhood, building up my ability to think authentically and function effectively even in work environments where testosterone was at toxic levels. Over the years, I've sustained myself with nature, horses, dogs, family, rejuvenating friendships and global travel. But I've never been immune to the impact. A lifetime of facing psychic insults, blatant pay and employment bias; never-ending vulnerability to sexual assault, and decades of taxation without representation have all taken their toll. And I'm one of the lucky, privileged females -- born white, American, middle-class and educated.

Now, decades down the road, as I observe the state of millions of the more vulnerable members of my female tribe, my anguish is ripening to rage!

If all I can be in my remaining years is a witness for our times and a spirit who refuses to go quietly into the night, so be it. In the meantime, the most powerful antidote I've found for repeated exposure to excessive testosterone levels is Sistering -- actively, visibly, supporting other living beings striving for human equality. 

Persist!  Anne 

Hear Us Roar!

October 16, 2016

Months of hateful language against multiple minority groups, as well as the proliferation of anti-Hillary signs and t-shirts proclaiming: "Lock her up!" or "Trump that Bitch!", were bad enough. But it was the explosive release of video evidence of Donald Trump in sexual predator mode that opened a cultural Pandora's box of gender pain, denial and outrage in America.  

I have my own litany of deep emotional bruises and scars from male interactions I've tried to forget. I've yet to meet a woman who doesn't. So, how am I dealing with all of this? I've often found myself humming Helen Reddy's powerful 1971 anthem. 

"I am woman, hear me roar. In numbers too big to ignore. And I know too much to go back and pretend." 

Wise Women Words

I've been soothed in the last 10 days by four powerful women who have raised their voices in outrage and shared their wisdom on how to keep reaching toward the light. They've given me hope that this painful labor is giving birth to another leap foward in human evolution. Women are on the rise throughout the world. And there is no turning back. 

"Cause I've heard it all before. And I've been down there on the floor. No one's ever going to keep me down again." 


Michelle Obama: "Enough is Enough."
In a speech for the ages, America's most respected public figure gave voice to women and girls everywhere who are all-too-familiar with the fear and pain of gender disrespect, humiliation and violation. If you have not heard her words, please listen. They will go down in herstory as a defining moment and a call heard round the world for women and men who respect and love them to stand up and roar, enough is enough! 

"Oh yes, I am wise. But it's wisdom born of pain. Yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained."


Gloria Steinem:
"Go Toward Freedom."
Just a few days ago, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with Gloria Steinem on the campus of Michigan State University. What did Gloria say about what feels like a culturally dangerous time in America? 

She responded with the metaphor of domestic violence, telling the audience: "The most dangerous time for victims in abusive relationships is when they try to escape. That's when they are most likely to be killed or suffer the worst beatings. It takes great courage for victims to make the leap toward freedom." Steinem told us she is not surprised by the stunning, gender-specific backlash against the first woman to seriously challenge the male monopoly on the most powerful leaadership position in the world. "We have arrived at a moment in history where the female half of the human race is reaching a tipping point of escaping from thousands of years of subjugation in culturally-abusive relationships. No wonder it feels so dangerous,"Steinem, now 82, told us. "Take care of each other and keep pushing for equality for all. It is our only path to freedom." 

 "You can bend but never break me. 'Cause it only serves to make me. More determined to achieve my final goal. And I come back even stronger. Not a novice any longer. 'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul." 

Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka & Kah Walla:  "Why Are American Women So Quiet?" My third source of inspiration comes from two courageous African leaders I was with at the recent World Leadership Conference of the International Women's Forum. Over 900 women from 40 nations gathered in Chicago.

Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, was inducted into the IWF Hall of Fame at the conference. Kah Walla, a political leader from Cameroon who has been imprisoned multiple times for challenging and running for president against her nation's 32-year dictator president, was the closing keynote speaker. Both used their moments on stage to express their dismay and challenge American women to flex their collective clout.

"Why," Walla asked the stunned audience, "have American women been so quiet as one of the most respected leaders in the world -- who happens to be a woman -- has been repeatedly demeaned and insulted on the global stage?" 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka put it this way: "Don't Americans realize that Hillary Clinton's election would not just be a breakthought for the U.S., it would be a world changer!" 

At moments like this, I ask myself, "What would Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro and Coretta Scott King do if they were with us today? I have no doubt they would say, What are you waiting for? The moment is at hand. The world is watching and waiting." 

 "If I have to, I can do anything! I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!" 

Let them hear you Roar!  

 

 

It's Time for Women to Stop Being Politely Angry

September 11, 2016

I just returned from a fascinating, yet challenging, one-week assignment in Trinidad & Tobago for the U.S. State Department. The U.S. Embassy there asked me to lead three days of workshops on both islands for local NGO leaders and change agents working to address gender-related, civil society issues. Rape, incest, domestic violence and religiously-sanctioned marriage of girls as young as 12 top their URGENT list.

This "Scourge of Abuse," as the banner in this photo correctly calls the crisis, has gone unchecked for centuries.  It is now a full-blown global epedemic with females of every age vulnerable to attack at any moment, be they citizens of a tiny, 2-island West Indies nation or the most powerful democracy on earth. There is not a country in the world where female members of the human race are safe from the ever-present threat of sexual harassment, physical abuse and violent death, often at the hands of their own family members.

Babies and very young children -- victims of incest. Wives of every social class -- violently abused and often murdered by their own husbands. Gang rapes in India. Nigerian school girls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Rampant sexual trafficking of young girls and child pornography. Women of any age, from puberty to senility -- raped; in their homes, on college campuses and while serving their country as soldiers in the military. The statistics are staggering and sickening.  

Add to that shameful list the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits that languish, forgotten for decades on crime lab shelves while serial rapists continue on their perverted paths of human abuse. 

I didn't go to Trinidad & Tobago bearing the gift of solutions. I wish I had them to give. I went seeking fresh insight for solving the "Scourge of Shame" we all rail against, as I went to lead workshops on collaboration and building allies for social change. 

One of the gifts I received was meeting U.S. Ambassador John Estrada. A native of Trinidad who came to the U.S. as a youngster and rose to become one of the highest-ranked officers in the U.S. Marines, Estrada is publicly raising his influential voice -- in speeches, in the news media and with government officials -- in opposition to child marriage and all types of gender violence. For him, it's personal. 

When he dropped by my workshop to show his support for the NGO leaders working for social change, the Ambassador didn’t just stick his head in and wave. He pulled up a chair and shared intimate memories of watching his mother being beaten by his step-father when the future Marine was too young to protect her. And he told how his own sister recently confided to him that she was sexually abused as a child by a relative. "Hurting females is a sign of weakness, not strength is what I want men to understand," he told us. 

I'm inspired and receive an injection of hope when I meet deeply committed male allies, such as Ambassador Estrada and Embassy Public Affairs Officer Stephen Weeks, who sponsored my visit. But I wake up in the middle of the night wondering, "Why is half of the human race still so passive as to allow our own tribe to be violently preyed upon day after day, year after year, century after century -- in our cradles, our homes, our campuses, our offices, our communities, our countries?  

At the beginning of the 21st Century, women throughout the world have achieved unprecedented levels of education, empowerment and leadership -- as individuals. But we are in kindergarten when it comes to leveraging our collective influence to fix the mighty wrongs still inflicted upon our half of the human race. 

We are naive if we believe gender violence will decline and women's influence will rise without a mighty fight. As Frederick Douglas, the former American slave who rose to become one of the greatest thought leaders of his time wrote, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Are you still "politely angry" over the rampant violence, sexism, outright mysogyny as well as lack of EQUAL POWER to shape the human condition of the human family? 

I'm done citing research and statistics until I am blue in the face, hoping logic and facts will trigger the long overdue, gender tipping point.  

I am too sickened by story after story of girls and women as victims. Too outraged over example after example of only TOKEN female representation in positions of power -- be it moderating presidential debates or taking our rightful seats in Congress and corporate Board Rooms. Too disgusted with criticisms of one of the most admired and accomplished women in the history of the world being picked apart, nibble by nibble, over trivialities. 

Change begins with our voices, our votes, our money -- and leveraging them collectively. Women have never been stronger; yet we are far from together enough to DEMAND and FORCE POSITIVE SOCIAL CHANGE. 

As you rise, I hope you will also challenge yourself to INSIST that your Global Sisters rise with you. Not someday. But now . . . on our watch. 

There But For The Grace of God Go We

November 22, 2015

I'm fully recovered from the horseback riding fall that landed me in the Emergency Room in late August. Thank you for all of your words of encouragement to "get back in the saddle!" My body recovered more quickly than my psyche from a good scare. But there is nothing better than following your bliss to help you overcome fear after failure.

So, as I write tonight, it is my Soul and Spirit that are aching, not my Muscles. 

Nearly eleven million desperate people -- half of the population of Syria -- fleeing killers, torturers and rapists; the cold-blooded attacks in Paris that stunned the world; 9 dead after a terrorist attack on a Mali hotel; a Russian plane brought down by a terrorist bomb. And let's not forget the 270 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly 600 days ago. 

I've had my fill of evidence that our human family is at a moment of global crisis.

As sickened as I am by the evil and growing violence that extremist thugs and butchers are wreaking in the name of Islam, I am even more sickened by the cowering of so-called leaders and moral citizens who are willing to look away from human suffering in THEM in order to protect US. 

EMPATHY is the ability to feel as if the suffering occuring to someone else is actually happening to you. That ability is essential if we are to find the courage to overcome our own fear and take action to help -- even in the face of danger. No one chooses to become a refugee. It is what you become when you run out of choices.

I ask myself, as I hope you are asking, "What would I be doing if my country and my neighborhood were suddently overtaken by evil butchers who were randomly bombing, torturing and raping? If the only way to save my son was to flee our home and my country with only the clothes on our backs, who would take us in? How desperate must parents be to take infants and small children in over-crowded, patched rafts across open sea?

There but for the Grace of God and the luck of the draw go we.

I get the fear. Terrorists and Islamaphobia are very real. But we must not turn away in fear. We must collectively face and fight evil and wrap our arms around its victims. The Syrian refugee crisis is just as real and just as inhuman as the slaughter of Parisians relaxing in a cafe or enjoying a concert. As we mourn the dead, we must not turn away from the living -- the millions of refugees, for whom help and hope these days are in short supply. 

If you are asking yourself, "What can I do?", I hope you will listen to this powerful interview with Queen Rania of Jordan, one of the most articulate, informed and respected voices in the Mideast on the Syrian crisis. Jordan's Queen knows of what she speaks. Her country is now hosting over 600,000 Syrian refugees -- 20% of Jordan's population! There are 140,000 Syrian children presently in Jordanian schools, and the country is spending close to 25% of its national budget to care for these desperate human beings who are as scared of ISIS as we are in the West. The only difference between them and us is that they have come face-to-face with the enemy. 

What can we do? Queen Rania is calling upon the world to do two three things: 

  • Join Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Germany and other countries in hosting settlements or families that have been vetted. Since 2011, the USA has accepted only 1,500 Syrian refugees, while 6,000 are arriving DAILY on the shores of Greece. The 10,000 that President Obama has proposed for 2016 is a drop in the world's refugee bucket. And all will go through nearly a year of  multiple screenings before they ever touch our shores.
  • Give money to agencies that are helping countries that are stepping up to this humanitarian crisis through the Syrian American Refugee Network (SARN) or UNHCR, explained in this Cate Blanchett appeal.
  • Find a political solution to the humanitarian crisis and the growing evil of ISIS, which the United States must help to lead. 

As I think through what my own response should be to the moral panic that is seeping into every corner of the world, I am reminded of the powerful African tribal mantra that I learned about during a recent trip to South Africa. UBUNTU. It means: I AM because YOU ARE.

As a global family we are stronger together. I'm ashamed to read that 31 U.S. Governors want to close their state borders to Syrian refugees. I'm dumbstruck when the powerful County Executive in my own community demands that plans for a housing development and community center for Syrian refugees be banned from wealthy Oakland County, Michigan.

Only cowards turn away in the face of evil. 

I am an American baby boomer, born just after World War II, so I have never experienced a war that felt this close. The world has gotten so much smaller in my lifetime. Communication connects us instantly. News, particularly horror, travels instantly and becomes part of the global conversation within minutes. The challenge we are facing is not a war of Muslims against Christians, of the West against the Mideast, or of refugees against those of us lucky enough not to have been faced with having to run for our lives. We are facing a new kind of war -- a World War of extremists against all moderate and moral human beings in every country in the world. 

True leaders do not turn away in apathy, nor run away in fear. They bring out the best in our collective selves, which is what we desperately need at this moment. 

 

 

 

UBUNTU: I Am Because You Are

May 29, 2015

I just returned from a 10-day trip to South Africa.  The trigger for my travel was the World Cornerstone Conference of the International Women’s Forum, hosted by the leading women of the new nation (only 21 years old!) of the Republic of South Africa. 

Entitled “Legacy & Inheritance: Journey to the Future,” the Johannesburg conference attracted over 600 women leaders from 30 countries and five continents.  The 3-day agenda was packed with some of the most respected and visionary thinkers, activists, elected leaders and business people at work today in southern Africa. 

I was struck by their willingness to openly engage in courageous conversations about the lessons learned from South Africa’s disturbing, apartheid past, as well as the challenges they are tackling today as they work to build a “rainbow nation” that lives up to the non-racist, non-sexist, “Ubuntu” promises of South Africa’s (1997) Constitution.

What is Ubuntu?  It is a deeply-held idea from the Southern African region of the world that literally means “human-ness.” Our conference hosts defined it as: “I am because you are.” It was expressed in another way on a beautifully-painted bench on Signal Hill overlooking the spectacular Cape Town harbor, which read:  “Your Respect is My Strength.”

South Africa is one of the shining lights of the African continent, although as a democracy it is a very young nation, born April 27, 1994.

I could write pages about what I learned during my first visit to this spectacular country of 47 million people speaking 11 official languages and striving to collectively heal from the damage done to the nation’s psyche and soul as they look to the future. But I’ll try to be concise. So, here are a few highlights, whose themes are universally relevant to individuals and nations aspiring to the values of Ubuntu.  

Stunning Beauty, Bitter Lessons -- My travels took me from the crashing waves of the Cape of Good Hope and lush fields and majestic mountains of Wine Country to close encounters with born free lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos in Kruger National Park. Blessed with gold, diamonds and spectacular beauty, South Africa is one of the continent’s jewels.

But its bitter history cannot be ignored. I walked the streets of SOWETO (Southwest Townships of Johannesburg), home to over 4 million people, some living in tin shacks with no water or electricity, as well as the homes of two Nobel Peace Prize Winners – Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.  And I soaked in the sobering lessons of humanity at its worst on display at the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum, named for the 13-year old boy who was shot by police during the student uprisings of June 1976. The photo of his death alerted the world to the tragedy of apartheid. All over the world, including in my own country, racism still raises its ugly head.

The Path to Equal Justice. For me, the most powerful voice of the conference was that of the Honorable Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi and the 2nd female head of state in an African nation. She unapologetically focuses her efforts on lifting women and children, who are the majority of the world’s poor. “Education breaks the yolk that oppresses most women and girls,” she said. “We must begin with education and then invest in women who are natural producers . . . of life . . . of food from the ground and as entrepreneurs.”

Dr. Banda challenged the global IWF leaders to “live extraordinary lives” and use our talents to change the world, telling us, “You are only a leader when you reach out and lift others. Are you sleeping on the job? Or are you awake to the cries of the human family?”

Lessons From Animals – And how can I not mention the impact of spending three days in the company of some of the world’s most spectacular wild and free animals at a tented camp in Kruger.  I couldn’t help but notice the dramatic differences in male and female behavior.    

Over and over, I observed the collective strength of matriarchal societies where females bond together to feed their young and survive. Elephants, zebras, lions, hyenas, antelope and many others kick males out of the herd when they reach puberty and start “causing trouble. The females decide what is best for the group and the survival of the next generation. Their strength is collective.  Male strength was individual and concerned with their own physical needs – food and sex.  It is the female lions who do the hunting, but the males eat their fill before the lionesses get a bite.  Adult males live solitary lives, fighting other males for access to females during mating season.

Observing the ways that matriarchal instincts and collective female strength protect life and nurture healthy group behavior, I couldn’t help but wonder why and when we lost our collective strength. In most societies, adult females are paired off with individual males, which distances women and children from the protection of other females. And because most women are physically weaker than men, we are vulnerable to dangerous males. Rampant domestic violence, campus rape and sexual trafficking of young girls are all glaring examples of how far females have strayed from the wisdom of nature. I've felt that collective power each time I've been privileged to spend time with women who travel from all corners of the globe to learn and be energized by one another at the outstanding IWF global conferences.

Two fabulous examples are the leaders in this picture, Ntsiki Memela-Motumi, a Major General in the South African army and Marsha Sampson-Johnson, a speaker, change agent and retired Bell South senior executive.   

 Making It In A Man’s World Is Just the Beginning. I’ll leave you with the words of an African leader who told her gathered highly-accomplished sisters, “Too many of us are congratulating ourselves and one another for ‘making it in a man’s world.’ But that’s just the beginning. The real accomplishment will be making this a ‘human world” where all god’s creatures can thrive.”

Ubuntu!

 

 

Global Women Leaders Gather & Gamergate Backlash

November 16, 2014

These days, I think of myself as a SCOUT -- lucky enough to travel freely in multiple directions, meeting leaders, from across industries and global cultures, who are on the cuttting edge of women's progress. It's not enough for me to experience the pulse of change. I feel the responsibility to share what I've learned and observed with my network. I'm deeply aware that each of you has your shoulder to the wheel, pushing the edges of possibility in your circles of influence. We need you there.... because we are all laboring in the same vineyard.  So here's my news from the front lines!

World Leadership Conference of International Women's Forum: I was one of over 700 women leaders from 30 countries who gathered recently in Atlanta, the home of the US Civil Rights movement. The themeHuman Rights/Human Responsibility: Towards a Better Future. Highlights for me of three days of powerful dialogue with brilliant, courageous and inspiring thought leaders included: 

  • Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor, Georgia Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, needed only a couple of minutes to light a fire in the hearts of attendees at the opening reception, telling us: "Keep raising hell! You are doing the work of the angels.  Remember -- well-behaved women never make history!" The opening reception was held at the spectacular Center for Civil and Human Rights, which just opened in June. The interactive museum includes a replica of "white only" lunch counters where courageous African Americans defied local laws and dared to sit down in the early 1960's. Visitors can sit at the counter, put on a headset and hear the sounds of the hatred that black citizens faced, including people being pulled off stools beside them and beaten.
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee and author Sheryl WuDunn teamed up for a powerful presentation and discussion about human rights abuses that girls and women throughout the world still face. I've read Gbowee's book, watched the documentary about the women's rebellion that she led to stop 10 years of war in Liberia - Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and have heard her speek multiple times. Each time, she inspires me to do more. Her message in Atlanta, "We need to unleash the greatness in girls. Reach out to one girl and take her on a leadership journey -- someone who is not related to you. Make it part of your legacy!"
  • Memorable Women: Of all the fantastic women I met during this conference, three stood out for me. First, the Honorable Maureen Harding Clark. As an Irish-American whose grandmother hopped a boat for America at age 16, I was see thrilled to see her inducted (photo) into the IWF Hall of Fame.  A member of the International Criminal Tribunal, former member of the Ireland Supreme Court and one of the most respected jurists in the world, she is down-to-earth and oozing with self-deprecating, Irish wit. When we shared an elevator, she told me, "I've started reading your book, Anne Doyle. If there is anything I disagree with, you'll be sure to hear from me!"
  • Second, I was lucky enough to sit down at lunch next to Linda Davis, who introduced herself as a rancher from New Mexico and the mother of six children. We talked about our mutual love of horses. She never mentioned that she would be honored at the closing reception as an IWF legend -- nor that she is in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the CEO of CS Cattle Company, one of the most honored cattle and quarter horse ranches in the West.  She offered to show me around NE New Mexico -- on horseback. One of my 2015 goals is to take her up on that invitation!
  • Finally, former First Lady Rosyln Carter, one of the founder's of the Georgia chapter of the International Women's Forum, who was honored for her 44-years of human rights activism. She felt fragile when I shook her hand, but she spoke powerfully about her lifelong commitment to raise awareness about mental health.

GAMERGATE: If you haven't heard about the recent uproar and terrifying backlash against outspoken women who have dared to raise their voices against the pervasive violence toward women in video games, you need to know. Female game developers who have dared to complain receive rape and death threats. And Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic who has done excellent reporting on the excessive violence and victimization of women, was forced to cancel a presentation at Utah State University after USU received threats of a mass shooting if the "craven little whore" was allowed to speak. It was my 22-year-old son, Kevin, who brought this outrageous situation to my attention. Hope you are paying attention to the images and messages that gamers in your family are saturated with.

GOLDIEBLOX TAKES ON BARBIE: Finally, here's some fun. Take a look at the latest GoldieBlox ad about the first action figure for girls. With the gift season coming up, hope you'll keep the message in mind as you choose gifts. Remember the words of the indominatable Leymah Gbowee and help "unleash the power of girls"!

Happy Thanksgiving, Anne

 

 

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