Gloria Feldt Takes “No Excuses” at Left Bank Books
by Jaime Kelley, Walrus Contributor
“No Excuses. Sounds harsh, right?”
Feminist icon Gloria Feldt openly shared her unfettered opinions with the audience at her March 8 appearance at Left Bank Books.
Feldt never intended her new release to be called No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. She spent a year writing to her title, Unlimited, a book to provide practical tools and inspiration for women to lead their lives in an unlimited way. She liked her title, her supporters liked it, her publisher liked it. However, the big-name booksellers did not. She said they wanted an “edgier, snappier title,” so they renamed it.
With an intuitive sense for the dramatic, Feldt paused, letting the idea permeate through the room. Then, with a big smile, she told us she let the booksellers know they should not expect her “to show up at her events in leather with a whip!”
Then this life-long progressive social justice activist, author, mother, wife, and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, shared a litany of statistics that underline the fact that women are still a far way away from true parity.
Polling the audience, she asked us to rate ourselves and our comfort level on the “scale of power,” with one being “scared of power,” five being “ambivalent” and ten “loving it.” Her experience has shown her that most women in her audiences find it hard to say they love power, even those women who are considered, by all accounts, to be high-powered or hold “power positions.”
Throughout her book, she suggests that this hesitancy comes from a deeply rooted belief system that espouses dysfunctional paradigms, insidious cultural narratives, and a socialization that reinforces inequities. However, she asserts that we have no excuse for believing. (Cue up the single by hip-hop rap band Public Enemy: “Don’t Believe the Hype!”).
More poignantly, throughout her book, she shares her optimism and her encouragement:
“I don’t want women to become men and repeat the same oppressive patterns of men’s leadership; I do want to redefine power and its uses so we all have a place at the table of life and leadership.
To hold forth the vision of women who are unlimited with the courage to stand in our own power and walk with intention. To help women be brave enough and bold enough to hold high aspirations but offer no excuses.” (pp. 20,21)
Feldt told us that the time for women to recognize and exercise their power is now! She believes women are in the midst of an unfinished revolution, and it is time for women to create new models of transformational leadership by using the power we have.
“Women are more visibly present everywhere than we’ve ever been. We have a voice and we are or can use our voices to insist that we be acknowledged in all spheres of life, even in places where we have been previously invisible…Dramatic change is in the air.” (p. 346)
“The challenge is to take leadership into our own hands, to accept the responsibility. We have the power, but power has to be mobilized. If indeed this is a moment for women, and if we truly, fiercely, deeply want that systemic change, we are going to have to embrace the concept of leadership for the common good.” (p. 354)
In closing, Feldt shared a humorous story about the final edits on her book. The word “parity” had been typed, reviewed, and overlooked written as “party.” She proposed that, one day, when we have finally reached parity, we will have no excuse but to throw a very big party. Let’s start planning!