She Persisted: Vol. 1

Happy International Women’s Day!

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem

If you’ve read this blog before, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a feminist. I’ve mentioned this fact a few times, but it bears repeating. Equality shouldn’t be something that varies by gender (or race or sexual orientation or economic status or religion or any other factor other than your actions). It drives me crazy that we have to have ‘women in leadership’ programs – it should just be called leadership. I don’t like that we still have to distinguish the novelty of a situation whenever a woman does something exceptional.  However, because we still have a LONG way to go, that is the reality. I’m proud to be a woman, and I am proud to stand with the women who have come before us whose shoulders we now stand on.

So I’ve been wanting to do a feature on some historic women who maybe are lesser known than they deserve to be. There are so many incredible women across the globe and across history who deserve to be remembered- I think the film Hidden Figures really spoke to that. I’m hoping to do this on a semi-regular basis, but thought I’d start with a women who gets glossed over in Western History as I recently read a book about her, so she’s been at the top of my mind.  Additionally, while this particular installment is focused on a woman from western Europe- I plan to do features across the globe.

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr was Henry VIII of England’s last wife. Most people are familiar with Katharine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen as that love triangle dramatically changed the face of Britain, Catholicism, and, honestly, Europe as a whole. Most people are also familiar with Henry VIII’s proclivity for killing his wives, so the fact that Catherine outlived him is a win.

She was an incredibly compelling figure, but managed to fly under the radar while accomplishing a significant agenda. Catherine was a very well educated woman, and actively worked to educate the women of her court and her step-children (one of whom was Elizabeth I of England- who is widely recognized as one of the most successful rulers ever. Catherine being Elizabeth’s step-mother during her formative years had a large impact on her eventual ruling style and legacy). Catherine also restored both of Henry’s daughters (Mary & Elizabeth) to the line of succession. Basically, she fought with her insanely unstable husband to mend his very complex relationships with his children- and she succeeded.  That alone speaks to how selfless, loyal, and persuasive she could be.

Catherine Parr was one of the first females to publish a book in England, although she did so anonymously. She did eventually claim credit for her first book and published a second book post-Henry’s death. Essentially, her books were based on her reformer views around the Protestant faith, and as Henry VIII was very fickle and often looked for excuses to find a new wife, he tried to have her arrested (with the goal of execution) on the basis of her religious beliefs, so her publishing anonymously was paramount to her survival. In fact, it’s notable to mention another amazing woman here.  Anne Askew was the first woman burned at the stake primarily because she refused to name Catherine Parr as a Protestant reformer. The enemies of Catherine Parr basically offered to let Anne go if she would give up the queen, but she refused and was killed. The fact that Catherine’s friends and associates were so loyal that they willingly died to protect her should clue you into the fact that this woman was pretty spectacular.  As an additional note, she managed to change Henry’s mind about her arrest by saying she only engaged in these religious debates with him to take his mind off of his pain, and he bought it and turned on her enemies. That is some master manipulation of an egotistical maniac by an intelligent and strong woman.

She also ruled as regent while Henry was off at war. In her three months in power, she ruled without challenge, and did effectively maintain her authority. She dealt with finances and supplies for Henry’s war while also passing royal proclamations at home, and effectively controlling the dangerous and evolving situation with Scotland. This time specifically is thought to have shown Elizabeth I what was possible for a female ruler of England (spoiler alert- EVERYTHING). Catherine was renowned for her morality and loyalty, but she was able to remain committed to her passions (religion and education) while navigating through an incredibly dangerous marriage and role as queen.

In summary, Catherine should be remembered as a pioneer and an example for women as she was able to write, speak, and act with dignity and implementing progressive views into society in a time when her predecessors met very messy ends for less.

So let’s bring this back to today-  here’s hoping Melania or Ivanka pulls some sweet Catherine Parr maneuvers, and subtlety (or overtly) influences the actions of their version of Catherine’s egotistical unstable Henry VIII. We could use a little bit of her influence these days.

So ladies, let’s get out there and inspire!

 

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Rage: The New Political Currency

It’s been 3 weeks since Donald Trump took office, and I confess myself exhausted. It seems like every day on the news there is some new ridiculous and horrible thing he and his administration have done to be outraged about. I, like a lot of people right now, am torn between the urge to be informed and the urge to bury my head in the sand for the next four years. In a previous post I touched on the dangers of the 24-hour news cycle, and how addicting it can be. I think the last few weeks have underscored the argument that this addiction to news is not healthy. But more than that, what has been made abundantly clear is that anger is dominating the political scene, on both sides of the spectrum. It is almost impossible to be politically well-informed and not be angry. It seems we are in a time when one must take sides. There is no gray area in many of the political issues we have been debating, and most people feel passionately one way or the other.

There has been a lot of speculation about how a man like Donald Trump rose to power. Most people acknowledge that he tapped in to the rage of the overlooked white working class, and harnessed that rage and turned it into a movement. It didn’t matter that he said little about policy and had no experience in the political realm. He manipulated and played into the fears of the masses, and his strategy was successful. Now he is our president and he is still playing into the irrational fears of the masses in villainizing immigrants and Democrats and anyone who opposes him or threatens his family wealth.

However, the difference now is the Democrats are beginning to play on the rage that has surfaced in opposition to Donald Trump. It’s no longer accurate to say that anger only characterizes Republicans and Trump supporters. Anger now characterizes almost everyone, regardless of party. Some of this anger is justified and productive. For example, the outrage sparked by the Muslim ban arguably played a large role in the temporary dismantling of it. This rage was useful. We were angry; we were defending human rights; and there was an end goal to our outrage. There is however, outrage that is not useful. There is outrage that will consume your life if you let it and does not actually achieve anything productive. Liberals have made a big stink about how Donald Trump supporters have allowed themselves to be pawns in Trump’s political agenda, but perhaps we need to consider the ways in which we ourselves have become pawns. There are plenty of Democrats who have dramatized and stoked our anger, and for us to pretend that they do so only for the greater good of what we are accomplishing is naïve. There are future elections to think about, and arguably there are plenty of politicians attempting to become the angry voice of the progressive left in efforts to bolster their own political aims.

I’m not presuming to know anyone’s motives in stoking outrage, but I am suggesting we not allow ourselves to be manipulated. If you are going to take up arms over every single ridiculous tweet that Donald sends out, you are only going to affect your own quality of life. If you allow yourself to be baited by every politically incorrect thing he says, you’re in for a long four years. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting we allow his outrageous actions to pass unnoticed or unopposed. I am just saying we should choose our battles. And we should keep in mind that this chaos and outrage is exactly what he wants. Yes, it is absolutely ridiculous and even unethical that the President of the United States is tweeting at Nordstrom, saying they are mean for no longer buying his daughter’s product. But is it really worth your outrage? At some point you have to decide that some of his actions are too stupid to even respond to. If we choose to respond to every provocation, it allows him to paint the progressive left as angry and irrational, the same way that the left has often painted the tea party and the far right. Fair or not, our anger can sometimes undermine us and strip us of credibility. We go from being well-informed rational people who can carefully and articulately defend our beliefs, to raging crazy people who are not to be taken seriously.  I think outrage can be useful when it has a clear end goal. We need to take a step back and realize that this outrage that follows the 24-hour news cycle is not accomplishing anything. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by anger, we not only will fail to achieve anything in the political sphere, but we most likely will make our own lives pretty miserable in the process. I physically can’t walk around being angry about Donald all the time. It’s not sustainable. So, I choose to save my anger and my strength for the outrages that really matter to me. You are no less informed or passionate about your causes because you chose not to think about them 24/7. It’s quality, not quantity, of your resistance that matters.

-S

Electoral Bondage?

Today is the day that the Electoral College officially votes on the next president of the United States of America. For those of you who skipped civics and refuse to watch the news, the Electoral College (E.C.) is what you actually are voting for on election day.  The E.C. consists of various individuals that have been nominated by political parties. When you cast your vote on election Tuesday, you are actually voting for the elector who is pledged to vote for the candidate of your choice.

Image result for electoral college cartoon

So why do we have this system? Well, during the founding of the nation, all kinds of election ‘types’ were considered (popular vote, congressional selection, state governor votes, etc.),  but the convention eventually settled on the E.C.. The ‘goal’ of the college was to allow for popular participation by the people, but also to give smaller states as much of a voice as larger states. The E.C. was also set up in hopes that it would act as a safeguard against the rise of a demagogue.

However there are also political theorists who think the E.C. was less about the balance of power between populous and less-populous states, and more about the slavery lines of the North and the South. When the popular vote was suggested as the process to elect a President, the South pushed back hard. Because slaves were disenfranchised, the North’s number of eligible voters massively outnumbered those in the South. A compromise was originally met which allowed the Southern States to count slave as 2/5’s a person, which dramatically increased the South’s share of electoral votes.

“If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.” – Akhil Reed Amar

Obviously, the 2/5 compromise is no longer valid, but the Electoral College is still a hotly debated topic today in American politics. While this election has generated A TON of publicity around the E.C., people on both sides of the aisle have raised complaints against it for years. (In fact, Donald Trump tweeted against the E.C. a few years back). The world has changed a lot since the late 1700’s, and the efficacy of the Electoral College seems to be limited.

While I would love to see the members of the Electoral College vote against a demagogue (in case you aren’t familiar with the term, a demagogue is  defined as ‘a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.’ i.e. Donald Trump), it is highly unlikely that will come to pass. Also, I would be terrified to see how Donald Trump would react to having the Presidency taken away from him. I imagine it would be similar to when you take a toy away from a toddler and then the toddler stabs you repeatedly…

While I would personally feel vindicated if the E.C. were to evaluate Trump off his actions as the President Elect (see below for a few in particular), I realize that is not realistic, nor what our nation was  founded on.

  • His cabinet appointments (alt-right, anti-environment, anti-the very organizations they are supposed to advocate for… it’s like the opposite of the Justice League)
  • His refusal to take security briefings
  • His international relations snafus (Taiwan/China, support for Assad, statements on Castro’s death, etc.)
    • Everything with Russia (when the CIA & FBI all agree something untoward happened, SOMETHING is off)
  • The incessant tweeting (I think we can likely all agree tweeting about SNL and Vanity Fair should NOT be our presidents priority)
  • His Carrier deal. (He promised to save 1,100 jobs that were being relocated to Mexico, and ended up saving around 800, but negotiated millions of dollars in tax breaks for Carrier & United- which sets a dangerous precedent.)

    “In exchange for downsizing its move south of the border, United Technologies would receive $7 million in tax credits from Indiana, to be paid in $700,000 installments each year for a decade. Carrier, meanwhile, agreed to invest $16 million in its Indiana operation. United Technologies still plans to send 700 factory jobs from Huntington, Ind., to Monterrey, Mexico.”- Danielle Paquette

However, the preservation of this nation should be the bottom line, and while I am terrified over a Trump Presidency, I understand that changing the system now would cause a massive reaction through the country, and those wounds would be deep.

With that said, I do feel that it is time for a change in our electoral structure. With the internet (even with all the fake news), the fear that the public doesn’t have the means to be informed are unfounded (even if a lot of Americans choose to remove themselves from political education). The popular vote should be the bottom line, not an outdated, messy system that most people don’t fully understand.

Something to think about…