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8 Sep

Ordinary People

I’m not easy to impress.

That sounds pissy and arrogant, I know. But it’s true. Celebrities don’t impress me (which is not to say that I wouldn’t shriek a little bit if I brushed sleeves with Josh Holloway, but that would be more because of his lickability than his impressive acting ability). I’ve encountered enough of them to know that they are usually shorter and uglier and far less pleasant in person than they appear onscreen. And in any case, the ability to stand in front of a camera and look surprised/scared/vague has never struck me as particularly impressive.

Sure, there are many talented and accomplished actors out there, as there are talented and accomplished musicians and athletes and comedians (um, Jon Stewart? Dave Chapelle?) and astrophysicists. Indeed, there are talented men and women in every field imaginable. But they are, still, just ordinary men and women and I’d need a bit more information about them before I could count myself well and truly impressed. Are they thoughtful? Intelligent? Passionate? Do they care about things other than themselves? Do they try to make a meaningful, considered difference in the world? (And no, driving a Prius doesn’t count here.) Are they good people, in the most nuanced and comprehensive sense of that word?

(I should note that I make special exceptions for people who make extraordinary contributions to their field or to world history. Picasso was an ass, Nietzsche was a clapped-out weirdo and Mother Teresa tended to excessive dogmatism – but to say that these individuals were merely impressive would be gross understatement.)

My sense is that the stock of impressiveness of most of the more famous people in the world wouldn’t hold up under such interrogation. But (and I assure you that this is not shameless ass-kissing) many of you ­– my bloggy friends – would. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve become so committed to our little corner of the blogosphere: it’s a space full of intelligent, literate people who love their children deeply and who are passionately committed to doing the best possible job raising those children and to doing what they can to make the world a better place for those children.

It’s revolutionary, as some have already said. And it’s impressive. You are impressive. Really impressive.

And you know what? Gloria Steinem thinks so, too.

She said so. On the telephone.

(I’ll wait while you pick yourselves up off the floor.)

(Oh. Wait. That’s me on the floor. S’cuse me…)

As part of an effort to promote a new media project (Greenstone Media: radio for women by women) that she is involved with, I was invited to participate in a conference call with Ms. Steinem and a handful of other bloggers. She said a number of amazing, insightful, and inspirational things (as one would expect from one of the founders of the contemporary feminist movement) – some of which I’ll try to address in posts over the coming week or two – and she totally knocked my socks off and made me want to be a better feminist.

And by far the coolest thing that she said was this: that she saw the women (and many of the men) of the blogosphere as being at the forefront of a new kind of revolutionary movement. A movement wherein we really talk to one another, and listen to one another. A movement wherein the highest premium is placed on telling the truth, and deriving inspiration and power from the truth. A movement that we further with every post that we write, with every supportive comment that we leave, with every empowering conversation that we spark and fuel and fan to a blaze. A movement that a big cool enterprise like Greenstone Media is committed to promoting. Our movement.

But she also said this: never forget that such a movement, based as it is on dialogue and debate, can only ever be a support for action. It cannot replace action. Don’t cocoon in your blogosphere, she said. Don’t mistake speaking or writing for acting. Don’t just talk: do.

So with that in mind, I have another (yes!) assignment for you: sometime this week, write a post about a cause that you are passionate about. Provide links and information and guidance for people to actually follow up on your post and take some sort of action: where can they make a donation? Sign a petition? Volunteer? How can they help promote your cause? Use this post as a catalyst for action – make it your mission to show, in whatever small way, how the blogosphere can support real action in support of real causes. It doesn’t have to be big – you don’t have a start a fundraising drive from your blog (although that would be cool), you just need to make a stab at showing how writing/speaking/blogging can support action. If you have already promoted a cause through your blog, or do so on an ongoing basis (as I know may of you do), simply provide me with some relevant links and a description of what you’ve been up to in the comments. Ditto if you know of someone else with a cause: do a post or post a comment with links and info. Then, as always, I’ll compile the posts, etc. etc. and we shall be a beacon of light, a chorus of voices – cue choir – and we will have Done Something and will be Doing Something in addition to All This Talk. And we’ll be even more impressive.

And Gloria will be proud.

So will WonderBaby. And she’s tougher to impress.


But wait! There’s more!

Gloria (yes, I call her Gloria now, ahem) has offered to answer one more question from me. In writing. And I, magnanimous lady that I am, have decided to give the question-asking opportunity to YOU. Post your question to Gloria – it can be on any topic – in my comments sometime today or tonight, and I’ll select one (am magnanimous dictator) to forward to her in the morning. I’ll post the question (with credit to person who provides it) and her response and an update on Assignment Take Action (above) early next week.

And you will be forever able to brag that You Asked Gloria Steinem a Question and She Answered You.

(I did it yesterday, and believe me, it’s worth the full caps.)