Ordinary People

September 8, 2006

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.)

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    { 87 comments }

    something blue September 8, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    That is so very cool. I’m in awe. Which leaves me speechless.

    But I need to share that one of my best friends is doing the walk to end breast cancer this weekend.
    She is an amazing woman. If you want to add to her goal of raising money for this very worthwhile cause, just follow the link.

    toyfoto September 8, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    I love that she feels writing isn’t DOING. I hear from colleagues all the time about how the MEDIA has such an impact, to which have to wonder: Yeah, but what do we DO? Nothing. Sometimes less than nothing, which is worse.

    Another great and inspiring post.

    Mother September 8, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Awesome. And truly, you are right. She was so impressive and that struck me throughout. I will say talking with her sent me into a renewed awakening of feminism and women’s right. Not just for me, but damnit. FOR MY DAUGHTER.

    I was a greedy glutton with my #2, but I’m sure folks will send some great things your way.

    And I can’t wait to read the followup posts about causes.

    Mine is currently finding something to put down my gullet.

    :) Oh preggos. How you love them?

    Karen Rani September 8, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    Here’s mine, pretty lady:
    http://tinyurl.com/pp82v

    This is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for the opportunity.

    penelopeto September 8, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    fuck that’s cool.

    My cause will come soon.

    My question:

    As I posted about today, motherhood and sexuality don’t often collide, and when they do, it’s often to the detrement of one’s feminist sensibilities, or must be treated as a joke. How can motherhood and sexuality be happy bedfellows (ha!) without making feminism sleep on the floor?

    If you pick my question, feel free to re-word.

    Thank you, o magnanimous one.

    padawan September 8, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    i hadn’t think about it, but now that ypu say it, i guess i should be grateful for all the brilliant and generous people i’ve met blogging. there’s actually more talent there than i have ever see in a hollywood award ceremony. thanks for giving me someting interesting to think about.

    Stacy September 8, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Oh…. Pick me! Pick me!

    Coincidentally, I am on the cusp of taking major action. My best friend, Lucia Bagan recently lost her 3.5-year battle with breast cancer. A group of us (Lucia’s friends) in conjunction with our local Breast Health Coalition are starting a new foundation–unlike any other and desperately–needed, in her memory. Below is the (rough) tag line and mission statement. If you’d like more info, I can send you the appeal letter Lucia’s husband wrote, asking for corporate sponsorship. Or, visit my blog for more personal info on Lucia’s story.

    Tag Line:
    Providing comfort and support to women and families going through the final stages of breast cancer.

    Mission Statement:
    Lucia’s Angels is a new foundation, under the umbrella of the South Fork Breast Health Coalition, created in loving memory of Lucia Terzi Bagan. Lucia was a very giving person- not only of the material sense but also of herself and her heart. It’s no wonder she had so many friends and family surrounding her in her final days. It’s Lucia’s wish that other women and their families could have that same kind of love and support through their toughest times.

    Lucia’s Angels can provide assistance to women and families going through the final stages of breast cancer. From last wishes like one more trip to the beach, to providing extra child-care, to the holding of a hand to the very end, Lucia’s spirit and Angels will be there.

    So, my question to Ms. Steinem would be: Would she consider giving Lucia’s Angels any support and/or advice? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!!!

    Lisa b September 8, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    Wow
    I am still reeling. I knew you were up to something big.
    This is cool.

    I’ll put together a post asap about my causes.
    There is no way I could put together a question for GS. I am still trying to pick myself up off the floor.

    TB September 8, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Right on!

    My queston for Ms. Steinem would be How does she think that the wider array of choices women have today (to work, stay home, get an education, self publish, become a mother or not, etc.) as opposed to our predessors in our mother’s generation effect our overall quality of life. Is all this choice serving us well?

    ECR September 8, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    Congrats on the coup in speaking with Gloria Steinem. Here’s my response to your catalyst to action (though I do realize it kind of misses your point):
    http://24hours7daysaweek.blogspot.com/2006/09/just-say-it.html

    lynsalyns September 8, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I took action, as you asked. Did I mention that you are awesome? Yes, you are. You are awesome.

    http://chicken-and-cheese.blogspot.com/2006/09/save-life.html

    Mrs. Davis September 8, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    What a great conversation that must have been….WOW.

    My question for Ms. Steinem: As one of the leaders of “old school” feminism, how do you feel about the younger generations of women and mothers who identify as post-feminist or third-wave feminists?

    My reason for asking…I see the world of mommy blogging as a largely post-feminist culture, which seems (to me) to be at odds with the “brand” of feminism that Gloria Steinem represents.

    Petra September 8, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Ok here’s my contribution. It may sound a bit self-serving, but failure is not an option:
    http://petra-s-shadow.blogspot.com/2006/09/my-cause-my-life.html

    rhonda September 8, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Great post and good ideas!

    I’m a hospice volunteer and i’m all for spreading the word on what hospice has to offer families in need – during an illness, death of a patient, and the grief process. A wonderful program.

    Mamalooper September 8, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    I will blog in the next few days about my own personal mission/passion/issue.

    My question for Ms. Steinem is as follows:

    As much as I am aware, I recognize and appreciate the privilege that I have due to my race, my economic class and my education. For those of us who do experience privilege, what would you recommend be our next steps in social action to create a world of equal opportunities?

    And as I said the other day, if you have the chance, please thank Ms. Steinem for all her work, for what she represents, and for how it all has made my life better and that of my new daugher Monkeygirl.

    Anonymous September 8, 2006 at 11:25 pm

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    Waya September 8, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    I’m utterly impressed with you HBM, utterly in awe!

    mad_hatter September 8, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    Gloria Steinem! Holy Moley!

    OK, I will try to write a post on my cause sometime this week. I am a firm believer in supporting arts at the local and regional level lest we all become assimilated into Hollywood/MTV automotans. More to follow.

    My question for Gloria Steinem (I am all a-quiver just posting said question let alone contemplating the thought that it could get answered) is this:

    What insights can you offer on intellectual property in the blogosphere, particularly that of a new generation of unpaid and under-recognized women writers? And what are your thoughts on the commodification of our children as intellectual property in our blogs?

    I know this is cheating to have a two-part question but both parts are linked to intellectual property and both are issues that I wrestle with in my conscience a lot, a lot, a lot. And yet I keep blogging. And reading blogs.

    With due respect to all the other mommy and daddy bloggers out there.

    –Mad Hatter

    tracey September 9, 2006 at 12:37 am

    I’m dying over here. Dying. The Gloria stories are killing me. So cool. So so so cool.

    Mommy off the Record September 9, 2006 at 12:56 am

    Wow–congrats on this! I will try to do a post on a cause near to me….And I totally agree that actions speak louder than words. I tend to be more talk, less action so this was a good wake-up call. We CAN make a difference if we want to. I feel more empowered just reading your post.

    Izzy September 9, 2006 at 2:55 am

    Here’s my question for Gloria…

    Multitudes of very young girls believe they are empowering themselves by having prolific amounts of meaningless sex/oral sex with countless partners and frequently in the company of onlookers. I find this to be a disturbing and sad trend but somehow these girls think that they have all the power by behaving this way. Perhaps critics of this trend such as myself are simply being prudish and provincial. Naturally , I think not.

    Your thoughts?

    Melissa September 9, 2006 at 3:06 am

    Ahhhh, you too? You and liz and Kristen? Sheesh, you are some dam lucky peeps. I will have to think of a question and come back.

    sunshine scribe September 9, 2006 at 10:20 am

    That must have been a phenomenal experience to participate in that call with here. WOW.

    As you know my work life is all about championing causes and raising funds and awareness for charity. I have kept my blog separate from that for the most part for lots of reasons … but I may have to change that.

    mrsmogul September 9, 2006 at 11:13 am

    WOW!! Gloria is like BIG!!!

    My question: What do you think about putting personal pictures (especially children) on blogs? Do you feel it is a safe enough place on the Internet? I would personally stop posting when the child is one years old.

    mamatulip September 9, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Um, FUCKING AWESOME.

    I know what I’m going to write about. I just have to find the time to do it. *sigh* When I do, you’ll be the first to know.

    Mrs. Chicky September 9, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    You lucky ladies and your interview with GS! I’m thrilled for you all!

    Since I missed the question time limit, I will love writing a post about my favorite cause(s). As soon as I can string together two decent sentences I’ll get right on it.

    Marla September 9, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Colour me impressed – I can see the thrills oozing from your every word.

    Here is my question for la Gloria:

    One dictionary definition of Feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” It seems to have been co-opted at some point to suggest that some women are more equal than others. Is there a way to reclaim feminism as a positive word, showing progress, gain or improvement, instead of allowing women to use it as a derogative against other women? Would you suggest another word, other than feminism, that could be used in situations where some authors suggest that that some women are not fulfilling everything that womanhood will allow?

    Okay, that was two questions. But that’s how I am.

    I will post about my action later today, and let y’all know.

    Thanks for the opportunity.

    Her Bad Mother September 9, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    You all rock, totally. Totally.

    metro mama September 9, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    I’ll accept your assignment–will post something in the next few days.

    My question: how can I advance feminism as a stay-at-home mom?

    Congrats on the interview!

    Mouse September 9, 2006 at 5:48 pm
    Dawn September 9, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    Hmmm. The gauntlet has been thrown down eh? I will have to ponder this further.

    Mom101 September 9, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    Great question, great recap and great sharing such a life-changing moment with you.

    I too put the call out to readers for a question – I feel lucky enough that we got one already. And reading some of the suggestions here and at my place, I’m glad we did. Hooray for inspired, inspiring readers!

    Julie Pippert September 9, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    Hmm great topic. I blogged about this very topic once.

    I like this challenge. I’ll have to ponder. Right now I am very involved with autism. Maybe I’ll put a post together about that. We’ll see.

    Thanks for this…and the challenge.

    Julie Pippert September 9, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    OY! Sorry, bad link. It would require a lot of scrolling were you actually motivated to follow it.

    Try this link instead.

    MommaK September 9, 2006 at 11:38 pm

    Amazing post. I applaud you!

    lildb September 10, 2006 at 1:36 am

    C, I want to know the answer to Marla’s question. It’s a really good one.

    (This after I scraped myself up from the bottom of my chair, where I landed when I read that you spoke with HER. good god. can I touch you? I’m not kidding. that’s the day the sky opened up and the angels sang, the day you spoke to Gloria en excelcis womanus. and I’m sure I misspelled that but I’m not going to stop to google. no have time. anyway. you’re awesome. she’s awesome. wow.)

    dear wife September 10, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    What a great challenge. I will have to get ZD on it, but I think I may try to convince him to let me do a guest post. I have some ideas brewing.

    crazymumma September 10, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    The only people I seek to impress are my children.

    As for a question for Gloria, I will leave that for the much more articulate voices out there.

    Gotta say, what a wonderful and affirming experience this must have been for you.

    Ruth Dynamite September 10, 2006 at 10:19 pm

    Just the thought of Gloria Steinem (!) caring about our thoughts/plight/realities got me thinking, so I wrote this post.

    Thank you for encouraging the discussion. This is the tip of the iceburg.

    Ruth Dynamite September 10, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    “This post” above is at ruthdynamite.blogspot.com.

    Feminist? Perhaps. Techno wizard? Not so much.

    petite gourmand September 10, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    what a great challenge,
    and how cool.
    Now I feel like a big ass re: my post about celebrity encounters.
    I love what you said about not being impressed by famous actors.
    so true.

    Anonymous September 10, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Hey you – it is your sis. I am so proud and so in awe! Why don’t we know more about each other??
    You have so many accomplishments…..

    Anyway – we have only been home a week and half – maybe we can connect?

    My only question would be – how do you balance it all – career, family, sport? Without feeling like you are totally consumed by it all sometimes?

    PS Tanner and Sophie miss Wonderbaby and want o send them photos of their last amazing trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!

    Lady M September 10, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks for your post and congratulations on speaking with Gloria!

    When Q was born, I redirected a lot of my energies towards him and (embarrassed duck of the head) stopped spending as much energy on causes. Quick checks, but not organizational time. Thanks for the inspiration to pick them up again. Gotta make the world better for the kiddo now too!

    metro mama September 11, 2006 at 8:17 am
    Blog Antagonist September 11, 2006 at 8:38 am

    I left a question on Liz’s blog, so I won’t hog the podium by posing another one here.

    This was a great challenge, and a nice little nudge as well. Here is my post:

    http://bloggersrepent.blogspot.com/2006/09/mission-bad-mother.html

    Kirsty September 11, 2006 at 8:55 am
    Kristen September 11, 2006 at 10:24 am

    I agree- it’s pointless to be impressed by someone just because they’re famous for being famous (Paris Hilton, anyone?).

    mothergoosemouse September 11, 2006 at 11:06 am

    HBM, what a fantastic opportunity you had! I think I would have been satisfied just to listen in, let alone actually interact.

    radioactive girl September 11, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    You must be reading my mind. I have recently been pondering how I can make a difference. I recently started writing the story of how I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer a little over a year ago and added a link to the thyroid cancer association so people can read about it, make a donation, whatever. If anyone does make a donation, I want them to let me know and I will probably send a thank you gift out to them. This cause is so important to me because I had never even heard of thyroid cancer until I was diagnosed with it! My story is probably going to make me look like an ass about how mean I am/was to my husband, but at least it will be educational about the thyroid cancer part. radioactive girl: Forever and always…and even some more

    L. September 11, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    If anyone is interested in reading Ann Adam`s full story, she posted it on her blog last year:

    http://rocrebelgranny.blogspot.com/2005/12/sometimes-what-i-write-is-not-what-i.html

    The three beautiful girls on the top of Ann`s blog are her great-granddaughters, whom she and her husband have raised since infancy.

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