Writing to Change the World
Stop Blaming Men, Start Writing OpEds
The countdown to the end is on. My Harvard year is a month from ending, and you can feel a slight degree of panic in the air. Last dinners, last outings, last lectures are newly precious as they are increasingly counted. Many wonder what off-boarding from such an intense year will be like. Suddenly, you’re back home, in your old reality, with all your new buddies a world away. It will be interesting to see how Harvard and all the other programs of its kind support the aftermath, the projects and the connections that were created during powerful transition years.
In the meantime, there is a Final Symposium coming up December 6-7th, where the entire cohort will present their projects - in 5 minutes each! I’ll let you know how this goes, but there is a certain good-student nervousness around about how to do this well. And enough competitive juice to want to shine among such an illustrious group of people. I hope I don’t have to speak after the ex-Vice President of Panama, the Chairman of UNITAR or the potential next President of Bulgaria… (that’s another story for later).
Growing Thought Leaders
Friday, the entire cohort spent a day in a workshop run by The OpEd Project, and its founder Katie Orenstein and colleague Mary C. Curtis, a 35-year veteran journalist. Their mission is to balance the voices and influencers that are heard in the media, and raise the volume on a greater diversity of perspectives. When they launched 14 years ago, they say that 90% of OpEds were written by white men - but so were 90% of pitches submitted to the papers. So they created a network of experienced journalists who work with you to develop powerful pieces that get published. They claim your chance of getting your OpEd published multiplies by two if you get help from their experienced journalist-mentors.
I’m all in for any additional help and support I can get. So after a short conversation with Katie about my various projects, she mentioned that I could talk about 3rd Quarter transitions and Late Love by building on the ‘news hook’ of Tom Brady’s divorce from Gisele Bundchen. Being about as far from a sports fan as one can possibly be (to my sports-addled son’s forever disappointment), I hadn’t heard a thing about this story. But in the blink of a post-workshop eye, following their pretty step-by-step recipe, I did a fairly convincing dance around Brady’s resistance to growing up, and what this modelled (or failed to) for another generation of young fans who watch him unable to prioritise his wife’s (or his kids’) dreams - even from his solid position of rock star achievement.
It’s a classic tale I’ve written about before, and an endless repetition of patterns we’ve seen with the Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates’ cautionary tales about men who won’t support their wives’ becoming. When will we get better role modelling of more modern, balanced marriages for our kids? We need more Marty Ginsburgs (the uber-supportive spouse of Ruth Bader G.). Yet all we seem to hear about is a version of the Brady bunch.
As I know many elderberries’ readers are thought leaders in their own right, I think this might be of interest. Anyone can sign up online, and join their weekly support chats. I’ll let you know if I get my stuff into more places, something I’ve never really tried to do, and please let me know if you do too. Let’s raise our collective voices. There is an entirely new set of perspectives moving into the world through a multitude of new, easy to access channels. Just look at the rising influence of a heretofore largely ignored, ‘invisible’ group: midlife women.
Volume Rising: Midlife Women
As I was discussing with friend Juliet Warkentin, co-founder of midlife women’s website Hylda, there have never, in the history of humanity, been so many older women sharing their views and voices. Many of them are experienced journalists tossed from powerful roles in the mainstream media (several of them because of their age). Juliet shared a list of examples in the UK I will be checking out:
Jo Elvin - Ex Glamour, ex You Magazine
Marianne Jones & Kat Farmer. Marianne is ex-Stella of Telegraph. Kat Farmer is a stylist and blogger.
Fiona McIntosh - Ex- Elle, Grazia, Blow.
It’s a wonderful, inspiring tide. I hope you add your waves and views to this sea. Some find this overwhelming and overly crowded. I see it as the unleashing of voices we’ve never known even existed. As the OpEd ladies reminded us, “whoever tells the story, writes history.” Grab your pens people!
Stop Blaming Men
Sadly, and ironically, one of my rather more enlightened colleagues, got hit up unfairly for being pale, male and stale. Astonishingly, he got called out for not clapping at some moment during the workshop, because he was on his phone. This was interpreted as not being respectful, inclusive, and a whole raft of other accusations. The assumptions of too many women, including the ladies running the workshop above, is that privileged white men don’t support their cause. It’s often not true, and the unintended consequence is that it seriously harms our ability to get men fully engaged in our issues and causes. We push them out - and make assumptions that are just as excluding as those we reproach them for. It’s sad to watch.
I’ve seen this over years of working with male dominated leadership teams. We are usually told that they don’t support gender balance, but find when we talk to them and work with them, learn that they do. They often just don’t appreciate the way it’s been introduced, or the accusations laid at their door - just because of their race and gender. My colleague’s comment to me afterwards sums up many men’s feelings: “I am sick and tired of hearing that white males are the root of all evil; sick and tired of getting picked upon because of my look, name, occupation.”
I have needed to repeat this point so often that I did a little book about this, called 3 Ways of Engaging Men in Gender Balance. Gift it to your favourite men this Christmas.
But don’t bother sending it to Tom Brady. He’s not ready (yet).
Elderberries is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.