Last week we posted the first half of our conversation with Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Here’s the second half. Happy reading!
During your TEDxWomen talk, you spoke of the “major cultural backlash against women,” and shared examples of the insulting ways in which Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were represented during the 2008 campaign. As the 2012 Presidential election looms, that backlash seems to be gathering renewed steam. What do you make of this — is a War on Women in the making?
I think our recent political debates have only further revealed how much farther we have to go before we achieve true equality for women in this country. And while it’s encouraging to hear more people talking about women’s issues, it’s troubling to see the ways in which the media is going about it. We’re pitting women against women – working moms versus stay-at-home moms, women who use contraception against those that choose not to – all while avoiding the real issues around gender inequality and the partisanship that is keeping women from achieving true equality.
The truth is the pay gap still exists, with white women earning 77 cents on the man’s dollar, African American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning just 56 cents. And, by the way, the Senate Republicans just voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act- a despicable act of partisanship, furthering the backlash against women.
Furthermore, even though studies have shown that working mothers pose fewer burdens for employers than their co-workers, the stereotype persists, and women with children make 7-14 percent less than their childless female peers. It’s ironic when one considers that if we paid stay at home moms, they’d make over $117,000 a year.
On top of the pay gap, we have no national family leave, flex-time, nor child care policies. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world without paid family leave, putting us decades behind the rest of the world.
And when it comes to leadership, only 3% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women, and overall, less than 18% of American leadership – from business to religion to politics – is female. That’s it.
So what we have in the U.S. is an overall undervaluation of women and the work that we do. The war is widespread and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t use our voices and speak up.
The Invisible War looks at a brutal truth: female soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to be raped by a fellow solider than killed by enemy fire. So much time, energy and money goes into covering up these soldiers’ experiences — was it difficult to gain access to these women and their stories?
The answer is yes, but the incredible filmmaker duo of Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick should really answer that, as we came on board after they had already connected with the majority of the interviewees. ;0)
For those of us not in the military, what can we do to challenge “the perfect storm conditions that exist for rape in the military”?
I think everyone should see this film and then encourage others to do the same. Sexual assault in the military is such an under-reported crime that just being aware and talking about it with others is the first step. We all need to play our part in eradicating hyper-masculine ideals of manhood. If we can call out sexist attitudes and behavior within current generations, and if we can raise future generations of boys to value women and not be cut off from empathy and emotion, then we can start shifting our culture towards something that is safer and healthier for everyone.
The obstacles facing women can be daunting, from the physical safety of our soldiers to how a young woman can retain a sense of self in the high school hallways. As you engage with these issues through your advocacy for women, who are your role models? Who helps inspire you to keep going?
I have role models everywhere around me and very few of them are actually public figures. If only I would slow down enough to actually absorb into my subconscious their individual and collective wisdom! In all seriousness, though, I learn something different from every one who crosses my path. My younger sister Brooke is a real model to me in her temperament and generosity of spirit. My husband Gavin is also a model to me with his fairness, work ethic and courage. My childhood friend Lesley inspires me with her exceptional homemaking skills and commitment to raising healthy daughters. My film partner Regina Kulik Scully overwhelms me with her generosity, passion and commitment to healing our world. Documentary film queen Geralyn Dreyfous inspires me with her incredible attitude, dedication to empowering women, and networking genius. Susie Tompkins Buell fuels my commitment to the environment and women with her generosity and passion. The list could go on and on and on. And, on the public stage, I so revere Gloria Steinem for her intelligence, graciousness and generosity and Hillary Clinton for her strength, steadfastness and conviction. These women are true sages. And, we are lucky to have women like them in our world.
The “Second Shift” is a challenge for many women – how to be fully present both at the office and at home. You shared that you’re learning to compartmentalize, “so that when I’m at work, I’m at work, and when I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids.” Any tips on what’s helped you in this?
Failure and learning from my mistakes. Every time I so much as try to step away from the office in the a.m. to take my two-year-old daughter to music class or ballet, I fail. Not once have I taken her without a toddler tantrum that has left me totally shaken, panic stricken, and guilt ridden with the notion that I am a failure as a mother. So, I do have to compartmentalize and take her to swim class at 5 p.m. instead, or race home to kick the soccer ball around and feed she and her brother dinner before tucking them into bed having read them a few books. Weekends, though, are sacred to me and – aside from date nights with my husband when they are asleep- I spend most weekends outdoors with them, having a picnic, rolling around on the grass, playing with balls, and rediscovering nature. It’s pretty magical. I feel blessed.