Admirable Women – Hidden Leaders

21 02 2011

From elementary school through to about my sophomore year in college the only books I touched were manga, sheet music, and those scholarly tomes foisted upon me by the demands of my education. Then something changed and I developed a deep love of reading practically overnight. One of the first books I picked up after going through this metamorphosis was one that I had heard about a couple years before and had just never got around to picking up – Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. That book immediately became a favorite of mine and remains one to this day. It is the story of how Dr. Nafisi taught forbidden western literature to a handful of young women in Iran in the 90’s, a bit of her biography, an analysis of a handful of popular pieces of classic literature, a discussion of the poisonous effects of religious fervor and anti-intellectualism run amok, a reminder to never take simple things for granted, and a look at the contemporary history of Iran from the 1979 Revolution and the optimism that followed to its current repressive, backward state all at the same time. I had encountered much of the literature she referenced in various classes and the personal perspective she brought to what Iran was about 35 years ago versus what it is (or was as of the mid 1990’s) was enlightening. I loved the book for all of its exotic as well as familiar elements, but that is not why I admire its author.

Teaching the material she was teaching in Iran was an incredibly risky undertaking and that in and of itself is worthy of a hat tip, but the fact that the whole endeavor was borne from a deep dedication to education and to this particular group of students is equally commendable. I have had the good fortune of being taught by some exceptional teachers and the thing they all had in common was that kind of dedication and love of what they were doing with their lives. I had said that the women I admire are leaders and I think that Dr. Nafisi is one. While she didn’t lead a nation or a national movement of any kind, she was a leader to this small group of women in a Tehran living room. Leaders aren’t always in the places you’re used to looking for them. Sometimes these hidden leaders have a greater effect on us than an auditorium full of dignitaries.

Incidentally, Azar Nafisi, now residing in the US, still teaches. How cool is that? She has also written another book, Things I’ve Been Silent About , which I have yet to read though I am very anxious to do so.

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Admirable Women – A Random Survey and an Idea

20 02 2011

According to this article, a recent survey of professional women found that 45% of the participants named Hillary Rodham Clinton Most Admired Elected Woman Leader. Sarah Palin was a distant second with 12% followed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with 8% and, rounding out the top five, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi tied with 4% each. 27% of those asked chose someone else. A lot of things bug me about this survey. First off, Most Admired Elected Woman Leader is a rather awkward title and that’s easy to fix. Yes, I know, nothing on this blog is what you might call Pulitzer Prize-winning material – my spelling is not the best and the prose sort of bumbles along – but I’m not getting paid for this either. If their was a paycheck associated with this, let me assure you the Discourse in C# Minor would be a good deal crisper and typo-free. Secondly, The position of Secretary of State is acquired through appointment, not election. Also, more than a quarter of the participants gave other names. listing those may or may not provide greater insight into the kinds of things that women admire in one another. If Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer placed sixth and seventh, that indicates something different than if Benazir Bhutto and Dr. Hanan Ashwari came in sixth and seventh. Only 222 women took part in the survey to begin with. It would’ve been interesting to see the whole list.

The thing with me is, particularly post-job loss, the next thought that pops into my head after I’ve figured out what I don’t like about the way something has been done is how I would’ve done it better. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make anyone take a poll, but I was inspired. I decided to highlight the work of women – not necessarily political women, but definitely powerful women – leading up to International Women’s Day which is March 8th. There are many that I think are admirable and this way I won’t forget Women’s Day all together this year. Women’s Day is a thing for me because we made a big deal out of it at my college and I believe very strongly that all women deserve to be honored whether or not they’ve birthed children. This is the first in that series of posts.

California Representative Jackie Speier took standing up for a woman’s right to choose to a whole other level Thursday night when she told all of  her colleagues is the House of Representatives and the country as a whole that she herself had an abortion due to major complications with a pregnancy. This happened during a debate on the House floor regarding whether the government should continue to fund Planned Parenthood. As restrictions tighten is states across the country and as South Dakota was, until Wednesday, pondering whether the killing of an abortion doctor should be considered a justifiable homicide, this woman stands up in front of the nation and tells her very personal story  in an attempt to stem the GOP’s march back to Gilded Age-style family planning. She has opened herself up to actual danger by doing so. The überwingnut elements of the anti-choice movement don’t play around. Remember the abortion clinic bombings in the 90’s? More recently, in 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, was killed in his church at the end of Sunday services. To stand up in the face of all that takes a special blend of courage and a conviction to do what she believes is right that not many of us can stand up and say we have, and to do so frankly and strongly. That’s why I admire this woman. If you missed her speech, this is it.





Happy International Women’s Day

8 03 2010

March 8th is International Women’s Day. It’s a bigger deal in other countries – sort of like Mother’s Day but inclusive of all women. I found this statement made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (Remember? 1995 Beijing. “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.”) and thought I’d post it. I will be the first to say that, for me, her words ring pretty hollow because I don’t see much that indicates she’s doing anything to help any women anywhere except have her picture taken with them, but that said, the State Department has yet to ask my opinion of anything. I suppose these things take time. Maybe she’ll bring women’s issues more to the forefront as her tenure continues? It’s only been about a year after all.

If I find more statements from other leaders I’ll post them as well.

UPDATE

Found two more videos. This one is from NATO and, just so you know, the music’s abysmal.

This one is from the UN.

I’ll keep looking for more.

UPDATE

Ok, so I know Women’s Day was yesterday, but I thought I’d post the White House’s statement, too.

UPDATE – I think I was a little harder on the Secretary of State than was really called for. The Secretary of State does not make policy and, in such a capacity, can’t go off and do their own thing no matter how noble that thing may be. Whatever her personal feelings might be on any issue, the Secretary of State is the diplomatic face of the Obama administration and nothing more or less.