When I see the face of Nelson Mandela, when I read his words, when I review the history of his life, I am filled with three things: awe, reverence, and love. He was a man motivated by love—of his people, his country, equality, humanity. And he emanated love—you can see it in many of his pictures. Nelson Mandela embodied what Riane Eisler calls “spiritual courage,” or “…the courage to challenge unjust authority from a position of love rather than hate…the courage to question our most hallowed and sanctified norms.” The love his courage, and his life, inspires in me is akin to the love of a grandchild for a wise and learned grandfather: I want to watch the lines in his face as he speaks, trace the shape of his footprints, listen to his stories over and over. I want to know what he knows. And I want to celebrate him.
When my daughter was four years old, she brought a book home from preschool about Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful book, with illustrations depicting the national mythos of the holiday: Pilgrims in black hats and buckled shoes, Squanto teaching them to plant and harvest corn, and a feast celebrating prosperity and peace. There is some truth to this mythos—Puritans who landed in Cape Cod really did feast with members of the Wampanoag tribe, including Tisquantum (also known as Squanto, who was living with the Wampanoag after losing his own tribe, the Patuxet, to disease). And the Puritans did have a relationship with Tisquantum before the feast. But our history often skips some very important pieces of this story.
Gloria Steinem is my favorite feminist rock star. And not just because she’s a rock star—I love her for her humility, her dedication, her seriousness, her playfulness, her inner and outer beauty, her reverence and irreverence in equal measure and in all the right places. I’m happy to honor her this week because she has just won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As President Obama conferred the medal upon her, he described her as a “trailblazing writer and feminist organizer” who has “been at the forefront of the fight for equality and social justice for more than four decades.”
It feels like eons ago that I wrote this post, trying to figure out where I stood on the “birth control mandate” in the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide all FDA-approved prescription medications to their employees, including birth control. At the time of that post, I was struggling with a tenet of American ideology and law: religious freedom. When employers said they didn’t want to do something that would go against their religious beliefs, I found myself frozen in place, as I used to be when someone said the phrase “freedom of speech” or the word “choice.” These words are very powerful in American rhetoric—they have the ability to shut down conversation that might lead to reinterpretation of their meanings. They have the power to ensure the continued freedom of the privileged while oppressing the less free. To have a true conversation about religion, contraception, and freedom, we need to free our minds and our tongues from our inherited definitions of those words, which are all firmly entrenched in patriarchy.
I’ve had the privilege to become involved with the Social Network Show: a groundbreaking radio show and online forum about best practices in social networking, including safety for girls and women. This is truly an amazing show—I have already learned so much in the few weeks I have been listening to it. The show’s guests are knowledgeable and fun to listen to, and I guarantee you will gain valuable wisdom about interacting safely online: how cyberbullies operate, what protections do and don’t currently exist in social networks, and what we need to do to move forward. This, my friends, is the new frontier—and the Social Network Show is on the cutting edge of it.