No Excuses, Gloria Feldt

ImageIt was only a matter of time before I read Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses; Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Gloria Feldt is a Women’s Media Center board member, former president of Planned Parenthood, and current activist for women’s power and leadership. She’s a powerhouse.

In No Excuses, Feldt looks the gender gap in politics, leadership, and income in the United States and formulates her own thesis for why the gap exists and how we can go about demolishing it. The book is part women’s history, part self-help, and part cultural criticism.

Feldt’s thesis is two-fold: first, she believes that women conceptualize power as dominance and power-over rather than leadership and power-to, ultimately resulting in women avoiding leadership roles altogether. Secondly, she believes that the metaphorical doors are finally open to women (after decades of hard feminist work) but for some reason women are not stepping through them. “We’re at a unique place in history,” she asserts at the beginning of her book, “where we’ve blown open the glass ceiling but not yet swept away all the treacherous shards” (12).

Feldt’s book is inspiring in its content, message, and subject. She interweaves the stories and endeavors of other women into her narrative in order to provide concrete examples of how women can break free of imposed limitations and embrace power. And those limitations, she wisely emphasizes, may not always be external. Much of the resistance women seem to have to  power, she believes, comes from internalized notions of femininity and womanhood. Women discredit their own value and accomplishments; they find it difficult, even today, to see themselves as having the right to their own ambition.

Feldt’s history as an activist for reproductive rights informs No Excuses in more ways than one. Her knowledge of women’s history and reproductive issues pops up in nearly every chapter. One especially fascinating book she mentioned, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood by UC Berkeley sociologist Kristin Luker, she summarized as follows:

She found that pro-choice women see abortion and family planning as critical to their ability to fulfill their essential identity as human beings–to pursue careers and to participate fully in public and civic life. Anti-choice women see motherhood and child rearing as the central, irreducible fact of women’s lives, and perceive abortion as a threat to their distinctive identity as women. (200)

This was so intriguing to read, and made me want to read more about the history and theory behind abortion politics. I loved how Feldt constantly referenced and cited other feminists, writers, and economists; I discovered many writers and books that I absolutely must read this way.

No Excuses is a great and invigorating read, perfect for any woman experiencing self-doubt, uncertainty, or feelings of powerlessness. This passage in particular struck me: “If the key in your hand doesn’t open the door the first time, then try it again. Try another door. Get another key. Call the locksmith if necessary. Or go in through the window” (328).

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About Madeleine Gyory

Madeleine is a social media butterfly who tweets (and does some other things) for the Women's Media Center, a media advocacy non-profit based in NY. She loves reading, particularly stories by and about women. She graduated from Barnard College, and has spent time teaching English in Ecuador. Her favorite writers are Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
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