The Sum — The Meaning of This Week: Eclipsed
“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.
As in: Where were you during the solar eclipse?
As in: Did anyone notice Women’s Equality Day is August 26?
As in: And when did the Equal Rights Amendment pass?
Let’s start with the first question, probably the most asked of the week: Where were you during the solar eclipse?
I loved getting emails and photos from friends camping in Oregon, or taking wild, last minute driving trips to Wyoming or Idaho to try to catch the best views. On the roof of our building along with dozens of other people who had never spoken with each other before but now were offering to share eclipse glasses, food, and eclipse stories, I kept humming the lines from the Carly Simon hit song “You’re so Vain:”
Well I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not, you’re with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend,
Wife of a close friend, and
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, you’re so vain
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
The song really was about us this week, all of us, Carly.
I’ve seen other eclipses and never remember so much to do about them. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that they happen every two years or so. So what was the big deal?
But this eclipse was the place “where you should be.” A happening that America sorely needed. It was a coming together around a shared event that felt healing. It was a cathartic lovefest after a week when neo-Nazis and white supremacists staged demonstrations aimed to tear apart the fundamental American values of liberty and justice for all.
Some say those demonstrations happen because white men feel eclipsed by the growing diversity of the country. Let’s talk about that and more importantly the role of men in women’s equality next week.
I don’t want anything to eclipse the fact that Women’s Equality Day is the last day of this week.
But did anyone notice Women’s Equality Day?
Fortune published this largely nice overview of what Women’s Equality Day is all about. Created in 1971 by a Congressional resolution to commemorate the day in 1920 when women of the U.S. officially were granted the right to vote by the Constitution, Women’s Equality Day has been officially proclaimed by every president from Nixon to Obama. As of August 25, Trump has not issued a Women’s Equality Day proclamation.
“We want it all, but we’ll take half.” – Bella Abzug
The late Congresswoman Bella Abzug, sponsor of the law that created Women’s Equality Day, would have crushed her famous hat to see that the promotional video atop the Fortune article was headlined “Millennial Women Are Worse off Than Their Mothers.” Ugh.
Progress is repeatedly eclipsed by the constant barrage of negative stories and even worse headlines like this one. Hola! Let’s all go backward to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, shall we? I mean, since life was so much better then and all.
It feels a little irrelevant to be invited to suffrage tea parties where I was encouraged to don suffragist costume and pearls to reenact the history of the movement. And yet, understanding movement building is key to preventing any progress from being eclipsed through opposition, cooption, or sheer boredom,
If a movement doesn’t keep moving forward, at best progress will stop and the movement will wither. At worst, freedoms won will be lost. Sometimes a movement is simply eclipsed by the next injustice for activists to organize around. For to be sure, human society produces an unending array of worthy causes.
As I know from decades on movement leadership frontlines: it’s not unusual that an idea becomes a movement, a movement becomes an organization, an organization becomes an institution, and therein lies the death of the idea.
And sometimes we eclipse ourselves by forgetting.
For example, when did the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) pass?
I asked this question when I spoke recently about the history of women’s suffrage. Like 72% of Americans, the almost 300 women and a few men in the room thought of course, women ARE recognized in the Constitution, and 94% believe women SHOULD be so recognized.
Yet the ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and passed by Congress to the states to ratify in 1972. It’s still two states away from ratification.
Neither the ERA nor any other law will by itself bring the true gender equality that the early suffragists perhaps naively believed the right to vote would produce. Today, some look to technology such as a campaign to “fix the leaky pipeline” of women exiting corporations. That’s the year Take The Lead intends to achieve gender parity in leadership across all sectors with its comprehensive program of training, mentoring and coaching, role models, and thought leadership.
Whatever the method of the movement, the important thing is for each of us to keep being in all the right places and never let the meaning and message of Women’s Equality Day be eclipsed.
Are you with me on that?
Welcome to The Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt
About the Author
Gloria Feldt, Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead, is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. She teaches "Women, Power, and Leadership" at Arizona State University and was named to Vanity Fair's Top 200 women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers.