Book of the Week: Gloria Feldt's "No Excuses"

Book of the Week: Gloria Feldt's "No Excuses"

Book of the Week: Gloria Feldt's "No Excuses"

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 5 2010 10:30 AM

Book of the Week: Gloria Feldt's "No Excuses"

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With over 350 pages of anecdotes, analysis, and "Power Tools"-branded advice (No. 5: "Carpe the Chaos"), Gloria Feldt, in her new book, No Excuses , leads readers on a rambling quest to understand women's relationship with power. Women must recast "power-over" as "power-to," she says. It's cheesy self-help-speak, but she's bringing up something important: Many women associate power with oppression, having been on the receiving end. One person's power means someone else's domination by it, and history has not favored women and other minorities in that equation.

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If only women could "transform power relationships for our own good," we could undo that equation, she argues, and now is the time. "Women are now so integral to the workplace that we can reshape its edges if we want to apply ourselves to it, so that both men and women can have a personal life and earn a living," Feldt writes. Everybody wins, if we can just once and for all fix everybody's HR policies, cultural expectations, and that stubborn Mommy track.

No Excuses is aimed at women with means and privilege enough to have benefitted from the choices and access feminism opened up. Young, professional women on the cusp of making personal choices about marriage and family planning. Women with enough options to opt out -- without completely understanding the personal and historical impact of that choice.

"Your personal choices matter," Feldt urges. "You have the responsibility to yourself and other women." She would know: Before she worked for Planned Parenthood, before her divorce at 34, she spent 12 years earning her B.A. while raising her three kids. She headed a regional Planned Parenthood office in a tiny Texas town, where she doubled clinic and birth-control access for women there. Feldt hasn't forgotten history. She's just pointing out that if women want to reap the tangible benefits of feminism, we can't rest on the laurels of having choices; we must make choices that advance us.

Half of women with MBAs leave the workforce after having children. Understanding the reasons women chose to do so is critical, Feldt writes, but that in itself doesn’t change the fact that the decision affects women disproportionately. "[W]hen women retreat from the workforce, it becomes more difficult for the rest of us to rectify the inequities that remain," Feldt writes. It's almost a plea: Don't opt out now, not out of the workplace or the movement.

Shauna Miller is a writer and editor living in Washington, D.C. She is also a co-founder of and volunteer for Girls Rock D.C., a summer rock camp for girls ages 8-18.