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My Fellow Citizens,

Ever been called difficult? Your response to that question probably relates to your gender. Women all have a story to go with their emphatic “YES!”

I thought I had found the perfect guide to Women’s History Month 2019, Karen Karbo’s recent book In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons From 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules. The stories combine to make “difficult” a rallying cry for heroic women.

What’s not to love? Except that I still couldn’t make “difficult” work for me.

I rarely ever took the criticism too personally (note all those qualifiers 🙄). Having refused to let the criticism land on my shoulders, I found myself uinterested in wearing it as a badge of honor too. 

We know the word works to diminish a woman—whether she is a demanding boss or an eccentric performer. The person who said you were difficult wanted to undermine what you were trying to accomplish and any support you might have from others. The word works best when it isolates the accused. 

Wearing “difficult woman” as a badge of honor still feels disconnected from the work it takes to be difficult. It's hard work! Karbo’s first description shows us the power and force these women represent:

“A difficult woman… a woman who doesn’t believe the expectations of the culture in which she lives are more important than what she knows to be true about herself. She is a woman who accepts that sometimes the cost of being fully human is upsetting people.” 

Non-conforming. Self-aware. Not willing to sacrifice herself to make others feel comfortable. These women show a commitment to living their lives fully and on their own terms. That commitment makes it possible for these women to carry forward some of the best work in our communities. 

Karbo’s list of profiles includes Elizabeth Warren, Billie Jean King, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Goodall. These stories tell tales of tenacity—holding fast, retaining purpose, and persisting.

We’re sharing quips from these “Women with Tenacity” throughout the month. If the sentiment reminds you of a woman you know, share it and let her know you see beyond the label of being difficult.

Let her know you see the real work she brings to the world and the future worlds that work makes possible. 

Let's be difficult together 😉
***P.S.*** Do you like Virginia Woolf? Have you read her work at any time other than when it was assigned reading? We're bringing "A Room of One's Own" into the mix, sorting Karbo's difficult women according to Woolf's themes for being a creative force in the world.

Join that conversation in the Learning Studio
next week.

"Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."


--Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You know that friend you can always count on? They're either right there beside you to pull off your latest plan or they always include you in their latest call to action. Whatever the plan, you always know you can count on a crowd of two. 

Please share this email with them. We want to be a part of your crowd too.
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Questions of Civic Proportions

What issues come to light once we quit the easy criticism of "difficult women?"
Join the Conversation

(share your answers in our learning community)

The U.S. Constitution still does not protect equal rights for women.

The Equal Rights Amendment has a long and difficult history. The opposition of the 1980's focused on its capacity for destroying the American family. Today, opponents worry protecting these rights will limit allowable restrictions on abortion. Abby Gardner’s article in Glamour (June 2018) traces that history, making the case “The ERA is back in the news—This is Why You Should be Paying Attention.”  

The energy of the Me Too and Times Up movements with a record number of women running for and holding office has worked to put the ERA back in motion again. It looked like the required 38 state ratifications might finally come through when Illinois ratified the amendment last summer. 37 states done, 1 to go. 

In January of this year, the Virginia House of Delegates squashed an effort to become the 38th state ratification. At that time, Constitutional scholar Garrett Epps wrote about the many paths to ratification. Don’t be fooled into thinking the Equal Rights Amendment gets any easier after the 38th state comes through. This somehow makes the funny story about the 27th Amendment relevant to today too. 

The deep and dangerous roots of anti-Semitism have crept into modern politics and we may not be faring any better this time.

The news cycles about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, her politics and her tweets have run fast from one incident to another. It’s easy to conclude that there must be something there without having much of an idea about what that something might be. This uncertainty has yielded easy criticism of the congresswoman for making rookie mistakes.

Rebecca Vilkomerson offers a persuasive op-ed in Newsweek, “I’m Jewish and I find the hypocrisy of Republican Islamophobes hounding Ilhan Omar breathtaking.”  She wades into the difficult politics of U.S. support for Israel and the many layers of who and what gets called out for anti-Semitism.  

She explains why it’s important to understand this moment in our politics:

"It has never been more important to be able to distinguish between the critique—even the harshest critique—of a state’s policies (Israel,) and discrimination against a people (Jews.)  Israel does not represent all Jews.  Not all Jews support Israel. Speaking out for Palestinian human rights and their yearning for freedom is in no way related to anti-Semitism, though the Israeli government does its best to obscure that." 

Making its own argument, New Republic says it all in its opening sentence, “History has been curling back lately in the most uncomfortable ways.” To be careful with that history and today's politics, you have to take the time to read Omar in her own words.

The President has the power to create emergencies (not just declare them)  and there are places safe from partisan polarization.

Ok. Cooked this one up simply to relay two excellent pieces of work by women doing the deep dive into the research. Elizabeth Goiten has written the most comprehensive answer to the question of what President Trump can do with emergency powers. Follow links in the article to see the 123 statutory provisions that take effect with a declaration. 😮

While that piece might drive you to drink, this one might bring hope. Amanda Ripley looked at the data to find the least politically prejudiced place in America. Then she packed her bags and fled D.C. She tells you all about the nice people of Watertown, N.Y. (and links to a list of county rankings by levels of "political comity" so you can look yours up). It may not be the right move for everyone.
*The "join the conversation" link above will take you to Politicolor's online learning studio where you will need to be a member to access the content. It's free so request an invite when you see that option.
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Our Latest Post: The Citizen's Job is to Ask Big Questions--How to Engage the Ideas of Good Government

By Shellee O'Brien

"We lose so much when we boil a citizen’s job down to voting. Casting your ballot matters, of course, but that momentary act offers only the smallest and thinnest understanding of what self-government requires of each of us. An engaged citizen is someone who participates in and promotes the most important activity of a civilized people. This engagement is the work of governing ourselves. We cannot afford to accept limits on the questions we ask or the parts we play."

🎧  What podcasts are you recommending to people who want to start following politics more? 

Check out the answers on our Facebook page and add your own.

🇺🇸 Is your school district or state legislature taking up new civics requirements? What do you think the best move is?

Share your experience and thoughts on these efforts across the country in our Learning Studio.

📚 In case you missed it, there are some great books recommended on this Facebook post too. 

Good Work: "Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W)" and Seeing Climate Change

For too many years, climate change remained mostly unseen. Crazy temperature swings, wildfires and severe storms have combined in recent years to prove the consequences of years of inaction will not wait. 

An exhibit of lines of light on the western coast of Scotland makes it possible to see these consequences in a place where the effects will quietly creep up on a community. With an exhibit titled “Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16’W),” Finnish artists Pekka Nittyvirta and Timo Aho show how much of the low-lying archipelago will be underwater with the expected storm surge sea levels:
“Searing white lines mark this rising water level on the sides of buildings, hover over bridges, and extend across other susceptible areas across the museum campus and surrounding community.”

The Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy that hosts the exhibit has a practical concern that aligns with the artists' objectives. The museum can no longer afford to develop their site because of the threat of rising sea levels and storm surges. It will all be underwater. 

Nittyvirta and Aho’s art uses the landscape, tidal sensors and LED lights to make it possible to see how climate change will remake the site. Zach Andrews at DesignBoom suggests the installation also makes it possible to see two potential futures:
“A future where these structures are underwater. and, more optimistically, a future where we begin to take climate change seriously and attempt to reverse the symptoms we have inflicted upon the earth.”

Work that makes it possible to see the future accomplishes something great. Pekka Nittyvirta and Timo Aho have also made it possible to see a shared cause.

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