No excuses ILLUSTRATION: Roll n’ Press Studio

'No Excuses'

No matter how hard the task, every coach knows it can be done

By Ellen Snortland 10/28/2010

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We all have excuses for why we haven’t accomplished this or that. This is the case with many aspects of the most important revolution on the planet: the end of gender domination. The gender revolution, like it or not, impacts each one of us in the most intimate of places: our homes, as well as the halls of power. It reaches into our families, places of worship, how we raise children, sexual identities, our self-image, our choices at every step of growing up and maturing. No wonder it’s been such a difficult row to hoe in turning the world right side up.
 
If Gloria Feldt is not a household name to you, maybe she should be. Feldt has launched a book I would love to assign to everyone. Ready for the title? “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.”
 
If you ever dove into something headfirst, you know the value of having a teacher who is strict, loving and tough. The tough part comes from the teacher acknowledging realities, such as “Yes, I know how hard it is,” “Yes, I know there’s resistance,” “Yes, I know the bullies are mean,” and then comes back with “Do it anyway!” That’s what Gloria has done with “No Excuses.” She’s the “Do It Anyway” maven who just might be the perfect partner as we negotiate these fascinating times. We live lives that would be unrecognizable to most of our grandparents, if not our parents. That’s the good news.
 
The bad news is there is a long history of women gaining ground and then falling back, possibly from exhaustion, but that’s not the point. The point of “No Excuses” is that this is NOT the time to rest; it’s the time to push on and on and on. As freed slave, orator, Methodist minister, and woman in history I’d most like to hang out with, Sojourner Truth said as quoted in “No Excuses”: “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”
 
Talk about no excuses! Minister Sojourner Truth had every conceivable excuse to not do what she did. She often faced mobs and possible assassination for her speeches, and at the same time she was immersed in the reality that she truly had nothing to lose since she had so little to begin with. As modern emancipated women, regardless of our color, this is no longer the case. However, it’s entirely easy to be co-opted by the bromide “We’ve got it so good now; give it a rest.” And yes, if we compare our lives to the women in Afghanistan, or sub-Saharan Africa, or South East Asia, or almost anywhere else, indeed we have a lot. However, when you hook yourself up to the notion of sisterhood, you understand that the status of women and girls on the far-reaches of the globe is also our business, and the slights and injustices we put up with for ourselves are related to the larger view of women that has persisted for millennia in so many places of power: we’re less than … and will always be so.
 
This is not pretty, and “No Excuses” — while entertaining — is not pretty either. Feldt pays the highest respect a coach can hold for her colleagues and players. She wants the best from all of us, including herself.
 
So here are the nine ways we can relate to power, excuse the expression, more powerfully: My commentary follows each item:
1. Know your history — There’s really no excuse to not know about she who went before. nwhp.org.
 
2. Define your own terms — Afraid to speak truth to power? Get over it! Be afraid and speak anyway. It gets easier.
 
3. Use what you’ve got — Only stand 5-foot-2? So what? Pave the way for others like you and all of us. Patriarchal types (women and men) are hoping your perceived less-than-perfect self will stop and work on perfection instead of rocking the boat, which is what needs fixing, not you!
 
4. Embrace controversy — They’re talking trash about you? Good! They’re not ignoring you.
 
5. Carpe the chaos — When things are chaotic, things change. Be there.
 
6. Wear the shirt — Your chest is valuable advertising space. Promote what you’re passionate about.
 
7. Create a movement — When Dolores Huerta told me that self-defense for women and kids was a movement, I believed her and dubbed myself a leader. That’s audacious and, come to think of it, just like self-defense!
 
8. Employ every medium — Do not let your sisters get by with “Oh, I don’t like the Internet.” My grandma didn’t like the US Postal service when it first started delivering to the farm.
 
9. Tell your story — You are the change we’ve been looking for in some way and some part. Share it.
 
As a mini-disclaimer, while I am proud to consider myself a friend of Gloria’s and am in her book under “Tell Your Story,” I would tell you to trash your excuses and buy this book anyway. So? What are you waiting for?
Oh! My number 10: Vote on Tuesday! 

Ellen Snortland is a leader in the self-defense movement and coaches writers. snortland.com

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