Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Oprah Winfrey”

The Triumph of Fake Feminism

I’m gonna make some enemies with this one, but this has to be said.


has failed.

At least modern feminism has failed. It has been co-opted, diverted, lured and seduced by false goals – the goals that are deemed acceptable by our society… a society historically constrained by testosterone. It has been subverted by a race that essentially threw away the advances in thought brought to us over 2,000 years ago by the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in favor of that most masculine form of expression, war. A few early victories, such as gaining the right to vote, still stand as the only significant accomplishments for feminism as a movement.

There are many examples of women who have achieved success and status in America. But, in my opinion, most (no, not all) of these successful women have sold out. I say this because it seems that, to climb the corporate or the political ladder, what’s required of a woman is that she abandon the very qualities that makes hers the finer (again, in my opinion) gender.

The feminine qualities of nurturing, caring, empathy, the ability to not only see the other person’s point of view but to FEEL their feelings even if just for a second, the emotional intelligence, the talent for real, two-way communication, and the tendency to prefer cooperation over conflict seem all too often to be abandoned in the quest for status. Either that, or it’s just the women who least exhibit these qualities in the first place that are able to advance in our society.

Before I get 10,000 pieces of hate mail, I’m well aware that a human being is very complex. Both men and women share qualities that, for the sake of discussion, have been labeled as the exclusive domain of one or the other. These qualities overlap to varying degrees and there is no linear spectrum.

However, our political and business landscapes are largely penis measuring contests. Who’s toughest on crime? I am! Who wants to spend even more on our military? I do! Who’s got the most Leave-it-to-Beaver-like family values? I have! Who wants our company to make the most money at any expense? I do! Who’s the most greedy? I am! Who will sell out every principle of civilized conduct in order to advance “our” interests? I will!

What we’ve (men) said is essentially that we’ll allow you, as a woman, to rise up, but only if you act like a man, embrace masculine behavior, and lead with masculine policies.

We have not seen the rise of femininity or feminine traits in our society. Instead women have gained the right to “succeed” – if and when they act like men. Women who espouse the greed-is-good “philosophy” are allowed to join the man-created rat race to run on the hamster-wheel of materialism, faster and faster, until they die.

Most of the women who have succeeded in our society have done so only by masculine definitions of success. The images of successful women with which we are bombarded on TV and in the movies are of ass-kicking, gun-toting, tough, and sometimes ruthless “winners.” They prioritize money and power and status and they get those things and they let no one stand in their way.

Thankfully, there are notable exceptions to the masculine imperative. Some women have shown true strength in either defining their own goals and their own criteria for success, or in gradually doing their part in turning science or academic thought in new directions. Oprah Winfrey is one example. Oprah is not merely an entertainer; she’s a social-engineer who works to advance the positives of both the feminine and the masculine. Others include many of the women scientists and activists, some of whom I have been lucky enough to know personally, and others whose works I have read.

Women like Elinor Ostrom, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Vandana Shiva, Sandra Postel and Malin Falkenmark are great examples. The word “hero” get’s tossed around way to much in our country, but these women really are heroes – not to feminism, not to women, but to humanity. They are working to make the world a better place for everyone – men, women, children, and in some cases, animals too.

I make my criticisms with a great deal of sadness. I’m tired, disgusted and damaged by what the men with the biggest penises have done to our world. Certain masculine qualities – logic, rationality, courage, decisiveness, the ability to calculate risk and choose a course of action accordingly – would blend so well with the best feminine qualities if we weren’t all enslaved by violence and misguided competition.

I pray that one day this world will graduate from junior-high and enter a new, more advanced mode. If we start listening to the feminine, it could happen.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


Movies That Matter – The Great Debaters

“The Great Debaters,” is a heavily fictionalized but true story of Professor Melvin Tolson, who in 1935-36 coached the debate team from an all-black college in Marshall Texas to a nearly undefeated season that sees the first debate between U.S. students from white and Negro colleges. Their impressive run leads to an invitation to face Harvard University’s national champions.

The movie apparently received a lot of criticism when it came out. There were a lot of big names attached – Denzel Washington directed the movie while Oprah Winfrey was one of the producers. There are apparently many changes (for example the national champions who invited the debate team at Wiley College, was USC and not Harvard).

But I think those critics miss the point – not least that this is a heavily fictionalized account and was never suggested as anything else. The movie has great acting performances, scenes that have you sweating with fear for the characters, or close to tears of joy or sadness.

If that doesn’t cut it for you, this movie highlights both the gross historical racism that this country was founded upon, and the transformative potential of education. It pitches David .v. Goliath, freedom .v. privilege, and inspires the notion of teamwork and perseverance.

For me, beyond the erudite display of the power and artistry of words, the character of the Wiley College team coach stands out. Melvin B. Tolson, the noted poet, social activist and educator, is not necessarily loveable. He is self-righteous, autocratic and fearless, Mr. Washington’s Tolson reminded me of the stern East London schoolteacher played by Sidney Poitier 40 years ago in “To Sir, With Love.” I almost pursued a career as a teacher after watching this movie.

There is a powerful scene where Tolson, driving home from a debate with his students, comes upon a lynching. The imagery of this hideous atrocity sear your mind, and you are sweating when the mob, still riled with blood lust, chase the car. Afterward, Henry’s shame and stifled fury drive him to a self-destructive spree. This is a powerful scene in its own right, and an aspect that Hollywood often ignores.

“The Great Debaters” still sends an important message. In these turbulent times, as our economy makes a seismic shift and people stand shakily on the edge of the chasm or even fall over the edge, we need more than ever and the transformative power of education and words.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com






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