Poet's Notebook: Drinking cooperation

On the benefits of having more women in a position of authority.

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click to enlarge Poet's Notebook: Drinking cooperation - Jeanne Meinke
Jeanne Meinke
Poet's Notebook: Drinking cooperation

Amelia dreams she’s a child

chided for daydreaming.


Amelia Earhart!

Keep your head out of the clouds

and your feet on the ground...

As we near Mother’s Day, and Hillary Clinton moves closer to her destination, I’m finally hearing some conversations about what’s been missing from her campaign, i.e., her most obvious attribute: she’s a woman.

Of course, she can’t talk about it, any more than Obama can talk about being black.  Anything they can say about their gender or race can be twisted in too many “self-serving” directions. A president has to represent everyone equally. Many blacks feel that Obama’s bent over backwards not to show favoritism, and are disappointed with his lack of support. With Clinton, it’s even more complicated; it has to do with femaleness: what a woman president would mean for this country. 

Google recently did a study on what makes some workplaces more efficient than others, and came up with “psychological safety.” People perform together effectively in workplaces that reaffirm them emotionally; and, it observed, women create those kinds of atmospheres far better than men, who still tend to play “King of the Hill.”

This sounds true to my experience. I’m no expert: when I write a poem or a story from the point of view of a woman, I simply have her think the same way I do, subtracting football. There are better ways to do this. But it’s clear that there are many more women on the poetry scene today than there were in the 1950s, and the atmosphere is healthier, less cutthroat, more fun. Better yet, the poetry’s wonderful (just recently in Florida, Tampa’s Erica Dawson won the prestigious Poet’s Prize, Helen Wallace was appointed Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, Tallahassee’s Brandi George won Florida’s Gold Medal in Poetry, and Miami’s Denise Duhamel delighted a crowd at the Dali).

In other fields, women are doing the work traditionally assigned to men — and performing well. Janet Yellen leads the Fed more gently and thoughtfully than Ben Bernanke, and our economy’s pulling out of the recession. Angela Merkel is holding the European Union together with her generosity and efficiency; in a long article in the New York Times, Daniel Kehlmann observed that Merkel’s “risky compassion” for the desperate and suffering immigrants may “cost her the chancellorship, but at the same time save Germany’s soul.” Long before Pope Francis, America’s “nuns on the bus” have been humanizing the Catholic Church’s stern patriarchy. And soon, Harriet Tubman, “Conductor on the Underground Railway,” will represent America on the $20 bill far better than Andrew Jackson (although I was hoping for Emily Dickinson).

Women bring more fully human values to their jobs. It’s telling that two famous female Prime Ministers of a few generations ago, Margaret Thatcher (England) and Golda Meir (Israel), were both nicknamed “the Iron Lady” — serving in a male-dominated workplace, they ruled it with “male” force. Today’s women, as their numbers in the workforce rise, seem more confident in their own cooperative instincts. In her roles as New York Senator and Secretary of State, Clinton was known for her pragmatic compromising (today’s do-nothing Congress shows us what a lack of that skill can bring). This, of course, isn’t as romantic as Bernie’s one-note crusade — but it works.

Everyone wants to talk about Clinton’s “email problem," and Republicans have long been “Swiftboating” Clinton — whose statements are rated by Politifact as 95% True or Mostly True, miles better than anyone else — on the honesty question. Call her email handling anything you want (stupid, careless), but she can be trusted on women’s rights, climate change, health care, gun law; she’s changed her mind on some things, as she should, but she’ll be careful and she’s experienced; and she’s a woman.

Our world hasn’t used women well. We should recognize this, and drink cooperation with our morning coffee, as Jeanne’s drawing suggests. Sometimes, of course, I add a wee bit of something else to mine.

Amelia turns

and giggles in her sleep.

—Both quotes from “Night Flights: Amelia Earhart’s Dreams” by Linda Eve Diamond, Aventine Press, 2013

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