Equivalism not Feminism: Part II A Sterling Reputation

[Equivalism is the word I am using to describe the tenets of Feminism.  The name change is etymologically based (from the latin roots for “equal” and “value”) on the belief that the world would be better if women had equal influence.  It was chosen for reasons outlined in this post as well as posts forthcoming.  It was chosen because I’m a musician, and the sound of a word matters to me (say the word “equivalent,” then change the ending to “ism” or “ist” as needed).]

Although I do not own cable or watch TV, I have been fully inundated by reports of the Donald Sterling scandal via Facebook friends and community conversation.  My favorite op-ed piece was penned by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and contains the following:  “So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.”

Donald Sterling is (finally) beginning to reap his just reward, racism will not be tolerated.  The last line of Jabbar’s words, however, continue to haunt me.  He’s absolutely right:  The praise and celebrity that will undoubtedly be lavished on “girlfriend” V. Stiviano is the sexist equivalent of the NAACP taking money from Donald Sterling while turning a blind eye to his racism.  If Stiviano actually does appear on one of the few female-influenced shows (Ellen, the View, Hoda and Kathie Lee, etc) then I will know how doomed we all really are.  Here is a woman who abused her power, just like Sterling.  Here is a woman, of mixed race herself, who carried on an inappropriate relationship with a married man, a known racist, and received four cars (including not one but two Bentleys) and a 1.2 million dollar LA duplex in the process.  Here is a woman with five aliases, who used illegal means to create a scandal by breaking news that had already been broken many times.

Why is this abuse of power acceptable when Sterling’s isn’t?  Is it because Stiviano is an attractive woman, providing what appears for all the world to be some sort of sexual satisfaction to an elderly man?  Is it because, after three and a half years together, she decided to “uncover” his racism for her own personal gain, even though that racism was available for all the world to see in the form of multiple, public, court-settled discrimination charges?  Though Sterling got what he deserved, Stiviano won’t.  She will be praised.

I ask you, what does that praise communicate to young girls right now?  As long as you stay attractive and available for the taking, you can amass wealth and fame, adulation even, through dishonesty and deceit.

Stiviano and Sterling: birds of a feather

Stiviano and Sterling: birds of a feather

I dare you to listen to the tape again, and this time focus on Stiviano.  Tell me you are not listening to the yogic voice of a practiced sociopath.  Jabbar nails it again: “Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.”

Is there any reason, besides corruption, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would accept money from a known racist and in turn bestow him with humanitarian awards?  (Confidential to all non-profits: if there are strings attached to a donation, it’s not charity, it’s money in exchange for your morals.)

Is there any reason, besides corruption, that women (and men) would seek to empower and further the field of influence for V. Stiviano, rather than bring her to justice?

On May 15th, the NAACP planned to bestow Donald Sterling with another humanitarian award, this one for “Lifetime Achievement.”  Following the tape release, LA’s NAACP chapter president Leon Jenkins cancelled the upcoming ceremony and issued the following statements to CNN: “The mission of the NAACP is to eradicate discrimination and racial hatred in all its forms, and each year our executive board votes on who we decide that we are going to honor.”  Jenkins continued, “Mr. Sterling has given out a tremendous amount of scholarships, he has invited numerous African American kids to summer camps, and his donations are bigger than other sports franchises.”

“That is something that shows that there is a consciousness of the plight of African Americans in this country,” Jenkins concludes.

Unless Jenkins lives under a rock, I’m sure he was aware of the high profile discrimination charges filed against Sterling, for which he was found guilty, repeatedly demonstrating the exact opposite of “a consciousness of the plight of African Americans.”  I’m sure the NAACP is also aware of the media construct known as a “PR stunt.”  Perhaps Sterling’s money sent some deserving kids to camp, but what about the determination of his former tenants and their families, who persevered for justice to the point of taking a powerful mogul to court, only to watch hopelessly thereafter as he was continually honored by the very institution entrusted with the task of advancing them?  That degree of injustice smacks of a Kafka novel, it reads like fiction.

Who will hold the NBA and the NAACP accountable for essentially harboring Sterling, in effect protecting him as well as his bigotry?

Similarly, what can be done to stop the glorification of V. Stiviano?   How can we ensure that no more of this blood gets on our hands?  How can we expect to get a woman into presidential office if we are still playing against our own values?  Maybe women have permeated more and more male dominated realms, but what good does that do us if, once there, we keep snapping to the attention of the old rules of engagement?

We are not bound by those rules.  I am reminded of a scene in Anchorman 2, where Ron Burgandy cuts to a live feed of a car chase in order to subvert rival Veronica Corningstone’s interview with Yasser Arafat.  When the car is finally pulled over, the driver is revealed to be an elderly, senile man.  In the movie, this calculated move is directly credited with the downfall of modern media.

Must we all continue to suckle the teat of this train-wreck?  Where is it getting us?  Who can change it?

What would it communicate to the international female community, especially those without free speech, if all female anchors in free nations refused to interview V. Stiviano on account of her abuse of freedom and power?   What if they instead spent that time talking about the importance of rooting out individuals who would undermine the cause of equality, as everyone is now wishing the NAACP and NBA had done with Sterling.  That is influence.  That is news.  That is power.

What the hell, in the spirit of equivalism, why doesn’t everyone snub Stiviano?  How about, instead of Bill O’Reilly ogling her décolleté, he declines the interview and comes tearfully clean about his mommy issues.  Between sobs he will tell us, that it’s women like her (“a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo””) that make him scared shitless to consider a female president.

In these tumultuous times, when hair-trigger reaction seems to be the norm, I am grateful to Doris Kearns Goodwin for her comprehensive look at Lincoln in Team of Rivals, in which she is careful to include male and female influences.

When Lincoln spoke to a crowd of fifteen hundred at Cooper Union in 1860, shortly before receiving the Republican nomination, he was greeted with palpable tension between pro and anti-slavery factions.  Putting his previously-delivered temperance speech to the test (a quotation from which begins my last post) he refused to meet denunciation with denunciation.

“Let us do nothing through passion and ill temper,” he implored the anti-slavery northerners, “Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can.”

Inspired by Lincoln’s wisdom, MLK Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial.

Both men sensitively and consistently nurtured, rather than aggressively demanded, the progress of a nation.  It is the dream, not the anger, that needs feeding.  This is why I am in favor of employing “equivalism” over “feminism.”


Sadly this approach could not prevent war, but I’ll bet it had something to do with winning.

Equivalism not Feminism: Part I Historical Conviction

 Introduction:  This is the first installment in a series of blog posts entitled “Equivalism not Feminism,” in which I intend to make a case for changing the name of the feminist movement in order to further the cause of gender equality.
 “Equivalism” is derived from the Latin, equ meaning “even or level” and valere meaning “be of value, be worth.”  

The following is an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s speech to the Springfield Washington Temperance Society, delivered in 1842:

“I say, when they were told all this, and in this way, it is not wonderful that they were slow, very slow, to acknowledge the truth of such denunciations, and to join the ranks of their denouncers in a hue and cry against themselves.
To have expected them to do otherwise than they did – to have expected them not to meet denunciation with denunciation, crimination with crimination, and anathema with anathema, was to expect a reversal of human nature, which is God’s decree, and never can be reversed.  When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted.  It is an old and a true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’  So with men.  If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.    Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.”


Though it has taken me a long time to realize it, I believe there is no cause more just than that of gender equality.  As a middle child in a large family, and a decidedly feminine woman in the world, I evolved to privately consider issues at length before coalescing my thoughts into opinion, with interest usually waning before those opinions could fully form.  Uncomfortable as I am with the confrontation that often ensues from expressing one’s opinion, in the case of gender equality; diligent observation has given way to moral obligation, sewing a deep concern where fear once lived.  At times this realization has woken me in the middle of the night to find my heart in my throat.

In order that we might aid our sisters in countries where their education is punishable by death, and on any given morning their childhoods may be forced into motherhoods; and our brothers whose lives were not considered sacred, but recklessly spent in a real-life game of Risk, we must proceed here, in our free nation, with the utmost clarity of vision.  I believe we can revive the vision of gender equality in the hearts of men and women by identifying with the term equivalism rather than feminism.  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree,” Lincoln wrote, “and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  The power of preparation before a mighty task is not to be underestimated.

 “Women suffrage,” said US Speaker of the House, Champ Clark to his delegates in 1914, “is as inevitable as the rising of the morning sun.”  Widely credited with the first political statement which led to the passage of the 19th amendment (women’s suffrage) in 1920, Clark adored and publicly supported his suffragist daughter, Genevieve Clark (pictured below).

Suffragist Genevieve Clark c. 1914

Suffragist Genevieve Clark c. 1914

Clark’s sun metaphor is applicable still: How are we to change the future if we do not view every day as a chance to begin anew?  When we use the term “feminism,” we are referring to the past oppression of women (be it yesterday, 100, or 1,000 years ago) in order to further gender equality.  “Feminism” is looking back in time, and therefore can never offer us a vision of the future upon which to place our dreams.

The term feminism was first coined in 1895.  Admittedly, my mind formed a somewhat jaded theory as to it’s origin.  Oh yeah, women stuff, let the category fit the audience.  Here ladies, let’s call your little side project “feminism.”  How quaint to have your own political cause!  However, my younger sister offered a fresher perspective.  “It must have been like a phoenix rising from the ash,” she said, and I believe her.  In a time when femininity’s public influence had been buried for so long, “feminism” felt like the balm of recognition that it was.  Axiomatically, since women would not be granted the right to vote for another 25 years, many men, including those in political office, had by this time taken up the cry.

While a young Lincoln served his first and only term as congressman for Illinois, the newly formed Liberty Party (comprised of staunch slavery abolitionists) added women’s suffrage to their presidential campaign.  At the Liberty Party’s helm was Gerrit Smith (pictured below) first cousin of, and frequent debater with suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who would later form the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) with Susan B. Anthony.  The following excerpt was taken from Smith’s speech at the 1848 Liberty Party National Convention in New York:

“Neither here, nor in any other part of the world, is the right of suffrage allowed to extend beyond one of the sexes. This universal exclusion of woman… argues, conclusively, that, not as yet, is there one nation so far emerged from barbarism, and so far practically Christian, as to permit woman to rise up to the one level of the human family.”
Liberty Party Presidential Nominee Gerrit Smith c. 1840

Liberty Party Presidential Nominee Gerrit Smith c. 1840

The Liberty Party would not go on to gain much political ground on account of it’s radical platform, but an unprecedented achievement was established.  Following Smith’s speech, five delegate votes were submitted for Lucretia Mott, the first woman in the United States to be nominated for federal executive office, to be Smith’s vice president.  It would be another 72 years before women were allowed to vote.

While men and women alike have faced scorn, scrutiny, and seemingly endless defeat on behalf of gender equality, as hard as it is to believe, women have also played a role in undermining the movement.  In this 1914 article detailing Champ Clark’s support of women’s suffrage, Vice President Thomas Marshall’s wife came out against it, causing her husband to claim, “I can’t get away from my wife, and I don’t want to,” when withholding his public support.  This set back undoubtedly contributed to the six year interim before women’s suffrage was actually granted.

Regardless of whether or not it was initially sound to draw further attention to gender equality issues with a female-derived term, it’s since defined the movement, dividing and thus diluting the powers that would engineer lasting solutions.  We have become unwitting collaborators in the systemic and categorical limitation of the feminine, like a university’s “Women’s Studies” major, or female American novelists getting ousted from the “American Novelists” category on Wikipedia.  Like my older sister accidentally sewing her homemade skirt-in-progress to the jeans she was wearing when we were kids; we have hemmed ourselves in with the name of our movement.

“Feminism” is supposed to mean:  The belief that men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, and influence.

Doesn’t this sacrifice of linguistic precision rob us, especially our children, of the chance to form our own opinions of equality based on observations that aren’t shackled to the past?  Doesn’t it obscure the fact that oppression of femininity negatively impacts all human beings?Doesn’t it “meet denunciation with denunciation”?

Masculinity : Strength :: Femininity : Sensitivity


Humanity is made up of these two forces, which together create the most polarized system in the known universe.  If we can improve the global cooperation of these two fundamental bodies, not unlike the effect of a happy marriage on a household or community; what potential exists to improve all other power struggles; be they racially, religiously, politically, or geographically derived?

If Pluto can be taken off the list of planets, we can change this term.  We need not dwell in the pitfalls of the past, but are in fact capable of renewing life, and as such are architects of the future.  I do not want to be called a “feminist” any more than I want to be guilty of emphasizing the importance of one gender’s influence over the other.  Perhaps the movement will continue under the feminist heading in the US, but what about the rest of the world?  What hope do we have of every earthly male, or female for that matter, identifying with the tenets of feminism as long as we employ a name that separates us?

Feminine sensitivity, which has been forged by the combined ability to literally and figuratively conceive new life, despite injustices, must be realized for the nascent potential that lies within.  Woman must not spurn her sensitivity as an impediment; she must embrace it as if it were her child.  Which it is.  To honor it will lead humanity, inevitably, to the desperately-needed embrace of sensitivity within strength.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”  -Arundhati Roy