The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
About a year ago the horrific news of sexual abuse at Penn State exploded all over the country. For me the most shocking aspect was not the idea of a fallen hero or the number of victims. It isn’t unusual at all for pedophiles to find ways to be around as many children as possible, earning the trust of parents and the community. It’s also fairly common to discover more than one victim, and I sincerely doubt the young men who came forward are the only survivors in this case. What I found most stunning was the callousness with which people were discussing it. It seemed half the nation was forgetting we were really talking about young boys. A winning football season and heroes’ legacies appeared to rank ahead of the safety and needs of people who were too terrified to come forward until they did. The discussions and the jokes were painful to witness. I cracked. So I did what felt most natural for me: I wrote about it on my personal blog. The article is called Why I Care, and after all this time it is still my favorite piece.
To make a long story short, Amy Siskind liked what I wrote and asked to cross-post it at The New Agenda, then offered me a place here as a contributing writer. I was thrilled beyond words.
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write about what matters most to me personally: women’s safety. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to speak out and be a voice for those who simply aren’t able to. Over the last year I’ve heard from people in comment sections, social media, and email that I’ve changed their minds about violence against women, particularly sexual violence. A few people I personally know in real life, not just online, became so angry that I dared write about sexual assault that they’ve completely cut me out of their lives. I’ve been called a lot of things, both positive and negative, and I love it. It means that whether or not a reader agrees with me, something I wrote sparked a new thought, maybe even a conversation.
As great as all of that is, some of the best things about being a part of The New Agenda have nothing to do with writing. For starters, I’ve had an opportunity to have discussions with some of the most intelligent women I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. These women come from a variety of backgrounds and careers, a wide range of ages, and, yes, opposing political views. The civility and respect with which we all agree or disagree gives me great hope that we actually can have civil discourse in this country about things on which we have differing viewpoints. No opinion here has ever been shared with reasoning like “because I just think so,” or any other vague non-logic. These women are highly knowledgeable and can easily find multiple sources to back up everything they say. They always give me a new perspective, and I have learned so, so much from them. It is truly refreshing, and it has deepened my respect for all of them.
If you point your mouse over “About” in the menu bar and choose “Mission & Goals” you’ll find the following under the “Goals” heading: “The New Agenda seeks to achieve safety and opportunity for all women by addressing issues which unite us and by advancing women into leadership roles.” Safety. Opportunity. Unity. Leadership. SOUL. What a great concept! It may have gotten a little lost over the last few months of the election cycle, but The New Agenda isn’t only about helping women succeed in politics (although greater representation is critical). Earlier this year, TNA launched its Mentor Exchange Program, pairing women who needed advice or someone safe to talk to with women who are top-notch in their fields. I didn’t sign up for a mentor, but I can’t help feeling as though I’ve had a lot of mentors just the same.
On June 4, 2012 women all over the country hosted National Girlfriends Networking Day, where we all got together to meet and talk with peers about what’s going well, what we’re struggling with, and to reach out to help other women in our fields. There was no scouting for sales leads, no competition, just great conversations about what we can all do to help each other advance in our respective careers. As I recently told Amy Siskind, TNA is all about helping women succeed, and she doesn’t just write about it and speak about it, she actually does it. She does it willingly and graciously, not only because it’s a good thing to do, but because it’s just who she is. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Amy Siskind and to The New Agenda.
I am now in a unique position to pay it forward. After a lot of casual conversations with women in my community, I realized I can use my technology skills to help women who are just getting started in their businesses, and I can do it affordably and without ripping them off. A year ago I might have been fairly worried about setting so much as a toe into such a male-dominated field. Today? Pfft…whatever. My self-confidence has grown tremendously through my connections and interactions with the women at The New Agenda, and it is because of that confidence that I know I will be successful. I’m already busy enough that I’ll still be writing for TNA, just not as often.
I grew up in the deep south where we have a lot of funny little sayings. One of them is, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch.” The biggest lesson I’ve learned, the greatest gift I’ve gotten from The New Agenda is that I most certainly can run with the “big dogs,” and that I deserve a spot on whatever porch I choose. All women do.