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Dear Gloria Steinem with a PS to Madeleine Albright

Dear Gloria Steinem with a PS to Madeleine Albright

Sarah Condon, an Episcopal priest married to an Episcopal priest, writes a letter in Mockingbird to Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, asking them to “stop trash-talking young women,” and describes how she was mentored in her faith and as a feminist by a woman priest of their generation.

I cannot begin to express the level of frustration I felt with Ms. Steinem when she suggested to Bill Maher that young women were backing Bernie Sanders because they wanted to spend time with young men. Gross. Apparently, even feminists can be patronizing to young women now.

As long as we’re on the subject, why don’t we let Madeleine Albright tell us where the cow ate the cabbage…Super. So, there’s Hitler, King Herod, and “bad feminists.” I’ll grab a latte at Starbucks and type H-E-L-L into Googlemaps. Because it looks like I’m bound for the fires of damnation….

…Ms. Steinem and Ms. Albright’s remarks hit me particularly hard as a young clergywoman. I seldom, if ever, feel as though I am “enough” for the previous generation of women in the profession. I have been in those rooms where women a generation or two older have looked to me to answer for my generation’s shortcomings. They tell me that the church is not what they thought it should or could be, and that my generation of clergywomen have been apathetic or “worried about the wrong things.”

Part of me understands their frustration. They had a vision for what they thought feminine power should look like in the church and political arenas. And from their vantage point, my generation has fallen short.

And then she tells the story of her mentor:

For my first few years of ministry, I had a mentor named Rhoda Montgomery. She encouraged me to be a mother to my children without considering the “impact” on the church. She told me I didn’t have to go back to work weeks after I had given birth. And when I finally did go back to work, she was a cheerleader for me all the way. Last year I lost her to cancer. I’m still mad about it.

She ran a big church and never had children herself. Yet she was an incredibly gracious and empathetic mentor to someone with different life circumstances. I believe she understood the importance of supporting the choices of the next generation of clergywomen. Rhoda never judged or tried to prescribe my decisions, she only celebrated that I had them. I pray that Rhoda was not an anomaly. But when I need a clergywoman to talk to about my path, when I need a gracious counselor, I suddenly realize how short that list of women really is. And I miss Rhoda even more.

Read the rest here.


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Steven Wilson

Not to focus on the phrase, but it’s a regionalism neither off-color or unpriestly, quite common in the rural mid-South, meaning something like “this is an blunt and uncomfortable truth that I’m going to say in a blunt and uncomfortable way and you’re probably not going to like how it makes you feel, but you need to listen, because it’s true.” It’s how my grandmother, who would never have told a vaguely off-color joke nor allowed one to be told in her home, would have started a lecture to her grandson on how to treat a lady or respond to his irriation with his parents. You know, like how Jesus sometimes says squirmingly impolitic things, like “go and sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow me,” or “you unbelieving and perverse generation, how long must I put up with you?” And if you want to talk like an Ozarker, it ought to be spelt “how the cow ET the cabbage.”

Ann Fontaine

Yes – Albright is Episcopalian. We get old we get cranky we say inappropriate things – sorry. I think younger people can think for themselves just as much as I could and can. I just know that when I get all reactive – something has been touched that I don’t want to look at in me. Don’t let what people say decide your vote — look at the records of the candidates, look who has international standing, look at who can get what you want done. Just don’t run off and not vote because you don’t get the one you want. Too much is riding on electing a president who will not turn back the clock to the “good old days” which were terrible for all but white straight appearing men. I don’t have that much confidence in getting much done through the Congress – but the Supreme Court appointments are critical.

Cynthia Katsarelis

I’m sure that a nerve has been struck.

I like both Bernie and Hillary. But I’ll be voting for Hillary because I believe she can accomplish more. I am grateful to Bernie for moving the discussion in a more human and progressive manner.

Young people are awesome. But part of me feels that the young women for Bernie and reacting strongly against Hillary are young women who have not yet hit the glass ceiling, haven’t yet experienced the difficulty of getting paid less than men, are not yet experiencing the economic hardship caused by unpaid family leave, etc. Hilliary has worked for these all her life, and having a female president will move the dial more powerfully than a good man who also agrees with this.

The gap is experience, and I don’t think that gap can be bridged with injudicious words by older women. Stories may help more.

Helen Kromm

“I don’t have that much confidence in getting much done through the Congress – but the Supreme Court appointments are critical.”

Agreed, and quite possibly the most important, long term consideration as all of this unfolds.

“I just know that when I get all reactive – something has been touched that I don’t want to look at in me.”

You are not alone… But I would submit- at least based on your writings here and elsewhere, you seem to meet this completely human reaction with both dignity and restraint.

Leslie Marshall

When I heard Albright say, ‘there is a special place in hell…’, I took it as a joke. I don’t think she was serious or meant it literally. She said it with a smile, everyone around erupted with surprised laughter. Especially Hillary. It was a funny, irreverent comment. Women like to joke around too.

Ann Fontaine

Albright responds – My Undiplomatic Moment

Jay Croft

I understand that Madeline Albright is an Episcopalian, though born of Jewish parents. Is this correct?

Leslie Marshall

Albright was born in Czech Republic in 1937 to Jewish parents, who were exiled to England. [Her parents converted to Catholicism and she was raised in the Catholic Church.] Her Jewish heritage was kept a secret by her parents. At age 59, she discovered her family history, & that she had relatives that had died in concentration camps during WWII.

JoS. S. Laughon

It’s the unfortunate logical end of identity politics; those who don’t stand with spokesman/lady of “the tribe” are traitors.

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