Friday, November 29, 2013

6 famous speeches by women about the law from The Eloquent Woman Index

Whether they're speaking in courtrooms or in the court of public opinion, women weigh in on legal issues--and the legal profession--when they speak. Often, those speeches about the law have come at a high price to them personally, where they're putting their personal information on the line to make a difference. Come to order, then, for this sampling of women's speeches about legal issues, drawn from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches:
  1. Susan B. Anthony's "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?" was a public attempt to convince potential jurors who might be called to weigh in on whether she was wrongly arrested for voting in a presidential election. She gave this speech nearly 50 times in the process, and we've got a great and detailed legal analysis of it from the Federal Judicial Center. 
  2. Annie Oakley's libel cases and courtroom speeches were an effort to regain control over her public image, following spurious newspaper reports about her alleged drug use and erratic behavior. The celebrity sharpshooter turned out to be an effective legal advocate in her own behalf.
  3. Anita Hill's Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas happened during his confirmation hearings for his appointment as a U.S. Supreme Court justice--and detailed her sexual harrassment by Thomas. While it did not change his appointment, her testimony prompted thousands of women to step forward about their own harrassment.
  4. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke on "Portia's Progress" in 1991, at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of women's admission to New York University's law school, drawing on her own struggles advancing as a woman in the legal profession.
  5. Heidi Damon faced her attacker in court and, following a case in which he was tried for attacking and nearly raping her, shed the "Jane Doe" label. In taking back her name publicly, she made herself less of a victim and more of a role model, empowering other women to speak out about attacks.
  6. Caroline Criado-Perez gave a speech on talking back to cyber bullies that detailed her own experiences after she successfully campaigned to put historic women's images on UK currency. After she shares the violent sexual epithets hurled at her online, she counters what she was told about the police being unable to pursue her attackers, making a legal case for pursuing online trolls.
If you're interested in more law-related speeches by women, check out these 9 famous speeches by women legislators, 6 famous speeches by women about voting, and these 13 famous speeches by women about death and dying, including two sets of testimony in Congress.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seen or silenced? More on women speakers and their wardrobes

I'm at work on a book about women and public speaking, and my research is guiding a flood of new ideas across my desk--some in books and articles, some in my inbox from readers. Lately, much of it focuses on wardrobe and women speakers, in part prompted by my recent post comparing Google search results about fashions and policies of two women leaders, UK Home Secretary Theresa May and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let me share a few of the ideas that are shaping my thinking on the issue:
  • We stare at women, or we don't see them: In this interview from On Being with English professor Joy Ladin comes a unique perspective. Ladin, the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution, says,  "You know, I think that that's one of the terrible things that we do to girls and women in this culture is that we stare at them. It's also terrible to not be seen. You know, the artifact of femininity, of attractiveness, of what we judge when we judge girls and women beautiful, often, I think, don't feel to girls and women like they're being seen as who they are." You can read the transcript of this program, called Gender and the Syntax of Being, here, and read Ladin's book Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders.
  • The suit as talisman: With the 50th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination upon us, it's Jackie Kennedy's blood-stained pink suit that's the focus of this New York Times article. The suit has been carefully preserved in the U.S. National Archives and will not go on view for another 50 years--a full century after the shooting. From the Times: "When we look at women in public life and their fashion, this suit has particular resonance. Of Jackie Kennedy: 'She certainly understood invisibility and disappearance very deeply, as well as staged appearance,' said the cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon. 'So the unseen suit is a very poignant and accurate emblem of her contradiction'." This is a suit intended to make her visible to crowds, and its repeated use in television coverage has given it both a nuanced and unexpected power.
  • "Is this why speakers' fashion is so heavily watched?" asked UK rhetoric scholar Layla Claridge. She pointed me to this article in Glamour, in which columnist Dawn Porter looks at female celebrities as role models, and puts ownership of image issues right back on the audience: "We can’t ask them to be something they’re not, just because we can see it. As a society, we put stars on a pedestal, we create the stage, they’re just doing their thing and there are plenty of influences to choose from. We have enough examples of well-behaved women to allow others the freedom to be wild."
  • Rights and the wardrobe are the fascinating combination of issues in Ruthann Robson's book Dressing Constitutionally, which goes as far back as the Tudors and as far forward as your office to look at how we try to regulate appearance and fashion. Robson;s focus is actual laws and regulations, but I wonder what she'd make of this ridiculous law firm memo to its female employees with 163 points on how to dress and speak. Very much looking forward to digging into this one.
  • From the you can't win for losing department: Leigh Honeywell and Cate Huston shared this National Journal article, Reducing the World's Most Powerful Woman to a Dress. It criticizes coverage from another American political paper, Roll Call, titled Somebody spot Janet Yellen some new threads, about the male reporter's view that President Obama's nominee to lead the Federal Reserve had an insufficiently varied wardrobe. Lucia Graves's article notes that "The consensus on Twitter was that such an article would never have been written about a man. Actually it's worse than that. Those stories have been written about men, and they're unfailingly praised for being decisive leaders who don't waste brain power on frivolous things like fashion. Take, for example, Obama, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs." Which she does, quoting favorable coverage for each man, precisely for doing just what Yellen did: wearing the same outfit more than once, in a simple color palette, and not appearing too focused on stylishness. (May, on the other hand, was covered with praise in at least one newspaper for her statement jackets, "rather than choose an anonymous tailored look.") Sigh. Yellen, who was confirmed in her new role last week, makes her opening statement at the hearing in this video: 

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
  • Can you see me now? Is most of your public speaking on conference calls? Find out why videoconferencing is the core of remote teams, with some good tips for speaking effectively on video calls.
  • Why it works: On its 150th anniversary, a look at why the Gettysburg Address works: Short words, short length, loaded with ideas, and a strong central concept. It flew in the face of public speaking styles of its day, and this article details the differences.
  • The case for women speakers: Sex and the Web Summit makes the case for having more women speakers at tech conferences, where they're scarce.
  • Doubt busters: 5 ways to stop self-doubt in its tracks will come in handy if you're not so sure about your own public speaking skills.
  • Woman up? The Wharton School, a noted business school, isn't putting enough women speakers before its students.
  • Speechwriting secrets: My article sharing speechwriting secrets is in the November issue of Toastmaster, the magazine of Toastmasters International. If you're a member, you already have this issue; if you're not a member, the issue will be freely available for all at the end of the month. In addition to advice from famous speechwriters, I include resources--groups to join, books and more--for you to up your game as a writer of speeches.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Famous Speech Friday Redux: Jackie Kennedy's White House TV tour

(Editor's note: On the 50th anniversary of her husband's assassination, we're presenting again this Famous Speech Friday about a public speaking sensation by Jacqueline Kennedy.) On Valentine's Day 1962, major U.S. television networks aired an unprecedented public speaking tour de force by a woman, when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led a televised tour of the White House and its just-completed $2 million renovations. Her audience: 56 million Americans viewing at home, making it the most-watched television program ever, at the time. Her script: Nonexistent. Advance rehearsal time with the cameras and reporter's question: Only on the day of taping, when "we would go to a room and sort of talk it over, and she would tell us what she wanted to do, and then we'd just — we'd shoot it, and then the next room," according to the CBS producer in charge of the production,interviewed recently by On The Media. She was 32 years old.

Kennedy, who shot the entire tour in one day from 11am to 7pm with the CBS crew a month ahead of its airing, belied some signs of nervousness, according to the producers, who noted her speaking voice was different than usual:
There's nothing more than cues for her to speak, "And now, Mrs. Kennedy, can we go to the next room" and that sort of thing....she was not a professional. Her voice was a little constricted....It was not her normal speaking voice. But that's where the tension was shown, but not that much....It was astonishing, how much she knew.
She might well have been nervous, since she'd originally thought she'd write a coffee-table book about the renovations and leave it at that. But President Kennedy, convinced of the power of television, encouraged her to do it as a TV show--one that outstripped his own ratings, as it turned out. She later won an Emmy for the program. Here's what you can learn from this famous speech:
  • Preparation lets you take the ball and run with it: This tour--an hour on television in its finished form, but an eight-hour tour in reality--couldn't have happened without all the time Kennedy spent with the curators and renovation committee, learning about the provenance of individual pieces of furniture, or which Presidents had made which changes to the house. No teleprompter, no cue cards, no handwritten notes were used here, because she already knew her subject well. If that's not a case for knowing your topic before you speak, I don't know what is.
  • Pauses and silences can keep you on track: The clip below is full of pauses and silences on Kennedy's part. She does the right thing when she answers questions by pausing, answering and stopping--that lets the interviewer get a word in edgewise, but also ensures that she doesn't go rambling on too long. And for a nervous speaker, pauses help you to collect your thoughts and your emotions before you continue, a smart speaking strategy.
  • Tours are a speaker's test: Leading a tour may be one of the most challenging extemporaneous speaking opportunities you'll ever have. You need to know your subject, be ready for questions to pop up out of sequence with what you're showing, keep the tour moving, and remember your details to make the tour more than a dry recitation of facts. Here, Kennedy's enthusiasm for the project shines through as she describes the sad state of some artifacts or the stories behind others, a reminder that your listeners can't be interested in a tour if the guide herself is bored by it.
Today, this type of program is more dynamic, in color, faster-paced....and more routine. But this tour, unprecedented as it was, set the tone for what was to come. I've posted a short excerpt below that includes some of the good examples noted here. What do you think of this famous speech?

Looking for famous speeches by women? Check out The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, with a wide variety of women speakers, types of speeches and topics to inspire your next speech. Each one comes with lessons for speakers, plus video or audio and a transcript, where available.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What does it mean to practice your speech? 8 good options for speakers

I have read my slides, therefore I have practiced.
-- René Descartes

Descartes didn't quite say that, but you say it all the time. "Absolutely. I practiced," you'll tell me. And I'll look at you, skeptical. That's because, as a Washington, DC-based speaker coach and presentation trainer, I've heard every dodge in the book about whether and when you practiced your talk, speech, or presentation.

Despite the fact that there are 7 advantages for the speaker who practices, in reality, most speakers flip through their slides or their notes, reading silently to themselves...decide they're going to rely on the text or the slides, and don't bother speaking them out loud...or "practice" sitting at their desks, even when they're going to be standing up and moving around during the presentation. It's almost worse if you've given this presentation or a variant before, or more than once. "I got this," you say. "I'll just go out there and kill it." There's a special hell waiting for that experienced speaker, who may get on stage and find out that a little practice would have smoothed out the rough edges created by such assumptions.

None of that equals practicing your speech, in my book. I suspect part of the problem is that many people don't really know how to go about practicing a speech or talk, or are afraid of what they'll find out. But as I say in my training workshops, wouldn't you rather mess up here with me, instead of before your audience? Here are 8 effective ways to learn and try out your presentation so that you'll look as if you didn't need any practice:
  1. Stand up and move around: You'll look, sound and feel more energized if you stand while you practice--which is why I encourage speakers to stand even if they're speaking as part of a panel, and when they're on the phone for conference calls or media interviews. Sitting drains energy, crowds your diaphragm and makes your voice less lively. Practicing the physical movement and stance for your talk helps you develop a kinetic memory of the movements you'll make, and that will contribute to your ability to pull off a smooth-looking presentation.
  2. Speak it out loud: Even if you punt and sit at your desk to practice, do it out loud. There's no other way to find out whether you stumble over a particular phrase or can't pronounce something easily, in which case a rewrite or workaround can be done. You'll also get a sense for how speaking makes you feel--whether you tense up, speak too fast or too softly, or some other issue.
  3. Practice without the text: If your eventual goal is to speak without a text, start weaning yourself from your notes during several practice sessions. Come up with an outline made up of just keywords for each section, and choose keywords that are more vivid and specific than general and abstract ("hammer story" instead of "lessons learned"). At first, put those keywords in a short list on a whiteboard or flipchart set across the room where you can glance at them as cues. Eventually, try practicing out loud without the cue cards.
  4. Practice in place: Many of us practice in conference rooms, offices and hotel rooms. But if those aren't like the space in which you will be speaking, find something closer to the actual setting for at least one practice. Using a lectern? Find a lectern. In an auditorium? Borrow one. Then make sure you scope out the actual space ahead of time--in photos on the web, in person an hour before--so you know what to expect, even if you can't practice there.
  5. Record yourself on video: Grab a friend or kindly colleague and ask her to record your practice--use a cellphone camera, or an ultralight camcorder like the Sony Bloggie. Then upload and review your video practice, using my checklist of things to look for on that video of your speech, from gestures and vocal errors to movement and tone. Note two or three things you want to improve, then practice another round with recording to see your progress.
  6. Listen to an audio delivery: Particularly if you start with a written text and want to memorize it, it's helpful to record audio of yourself reading the text in a lively way. Mark up the text in advance to give yourself cues about pronunciation, emphasis, pauses and up- or downturns in your tone. Then load that audio into your phone, iPod or a CD to play in the car or kitchen, and listen to it, over and over. One client of mine does this while running on a treadmill; another, in the car on her commute home; yet another, while walking on the beach. It's a great way to practice that will let you focus on the sound of your voice and your vocal variety, and help familiarize you with the words you want to say.
  7. Grab a test audience: I've coached several speakers this year for TEDMED, TEDx or TED-like talks, and many of them have taken the time to practice in front of test audiences drawn from their work colleagues or accommodating family members. Some chose listeners who could offer perspective on their topic, or who resembled the eventual audience, to gauge responses. Many of them, knowing their colleagues wouldn't be able to see the talk in person, did a "friends and family" preview of the talk, the closest thing to a live run-through, just before departing for the actual talk. It's a great way to give your colleagues an insider's preview while getting some real-time practice in.
  8. Work with a coach: When I do one-on-one coaching for a speaker, much of what we do involves practice, as well as recording and feedback. Usually, I do at least one in-person coaching session so I can better see movement, expression and other delivery issues, then we follow up on Skype or phone and email, sending practice videos back and forth for review and critique. The speaker also works in between our sessions, focusing on a list of action items we put together ahead of time. The goal is to structure the practices so that the field of issues to tackle gets smaller and smaller as we get closer to the day of the speech or presentation, which lets us focus on nuances and grace notes to really make the talk sing. For many speakers, working with a coach is a great way to stay focused in practice while getting constructive and private feedback.
How do you practice for your presentations? If you're looking for a coach for your next presentation, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Caroline Criado-Perez on talking back to cyber bullies

Criado-Perez at far right
If you heard about the recent decision in England to feature a woman--Jane Austen--on the ten-pound note, you might have thought that it was just a nice feature story. But behind the successful campaign to stop featuring all-male historic figures on British currency was a woman, Caroline Criado-Perez, who used social media tools to rally support for the decision. And then those same tools were used to harrass her, as retaliation, with death threats, rape threats, and more. Cyber bullies sent emails, letters and tweets to tell her they knew where she or her family lived and what they were going to do to her.

If you think that the barriers to women speaking in public are long gone, consider this, just one of the messages she received: "WOMEN THAT TALK TOO MUCH NEED TO GET RAPED." There were many worse, but it's significant that her speaking up prompted the rage. It's 2013, and we're still not used to women being vocal.

In her speech at the Women's Aid conference, Criado-Perez didn't focus on her successful campaign so much as the campaign of rage against her, tackling it head-on. She shared the words used to harrass her, noted that both men and women were telling her to shut up and not complain, and saved a special place for the advice that she received over and over again, rejecting it as just another way of getting her to be quiet:
If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me, it’s for the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom. Not feeding the trolls doesn’t magically scrub out the image in your head of being told you’ll be gang-raped till you die. What are victims meant to do with that image, the rage and the horror that it conjures up? We’re meant to internalise it until it consumes us? Well I’m sorry, but I’m not having that. Victims have to be allowed to stand up and shout back – they need to be allowed to ask for support, without being accused of attention-seeking. They need to be allowed to draw the attention of the world to what so many women go through on a daily basis, and make it front page news. Because, make no mistake. Not talking about this is not going to make abuse and misogyny go away. On the contrary, it will help it to thrive.
Underscoring that her harrassment was an effort to shut her up, Criado-Perez ended her speech saying, "I want my freedom of speech back. And if we stand together and keep shouting back, I believe we'll get it." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Make abuse public: Using a public speech to share abusive language from social media is both brave and important: It's the opposite of hiding, and brings the threats out into the light of day for all to see and hear. Anita Sarkeesian did much the same in her TEDxWomen talk on the cyber-harrassment she experienced, although her talk projected the threats behind her as she spoke. Criado-Perez read them out in her speech, in two lists that got progressively more violent and abusive in tone. She included a warning at the start of her remarks to let the listeners know that abusive language would be included. Her message about the usual "don't feed the trolls" advice helps other women facing similar attacks to speak up.
  • Advance concrete proposals: Told by the police that they couldn't do anything because no crime had been committed, her speech pointed out that hate speech is a crime and urged that police be given the training and resources to keep women from being attacked in this way. Criado-Perez also offered proposals for social media companies, prompting Twitter to respond with a "report abuse" button. Don't just raise issues when you speak. Make proposals and urge their adoption while you have the floor.
  • Be your own media corrections service: Media reports continually tagged Criado-Perez as haaving pushed for Jane Austen to appear on the 10-pound note, when she never advocated for a specific woman, just an end to the all-males-except-the-queen policy. "(Note to media, I really didn’t campaign for Jane Austen’s face on a banknote, please stop saying I did, thank you!)" she says, early in the speech. It's a good use of the microphone. In the same way, you can publicly put to rest rumors, accusations and other misinformation in your speeches.
You can read the speech in full, which was published in the news media in an unusual move. And while you might think it's a disturbing trend that this is the second Famous Speech Friday post about a woman whose speech detailed the violent and sexual harrassment she experienced publicly and privately by cyber bullies, I think it's a good sign that women are using public speaking to name and shame these types of attacks.

(Bank of England photo)

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Criticizing and undermining: How do you respond in a meeting?

One of our regular readers recently asked for a refresh on "meeting behavior--particularly subtly undermining behaviors." She went on to describe being undermined after pointing out a gendered interaction in a meeting, and wanted advice on how to handle it.

What are we talking about? To undermine is "to damage or weaken (someone or something) gradually and insidiously" Insidious means "proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects." In a world where most businesspeople understand that it's wrong to discriminate against women, that discrimination hasn't gone away--it's just gone underground. Undermining is a coded, seemingly more clever way to unsettle strong women in the workplace. After all, if a man or a woman threatened by your success or potential can't overtly block your progress, they can at least try to get you to be quiet, to doubt yourself or to pay attention to the criticism, instead of your goals. If you're impervious to that criticism, they can work at making it seem as if many others doubt you, damaging your reputation, perhaps.

Don't despair. You can cultivate your own set of talking points and tactics for handling this kind of situation in the moment. Here's what has worked well in my experience:
  • Learn how to set boundaries: I'm a big fan of the tactics in Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. It's helpful to keep in mind that many times, the critic or underminer is just automatically reacting. When attention is paid to you, he feels bad, so he attempts to make you feel bad and takes back the spotlight and control of the conversation. Unfortunately, reasoning or arguing back aren't your best options with such a person.
  • Respond, but don't react: Undermining techniques hope for a reaction from you--either overtly and in public, or at a minimum, to cast doubts in your mind about your abilities. Not reacting means keeping emotion in check and thinking before you speak. Responding lets you address any immediate issue of substance. You may find it easiest to respond with a question to smoke out what lies beneath your underminer's comments and make them public for all to see.
  • Get playful with it: You'll do best with an underminer if you have at the ready some playful, funny, but straightforward words to set boundaries--because the underminer is all about crossing your boundaries in subtle but harmful ways. If he's a repeat offender, I love stealing Ronald Reagan's sly debate line, "There you go again," while shaking your head from side to side with a grin on your face. A little humor lets you look smart, non-anxious and in charge of your boundaries.
  • Ignore it: Not every attack needs a response, and you may find your underminer loses interest when you don't produce that satisfying reaction for which he's waiting. Don't get defensive, furious or self-doubting. Smile knowingly and move on.
  • Enlist teammates: Here's a good reason to bring another woman to a meeting: You can agree in advance to play good-cop-bad-cop, or to help each other out of a jam. 
....a physician at one of my workshops had a colleague who was a bit of a bully — opinionated and critical. This colleague would tell her emphatically how he saw things and what she ought to do. She would just listen — but fume afterward, thinking over and over about what she wished she had said. It was a classic case. 
Then, one day, she applied what she had learned about mindfulness and changing patterns. Her colleague was his usual blustery, domineering self. But after he was done, she paused, collected her thoughts and told him calmly: “I don’t agree with you. People can have their own opinions. I respect the way you do things but prefer to do things differently.” Taken aback, he walked off without a word. She told me he was never the same bully with her again.
What wise words would you give this reader? Share in the comments.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, November 8, 2013

13 famous speeches by women on death and dying

When I started to comb The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches for eulogies, I realized there were many speeches about death--not just tributes to loved ones, but speeches and testimony about the ravages of war, racial lynching, prison deaths, workplace deaths, epidemics, gun violence and more. Women have long made death a part of their public speaking, often putting themselves in the role of public witness to these atrocities and losses. Here are 13 famous speeches where death--and the life we lead around it--is the topic:
  1. Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony about the atrocities of prisoner of war camps in the Civil War was specific, detailed and hair-raising. It also was an unusual public speaking role for a woman at a time when women in the U.S. generally stayed away from making speeches--but her topic was so compelling, this testimony led to a speaking tour.
  2. Ida B. Wells's 1909 "This Awful Slaughter" details a different set of atrocities, the lynching deaths of black men in the American south, mob killings outside the rule of law. She tied them firmly to women, who were used as the excuse for the killings.
  3. Rose Schneiderman's speech on the Triangle Fire was itself fiery, so impassioned that it inspired a woman who became the first female Secretary of Labor in the U.S. This trade union activist didn't eulogize the dead workers so much as she castigated the audience for ignoring their plight until it was too late.
  4. Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" laid out the stakes, as she saw it, in the fight for women's votes in Britain. That wasn't just a rhetorical flourish: The British fight for suffrage got violent early and often. She made this historic speech in the U.S. while raising funds and avoiding yet another jail term.
  5. The Elizabeth Glaser and Mary Fisher convention speeches on AIDS were delivered for dueling political parties, but contained more shared than disparate themes. They shared lessons from those who died of AIDS and from their own efforts to live with the disease.
  6. Princess Diana and the ban on landmines highlighted those who are inadvertent casualties of war weapons left behind on the field. This speech was delivered not long before her own death.
  7. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King is warm, loving, frank and funny, as it should be from one longtime friend to another. You'll get a different and more intimate view of the civil rights icon in this speech from an expert and up-close observer.
  8. Jennifer Granholm's 2005 tribute to Rosa Parks was a state governor's official tribute to a daughter of Detroit. But it mixes Granholm's great oratory with insights about an activist who was herself a great speaker.
  9. Caroline Kennedy's eulogy for Edward Kennedy notes how he used to push her into public speaking roles, despite her discomfort--and pushes past that feeling to share a quiet and loving view of the late senator.
  10. Edwidge Danticat's testimony on death in detention put the novelist before a congressional committee to describe what happened to her uncle when he emigrated from Haiti but died during detention when his regular medications were taken from him. It's dramatic, tense and taut, another witness to an avoidable death.
  11. Marie Colvin's eulogy for fallen war correspondents has an eerie quality when it's read today, as she herself was killed just before she was to return from Syria after another long stint covering a war zone. This speech took place in London, in a Fleet Street church.
  12. Hillary Clinton's 2012 statement on the 9/11 killings of Americans in Libya is a formal and quiet statement. The death of the American diplomats in this attack later became a political hot-button issue for Clinton, but this statement expresses the shock of the U.S. diplomatic corps and the loss of their colleagues.
  13. Francine Wheeler's radio address on gun control reform gave the microphone and cameras usually trained on President Obama to the mother of a child killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings last December, as gun control legislation--later scuttled--was under consideration.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Theresa May & Hillary Clinton: Do we watch their words or wardrobes?

UK Home Secretary Theresa May
Of all the things I said about women and public speaking in my keynote at the spring conference of the European Speechwriters Network, I should have known the wardrobe issue would spark the most comment. My overall theme, "The Lady Vanishes," covered the many ways we make women speakers invisible, from keeping them off conference programs to failing to publish their speeches.

But it's the outsize attention we pay to the appearance of women speakers, particularly their wardrobes, that does the most to obscure their voices. Former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers says, on television, "a bad hair day is a virtual mute button" and that goes double for the wardrobes of women speakers. Here's what I said in that keynote:
Today, we reduce the woman speaker to her wardrobe, particularly when female politicians are running for office. This is more subtle than banning women speakers, but it's nearly as effective. In fact, a recent study showed that women political candidates whose wardrobes were the subject of media coverage were more likely to lose than to win their campaigns.
Hillary Clinton famously tired of coverage that only remarked on what she was wearing. When she ran for the U.S. Senate, she wore the same thing every day--a black pantsuit--to get reporters to stop the commentary. But she tired of that uniform. When she ran for President--the only woman in that race--her wardrobe often was the lead of news stories about the presidential debates, merely because she was the only person on stage not wearing a black suit. And so the lady vanishes again.
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Afterward, colleagues pointed out that the wardrobe of UK Home Secretary Theresa May also has been frequently covered and discussed. May holds of one of the UK's four great offices of state, making her the most powerful woman there, after the queen. She's only one of four women ever to rise that high in the UK government. A cursory look made me think that coverage of her wardrobe was unusually intense.

With able research assistance from UK-based rhetoric scholar Layla Claridge, I decided to compare Google search results for "Theresa May fashion" and "Theresa May policies" with search results for "Hillary Clinton fashion" and "Hillary Clinton policies." May assumed her post as Home Secretary midway through 2010, so we compared those searches from 2010 to 2012; during that time, Clinton was well into her term as U.S. Secretary of State, a comparably powerful role. In addition, to see whether May's fashion has long been a subject of attention, we looked at similar search results from 2002 and 2003 as a comparison. I'll share the findings in charts, below, and you can see a PDF summary of the data analysis in full. You'll see in the analysis that we looked at and discovered some differences between results from versus The results in the charts below come from We don't know who did the searches, nor their attitudes in pursuing the search, just the volume of attention that the search results indicate.

Theresa May: Do we see her fashion or her policy first?

First, we compared search results for "Theresa May policies" versus "Theresa May fashion." The chart below shows that searches about her policies far outstripped those about her fashion back in 2002 and 2003, when she served as chairman of the UK Conservative Party. But searches about her policies fell dramatically in 2010 and 2011, the initial years of her role as Home Secretary, a more powerful and prominent post. At the same time, searches about her fashion rose dramatically, as shown below. (May, a seasoned politician, also has served as a Member of Parliament since 1997, a role she continues to hold.) We searched, but did not find, any other 2010 events involving May that attracted higher levels of attention than her appointment as Home Secretary.

That trend began to reverse itself in 2012, with fashion searches about Theresa May dropping far below searches about her policies, suggesting that the novelty of a woman in such a senior position has worn off to some degree...with one exception.

Using her shoes against her?

Never have I see the word "kitten heel" so frequently mentioned as after Theresa May wore a pair of leopard-print kitten heel shoes at a Conservative Party conference in 2002. They've been hanging over her head publicly ever since.

That may well be due to a speech she gave at the conference, in which she said that British politics was in a rut and repeated what was being said about her party: "You know what some people call us -- the nasty party." Despite the fact that she goes on to describe that as an unfair description, her frank assessment of what the party needed to do may have been just too much power-wielding by a woman. The attention then paid to her shoes could be seen a political backlash, an effort to diminish her image without having to argue in earnest about the policy issues she put on the table.

The kitten heel coverage and attention intensified as she later gained more power. Even on her first day as Home Secretary, the headline was "Kitten heeled Theresa May opts for flats on first day as Home Secretary." In her 2013 article Do you even know what Theresa May said at Conservative Party conference? Bet you know what shoes she was wearing, Josephine Fairley writes in The Telegraph about the attention paid to May's shoes, concluding, "It does, then, seem a strange world in which interest in footwear takes precedence over policy. If you’re a woman, shoes, it seems, still speak louder than words – and I’m personally not quite sure how we stamp that out." 

And while searches about her policies are now ahead of those about her fashion overall, May's shoes remain a persistent focus in Google searches. We looked at searches for "Theresa May shoes" and found that, unlike those about her fashion, they're even higher in 2010-2012, compared to searches in 2002 and 2003.

Theresa May: She's a diabetes sufferer, not a plotter in kitten heels shares the revelation that May has diabetes, made public after a male Member of Parliament tweeted about her weight loss. "They seemed to think the only reason a woman her age might lose weight would be because she wanted to become prime minister," wrote Christina Patterson after May's interview about her health. It's a signal of the power she holds and, to some extent, the threat her power poses. The woman some think could be the next Prime Minister apparently must be kept out of the spotlight for her power and into it for her shoes.

Hillary Clinton also has been singled out for a particular fashion item, her signature pantsuits. We did look at searches for "Hillary Clinton pantsuit" and "Hillary Clinton trouser suit" (the latter is the British term) and you can see in the data analysis that those results were far lower--only in the hundreds of thousands, rather than the multimillions--for this time period. Apparently, after watching her wear them for a few decades, we've gotten used to Clinton in pants.

Comparing Clinton and May
Hillary Clinton and Theresa May have had very different paths to power as women politicians. May began her political career in Parliament and Clinton was First Lady, an unofficial role, when her husband was President of the United States, serving only later in the U.S. Senate and then as U.S. Secretary of State. Clinton, too, has been covered for her fashion first and her policies afterward, if then. And like May, who responded to early strong coverage of her fashion choices by refusing to discuss the topic in most interviews, Clinton also at times has sought to ensure that her fashion choices don't become the story because of anything she did--hence, the long string of days in a black pantsuit during her Senate campaign.

Both women, however, were in office at the same time in the years 2010 through 2012. That let us test my initial sense that the coverage of May's fashion looked and felt stronger in recent years than even Clinton's fashion, about which much has been made for decades now. Turns out I was right--for 2010 and 2011, searches about May's fashion far and away outstripped those for Clinton's fashion. Remember, in 2010 she began her role as Home Secretary in the month of May, not a full year of service, yet there was a strong surge in search results. In 2011, search results about Theresa May's fashion were triple those for Clinton's fashion. 

Now that May is the second-longest-serving woman in one of the great offices of state, you can see that trend reversing itself in 2012, as she is now more familiar and less of a novelty. That in turn allows her policies to be more prominent. That's a phenomenon faced by women leaders the world over, as New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof notes in this column. He describes research by an MIT economist who studied resistance to women elected to village councils in India:
Professor Duflo and her colleagues found that by objective standards, the women ran the villages better than men. For example, women constructed and maintained wells better, and took fewer bribes. Yet ordinary villagers themselves judged the women as having done a worse job, and so most women were not re-elected. That seemed to result from simple prejudice. Professor Duflo asked villagers to listen to a speech, identical except that it was given by a man in some cases and by a woman in others. Villagers gave the speech much lower marks when it was given by a woman. Such prejudices can be overridden after voters actually see female leaders in action. While the first ones received dismal evaluations, the second round of female leaders in the villages were rated the same as men. “Exposure reduces prejudice,” Professor Duflo suggested.
It's useful to remember that when women are viewed negatively in a variety of settings, they are viewed that way by both men and women, so strong are our cultural beliefs about the role of women in society. When a woman's asking for a raise or speaking up in a meeting, or even giving a speech, she's more likely to be viewed negatively by both men and women. Research also shows that, at some level, women know this. The point here is that, like May and Clinton, they should persist, and expect that over time, exposure will reduce (not necessarily eliminate) prejudice. It doesn't mean women shouldn't get out in front and speak up, but that they should be aware of what they face when they do.

Today, talk has intensified about Clinton's potential run for the presidency in 2016, prompted by her decision to step down as Secretary of State at the end of 2012. While Clinton is now a familiar figure in U.S. politics, the idea of her becoming the first female president of the United States is enough of a novelty that I suspect we'll be seeing a surge in discussion, coverage and searches of her fashion versus her policies should she choose to campaign.

(Photo of UK Home Secretary Theresa May speaking at Policy Exchange from the UK Home Office Flickrstream)

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair on The Donahue Show

The next time you feel a little nervous before the Q&A part of your talk, take a moment to be glad you're not "the most hated woman in America." In 1964, that's what Life magazine dubbed American atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. But here she is, graceful as can be, fending off queries from an evangelical preacher and a mostly hostile audience--on The Donahue Show, no less.

O'Hair became the world's most famous atheist after she sued the Baltimore City Public Schools over their policy of starting the day's lessons with the Lord's Prayer or a reading from the Bible. Her case, combined with another suit called Abington School District v. Schempp, resulted in a 1963 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that found school-sponsored Bible readings in public schools to be unconstitutional. O'Hair's statement to the high court includes a widely quoted section on "what an atheist believes:"
An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said...He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of trouble in a hereafter. He believes that we are our brother's keepers and are keepers of our own lives, that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.
After that, O'Hair never relinquished the spotlight. Outspoken, combative, sometimes deliberately lewd or shocking, the founder of the American Atheists organization was so provocative in her appearances that other prominent atheists distanced themselves from her tactics.

She was a guest on the very first Donahue Show, and O'Hair was invited back several times to debate the Reverend Bob Harrington, known as "The Chaplain of Bourbon Street." It's unusual that we feature a talk show appearance in The Eloquent Woman Index, but stay tuned for this one. The video from 1970 shows some excellent sparring between the two, but it's the way O'Hair handles some intense questioners that really steals the show. What can you learn from her technique?

  • Take your turn, even if you have to steal it. I have no doubt that the Reverend filled the proverbial pews in New Orleans. He's got a calm, assured, silver-tongued delivery that attempts to ride right over O'Hair's comments. But O'Hair refuses to let him go on. Sometimes she jumps right into his sentences and talks over him. In other places, she cleverly uses his own words to launch her next salvo. When he name-checks his Wake Up America program, for example, she's ready with, "But you know if America wakes up, what America will do is kick Christianity out and all of you preachers."
  • Don't let them put words in your mouth. Harrington wants to talk about God and the Holy Spirit and heaven, but O'Hair asks him to define what he thinks they are and explains why she refuses to accept his definitions. That becomes important later on, when some in the audience wonder aloud if she's going to hell. She's not drawn into any arguments on Harrington's religious terms, because she has already objected to them. If you think the terms of a debate are false, say so early and often.
  • Maintain a sense of humor and calm. That's easier said than done, yes, but if the most hated woman in America can do it, so can you. O'Hair looks like she's having a rollicking good time throughout most of the show, and isn't afraid to lighten the mood. She pushes past numerous asides by both Harrington and Donahue about whether her husband finds her hard to deal with, or "devilish"--sort of hard to imagine this happening with a male atheist. And when Harrington asks whether she has "holy matrimony," O'Hair delivers a camera-grabbing eyeroll and declares that she and her husband "have the unholiest matrimony we can get."
O'Hair, one of her sons and her granddaughter were murdered by a former American Atheists employee in 1995. O'Hair was often asked about whether she feared death as an unbeliever, and she replied that she wasn't afraid of any such judgment. "I told my kids I just want three words on my tombstone, if I have one. I'll probably be cremated," she said. "One is 'woman.' I'm very comfortable in that role. I've loved being a woman, I've loved being a mother, I've loved being a grandmother. I want three words: Woman, Atheist, Anarchist. That's me."


(Editor's note: O'Hair's legacy continues as it was recently made optional for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets to mention God in their oaths. This post was contributed by freelance writer Becky Ham.)

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