Thursday, January 14, 2016

Spotlight Jane: Pantsuit Politics (Part 1)

At Unchained Jane we really strive to place respect for all women's voices - and choices - on the top rung of our priority list. Our mission is to inspire confidence in women. We truly care that each woman tunes into herself, exercises some regular introspection, informs herself as best as possible, and always comes out swinging as her own advocate. We want you to trust yourself and believe in your capabilities because - let's face it - women are badasses. We are here to simply remind you of that.

As a group, badass women, by nature, will always have a variety of opinions. No, we won't always agree with you (or each other, for that matter) on a variety of topics. However, we do try to be moderate and considerate around sensitive topics, such as politics or religion (unless it's Trump-related, and then #sorrynotsorry). We realize each of you has walked a different path in your life and, therefore, will have different values and priorities - particularly as it relates to your political views.

We've lost several members of our little badass community because someone saw, for example, a meme of Hillary Clinton quote next to her face floating across our social media pages. We always wonder if these Janes even bothered to read the quote. The political quotes we post are accurate (we check) and they always promote, encourage, and inspire women; however, we seem to lose the people who cannot separate the words from the person. It bothers us that we have become so incredibly politically polarized in this country that a woman excitedly discovers us - presumably she feels a connection to our community of badass women - but will lash out, and then cut and run in a heartbeat because she feels such rage at simply seeing a photo of Clinton's face (irrespective of her encouraging words). It's been truly disheartening and disappointing to us because we welcome all women (and men who support women's issues) with varying perspectives. Honestly, we weren't sure how to address these issues...

Then we found the Pantsuit Politics podcast. We were OVER-THE-TOP excited. We downloaded every single episode of the podcast from iTunes, and, over the course of the following days, we were sending each other text messages at weird hours of the day and night. These messages mostly consisted of: I love this so much. These are the most thoughtful political discussions EVER. They talk through these exceedingly difficult issues - not with complete agreement - but with complete respect. And empathy. That can't be a real thing. OMG. It's a real thing!!! I didn't think I was a Republican, but maybe I'm, like, 25% Republican. Okay. Maybe 30%. I'm really glad we aren't the only people out there that want The Donald to just go away. How in the world did a Republican and Democrat just AGREE on a plethora of points about abortion??? Did that just happen?

But wait! We haven't told you the best part. Pantsuit Politics is hosted by two amazingly badass and intelligent WOMEN. One woman with liberal/left-leaning political views and one woman with conservative/right-leaning political views. Women who are wives and mothers (like us) and attorneys (not like us, but still super cool). And, bonus! They're Southern (with a capital "S") - and we all know that the Southern female accent is easier on the ears than just about anything else on the planet. For reasons still unbeknownst to us, hearing "we have to remember these politicians' humanity" is a lot easier to digest when there's a "y'all" at the end of it.

So we reached out to Pantsuit Politics to see if we could snag an interview. They graciously accepted.

What follows is Part 1 of our Spotlight Jane interview with the women of Pantsuit Politics. We hope you'll give this a read (as well as Part 2 coming soon) and then IMMEDIATELY scurry over to iTunes to download their segments. You will not be disappointed.

Saera Jane: Thanks so much for joining Unchained Jane for our monthly Spotlight Jane on women-led, inspirational (and, yes, badass) businesses on our radar! We really do strive to impress upon all the amazing women we know that staying educated about topics that impact them – like politics – is truly important to their well-being. We are really excited to have you both and to help spread the word about what you’re doing.

I have to be honest, ladies. We had a bit of a “fangirl moment” when you agreed to the interview. We at UJ are huge fans of your podcast, PantSuit Politics. It’s our go-to podcast for a break in the cantankerous noise we often get from cable news commentators. Tell us about who Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers are, where you’re from, and about the purpose of Pantsuit Politics podcast.

Sarah Stewart Holland: Mother of three boys living in Paducah, Kentucky. [I] went to law school in D.C. and worked in politics, including Hill’s LAST presidential run. In 2009, I convinced my husband to move to my small hometown in Kentucky and raise a family. Once I moved home, I became a blogger and social media coach. (See: Hmmm… let’s see... I like bourbon, knitting, reading, and British TV. I’m basically a 70 year-old woman.

Beth Silvers: Wow, thanks! I mean, we’re just regular people. I grew up on a dairy farm in western Kentucky. Sarah and I met at Transylvania University in Lexington. From there, we both went on to law school. I stayed in Lexington at the University of Kentucky and then moved with my genius (!) husband, Chad, to northern Kentucky to take a job with a Cincinnati law firm. I practiced for a little more than five years doing corporate restructuring work, then moved into the business side/firm management. That’s my day job now. I have two awesome daughters -- Jane (5) and Ellen (7 months). I cook and write and watch bad reality shows and, obviously, consume ridiculous amounts of news.

SJ: The UJ team discusses politics behind the scenes on the daily. We eat political news for breakfast and go back for seconds and thirds. In one episode of the podcast you joked that you would like to see folks engage in political discussions ALL of the time – do you feel as if there is a lack of consistent, meaningful engagement by the general public?

SSH: Mainly, I feel like people are terrified to discuss politics in real life because they’re afraid of offending someone else. OR they go online and say whatever the hell they want without fear of offending. We have got to find a happy medium!

BS: YES. Emphasis on meaningful. I grew up hearing that you don’t talk politics and religion in polite conversation. I think social media has changed that. Now we occasionally “talk” politics and religion -- meaning we mock viewpoints that don’t match our own. I hear from people that I’m the first reasonable Republican they’ve been exposed to. YIKES. That’s because we aren’t actually talking. We’re just out there taking cheap shots.

SJ: On your podcast, you both seem to hold the position that everything about ascribing intentions in political discussions sucks – that, basically, when people try to impose or assume what another person’s motivations are, it ends up being counterproductive. Give us a little background on that.

SSH: As a liberal living in a red state, I hear a lot about what “liberals” want and how they’re out to destroy America, and I just want to say, "Hey, you know me! I don’t want to destroy America." There just seems to be a lot of turning real people into two-dimensional characters, which serves no one.

BS: I think it sucks that we constantly ascribe nefarious motivations to others. Like, “I disagree with the Iran agreement so I assume that President Obama wants the world to end in nuclear warfare.” Come on. Either evaluate a position on its face, or start from the premise that people are generally good. So, I can disagree with the content of the Iran agreement but believe the people who negotiated it acted out of a genuine desire to do something good for America. Basically, stick to the substance, y’all.

SJ: In that same vein, do you feel we give our politicians and public servants enough latitude and grace? Or should they be held to a higher standard than the rest of us?

SSH: GRACE! You can’t talk about people who run for office like dogs and expect decent people to run for office. Or as I like to say - don’t hate the player; hate the game. There are systems at work here. It’s not just that every member of Congress is a sociopath. That’s just not the case.

BS: I don’t think we give anyone enough grace - politicians, public servants, our parents, ourselves. We should hold public servants to high standards. We should also remember that they’re people. We can hold them accountable and demand more from them without turning them into caricatures. And we need to start doing that fast if we want anyone to run for office.

SJ: Both politicians and the general public seem to have become more and more prone to personal bashing and character assassination – what’s up with that?

SSH: People smarter than me have written treatises on this. I think it makes for entertaining content. I think it’s easier than engaging on the issues. I think - if I’m getting real deep - it’s a defensive mechanism against feeling vulnerable yourself. #brenebrown

BS: It’s consumerism run rampant. We act like every thing and person should serve a purpose for us -- entertain me, do something that directly benefits me right now, and if you don’t you’re stupid and useless and a waste of my time and money. That’s ridiculous. And it’s lazy. We have to reconnect with people as people instead of just people as brands. And we have to reconnect with ideas to embrace their philosophical and intellectual and spiritual beauty instead of just viewing ideas as vehicles to advance personal agendas. Sorry... rant over.

SJ: Speaking of character assassination (ahem!), I’m going to have to ask you to talk about He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named: The Donald. We’ve written a few posts here at UJ about his lunacy and his rampant sexism. For the folks who haven’t heard you speak about The Donald on your podcast, can you share here how you feel about his candidacy, both from the Democratic and Republican perspectives?

SSH: (Sigh) If I’m being honest, I’m still more than a little dumbfounded by Trump and his success. I believe he’s tapping some deep anxiety and fear about the fundamental ways in which our society is changing. I think he’s incredibly damaging to the Republican party and our political discourse in general. I think he would be a truly wretched president. I wish I could sit down with every one of his supporters and just say, “I want you to feel heard. I do not believe this is the answer.”

BS: I think Donald Trump brilliantly capitalizes on our consumerism. I’m not sure what he means for the Republican party, especially since, let’s be honest, he’s not a Republican. He’s not an ideology or philosophy, and that’s why, I think, he connects with so many voters. Most of us aren’t ideologically consistent and don’t try to be. We feel what we feel, so the Donald is taking a whole lot of people along for this "feeling ride."  I don’t like it. I’m worried about it. But I think I’m starting to understand it.

SJ: There seems to a “fear” craze associated with The Donald’s campaign and his supporters alike – why do you think that he’s had such success with that sort of messaging?

SSH: There are serious and fundamental changes happening at a very quick pace in our society. From gay rights to trans rights to real conversations surrounding race, there are societal shifts - not to mention an ever-changing economy and global political outlook. People who have built their lives and world views on one type of America are suddenly facing a very different one. Fear is not an unexpected response.

BS: Fear is easy. Fear doesn’t ask anything of us. So, we’ll buy it.

SJ: The Donald has obviously been able to grab airtime on cable news networks on the regular. Do you think the networks are handling the primary coverage appropriately and what role should they ideally be playing?

SSH: At first, I think they were just all in for the drama. But you’ve seen an honest amount of pushback recently and I think that’s good. Unfortunately, I also think it plays directly into his hands with regards to the “they’re not taking you or me seriously” kind of theme.

BS: In the era of 24-hour news media, it’s interesting how much “news” is just covering what people said to other news outlets. If that counts as journalism (and I guess it does...why shouldn’t it?), then I think the media has done what it can do in this cycle. Ideally, I’d like to see truly equal coverage and more journalists willing to cut off candidates who are just reciting talking points instead of answering questions.

SJ: People on both sides of the political spectrum are losing their minds over President Obama’s recent executive action to institute changes to existing gun legislation. Pantsuit Politics did a segment on unjustifiable outrage recently. What do you think? Is the outrage over the President’s executive action to combat gun violence justified?

SSH: Ummmm… racism? Not to be flip, but you attach Obama’s name to something and suddenly people feel threatened on a whole new level. Some of this could be Beth’s critique that he hasn’t attempted to work with the other side but - truthfully - that goes both ways and I’m not sure how far he would have gotten with a Republican Congress that runs off its own leaders. However, I also think there is something much much deeper going on with Obama and it’s not about policies or politics. It’s about the fact that he looks different and people feel threatened.

BS: It’s not an outrageous action whether you are for or against any kind of gun legislation. I don’t like executives skirting the legislative process, but in the spectrum of the President’s executive actions, this one is bland. Let’s not get outraged over the executive action equivalent of oatmeal, you know?

SJ: Talk to us about the concept of mutual exclusivity as a part of political discussions – that a person must choose a side or a cause, which will automatically preclude them from identifying with “the other side” or the typical causes associated with “the other side.”

SSH: I think our political and media systems were built on this and so it’s not surprising that people responded in kind. I do feel a shift - with websites like Vox - coming along and saying, “Let’s not do this. We have the info and tools available to get to the bottom of this. So, let’s do that in a fair way.” I’m hopeful is what I’m saying.

BS: Can I just answer: “STOP DOING THIS?" Unfortunately, I think this is the start and end of our political discourse right now. I can hear the philosophical absolutists out there screaming, “but you should be FOR or AGAINST something.” You sure can be. However, when you characterize every single issue in these terms, then it all devolves into us vs. them and winning instead of problem-solving. I don’t vote for people to fight. I vote for them to govern. Mutual exclusivity taken too far precludes compromise.

Tune in next week for Spotlight Jane: Pantsuit Politics (Part 2). If you're already as ecstatic as we were to find these gals and can't wait to start furiously downloading, click here.


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