Race is for me the bottom line. When I’m seen, I’m seen as black more than a woman. Maybe that’s a reality of being a black woman.
We met up with Inca Alexandrina Mohamed, 63, on her 'graduation' day, after a three-year apprenticeship to deepen her work on racial justice. Her reflections on her journey as a Black woman, a lesbian, a 'new world creation' and a social justice leader are illuminating and captivating. Inca artfully blends smart, strategic thinking with heart and liberating playfulness. Her facilitation work --helping groups of people committed to social change to get to where they want to go-- is as successful as it is joyful. That’s how Inca rolls, all the while dressed with colorful and distinctive style. Her lifelong commitment to racial and gender justice and to young people is undiminished by time though it is evolving and taking new forms. Listen, learn and laugh as we talk with this bright spirit who shares how she is giving birth to an even more intentionally loving and free version of herself.
"I’m someone who’s very lucky. I didn’t come from anything fancy. I’ve always been determined to do whatever it was I should be doing. There’s nothing in the arts that I haven’t attempted. I’m still at it."
At 86, Sondra Lee is simply unstoppable. At 16, she stormed a Broadway theater after auditions were over and landed not only a part but a lifelong friend, Jerome Robbins. Robbins was the one one who cast her as the original Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, an unforgettable performance on the stage and television. Over the years, her career expanded to directing, teaching and coaching, as well as painting and sculpting. Whether she is reflecting on her friendship and affair with Marlon Brando or sharing insights about feminist organizing in New York City in the 1970s, her skill as a storyteller makes each aspect of her fascinating life a lesson in standing up for yourself, following your dreams, and kindness. Sondra’s first memoir, I’ve Slept with Everybody, introduces us to the legions of well-known people she’s known and loved. Her upcoming book – As I Was Saying – will tell her fans even more. Now at the point in life where the obituaries in the morning paper too often include her friends, Sondra continues to face disappointment and loss with her old stand- by: Getting to work!
"I’d like to write the great American novel, but I don’t think I’m the person to do that. I think I’m the person to find that.”
Whether you’re thinking about writing a book or just love reading them, you’ll want to listen in on our conversation with Malaga Baldi. At 61, Malaga has been a literary agent for more than 30 years and shares her wisdom about publishing, writing and living a good life (“delayed satisfaction is muy importante!”). She is living what we call ‘the gravy years’: fully enjoying her professional, family and personal life and marveling that she got the life she wanted, including the ice cream. What’s it like to reach the point where you finally get to be the person you want to be? Listen to Malaga and find out!
And for more about the authors Malaga represents and the books she loves, check out www.baldibooks.com
"Certainly I have felt many times that I’m hovering over an abyss. But you have to make that leap over to get to the other side."
Kathy Brew, 64, is a self-defined, label-defying “hybrid:” a documentary filmmaker, public television producer, curator, teacher, and artful dreamer. After college, she stumbled on her first job making educational filmstrips –remember those dreaded “hygiene” films in seventh grade? Then in the early 80s, she left New York for California with her first husband and began her work in media and the arts in San Francisco. When she got an unsolicited grant of $5,000 she made her first award-winning film, “Mixed Messages,” about girls and proscribed gender roles, the first of many of her arts and social issue documentaries. “Design Is One,” about the renowned designers Lella and Massimo Vignelli, is one of the more recent that Kathy made back in NYC with the “love of her life,” documentary filmmaker Roberto Guerra . Kathy envisioned finding a partner who would be her “best friend, lover and collaborator.” And she found that in her 17-year relationship with Roberto. Still in the deep sorrow of losing Roberto in 2014, Kathy also dreams and feeds her undaunted creative spirit. She’ll soon be traveling to Peru as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching and making art, and continuing to unfurl her “out-of-the-box,” full and free life.
"I am what I am. I have defined who I am. I no longer have to be careful with what I say because it might offend some organizational rules. So I’m able to be the best of what I can be. Unfold my highest goal. I’m free!"
Socorro Reyes, 68, hasn’t run for political office --yet-- but she’s a politician at heart! She’s an irrepressible and principled pragmatist who artfully navigates the legislative process to advance her life-long passions: human rights and gender justice. Socorro advises parliamentarians and is a Senior Advisor at The Center for Legislative Development International in the Philippines. She returned to her country in 2011 after leaving her job as the Chief, Asia-Pacific and Arab States at UN Women in New York. Socorro is now reaping the harvest of years of work as an advocate, a teacher, and a mentor. Her activism takes many forms, including her advocacy for the release of Senator Leila de Lima, who has been detained by the repressive administration of Philippine President Duterte (see link below). Socorro's love of politics is balanced by her devotion to her granddaughters, her unquenchable curiosity, and a spirituality that -- as she says -- grows exponentially as her mortality becomes more real!
"I think about that wonderful Adrienne Rich quote that the genius of a spider is that she weaves and spins at the same time. That for me is the guiding principle in writing: to weave and spin at the same time."
Jaune Evans is a modern day Renaissance woman! At 66, she’s a writer, visual artist, activist and Zen priest. Through a life she describes as a "crazy quilt,” she worked her way through college as a cocktail waitress, was the first camerawoman at NBC, a baker and a foundation executive. (That’s just a partial list.) Today, she runs the Tamalpais Trust, a foundation supporting indigenous communities, while serving as a priest at Everyday Zen in the Bay Area and offering arresting dharma talks that exude wisdom, warmth and wit. (There’s a link below to listen to those talks.) She has --and is-- writing her own story with gratitude to the "women helpers," from therapists to a host of women creative heroes, that she’s turned to along the way. Jaune is also a member in good standing of the "Better, Deeper, More Club" (so are we!). When you listen to our conversation with her, you'll learn more about the Club and surely want to join!
Go to Everyday Zen: http://everydayzen.org/teachings/?sort=date&author=Jaune%20Evans
Check out Jaune's art: http://www.boxsetgallery.com/evans/evans-master.php?id=6
"We were convinced of our ideas. That gave us the power to confront the tragic situation of the dictatorships. The truth is that we were ready to die for what we believe."
Ana Falu, 69, is a brilliant Argentinian architect, academic, and activist with the charisma and elegance of the sexiest 40’s movie stars. As a lifelong feminist, Ana’s life spanned exile during the dictatorships of Latin America in the 70s, a return to Argentina to re-build democracy, and decades of strengthening global women’s rights movements. Reflecting on nearly 50 years of political organizing and advocacy -- and despite the current setbacks -- Ana still exudes optimism and a profound belief in the power of the next generation to push for change. Her passion infuses the political and the personal, enabling Ana to seamlessly blend her activism, her family, love and sex. Yes, we said sex. And so does Ana!
Aruna Rao, 61, is co-founder and Executive Director of Gender at Work, a global network of people dedicated to building cultures of equality. She dreams of singing “the blues like Nina Simone and rock like Janis Joplin!” And, as you’ll hear in this episode, she has the voice to do it. She's lived and worked in more countries than anyone we know, growing up as the daughter of an Indian diplomat who moved from Pondicherry, to southern Africa, Canada, Japan, the U.S. and many more places. A disrupter-at-heart, Aruna's writings and voice have had a reverberating impact on the way we understand how invisible and entrenched gender discrimination operates in our workplaces, our communities and in countries across the world. With resident Bitch Joanne Sandler and colleagues David Kelleher and Carol Miller, Aruna wrote Gender at Work: Theory and Practice for 21st Century Organizations, released just last year. And good news: Aruna and her colleagues at Gender at Work are starting their own podcast in the next couple of weeks, so check out www.genderatwork.com and join with Aruna and Gender at Work to put patriarchy on life support and then pull the plug!!
"Having been raised and trained as a historian...I already had the notion of generations and the responsibility of each generation to carry people forward in the time you’ve had. It wasn’t that hard for me to say that I’ve made my mark and to let go to the younger folks who now need to come and take over."
At 71, activist historian and organizer, Leah Wise, challenges us to think deeply about the responsibility of generations to carry young people forward as they step up and take over. Our conversation with Leah was rich in history and wisdom, her life reflecting the intersecting struggles and gains for racial, gender and economic justice in the Southeast of the United States and worldwide over the past 40 years. Leah offers us feisty commentary on the sexism that infused (and continues to) so many progressive movements, on the legacy of “polio personality”, and on her odyssey from civil rights activist to low-wage steel worker to leader of Southerners for Economic Justice and a network of similar groups across the Southeast. She offers heartfelt insights into the joys of paying attention to things that slipped by earlier: gardening, the feeling of the sun on your face, starting a sewing crafts business in your 70s, and the pleasures of grandchildren. And she leaves us with a resounding call: to join together to re-build the infrastructure of democracy.
"My husband, when I married him, was a very shy man. He always got third billing. He would always say, “Dodo, you have the talent of an amateur and the temperament of a star!”
Dodo Berk is 102 years old and a “star” to everyone who knows her. She is the vibrant matriarch of a large and loving family, the doyenne of the condominium where she lives on Lido Beach in Long Island and the unofficial Recreational Director at the Florida assisted living center where she spends the winter. In our conversation with her, Dodo broke out into song at the drop of a hat, told stories artfully, and shared raunchy jokes with the panache of a vaudeville comedian. She is the grandmother of a good friend, James Jacoby, and we’d heard about her escapades for years. Launching Two Old Bitches was a great excuse for us to travel to Lido Beach and spend the afternoon with Dodo and her daughter, Sandra. Dodo describes herself as strong, direct but “not bossy.“ We found her to be generous, loving, and downright incorrigible. A child of the Great Depression, she appreciated every change and every gift that her life brought her way and made the most of it. For Dodo, when you don’t get what you want, you have to remember, “There’s always a substitute menu.”
We joined Radhika Balakrishnan, 58, for a conversation about politics, economics and bitchcraft right before Christmas. Radhika is an activist, a to-the-bone feminist and an economist. In fact, she was part of the small group of women who first coined the term and established the field of feminist economics just decades ago. A professor at Rutgers University, Radhika ran their Center for Women’s Global Leadership for about six years, before recently assuming the role of Faculty Director. She travels the world working with women’s organizations, training activists and even advising some more enlightened governments. Here in the States, Radhika was appointed by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio to serve on the City's Commission for Gender Equality. Radhika’s passion, optimism and outrage blend beautifully into her activist and academic lives. She is irrepressible. We know that you’ll feel as inspired as we do by her courage and insights in these challenging times.
“There is so much toxicity in ‘bitch’ --all the misogyny, all the hatred of women. And then to add ‘old' to it. It’s everything terrifying and awful. All the more reason to glorify it!"
Alta Starr, 65, is a coach, trainer and writer who has a dazzling way with words and an exuberant sense of humor. A former teacher, radio news and music producer, and grantmaker, these days Alta only does the work she loves now. Rather than worry about making lots of money, she trusts that “everything is already all right,” a Black Southern saying. Alta is a skilled practitioner of somatics, a holistic change theory for individuals and groups to embody new ways of being and action that align with their values and longings. She has a private coaching practice for individuals, many on a pro bono basis, and trains groups such as BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity). Listen to how this wise woman composes her life and reveals her secret for fully enjoying being alive.
“The women in my family kept working, never saw any kind of deadline –‘Oh well, now I’ll retire and not do anything.’ I think that’s what I’ll do as well, and hope I’ll get a few more things done before it’s over.”
Carol Jenkins, 72, award-winning news broadcast journalist, author, and “always an agitator” has “retired” many times only to find herself moving on to the next new thing. After 25 years at NBC as a news anchor and correspondent, she hosted a talk show, Carol Jenkins Live on WNYW, and then went on to become a farmer –yes, that’s right a farmer. When Gloria Steinem, a close friend, called one day and casually asked her what she was doing, Carol answered, “Right now? I’m herding turkeys.” She was also caring for her aging mother and writing a book with her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines: Black Titan, about her millionaire and civil rights activist uncle, A.J. Gaston. Life after the farm? Carol was Founding President of The Women’s Media Center for years and then retired, to help rear her grandchildren and begin writing another book on her family’s long experience in journalism as a window on gender and racial bias in media. Last year she came out of retirement –again-- to return to New York television as host of Black America, a new TV series on CUNY-TV about what it means to be Black in America today. Hope you’ll listen to our joyful conversation with this deservedly well-known storyteller and unflagging social justice activist.
“If you stay removed from life, you don’t get anything. If you get involved in life, you get everything back!”
At 85 1/2, Elaine Finsilver is – and has always been – determined to fill her life with art, politics and love in all their fullness and complexity. Her long life is full of those moments you stand up for your own convictions and justice, no matter the price. From reveling, in the 1950s, in being what her mother called a “fallen woman” because she moved in with a crew of bohemians on 103rd Street (including Andy Warhol); to pursuing the love of her life despite major marital complications; to gifting herself the joy of a painting career in her 70s and 80s, Elaine seamlessly radiates the joy and rewards of standing up for your beliefs and yourself. And, despite her mother’s best efforts to send her to finishing school, our conversation with her reveals, beyond a doubt, that she is anything but finished! Hope you’ll listen and love Elaine’s spirit and stories as much as we do. (And, if you want deep indulgence, follow up with our conversation with Elaine's daughter, Jane Summer, about writing and returning home).
In these challenging times, we need wise women more than ever! For the last 40 years, Noeleen Heyzer, 68, has been a courageous and influential thinker and advocate for women’s rights, workers’ rights, climate justice and so many other issues. Until 2015, she was the United Nations Under-Secretary General for the entire Asia-Pacific region and, from 1994 to 2007, she was the Executive Director for the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Noeleen’s leadership, writing and actions have inspired many thousands of men and women – including her two phenomenal and talented daughters, Pauline and Lilianne -- to stand up, speak up and make a difference in the world. She now lives in Thailand and Singapore, so we were thrilled to catch up with Noeleen when she visited New York in September 2016 and to hear what she’s been thinking about since her retirement from the United Nations. Find out more about Noeleen at her website. In the meantime, hope you’ll find Noeleen’s words as inspiring as we did!
This week, Joanne and Idelisse are guests on their co-producer and resident Bitchette's podcast, Tell The Bartender! Katharine Heller asks the two about the evolution of their bitchery, the liberation that comes with running out of f$%ks, and how they accidentally became models for pee proof underwear.
Jane Summer, 62, describes herself as a writer and as "the most downwardly mobile person" she knows. Writing is her passion and affliction. At 55, she transformed her life and returned to school for an MFA. Searching for her story, she remembered a precious friendship: While working at Women's Wear Daily in the late 1970s, Jane's colleague, Kay, boarded Air New Zealand flight 901 to Antarctica, never to return. Jane's book, Erebus, is an homage to memory, mystery, love and loss. Visit Jane's website to learn about Jane's other books and articles. And spend 30 minutes with Jane and Two Old Bitches as we explore finding your story, life without a plan, and the many gifts of family.
Meet Ruth “Dodo” Berk who – at 102 years old – lives life on her own terms and is never bored, frustrated or at a loss for words. Two Old Bitches will release our full-length interview with her later in January. She regaled us with life lessons, torch songs and dirty jokes. For now, we're posting the joke she shared with us at the end of our conversation. Dodo is a gift to the world and her joke is our holiday offering to our listeners. Best wishes to all for 2017!!!
And please tune in, next Tuesday, January 3, for our conversation with Jane Summer, the author of Erebus.
Katherine Acey, 65 years old, is a life-long radical social change activist who has stood up, with love, to fight intersecting injustices, whether they’re about gender, race, class or other fissures. She was the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice for over 20 years. She’s been an unstoppable force for creating funding and attention for LGBTQ priorities for many decades and, most recently, was the Executive Director of the GRIOT Circle, a people of color LGBTQ elders organization. Now, a senior research fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, Katherine is exploring a new topic, “What’s Age Got to Do With It?”. Want to find out? Listen to our interview with Katherine now!
Sandra Garcia Betancourt, 60 years old, is a writer whose work appeared most recently in Abriendo Caminos, an anthology of Puerto Rican women writers in New York. She is currently the Director of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in Harlem. She was the founding Director of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NOMAA) in Washington Heights, a high-heeled union organizer, a poet and women’s rights activist. From her first spontaneous trip from Puerto Rico to California in her 20s to her unplanned transition to arts administrator in her 50s, Sandra’s free-spirited life and story show us how staying attuned to the moment delivers a steady stream of surprises, even when you’re sitting on a couch with a broken ankle watching TV.