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Off the Sidelines
Raise Your Voice, Change the World
by Kirsten Gillibrand
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's memoir is all about Girl Power, i.e. feminist activism. The title refers to "getting girls off the sidelines and onto the fields" (p. 183). That's in the context of girls participating in school athletics, which Gillibrand did, and about which Gillibrand claims, "the single greatest predictor of whether a woman will run for public office someday is whether she played competitive sports as a kid" (p. 183).
This book was written in 2014, after Gillibrand was elected to the Senate in 2012 (she was appointed in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton when she took her Cabinet position). And there was a re-election in 2018, so it's not really about her 2020 presidential campaign, but it's her only political book. (Gillibrand produced a kids' book in 2018, Bold & Brave on the history of women's voting rights, but that's not excerptable for 2020 either).
Gillibrand writes, "If you're like me, you're reading this book because you want to find out how to get to where you want to be in your own life… I keep stacks of books next to my nightstand by and about female leaders, and always have one question: 'How'd she do it?' " (p. 19). That's evidently the purpose of this book (and her kids' book), because she includes all sorts of references for that purpose – for example, the book ends with a list of "Resources" for women voting, women in business, women candidates, etc.
The bulk of Gillibrand's book is about women in politics, and about her story as a woman in politics. Hillary Clinton wrote the introduction, and there are political and policy anecdotes about Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (p. 155); Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) (p. 164); Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-CO) (p. 158-62); and Gillibrand's presidential opponent Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) (p. 147). Gillibrand's own story focuses on her experiences in Congress as a working mom, for example, on the foibles of breastfeeding while in Congress (p. 81-3).
Gillibrand devotes an entire chapter to physical appearance (Chapter 8, "You Need to be Beautiful Again, and Other Unwanted Advice," pp. 122-138), describing in great detail how women in politics are too often judged by their physical appearance, while she discusses in great detail her physical appearance. She opens the chapter with "Weight has always been an issue for me," which sounds to me like SHE has made physical appearance an issue – but I'm not female.
Gillibrand devotes another entire chapter to Queen Esther (the one from the Biblical Book of Esther, where the queen of Persia saves the Jewish people from genocide). That's chapter 11, "A Time Such As This," pp. 163-179; the title is a quote from Queen Esther which Gillibrand applies to the Persian genocide as well as her own actions in the Senate in current times.
All of that would make sense if Gillibrand were a pioneer of women in the Senate. But she's not – she's the 38th female Senator. The pioneering aspect of women Senators was explored in Nine and Counting, written in 2000 about the nine women Senators. That book has an afterword entitled "And Then There Were Thirteen" since four more women Senators were added in the 2000 election; when Gillibrand was appointed in 2009, there were 16 other female Senators; and now (in 2019) there are 25. Certainly women are still under-represented in the Senate (there are 75 men in 2019), but Gillibrand's book seems a couple of decades too late.
We do excerpt a dozen policy stances from Gillibrand's book, but there really isn't enough substance to qualify as a policy book. For fans of Gillibrand, or students of women in politics, this is a fun read.
-- Jesse Gordon, [email protected], editor-in-chief of OnTheIssues, May 2019
Raise Your Voice, Change the World
by Kirsten Gillibrand.
Page last edited: May 04, 2019