Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World: Review

Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines starts off as an inspiring tale of a young lady who ventures into politics. A wonderful display of feminism turns quickly into a powerful political piece while even still touching on the personal issues of Gillibrand’s personal and professional life.

Issues

Coming from a mother, senator, and wife, the issues of affordable daycare and paid family sick leave weigh much more than if they came from someone else. Gillibrand shuns the thought that many people believe women are greedy or entitled by wanting to earn a living and care for their family. Gillibrand states how government should celebrate families and help them thrive instead of throttling them by making it more difficult to earn a living.

To emphasize the good Gillibrand is trying to accomplish while in office, some other issues she cares deeply about are the repeal of Don’t ask, don’t tell and the passing of the 9/11 healthcare bill. Sponsored by herself along with Carolyn Maloney, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is meant to provide health monitoring and financial aid to first responders of the 9/11 attacks. With numerous responders and volunteers visiting Washington to tell their stories of what it was like at the World Trade Center, it was a relief to many the bill finally passed in 2011 – even if the Senator did have to eat her pride and cry on the Senate floor for the cause.

Ambition

Ambition is an interesting thing in politics that Gillibrand happily digs deep into. Three lovely rules that are laid out in the text regarding ambition go like this:

  • Ambition does not negate femininity. A mother ambitious enough to protect her children should be seen as powerful — not weak.
  • Believing in yourself is always the first step to get people to believe in you and respect you. Your confidence and faith in yourself will immediately translate to others having confidence in you.

This last one is my favorite.

  • “Draw your own map.” It’s okay to learn from others, emulate others, and be inspired by others, but if you’re looking for someone in history who was born in your small town, went to the same college as you did, and grew up to achieve the same things you want to achieve, you’ll never find that person and you might be motivated to give up because it’s obviously not possible. However, instead of being demotivated because no one has done exactly what you want to do, be even more motivated to be the first one to do what you want to do.

Interestingly and unfortunately, ambition translates negatively in politics. Gillibrand discusses how ambition might make someone look weak. Perhaps intentional and untruthful humility is better as a politician than, more accurately, ambition.

Appearance

Keeping with the trend of discussing the differences between men and women in a professional environment — and especially in Washington — the topic of how we present ourselves and how we appear to others is a heavy one.

Wrongfully, women are much more pressured to be thin and sexy. There are countless more diet plans and workout routines that are geared specifically for women because the media and such make it sinful to ever let go. It has even been attributed to these wild and untested diets for women aging faster than men — which is exactly the opposite of what anybody wants — male or female.

It may come down to pure ignorance and naiveness that men on the Senate floor would approach Gillibrand and say things like, “You’re pretty even when you’re fat” or, “Good thing you’re working out amid the pregnancy”. She even explains understanding where her peers may be coming from since they, say, may have never had pregnant friends on their side of the aisle.

To understand the issue of appearance even further we can look back on President Obama’s infamous tan suit. It’s not far-fetched to assume anything he said during that conference was secondary to what he was wearing. Even Téa Leoni’s Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord of CBS’s Madam Secretary used her outfit and newfound style to bury a story – more press was given to her appearance than a true international crisis.

More attention should always go to what is being said by someone rather than which hairstyle they’re sporting today.

“Be Kind” ~ Kirsten Gillibrand

Work–life balance

I don’t pretend to understand the potential struggles and certain joys of having a nuclear family while maintaining a career. The text beautifully lays out some lovely and some inconvenient instances where the work/life balance had to be carefully considered and got in the way of the senator’s agenda.

Gillibrand was in a meeting for 12 hours and skipped her dinner break to attend to a fundraiser. Tired, cramping, and in pain the entire meeting, she muddles through and manages to exit the meeting professionally and with everyone else as to not draw any attention. That night her water breaks and eventually delivers her son. Perhaps an extreme example, but one that very much stuck with me as a prime time to really consider your work/life balance.

The Book

Ultimately, Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off The Sidelines can resonate with just about anyone. Whether you’re looking for politics, discussions on gender, or even a little bit of biographical storytelling, this text will provide insight on just about anything that is relevant today.

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