Published by Ballantine Books on September 9, 2014
Genres/Lists: Non-Fiction, Political
Length: 6 hrs, 38 mins
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
Have you ever considered running for office but didn’t think you had what it takes? So did Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, or at least she did before she actually did it. Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World is her way of sharing with you why she ran and, more importantly, why you should, too. As the synopsis says, “Fourteen years before Kirsten Gillibrand succeeded Hillary Rodham Clinton as senator from New York, she heard her future mentor say these life-changing words: “Decisions are being made every day in Washington, and if you are not part of those decisions, you might not like what they decide, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.”
It’s safe to say that Gillibrand was born with some fight in her. Raised in Albany, NY, her grandmother, Polly, was a staunch feminist and advocated for equality. She was so influential that the female secretaries in the state legislature she worked with were known as “Polly’s Girls” and I’m sure she inspired them just as she did Gillibrand. A typical teenager, her dad thought she was too loud, too much, and fighting with him prepared her for a life in politics, something that I can relate to. But prepare her, he did, because choosing to go into politics requires a lot of willpower.
Gillibrand did not, however, get into politics lightly. Despite growing up in a family where political discussions were commonplace, she did her homework before getting involved. She shares hilarious stories about pushing her way into campaigns so that she could learn the ropes. Perhaps more importantly, she took a candidate training. Today, there are several candidate training programs for women (including one I graduated from) and they offer invaluable resources, from how to raise money to how to identify stakeholders. But campaigns are about perseverance and running for office takes a lot of it.
Lest you think Off the Sidelines is all about preparing to run for office, I can assure you it’s equally as much about what happens once you get there. Contrary to Gillibrand’s beliefs, a love of facts does not a successful politician make. She points out that, without empathy and understanding for your constituents, policies and laws don’t matter. This was made extremely clear during this last election, where facts took a backseat to fake news and political rhetoric. In other words, it was an election about feelings, and feelings can be very powerful. To than end, Gillibrand recommends that anyone considering running to tell their story and believe others will care. It can be painful, but it does get easier with time.Ladies, @SenGillibrand wants you to run for office so pick up Off the Sidelines now! #politics Click To Tweet
Given that this is a book about running for office and was written by a woman, I would be remiss in skipping the “having it all” conversation, which comes up in virtually every book about ambition or success. But Gillibrand takes a refreshing approach in dismissing this concept altogether. Instead, we need to stop saying that women can have it all because it diminishes what stay-at-home moms do and the feminist movement is all about choice. Not only that, but we have more than a glass ceiling to overcome, we also have a sticky floor, which prevents certain demographics from rising equally (also known as intersectionality). And let’s not forget that even Pakistan and Afghanistan have some type of paid leave for childbirth or family illness, so women have that to contend with (shout out to former Senator Mark Udall for taking over for her so she could nurse her newborn).
In short, women have a lot of obstacles to overcome when it comes to running for office. Some are self-inflicted, some come before you even start, and the difficulties don’t stop once you get going. But if you’re thinking of running for office (or thinking about thinking of running for office), then definitely pick up Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World. In the meantime, here are a few helpful tips I picked up from the book:
Three Tips from Off the Sidelines to Spur You to Action Right Now
- Put your money where your mouth is and donate money.
- Write letters to the editor and get your story and ideas out there.
- When it comes to men criticizing you, “Fuck ’em” (her words)
Recommended for: Any woman thinking about running for office, whether they think they can do it or not.