Cracking Stereotypes: Bruce Jenner, the 21st Century Man & the Unknown


On Thursday of this week we issued The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into the 21st Century Man. There were a lot of fascinating statistics that came out of the national survey we conducted. Many breaking down old stereotypes about who the 21st Century Man is and isn’t.

But when it comes to cracking stereotypes wide open, the Oscar goes to Bruce Jenner. A famous man who publicly proclaimed he identifies his gender as female on national television Friday night.

[Read my Op-Ed on the 21st Century Man]

I was transfixed by his recounting of his life. The personal journey, the struggle to live his truth and the courage it took to step out into the unknown. Cracking stereotypes, breaking out of old boxes, approaching life with an open mind and open heart: That’s what Bruce Jenner asked of all of us on Friday.

To just be open-minded, open-hearted.

In looking at our polling results about men, I was surprised at how men are evolving, changing and defining their masculinity in very different ways than the past. Today’s man is not the same guy as his father or grandfather.

I believe we are in historic times.

Families are changing, women are changing, men are too. Those in the transgender community are asking to be heard, accepted and loved for who they are.

[Sometimes Putting Yourself Before Others Is Vital]

One thing I saw from many angles this week —  studying our findings, in the Jenner interview, and from The Shriver Report Snapshot panel I moderated with Jennifer Siebel Newsom (the writer, director and producer of The Mask You Live In — a film I executive produced), Tony Porter, Jackson Katz, Jerry Tello and Josh Levs — is that there is a lot of concealed pain, anger and shame in this world. It’s hidden among women, among men, among us all.

My hope is that we may find a way to all be more open-minded and open-hearted with one another.

I believe we are all in unknown territory. The “traditional family” where the woman stays home so the man can provide, is a thing of the past. Women today run companies, homes and are even running for President. And guess what? So are men.

Today’s man is cracking stereotypes, proclaiming that his strength isn’t always found in his physicality, but who he is on the inside. His values and character matter too. The men in our poll even said showing emotion isn’t a sign of weakness.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Bruce Jenner spoke about contemplating suicide. He¹s not alone in those thoughts. Seventy-nine percent of all suicides today happen in the male community.

The transgender community is also cracking stereotypes, telling our society they aren’t what we thought either. Bruce Jenner’s journey is a personal one, but there is a public teaching lesson here for all of us, regardless of gender, politics or religion.

We all want to be loved for who we are. We are all struggling.

We are all trying to find our place in a rapidly-changing society.

At A Woman’s Nation, the non-profit I founded, we talk about evolving into a more informed, caring, conscious and compassionate society. Being a nation that values the well-being of one and all. The way to do that is through one person at a time.

Bruce Jenner spoke his truth. He has asked for our compassion. Let’s find it in ourselves for ourselves, and then give it to Bruce Jenner and everyone else. It’s what we’re all asking for in our very own ways.


photo credit: 1995 Fathers/Sons via photopin (license)

My New Title: ‘Change Consultant’ — Who’s Yours?


My cousin Sydney came to visit me the other day. She was in town for her son’s wedding and we got to talking about life: kids, growing older and change. Having married her first love, she said to me “I’m unacquainted with the feelings that come from a breakup. I just can’t relate when my kids talk to me about the upheaval of that type of change.”

She went on to tell me that she and her husband had just bought a home in Florida and had decided to sell the home they raised their kids in. Or “Her dream home” as she calls it.

When Sydney left and returned home, she wrote me this, “Ugh. This selling of my home is horrible. All of the memories, the stuff. It’s so sad. I’m not going to be able to do it. I need you to be my ‘change consultant’ and help me through.

[Read: 3 Keys for Mastering an Unbalanced Life]

“Ahh,” I said, “now you’re getting acquainted with a different kind of breakup. But a breakup nonetheless.”

I thought about the title she assigned to me: “Change consultant.” I hadn’t heard it before and it made me smile. I liked it. I felt qualified to own it.

Change is hard for all of us, I know that to be true. Especially when it’s emotional. Some people seem to sail right through, but the rest of us — or even the majority of us — struggle with upheaval. We struggle to make sense of change, struggle about where to put our feelings of loss and grief, struggle with the vastness of the unknown ahead of us, struggle with our fear of those things we don’t know.

[From Hot Flashes to Hot Momma: 5 Ways to Stay Strong and Sexy as You Age]

I’m sure we could all use a “Change Consultant.” But what would we look for that person to do for us, I wondered. Reassure us that we will be ok? Reassure us that we are strong enough to handle the change?

Give us some tools to navigate the feelings associated with change? (The best advice I ever got on this particular question is to remember that those feelings are just that … feelings. They will come and go like a wave, you just have to breathe through them.)

Talk to us about the changes we go through with our children? When they get older and want (and need) lives of their own, the Change Consultant could tell us that it’s ok to grieve the loss of their dependence on you, but to remind yourself that it also means you did a good job.

A Change Consultant would probably tell my cousin that isn’t really the stuff in her house that contains all of those memories. It’s her (and all of us) that have the memories; not the stuff.

[How to Stay Asleep and Sleep More Deeply]

So, let go of the stuff, hold onto the memories. A house is just a house. You can recreate a “dream home” wherever you go, because the dream home is IN you. Most of what we need is in us. A modern-day Change Consultant should tell you that the less you store away, the better off you will be. Most kids don’t want their second grade art project when they’ve become adults; maybe one example, but certainly not the 100 projects you have kept. And many more nuggets of wisdom just like those.

Even though it’s only been three days, I like my job as Change Consultant. I’m going to keep it.

I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my own life and so many people have listened to me, talked me through, held my hand, encouraged me, pushed me forward and they were always right when they said: “It’s going to be ok.”

You are ok.

You are strong enough to handle the change you are going through.

You are loved.

Stuff is stuff.

Memories are yours.

Home is inside of you.

And love, while it may evolve, is always there. For you, for your kids, your friends, your home.

Here’s my Change Consultant motto: Change is inevitable (1)Change is inevitable. Embrace it. Believe you can handle it. Believe that you will be ok.

Why? Cause it’s true!! PS: We all have the power to be change consultants. Share  your own tips for navigating change here. You may just help Sydney and many more “Sydney’s.” #PassItForward

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

[Image via Unsplash]

What I Learned About Power from a Community of Nuns


I traveled to Erie, PA this past week to have a conversation with Sister Joan Chittister about women, social justice, peace and spirituality.

Sister Joan has been a Benedictine nun for more than 60 years and in that time, she’s written over 50 books. She speaks out regularly on behalf of women. Women in poverty, women in the church, women who face injustices.

[Read an excerpt from Joan’s latest book]

It was a moving experience for me to return to Erie. I’d only visited the community once before, a few years back. It was a peaceful, spiritual visit and this time I experienced the same sense of calmness and peace.

But this time though I arrived late at night in the cold and had not come prepared for the weather, I had a welcoming committee at the airport. No Uber, no cab … just real people who smiled at me, hugged me and welcomed me. One nun took the coat off her back and gave it to me so I wouldn’t catch cold. Everywhere I went in Erie, people were gracious and kind.

[Read: 107 Years of Words and Wisdom: The Poetry of Peggy Freydberg]

It actually kind of threw me off. Much like the time before, I got to thinking: what is it about these nuns, what is it about this community, that makes it such a haven of loving kindness?

[Watch my interview with Erie’s local news]

The evening reception I came to speak at was packed. There were close to 70 nuns in the audience of 800. Each one smiling, loving, laughing, smart as all get out, intellectually curious and sharp. These are women who work in our inner cities teaching, helping, serving. They largely go unnoticed, they are rarely on covers of magazines and they don’t make any money, but boy do they seem fulfilled. Fulfilled by their vocation, fulfilled by the simplicity of their lives, fulfilled by living in community with one another, fulfilled by service.

Now I’m not naive enough to think they are without struggles. I have read Mother Teresa’s diaries where she detailed her own private struggles with God, her vocation, her work.

mercyhurstBut I bet if any of you went to spend time with this community (and I should point out that visitors are welcome!) to go write, heal, or just simply be, you would come out feeling the same as I did: Calm, centered, grateful, at home in myself and at home with those servants of peace.

[The Hormone Reset Diet: Lose Up to 15lbs in 21 Days]

When we talk about powerful women, we always focus on women in office, women on magazine covers, women who star in films and on TV. But I want to focus some attention on women whose power comes from their presence, from the power they have within themselves. Not from their clothes, not from their jobs, not from their cars or spouses. None of the typical trappings that makes us think people are powerful.

I’ve come to change my opinion on power. Power comes from presence, from values, from belief, from within. The women I spent time with this week may not be stepping up to run for President of the United States (though Mrs. Clinton deserves applause for having the guts to throw herself into the ring), but they step up for others every day. They speak out for those who are struggling. They are doing the Lord’s work. I like being around people who are intellectually curious, who are growing, evolving and interested in their own journey and the life journey’s of others.These women are stepping up every day to try to make life better for everyone in the world.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

I’ve been thinking about how much I admire them, respect them and seek to emulate them. No I’m not joining the convent, but I’m joining their sisterhood of the heart

Check out some of Sister Joan’s work and inspiration here, and join us too. #PassItForward

This Easter Sunday I Hope You Rise


To me, and for me, Easter Sunday is all about rising.

Rising up from the dead. Rising up in your own life. Rising from being a small person. Rising from the past. Rising, rising, rising.

As I say to my kids: life can knock you down, but we each have the opportunity in front of us every day to rise back up.

[Take the National Poetry Month #1for30 poem Challenge]

Rise up from our failures, rise up from our heartbreaks, rise up from our losses, rise up even when we don’t want to or think that we can.

Who among us has not felt defeated at times? I know I have. Who among us has not felt beaten down? I know I have. Who among us has not doubted our own right to speak up, much less to rise up?

It takes strength and courage to rise and shine, to show up in your own life and be the designer of it. It takes courage to rise. This day inspires me to do just that.

[Watch: Do You Believe in the Afterlife? Maria Shriver reports]

Sure, I love Easter egg hunts. I love Sunday Mass with everyone in their Easter best. It brings back memories of my own childhood and memories of when my kids were young and would get so excited about hunting for eggs.

Today they are grown. I still get them Easter baskets, but now this day is more focused on the true meaning of the Easter season: the Resurrection.

So on this Easter Sunday, may you don your Easter bonnet, hunt for eggs, eat chocolate, laugh, spend time with your family, but may you also think about the idea of rising up in your own life.

Figure out what that means to you, and for you, and then do it.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

We are all too special to be knocked down by life.

We all deserve to rise.

Amen. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

A Note of Thanks To Some Important People in My Life


As we approach Holy Week, I’m thinking about everything I’m grateful for and everyone I’m grateful to.

A woman named Anne I met last week asked me to try out a gratitude exercise with her. “I want you to say a really important prayer every morning when you wake up,” she said, adding, “Say it in the afternoon as well.”

My response: “Uh, ok. What is it?” (I said “Uh” because I was expecting some long-drawn-out prayer I would have to memorize.)

She said, “Please repeat after me: Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

[Read: When is Enough Enough in Life?]

She went on for two minutes saying those two words over and over asking me to repeat after her, soft, loud, fast, slow. I gotta admit, the first few times I was like, ‘This is weird,’ and I laughed a little (she didn’t). So then I just started following her tempo.

I started focusing on the words: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I settled in and, in time, her voice gave way and I was saying the two words by myself. With each time I spoke, I settled into the power of those two words and everyone I could say them to.

  • To God: Thank you for the gift of my life.
  • To my parents, both of whom died not too long ago: Thank you for being there for me and sharing your lives with me.
  • To my family: Wow, yes. Thank you to them for holding me in the protective womb of our family.
  • Thank you to my friends who check in on me all the time, who include me in their lives and their families.

[Watch: 4 Ways to Improve Your Memory]

  • To the people I’m lucky enough to work with each day: Thank you to you for helping me so much every day both at the office and at home.
  • To strangers I meet on the street who share a kind word when they don’t have to: Thank you.
  • To the people who share here on and to the people who have collaborated with us on and who have accepted the challenge to Wipe Out Alzheimer’sThank you for being so generous and so brave. Thank you.
  • To my children’s friends: Thank you for sitting with me, sharing with me and helping me to stay young at heart.
  • To those on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages who share inspiring messages and thankfully share my zero tolerance for meanness: Thank you.

This little prayer that I learned from Anne has helped ground me and put a smile on my face this week. I try to practice gratitude every day, but I think I was making it more complicated than I needed to.

All I had to do was say “thank you.”

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking essays]

I’ll continue to practice my thankful prayer, and I’ll continue to express my gratitude in big and small ways whenever and wherever I can. Thank you for listening and reading. Happy Holy Week to all of you. I can’t wait for Easter and to be able to eat dessert again!


[Image via Morgan Sessions]

Internet Abuse is Real and It’s Up To Us to End It


This week I watched as my friend Ashley Judd fought back against Internet abuse.

“Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood,” she wrote, adding, “As I began on Twitter to identify and push back against this toxicity and abuse, I faced the standard bashing anyone (girl or boy, woman or man) experiences when objecting to and taking action against misogyny.”

[Read: 7 Things Children Can Teach Us]

To illustrate why she is so offended by the written assaults she has experienced on the Internet, she bravely told a personal story of sexual violence, making comparisons and finding similarities between the two. And she correctly stated that the nameless, cowardly assaults that take place on the Internet have to stop.

She is right.

As was Curt Schilling when he stepped up to call out the “trolls” who were harassing his daughter.

Internet harassment is a real thing. It’s violent, hurtful, abusive and scary. And I know it affects all kinds of people, not just those in the public eye.

[Why You Need to Find Your Inner Voice]

I’ve been thinking about what we can do — what I can do — to stop this kind of violence, because that’s exactly what it is: Violence against women and men.

We could boycott publications that print things with the sole intention of destroying people’s lives. We could delete our accounts or hold the companies that run them responsible for removing the hate ASAP. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook ,etc. can do a better job of policing comments that are jaw-dropping, abusive, offensive and threatening. We can each watch our own words, our own tempers, our own sides of the street.

I’m not naive enough to think that everyone will always be kind.

But I do know that when people speak out and say how these comments and commenters, “trolls” or whatever they are called, make them feel, it does have an impact. It does affect others and make them pause and think about their actions. Or, at least, I hope it does. It does for me.

[Read: What #HappyActs Will You Do Today?]

Ashley Judd made me stop and think. Curt Schilling made me step back and say “wow.” Kendall Jenner called out a prominent weekly magazine for attributing quotes to her that were totally fabricated and that hurt her.

I have seen those I love experience it and I, myself, have been stunned more times than I can count by not-OK comments. I try to practice compassion and forgiveness, but sometimes just like Ashley, I gotta say “this is not OK.” 

Our goal must be to become a more caring, compassionate, conscious culture. If we can’t be kind together, we’re never going to be able to work together, to move this world forward together, to build happiness together.

It starts with each of us.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Let’s make these mean and threatening kinds of comments more than not OK. Let’s have a zero tolerance policy for Internet abuse.

Let’s start now. #PassItForward

[Image via Death to the Stock Photo]

Honoring Two Men Who Taught Me A Lot About Love

gentleman with roses

Last Monday, I went to a lunch in honor of my friends Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, the writers and directors of the much-acclaimed film “Still Alice.”

It was a small, intimate gathering. There were a few toasts, lots of laughs and beautiful stories. I spoke about how one of the best things that came from executive producing “Still Alice” was meeting Wash and Richard.


Because as I said that day, until I met them, I had never seen love in action like that before.

[See the Women Behind ‘Still Alice’]

Richard was diagnosed with ALS before the movie started filming, and watching the love they had for one another while facing the disease together was mind-blowing. The care Wash gave to Richard, who lost his ability to move and speak this year, was heart-stopping.

Wash spoke at the lunch and Richard joined by Skype. When I was leaving, Wash said, “Please come over for tea, Richard would love that.” I said, “Deal. I’ll call you Saturday.” Tuesday night, Richard died.

I was shocked. And when I read Wash’s statement about the loss of Richard, I once again was blown away by his love, his respect and his strength.

Awhile ago, I had asked Wash how their love worked, how could he be so selfless? I wanted to know everything I could about their relationship, their love, their kindness, their hearts.

Wash said it best in his statement.

I am devastated. Rich was my soul mate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Seeing him battle ALS for four years with such grace and courage inspired me and all who knew him.

In this dark time, I take some consolation in the fact that he got to see Still Alice go out into the world. He put his heart and soul into that film, and the fact that it touched so many people was a constant joy to him.

Thank you to everyone for this huge outpouring of love. Richard was a unique guy — opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous, and so so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short twenty years we had together.

I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him he will always be alive.

“Still Alice” is a film about a woman getting early on-set Alzheimer’s, but it’s also a movie about caregiving, family, and ultimately, about love.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Love in the good times and in the hard times. Love, love, love.

The ALS community and the Alzheimer’s community are filled with stories like Wash and Richard’s. Stories of love, stories of care, stories of heartache and triumph. I hope you get the chance to have an example like Wash and Richard in your life.

[Join us in the fight to Wipe Out Alzheimer’s]

I thought about a lot of things this week, but nothing compared to thinking about Wash and Richard.

God bless them both. #PassItForward

[Image via Picjumbo]

Words Matter


This week was a big week for people who believe in the power of words.

The End The R-Word campaign continues to make people think about the harmful ramifications of using the r-word and I’m so proud of all the people who have made this campaign so successful.

Curt Schilling stood up and smacked down some cyber bullies who were using harmful words about his daughter on the web. I cheered him on. He said no one, much less his daughter, should be subjected to comments of that nature and he went after those guys. All of whom will be watching their words from now on no doubt.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Curt Schilling showed how men can support their daughters, their wives, sisters, friends and loved ones through their words and their actions.

As a mother of two boys and a sister to four guys, I’ve always been a big fan of men. And I’ve always believed that men and women do better when we understand each other and work together in our homes, in our workplaces, in our government. That’s why I was happy to see lots of positive talk around men this week.

[Are You an Alzheimer’s Innovator? Share Your Story and Photo]

This week I wrote and an op-ed for Time with Jennifer Siebel Newsom asking the question, “What Does it Mean to Be ‘A Man’?” She has directed a new documentary focused on boys and masculinity, “The Mask You Live In” and I am one of the Executive Producers.

My friend and Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything contributor, Michael Kimmel, hosted the International Conference on Masculinities: Engaging Men and Boys for Gender Equality and lots of men and women showed up.

So whether you are showing up, speaking out, leaning in together or taking off the mask it’s all positive, forward movement. Communication and collaboration is what everyone needs. Men, women, boys and girls.

[Read: A List of Things I’m Consciously Trying to Teach My Daughter]

We need to focus more on using our words to fight prejudice, stop hatred, examine other genders and our own. In doing so, it is my hope that we can create a more conscious, caring, compassionate culture in our own communities and our country.

Let’s keep the good words going.


What I Learned From #TheDress This Week

Untitled design

News alert!

Something big happened on the Internet this week and for once it had nothing to do with the Kardashians.

Millions of people came together to have a national conversation. Not about income inequality, not about Alzheimer’s, not about ISIS. No not even about the premiere of the new season of House of Cards. (I confess I’ve already binge watched.)

No, we came together over the dress. Yup that’s right. A dress. I will spare you the rehash of the color debate but it got me thinking. Not about the dress, I know it’s just fun. But about how people come together.

[Watch to find out what Maria Shriver, Rob Lowe, Zachary Quinto and others have in common]

What brings us together?? Seriously, what does?

We know a lot about what divides us (politics, religion, abortion, Fox News, MSNBC to name just a few), but less about what unites us.

The ALS ice bucket challenge brought us all together, but I can’t remember much else that did. Until “the dress” got us connecting. It even got my 17-year-old son Christopher to talk to me on the way to school in the morning. Usually only Kobe Bryant can do that.

So what is it that causes the connection? Is it clothes? Maybe it’s animals? Banksy got us talking a little bit this week about the Middle East via cats. Maybe cats are a way into talking about wiping out Alzheimer’s or talking about the minimum wage, but neither cats nor roaming llamas came close to the dress.

[Read: How to Handle a Friend’s Tears]

Maybe the dress could lead us into talking about how many millions of people can’t afford a pretty dress. Or the fact that millions of women who have Alzheimer’s can’t even remember the name of the thing we all are actually talking about.

Maybe we could all learn something from the dress. This is what I learned: Make the question simple. As in black and white. Make people laugh. Make it light. Make it shareable. Don’t make either side feel as though they are wrong or stupid.

the dress

Imagine this conversation:

“See this picture?”
“I can’t remember what it is.”
“It’s a dress.”
“A what?”
“A dress.”
“What’s a dress?”
“It’s something you wear.”
“What is this?”
“It’s a dress.”
“What’s a dress?”
“It’s something you wear.”

Imagine… Not knowing that. Imagine not being able to remember what the color white or gold is. Or, blue or black.

[Read: Why I Volunteer to Visit People With Alzheimer’s]

It’s okay if you don’t know that we are in the midst of a Alzheimer’s epidemic. It’s okay if you didn’t realize this disease literally robs your mind and everything in it.

But now that you do, I hope you will help us. Help us Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. And if you do, we will buy everyone a purple dress.

No, Really. Not a gold and white one. Not a blue and black one. A purple one.

A purple what?
A purple dress!!!

[Read all of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays here]

Because purple is the color of the Alzheimer’s movement and we are going to need a dress, a beautful one for the gigantic mind-blowing party we are going to throw when we wipe this staggering disease out. As in OUT … NOW.


This Is Our Moment in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Still Alice walking

***We’re starting a movement, will you join us? Head to to stand with us.***

Last night was a big moment for Julianne Moore. I am so happy she received a Best Actress Academy Award for her stellar performance in the magical film Still Alice — a film I am so proud to be co-executive producer of.

As a child of Alzheimer’s, her portrayal of Alice, a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, left me moved, humbled and so very grateful. As the audience, we see through her eyes the toll this disease takes, not just on the person who gets it, but on all those who love them. We feel her struggle, we sense her bewilderment, we witness her valiant efforts to hold on to who she is, what she knows and what she remembers. Alice struggles to still be herself. Julianne does this so well that audiences and critics have been honoring her with every award in sight — and tonight I hope that streak continues.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

This is a special moment in Julianne’s extraordinary career. A well-deserved moment for someone who has worked long and hard and has always given a performance that astounds. But this is also a moment in the fight to wipe out Alzheimer’s.

These are the facts: Someone gets Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. A woman in her 60’s is twice as likely to get it as she is to get breast cancer. Women make up 65 percent of all those who get Alzheimer’s and they’re nearly two-thirds of all the caregivers in this country.

[Watch the ‘Still Alice’ trailer & find a theater near you]

Why do women get it more? No one knows.

What’s the cure for it? No one knows.

What we DO know is that this film, this performance, is waking up our country to these facts and to the reality that more must be done to wipe out this staggering disease that is affecting millions.

To that end, myself and others have put our brains together to launch a global woman’s initiative called Wipe Out Alzheimer’s. Our mission: to research women’s brains and figure out why this disease is disproportionally affecting us. Our goal: Wipe out Alzheimer’s. When? Right Now. And everyone is invited to join us.

[Read: The Most Useful Phrase for a Lasting Relationship]

This is our moment, and we’re going to use it to study the female brain to wipe out this mind-blowing disease (and hopefully some others while we’re at it!).

I hope you’ll visit our new site and sign up to join us. And then #PassItForward to your friends.

Visit to learn more.