TALK’n TROUBLE: Precedents Day


In the 1880s a federal holiday was created to celebrate the birthday of the first President of the United States, General George Washington. Then in 1968, while voting to move all federal holidays to Mondays so workers could get a few long weekends every year, Congress decided that Lincoln’s February birthday should be included in a revamped ‘Presidents Day.’ Today, the third Monday in February is popularly recognized as a holiday honoring and celebrating the birthdays and lives of all the presidents of the U.S. The fact that all 46 have been men so far–all but one have been white­–does not establish those traits as precedents. To TroubleMakers, those facts simply beg the question, “Why?”

The noun precedent is frequently used in the phrase “to set a precedent,” meaning “to set an example or rule to be followed.” The word is often used in a legal context denoting a judicial decision that should be followed by a judge when deciding a later similar case. When something contradicts an established precedent or prevailing custom or practice, it’s said to “break with precedent” or “go against precedent.” Another common use is “without precedentin reference to something not supported by a prior example or ruling. More commonly, something said to be “without precedent” is unprecedented.

Both unprecedented and precedented appear in the English language in the 17th century; just in time for the enlightenment! Laying the groundwork for the French and American revolutions, it was during the enlightenment period when educated people throughout Europe began questioning everything about the status quo. Why were they bound by Christian concepts of morality, and why should anyone believe that monarchs’ right to rule came directly from God? As education flourished, knowledge increased the awareness of artificial standards that had elevated the few while holding down the masses.

Trouble is all about going against precedent. The promotion of gender equity in every realm is part of the new enlightenment. TroubleMakers work on setting new precedents; actively getting “something done or said that may serve as an example,” that contradicts common practices.  Two paradigms of power to challenge in a ‘21st-century enlightenment’ of our own creation would be ‘male’ and ‘white.’ TroubleMakers question patriarchy and the archetype of leadership,  advancing diversity, opportunity, and equity for women and girls in business and civic life.

Diversity in leadership is arguably one of the most important keys to unlocking solutions to the multitude of challenges facing humanity, from poverty to the climate crisis we need ideas and input from everyone willing and able to contribute. Making Good Trouble requires all hands on deck. It is a fact that more diverse organizations benefit from higher levels of creativity, engagement, collaboration, relationships, clarity, and productivity. –

As of 2023, all 50 states have elected at least one woman to Congress. Montana was the first, in 1917. The last hold-out may come as a surprise. It was Vermont, electing Democrat Becca Balint to Vermont’s only seat in the U.S. House, for 2023.  [Among the five inhabited territories of the U.S., only the Northern Mariana Islands have still not elected a woman.]

 It is interesting to note that electoral precedents are often misinterpreted and/or miscommunicated; particularly by the very media pundits we often turn to for insights and information. It’s flawed logic to treat a precedent as anything more than an observable fact. No precedent is an unbreakable or naturally occurring phenomenon that should be taken for granted. As this cartoon illustrates, it was once true that no left-handed candidate ever won the presidency – until Reagan did. No Democrat had been elected to the Oval Office without Missouri until Obama was. And everybody knows, no woman can be elected POTUS, until she is!

Let’s look to American film for an example of a shift in consciousness that Trouble would like to see spread throughout an enlightened culture.

In her New York Times article, Manohla Dargis writes, “Despite continuing biases and barriers, women are now directing movies with a variety of budgets, topics, and casts.” Women have gone from “7 percent of all directors working on the Top 250 films of 2009” to “18 percent of directors working on the Top 250” in 2022. The author effectively details decades of gender imbalance in every layer of the movie industry as well as the fierce determination and impeccable talent of the women who’ve persevered to achieve unprecedented success. Unprecedented? Yes. Unfortunately, still a far cry from equitable representation.

Perhaps the most salient point made in this piece is about the turmoil within the movie industry that opened the cracks these previously marginalized artists were able to push through. Not unlike other oppressive power centers in flux right now, she points out that “because the (movie) industry no longer resembles the highly centralized, blindingly white, overwhelmingly male-dominated enterprise it was for decades,” change is now more possible than ever. Trouble would add, that’s what we do…exploit cracks in the glass ceiling, keep on pushing, working, striving for our rights, our share of power, and the full expression of ourselves.

Old Presidents, new precedents; Trouble is on the lookout for opportunities to recognize, revel in, support, and encourage gender equity. The world sometimes feels chaotic and progress is painfully slow but, by being steadfastly our best selves, open to opportunity, and supporting each other, we’re poised to make Trouble together every day. Happy Precedents Day 2023, Trouble Team! Please continue to spread the word and keep up the good work.

Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.

Share what you learn here with the TroubleMakers you know and love.


Scroll to Top