In decades of experience as a women’s advocate, I’ve learned people can be inspired to action by one of two things: anger or aspiration.
A roiling, boiling anger is propelling women — even many who’ve never been activists before — to embrace their “power to” to take leadership and make change. They’re making their voices heard over the din of political rhetoric they might shun under other circumstances.
There was no one trigger, rather a succession of insults. I talked with Richard Lui about them this week on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. Here’s a smattering:
After the stunning optics of an all-male “expert” panel pontificating on women’s reproductive health before a Senate committee (also all-male because the women on the committee were so incensed they walked out)…
After shock jock Rush Limbaughdenigrated Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute (can one be both—don’t sluts give it away?) and demanding to see videos of her having sex…
After bills like those in Texas and Virginia forcing women seeking abortions to submit to 10″ ultrasound “shaming wands” (as Doonesbury dubbed them), an AZ bill requiring women to bring notes to their employers verifying they take birth control for health reasons not pregnancy prevention or risk being fired, and a Tennessee bill that mandates public reporting of the doctors by name and the demographics of each patient…
“As an activist for women through almost four decades, I know that no movement for social justice moves forward without struggle, nor does forward movement necessarily go in a straight line.”
Today, March 8, is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day. Some decry its commercialization, as corporate sponsors have realized it’s in their best interests to appeal to women who make over 85 percent of consumer purchases around the globe.
But it’s a day whose meaning inspires me to think back to a very special moment on September, 1995.
I was attending the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where hugely ambitious and thrilling goals were set for improving the lives of women, and by extension their families and the world.
The official conference was in Beijing, but the much larger convocation of activists from nongovernmental organizations—40,000 enthusiastic women and a few good men like my husband—was literally stuck in the mud in Huairu, a suburb an hour’s drive from the city.
Thousands of sleepy people had arrived at dawn on the morning of Sept. 6, to stand packed together under a roof of brightly colored umbrellas, jockeying for the few hundred seats inside the auditorium where then first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton was slated to give a speech.
Thanks to my training in clinic defense, which had taught me how to form a wedge and move expeditiously through even the most aggressive crowd, I was fortunate not only to get inside but to get a seat. The program was running late; Hillary was running even later and the crowd was getting restless.
Just as it seemed a revolt might be brewing, Shirley May Springer Stanton, the cultural coordinator of the conference, sauntered onto the stage and began to sing a capella, ever so softly: “Gonna keep on moving forward. Never turning back, never turning back.”
Surely Politico jests. I’m sure you can add to my examples:
Politico Arena asks:
Democrats are raising money with a petition against the “Republican War on Women.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, repeated the jibe Sunday on “Meet the Press” when asked about Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments on contraception.
Now that Limbaugh has apologized, will voters see “war on women” language as overkill? Particularly those who oppose the Obama administration’s contraception coverage policy on moral/religious grounds?
My Response: You’re kidding, right? There’s hardly even a truce.
Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute as she asked her university to cover hormonal birth-control and the subsequent fury that caused many of his advertisers to abandon him (and his very lame non-apology apology) was one small skirmish in the much larger and ongoing war on women being waged by an ideologically driven minority who would much prefer that women had remained barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
Just this past week, Roy Blunt and other Senate Republicans sought to pass legislation that would allow any employer to deny preventive contraceptive health services to their employees on the basis of any religious or “moral” objections. As though women are wanton hussies with no morals or religion.
Hahahahaha. I’ll believe this when I see it but it was fun to contemplate whether Fox will swing left any time before hell freezes over. Can MSNBC’s ratings be that high that Fox is running scared?
Arena asks:Is Fox News swinging left?
My response: Fox is starting to report the news instead of parroting right wing screed? What a thought!
Could this move be related to something in the headlines today, a new feminist channel announced by Alltopic to compete with Google’s, signaling a renewed interest in these issues? Or to the obvious national consensus that birth control is actually a basic element of health care and should be covered as such? Or has Rupert Murdock’s corruption scandal made even Roger Ailes rethink the ethics of running a media outlet on ideology rather than, well, news?
[Photo: Roger Ailes at Fox News. | Reuters ]
I’m not going to switch my viewing habits anytime soon, but it is heartening to see that worshipers of marketplace economics are susceptible to the same marketplace economics. Maybe I’ll be a little less annoyed in the future by television screens in public places blaring Fox newscasts.
This commentary was published yesterday on the Daily Beast with the title “Komen Incites Women’s Tahrir Square Moment.” If you haven’t read it there, please hop on over and give me a share, stumble, and/or comment. There’s quite a lively conversation going on. Then come back and tell me what you think here.
Mostly, I’d like to start a conversation about taking the great passion this kerfluffle between Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood has generated and catapult it into a more vibrant, durable, and most of all proactive women’s movement. Clearly, the huge outpouring was about more than the two organizations themselves. There was a lot of pent up readiness for activism and just plain demanding respect as women–as persons–with brains, hearts, and moral autonomy–not as subjects of society’s political whims or social narratives that we did not write.
Let me get off my soapbox and let you read on….
“I am off to feed my daughter (with breasts that were examined by Planned Parenthood doctors when I had no health insurance).”
Allie Wagstrom, a young mom in Minnesota whom I know only via Facebook, posted this on my page after she heard the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, parent of the ubiquitous pink-ribboned “Race for the Cure,” bowed to political pressure from the right and announced last week that it would no longer fund breast exams and breast health education at Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen’s astonishingly sloppy handling of the situation (for which they have now apologized and semi-retracted) put a black mark in indelible ink on their sweet pink ribbons.
Planned Parenthood supporters demonstrated following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on Feb. 3, 2012 in Seattle, Washington., Stephen Brashear / Getty Images
Facebook popped a picture of Cynthia Nixon, the lead actor in the Broadway drama about ovarian cancer, Wit, next to Allie’s comment in an advertising tactic. Nixon’s bald head and gaunt face shocked the breath out of me, while social media exploded with the wrath of millions of women who felt scorned by a charity for which they had raced and purchased pink products they didn’t need.
Why this outpouring, even from women who had never openly supported Planned Parenthood?
Newt won it in SC after a dismal performance in NH. What do you think will be the next exciting episode in the Republican primary soap opera? And is Romney toast or has he just taken a temporary step back?
ARENA ASKED: Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary, the Associated Press
projected Saturday night. Should Mitt Romney be running scared after his second-place finish? Or
will the Jan. 31 Florida primary prove a firewall?
MY ANSWER: Groundhog Day came early in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich’s candidacy popped its head up from what seemed to be a deep hole into which he had dug himself with his philandering and arrogance.
Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary shows that for all their anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, pro so-called
I believe in making common cause with people of all persuasions, but here’s what I learned about the quest for common ground on issues where people have diametrically opposing worldviews. Originally published at On The Issues Magazine.
The day before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to rule, rumors circulated that the agency would approve Plan B One Step emergency contraception as a non-prescription item and allow it to be sold without age restrictions. Freelance writer Robin Marty predicted via e-mail, “Conservative reaction will be a total shitstorm.”
Please read this article, and just as the steam is coming out of your ears, go sign the petition and leave your comment for the president. It’s up to us to hold him, and all politicians, accountable.
Out of patience with Obama Administration betrayals on health issues, a coalition has launched a petition demanding an agenda that is fair to women.
It wasn’t the first time that President Barack Obama played to a right-wing constituency at the expense of women’s interests, but the reversal last week of an expected decision on emergency birth control provoked perhaps the most critical reaction so far toward the administration by women’s health advocates and feminists across the nation…
You know how first they laugh at you, then they try to kill you, then you win? Occupy Wall Street has moved past getting laughed at and is now under attack. Today’s Politico Arena question asked whether OWS has accomplished anything, taking off from a slam by Rep. Peter King (R of course-NY) who charged the movement is “disorganized.” Below is my response to Arena. Enjoy it while playing this video performance art, and do let me know your thoughts:
ARENA ASKS: In a recent interview with Bloomberg Television, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) had tough criticism for the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I mean, what is their position?” King asked. “They’re mad that other people are making money?
Do you think it’s too late for Obama to redeem himself, as this question seems to imply? If you were advising him, what would you say? And do you think insurgent movements like Occupy Wall Street can help re-inspire the progressive base?
Arena Asks: Democrats across the country are preparing for an onslaught of attacks from American Crossroads, an independent fundraising group that bombed the 2010 elections with negative ads.
Even President Obama seems to acknowledge the shift in power. Will these outside groups give Republicans a big advantage in 2012? And is Obama right to consider himself an “underdog?”
My Answer:Unfortunately for Democrats, the only antidote to democracy is more and better participation in democracy…