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Rebirth in Virginia: The ERA in the 21st Century

ERA

Image credit: ERA Action, We Are Women Coalition and Progressive Democrats of America

This week, activists in Virginia are working to convince their legislators to do something that has not been done in the 21st century: ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Hard as it may seem to believe, the Equal Rights Amendment, the 90 year-old brain child of suffragist Alice Paul and bastion of 60s and 70s era feminism, is still not part of the U.S. Constitution. As a result, we face the reality that in 2014, the right to equal protection, regardless of gender, is not the law of the land.

To change this, ERA activists face two daunting challenges. First, the ERA did not become law in the 1970s because it fell three states short of the 38 state (three-fourths of 50) ratification threshold set forth by the Constitution. Indiana, the 35th state, ratified the ERA in 1977. No other states have ratified it since. Secondly, when the ERA was proposed to Congress in 1972, it included a ratification deadline, a deadline that passed way back in 1982. So ERA proponents including activists from the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) have a two-pronged battle plan: 1) get Congress to approve removal of the ratification deadline (there are resolutions in the House and the Senate to do just that ) and 2) get at least three more states to ratify the ERA.

And that brings us to this week’s activity in Virginia. Virginia’s Senate already passed the most recent ERA bill but approval in the House is proving to be a tougher nut to crack. Delegate Mark Cole, Chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, questions the legality of the bill and has said he will not bring it out of committee to the floor for vote. Proponents of the bill hope to change that. On Wednesday, February 19, PDA will stage a call-in day in which Virginia voters can call, tweet, or email their delegates, House Speaker William Howell and/or Delegate Cole to ask them to bring the bill to the floor. in addition, there is an online petition asking Delegate Cole to bring the bill for a vote. According to PDA’s National Deputy Field Director, Andrea Miller, the petition will be delivered to the House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday morning.

Also on Friday, activists plan to line the hallways outside the Committee room in a “silent sentinel” to send a message that Virginia citizens, particularly women, are watching what the delegates do. Friday may be the last day for the bill to be placed on the docket for this House session so Miller is hopeful that they can get several hundred voters to Richmond on Friday for the demonstration. If the bill fails to pass the Virginia House in this session, Miller says PDA will not give up in Virginia, or on their other targeted states: Arizona, Florida, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana and Missouri, among others.

Even though, it’s been almost forty years since a state last ratified the ERA, Miller and the other proponents are confident and determined. She calls passage of the ERA the “unfinished business” of the last century and of the civil rights movement. Though laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Act have helped give women legal options in the workplace to combat discrimination, it doesn’t go as far as an amendment could. Miller stresses that finally passing the ERA will give judicial standing to such laws and to gender discrimination cases that come before the nation’s high courts. “If we are going to lift women and families out of poverty in this country, we need pay equity. The ERA will help us get there. Finally.”

Finally indeed.

Learn more about the ERA and the three-state strategy here: www.equalrightsamendment.org


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W:RUN’s Women of 2012 – Women Who Shaped the Year

If it’s December, it’s time for “year in review” posts and this probably will not be our last round-up but it is one we are pretty excited about. While publications like Time pick just one “Person of the Year”, we see no reason to limit our list of female news-makers of 2012 to just one woman. What we have assembled below is a list of just a few of the women who have inspired us this year. We believe many of them will continue making news, shaping policies, and representing us well, long after 2012 is over.

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Malala Yousafzai recuperating in a UK hospital after the shooting.
Photo credit: NHS

Malala Yousafzai – Until October of this year, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was best known in the West for the blog she wrote for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule in her home in Mingora, Pakistan. She criticized the Taliban’s policies of denying education to girls, both in the blog and in a later documentary for the New York Times. Then, on October 9, Malala was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban-affiliated gunman as she rode the bus home from school. She survived the attack and is currently recuperating in a British hospital. The Taliban has vowed to repeat their attempt on her life calling her a “symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” Did we mention she is 15?

To the rest of the world, however, Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol of courage and determination, and of the need to demand education opportunities for all children, regardless of gender. UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown declared November 10, 2012 “Malala Day” in support of a UN petition that demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. In addition, Malala has been nominated for a International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and there is a petition for her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. As of the time of this writing, Malala was third in Time Magazine’s online poll for its Person of the Year 2012 distinction.

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Saudi Olympian Sarah Attar waves to the crowd in London before competing in her race.
Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Women of the 2012 Olympics – By the end of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, some in the media might have gotten sidetracked in covering the non-troversy around Gabby Douglas’ hair or the beach volleyball uniforms and missed some legitimately important milestones for women in sports. For the first time in the history of the modern games, every participating nation sent at least one female athlete, an achievement made possible by increased pressure on Saudi Arabia in the final weeks before the Games. For the Saudi women (and women in other countries where the government or religious leaders actively prevent women from participating in sports), participation in the Olympics was politically significant. Sarah Attar, the 19-year old Saudi athlete who ran the 800 meter track event in London, said she hopes her presence will encourage other Saudi women to become more athletic. If that happens, Saudi Arabia may follow a path followed by Western nations, where increased participation by women in sports happens in tandem with advancement in other areas. The Saudi government plans to allow women’s suffrage for the first time, starting in 2015.

For American women, the London Games were a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Title IX, the article of the Higher Education Act that demands equal funding and opportunities in college, including (but not limited to) sports. Nowhere was that more clear than in the makeup of the team. For the first time, female athletes outnumbered males on the team. Performance-wise, the women delivered as well, winning the majority of the gold medals and the majority of the overall medals won by the U.S. team. The best part of all, it happened with billions of people watching.

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The Democratic women of the new Senate gather for a meeting with Senator Mikulski shortly after the election.
Photo credit: Senator Barbara Mikulski. (D-MD)

Women of the 113th Congress – Starting in January 2013, record numbers of female legislators will serve in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and in state legislatures nationwide. While even these numbers of female lawmakers in the U.s still leaves us embarrassingly low ranked when compared to other nations and are far from gender parity given the U.S. population, it is a definite step in the right direction. (No shoe jokes, please. We’re already have enough on our hands clearing the traffic jam in the Senate ladies room!) Seeing the female candidates we supported break through, especially after the two years of misogynistic legislative Hell that began in 2010, made for an especially sweet election night. Beyond that, though, we view the 2012 election and the class of legislators it produced as something far more important than numbers. It was the logical next step in what should become the “new” normal. Now that there are 20 female United States Senators, and nearly 80 female members of the House, why should we settle for anything less? As recently as 1992, there were only two female U.S. Senators. Starting in January, the entire Congressional delegation from New Hampshire and its governor will be female. More importantly, female lawmakers are gaining power, influence and the ability to lift each other up and build a deep bench of candidates who could someday rise even higher. Why should we wring our hands wondering who will be the “next Hillary Clinton” when we have the power to develop the next TEN Hillary Clintons? Or more? Women are 53 percent of the American electorate! The answer is that we shouldn’t settle. The direction was made clear. We’re moving forward. Is our nation’s first female President a member of the 113th Congress? It’s impossible to know that now but one thing is certain, whoever she is, she will benefit from it.

So, Liz Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tulsi Gabbard, Tammy Duckworth, Heidi Heitkamp, Kyrsten Sinema, Mazie Hirono and the rest of the Class of 2012, no pressure or anything, but it’s time to get to work.

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Cecile Richards with supporters on the steps of Florida’s capitol.
Photo credit: Planned Parenthood Action

Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood Supporters – The Susan G. Komen Foundation learned a costly lesson this year: Do not mess with Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood. In February of this year, the Komen Foundation, the big kid in the breast cancer funding sandbox, announced that it would stop giving financial support for cancer screenings performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, citing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s (unrelated) reproductive health services. Komen quickly learned that while it may own the pink ribbon logo, Cecile Richards has a pink army and that army was more than willing to go to work for Planned Parenthood. They took to Twitter, Facebook, online forums and the phones, calling their elected officials, signing petitions, and – most embarrassing for Komen – pulling out of its Race for the Cure events and donating that money to Planned Parenthood instead. In just two days following Komen’s funding announcement, Planned Parenthood raised over $3 million for its breast care screening program, more than three times the amount of funding it would have gotten from Komen. But it wasn’t about the money. By that time the backlash against Komen was too much, regional Komen affiliates were speaking out against the decision and at least 26 U.S. Senators had publicly called on Komen to reverse what they called a “politically-motivated” decision. On February 3, just three days after it announced it would pull funding, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker reversed course, and pledged to fund all existing grants to Planned Parenthood and to maintain the group’s eligibility for future grants. The incident proved politically embarrassing to Komen, and some argue that it has yet to fully recover its reputation.

For Richards and Planned Parenthood, the clash proved to be a key test of their political, media and social muscle. They were able to leverage their reputation with women, their social media presence, and their political power to score a victory on the national stage. (Actual quote: “Will Planned Parenthood please give Twitter back?”) Planned Parenthood would spend the rest of 2012 using these lessons  in other funding battles with states and in the November elections. While their battles with states like Arizona and Texas wear on, the numbers from the election don’t lie: the Sunlight Foundation calculated that Planned Parenthood’s PAC got the highest ROI on its campaign spending of any U.S. PAC in the 2012 cycle – with 97% of its spending on races achieving their desired outcomes. Memo to Komen, Cecile Richards and her supporters are wearing the new pink.

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Sandra Fluke unintentionally became the poster girl for the war on women but stepped up the challenge.
Photo credit: MSNBC

Sandra Fluke – Of all the things that we learned in 2011 and 2012 from the war on women, none was more irritating than this: when misogynists are faced with an articulate, educated women who has facts on her side, they will fall back on the time honored tradition of calling her a slut.  Some things never change. As part of W:RUN’s long-standing policy of not referring to certain media blowhards by name, we will not say who actually called Georgetown law-student (and now women’s rights activist) Sandra Fluke a series of derogatory names but you certainly know who it is. It’s not worth the keystrokes to type his name. It almost doesn’t even matter because ever since her Congressional testimony, and especially since her appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, most of the other right-wing media talking heads and even some candidates have piled on with their criticism of Fluke for…for….being someone they really don’t like, we guess. It’s hard to tell exactly what they don’t like about Sandra Fluke except that they think she’s got some nerve talking about birth control out loud like that. In the end, Fluke had the last laugh. Mitt Romney, who famously could not muster the energy to defend her against the worst slurs, lost big in November and took many of Fluke’s harshest critics down with him. And as for He-who-shall-not-be-named? The advertiser exodus from his show following this incident has the stations that carry it reporting heavy losses. And for the record, karma probably doesn’t like being called names either…but you get our drift.

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The 2012 Presidential Debate Moderators.
Photo credit: the New York Times

The Moderators: Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz – After a twenty-year gap, the Commission on Presidential Debates finally selected two women to moderate debates this election cycle: awarding Martha Raddatz the Vice Presidential debate and Candy Crowley the (often maligned) town-hall debate. Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer were given the remaining Presidential debates. Leading up to the debates, former debate moderator Carole Simpson publicly worried that in giving women these “lesser” contests, they might still be marginalized, and others in the chattering classes shared that worry. Then we watched the debates. and gave each other giant estrogen fueled high-gives because – to be frank – Raddatz and Crowley Kicked. Ass.

Raddatz, charged with moderating the Vice Presidential debate between two high energy candidates (and after most observers agreed that Lehrer pretty much lost control of the first Obama/Romney debate) drew high praise. Seated onstage between Biden and Ryan, Raddatz was a calm yet decisive force between two notoriously explosive personalities. She challenged Biden on Benghazi intelligence and demanded “specifics” and “math” from Ryan on his budget. She didn’t always get straight answers but she didn’t back down. While we took issue at her framing her abortion question in religion, we can hardly think of another moderator – male or female – who could have kept order between these two candidates better than Raddatz did.

Crowley, in particular, took heat from the right for fact-checking Romney’s claims on Benghazi but it is often overlooked that she did not handle the President with kid gloves either. She challenged him on unemployment and several times sharpened the audience’s questions about the economy with tougher numbers. In short, she heeded Simpson’s advice and refused to allow herself to be marginalized. Both Raddatz and Crowley did what journalists are supposed to do: lead with the facts. That’s the whole point of giving the roles of debate moderators to journalists in the first place, isn’t it? This year, two extraordinary women got their chance to do it  and they certainly made the most of it.

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Maddow on set, sadly without the glasses.
Photo credit: NBC Universal

Rachel Maddow – In TV news, election night coverage – especially presidential election night coverage – goes to the “A” team. To the undisputed stars of the networks. It’s not a perk, it’s a right. You rise to the top of a given news team and that’s your prize. You get to tell the viewing audience the results of all the races, especially the top one. In 2008, MSNBC gave the honor of reporting that the nation had elected Barack Obama to Keith Olbermann, then its top star. In 2012, it was Rachel Maddow who made the network’s official call that Obama had been re-elected. Maddow, the first openly gay anchor of a prime time news program, readily announces herself as a liberal nerd – something that instantly endears her to the younger demographics that are increasingly hard to reach for cable news networks.

That Maddow is the now MSNBC’s top star says a lot about the network’s plan to reach a generation of Americans who’d rather get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (Insert your own joke about the hipster glasses here.) To that end, Maddow’s biggest 2012 moment actually came after November 6, when her eloquent summary of the results and “other real stuff” went viral two days after the election. It was nearly impossible to be online without running into versions of the clip on social media, blogs, and even in liberal fundraising emails. It was popping up in our newsfeeds days, even weeks after the election. That clip did exactly what MSNBC is hoping Maddow’s geeky brand of gravitas will do: expand the reach of their news onto different platforms. In a quieter way, Maddow may be able to help  MSNBC do what CBS tried to do with Katie Couric: win with a woman at the wheel.

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Savita Halappanavar, in an undated photo provided by her family.
Photo credit: Irish Times

Savita Halappanavar – Tragically, Savita Halappanavar did not live to see the end of 2012 but her life, and death, may become a watershed moment for the Irish government and its traditionally strong (some say, inextricable) tie to the Roman Catholic Church. Savita Halappanavar was a 31-year old dentist from India who moved to Ireland with her husband. This past October, when 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, she went to a Galway hospital complaining of severe back pain. According to Savita’s husband, the hospital concluded that she was having a miscarriage. Savita’s condition worsened steadily over but when she requested an abortion to end the pregnancy, the hospital allegedly refused, stating that Ireland was “a Catholic country.” Finally, when the fetus’ heartbeat could no longer be detected, doctors removed it but by then Savita had developed septicemia, and she later died. Her death prompted demonstrations throughout Ireland and England, outrage from Indian officials, demands that the Irish government clarify its abortion laws, and most recently, a possible hearing before the European Court of Human Rights.

Given that multiple inquiries are also ongoing in Ireland, it does not seem that the question of whether the hospital bears legal responsibility for Savita Halappanavar’s death will be settled anytime soon. However, the discussion about women’s reproductive freedom that it has sparked in Ireland and in other countries was clearly long overdue. Welcome or not, it now has to happen.

Who else should be on this list? Tell us in the comments here or on our Facebook page.


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A Beginner’s Guide to Making Political Phone Calls

Originally posted
10 Jul 2012

One of the things we learned at the big march back in April (or I guess, already kind of suspected but had confirmed) was that when it comes to political issues,  phone calls are by far the most effective means of making your voice heard.  Yes, go ahead.  We know you want to make a pun, there.

Done?  OK.  Moving on:

We were lucky enough to chat with some nice women from NOW who confirmed this suspicion.  Yes, emails are nice, bombing someone’s facebook page is lovely, but phone calls make the biggest dent.  Emails and posts can be deleted without much of a second thought, but phone calls, especially if there are enough of them, actually require the staff’s time and energy.  And if enough phone calls come in, it can really make an impression with the politician or decision-maker of choice.

So, we felt that since we often encourage you all to reach out and touch someone or other, it was incumbent upon us to put up a few tips for those of you who may have some heebie jeebies about picking up that phone.

They Will Not Bite You.  The staff in a politician’s office is supposed to be nice to the public.  Politicians don’t want mean attack dogs answering their phones… It would be kind of bad for their image.  They are paid to be friendly.  You are most likely not the first caller they’ve spoken to that day who is upset about something.  In all likelihood, they have already spoken to someone who was much madder about something than you are.  They’re not there to argue with you.  They’re not there to trace your call and send black helicopters to your house.  As long as you conduct yourself nicely, nobody is going to holler at you or threaten to kill your dog.  In fact, someone has probably done that to *them* today.  Which brings us to point two….

Conduct Yourself Nicely.  You don’t know the opinions of the person answering the phone.  It could be a summer intern who just wanted the political experience even though they don’t agree with all of their employer’s positions.  It could be the congressman’s black sheep hippie niece who needed a job for a few weeks to save up money to go to Burning Man.  You have no idea.  So there is no reason whatsoever to be rude or to yell.  Not only do you not have to do that, it’s better if you don’t.  Simply call, tell the person that you wanted to make your feelings about Issue X known to the politician/decision maker/whomever, state those feelings, thank them, and hang up.

Have a Script.  If you’re prone to nervousness, get stage fright, aren’t good with confrontation… don’t worry.  Write down what you want to say and practice it a couple of times.  Be as clear and specific as possible.  Mention the bill name or number, if there is one.  And keep it simple.  Again, these people are busy.  They have all kinds of other stuff to do for their employer, whoever that might be, so unless you are talking to their public relations person (and it’s extremely unlikely that that’s who would be answering the phone), they’re not really interested in arguing or getting into a back and forth with anybody.  They don’t have time.  They have to refill the water cooler, order more toner for the copy machine, get the senator’s coffee, and answer the other six phone lines that are ringing.  And if we’re lucky, on the other six phone lines …are people just like you.

So have no fear!  It’s easy to do!  Like most things you’ve never done before, it might be a little scary the first time, but once you do it, you’ll discover the extent to which it’s totally not a big deal.  In fact, it might even feel a little anti-climactic!  It usually takes about thirty seconds or less and usually everyone’s so very polite that you’ll be wondering what you were so nervous about.  (Unless you’re a raging jerk on the phone, which we strongly discourage.)   However, the value of those thirty seconds is nearly impossible to quantify.  You are, at that point, part of a collective voice that, if loud enough, can sway decision making.   It wasn’t hard, and it didn’t cost you anything but a little time.  And as I’ve said elsewhere, it might be good for you too.  It’s claiming just a little bit of power for yourself.

Look, email’s better than nothing.  But why settle for hamburgers when you can have steak?   Pick up that phone!


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You Hear Me, Hillbilly Boy? This Ain’t Over By A Damn Sight.

Originally posted
3 Jul 2012

Well, the story broke on a couple of blogs this morning and is now working its way up into the “respectable” media.  Joe Walsh, the Congressman from the great state of Illinois, is on record as having attacked his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, an army Colonel who lost both of her legs in an attack while she was piloting a helicopter in Iraq, as being “not a hero,” because she talks about her service and her sacrifice as part of her campaign.  The story is gaining traction and appears to be getting picked up by more and more news outlets which are broadcasting the appropriate level of outrage for such comments.  If they do nothing else well, the mainstream media does do outrage well.

But before we get too confident and start assuming that Walsh has signed his own pink slip with this douchebaggery, I think it’s worth pointing out to everyone that has any stake at all in this election that… This is what Republicans do.  We generally avoid partisanship on this page to the extent that we possibly can, but in my adult life, I have only seen this tactic employed by chickenhawk Republicans.  When they are running against an opponent who is a decorated veteran with proven evidence of sacrifice for country, and said chickenhawk has nothing in their record that shows a similar capacity for bravery and self-sacrifice… This is what they do.  They try to smear their opponent’s record.  They attack their service.

Is it an outrageously ballsy, sleazy gambit?  Absolutely.  However, there’s a simple reason they keep doing it.  It works.

Karl Rove did it John McCain in 2000.  Employed a whisper campaign on behalf of George W. Bush, suggesting that because McCain endured unimaginable torture in Vietnam, that he might have snakes in his brain and therefore be unfit to lead.  Remember Max Cleland, the Senator from Georgia?  The triple-amputee who lost his limbs in Vietnam?  And need we remind anyone about the sorry spectacle that was the swift-boating of John Kerry?  They do it because it works.

It used to be that a person’s military service was sacrosanct in America.  An untouchable thing.  While we as a nation are probably closer to the late Roman empire (fat, decadent, wealthy, I’m not going to go on here), we still like to think of ourselves as rugged Spartans warriors.  We like to lionize soldiers, or pretend we do, while we play “Call of Duty 3” or whatever.  And the fact is, that the percentage of active duty military in America is much lower than during most of our previous wars.  We lack the visceral connection to war and combat that previous generations have had.  So, it’s actually not that big a surprise that someone with the balls to attack someone’s military service somehow, perversely, benefits from doing so.

So, as we head into the Fourth of July, a holiday about patriotism, please remember who the real patriots are… Hint: it’s not the guy who was dodging child support while his opponent was getting her legs blown off in Iraq.  But more importantly, don’t let anyone you know forget it.  This country has a disconnect with the brutal realities of what war requires of a person.  We can’t allow that disconnect to be exploited by the cynical, the craven, the phony patriots among us. That means you, Joe Walsh.  You’re not getting away with it, chickenhawk.

Happy Fourth of July!


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Kiss Me, I’m Feminish: A Word on Women’s Rites

15 Jun 2012

Before I write another  word, I want to start by saying, I like most of the Christians I know.  They’re mostly nice people.  This is for the ones that are trying to fuck it up for everyone.  They know who they are.

Anyway,  I’ve put it all together.  I have the solution for all the scary bullshit going on in America that is all coming from the fundamentalist Christians and eagerly abetted by the craven,  vote-grubbing politicians who worship them.  And it’s so simple, I don’t know why it hasn’t been done yet.

It came to me after watching a few moments of video of that “radio host,” Caiden Cowger.  For those of you who missed out on the phenomenon, I’ll try to sum up without trashing him too hard.  After all, it’s unseemly for an adult to pick on a 14-year-old boy, even if he is a 14 year old Glenn Beck impersonator spewing hate and homophobia.  And even if he, for some reason, has been given a megaphone for his hate and homophobia in the form of a radio show and an inexplicably popular YouTube channel which both get subsequently shut down for hate speech.  Because, Caiden, sweetie pie, that’s what they call it when you go on rage-filled rants against  gay people and say insane things like “President Obama is making kids gay.”

Anyhow, so many of the pages I follow were posting about this kid, that I felt obliged to at least watch a few highlights to see if it was really all that.  And, it was.  <shiver>   But anyway, he said something in one of his rants, and it was like a bolt of lightning to the side of my head.  He said, “Homosexuality is a perverted belief.”

Now, we’re not going to pick on poor Caiden and deconstruct that statement to show what’s stupid about it (hint: everything).  But it hit me:  Homosexuality is a belief?  That’s what Caiden said, and he would know, right?  Then, why not simply go the extra half-mile and enshrine it into a religion, with a church and the whole nine?  Then suddenly gays could simply cry “religious persecution” just like all these right-wing Christian whiners bitching about taking America back (to 300 B.C.)!

Now, I’m not talking about gay churches.  Those exist already, and are mostly unloved by both Christians and gays.  I’m talking about Gay as A Religion.  The First Church of Gay.  Our Lady of DeGeneres!  St. Leah of DeLaria!  Elton John could dust off a few of those old sequined capes and be the Gay Pope!  The Holy Trinity?  RuPaul, Carson Kressley, and Harvey Fierstein!   They could steal all the gays that it took to put on John Paul II’s funeral extravaganza, and then *every* Sunday could be like that!

If you’re smart, you know where I’m going with this.  Yes, that’s right.  We feminists clearly just need to make our own church.  Or, temple, if you like.  We’ll let the gays riff on Catholicism, since the line is so blurry anyhow.  Temple Beth Fallopia is what I’ve got on my mind.  Lose the star of David and place a giant golden uterus over the door.  At Temple Beth Fallopia, paid maternity leave is a divine commandment, freedom to leave an abusive marriage is a god-given right, the ingestion of the Pill is a holy ritual, and abortion is a mitzvah!  What?  You want to defund Planned Parenthood!?  You fuckers are infringing on my religious freedom.  What do I mean, my religious freedom?  I’m Feminish!  That’s right, byotches.  Feminish.  There’s my temple.    We get together on Saturdays and read off of a scroll in a language that you won’t understand because we use words like “reproductive freedom”, “available contraception”, and “equal pay for equal work.”   You want to pay me less than a man?  Yeah, uh, sorry, but my God says you can’t do that.  It infringes on the free practice of my religion.

So go ahead, North Dakota and Texas.  Bring on those religious exemption laws.  We will just make churches for every goddamned thing.  Then who’s going to be laughing?  The pharmacist who tried to deny me a  prescription because he “thinks” it “might” cause an abortion?  Or me, because the asshole pharmacist is infringing on my sacred practice of a highly revered religious rite?

I’ll hand it to you, you fundamentalist psychopaths, you’re ballsy, and getting ballsier.  This is a side effect of you being batshit crazy.  But we’re crazier.  And we’ve had it with your shit.  Sit the fuck down, and shut the fuck up, or there will be a Temple Beth Fallopia on every goddamn corner.  And a First Church of Gay.  Hey, immigrants?  Pot smokers?  Any of you guys want in?

So, what are you going to do, angry Christians? You want to make our governments into religious-exemption pez dispensers and then duke it out in court over every last case of who’s infringing upon whom?  Let’s do it!  I’m serious. Maybe it will finally make you appreciate what religious freedom actually means.  And, for that matter, freedom in general.  Remember: your freedoms to swing your fist around wildly…?  Yeah.  Ends when it smashes into my nose.   My freedoms are precious to me.  So back the hell up or I will be forced to make them holy.  It’s your call.


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The Marching Type

(originally posted on Friday, 27 April 2012)

When I was a teenager, I thought I wasn’t a feminist.  I had this sense of it being an old-school thing, something that had mostly happened before I was born.  Feminism was for my mom’s generation and was about something kind of vague and foreign to me; burning your bra, not shaving your legs, and yeah, the Equal Rights Amendment (“um, they passed that, didn’t they?”).  Blurry black and white photographs of women marching, holding signs.   By the time I started to have any awareness of feminism, I had already made some assumptions.  Guys were still pigs and jerks and so on (a view that has evolved a great deal since then), but we all pretty much had the same rights … right?  The whole time I spent growing up, I had been hearing that I could be anything, do anything that I wanted, and be just as good at it as a guy.   And well, if some employer thought they were going to be paying ME any less for it, they just had another think coming.

Besides, at the time, I was wrapped up in another “rights” movement.  When I was 16, I came out as a lesbian and fell painfully, desperately in love with a girl I knew.  The same way a lot of girls do at 16, I immediately began imagining our life together and dreaming about our wedding.  And as I navigated the waters of being an openly gay kid on Long Island, I found gay and lesbian friends my age, and found that we all did that.  That was when I began to work toward the goal of gay marriage in New York State.  I called our Republican state senate majority leader’s office, wrote letters, distributed literature, and yes, marched.  I did all those things that were available to us as junior wonk/activists back in the early 90s, before it became easy and commonplace to rally people for causes online.  Even though I wound up surprising everyone else years later by up and marrying a man, and having children, I didn’t feel any differently about whether marriage ought to have been a right for any couple who wanted to make a life together.  Funny, but that sick, soaring, dizzy, desperate in love feeling was just the same.   I can’t lie and say that when New York passed their gay marriage law last year, that my eyes didn’t well up.  A battle that I had thrown in with 20 years ago had just finally been won.

So, no.   I’m not exactly a stranger to political activism.

When you’re young, you plan your life based upon the floor beneath your feet, on the bedrock of The Way Things Are, maybe imagining carving some new paths if you’re the bold or dreaming type.  When you’re an adult, you’ve been walking on that floor long enough that you damn well expect it to be there every goddamned morning when you get out of bed.  And, then as now, I’ve been realizing, I’ve got a bunch of people I don’t know and have never met, deciding without my consent what kind of plans I could or could not make for my life.  A bunch of people telling me that, no, actually, I cannot have the rights that I thought were inalienable, that were fought for and gifted to us by those women in blurry black and white photographs in the pages of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”  A bunch of people trying to take away the floor under my feet.

The work that WRUN does online is enormously satisfying.  It’s an incredible experience to be reaching out to so many people and having them respond.  But it’s not the same as marching.  Most of us don’t have time to do it all the time, especially those of us with jobs and children.  But there’s nothing else like it.  My first time marching for anything was scary and exhilarating; not everyone is comfortable with or accustomed to putting themselves out there.

You’re not sure if you’re the marching type?  You should be!   Not just for the message it sends.  Not just for making your voice heard.  Not just for the effect you hope it has, externally.  But for the effect it has on you, internally.  No, you’re not crazy.  Yes, you believe in something.  You are standing up for something.  Shoulder to shoulder with others who share your belief and purpose.  I’m not going to lie, it can be hard getting emotionally involved in something that in the end, you don’t really have control over.  You just have to make as much noise as you can, and hope for the best.  And if it doesn’t go your way, you have to look at the problem, hold it up to the light, spin it around, and come at it from another direction.  But win or lose, there’s value in the fight, either way.  The simple act of standing up makes you see yourself differently.  It changes your perspective on who you are, what your place is, your role and significance in society and the world.  Whether you win or lose on the issue, you win something by claiming legitimacy for your own voice.  For some of us, that’s no different than every day… but for a lot of us, a lot of you reading this who aren’t sure if you’re “the  marching type” … it might be a radical change.  Maybe one that you need.

So … See you tomorrow?

~Jen