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January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice: Trust Women Starts With You

Today is Blog for Choice Day. It's also the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The past year has been a mixed bag for reproductive rights, and it seems like things have been especially tough recently. From Stupak to Scott Brown, the last few months have been full of setbacks, frustrations, challenges, and WTF moments for the pro-choice community. The current climate has even prompted a new discussion about whether Big Feminism has failed us, and what we can do about it.

No, not that kind of feminism. Not the theory of women's equality or the history of suffrage or the First Wave or the Third Wave or 18 million tiny cracks in the glass ceiling. I'm talking about FeminismTM, as in the largest feminist advocacy organizations in the country raising millions of dollars to fight on behalf of women.

And I'm wondering if FeminismTM is really such a good investment.

You know those emails? The ones from NOW and NARAL and Emily's List that declare, with great urgency and lots of ALL CAPS and exclamation marks, that you must give money right now? Stop this bill! Block this nominee! Protect Roe! Save the Supreme Court! And give, give, give!!!

And since you often agree -- why yes, I do want to stop this bill; why no, I do not want that nominee confirmed -- you click and give. It won't stop this bill or block that nominee, but you will get another email at the next crisis.

And it's always a crisis. Even under a Democratic president, with a Democratic supermajority in Congress, the nation's biggest feminist organizations are in crisis mode, raising money but unable to deliver results. They're just as effective as they were under Bush. Which is to say, Not. At. All. [From "Feminism Fail" at Daily Kos]

I've had a lot of the same thoughts and criticisms of big feminist organizations that the author articulates. I'm still in shock that health care reform might pass with a huge set-back to women's rights and access to abortion. Under a Democratic super-majority.

I've spoken to young women who have felt unsupported and marginalized in big feminist organizations. I've seen leaders of those organizations say and do things that I don't support at all.

And then, yesterday, I got a press release from the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) that the former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Kim Gandy, is now a Vice President at FMF. The current President of FMF, Ellie Smeal, is a former President of NOW. This kind of nepotism, of trading leadership, is a huge part of what I critique about the big feminist organizations. Every movement needs new leadership, and I think the feminist movement is no exception. Especially at such a pivotal time in our history. [Feministing]

In a little over a week Roe v. Wade will be celebrating another anniversary, yet feminists are still engaged in the fight of our lives for rights that seemed guaranteed by this ruling. And we can begin the finger pointing and blame shifting. But the truth is, the recent Nelson compromise was a collective loss for all women. As such, it should be treated like a collective failure.

Although I do not donate after every crisis claim, I have still maintained my membership in some of these mainstream feminist organizations. I have done so simply because my quality of life has improved from things like "This is What a Feminist Looks Like" T-shirts, The Love Your Body Campaign and the endless reservoir of sex education information that exists on websites like Planned Parenthood. Supporting attempts for justice even if they aren't always successful is reasonable; But Angry Mouse's analysis about the returns of our investment in the movement can't just be wanded away by a few great campaigns, a long track record and well spent foundation money. [Feministing]

dear NOW, NARAL, etc: i appreciate the work you do, but you gotta STOP emailing me asking for $! i'm an activist. money is scarce. [IAmDrTiller on twitter]

So, that's the atmosphere surrounding this year's Blog for Choice Day. Um, yay? Even the theme, while great and thought-provoking, is a reminder of one of the worst blows to the pro-choice movement in the past year.
This year, we are dedicating Blog for Choice Day 2010 to the legacy of Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller often wore a button that simply read, “Trust Women.” As we reflect on Dr. Tiller’s contribution and the current state of choice, our question to you is this: What does Trust Women mean to you?

Maybe you were one of the thousands who wore a Trust Women wristband to pay tribute to Dr. Tiller’s legacy and demonstrate that you won't let those who use violent or hateful rhetoric go unanswered. Whether it’s Dr. Tiller or any other topic of your choice, you can write from your heart about what Trust Women means in your daily life. The possibilities are endless and your support is critical.
I'm all about honoring the legacy of Dr. Tiller. But I think the message that we really need right now is...don't trust women.

Okay, obviously I don't mean that literally. What I'm saying is that it's time for many of us to stop trusting other women to get the job done when all of us need to get to work. So, Big Feminism is far from perfect. So what? We can work with it, in it, through it, and around it. We can work together, but start with ourselves. And before I break out into a dramatic musical number over here, let me just shut up and give some examples and resources.

Don't trust other women...to be informed, to tell you what's worth knowing or what matters most.
Start Now: You could just sign up for NARAL's email action alerts and call it a day. Or you could check out RH Reality Check. SIECUS. The Guttmacher Institute. Our Bodies, Our Blog. National Advocates for Pregnant Women. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Choice USA. The Center for Reproductive Rights. The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. Advocates for Youth. The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. The Pro-Choice Public Education Project. Learn (or revisit) a little women's liberation movement history: CWLU Herstory Project. Have you met Jane? We have. Stories like Jane's remind us of what's possible if we arm ourselves with knowledge and trust ourselves and each other.

Don't trust other women...to challenge the status quo for you, or to tell you that it can't be challenged.
Start Now: During the recent debates about the Stupak amendment and other abortion-related language in the House and Senate health care reform bills, we kept hearing about the Hyde Amendment being a line that can't or shouldn't be crossed, or even a decent compromise that pro-choice people should just learn to live with. Well, screw that. Educate yourself about the Hyde Amendment - what it is, why it needs to change, and what we can do about it: Wikipedia: The Hyde Amendment. Meet Rosie Jiménez. Abortion Funding: A Matter of Justice. Hyde - 30 Years is Enough. Watch Not My Tax Dollars: Hyde, Health Care, and Your Money and then join the No Abortion Ban campaign. Challenge the idea that abortion, a legal medical procedure, shouldn't get federal funding because some people find it morally objectionable, when the same does not hold true for moral objections to issues like war and the death penalty.

Don't trust other women...to do the constant hard work that it takes to turn "choice" from a concept into a reality.
Start Now: Become an abortion provider or support those who are working towards that goal: Medical Students for Choice, APC Toolkit. Become a clinic escort or do other volunteer work, or support those who do: Planned Parenthood. I Am Emily X. The National Abortion Federation has a list of ideas, or check for opportunities with the organizations listed above. Are you a college student? Join the Great American Condom Campaign. Learn about abortion doulas and support their work: Amplify, Radical Doula. Support the Exhale after-abortion counseling talkline. And speaking of doulas, don't forget that reproductive rights also include the right to reproduce: The Doula Project, The Business of Being Born, The Birth Survey, The Big Push for Midwives, Choices in Childbirth, Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. Help women who need abortions to access and afford them: National Network of Abortion Funds, Haven Coalition, Lilith Fund, Abortion Access Project. If there's no abortion fund near you, start one with the help of NNAF.

Don't trust other women...to mentor girls and young women.
Start Now: Girls Write Now. Girls for Gender Equity. Big Brothers Big Sisters. Get a subscription to New Moon Girls for a special little girl in your life. Girls Inc. Help teens get accessible and accurate sex ed info by supporting Scarleteen. GEMS. Girls Quest. Rock 'n Roll Camp for Girls (or the girls rock camp near you.) Or find something in your area that works for you: Idealist, Volunteer Match. Or start your own new program or mentoring relationship.

Don't trust other women...to support women's sports and arts and all of things that help us to be strong and creative and confident.
Start Now: Read Women & Hollywood. Support movies with well-written, complex female characters and movies that tell women's stories well, and speak out against stereotypical sexist crap. Support talented women directors and screenwriters. Check our Cinewomen and Women In Film. Buy Whip It on DVD, then support (or join!) your local roller derby. When a movie or TV show takes on topics related to women's reproductive health, pay attention and speak up about it - praise accurate portrayals, correct misinformation, and call out stories about unplanned pregnancy in which the characters aren't allowed to even say the a-word. Go to a WNBA game, or support whatever sports you like at whatever level you want, from the professional and college levels to high school and Little League. Check out the Women's Sports Foundation. Support women artists, whether it's the Sackler Center for Feminist Art, a small local gallery, a feminist with an Etsy store, or a talented friend. Meet the Guerrilla Girls. Support women's creativity wherever you find it.

Don't trust other women...to speak out against sexism and for feminist and pro-choice views in the mainstream media.
Start Now: Start a blog. The Women's Media Center and the Progressive Women's Voices program. Women In Media & News. Women, Action & the Media. Media Matters for America. Women's eNews. American Women In Radio & Television. The Association for Women in Sports Media. Call out sexist advertising when you see it, and tell companies that it's unacceptable. About-Face. Write an op-ed. Seriously, write one. You have valuable knowledge and a unique perspective to share, and the op-ed pages desperately need the voices of pro-choice women. Trust yourself. The Op-Ed Project can show you how through their awesome seminars and the helpful tools on their website.

Don't trust other women...to support (and participate in) feminist media.
Start Now: Start a blog. Support, subscribe, and submit to Bitch, Bust, Shameless, make/shift, off our backs, $pread, Feminist Review, Herizons, Lilith, and more. Or your favorite feminist blog. Submit a feminist/pro-choice piece to a "mainstream" women's or news magazine. Or start your own new publication.

Don't trust other women...to get involved in the political process - vote, get out the vote, campaign, run for office!
Start Now: League of Women Voters. Register to vote, or help other register. Emily's List. She Should Run - ask a woman you know to run! The White House Project. ActBlue. TweetCongress. OpenCongress. Sunlight Foundation. Act.ly. MOMocrats. Women & Politics Institute. BlogHer brings members of Congress and Obama administration officials together with its members. Center for American Women and Politics and Ready to Run. Or volunteer for a local pro-choice candidate that you believe in!

Don't trust other women...to say thank you.
Start Now: In saying that we all need to step up right now, I'm not trying to suggest that there aren't lots and lots of women out there already doing amazing feminist work that deserves to be recognized. All of those awesome feminist and pro-choice organizations and publications that we mentioned above? Write to them and tell them you love them. When a politician makes a strong statement (or even better, takes a strong action) in support of women's reproductive rights, call, write, or email their office and give them some positive feedback. When you read a great pro-choice blog post, comment. So much of our time is spent fighting for our cause and defending ourselves against anti-choice attacks, but we've got to make positivity a priority too sometimes, especially in challenging times like these.

Don't trust other women...to speak your truth or tell your story. Find your voice and use it.
Start Now: Start a blog. (Have we mentioned that one yet?) Or start a journal, write songs or poems, perform some pro-choice spoken word, make jewelry, make balloon animals. Whatever helps you to learn who you are and express it. And find other women who can help you, challenge you, push you, and support you. Join SheWrites. (Lilith and I belong to the International Women's Writing Guild, an amazing diverse community that has helped dozens of women to find their voices and believe that their stories are worth telling. The word sisterhood might seem dated and the word empowering might be overused, but I'm using them both now because the IWWG deserves them.) Listen to other women's stories. Trust their choices, and your own.

Basically what I'm saying is that now would be a good time for less agonizing and more organizing. And I admit that part of what I'm doing is trying to make myself feel better about our current challenges by reminding myself of how much potential is out there. So if you prefer, feel free to insert the rah-rah platitude of your choice here. You know, like "think globally, act locally" or "sisterhood is powerful" or "Donna Martin graduates!") I know that this list is incomplete. Add to it, subtract from it, challenge it, take it and run with it, or shred it and make your own list. Go ahead. I trust you.


Jen said...

Love it!

Talis said...

Hmmm that is weird. I count only 58Dem senators. Oops,57 now.
I dont know how you do your math but that is not a majority in the Senate. I am really tired of hearing about the "Supermajority" that the Dems DO NOT HAVE.

Batocchio said...

That's an impressive set of links.

Jezebel said...

Talis - Well, it wasn't "my math", it was the math of someone that I quoted, but I get your point. I know that there were never officially 60 Democratic senators, but there were two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. (Now, one of them is Joe Lieberman, so I fully understand not wanting to count him.) And still, the fact remains that "supermajority" or not, the Democrats have a bigger majority now than the Republicans have had in decades, and they're still struggling to get anything done.

Battochio - Thank you!