About two weeks ago I got a call asking if I would support Susie Shannon, a DNC Delegate. She had been elected, made inquiry about bringing her daughter Gracie to the DNC and was told that it would be ok. She bought two tickets and began making arrangements only to be told that this was in error and NO ONE would be allowed into the convention without a proper credential. Not a guest credential, not a delegate’s child pass attached to hers, not a courtesy pass. Yes, I said yes. All women need access to the Party.
I began connected the dots ~ big dots. For forty years I have been talking about women, fasting for equality, marching for reproductive autonomy, presenting multi-media lectures on women. I have talked about museums, Augusta, Congress, Take Back the Night, Slutwalk, Women and Peace. I have stood in front of a four foot screen and pointed out that the United States ranks 80 in Women in Leadership.
Epiphany, those countries where women have greater access to leadership have consistently provided childcare to those women who want to pursue a career in politics. The USA has built systems, organized politics and, even, erected buildings for men. Maybe we got the vote in 1920 but we did not get full access to the political process. Bathrooms, money, statues, portraits, textbooks – it is all part of a narrowly paved road which only offers second-class citizenship.
Four Southern California (The Sisterhood) NOW Chapters joined in support with Delegate Susie Shannon to say that this must change. The DNC needs to widen the road, create access through on-site childcare, provide lounge style lactation rooms (not a designated toilet). Gloria Steinem contributed a supportive quote. We wrote a press release and invited the media into the information loop. We made our request to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and several more of the leaders in the Democratic Party. We created a petition, distributed through our email and social media outlets. Printed copies will be distributed at the convention. You may know that FOX News wrote about it, Limbaugh talked about it, lots of articles were published.
We contacted all of the deciders and finally were given a conference call on Sunday morning with the two deciders with the convention, a representative from Women for Obama and Peter Gaspard, Executive Director of the DNC. In regards to 2012, two things where made very clear; all extra credentials are reserved for VIPs – not for children and should a delegate with a child, be turned away at the door ~ it would not be a pr problem. We were offered a single seat on an ad hoc committee which would discuss a rules change to be brought to the late January meeting for consideration.
I have learned so much these last two weeks. Did you see all the kids at the RNC? Romney stop and shake their hands on the way to the podium. I am a lifelong Democrat but I still can see that women who are who are religious, who are male-defined, who are anti-birth control are welcome at the RNC. They cherish that. Ann Romney speaks to them, for them. I can judge all of it, you can dismiss is as wrongly placed allegiance but I am offering that it is wiser to seek to understand. We Democrats need to make our party women centric; women-friendly is not enough.
The second thing which has been such a surprise is the comments from women who are both mothers and Democrats. Through facebook and twitter I have been reading remarks that the convention floor is no place for children – it would be chaos, too loud, just a circus. That is not what we are lobbying for. We are talking about infants to be held by their primary parent which is done all over the world. We are talking about a woman who declines even running for election as a delegate because she cannot leave her child, cannot afford childcare or is the food source for her child.
So you can go to Ariana Huffington’s Oasis to get a massage or do yoga, you can get to a strip club, you can go to non-union hotel but if you are a working mother, don’t even dream of a life in politics until the kids are weaned and you make enough money to hire a care-provider. I just want to tell you, WE NEED YOU.