- Educating girls
- Protecting women & girls from rape and sexual assault
- Raising women to positions in leadership
Here is what did not happen last night. The Long Beach City Council did not present Juana Melara a proclamation congratulating her on being one of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. You might wonder why, let me answer with her quote from the speaker’s podium:
That’s right. On September 19th, the council voted 5 – 4 against protecting the city’s hospitality workers, both on workload and assault protections. There were many reasons, not the least of which was, ….well… Grand Prix. I mean no one wants to see a sign in the hotel lobby that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment and assault. It would be a total buzz kill.
When Agenda #20 came up for consideration and comment, several people from Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, LAANE and BHC lined up to speak. As I told the council, item #20 would be a fine recommendation if this was 1999; a thought validated by the New York Times article this morning, (Sexual Harassment Training Doesn’t Work. But Some Things Do).
One of the council women proudly announced that the answer is training women to defend themselves and that many hotels offer the very course taught to the police. The assumption that a woman can even breathe through an assault in a closed hotel room while a man twice her size corners her or ties her up with the vacuum cord is outrageous. It is immoral.
The public commenters began, mostly women. The last woman talked about her deep emotional response to the fact that her personal assault testimony on September 19th had zero impact on the council. In this context both Councilwoman Pearce and Councilwoman Gonzalez said the same thing. As is mostly the case, two men spoke last. One was concerned that with all these, “new genders,” he hoped this was not just about women. The last speaker said he was particularly interested that we did not dismiss Police Chief Luna’s testimony that there have only been 1 or 2 reports of such workplace assaults in 5 years.
Councilwoman Price took the floor. She began discussing bullying. She accused the public speakers of bullying the council and that it is time for women to stand together.
To break this down a bit,
BULLYING occurs when a person ridicules another, which may or may not result in the bullied person being thrown in emotional or physical danger, certainly made afraid. Let me assure you, the commenters were not bullying the council.
Speaking for myself, I was doing precisely what my social justice mentors taught me. Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, Grace Lee Boggs, Ella Baker all taught us to EMBARRASS those in power by making the power differential clear. Nothing could be further from bullying. In fact, the bullying was in the opposite direction, as we were supposed to crawl away thinking that we better not offer proud and clear voices again.
Several of us begin speaking truth to power in the ‘60’s. I began with George Wallace and my most recent was Barack Obama. Frankly, the Vietnam war ended and DADT was reversed, the little pebble I offered in these massive mosaics validated my mentors’ methods.
Secondly, Councilwoman Price made a plea for unity among women. Don’t ask me to unify with those who are bullying me. I would ask you to unify with me in standing in front of a hotel with a picket sign in solidarity with the Housekeepers. Unity begins with supporting those who have the least power. You have the direction in reverse. Please bring your privilege and power to them, proclaim them the real heroines in the #metoo movement and join with Time Magazine in congratulating them on breaking the silence. Bring them their City Proclamation.
Finally, when the council chamber was almost empty, 15 or so people lined up with little pink signs to demand the recall of Councilwoman Pearce. 90% men listed their bullish reasons to demand this recall. No one is fooled by this. Silence. Grave, deafening silence. Where was the unity between women? Was there too much to risk? This was the time for women to unite.
18 hours later and, with the rising sun, the fog on the windows of the mind is clearing. I always knew Donald was like that. It always showed. Move along, there is nothing new here.
Conscious women, can I say feminist women, saw it when he divorced Ivana or Marla or dismissed Melania or man-handled Ivanka. We saw it on the Apprentice. We saw it with his sons and the slaughter of big game in Africa. We saw it with his disregard for Trump workers. With his succession of bankruptcies. With his opulence. With his hair, tan and oddly long ties. With behavior that would send a second grader to the principal’s office and a sophomore to detention. We have always seen it.
I think the pain of this explosive revelation that Farenthold facilitated and Access Hollywood with Billy Bush withheld, lies in the slow boil of it all. How did everyone NOT see it from the start? That is the immorality of it all. What has happened to the quieting of the American Conscience?
What has happened in the pulpit where cash is grabbed and, in some cases, little boys and girls. What has happened in textbooks in the tacit removal of the mistreatment of the indigenous people, African people, Chinese people, women in total – too many to list. And we celebrate these atrocities naming them Columbus day or Thanksgiving day. And, of course, Women’s Equality day which is a titular lie.
We have sent the Elders into substandard silos of dismissal. We have used white-out on our Story-Tellers. We have hidden the suffering and poor who remind us of the calling to generosity and lie in stark contrast under blue tarps with their only loved one, their dog. We arrest indiscriminately and it appears that the overcrowding of prisons is being solved with outright assassinations on the street. We medicate people into dysfunction. We surround cemeteries with fences to promote the worst illusion of all, immortality.
And now we will simplify this boiling pot. We will tar and feather. We will drag through the street. We will make ourselves righteous by vilifying in short and long term public shaming. When after all it was you and me.
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste.
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste,
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
It isn’t that I believe in the devil.
I believe in Art.
Thank you Keith and Mick
2016 Democratic Party Platform Hearing
It is unimaginable that I have been writing to the US Congress about the Equal Rights Amendment for 36 years. It is really nothing compared to the primary author, Alice Paul, who lobbied to her dying day at age 92. She lobbied for the ERA for 54 years. And, now, we are on a new precipice of electing a President who is not going to be included in the US Constitution which means she is not required to serve jury duty, pay taxes or allowed to run for president. Obviously, she had better address this astounding discrepancy January 22, 2017.
As you can see from the extended footnote below1 I am well aware that my party, the Democratic Party, has been including a call for both the ERA & CEDAW for many years.
The point is not to INCLUDE it. The point is to ENACT it.
Now that it is well documented that 94% of Americans believe women should be included in the US Constitution, the questions are
Obviously this entire plan rests on these two cornerstones:
As Mrs Burn told her son Harry, August 18, 1920
Hurrah and vote for suffrage! Don't keep them in doubt! I notice some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs Cattt put the "rat" in ratification.
In your Service,
Founder ERA Once and For All
June 17, 2016
Moving America Forward
Protecting Rights and Freedoms
Civil Rights. We believe in an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody plays by the same set of rules. At the core of the Democratic Party is the principle that no one should face discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status. Democrats support our civil rights statutes and we have stepped up enforcement of laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace and other settings. We are committed to protecting all communities from violence. We are committed to ending racial, ethnic, and religious profiling and requiring federal, state, and local enforcement agencies to take steps to eliminate the practice, and we continue to support enforcement of Title VI. We are committed to equal opportunity for all Americans and to making sure that every American is treated equally under the law.
"Because of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' each time I went off to war, no one was at the armory to say goodbye. No one was waiting at the airport when I returned. My partner, George Di Salvo, and I started a family five years ago by adopting two wonderful boys. But I kept their existence secret, because that's what the law required. Not anymore, however. Thanks to the unyielding efforts of President Obama, I can serve my country openly and proudly with my family by my side."—Dr. Vito Imbasciani, Colonel, California National Guard, Medical Service Corps
We are committed to ensuring full equality for women: we reaffirm our support for the Equal Rights Amendment, recommit to enforcing Title IX, support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and will urge ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We know that putting America back to work is Job One, and we are committed to ensuring that Americans do not face employment discrimination. We support the Employment Non- Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Obama and the Democratic Party are committed to ensuring all Americans are treated fairly. This administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention and we must continue our work to prevent vicious bullying of young people and support LGBT youth. The President's record, from ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in full cooperation with our military leadership, to passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to ensuring same-sex couples can visit each other in the hospital, reflects Democrats' belief that all Americans deserve the same chance to pursue happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love. The Administration has said that the word ‘family' in immigration includes LGBT relationships in order to protect bi-national families threatened with deportation.
Women. President Obama—the son of a single mother and the father of two daughters—understands that women aren't a special interest group. They are more than half of this country, and issues that affect women also affect families. That is why the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women fight back when they are paid less than men, and why we continue to fight to overcome Republican opposition and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to help stop gender discrimination in pay before it starts. And that is why the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, led by President Obama's appointees, have investigated and prosecuted numerous violations of the nation's civil rights laws, and obtained more than $140 million in relief for victims of gender discrimination. We Democrats will continue to support efforts to ensure that workers can combat gender discrimination in the workplace and to protect women against pregnancy discrimination. And that's why we support passing the Healthy Families Act, broadening the Family and Medical Leave Act, and partnering with states to move toward paid leave.
We understand that economic issues are women's issues, and the challenges of supporting and raising a family are often primarily a woman's responsibility. That's why putting Americans back to work is Job One. That's why the Affordable Care Act especially helps women by guaranteeing they and their families won't become uninsured when they lose their jobs. That's why this administration strengthened Medicare and Medicaid for millions of women and families. And that's why the Affordable Care Act is ending health insurance discrimination against women, and provides women with free access to preventive care, including prenatal screenings, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, breast-feeding supports, and contraception.
"I know firsthand the injustice of gender discrimination in pay: for years I was paid less than my male colleagues, and it took an anonymous note from a colleague to tip me off to the fact that I was being denied equal pay for equal work. I also know firsthand that President Obama takes these issues seriously: the first bill that he signed into law was focused on making sure that other women don't face the same injustice. While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act won't change my story, I couldn't be prouder of the legislation that bears my name, and I know who is standing up for women and families."—Lilly Ledbetter
We understand that women's rights are civil rights. That's why we reaffirm our support for the ERA, recommit to enforcing Title IX, and will urge ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. That's why we are committed to ending violence against women, why Vice President Joe Biden originally wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act during his time in the Senate, and why we support reauthorizing and strengthening it now.
The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices. Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers. The Affordable Care Act ensures that women have access to contraception in their health insurance plans, and the President has respected the principle of religious liberty. Democrats support evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education.
This is my diary entry from Friday, May 14, 1982. It is the opening chapter of my book, The Hungry Heart, which is the actual diary of my 40 days in Springfield, Illinois. Phyllis and Ellie, NOW v Eagles; Equality was on the line and still is. Many of us who are working on the election of the first woman president are hoping that it will renew a bright light on Constitutional equality. I mean after all, the president should be included in the US Constitution.
La igualdad de los derechos bajo ley no sera negada ni sera abreviada por los Estados Unidos o por cualquier estado a causa de sexo.
Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
MAY 14, 1982
This is something I want so much, I am willing to die for it. The fact that I want it for all women for all time makes it profound and suffocating. I feel like I am being crushed inside a storm of feelings, fears and certainty. I need some relief. I know this is the right thing to do. Food, cigarettes, privacy, pets, home and family -- take it. I want this more.
All I did was answer the phone. It sounded like every other ring that had called me to the phone. It rang in early May. It was Sonia Johnson calling. We had met in the Fall when she came to my bookstore to sign her book, “From Housewife to Heretic.” We talked of the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, July 1, and promised one another that no matter what we did we would do it together. "We are going to fast for the ERA," Sonia calmly explained to me. "We are going to go to Illinois, sit in the Springfield rotunda, live on water only and win the ERA."
I met Dina at the Long Beach airport at 8 A.M. I think we are doing awfully well considering we both stopped smoking just four days ago. Maybe in the face of not eating, not smoking seems negligible. At least it seems to be just another task on my ToDo list. With an extra hour before the flight, we had breakfast. It was the first in the continuing series of meals we ate today. Eggs, Pancakes, Toast, O.J., Coffee. We ate as if there is no tomorrow.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful but we missed the connecting flight to Springfield. It took three attempts at stand-by to actually make it. The good news is that we were able to eat another meal; packing it away like chipmunks in Fall.
A thoughtful woman named Marion picked us up. She is studying to be a Methodist minister. She made the mistake of asking us if there was anything we wanted to do before we went to the meeting place. Fried Shrimp, Baked potatoes, Blue cheese salad, Pie, Coffee.
The mystery of where we are going to stay is solved. We have permission to stay at Kumler Methodist Church for two weeks. We are going to sleep on the floor of the Sunday School classrooms. The desks and chairs are itsy bitsy. The bathroom is down right comical as the sinks and toilets are all scaled down. The really bad news is that there are no showers. I am really taken back about no showers. It is muggy May in Southern Illinois.
The classrooms are stifling. I guess they only open the windows on Sunday mornings. The walls are covered with posters of Jesus. This is not the Jesus I love. This one is fair skinned, sandy hair, manicured hands, sweet little smile. The pictures show him surrounded with pastel covered, adoring fans. This is not the dissident, powerful, charismatic carpenter I would like to know.
Dina and I are the first to arrive. The other women are due in an hour or so. They are driving from D.C. and Virginia, where they have been stumping on the ERA trail. This is giving me too much time to sit and stew and get really scared. I can hear Dina in the next room; she must be recording her journal. I am stuffed but wonder what will happen if I don’t have food for forty-four days. Maybe it won’t take forty-four days. I’m hungry.
What if no one cares? What if there is no press coverage? If I was the opposition I would deflate this by ignoring it, trivializing it or even mocking it. But I have to remember that there is a magnificent precedent for fasting. Most of my favorite people have fasted. My heart says I have no choice.
I hear the others have arrived. Maybe they have some food.
To purchase a copy of The Hungry Heart
Lune Soleil Press
No matter if you are for Bernie or Hillary, the fact remains, many of us want to break this glass ceiling once and for all. Any woman less powerful, less formidable than Hillary could never do it. Let’s face it, young voters, liberal voters, occupy people, anti-wall street people don't even assign electing a woman as a stroke of revolution.
I read articles about how it is going to get nasty and, of course, it is. Jackie and his wife got death threats, Branch was vilified. Breaking barriers is the job of razor sharp ice cutters who can bust convention with a smile on their face.
Men are working day and night to stop the this particular ceiling being broken. Many don’t even realize it. It is a fundamental thread in the woof and warp of their lives. Possibly the thought gets diffused before it is fully formed. The mind wanders looking for reasons to never let a woman lead the USA. Women just got the right to be Rangers. A woman boxer, football coach, pilot. It is a slo-jam, very slow. The holding down of rising women is in all of our DNA. ALL OF US.
All you need do is watch Gloria Borger (CNN) and Andrea Mitchell (MSNBC) to bring this into strong relief. They blatantly diminish Hillary. They do it with entitlement, as if it advances them. It is the patriarchal position to dissect and eviscerate a woman in all respects at all times, without apology; without any thought.
For many years I have asked where are the women? Thich Nhat Hahn’s partner is a woman. Harvey Milk’s debate partner was a woman. When we looked at photos of Arab Spring, we looked for women. Katherine Luther, Lydia Emerson, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Frances Perkins, Coretta Scott, Grace Hopper. Look behind, look beyond the poster presentation and you will find a woman. It is the looking that is revolutionary.
Electing a woman who puts women first is the most revolutionary act for me. (Carly is an extension of the patriarchy.) It will unfold a whole new helix of thinking. Books, studies, articles have been written and published that identify what happens when there is a preponderance of woman in leadership. The entire mindset will change, FOREVER. That is a revolution.
My feminism has informed me for over 40 years. I have tested it, torn it apart and put it back together again. I have broken convention with risk, with relentless application, with moderates shouting in my face. I have been mystified about this great divide over the democratic candidates. At this moment it appears to me that these two camps want revolution, the disagreement is that most do not think voting for a woman is revolutionary.
I really did not mean to wait for the month that the show closes to post a review. It was more that I have been really busy. Now that the close has been announced, October 25, I feel pressed to make this happen.
The first Long Beach City Council meeting I went to since I moved had an enthusiastic announcement about a mural show, POW WOW. Certainly I cannot be the only person who thought it was going to be by, for and about Native Americans.
They had my full attention. My Potawatomi ancestry is important to me and I would support this city wide installation. I had read that Long Beach is the second most diverse city in the country. Opening day I drove to the central office, picked up a program and took off to drive to all nine sites.
Not necessarily obvious in a non-binary state of mind but the documentation suggests there are 3 women among fifteen artists. Again, though not definitive, there was not a preponderance of Native or Indigenous artists. I feel confident in saying that the art was not bringing Native consciousness to the city.
I suppose this all leads to one very surprising conclusion, the title was appropriated and, as such, was not acknowledged.
Moving on to the primary and housed mural show, I went to the Long Beach Museum of Art. Several months before, I had made a visit. I had asked the docent if there were any works by women on view at the museum. She told me that she didn’t know. Using only names, which is not very reliable, my friend and I found one. But I held great hope for Vitality and Verve: Transforming the Urban Landscape, the new show.
Again, not certain evidence, of the twenty artists, a few are women. Some of the names are gender neutral but lets roll with 15%. (which I think is high). I leave it to you, Aaron Horkey, Alex Yanes, Andrew Schoultz, Audrey Kawasaki, Brendan Monroe, Brandon Shigeta, Cryptik, Esao Andrews, Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins, Hot Tea, James Bullough, Jeff Soto, John S. Culqui, Low Bros, Meggs, Nosego, Nychos, Saber, and Tristan Eaton.
No matter the artists broken down into binary genders, a serious cultural goal with some, heretofore, resolutions unclear, let the work speak for itself. Where are the women? Where are the WELL women? Where are women with clothes on ? Or women not cut into parts lining one of the largest walls.
The first woman is floating in pale lime green and too thin to carry a feather. Message received. Looking to the far wall, there is a woman in her underwear, lying on a sheet, cut into dozens of pieces. One repeating gash severing her head. Trust me this is about as good as it gets. Turning the few corners in the show, it did not get any more womanly. Nothing fecund, well, wholesome, seasonal, celestial.
I have to admit, I have been taught by the best; The Guerrilla Girls ~ both Guerilla Girls On Tour and Guerrilla Girls, Inc. It is really quite simple: where are the women, in the art and artists? Are they naked and tortured? Are they well and valuable beyond being a sex object.
The show is going to close October 25. Interesting that LBMA’s latest email includes an annoucement about a new acquisition, Salmon Stripe by Gail Factor which will be on view November 19. Others in the Oceanview Gallery will include works by Thelma deGoede Smith, Helen Lundeberg, Judy Chan, Karena Massengill, Mylene Raiche, and Joan Austin. I am looking forward to seeing it.
But, really, Pow Wow?? Really?
I was invited to a private sneak peek of the movie, Suffragette. On the invitation was a request to not write about it until it had premiered which it did last night at the Telluride Film Festival. The British press had been writing about it and now the US press is at liberty to as well. It is a marketing thing about film festivals and who gets to print first. I find it all commercially understandable but not my concern at all. My concern was, is and will always be -- historical accuracy. For the rest of time certain fictionalized movies are shown in classrooms as if they are a history lesson and thus the myths are spun and truth is unseated: my personal annoyance. With that said, I went to this preview with a chip on my shoulder or, in my mind, prepared to hold feet to the fire.
My host had asked me to not be rude if the film veers entirely off track. She thought I might confront the director and screenwriter who were offering a Q&A after. Fortunately the opening frame set the story in 1912 which means that Alice Paul has left England for America and no matter what happens I will not have to leap to the front of the room and set them straight on Miss Paul. It was a secret relief.
Oddly the opening scene is Maud Watts, played by Carrie Mulligan, staring into a shop window, as was the opening scene in Iron Jawed Angels. That set me on high alert. Maud is a laundry worker, wife and mother. She has suffered burns, long hours and sexual assault. She has aged out of being assaulted and now the foreman has a younger conquest. Fundamentally she lives like most women; trying to get through the day with the least amount of friction, falling into bed from exhaustion and, tomorrow, starting all over again. It isn’t that she doesn’t have a voice. It is that her voice has been silenced to such a point that Maud herself accepts she is unable to speak.
Mrs. Pankhurst, the genius strategist, beloved leader and hunted change-maker gave thousands of women the means to find their voice. She trusted that these exhausted women knew precisely what was going on, they simply had to find the means and opportunity to express it. Marches, songs, publicly wearing the movement’s colors, selling movement papers on street corners and being visible pierced society’s convention. They saw one another, heard one another and could be silent no more.
The film Suffragette features two women’s delicately structured evolution into full active, sometimes shocking, militancy. The laundry worker and a pharmacist carry on in the neighborhoods of London you might recognize from Calling The Midwife. Nappies on the clothesline crisscross the streets, hats on every head, children sitting in prams unattended, the streets of the workers giving it their all to simply carry on.
The film is intimate, heartbreaking, every woman’s story. Patriarchy is at its full roar and women are crashing through like Boudicca with her daughters riding against the Romans. Once awake they cannot turn away escalating violence all the way to the death. All for that precious vote. That vote doled out in increments and still not used to its full potential.
The vagueness about the movie in this writing is intentional for two reasons; not wanting give away any surprises and to address what is more to my preferred question -- was it a blathering fairy tale forever diminishing a brave noble story of our lineage as women.
My real jubilation happened in the Q&A with Sarah Gavron, the director and Abi Morgan, the screenwriter. The first question from the audience was what was their process in authenticating the story. Gavron said that, unlike American bio-dramas, the British are very serious about accuracy. (I did want to jump up with that!) She said it took nine years and each time something more was discovered, they rewrote and, sometimes, re-shot. Morgan said they went through 43 rewrites. In the course of six years they had consulted with Dr. Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst and Katherine Tupper, great granddaughter of Emily Davison. They had access to the British Museum and Parliament archives They read memoirs by the laundry workers. Carrie Mulligan read handwritten diaries of women who led lives like the one she played. The role of Edith Ellyn, played by Helena Bottom Carter, was based on the real woman, Olive Schreiner who had wanted to be a doctor but could not afford the training.
For me, it was important that Sarah Gavron and Abi Morgan did not take the easy road and draw un-provable conclusions in the film about the death of Emily Wilding Davison. They acknowledged that Emily’s death is and will always be unsettled business; was she a martyr or on the edge of suicide? They described they were given access to her tiny purse and inside was a return ticket, possibly alluding that she did not mean to be killed. Watching films, listening to scholars and relatives it seems it will always be a great conversation. Even a recent television recreation puts forth a digital supposition that she only wanted to place a VOTES FOR WOMEN sash on the King’s horse. Dr. Diane Atkinson, author of the book, Suffragette says, “Don’t fall for this return ticket business. It is a red herring. I am very sure she was ready to give her life.” The mystery is a never ending conversation.
And we need all the bait for conversations we can find. As Gavron said, “We need to resurrect women from history.” Indeed we do. Thank you Sarah Gavron and Abi Morgan. Well done.
In the streets of Chicago, 1968 I was directed by the methods and success of Gandhi. I had read about him for years and presumed that his theories were inspiring the American Civil Rights Movement. I grew up in devotion to the left wing of the Catholic Church, the hope of Vatican II and John XXIII. My feminism was not really ignited yet. In fact, I did not notice on my 15th birthday, August 28, 1963, that no woman spoke from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial when Dr King told us of his dream.
Many years later I heard some vague story about a woman who had led a hunger strike in jail campaigning for women’s suffrage. At the time all I knew was Seneca, Stanton and Anthony. Then through no direct line of influence, I found myself fasting for the Equal Rights Amendment and again I heard this woman’s name, Alice Paul. She was the principle and most acknowledged author of the legislature. My interested was piqued.
Thirty-four years later, I have culled the universe for any and all information about and by Miss Paul. I have read every book available, interviewed many people who both knew and worked for her. I have pestered a historian friend for hundreds of articles. I have learned to judge a book by its footnotes and to read in complete quiet. I have been told I know more about Miss Paul than anyone. I know her virtues, her many faults and, with humility, find me more like her with each revelation. I have been given the honorific of Independent Scholar.
Over the last few years one glaring truth has pierced my feminist heart. Would it be different if I had known the first to practice Nonviolent Direct Action was a feminist woman? Would it have different to know that the first to organize a march on the White House was a woman? Why did my shelves have dozens of books on Gandhi’s theories and methods with application to the American Social Justice Movement and ZERO on Alice Paul’s? Why had I read Indian Opinion and Harijan but not the Suffragist? Why didn’t I know that both Miss Paul and M.K. Gandhi had been at suffrage rallies, spoken with Mrs Pankhurst and both left with objections to the introduction of violence.
I am devoted, I am dedicated to introduce Americans to their very own founder of Non Violent Direct Action, Miss Alice Paul. I believe that knowing about Alice, her methods and her lifelong activism will inspire and light the way. I base this on my own 50 years in activism. I see how she never gave up. She rested and moved with the ebb and flow of equality. She did not party with the signing of the Nineteenth Amendment. She went on to earn three law degrees to prepare for the campaign for constitutional equality. The vote was just one tile in the mosaic of equality. On her 92nd birthday, she spent her happy birthday phone call with First Lady Betty Ford promoting the ERA.
We are left with a spectacular film by Sir Richard Attenborough on the life of Gandhi in which meticulous care was given to truth. Entire scenes were recreated, dialog was taken from real life. We need accessible accurate media to learned about, celebrate and fulfill the plans of Miss Alice Paul. We will be better people to end the national practice of letting women age into obscurity and dismissing their legacy. Her work of constitutional equality is now our work.
I hope you will trust me with creating a national, culturally illumined, campaign to build awareness of the infinite relevance of militant activist, Alice Paul. There is a call for seed money on Kickstarter. (click here) Your donation will be your tile in this particular mosaic for equality. The goal is $9,200 which is $100 for each year of her life. This amount is the foundation. Once launched we will be creating both self-sustaining funding and sponsorship. Thank you for joining this effort. You can read about the objectives, vision and mission here.
Is it too soon to move from re-act to retro-spect? I have to admit most of my insights occur in a rearview mirror but the optimal distance is usually more than a couple of weeks. It can take years to collect succinct or defensible responses. Nonetheless, I am going to risk it today, show my hand and hope for the best.
If you are a feminist or interested in feminism, Oscar night 2015 was volatile, exciting, best water cooler talk in a long time. That said, it begs the question what did it mean to everyone else?
In the pie chart of American women, I live in the red slice. Most of the people I know live in the red slice. We are cool. We are hot. We are hip. We have read Freire, Alinsky, hooks, Hill Collins, Crenshaw. We tweet and post and follow Laurie Penny, Amanda Levitt, Roxane Gay, Ultraviolet, A is For, and hundreds of peeps or orgs who agree with us. We retweet and use hashtags (though not as effectively as ISIS). We work on checking our isms, our privilege, our ever-widening inclusion and our revulsion over inner circle royalty. We are pro plus sizes, support public breast feeding and fight like hell to come out ~ as queer, having an abortion, in recovery. We do all we can to protest inequality, demand justice and stand in solidarity. It’s a lot but it’s who we are.
Once a week or less I shop at a big neighborhood grocery store. In twelve years, my favorite checker, Sue always asks me the same two questions. “How’s Grace?” She’s fine. “What did you do this weekend?” One weekend I told her about going to Dallas. I hosted an ERA Café Conversation and Gloria Steinem was at the same table. I asked her if she knew who Gloria Steinem was. “No, who is she?” I asked if she had heard of Ms. Magazine. “No.” I asked if she knew what the ERA is. “No, What is it?” But you can be sure my checker knew what fair wages means.
Sue has no idea what is intersectionality or white privilege or why immigration is a family issue. She does not know what the old Jim Crow is about, let alone the new Jim Crow. She knows about a zillion morphing prices for as many products on hundreds of shelves on dozens of aisles. She knows the mad hours she and her husband work to keep their children, grandchildren and dog, Emmie safe and well. She knows her feet hurt and retirement is many years off.
Sue is not in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know that there is a matrix of domination, an inseparable intersection of all oppressions, a few men own dam near everything, black water is coming out of California faucets and abortion rights are the lynchpin of female autonomy. She doesn’t know that I live and love in the red section of the pie chart. She doesn’t know about the chart, the pie or the red slice.
Sue didn’t see Boyhood. She has no idea who the Arquette Family is but she did see the Oscars. She saw a best actress winner say something about her own life; about equal wages. She saw a woman over 40, in a nice, relatively kind of plain dress, wearing glasses, talk about her life. She saw women in the audience leap to their feet in support. I am certain Sue knows they are all rich beyond belief. They have more money than they could ever need and she saw one of them spent her sliver of time to talk about equal wages. And, now she knows that even among well paid Americans, men and women are paid unequally.
Sue doesn’t know what was said backstage, about the call for Gays and Blacks to back the fair wage movement. The phrase, Equal means Equal is all new. It was an outrage to those who live in the red slice. It was a slap in the face for all those who work in the red slice. It set the social justice movement back decades as tweeted and posted by the red slice residents. But that night, someone at the Oscars said, women should be paid equally. And that’s enough for Sue. And I am grateful to Patricia because Sue’s feet hurt and she rings up my groceries and always asks, “How’s Grace?”
I love writing, thinking and living in the red slice. It is home to me. And one of my concerns is full equality for all the pie people. I want fair wages and don’t need everyone to convert to the red slice. Forgive me if I don’t say it well. I know better.