Martin Luther King Jr. Day

MLK Day

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The personal is political. Yes, that includes you, Chick-Fil-A consumer.

I’ve been silently watching and reading as the emotional, heated debate over Chick-Fil-A unfolded this past week on my Facebook newsfeed, TV and Twitter. Until now, I haven’t felt compelled to write anything on this issue because the news that Chick-Fil-A donates some of its corporate earnings to anti-gay organizations is old news. And I’m confused why Chick-Fil-A supporters think this is a freedom of religion issue. No one’s telling Chick-Fil-A to close on Sundays or stop being Christian.

The issue is that customers’ money is funding the harmful and hateful agenda of organizations that are actively denying rights to Americans. Chick-Fil-A is mixing business and politics in the name of Christianity and using the cry of freedom of religion as a smokescreen to get away with questionable corporate donations. Christian ethics and beliefs demand that you love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn’t instruct us to hurt each other and deny each other full equality as men and women. What kind of Christians are the people who run Chick-Fil-A?

What motivated me to finally write about Chick-Fil-A is this opinion piece in The Atlantic by Jonathan Merritt, in which he defends the fast food chain and questions the effectiveness of boycotts in the culture wars. Sure, Chick-Fil-A donates to more worthy causes like education and boycotts of consumer products are sometimes questionable in their effectiveness, but I stopped following Merritt’s argument when he wrote this:

But my bigger question is this: In a nation that’s as divided as ours is, do we really want our commercial lives and our political lives to be so wholly intermeshed? And is this really the kind of culture we want to create? Culture war boycotts cut both ways and are much more likely to meet with success when prosecuted by large groups of people, such as Christian activists, who are more numerous than gays and lesbians and their more activist supporters.

(bold emphasis is mine)

What! Stop the chicken frying for a second and let’s think about this rationally. Merritt’s question – “do we really want our commercial lives and our political lives to be so wholly intermeshed?” – has already happened. Yes, Mr. Merritt, the personal is (still) political. Always was, and always will be. Ask any feminist. The daily decisions I make on where and what I should spend my money on is personal and has political consequences, no matter what political party I belong to. If, as a country, we thought more about how the mundane details and decisions of our personal lives connected to and affected larger politics, we’d fully realize our power as voters and citizens and demand real change. Instead, we’re told to shut up, eat the damn sandwich and accused of attacking religious freedom.

Merritt’s second claim in the paragraph is that Christian activists outnumber gays, lesbians and whoever else happens to support them (???). Following this logic, being a Christian activist and gay/lesbian are mutually exclusive. Sorry, you can’t be Christian and gay/lesbian. Oh, and if you’re wondering, there are no Christians included in the “more activist supporters” category for gays and lesbians. If Merritt believes that culture wars like Chick-Fil-A are so damaging and ineffective to our society and country, why is he pitting one group (Christian activists) against another group (gays and lesbians) and betting that the Christians will win in culture war boycotts?

I agree with Merritt that we need more healthy, level-headed disagreements and Facebook, 24-hour news channels/cycles are not the forums to hold them.

Here’s a suggestion: acknowledge and fully realize that the personal is political. Go read Wayne Self’s outstanding piece, “The Chick Fellatio: Stuck in the Craw” for a rebuttal to Merritt and all other Chick-Fil-A supporters. Then ask yourself if you’re still hungry for Chick-Fil-A.

We energized, we organized, we tweeted!

As I wrote in my last post, I joined two of my feminist friends at the national NOW 2012 conference in Baltimore on Friday to present a skills-building workshop for activists who are new to using Twitter and want to learn how to use the social media platform in their organizing.

It was a success! We split our workshop session with two skills-building panels from the Sewall-Belmont Museum in Washington, D.C., and FemEx and had a great time teaching the mechanics and art of Twitter and its importance to fighting attacks on women’s rights to nearly 50 feminist activists from across the country. Good turnout, great questions and energy in the room. Sitting on a panel (with microphones!) in front of activists who have a lot to teach me was only slightly surreal. For the three of us, it was our first experience presenting at a national conference and we loved it. And for the record, we spoke from a place of experience, not authority. The beauty of Twitter is that everyone can learn it, use it and no one exclusively owns it.

Eve Ensler addressed NOW 2012 conference in Baltimore on Friday.

being silly before our workshop. can you feel the excitement?! (from left to right: @RachelAPiazza, @elchavodorado, @MullenKat)

We created a new Twitter account for the purpose of our workshop (@feminactivism), to connect with feminists who came to the conference and to continue the momentum. We were live tweeting the conference, MT and RT a little too much because Twitter temporarily suspended our account yesterday. We’re working on getting it back and hopefully we’ll be up and running again in no time.

Here’s a comprehensive, but not exhaustive list we handed out on Friday of feminists and feminist-friendly organizations and people we think everyone should follow on Twitter. Feel free to let us know of other awesome feminists we should follow, by leaving a comment or tweeting us!

Rachel’s List (@RachelAPiazza)

  1. National Organization for Women (@NationalNOW)
  2. Girl Scouts (@girlscouts)
  3. Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama)
  4. Women in the World (@WomenInWorld)
  5. Jane Seymour Fonda (@Janefonda)
  6. AAUW Public Policy (@AAUWPolicy)
  7. Catalyst, Inc (@catalystInc)
  8. Change.org (@change)
  9. IWPR (@IWPResearch)
  10. Gloria Steinem (@GloriaSteinem)
  11. White House Project (@TWHP)
  12. Shira Tarrant (@shiratarrant)
  13. Jezebel (@jezebel)
  14. Feministe (@Feministe)
  15. Bitch Media (@BitchMedia)
  16. Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti)
  17. Feminist Majority Foundation (@FemMajority)
  18. Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow)
  19. Andy Borowitz (@BorowitzReport)
  20. Planned Parenthood (@PPact)

Jeffrey’s List (@elchavodorado)

  1. UN Women (@UNWomen)
  2. Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour)
  3. Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)
  4. Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
  5. Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford)
  6. Diablo Cody (@diablocody)
  7. Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman)
  8. Lena Dunham (@lenadunham)
  9. bell hooks (@bellhooks)
  10. FEMINIST HULK (@feministhulk)
  11. Racialicious (@racialicious)
  12. Feministing (@feministing)
  13. Women’s Media Center (@womensmediacntr)
  14. Senator Barbara Mikulski (@SenatorBarb)
  15. The Coquette (@coketweet)
  16. Krystal Ball (@KrystalBall1)
  17. Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma)
  18. Babe Walker (@whitegirlproblem)
  19. Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch)
  20. Ashley Judd (@AshleyJudd)

Katie’s List (@MullenKat)

1. The Melissa Harris-Perry Show (@MHPshow)
2. NYC RJ Coalition (@NYC4RJ)
3. Katha Pollitt (@KathaPollitt)
4. YWCA USA (@YWCAUSA)
5. Name It. Change It. (@nameitchangeit)
6. Third Wave (@3Wave)
7. RH Reality Check (@rhrealitycheck)
8. Shelby Knox (@ShelbyKnox)
9. Steph Herold (@IAmDrTiller)
10. DC Abortion Fund (@DCAbortionFund)
11. Eve Ensler (@eveensler)
12. Center for American Progress (@amprog)
13. Colorlines.com (@Colorlines)
14. Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma)
15. Free Bei Bei Shuai (@FreeBeiBei)
16. CODEPINK (@CodePink)
17. UNITE HERE (@UNITEHEREUnion)
18. Bitch Flicks (@BitchFlicks)
19. SharkFu (@SharkFu)
20. Ms. Magazine (@MsMagazine)


Happy May Day!

May Day: A Day without the 99%

Check out this interactive map from Mother Jones of May Day activities and protests across the country, including Baltimore.

 

National feminist organizing at Hilton Crystal City is a problem.

Question: Does it matter that a national feminist organization chose to locate its young feminist leadership conference in a hotel that labor activists and consumers boycott because of the hotel’s unfair labor practices and treatment of its workers?

Answer: 100% yes.

This weekend, young feminist activists will gather in Washington, D.C. for Feminist Majority’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference and spend three days in workshops and training on perennial feminist issues such as abortion access, reproductive health rights, global women’s rights and mobilizing the youth vote. The conference appears to be a good opportunity to network with other young feminists across the country, share information and reenergize feminist commitments. I’ve been thinking of attending the conference for weeks, although now I’m conflicted about pulling out my wallet and forking over the $35 registration fee. Here’s why:

Feminist Majority’s decision to hold a national conference – that is meant to inspire, train and energize the next generation of feminist leaders – in a hotel where many female employees don’t have fair working conditions is a gross oversight and failure to practice the organization’s feminist principles. One of Feminist Majority’s key principles is supporting workers’ collective bargaining and pay equity.

Two years ago, UNITE HERE, a union representing hotel workers across the U.S. and Canada, called on customers to boycott Hilton Crystal City, including several other hotels also owned by Columbia Sussex Corporation. Workers in these hotels faced layoffs, benefit reductions, pay freezes and higher costs for health insurance. As of today, the Hilton Crystal City is still on UNITE HERE’s Boycott List.

Why is Feminist Majority, an influential, powerful feminist organization, turning its back on female hotel workers at Hilton Crystal City by booking its conference there? Have Eleanor Smeal and other Feminist Majority leaders forgotten that securing rights in the workplace for all genders is a feminist issue?

My point in questioning Feminist Majority is to highlight the critical need for feminist organizations and movements to be vigilant and accountable to the principles and goals of feminism in all their actions. As feminists and social justice advocates, we can’t say we want pay equity, collective bargaining rights and fair working conditions for women if we don’t put these beliefs into action. And this means not patronizing hotels that trample on women’s right to a fair workplace and supporting our allies in the labor movement who are working hard on the same issues.

As a student, I was a founding member of my college’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance chapter and I learned a lot of valuable skills and knowledge through Feminist Majority. It’s not my intent to single out or shame Feminist Majority for its decision. Rather, it’s essential that we hold each other accountable in working toward equality and look critically at our failures. We need to practice what we preach or else we risk looking like hypocrites.

UPDATE: I attended the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference on Saturday and had a chance after the morning’s General Assembly to ask Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal about this contradiction. She said that Hilton Crystal City assured Feminist Majority that it is negotiating with workers and is under settlement. Smeal also told me that this year was the first time the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference was not held in D.C. proper because it has grown in size and attendance since it first began 8 years ago. She also stressed the importance of labor issues to Feminist Majority Foundation. 

39 years of Roe v. Wade

This blog post is a part of NARAL Pro-Choice America’s “Blog for Choice Day 2012,” in honor today of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year’s question is “What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?”

“What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?” is a question I have been thinking about for the better part of the morning and I still don’t have a good answer that completely satisfies me.

Here’s what I know for sure:

Today marks 39 years since abortion became legal in the U.S. I have never known a life where I didn’t have a legal right to an abortion and I know I never want to find out what it’s like without that right. The attacks on reproductive rights had been relentless in 2011, and this year looks no better.

Here’s what I’m unsure about with regards to NARAL’s question-of-the-day:

Obviously, I vote for the pro-choice candidate. But it’s not enough to elect pro-choice candidates. We must elect pro-choice candidates and then we must hold them accountable and speak up in defense of women’s reproductive rights when they falter. President Obama was (is) a great candidate for protecting women’s right to safe, legal abortions until the fight over health care, the budget and debt ceiling when he stepped aside and let Congress throw women’s reproductive health care under the bus. (I don’t have to consider the alternative to know that having Obama in the White House is better than a Newt, Mitt, Rick or Ron.)

However, as feminists and reproductive rights activists, we need to do more than work to elect pro-choice politicians, sit back on our heels and say, “job well done.” We need to educate and inform young women and men about the importance of including abortion in the spectrum of women’s health care, to teach comprehensive sex education in schools and seriously think about the framing and impact of our discourse of “choice” versus reproductive justice. (See my previous post on this topic). The work of protecting the legal right to abortion is on many fronts, and not only about electing pro-choice candidates in 2012.

Which leads me to my next question – What if there aren’t any good pro-choice candidates running in your local and state elections this year? Then what do you do? Do you hold your nose and vote for the pro-choice candidate anyway on this one issue even though you might not agree with the candidate on other equally important issues? Do you throw your money and time into a campaign in a neighboring state for another pro-choice candidate?

This election year, the chance for me to help elect a pro-choice candidate boils down to one Congressional race, and I have no idea who the pro-choice candidate is, or if there is one. I live in a mostly red county in a blue state that is supportive of reproductive rights. I’m lucky. I have a Democratic governor who is Catholic and pro-choice and presides over a state legislature that is packed with liberals. I have two pro-choice allies in the Senate. And then there’s my Republican representative in the House – dear, old Roscoe Bartlett, who has managed re-election wins every two years since the early 1990s with the help of Republican Western Maryland. But this year’s election isn’t looking too good for Bartlett. Maryland has adopted a new redistricting map that redraws Bartlett’s District 6 south into liberal Montgomery County.

Nevertheless, the indefatigable Bartlett has decided to run for another term and there’s no shortage of challengers including state Senator David Brinkley (R); state Delegate Kathy Afzali (R); Charles Bailey (D) of Washington County; John Delaney (D) of Montgomery County; state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown; Milad Pooran (D) of Frederick County; Robert Coblentz (R) of Washington County; Robin Ficker (R) of Montgomery County; Joseph T. Krysztoforski (R) of Baltimore County; and Brandon Orman Rippeon (R) of Frederick County.

I don’t know who any of these challengers are, and I have plenty of time to figure out what their positions on abortion and reproductive rights are before Maryland’s primary on April 3.

So, here’s my final answer to NARAL’s question today, on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll vote for the progressive, pro-choice candidate when I can, and assuming she/he wins, I’ll hold her/him accountable. I’ll continue to write and speak out in defense of women’s legal right to abortion. As one person, this is all I can do.

Tell Congress to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA!

Two bills before Congress – Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate – would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American businesses. The bills would empower a few corporations and the FCC to censor the Web in the name of combating piracy overseas.

The Senate is scheduled to begin voting on Jan. 24. Click on the Google image above and tell Congress to vote NO on SOPA and PIPA by signing the petition. 

Find out where your members of Congress stand on SOPA/PIPA. 

Listen to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now discuss the legislation with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  

 

UPDATE:

Yesterday’s wave of online and offline activism opposing SOPA/PIPA appears to be working. Four co-sponsors of PIPA in the Senate withdrew their support of the legislation. More than 45 million people signed Google’s petition and more than 300,000 constituents e-mailed or called their Senators and Representatives.

Fore more clarification on what SOPA/PIPA means and its potential effects, watch this YouTube video: