Monday, March 4, 2013

Wherein I Become Susan B Anthony

I was inspired.  I was thrilled. I was moved.  That part was great. The part where I began to realize that, like my similarly-initialed-heroine-from-my-childhood, I was also irrelevant... that part was a somewhat less fabulous lesson, though it was a lesson that needed to be learned.

Arizona List held its annual luncheon on Saturday, and Elizibeth and I got dressed up and attended in style
There was no doubt that we had the best shod feet in the room.  Of course, the waitress who kept tripping over my I-can't-pull-them-in-any-closer boots might have had her own opinion on the subject.  We were comfortably elegant, and I, at least, felt very grown up.

We were hobnobbing with the best Progressive minds in Tucson.  I was able to introduce Elizibeth to many of the dignitaries; I've met them all since bullets and I intersected.  Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney, hugs with the best of them.  After meeting her, we decided that Elizibeth should hold her phone in her left hand so that her right hand could be free for shaking.

This stood her in good stead when she had the chance to shake Congressman Ron Barber's hand a few minutes later.  They spoke about debate as I busied myself taking photos and basking in the intensity of their conversation.  She was really listening, he was taking her seriously, and I was feeling my heart swell.  Some very wonderful things have come my way since January, 2011; being on a first-name-hugging-basis with my very own United States Representative is one of them.
Shaking hands with Mayor Rothschild was fairly anti-climactic after conversing with a congressman.  

The event was a celebration of Progressive Politics, and progress was the theme underlying the event.  Pat Wiedhopf, one of the honorees, spoke of her desire to "pay it forward for the next generation." Her work allowed her to mentor and to be mentored, reminding me that there's always something else to learn. We were sitting in a room full of "talent, dedication, and commitment," as Representative Ann Kirkpatrick reminded us in her video address. This was definitely a see-and-be-seen event for the politicians in our area, and those of us who had donated time and dollars to see them elected were able to feast our eyes on the fruits of our labors.

One thing I love about Arizona List is that it quantifies its successes.  As a state Super PAC, pooling small donations, they are a significant player in the process.  In eight years, endorsed candidates have won 79 elections on the state and local levels.  I never feel that my money is going into a black hole of overhead and waste.  Those dollars are being put to good use.

As the chicken and rice entree competed for my attention with the carrot cake already on the table, Beautiful Annie spoke of gun control and reproductive rights and the power of engagement.  It was a warmed up crowd which welcomed the main speaker, Sandra Fluke, to the podium.

She spoke of new-found, unexpected fame.  This photo says it all, I think. She was waiting for her ride in the hallway after her presentation, fodder for perfect strangers (me) to photograph her pulling her phone from her pocket.  As I've learned, there are no "off camera" moments when you're a celebrity.
She shrugged off the label of "young superstar," reminding us that Sara Weddington was six years younger when she argued Roe v Wade in front of the Supreme Court.  Still, for the older women who made up the majority of the audience, she was fresh faced, bright eyed, unsullied by years of doors slamming in her face.  Nothing in her speech refuted that.

Instead of being Pro-Choice, we were encouraged to support Reproductive Justice, the new, esoteric term in women's studies.  Rather than focusing on defending the results of yesterday, the movement is building on past successes and creating an agenda for going forward.

Progressives are inclusive, trying to find agreement on the common sense issues where consensus can be built.  Breast cancer screenings were her good example of something non-partisan.  The fun part came after the example.  "If they can't agree, then they gotta go!" she told us.  "Shine the spotlight on them," she said.  Don't let them run from the fact that they don't find detecting cancer at an early, treatable stage a worthwhile endeavor.

This was her segue into the differences between then and now.  A 60-something woman wondered where the younger generation was hiding; she was tired of marching for choice when the women for whom it was a current issue were no where to be found.  The answer was simple, according to Ms Fluke; "We march less," but they have a much stronger internet presence than we might imagine.  They sign petitions, they write emails, they connect on social media and tweet their hearts out.  In the 21st century, this is how things get done.

I have never felt so irrelevant.  I am pro-choice, but now I have to say that I am an advocate for reproductive justice.  It's wonderful to be inclusive, to join with those who want government out of how they create or parent their children.  In response to legislation seeking to ban IVF procedures, men who wanted to be fathers were able to join the cause of reproductive justice... they were looking for a means to exercise those rights.

It was an interesting paradigm.  It forced me to think.  When the high school girl wondered how her Feminism Club could use language to engage rather than affront her peers, another new piece fell into place for me.  Feminism is "a word we created to do good work behind.  We didn't create it as an excuse for another fight." Ms Fluke suggested Gender Equality as an alternative, "if that works in your community."

If that works?  I don't remember wondering how I'd be perceived, how I'd be heard.  We were shrill because we had to be shrill; those on the other side had not had forty years of training to be ready to think about gender equality. We had to point it out to them.  We had to get their attention.  We didn't worry about their reaction.  In retrospect, perhaps that was a mistake.

And so I went back to feeling like Susan B Anthony.  No one worries about women losing the right to vote, and her temperance platform looks awfully silly as marijuana is legalized across the country. Will we, one hundred years from now, think of our current battles as delightfully quaint examples of a different century?  I will not be here to laugh at myself, but their children will be.
Sandra Fluke and Elizibeth
I'm just glad that I had a chance to look through the window into the future.  It's in good hands. 

I wish it didn't make me feel so old.


  1. Sounds like a great PAC. I love the ones that you know exactly where your money is going.

    I like Reproductive Justice better than pro-choice.

    LOVE the shoes! Elizabeth has a great mentor in you. :)

    Happy Monday.

    Megan xxx

    1. And so, Ms Fluke was right. You are part of that younger generation that hears/views things in a different light.

      YES, we had great shoes!

  2. I'll also be adopting the term Reproductive Justice going forward. Thanks for the terminology update. I don't want to become any more irrelevant.


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