Feminist Town Hall November 5, 2008 Live @ 7 PM ET

November 5, 2008 posted by Vivienne Heston-Demirel Apologies for audio problems. It is 7:30 and we are going LIVE.


Michelle Goldberg - journalist/author, specialized in ideology and politics - said she was optimistic but that there were a few dark clouds, namely, anti-gay ballot initiatives that passed in California, Florida, Arizona (anti-gay marriage), and Arkansas (anti-gay adoption). All of the anti-choice initiatives failed. There is a potential for extreme right-wing terrorism, including attacks on abortion providers.


Andrea Batista Schlesinger - Executive Director, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy - just concluded her opening statements.


Paula Rayman - Founding Director of the Radcliffe Public Policy Center - volunteered in Get Out the Vote efforts and was impressed by how first-time voters were empowered. She is a "glass half-full" person but warned to be realistic about what a single leader can do. She called for unity in the feminist movement: “If we don’t get this right, we will have missed a unique opportunity.” Rayman is an economist and said that Barack was a centrist on economic issues. Look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s declaration of economic rights: job safety, job security, health care.   The U.S. is the only industrialized country without universal health care; we also lack universal child care and universal elder care. Rayman urges united efforts.


Loretta Ross - National Coordinator, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective - spoke next.  SisterSong is from the red state of Georgia (that did not vote Obama). Ross spoke of the moment, the process, the outcome.  She is a former Hillary supporter.  In 1994, Ross was in South Africa watching people wait three days to vote…Same kind of “sublime”: black people built the White House, and now a black family is going to live in the White House. This is an “opportunity for change, this is not the change.” Ross offered advice for our post-election society: Beware “post-racial” society claims.  She also pointed out two lessons: community organizing won the elections and the end of the “dumbing down” of the {national] discussion. Ross concluded that we need to bring up human rights issues: "In my state, voter suppression is real. In a state with 5 million Democrats, the Democrats only got 800,000 votes…."


Byllye Avery - Founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project and MacArthur Genius Award Recipient - spoke with her mother who turned 100 in June. "First time I voted differently from my white girl friends. I couldn’t understand why they were so upset by the Hillary thing. One friend said that she had dreamed since she was a child that one day there would be a woman president."  But Byllye had never dared to dream of a black president… She called on us to pay attention: our work is just beginning. How will we stay connected and build the momentum?  We need to work with a human rights framework — complete the work of FDR. We need single payer, universal health care.   Health systems should not be profit-driven.  Leadership: so proud of young people stepping up to the plate.


Anne Elizabeth Moore - critic, activist, artist, journalist and author - was conflicted over who to vote for at first but decided on Obama. "In Chicago, during elections, police were high-fiving me, people hugging me... Rahm Emanuel’s appointment as chief of staff is disorienting...The RNC spent 55 million dollars on weaponry...People are not able to express themselves openly...I’m concerned about commercialism, bring back the WPA — works that document our current situation, spaces for artists, decentralize telecommunications, restrict advertising in public spaces."  Now, there is a glossing over, for example, of the Chicago Olympics 2016 candidacy: it will be bad for low-income people (tearing down low-income housing).  We also must examine the impact on social justice.  Take for instance the foreclosure crisis.  Chicago has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the country.  We must also examine wealth disparity issues (according to the Institute for Policy Studies, 40 million people live in poverty) and the journalists who cover them.  Also important to keep in mind are international issues like Cambodia and Afghanistan. Finally, we must pay attention to a key emotional issue: exhaustion after eight years [of Republican domination].


Question: Michelle Obama — what kind of role will she play? When I read the Audacity of Hope, the chapter on race was excellent — I want the next chapter to be about gender.


BA: Michelle is really good on the issues and inspiring. I like her forthrightness - she is her own person. Her main issue? Her daughters.  [But] she could write that chapter on gender.

MG: I don’t think she’s going to be another Hillary Clinton - I don’t think she’s going to play a big role. Hopefully there will be other women around [President Obama] to be more active.


The panelists move on to immigration reform. ABS: Progressive immigration reform is in the best interest of Joe the Plumber. We need to convince people that immigrants contribute to the economy, guarantee rights in the workplace, and stop this two-tiered workforce. Obama worked for The Fence. This is not a losing issue — there is a moment, an opportunity - now it’s more important than ever. And need to talk about trade policy too. We must lead with a progressive vision: fair, but in people’s economic best interests.  We need to talk about resistance among communities, competing for jobs…


Question: Is abortion covered under Massachusetts health care plan?

LR: The word "abortion" is not there. Under the Hyde amendment, federal funds do not cover abortion. When you sell out abortion rights, you sell out women. I am tired of the Roe fight; we need to move on to new technologies…this is not up for debate. The middle ground does not start on our bodies.



The panelists have achieved a lot.  What do we need to do to keep the momentum going?  For instance, college age activists without resources - what do you suggest we do?

AEM: Do what you want to accomplish.

MG: You can get paid for [work that you believe in], there are so many ways, and you don’t have to do it in your free time. You get paid frighteningly little…Washington will now have a lot of opportunities.


Closing remarks

AEM: Out of Iraq, Afghanistan.

BA: The economy, the wars and health care reform.  We all need each other.  This is going to go on for a long time.  We need each other.

LR: Like Byllye’s top three - just had a fight between a neo conservative and neo liberal — not necessarily a win for me. We’re going to have to work up our understanding of what it’s going to take to not talk only with people who agree with us. We have not learned how to speak to those who disagree with us. To finally get a progressive, human rights candidate out there. We have to stop it with the haters. The 40 million who did not vote for him, we need them too. We need to be less self-righteous.


PR: 1) Would like to have safe spaces for people to have discussions on this. Politics of belonging, we’ve got to move on as a nation. 2) Internationalize the policies — stop thinking only about the United Sates. and 3) move into a politics of non-violence, a new way to solve conflict. A new ethics and ethos - problem-solving and conflict resolution - women around the world understand this - it transcends class and race.


ABS: media piece - if we don’t have these debates - I look at the map and look at all these people who don’t want these policies…I’m nervous about what’s going to happen next. I look through a class lens. Senator Clinton is important - she has a strong network. She may have a role. We should thank her and and ask her what is she going to do to lead us?  Look at the cities: people are losing their jobs and their homes. Obama needs to do that without bailing out the banks.


MG: [We need to create a] great society that people are invested in.


Panel concludes.

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