The Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus (DA GWC) - as women and mothers- and human beings are appalled and revolted by the current Administration’s policy of separating children from their immigrant parents. It is abhorrent and a blatant violation of human rights. All of us in our Country Chapters and our Women’s Caucuses are organizing events to protest this inhuman policy. Please make your voices heard. And do visit the Democrats Abroad link on this issue at http://www.democratsabroad.org/keep_families_together.
I’m Michelle Cummings-Koether, and I am the new Women’s Caucus Chair for Germany. I am here to help coordinate Women’s topics and events in Germany, and to try to place a focus on important Women’s topics for Democrats Abroad. I look forward to working with the various Chapters and Precincts in Germany, to help keep a bright light on topics that affect Women in the United States.
A little about myself. I was born in the US and have spent my life traveling between the US and Germany. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now live in Munich. When I am not fighting for Women’s topics, I work as an interculturalist, consulting American and European companies on how to work together. I also teach intercultural topics at three universities in Munich and Augsburg. To help me regain footing and to help me keep focused, I hang out with my dog while she works as a therapy assistant dog with disabled kids.
I would also like to announce that the Women’s Caucus will be holding the Germany Women's Caucus Workshop (Open to Democrats Abroad Worldwide) on September 22nd in Berlin. With the theme “refocus, revisit, resist & re-empower” we will hold an all day event followed by dinner. This event will be open to all DA members worldwide. Please RSVP today. More details to follow.
I am looking forward to this new opportunity and the challenges that will arise. As my consultancy takes me all across Germany, I hope to meet with some of the Chapters personally soon. If you need to reach me, my email is email@example.com.
By: Meghan Feeks
May was a huge month for Democratic women. Primaries in 11 states and a runoff in Texas advanced women to the general election throughout the country, bringing the total number of female Democratic nominees for Senate, House and governor so far to 67 (Republicans have nominated another 11).
With an unprecedented number of women running for national office this year — and many more still running for state and local office — women candidates (particularly Democrats) are on track to smash records in 2018. But it’s not just the number of women that’s making history: in Georgia, Stacey Abrams became America’s first-ever black, female nominee for governor. In Kentucky’s 6thdistrict, Democrats handed the congressional nomination to Amy McGrath, the first female marine to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat.
Meanwhile, Texas Democrats nominated two women who could also make history: if elected, Gina Ortiz Jones would become the first woman, lesbian, Iraq war veteran and Filipina-American to represent her state’s 23rd district in Congress. And Lupe Valdez, the Democratic nominee for governor, could become the first openly gay, Latina governor of the Lone Star State.
An urgent need
With hundreds of Democratic women still in the running for national and state office, the number of women on the ballot in November is set to continue growing. But just as May brought hope of seeing greater and more diverse representation of women in government, it also brought painful reminders of how urgently it’s needed.
As Ireland voted to overturn its constitutional abortion ban, the Trump administration announced a domestic “gag rule” that would cut funding for any healthcare provider that offers abortions — or even information about how and where to obtain one.
In Santa Fe and Noblesville, two school shootings (the 22nd and 23rd school shootings this year) once again laid bare America’s gun violence problem — an issue that disproportionately affects women and particularly women of color.
In New York City, the arrest of film director Harvey Weinstein on rape charges represented one baby step on a long and grueling path to justice for the 1-in-6 American women who have survived sexual assault, and the 81% of women who have experienced sexual harassment.
Heading into Pride Month, we recognize the significant obstacles still facing the LGBTQ community following its deadliest year ever in the US, with transgender women accounting for 72% of anti-LGBTQ homicides.
And on the heels of Memorial Day, as we remember the American ideals our fallen heroes died defending, we also remember that it’s up to all of us — regardless of gender, race, class or creed — to fight, every day, to ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.
Putting women in their place
These are just a handful of the reasons we need more women in government, especially in a Congress where men still outnumber women 4-to-1. For when women win elections, all women win: research shows that women politicians push much harder for policies that support women and children or address issues like education, health, poverty and civil rights. Women are also much more likely to support gun control, and when it comes to working across the aisle, they also tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.
With many women Democratic nominees facing tough odds in their races this fall, the DAUK Women’s Caucus is determined to help as many as possible make it over the finish line. To this end, we will be working with the Global Women’s Caucus to highlight and mobilize support for Democratic women who are heading to the general election.
We invite women (and likeminded allies) everywhere to join our cause — for behind every powerful woman, there must be a whole tribe of other powerful women who have her back.
Early support is critical to ensure these candidates can put their funding and resources to the best possible use, so we urge you to find the female candidate you like best, and get behind her in any way that you can — whether it’s through donations, phone-banking, postcard-writing or simply talking to your friends and family about why you support her.
For real-time status updates on all women candidates running for US Congress and statewide elected executive, check out the summary and complete list maintained by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.
To learn more about and support pro-choice female candidates, visit EMILY’s List.
Caucuses Are Good For What Ails You!
by Connie Borde
Feeling lonely? Thinking no one hears? No one cares? Well, join a caucus! The Global Women’s Caucus interacts with women around the world and gives them a platform to DO something about issues that concern them.
At the DPCA meeting in Tokyo several caucuses presented their programs and showed what they can do to make the Democratic Party sit up and take notice.
The Global Women’s Caucus works together to promote the interests of women: candidates (information sheets and webex calls with them), women’s rights (we avidly support the Equal Right Amendment, back on the table again after lying dormant for a few decades), marches and demonstrations – over 30 this year - (against Trump, against gun violence, for choice, #metoo…), and most important, we we work on real projects together.
We knit pussy hats, we make a fundraising Women’s Calendar every year (raised $6000 for the DPCA in 2018), we share ideas with LBGTQ women, with Black women, we discuss intersectionality and ways we can help each other. We are definitely not hermetic.
Where else could a mother of 5 who home-schools her children in Canada, a young feminist activist in Germany, and two over-70 translators from Paris put their literary interest to the test and form a global book club entitled Books Abroad?
That’s us and more: a 2-way road that we’re taking to make America blue, us to you and you to us.
11 ways U.S. expats can help rock the midterms
By Meghan Feeks
It ain’t easy being “blue” these days, but things are definitely looking up. Special and state elections have brought Democrats to power in key states, and the latest polls have Democrats holding a double-digit lead over Republicans for the 2018 midterms.
Also encouraging, a record number of women (mostly Democrats) are running for Congress this year — more than twice as many as in 2016. And having turned out in force to flip GOP seats in recent elections, women are also taking the lead in grassroots movements around the country to engage voters, promote progressive candidates and turn anger into impact when we go to the polls this November.
These gains feel good after more than a year of hard knocks. But with the midterms still several months off, Democrats still have much at stake, and nothing must be taken for granted. The good news is there’s a lot that the 9 million US expats who make up the “51st state” can do to make a difference when America votes this fall. Here are 11 ways we can help:
1. Vote — and make sure you register to vote in time. This should be obvious, but the sad fact is, only 12% of Americans abroad vote in presidential elections and even fewer in midterm, state and local elections. Fortunately, it’s now possible for all US citizens to obtain and in many cases submit absentee ballots electronically. But this is important: you need to request one every year. Just because you voted in the 2016 general election, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get your ballot in 2017 and beyond. To register to vote in 2018 online, visit VoteFromAbroad.org, or access the site through the ‘vote’ menu on the Democrats Abroad website. For more information on voting from overseas, including links to helpful resources, see the State Department’s handy guide.
2. Help register fellow expats to vote. Once again, Democrats Abroad is planning voter registration events around the world, but relies on volunteers to give voters the information they need to obtain and submit their ballots. To learn more about becoming a voter registration volunteer, click here or contact your local chapter of Democrats Abroad.
3. Vote in the 2018 Democratic primaries. As a registered Democrat, you’re entitled to vote in House and Senate primaries, which will unfold over the coming months. This is a great opportunity to advance Democratic candidates that support your values and have a positive vision for the party’s future. To get the 411 on primaries in the state where you’re registered to vote, check out this overview on Ballotpedia.org.
4. Support Democratic candidates in key national races. This fall, candidates will compete for all 435 seats in the House and 34 seats in the Senate (23 of which are currently held by Democrats). All these contests are important, and no seat should be considered “safe.” However, the battle for control of Congress will likely boil down to a few key races in the House and Senate. Support Democratic candidates in these elections, regardless of where you’re registered to vote. Visit EMILY’s List to learn more about pro-choice, female candidates, or if you prefer to stick closer to your hometown, visit SwingLeft.org to find nearby swing districts that need your help most. Pro tip: to maximize your donation’s impact, contribute directly to your favorite candidate’s campaign, rather than through party organizations that support them (Senator Kirsten Gillibrand shared this nugget at a recent fundraiser in London, noting that individual candidates can take out ads for half of what, say, the DCCC would pay).
5. Don’t forget state and local elections. Down-ballot, state and local elections may not sound that sexy, but taking a lead from the Tea Party, progressive, grassroots movements are increasingly targeting them to make America bluer from the bottom up. Many states allow US expats to vote in these contests, but even if yours doesn’t, there are still ways you can help. To learn more, check out the Sister DistrictProject, Flippable.org, RunForSomething.net and Indivisible.org. To connect with fellow expats from your state, join a Facebook State Group here.
6. Ensure all voices are heard. Last year’s elections were good not just for Democrats, but also for diversity: around the country, women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests. Help our party represent the interests of all its members by supporting candidates with diverse and intersectional profiles. Click on the links here to learn more about black women, Muslim women, Latinas, Native Americans, LGBTQ candidates and other people of color who are running for office in 2018.
7. Engage with voters. So we can’t go from door-to-door, but there are still lots of ways we can engage voters from afar. Volunteer to phone-bank for Democratic candidates, either directly or through grassroots organizations that support them. Postcard campaigns throughPostcardsToVoters.org are another cool and quirky way to connect with fellow Democrats and encourage them to vote. Get your American expat friends on board to have more fun, increase your impact and hold each other accountable.
8. Organize or attend a political fundraiser or “action party.” US expats can independently organize political fundraisers or “action parties” to support specific candidates and Democratic organizations. Contact your favorite candidate to coordinate a house party with a video or Skype link, and circulate the appropriate contribution link and compliance form. Note that all expenses must be reported and contributions can only be received from US citizens or permanent residents (it’s the law). For those who wish to contribute their time and energy (either instead of or in addition to a financial donation), set a clear call to action. To stay informed about fundraisers being held in your country, join the Americans Abroad Facebook Group and keep an eye on your local Democrats Abroad newsletter. To hear from Democratic candidates and politicians directly (and at Europe-friendly times), sign up for the fantastic phone-call series organized by fellow expat Mark Bergman.
9. Stand for something. Anger with the Trump administration may get people to the polls, but it’s no substitute for a long-term strategy. Call on Democratic officials and candidates to define a clear and positive vision for the party and set concrete policy goals to support it. Do your part to promote this vision in your families, communities and social networks. For every expression of outrage you see or share on social media, post something positive that points to a solution.
10. Take action to improve election security and combat fake news. The midterms are under serious threat of foreign interference, but — surprise, surprise — the Trump administration is doing nothing about it. Call on Congress to pass the Election Security Act and demand to know what your elected officials are doing to secure elections in your district. Be on alert for fake news and call out misinformation when you see it. Equally important, support real news by buying a subscription to a reputable news source. Established, big-name outlets such as the Washington Post are always a good bet, but don’t forget about cash-strapped local papers, which play a critical role in holding local governments accountable.
11. Share your international perspectives. As an American living abroad, you have a unique point of view. Talk to friends and family members in the US about how the country you live in approaches issues such as healthcare, education, reproductive rights, gun control and family leave. Discuss the implications of US policies outside its borders and how the Trump administration is affecting America’s image in the world. To spread the word further, consider sharing these thoughts in an op-ed in your hometown or college newspaper.
The midterms are a critical milestone that require our laser focus, but there are plenty of other things US expats can do every day to support our democracy — and they needn’t take much time! For more ideas, sign up for Democrats Abroad’s “Tiny Actions” newsletter, or check out the HuffPost article I wrote on the subject last year. Have more ideas on how to rock the midterms and stay politically active from overseas? Please share in the comments!
Meghan Feeks is living in London and loving it, but always a New Yorker at heart. Communicator by day, writer by night, tango dancer by midnight.
Democrats around the world are gathering in Tokyo in May for our DA 2018 Global meeting.
As we continue our series on women’s policy around the world, now is the perfect time to take a look at a country that is in the process of developing policy to address the issues of women in the workforce.
By Nancy Coleman, Ph. D.
The Japanese Government
Emperor Akihito and his family
Japan is a constitutional monarchy with the Emperor as the ceremonial head of state. The power of the Emperor is limited to duties such as appointing the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But it is the legislature that makes the actual decision as to who will be PM, and the Cabinet actually designates the Chief Justice. Like other democracies, the Japanese government is divided into three branches, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. The Cabinet, consisting of the Ministers of State and the Prime Minister, directs and controls the Government. The legislature is the National Diet, and it consists of two houses: the House of Councillors, the upper house, and the House of Representatives, the lower house.
Despite the fact that the royals have little actual power, their symbolic impact is considerable. The present Emperor and Empress are Akihito and Michiko. Michiko was born a commoner, the first to marry into the Japanese imperial family, but her family was prominent and well off, and Michiko received an excellent education, studying in Tokyo, as well as at Harvard and Oxford. Akihito's mother strongly opposed the marriage, but the match had broad popular support. As Empress, Michiko has become the symbol of the modernization and democratization of Japan. The Empress is expected to embody traditional values such as modesty and purity. She is supposed to be the personification of an ideal Japanese woman, the epitome of pure, feminine beauty, called yamato nadeshiko. Michiko has been a dutiful exponent of these qualities, adding to her popularity. Even so, she has challenged some parts of the traditional role of Empress, breastfeeding her children and being more visible and accessible in her official duties.Read more
International Chair Julia Bryan issued the following remarks for International Women’s Day 2018:
Before I flew to Washington this week I hugged my daughter and said, “Stay strong, work hard, and treat your brother the way you’d like him to treat you.”
Caroline’s fourteen, and already an ardent activist. In 2016, she saw Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as an “of course” moment. Of course there would be a woman president. Her world seemed equal, the past’s prejudices disappearing as the generations shifted.
When Clinton lost the election, my daughter realized, as so many of us did, that we still had a lot of work to do.
Today on International Women’s Day, I remember the numerous times women have been reminded that equality is not as near as we might believe. Think of Abigail Adams writing her husband in 1776, asking him to “remember the ladies” when he created our new nation’s code of laws. We know how well that turned out.
And even Women’s Day, launched in 1909 to celebrate women and push for greater equality: It’s a bittersweet day as we reflect 109 years later that we still have a ways to go on that goal.
So our “of course” moment has not yet arrived. Women must often work harder than men to earn less and run farther to get to the same place.
But some things have changed. After Hillary’s loss in 2016, women didn’t just sit down again. They rose up and launched the persistence movement. This year thousands of women are running for office at all levels of government. Kathleen Matthews, chair of Maryland state party, says that women are both tremendously motivated to run and that organizations and parties are deliberately finding women candidates to run. The results are evident in every state election this midterm.
That’s heartening news and a reminder that history is not a straight line. As President Obama said, it zigs and it zags.
This is also true of our story. Today, as we remember the many zigs and zags of women’s empowerment in the US and around the world, I ask all of you who have joined the persistence movement to stay strong, work hard, and, as I told Caroline, treat your brother (and sister) the way you’d like to be treated yourself.
The Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus fully supports the hundreds of March For Our Lives events taking place around the world on March 24th, in solidarity with the youth and families of March For Our Lives who will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings.
As women, we cannot tolerate the gross negligence of the American government which permits horrific mass murders of our nation's children in schools, simply because Congress refuses to pass sensible laws restricting the purchase of assault weapons to keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them.
The Global Women's Caucus also recognizes and reminds everyone that the gun violence epidemic affects women very specifically. Domestic violence and gun ownership overlap in the US where 40% of American households own guns. 80% of those killed by gun violence at the hands of an intimate partner are women. And American women are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than women of any other country. As former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford put it at the 2015 Domestic Violence Awareness Summit:
“dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue. For mothers, for families, for me and you”.
We urge all members of Democrats Abroad and the Global Women’s Caucus to change this paradigm by joining, supporting or hosting an event, by registering to vote and getting friends and family to register to vote and by making sure to VOTE out the NRA and the GOP in 2018.
Americans overseas can use: http://www. votefromabroad.org to get all you need register/request a ballot, and vote. DO IT NOW!
For all information on the March 24 rallies, marches and other events in your country, please check with your Country Committee Chair or, you don’t have a Country Committee, check with your Regional Vice Chairs. We also invite you to visit the GWC caucus page on the Democrats Abroad website: http://www.democratsabroad.org/wc_events as we will be posting events as we receive them from our members.
If you have any questions, please contact the GWC Co Chairs, Ann Hesse and Salli Swartz at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"We are celebrating women's history month by highlighting historical
brave, bold and breakthrough women. We are also featuring many of the
faces in the Black women's community who have done so much to build our
nation. These women, many of them lesser known, offered their lives to
the improvement of humanity and to improving the conditions of women. We
can be proud to stand on the foundation that they have built. I have
learned so much from their stories."
Christina Skovsgaard, Oslo
CAROLINE F. WARE
Caroline “Lina” Ware, was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts into a prominent, generous family in 1899. She received her education at Vassar, Radcliff and Harvard (PhD), in 1925.
She was one of the most innovative historians of her day, she astonished the profession when her PhD dissertation won a $10,000 prize. She had demonstrated that the early cotton mills of New England set the pattern for the future industrial development of the country and changed the nature of rural life, especially for young women. Ware's dissertation became a well-reviewed book, yet the only satisfactory job she could find was back at Vassar, where she was soon recognized as a master teacher. Ware moved to New York in 1931 in order to join her husband, Gardiner Means. During this time, Ware worked on a community study of Greenwich Village. She published her research in a groundbreaking book titled, “Greenwich Village”. She found a job in the Department of Agriculture and soon became "the person to call". Ware became involved in President Roosevelt’s New Deal, specifically creating a new field called “consumer affairs”.
When the war started there was less interest in the problems of consumers. She was already teaching constitutional history at Howard, the nation's preeminent black university. When Pauli Murray, a second-year law student, asked to audit her class, the two women became good friends. As a two-person civil-rights movement, they organized Howard students for marches and sit-ins and integrated two restaurants. They also set a personal example of ignoring color in their social lives. Ware remained at Howard until 1961.
Her 70-acre farm was a favorite haunt of young New Dealers setting out to change the world. Visitors included diplomats and leaders of all sorts of causes, any of whom might be put to work as what Ware labeled IBUL: "intelligent but unskilled labor”.
President Roosevelt appointed Ware to be deputy to Harriet Elliott, the consumer representative of a National Defense Advisory Commission. After resigning from her position in the National Defense Advisory Commission, Ware joined the Office of Price Administration consumer advisory group.
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy selected Caroline Ware to be a member of the President's Commission on the Status of Women.
She and her husband, Gardiner Means, donated the seventy acres of land as a public park. They were also environmentalists before there was such a term. She died in 1990.
A GWC Panel Discussion
by Jessica Craig, DA Women's Caucus Barcelona
The Global Women’s Caucus kicked off the EMEA Regional Meeting in Madrid (9th – 11th February) with a timely and provocative panel discussion about “Power, Sex and #MeToo: Now what?”. The informal and fun atmosphere of New Orleans-style restaurant, Gumbo, helped create a feeling of warmth and closeness between the diverse panellists and audience. For those of us Democrats Abroad who have only been following the outrageous stories about Weinstein, etc in social media and in the press, and who are living in countries that have not yet been as impacted by #MeToo and #TimesUp as the US (and to a lesser extent the UK), this was a welcome opportunity to step back from the hashtags and headlines and to discuss with fellow Americans the underlying social and political issues, as well as to assess the potential for lasting change.
Anne Hesse, Co-Chair of Global Women’s Caucus warmed up the room by raising key issues and questions. In recent history, we seem to have moved through three stages in the US, socially and politically. And, the Democratic party has not always made the best choices:
With Anita Hill, came a new definition of Sexual Harassment. Senator Biden could have come to her defense, backed her up, but he didn’t. What is our liability as Democrats now?
Then came the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” era of President Clinton. Will we finally address this? Or remain vulnerable to all the "yeah-but-isms from the other side?
We have now arrived in a tough “Zero Tolerance Zone” Are some, like Senator Franken having to pay extra because we looked the other way with Clinton?
How well do we understand the concept of intersectionality? Do we understand that some women face layers and layers of oppression? Do we understand that privilege is not just about skin color? That class. education, sexual orientation, disabilities, all play a role?
Is a simple thing like grammar undermining us? When we say "John beat Jane", John is the subject. And we all ask “what the hell is wrong with John?” But when we say “Jane was beaten….. by John”, “or worse, “Jane is a battered woman,” then the problem belongs to Jane. What’s wrong with Jane? Or, What did Jane do wrong? What about John? Where’s John? How do we make this about John’s problem?
And what about the Enablers? There are 3 actors on this stage: The Perpetrator, The Victim, and The Bystanders: The friends, co-workers, teammates, supporters, fans, spouses. How can we, as bystanders do a better job of supporting the victim…and isolating the perpetrator?
There is bound to be confusion, gray areas, and push-back as we transition. It’s exactly these gray areas we need to explore. Let’s explore these questions and more today in an atmosphere of equality, empathy and trust: As men and women simply trying to live together in peace. As Democrats trying to win a crucial election And as Democrats Abroad, trying to engage our far-flung, And very diverse voters.
The first question from GWC Co-chair Salli Swartz to the panel was “Is #MeToo going to change anything?” And the panellists overall were cautiously optimistic. Anne Bagamery, an independent journalist based in Paris and former senior editor of the International Herald Tribune/International New York Times, said she is impressed and encouraged by the sheer numbers – so many stories, so many areas of economy and culture, and so many parts of the world that are paying attention. She believes this movement has “critical mass”, especially because so many young people are involved. Ronda Zelezny-Green, an African-American mobile technologist, educator and researcher based in London, also commented on the extraordinary numbers powering this movement. “Between 2010-2017 there were 96 million tweets relating to sexual harassment and there has not been any other hashtag used as much as #MeToo.” Ronda also thinks the movement has become more influential and “intersectional” after the incursion of “popular white women” helped publicize the movement that was founded in 2006 by a black woman, Tarana Burke. The youngest of the panellists, Laura Downer, a student at University of Wisconsin – Madison, feels excited that #MeToo is the first big push for change in her lifetime, and that for millennials it now feels like “our turn” to push forward. The only note of ambivalence on the panel was from Leselle Marie Hatcher, a multi-racial daughter of an immigrant, and a musician and writer from NYC currently based in Madrid. Leselle agreed with the comments of the previous panellists, but pointed out that “a hashtag in of itself is not change and will not effect legal change”, and we absolutely must not rest on our laurels.
Michael Elias, the one man on the panel, contributed his perspective as a high-level and long-term writer, director and producer of major film and tv in Hollywood. He reminded us that even with all the dirt flying around about Weinstein and others, behaviour in Hollywood has changed since the 1970s and it has become a more “careful” and “respectful” place. But clearly there was an industry-wide blindspot about Weinstein. Michael said “When I would talk to producers or agents about working with him, they would say ‘he’s a thief’, ‘a monster’, ‘a bully’. But they would never say he was a sexual predator.” And there has been a double-standard among men when it comes to actresses. “I dealt with a lot of powerful women – executives and producers – they had power and no one messed with them. But actresses took the brunt of this because they want to work…”
The most powerful response to the next question “How can change be effectuated and how can Democrats get behind this movement?” was from Liselle: “#MeToo has taken away the element of shame for women, and places [sexual abuse] on a global platform, and does away with the silencing. The law is an important tool, but there needs to be change in people on the ground. Police need to start believing women, especially black women and black-trans-women, and all women who say they are feminists need to start believing each other because we have not been so good at that until now.”
Anne added to this her perspective as a veteran journalist, saying while we should applaud the courage of the media, particularly the New York Times and New Yorker, for backing the Weinstein story, the media is also part of the problem in perpetuating stereotypes of women. And the mainstream media is still not giving enough attention to the plight of the trans or LGBT community, nor to people of color. What journalists are supposed to do is, “to shine light into dark corners” and “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” We should start looking more closely at “the people who we reward and what they (mostly men) have done – societally we need to change what we view as a successful person.”
A big part of the confusion around #MeToo is over definitions. How much can we complain about what is sexual abuse or what is sexual harassment? How much culture can go into drawing a line? Liselle’s direct response drew the first laughter mixed with applause from the audience, “No one’s trying stop anyone from getting laid! That’s not what this is about…But sex is more complicated than we want to think…” And in the US, the legacy of the puritans has given us extra obstacles in talking about sex. (So to those anti-#MeToo people in France who misunderstand the #MeToo movement and decry it for imposing American puritanism over libertine sexual relations, isn’t it really about freeing ourselves from puritanism which would have us be silent about sex?) Ronda thinks “We’ve placed far too much responsibility on drawing lines.” As an educator she is always aware that “change starts at home.” And “what are we doing to educate our men and boys, our women and girls?”
So how can we get more men involved in this conversation? Leselle says she tells her male friends, “When you go out, whenever you see something inappropriate, CALL OUT YOUR BOYS!” Both Anne and Michael (the one male panellist), and both representing the 50+ generation, think that younger people have a much better handle on this. There is a more “fluid structure” in their lives, and a “more open conversation going on” between women and men. Ronda thinks we need to find authentic male feminist voices for the cause, men who are interested in more than just likes and tweets. As a society we need to identify and create male champions for women. And again, this kind of change starts at home. Michael had a slightly different perspective, he seemed to doubt that men could be effective as feminists or to believe that women should continue taking the lead with the feminist movement. He said he would tell his sons to get involved in a different issue that still impacts the lives of women, such as to “fight as hard as hell against the NRA”.
One of the last questions for the panel was about an issue central to the Global Women’s Caucus: “Will the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) change our lives?” Most of the panel thought it would be a positive step forward for women, with the one dissenting opinion from Leselle. As a black+latino woman, she reminded us that her people have seen their constitutional rights constantly violated, and so she thinks the ERA would be a “nice gesture at best”. Laura, the youngest panellist, thinks it’s “dumb” we don’t have it in the constitution yet. And that passing it would be an important, not an empty, gesture. It would show incoming generations that women’s rights matter.
Two questions from men in the mostly female audience showed how uncomfortable even Democrat men are in responding to the #MeToo movement. One wanted to know “How can Democrats speak about these issues without pushing away 50% of Americans?” The best response to this was from Leselle: “The Democratic party needs to decide what kind of party it wants to be. I have trouble using the pronoun ‘we’ when I talk about Democrats because I don’t feel it represents me. We need to inspire. We need to more than just ‘not Republican’.” And the final question, awkwardly phrased from a man in the audience, revealed how personal these issues fundamentally are to men as well as to women, and how difficult it is for men to find the best words to describe communication with a woman. We heard in action one of the key questions raised in the intro to the event: “Is a simple thing like grammar undermining us?” Ultimately the man’s question was “How can men and women improve communication?” And just when it seemed like the panel would stay silent unless a psychotherapist appeared in the room, Anne, the journalist, came up with a great answer that reminded us how much the personal and sexual are now thanks to #MeToo inextricably linked to the political. “This is also a political problem and the only way male and female communication will improve is if more men and women are working together in the same room.” We just need to take one look at the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to see how hard we Democrats need to work to bring this improvement about starting in 2018! And even while Democrats are more receptive than Republicans to taking action to address the issues raised by #MeToo, even when it brings up accusations against powerful men in our own party, we still have a lot of deeper listening and learning and changing to do, and this kind of change needs to be happening from the ground up - in our homes, our workplace, and in our own relationships.
The final questions Anne Hesse raised to “warm-up the room” at the start of the event are good to use as further questions we should keep discussing in the Global Women’s Caucus, in our local DA chapters, and in future DA conferences:
What kinds of questions should we as Democrats be asking?
Are we over-punishing our own legislators?
Is it fair to judge yesterday's conduct by today’s new rules?
Could a “zero-tolerance” climate result in keeping even more good, qualified people from running for office?
How do we uphold the “BELIEVE WOMEN” principle without falling prey to politically motivated, or even false accusations?
Is the Speier-Gillibrandt #METOO legislation adequate?
Do we need a South Africa-style “TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION” for our party?
The answers may not come today, but at least we will have begun the conversation. Many thanks to the Global Women’s Caucus for bringing together the topics, questions, and panellists that will help focus and guide us!