Monday, October 29, 2012

Musings on the NOW Conference: Young Feminists Organizing

This post is part of a series discussing the 2012 National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference: Energize! Organize! Stop the War on Women.

After the Mothers and Caregivers Summit were sessions that were “Just for Fun,” so I attended a laughter yoga session run by Ramana Lailah Heyman. The whole point of laughter yoga is to just crack up for no reason at all. It was definitely interesting, and left me feeling invigorated and refreshed for Plenary V: Young Feminists Organizing. I was unable to take notes on this session, since it was Shabbat (the Sabbath) and Orthodox Jews are prohibited to write, but I’ll do my best to share what was said and my impressions of the session.

As a young feminist and member of NOW's Young Feminist Task Force, I really appreciated that time was set aside to talk about young women’s accomplishments. It always frustrates me when older feminists ignore or marginalize my generation. We are the ones who will maintain current feminist wins and fight for further gains, so it’s important that women’s rights advocates understand how vital we are to the future of feminism. I’m glad to see that NOW agrees.

NOW Action VP Erin Matson and NOW President Terry O’Neill introduced the Woman of Courage Award winner, Sandra Fluke. Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, was barred from testifying in front of Congress about no-copay birth control, so she went on to speak only before House Democrats. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh went on a three-day attack on Fluke, calling her a slut and prostitute and otherwise casting aspersions on her character because she believes the government should insure birth control. (Yeah, I know.) Fluke spoke about her experience within the advocacy world and what it was like being in the national spotlight for being pro-birth control and getting slammed by Limbaugh. By far my highlight of this session was when we made eye contact. I kid you not, I made eye contact WITH SANDRA FLUKE. It was amazing to connect with such an influential feminist that way. Hearing about what Fluke went through in such detail really shocked me, but what struck me the most was how Fluke had the intestinal fortitude and sheer bravery and courage to withstand the insults and criticism that were hurled at her. I don’t know if I could have ever been brave enough to testify in front of Congress, let alone deal with the fire and brimstone that followed. Fluke truly deserves the distinction of Woman of Courage.

After Fluke, Krystal Ball, an MSNBC contributor, political writer, activist, and former congressional candidate, spoke. When Limbaugh slandered Fluke, she was on the frontlines defending the law student and (successfully) turning public opinion against Limbaugh. In addition to discussing this, she also spoke about her fruitless bid for Congress. It's a shame that she was not voted in, since she would be an awesome addition to Congress. I forget if she or Matson credited this unfortunate loss to the country’s backlash against the Democratic party. With the election coming up, it’s important that people vote for pro-woman candidates, otherwise women’s rights are seriously doomed.

She was followed by Tamika Mallory, national executive director of one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, National Action Network (NAN). Mallory spoke about her experience as a young woman in a position of power, how her entire life was defined by civil rights advocacy, minority women’s issues, and the importance of activism and getting up and doing something. She was interesting to listen to, and I found her in-depth discussion of (feminist) activism and how successful it can be enlightening. I also appreciated her perspective as a young African-American woman refreshing, since it's unfortunately pretty scarce within the mainstream feminist movement.

I really enjoyed and appreciated this session as a whole. I sincerely hope that young women will continue to advocate for women’s rights like Fluke, Ball, and Mallory.

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