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Life After Kavanaugh Confirmation

Christine-Blasey-Ford-triumphantAnita Hill

Hello readers,

Where are we as activist feminists after the disastrous confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court?  I chose the above photo of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford for its strong and cheerful outlook, despite the pain I think we all are feeling.  Anita Hill, too – she is still out there kicking! There is so much pride and joy in seeing a woman stand up to power the way she did.  And I have much hope that this will re-energize our work.

I haven’t written for a long time, myself reeling from the painful dismantling of the Minnesota Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women more than a year ago.  My project has been on hold (since before that) to publish a video and book series (Unfinished Business) highlighting the way forward for our movement, based on interviews with 36 women in 8 states.  (You can still see the first few episodes I did publish – just surf below on this blog.)  Two reasons for the hiatus.  One, while I am strongly supportive of Black Lives Matter, the movement for transgender rights, and the vital importance of “intersectionality” with all human rights and environmental issues, I often felt the energy was lacking for focus on what I now call the classical women’s issues.  Two, I have been enjoying and working on what it means to be retired, exploring community, health, relationships, family, and creative undertakings I had neglected for all those workaholic years.

By the way – What are the classical women’s issues?  I’ve simplified the 30+ issues from the Houston Plan of 1976 and Beijing Platform of 1985 to these five dreams:  51% representation of women everywhere;  health and health care that recognizes and supports women’s bodies as central to the human condition;  human rights and self-determination including abortion rights, lesbian rights, and right to an equal education;  safety and peace in our homes, communities, and the world; and economic justice including earnings, business, child support, pensions, and ending poverty.

But now, as we are all still reeling from daily Trump horrors, rise of the echoing right wing everywhere including our once-progressive Minnesota, and this Kavanaugh thing, I feel a little seed of energy coming back for “women’s work” – and hope you might, too.  I am reminded of the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, when Anita Hill powerfully spoke out.  There too it seemed we lost.  But the women’s movement was revitalized.  I dare to quote from In the Company of Women (Watkins and Rothchild, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1996):

“In 1991, the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the treatment of Anita Hill for her testimony on sexual harassment re-energized the movement.  The growing conservative mood of the country and the heightened power of the political Right brought home the fragility of women’s gains.  For many early feminists, none of this came as a surprise.  They had settled in for the long haul…”

Well, I am constantly surprised by the depth of misogyny and the shamelessness of patriarchy/capitalism.  But I am in this for the long haul!  I can’t say much more right now in part because I am working hard for the elections coming in just a few weeks.  But I hope you are there, maybe thinking and working and getting ready for another powerful wave of love, joy, laughter, and fixing the world.

PS: You may have come to this page seeking a group called US Women Connect, a member organization of the Minnesota Women’s Consortium.  I hope you will hear more about, and be a part of, THAT, in the months to come.  It’s on my agenda.   

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October 17, 2018 · 11:16 am

Road Trip Back East

Dear Friends of Unfinished Business, Although I have hours of editing yet to do for the dozens of interviews completed to date, I needed to hear from some more states and futurists – so I’m just back from a 10-day trip to New England and New York.  5 days of fun with friends, and 5 days of travel and interviews – which also seemed like fun with friends.  It was a great pleasure and big help to have a traveling crew – Olivia Wolf, who has just completed her first year at Macalester College, my alma mater, and a videographer in her own right.  Olivia lives in Portland, Oregon when not in school here in St Paul, and in her younger days lived in New York City.  Lucky for me, not only did she do all the setup and camerawork (with two cameras) for the interviews we undertook, but also I got to crash in her brother’s apartment on 56th Street when we were there, and she performed miracles of subway reconnaissance on her phone.  She was great company all around too.

Big big thanks also to two old friends.  Susal Stebbins I know from the 1990s when she was the lobbyist for Minnesota NOW before her travels to Nepal, Oregon, and many other places, now beautifully ensconced in Brattleboro, Vermont.  She introduced us to two wonderful women, picked us up at the Amtrak station, hosted us for three evenings (I got to sleep in her inspiring meditation room), drove us all over tarnation, cooked yummo fish tacos… all in addition to her serious gardening, college advising job and many other projects.  Christine Halvorson must have been around the same era when she was assistant director at the MN Commission on the Economic Status of Women, then in her new life as “the only paid blogger in the country” she became my social media guru, as she continues to be for many, in addition to producing the New Hampshire show about the fictional town of “Frost Heaves.”   Christine also found us the perfect woman to interview, drove us more than four hours to and from Portsmouth, helped with all kinds of setup and backdrop, pointed out the sights including best place to get real coffee… and, like Susal, joined in the warm, funny, intelligent conversation in the car on those long drives. Simply  wonderful women.

TINY summary of the interviews – I can hardly wait to edit!  The names are added to the top tab on “Guests and Crew” which is now at a total of 44 interviewees (wahoo!) and 20 crew (some overlap, not enough, as all the crew are good thinkers too), in 8 states.  Geography-wise, I think I will need to somehow get to the Southeast and Deep South… later.   In Keene New Hampshire, we interviewed Dottie Miller, Chief Officer for Diversity and Multiculturalism at Keene State College, New Hampshire, and her work-study aide Kirsten Agla who is 18 and a sophomore studying Spanish and sustainable product design.  Dottie:  “We don’t need to do the Olympics of Oppression.”  Then on to Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where we interviewed Emily Rimmer who is the director of Women’s and Queer Services and runs the Center for Feminisms and the Queer Community Alliance Center.  Emily is 33 – wonderful age diversity on this trip.  In response to the hard questions about (for instance) melding trans-gender and feminist issues, she says, “We have to let it be messy.”

Next day we were off to Portsmouth NH to interview Mary Jo Brown, founder and president of Brown and Company Design, as well as president and first board chair for the two-year old New Hampshire Women’s Initiative, a merger of key government and nonprofit organizations bringing women together, and which this year contributed greatly to passage of a new state pay equity law.  With Mary Jo on her beautiful red couch were NHWI staffers Stephanie Kuhn and Nyomi Guzman, one in her senior year at college and the other a recent college grad.  All three are inspiring in their innovative thinking and commitment – and Mary Jo might just help us publicize the 10-word billboard messages interviewees have been thinking up.

Finally, another Amtrak ride later, back in Manhattan we got to interview three more really smart women:  Liz Abzug, daughter of the Congressmember and early feminist superhero, Ebony Wilkinson, and Christiana Desrosiers. Liz is (besides so many other great and wise things) the founder of the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute which provides leadership coaching and mentoring to middle school girls, high school girls, and college women in the tri-state area.  Ebony and Christiana are graduates of the BALI program and now program associates.  They (like the other 900 women who’ve been through the BALI program) have been unleashed into the world, and the world will be a better place for that.  I want to get this program here in the midwest – at least.  So much more that I learned on this trip, so I had better get to editing so I can share this good thinking with you!

Manhattan women



Portsmouth NH women

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June 8, 2014 · 10:18 am