March On! Texas

Category: Women’s Rights

Planning The Women’s March – A Silver Lining

Planning The Women’s March – A Silver Lining

I want to tell y’all about my mom. Like most women I know, the older I get the more I appreciate her and everything she has done to help me become the woman I am. Now, I don’t know if she directly set out to raise a feminist or activist, but she most definitely played an invaluable role in helping me become the person I am today.

 

 

My mom taught me what it meant for a woman to be an equal in the home and also run her own business. She taught me the importance of being aware of politics. She taught me the importance of voting. She taught me the importance of giving back and being a productive and active member of your community. I don’t remember her directly talking to me about any of these things, she always taught me through example.

On November 8th, there was no one I would have rather spent election day with than my mom. Before the results came in we sat around the kitchen table talking about how far women have come just from her generation to mine and what it would mean for us to have a woman president.

 

 

I don’t have to tell y’all what happened next. We were devastated, to say the least.

 

The day after the election I was having a hard time finding a reason to get out of bed and go to school. My mom reminded me that if I stop trying, that’s when they truly win. I had to keep learning, working, and doing all of the things I wanted to do, to show them I couldn’t be stopped.

In a clip from Late Night with Seth Myers, Amber Ruffin beautifully summed up this concept when she said –

“By doing what you do every day you prove to them that you are unstoppable. They can spend their time trying to pass laws to take way your rights and silence your voice but all you have to do is live your lives right in their faces and it proves to them that we simply cannot be stopped.”

When I heard about the Women’s March on Washington I wanted more than anything to be there, but knew it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to make the trip. I have a fair amount of activist experience and had organized rallies and marches in the past, so I started making a list of people to contact to start planning a Women’s March on Austin.

Later that very day I got on Facebook and saw I was not the first with this idea, an event page had been created. Shortly after I had a conversation with Melissa Fiero and joined the planning committee.

We were a group of strangers and in less than 50 days we organized what ended up being the largest protest in Texas history. We hoped for a few thousand marchers and final estimates reached 100,000. We could have never predicted such an amazing, warm, peaceful, and uplifting turn out. It was everything we dreamed of and so so much more. Thank you, to all who marched, for far beyond exceeding our expectations.

The day of the March, once again, there was one person I wanted by my side. My mom. She was so excited to be there. But the night before she called to tell me she had to go in for emergency eye surgery for a detached retina. As soon as it occurred to me that this meant she couldn’t march with me, my heart was broken. No matter how she tried to find a way around it, she was on specific doctor’s orders NOT to attend the march under any circumstances. Since we weren’t going to be able to take a photo together at the march, we took a picture together with signs the night before and she made me promise to still enjoy the march as if she was there.

View of the “March to the March” behind me.

 

The day of the march I was in the front with the banner and the dignitaries welcoming and directing marchers as they arrived. I had been focusing my attention towards the capitol and when I turned around to look down congress, I was completely blown away by what I saw. There was a flood of people filling the street walking north, towards the capitol. I immediately started jumping up and down, hugging my fellow organizers, and yelling, “there’s a march TO The March!!”

Then I looked to the east on 11th street and saw another flood of people. I looked west on 11th street, and it was the same scene. That was when it hit me how amazing and monumental this things we were doing was. We were truly making history. It was the happiest and most proud moment of my life.

 

 

 

Photo By Kristi Wright

 

For a moment I stood there, watching the wave of people walking towards me, and I shed a few tears. Overwhelmed by the love, support, and hope I felt from the people surrounding me and wishing my mom was there to see this absolutely majestic sight. Before that moment, I had many reasons for marching, from justice for sexual assault survivors, to my future children. But in that moment, I decided that above all, I was marching for my mom, and everything she taught me.

 

 

Since the Women’s March I have loved hearing stories of people’s experiences at the March. I can’t tell you how many women have told me “that march brought me back to life.” One woman told me that she hadn’t left her house since the election because she was so scared and depressed and when she went to the march she saw that she was not alone. That is what we at March On keep hearing over and over – “I thought I was the only one.”

                You are not alone.

Photo By Mike Holp Photography

 

After the election it would have been too easy for me, or any of us, to fall into a deep depression. And don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard, very hard, but my mom’s advice to keep working and keep doing what I do, no matter what, has kept me going. Planning the Women’s March gave me something positive to focus my energy into. It showed me the good in people, instead of being sucked into the bad.

 

The satisfaction you get from being involved in an issue you are passionate about is not something I currently have the words to describe.

 

So, I challenge you – decide what you are most passionate about. Is it women’s reproductive rights? Is it immigration rights? Is it electing progressive candidates to public office? Whatever it is, find a way to get involved. See for yourself just how satisfying, uplifting, and empowering it can be.

My mom has always taught me to find the bright side or the silver lining in bad situations. Without a doubt, my silver lining of the unexpected results of the 2016 presidential election is the number of everyday people it has motivated into political action.

Now is your time. Now is our time. To have a say in what happens next. To be the change. Don’t miss your chance, get involved, in whatever way that means for you.

March On! Texas!

 

 

Why I march on Texas

By Kevin Hopper

To understand why I march on Texas, you may need to know a little about me. Born and raised in Texas, I attended public Texas schools and colleges. Being the son of a Republican Air Force officer and a Democrat teacher, I understand that the issues that face this state are not partisan, they’re not black or white, and they’re not blue or red. But the truth is we live in a climate where politicians drive a wedge between neighbors and families in the interest of their own personal gain. I march on Texas because I realize the time is now to organize and take action.

 

After graduating from the University of North Texas, I moved to New York to pursue a career as a (struggling) freelancer. When I turned 26, I aged out of my parents’ healthcare. At the time, I was working multiple jobs and struggling just to stay afloat. So when I went to healtchare.gov to find coverage, I was shocked and relieved to find that I qualified for Medicaid. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but coming from a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, I had never seen the system work like it was supposed to. Being young and healthy, I never had to use my Medicaid, but knowing that I was covered in case of an emergency gave me and my parents great peace of mind.

 

Fast forward a couple years, I move back to Texas to pursue a Teacher’s Certification and a career as a Texas public school teacher. Having lost my status as a Texas resident, I spent my first year biding my time until I qualified for in-state tuition. During this time, my financial stability remained about the same as it was in New York (not stable at all), but one thing did change: I lost healthcare coverage.

 

Back on healthcare.gov, I looked up my options for health-insurance providers available to me. Because I lived in Texas, I no longer qualified for Medicaid. And without subsidies, the options available to me here were just not feasible to fit into my budget. Even with the minimum coverage, A $350 monthly premium and a $5000 deductible meant that I was too poor to have healthcare in the State of Texas. My healthcare plan became the emergency room, and there was nothing I could do about it.

 

What I saw on that page was not the failure of the Affordable Care Act, but the outcome of disruptive policies by Texas’ politicians who are willing to destabilize the lives of their own constituents in order to win a rhetorical game for their own gain in the national political theater.

 

When I hear Texans and Texas business owners saying the Affordable Care Act is broken, I can’t help but think to myself, ‘that’s because those in power in this state won’t let it work the way it was designed’. Yes, ACA is not perfect, but the truth has been distorted by disruptive Tea Party politics and self-interested politicians seeking to dismantle public interest, privatize power, and sell our state to corporate oligarchs.

 

I march on Texas because I believe in the public interest. I march on Texas because I believe we are all less free when oligarchs can dismantle our democratically created institutions against the will and interest of the people. And I march on Texas because the time is now to bring about the change we need in this state to ensure all Texans have access to preventative healthcare and are provided for when they are sick or in need of medicine.

6 Months After I Didn’t March

6 Months After I Didn’t March

“Where were you on the day of the Women’s March?”  It’s going to be one of those snapshot-in-time questions like, “Where were you on 9/11?”  This week, as we pause to reflect about unified civil disobedience, pink pussycat hats and a day of power, I’m almost ashamed to admit where I was:

Having a panic attack on a treadmill.

I had donated to Hillary’s campaign, but didn’t put a sign up on my lawn (too risky).  Half my family voted for Donald Trump and were openly gloating about it to the point where I stopped answering my text messages.

For decades I’ve been voting and everyone knows that you win some, you lose some; this was the first time ever though that I’ve felt scared by the outcome.  Yes, I was pro-Hillary, and although saddened that we didn’t make history with the first woman president, that’s not why I was crying on election night and hyperventilating on inauguration day.  I was (am still!) legitimately frightened that Donald Trump is in charge of the nuclear codes.

Who knew what things white supremacist Stephen K. Bannon was whispering into Donald Trump’s ear and how that would translate into law?  If Trump’s campaign rhetoric was true that would mean that he has a rubber stamp to pass his unconstitutional Muslim ban, reinstate “stop and frisk”, stop supporting the Paris Climate Accord, overturn Roe v. Wade and build that wall.  And with conservatives’ majorities in both chambers and now the Supreme Court too to rubber stamp his ideas, would I even recognize my own country four years from now? 

And then something wonderful happened.  Pictures of the Women’s March…in TEXAS…started entering my newsfeed.  People participated across the globe in the millions and even in Texas!  Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore.  I wasn’t brave enough to go to the march, but they did.

Photo c/o Kristi Wright Photography

I remember reading in history class about peaceful protests and civil rights movements and wondering what I would do if I were in that situation.  Would I get involved or stay safely silent?  On the day of the Women’s March I went through some extreme vetting of my own morals and decided it was time for me to speak up. 

I went to a digital organizing class for Progressives, where I met Melissa Fierro who organized the march in Texas, shattering Texas history that day with 100,000 participants.  There was so much energy she and a group of volunteers formed March On! Texas to keep up the momentum.  March On! Texas has a mission to educate, motivate and activate women to help speak out for issues important to us and to help elect Progressives at the local level. 

Since volunteering with them, I’ve regained a sense of power and optimism that was crushed during the entire campaign season.  Some of the things I participated in included:

·         Blue Ribbon Lobby Day – groups of us got to meet with our representatives at the state capitol and talk about local legislation that was important to us, including women’s reproductive rights, public education and health care. 

Blue Ribbon Lobby Day

·         Help craft and send out weekly marching orders that gave three actions to do that week to help promote our Progressive agenda.

·         Wrote letters to both senators and did a blog post explaining how healthcare directly impacted me and my family and encouraged others to do the same.

·         We asked people throughout the state of Texas to send us names of Progressives running for local elections.  Marchers identified over 70 names, 45 of them women!  One volunteer created an interactive map that linked to candidates’ websites to get the word out.

·         We reached out to the candidates, encouraged people to attend meet-and-greets, volunteer, fundraise, and of course get out there and vote!  16 progressive candidates won, which is a step in the right direction, and also shows us how much further we need to keep going.

Beto O’Rourke with March On Texas women

·         Volunteers supported other groups by sharing events on our calendar and attending marches and information sessions.  If you attended a march for the environment, LBGTQIA, Muslim rights, civil rights, town halls and/or reproductive rights chances are you met someone from March On! Texas there too.

·         In the day of “fake news” and “alternative facts” we have strived to share accurate information through our Facebook page from credible sources and blog posts educating and inspiring people to learn more about local politics and how we can make a difference.

·         We strive to share stories of everyday activists, feminist powerhouses and artists standing up for values we believe in.

The New Activists

So, my message to anyone out there who didn’t march on that day is that you can still make a difference!  Don’t beat yourself up for missing out on one march, because that was yesterday and this is today.   Life is full of small choices you make each and every day and I hope you choose to join us in supporting local Progressive candidates and fighting for women’s rights, equal rights and an inclusive American society.  Let’s make Texas blue again!

March on, y’all!

The Complicated History of Wonder Woman

The Complicated History of Wonder Woman

Aside from Superman and Batman, Wonder Woman ranks as one of the most popular comic book heroes of our times and since the beginning she has been steeped in controversy.

Photo: Dibner Library / NMAH, SI

Perhaps you know the story the story of Wonder Woman?  Here’s a quick backstory, summarized from DC.Wikia.com:

Back in 1200 BC the Greek goddesses gathered all the souls of women murdered by men (save for one, who would become Diana) and placed them on Paradise Island where they became immortal Amazon warriors.  In the 20th century Queen Hippolyta took the soul of the unborn child of the first murdered woman, whom Hippolyta was a reincarnation of, molded some clay by the shore and turned it into a baby girl named Diana, who would one day become known as Wonder Woman.

Blessed by the goddesses, Diana was given gifts like strength, wisdom, courage and some super human powers like running fast and having a very strong threshold for pain.  She was raised by a sisterhood of badass warrior women.

One day the gods said an emissary had to be sent to the Man’s World (aka America).  Queen Hippolyta held a contest and forbid Diana to enter, but like any good rebellious daughter, she disguised herself, won the contest and went off to save the planet from a nuclear holocaust.

She was given a lasso of truth, warrior’s attire, and she also learned to pilot an invisible jet at some point.  She could hold her own against gods and monsters and had a sweet spot for Superman.

That origin story alone is enough to start a conversation at the water cooler.  But what is less know, and I daresay even more controversial, is the history of the comic character’s author, Dr. William Moulton Marston, as documented in the Smithsonian article The Surprising Origin of Wonder Woman as summarized below.

In 1933, the creator of comic books, Maxwell Charles Gaines, was under a lot of pressure from outside forces who viewed the stories as too violent for children.  He read an article in Family Circle by Olive Richard where comic books were defended by psychologist Dr. Marston as not promoting torture or violence but to inspire heroes to save the damsels in distress.  Dr. Marston not only held a Harvard degree, but was also widely credited as inventing the lie detector machine.  (Hence, we have the lasso of truth.)

Gaines decided to hire Marston as a consultant to refute claims that comics were bad for kids.

What Gaines didn’t know was that the woman who wrote the article wasn’t really Olive Richard; her name was Olive Byrne.  And she didn’t just visit Marston to write an article, she lived with him.  In 1925 she was his former psychology student and became his lover, even though he was already married to a lawyer named Elizabeth Holloway.

Marston (right) gives a woman a lie detector test while Bryne (left) records the answers. Photo: Smithsonian.com

But wait, there’s more.  He gave his wife an ultimatum: either Bryne moved in or he would get a divorce.  (Bryne moved in.)  And between 1928 and 1933 each woman had two children by him.  This was kept secret and they told people that Bryne was a widowed relative who lived with them.

That wasn’t the only secret.  Bryne’s aunt was one of the most important feminists of the 20th century, Margaret Sanger.  Margaret and Bryne’s mother, Ethyl Bryne, opened the first birth-control clinic in the United States and they were both jailed for distributing contraception, which was illegal in 1917.

Marston eventually went from being a consultant to the creator of the first female superhero, Wonder Woman.  His relationship with not one but two strong women influenced the storylines considerably.  This direct connection to the feminist movement also remained hidden.

He specifically saw Wonder Woman as the new definition of a powerful woman, breaking free of the bonds of male dominance on Paridise Island.  This explains why she tells villains she conquers, “Submit!”

Chains were a common symbol of the women’s suffrage movement, as well reproductive rights, where unwanted pregnancies were viewed as a ball and chain around the woman.

Wonder Woman in chains. Photo: Smithsonian Libraries

Sometimes the drawings crossed over into the imagery of sadomasochism and bondage, especially on Paradise Island where a lot of the kinky stuff went down.  As early as 1942 Wonder Woman ended up on the blacklist “Disapproved for Youth” because “Wonder Woman is not sufficiently dressed.”

In 1953 there was a senate committee hearing about comic books and Wonder Woman was singled out by another psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, who believed her feminism and equality with men to be  grave for society.  After that the storylines were toned down.

Lynda Carter reinvented the character on the 1975 TV show Wonder Woman as a strong and sexy powerhouse who deflected bullets with her bracelets.

New York Times photo of Lynda Carter from 1975 pilot

Want to know another little secret?  The  years that Marston, Bryne and Holloway lived together, Bryne didn’t wear a wedding ring (polygamy was/is illegal); instead she wore…bracelets.

Wonder Woman made controversial headlines again just last year, on the 75th anniversary of her creation.  Less than two months after she was made an honorary ambassador to the UN for the empowerment of women and girls she was stripped of the title.

A petition signed by more than 44,000 people stated, “Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent warrior woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a pin-up girl.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with that assessment.  Many women find Barbie dolls and Disney princesses to be symbols of inequality with impossibly thin physiques, while Wonder Woman displays power and some serious muscle tone.

On Friday, the latest version of Wonder Woman debuts on the big screen, played by Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot and (surprise!) there is another controversy.  Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse has a women’s-only viewing scheduled for this week and it sparked male outrage for reverse discrimination.  Of course as noted in Gizmodo, of the 130 comic book movies released since 1920 only 8 of them have female leads, none since 2005, so it’s hard to justify all their fuss.

What do you think?  Is Wonder Woman a strong feminist?  A blatant sex object?  Propaganda for an alternative lifestyle?  Why not start a conversation with someone about her?  It could lead to some interesting discussions.

Here is a trailer of the movie:

 

 

 

 

 

What’s It Like to Lobby Your Reps?

What’s It Like to Lobby Your Reps?

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he sure did motivate a bunch of Progressives to get involved!  Like a lot of people, I did my civic duty by voting and even gave some donations to Hillary Clinton, but would hardly call myself an activist.

Until election night.  Well, scratch that.  I was crying on election night.  I didn’t become an activist until I saw images of sea of people in pink hats holding protest signs at the Women’s March, standing up for our country and all its values.  Seeing those women gave me hope that we could change things, if only we organized, made our voices heard and committed to getting Progressive candidates elected.

That’s what Blue Ribbon Lobby Day was about.  Sponsored by the Texas Democratic Women, Texas Democratic Party, Travis County Democratic Party, March On! Texas, Annie’s List, Texas Coalition of Black Democrats and The AFL-CIO, this was a day to bring like-minded women together to fight for our rights and the rights of our families.

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There’s Something Very Wrong with this Picture

There’s Something Very Wrong with this Picture

Every day we turn on the news it seems there’s yet another picture full of middle aged white men sitting at a table writing legislation against women:

  • Proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood
  • New anti-choice bills introduced under the charade as being for the health of the woman
  • The proposed AHCA even tried to take away coverage for birth control, pregnant moms and babies

Are you tired of not seeing a single woman at the table?  Literally…

Mike Pence/Twitter

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