Speak Out! Unfinished Business—Women’s Vision for the Nation: What’s It Going to Take?

Welcome, welcome, welcome. This is a very
special day. It’s a special day for a forum. It’s a special day for a celebration. It is
a special day for the Center. We opened on March 22, 2007. It’s hard to describe what
it’s like to give birth to a vision and to see it move from idea to form, and to see
the form move into action. In addition to seeing that with the Center today, we’re also
launching a whole new form and a whole new action, which I’ll you about in a moment.
The Center is an exhibition space. It is the permanent house, as you all know, of the great
“The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago. We are also an education facility. Many of you who
are here today join us on the weekends where we have a wonderful array of panelists and
speakers. Our mission is to raise awareness of feminism’s cultural contributions and to
educate new generations about the meaning of feminist art and about the meaning of feminism
in general. The cherry on the whipped cream, atop the icing of the cake was Holland Cotter,
whose recognition of the Center in the January 11, 2009 article on museums look inward for
their own bailouts. Mr. Cotter wrote, “The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
draws a select audience with a defined interest. It’s presence for the Museum is invaluable.
It distinguished this institution from any other. You can only find this here, there.
This is something that reliable numbers of people will always want to find.” Those some
things are reliable numbers of people are you. It is a place that is your place. It
is a place that is our place. It is, in fact, our own place and it’s defined by women’s
visions. It’s defined by women’s work. It’s women’s demands and desires. It’s a place
for women and men to congregate, to celebrate and to explore. We, the Center, are part of
a very big, what I like to think of, and what I do think of, and call a steamship, which
is the Brooklyn Museum. We couldn’t do what we have done over the last two years without
the help committed support of dozens of people at the Brooklyn Museum. I thank Arnold and
Judith and Charles and Kevin and their support staff and Judith and Rob and the Board of
Directors who have been wonderful supporters for the Center for Feminist Art. Sally, Radiaz,
Traslin, Lauren, Shellie, Ken, and their staffs. Dozens of interns have come in and out and
worked at the Center over the last two years. Suzie Rodriguez who was our wonderful designer
and architect of the Center which we will see on the fourth floor during our reception,
I hope you’ll join us has won the, I don’t know the full title, but it’s the best, most
highest achieved honor Architect New York, Architect Assoc, see, I don’t know anything
about architecture. She won a great award for this and well deserved. For myself, I
run a tugboat, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, and we push and we turn with ease and we bob
happily over rough waters. Without a terrific assistant and a partner in crime and an intelligent,
talented, coworker, Rebecca Taffel, the last two years would not have been as efficient
and successful and not nearly as much fun. Rebecca, I thank you very much for the last
two years of very good work. Looking forward, I have the great pleasure of introducing you
to the new curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Catherine Morris,
Catherine is here today, will you stand, and I am so looking forward to what Catherine
is going to take. Catherine is going to take what we have launched and she is going to
bring us to the stars. I am really looking forward to it and I’m delighted to have you
as part of our family. We now have this two year old center and a two year old, well,
terrible twos, what better way to celebrate, I figure, than to bring in a uncontrolled,
independence, speak out, and we’re about to hear what you want. I hope you will join us.
A couple of women, two of us, Sherna and I, we’re decades apart, we grew and morphed into
a form and name over the course of the last year, in too eleven women calling ourselves
Unfinished Business. The core group, and I refer to it as the mothership, actually, I
prefer to call it that, we are of all generations, from millenias, to traditionalists, mostly
X’s and Y’s, we cross age, ethnicity, economic and social divides, we share grit, tenacity,
goals, and the words of my grandmother, a lot of chutzpah. A think tank is our model
into generalationism, solidarity, our code, and consensus is our process. We hammered
out together a mission statement for unfinished business. Because we all, in I think you will
agree, know that there is a lot of unfinished business. Our mission statement, unfinished
business, is a think tank identifying ways of mobilizing external networks to raise public
awareness about intergenerational communications issues of race, class, gender, and the effects
of current events on women and children. Today is our launch, and we thank you for joining
us in the march and setting the future agenda which makes a difference to all of our lives,
our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives. We hope that other unfinished business
pods, the ideas of new groups, and unfinished business comes down as a UB, unfinished business,
and it’s like you be girl, you go girl. I hope UB’s will be spawned all over the place.
I would like to introduce the founding members who are here with the exception of one today,
please stand, Sherna Goldslicker, who is over 2164 strategic philanthropy through generations
and vice president of the Andrea and Charles Braufman philanthropies, welcome. Sara Gould,
unable to be with us today, she’s traveling, she’s president and CEO of the Miss Foundation
for Women. Amy Sananman here, founder and director of the Groundswell Community Project
and those who live in Brooklyn know all of the wonderful work that Amy has done. Olivia
Greer, the Culture Project, artistic director, Women Center Stage Emancipate, a woman’s theater
group. Hello, hello. Liz Abzug, where are you Liz, Fella Abzug leadership institute,
Liz Abzug consulting services, I thank you Liz for many things including our wonderful
name, Unfinished Business. Benita Miller, Benita where are you, where is Benita, she’s
not here. Nicole Mason, executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at the
Wagner School of Public Service, NYU and today’s keynote speaker and Mia Harrington, executive
director of the Third Wave Foundation. Carole Jenkins is president of the Women’s Media
Center. If you Google Carol or even bet her if you go to the Women’s Media Center website,
you will see that Carol has been breaking ground in the media all of her life. She is
our wonder woman hero. A resume of well deserved awards as so long. I humbly, Carol, humbly
thank you, you are a great woman, you are a great friend, you have a great smile, and
I love your laugh. We’re a bevy of birthers, all of us. Together, the UB’s choreographed
today, the program was decided by this group of participants and on behalf of everybody,
I would like to welcome you to it. I’m also delighted, delighted, delighted, that the
wonderful Laura Flanders is here to be our moderator, she is fabulous. We have a terrific
duo of Asian Pooh and Esther Burner, who are going to be our respondents and musical artist
Toni Blackmon is here and she will be performing for us and give us another mode of feisty,
so please help me welcome with a great deal of gratitude and excitement for the rest of
the day, Laura Flanders. Oh, I did this all wrong. That’s what happens, you’re going to
do whatever I want. What I have to do is go back to my notes. I have to say, that I felt
like I was speaking for so long that I figured maybe I should stop. Never. Never, never,
never. What’s happened is that it gives me great pleasure and it does too. I was jumping
the gun to introduce you to our keynote speaker who, is Nicole Mason. Nicole is the executive
director of the Women of Color Policy Network Research Assistant Professor at Wagner NYU.
She has worked in advocacy in public education at the local, state, and national levels,
with a special focus on women and underserved communities. For the last twelve years her
work has centered on poverty and economic security for women and low income individuals,
civic engagement, youth development in education, welfare reform, and health policy reform.
That is really something. In her research and writing she continues to investigate the
interception of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and other markers of difference and their
impact on rights and public policy outcomes at the local and state level. She’s a current
member of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research Advisory Board for the Status of
women in the fifty states, she’s a blogger for the Huffington Post and has been interviewed
by national public radio and other news outlets. Nicole stood up and agreed, I should say agreed,
she met the challenge when we asked her as our group of You Bees of Unfinished Business
Women to please give our, this day, her keynote address. And I want to thank you for that
and I want to apologize for having jumped too far in advance. And I welcome you, Nicole,
and thank you for being here. Nicole, by the way, she just flew in on a red eye from California.
I have no excuse, but she does. She will make no mistakes. So, good afternoon. Thank you
for joining us and giving up your Saturday afternoon. It’s beautiful, it’s one of the
most beautiful days this spring thus far, so I’m really glad that you were able to join
us. Before I get started I wanted to tell you the real deal about how I got invited
to speak. We were sitting around the table at one of our UB meetings and we were thinking
about the second anniversary event, and they said “Well who should we get to speak or perform?”
So they’re like “Well What about Aretha Franklin?” And then someone said, “Oh and Beyonce, we
should have Beyonce too.” And I was like “Well I don’t know about those two. They’re fighting,
there was this thing where Beyonce called Tina Turner the Queen of soul and I don’t
think that’s going to happen.” And so we sort of sat around thinking about how to get one
or the other. And then Sarah Gould says, “Nicole, well why don’t you do it?” And I was like
“Aretha, Beyonce, Nicole. That’s fine.” So that’s how I got here today. So in my time
with you, I want to speak about the micro and the macro, I want to make the connection
between the personal and the political, and I also want to talk a little bit about art
in activism and what I consider to be our work these days. And because I consider myself
here amongst sister friends I also wanted to share with you my personal journey to here
and where I intersect with you all. Growing up, as a child, my mother never talked about
race, class, gender, or politics for that matter, in our house. I don’t even think I
remember who the president was at the time when I was growing up. There was no talk of
the President, there was no talk of voting, and there was no talk of activism. We just
survived living our lives, just like most of the others in our neighborhood and in my
family. There was racism, there was poverty, there was discrimination to be sure. Those
things we felt or believed were part of our lot in life, it was just the way it was. It
wasn’t until I graduated from high school, and went 3,000 miles away to college. I was
the first person in my family to go to high school, and definitely the first person to
go to college, that things began to change for me. Away from home, the disparities became
even more stark. There’s a real difference between my experiences growing up and of those
sitting next to me in the classroom. For a while I sat with a discomfort of not sure
what to do. About a year and a half later, I was bored, one hot summer day I decided
to sign up to volunteer at a local battered women’s shelter. That experience changed my
life. It was there that I began to have language for my experiences growing up. I met activists,
and advocates, young and seasoned, who were committed to social justice, a phrase I had
never heard before. I now belong to a new community. I decided from that point, that’s
what I was going to be a social justice activist. Over the last 13 years, my career as a social
justice activist has taken many different iterations. I remember from marching in the
streets, to my first tattoo of a women symbol with revolution through it, that’s still on
my back, that I have to wear to events now cause, you know it’s out. And allowing my
tiny apartment in D.C. to be used as a refuge for prostitutes who were fleeing their pimps.
To conducting research to influence public policy at a top university, to help improve
the life’s of women of color, their families and their communities. Now I suppose today,
I’m a social justice researcher with radical roots. I tell this story because I think there’s
something to be said about how we come to the work, and the way our histories and backgrounds
inform the roles we take up. It’s our perspective, it’s our standpoint, our point of view. In
thinking about what it will take to be able to collect a vision for change. We will not
only have to remember and hold our own perspective. But hold the perspectives of others who are
working alongside us. This will be critical if we are to move forward in solidarity and
build a movement that is inclusive and reflective of the lives of all women. Artists often create
out of nothing, they take a blank canvas, raw materials and even scraps. They interpret
the world through a brush stroke, a camera, welding, and performance these are the tools.
Their interpretation of the world is rooted in their lived experiences, their frames,
their values and beliefs. They draw on their experiences and their vision of the world
to create something new. Like the artists, I want the activists and social justice leaders
to interpret the world through our own experiences, frames, values and beliefs. I want us to use
the common language of change and the tools of policy advocacy, grass roots organizing,
blogging, strategic giving, community building and voice to create something new. As a good
friend of mine recently said, “The old is no more, and the new is not yet.” We have
an opportunity in this current political and historical and moment to envision anew. We
have a canvass. I’m not sure if it’s blank, I don’t think it is. I think there’s a lot
of background. The times are urgent. The current economic crisis has had a devastating effect
on woman families in our communities. There are millions without healthcare. We’re still
engaged in a war. Global warming is threatening our survival, our very survival on this planet.
Violence against woman still persists. Immigrants who contribute to our society and our communities
are still without civil and legal rights. Gays and lesbians still can’t marry whom they
wish in most parts of our country, and the socioeconomic cleavages between groups continue
to deepen. I believe that the problems of our time are not new. It’s no longer about
knowing or identifying a problem but figuring out how we work across race, class, gender,
generation, ethnicity, religion, ability or orientation to solve these pressing social
problems. It’s about how we work to ensure that those with the least are valued and taken
to account by those with the most. It’s about making my issues your issues. These are our
challenges in articulating a bold vision for the nation and creating a collective movement
for change. I don’t want to take up too much time but I want to leave you with this as
we head into the rest of the program. In college I used to have “zine. I don’t know if people
still have “zines” or if we’re just blogging these days, and it was called “Give a sister
a lift, some name I got from Berkley. In every issue I ended with the same quote and it’s
this, “Whether one chooses to label themselves as nationalist, feminist, progressive or democrat,
the real test of a personal ideology is whether he or she is dedicated to a liberation of
all people on all levels. That’s it. Since we’re talking about intergenerational and
clearly we’ve gone from one generation to the next, I feel now I can relax, right? We
can all go off to babysit for our grandchildren knowing that the world is in great hands.
Nicole, thank you so much for that, Doctor Mason, who is a tremendous asset. And Elizabeth
I want to thank you so much. As your friend did want to jump up to bail you out but I
didn’t have the paperwork there. When you talk about friends, Elizabeth Sackler went
to see Jane Fonda, one of the founders of the Woman’s Media Center, recently. She went
backstage to see her and she said, “You know I think Jane has a cold, she sent me a message.
“She needs chicken soup.” I sent Jane the message, “Elizabeth says you need chicken
soup. Do you want any?” I was thinking she would say no. She says, “Yes, I need it desperately!”
I’m now the conduit. I said, “Elizabeth, Jane needs the chicken soup.” Now, I’m thinking
that she’s going to call up somebody and have chicken soup delivered. No, no, no. It’s Elizabeth
Sackler going back to the theater with her chicken soup for Jane Fonda. Now, that is
a friend! I said to her, “Across the city, people are going to be demanding their chicken
soup.” I said, “I thought I was your friend. I don’t have any chicken soup. Yet.” I want
you to know that what Elizabeth Sackler has created here at this museum, what she’s done
in creating Unfinished Business, and so many other things that she has touched, it’s just
incredible. You are really, truly a hero and an example for the rest of us. To get our
acts together, do something serious, and then stand up and defend it and give it to everybody,
which is what you’ve done. So, thank you. It’s my pleasure to introduce another friend
of ours, another favorite of ours, Laura Flanders, who is the host of GRITtv. If you haven’t
seen it yet, it’s available on GRITtv.org online. But also, as she has insisted that
I tell you, it’s available in Manhattan on channel 67 at 8:00 every night, which is really
a miracle, channel 67. You’re trying to get on VCAD as well? All right. And it’s on “Free
Speech TV,” the Dish Network, 9415. Also, online at Firedoglake.com, which is a really
great website. That’s GRITtv.org. Is that good, Laura? OK, excellent. She also serves
as host of “Radio Nation, the nationally syndicated weekly radio program of The Nation magazine.
In election year 2008, she hosted a five part series of live town hall events in five different
states in the runup to the general election. They were terrific shows. They were called,
“Live from Main Street with Laura Flanders. It was produced by the Media Consortium, which
is our group that the Women’s Media Center belongs to, a progressive, independent media.
Laura Flanders is also the author of “Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from
the Politicians”, an investigation into what people at the grassroots know that the Democratic
Party leaders could learn if they wanted to. And “Bushwomen Tales of a Cynical Species,”
an expose of women in George W. Bush’s cabinet. Publisher’s Weekly called Flanders’ New York
Times bestseller “fierce, funny, and intelligent, and that’s exactly what she is. Laura Flanders,
come on up here. Oh, thank you everybody! Well, first we need to celebrate, right? Second
anniversary, this is very exciting! Think about it, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center
for Feminist Art. Everything about that title deserves celebration. How many institutions
do we have in this city with a woman’s name in the top of them? Lincoln Center, Guggenheim,
I don’t know, what else? Lincoln Center, Guggenheim. Whitney actually is named after a woman, which
is nice. But this is unusual! We’re excited, so thank you, thank you! To have a woman’s
name in the title, to have the word “feminist” in the title, to be a place where feminist
art is shown all of that deserves celebrating. So, just one more time, our second anniversary,
go, go, go! I really loved the way Elizabeth talked about this event and the Unfinished
Business mother ship. Welcome to the mother ship. I loved the way that she talked about
not leading, but sparking. We hope to spark a conversation here today, the intergenerational
conversation that Unfinished Business has been all about. She has a vision of taking
place all across this country, all across this world, the creation of these little pods
she talks about. She smiles when she says it, as all good scary feminists do. But she’s
dead serious, and I think we’re dead serious not just out of abstract interest and fairness,
but because this is what this world desperately, desperately needs, right? When you think about
what we learn from women’s history, even now we’re celebrating Women’s History Month, and
I see less of it, really, than ever. But what we learn from women’s history? I don’t know.
I did a column recently about obituaries. You can learn a lot from obituaries. Last
month, there was a really fabulous one. Did everybody read the obituary in the New York
Times for Conchita Cintr’n? You missed it? She made the Economist, the Economist [inaudible
00:26:22] and they did. Well, wouldn’t you? Conchita Cintr’n, she was a bullfighter, one
of the early women bullfighters. She retired from bullfighting after killing, I think,
750 bulls in the ring. She died last month, in February, in Lisbon, Portugal, age 86.
At 18, according to the obituaries, she was known as “La Diosa Rubia,” The Blond Goddess.
The headline about her in a New York Sun article in 1940 read, “She’s a timid blueeyed girl,
but she kills bulls without qualms.” She had a great quote in the piece. She said, “I have
never had any qualms about it. A qualm or a cringe before 1,200 pounds of enraged bull
would be sure death.” Lesson one in these political days. Don’t cringe when there are
1,200 pounds of bull coming at you. My favorite obituary from this month is the obituary of
Molly Kool, sea captain. Did you read that one? Is everybody reading the obituary pages?
Molly Kool qualified to be a sea captain at age 23, the first woman in North America to
be a licensed ship captain. She died the beginning of March in her home in Maine. She was 93.
One contemporary account back in the ’30s described Kool spelled with a K, but what
a great name described her this way, “Her eyebrows are shaped and arched; her lips,
lightly rouged; her blonde hair, up in feminine curls. That’s Miss Molly Kool ashore. But
in her barge, she knows no fear.” It went on to say that she was nothing if not pragmatic.
There was a famous occasion where her ship crashed into another one in the dark, and
she was thrown overboard. A piece of timber floated by. She grabbed hold of it. She was
floating there as the ship’s passengers were hurling life preservers at her. She finally
looks up at them and she says, “I’m already floating. Stop throwing useless stuff at me
and send a boat!” [laughter] Again, lessons for these economic times. We’re already floating.
We need a boat! Stop throwing useless stuff at us. To think, some people think that you
can’t learn from women’s history. What challenges remain? A few challenges remain, and I’ll
close my little thoughts with this. I was reading “The New Yorker” recently, wonderful
article by Ariel Levy on Lesbian Land, the movement or women to own land in the ’60’s
and 70’s. She talks about a group called the Van Dykes who travelled in a van and were
dykes. Good name, I thought, good branding. Lesbians knew about branding before just about
anybody else. It talked about a woman over many, many years who had been the leader of
this group. She found Ariel in the northwest, I think in Seattle or Portland living in her
now late 60’s. She reflected on the story and it’s a beautiful piece, if you haven’t
read it, go and check it out. She reflected on this woman, Van Dyke this way. She said,
“Van Dyke works with men now, and even speaks to them.” She talks about menopause, and her
grandchildren, and her garden, but she is still a wild big pirate of a woman. Regardless
of the different people of different genders she’s chosen over the years as her comrades,
Van Dyke’s primary loyalty has always been to her own adventure. A woman in her 60’s
who has been resolutely doing as she pleases for as long as she can remember is not easy
to come by in movies or in books or in life. It’s not easy to come by. But wasn’t that
the idea? At least in part, wasn’t that the idea? So, I think on today’s program we’re
going to talk about what we’ve accomplished, how far we’ve come, what we learned from history,
the challenges that remain and what is the idea today? We’ve got two fantastic sparkers,
not to lead, but to spark, two fantastic sparkers with us to kickoff the conversation. I want
to introduce Esther Broner. Esther is a novelist, a playwright, an author, a feminist writer.
She is the author of the book that I remember most clearly, “A Weave of Women,” in the late
’70’s. She has one coming up she wants us to mention, “The Red Squad.” It will be out
in May of this year. You can bet we’ll bring her on Grit TV to talk about it. I can’t wait.
Esther Broner, thanks so much for coming. Also, with us we have AiJen Poo. She’s lead
organizer and founder of the MISS Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United, about which
you’ll hear a whole lot more. Suffice to say, Domestic Workers United just has had the incredible
success of seeing one of its bills, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, pass through the Senate
and the House in the state of New York. It’s unbelievable the work they’re doing to correct
the errors in U.S. labor law. We have a long way to go, but these two women are going to
help us get there. Come on up, Esther and AiJen. While they’re getting settled, just
to give you an idea of where we all come from, and I think that was a beautiful way to begin,
Nicole, we all obviously come from our mothers and our grandmothers, with a few guys involved
sometimes. My grandmother is the kind of grandmother that I wouldn’t be here without for sure.
She was redbaited. She was an unbelievable activist, had my mother when she was alone
in Washington in the ’30’s. Called her revolutionary project. My mother didn’t really referred
to as an project her entire life, but there you go. When that review came out in the New
York Times that said the book was fierce, funny, and whatever it was, intelligent. Her
comment was “Yes, but is it a starred review?” So, intergenerational challenges are also
what is our conversation is for today. Let’s start with you, Esther, talk a little bit
about your history, your personal journey, where you came from. Well, I was thinking
that the good thing about getting older is one becomes historical and our vision is far
reaching, actually, I had wonderful cataract operation so I’m now 20/25 which I never was
in my whole life. I can see through walls and through hypocrisies and failed efforts.
I helped start the women’s movement in the Midwest and that was a time of great excitement,
great energy, which I hope we bring into the future. We were exhumers, exhuming the past,
all the writers, in fact we had forgotten, we were zooming our history, we were reinterpreting
things. We were archaeologists, that time, about 40 years ago, is the time in a way in
which I stand. I think everything else that’s happened since I’ve interpreted through that
time, I was talking to AiJen about teaching writing and as I brought Alice Walker’s work
into a student body. The AfricanAmerican students knew another way of expression as they brought
Mary Gordon’s work into the body, the catholic students knew another way of expression and
it was each ethnicity, the AsianAmericans, there was a larger voice. I thought it was
a glorious time and will go on. AiJen, your personal story, where did you begin? I should
say a lot of even being here, to Esther, as one of the founders of the women’s movement
and the feminist movement. I got politicized in college as a women’s studies major and
it’s my understanding that Esther actually started the first women’s study programs in
the country so thank you very much. I grew up in a family, my father was an activist
and he was also a great patriarch, so I grew up in a family that was always engaged with
the question of what’s wrong in society. Then also, within my own family, I could see the
ways in which that’s very multilayered and that you can actually separate different forms
of oppression and inequality and injustice and in fact, we have to tackle them as one
and being a women’s studies major really gave me the language and the tools to understand
that more broadly and more deeply in society. That’s really a lot of where I got my beginnings.
Let’s ask that question, I’m a women’s studies question also, from Barnard, Esther started
women’s studies at the University of… Wayne State, I started it at Hife University. Wayne
State. How many Women’s Studies graduates, so people that studied Women’s Studies, here
in the room? Wow! Not bad. How many wish you had studied Women’s Studies in the room? I
want to remind all of you, we have microphones over here, one there, one here. We want to
get your questions. You can come and tell us a little bit of your story if you want.
The questions I think we’re going to be talking about are the ones that Nicole introduced:
Our personal journey, our work and our issues. Are our issues your issues? Are we sharing?
What lies ahead of us? What challenges remain? So, while you’re thinking about that, coming
up to these microphones, asking questions, not just of our panelists, but also of each
other, this is a UB kind of activity here. There’s a big we in the room. It’s not just
about us. We’ll continue conversing a little bit. When you thought of your work, Esther,
what was it when you were beginning? What did you believe your work was? Well, I was
in the house of academe. In those days the only people with addresses in that house were
men. So, you sit on committees. You plan the program, and it’s always men. My students
were turned down for wanting to write masters essays on Willa Cather, or doing a doctorate
on Virginia Woolf. You know you had to get started. Anger is very important. AiJen, what
about you, when you began? You said you were working in women’s organizations since high
school. What did you see your work to be then? I really started out doing a lot of work around
violence against women issues because there was a lot of domestic violence in my family.
I was just drawn to it to help me understand what was happening in my family and my community.
From there, that’s how I got interested in Women’s Studies. I volunteered at a place
here, in New York, called the New York Asian Women’s Center, which is a domestic violence
shelter in the Asian immigrant communities. That’s a lot of where I got my interest in
activism and organizing, and really committed to working to build the feminist movement
through that lens. When it comes to challenges, maybe for the audience, domestic workers’
issues don’t get a lot of coverage in our media. I don’t believe there is such a thing
as mainstream media anymore. There are just tributaries. In the media that gets the most
promotion, there isn’t a lot of coverage of domestic workers and their issues. So, why
are domestic workers bill of rights, why is it needed? What are the problems? How many
of you know somebody who works as a nanny, a housekeeper, or an elderly caregiver? OK.
So, there’s quite a few. There are actually over 200,000 women, who are mostly women of
color, who do domestic work every day supporting the families that they take care of and also
their own families, on their own income as domestic workers. Historically, actually since
slavery, domestic workers have been excluded from almost every major labor law. In fact,
the definition of employee in the labor laws excludes domestic worker by name. So, it’s
not considered real work. All of us in this room understand why. Right? It’s associated
with work that’s historically done by women that’s not accounted for, that’s not compensated,
and not adequately valued or protected. On top of that, its historically been worked
that women of color have done, that immigrant women have done, so what you have in this
workforce is just an enormous workforce and a situation where anything goes. There’s no
guidelines, there’s no standards, there’s no labor laws, there’s no recognition. And
so what we’re trying to do is say actually, that is profoundly unjust and that long history
of discrimination and exclusion needs to be addressed, and that this work makes all other
work possible in New York and deserves to be respected and protected. So, the Domestic
Worker’s Bill of Rights that we have been working on is about putting those basic, that
basic recognition that this is a real workforce into place, along with some basic rights and
benefits that a woman on her own, working in somebody else’s home has very little to
no leverage to negotiate on her own. Not to put too fine of a point on it, we hear a lot
these days of needing a “New Deal. The labor law you are talking about, when did it come
out? The labor law that had these exclusions? During the New Deal, exactly. I mean the historic
victories of the New Deal when the labor movement was very strong in terms of the National Labor
Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Occupational Safety and Health Laws, all of
those laws exclude domestic workers. So if we were going to have a “New” New Deal, we’d
like it to be new. Exactly. A new, a real deal for everybody that actually does provide
a safety net and recognition for everybody, that’s right. Folks, we are in the process
as a country configuring our economy right? It kind of got reconfigured for us by a bunch
of deregulators over the last 30 years. We’ve had 30 years of wage suppression, we’ve hit
a crisis. Women hit the crisis first, across race, across class, across regionwomen hit
the crisis first. Are women at the front of the line of redefining, of reanalyzing, of
coming up with how we’re going to recreate our economy? You tell me. Are they? Should
they be? What would you bring, what would you like to see brought to this pool of ideas
that we’re stirring around, or are we going to leave it to the hands of Larry Summers
who said women can’t do math? Questions, comments, don’t forget to get involved. Yes. This goes
back to your earlier comment but, I loved the article as well about Miss Van Dyke. It
was a really remarkable piece and at the end, and this made me, I thought of it because
of the intergenerational aspect of our getting together today. She’s quoted, and I’m sure
I’ll misquote, but she basically said that when she was, when she and her brethren were
driving around in vans and going from woman’s space to woman’s space all over the country…
I think she would’ve said “sister. She would have. [laughter] There was a sense of really
radically changing the world. Yeah. Flat out, and at the end of the article they quote her
as sounding not angry but sort of disappointed at the notion that the things that seemed
to be on the agenda today are gay marriage and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I’m just wondering
about, I think that’s a really telling kind of generational moment for many of us. I’m
sort of between a lot of generations, I feel like, in terms of first wave feminism and
more recent feminism and it’s hard for me to sort of find space between those two things.
I thought I would just throw that out there for us, thank you. Ester, what about that,
I mean if you had thoughts about where we would be by now, of what that women’s movement
that you helped to begin would bring us, how is the current moment shaping up? I was sure
we’d have socialism at the least. Even now, I’m wondering what they’re waiting for. I
thought we’d have more distribution, certainly of goods. I never thought the rich would get
richer and the poor poorer. That’s not what we were studying for. I thought the country,
because women’s studies is so democratic, so Egalitarian, it’s sort of taught in a circle.
You don’t see yourself as the final source. You evoke from the people around you. I thought
that’s what our country would be like. So I have to draw a great breath and get out
there and work again I can see. Does this seem like an exciting moment to you? A little
scary. I just don’t know how many years I have left to work. Can I just tell people,
would you like to share a vague idea how old you are? Because it’s kind of startling. I
was born in 1927 so I’ll be, I think, 82. Am I wrong in my math? More questions from
the audience, comments. And then I want to hear from, I think we want to talk a little
bit about what each of us think we’re going to do in this moment. I mean, are you really
going to leave this moment up to Larry Summers? Who are the people that you think are leading
the charge with new ideas? Where are the ideas coming from do you think? And have all these
generations of women’s studies graduates integrated themselves into this picture? I think they
have in some ways. And more perhaps into the Obama administration than any other administration
we’ve ever seen. But we know that good stuff comes out of the melding of political ideas,
ideas from politicians, cultural ideas, ideas from artists and also the ideas of activists.
People on the ground. That’s where I’m hoping we’ll hear from you about where you, what
we need to amplify. What we in the media need to amplify. The conversations we need to have.
Yes please. I’m Catherine Williams. I’m from North Carolina, living sometimes in New York.
And it was a few years after you Ester but I started the first psychology woman program
at Wake Forest University but they would only let me teach in the summertime when it first
started. And subsequently there’s been women’s studies programs. It’s really been quite popular
and I see some young women had the advantage of being able to participate in such a program.
We also started NOW in North Carolina. And let me tell you it wasn’t a welcomed organization
at the time it started so it’s really been exciting. For me those were some of the most
exciting years in the 60s and early 70s that I can remember in my lifetime. But I do think
there’s some new things emerging and when you mention, Laura, about the economy. There’s
a number of economists, and Hazel Henderson, a woman in her 80s who’s in Florida, who’s
one of the economists that I’ve listened to for years. And I think that we need to find
a way to redefine what wealth is in our country. Good. Yes. There’s several movements going
on in various locations and one really fine economist, male economist, from Alberta Canada
named Mark Anielski, has written a book called “The Economy of Happiness.” What his premise
is, and what Hazel has been supporting, is that we only measure GDP in this country.
It’s somehow a measure of growth and wealth. But, the real meaning wealth, and it’s our
origins, was wellbeing. So, the proposal is, by Hazel and others and I’ve been privileged
to be part of a little think tank that’s looking at this is can we find ways to measure, like
we do GDP, the wellbeing of communities, of nations, of corporations. There’s actually
an assessment tool with five points, which are financial, environmental, social, human
and built wealth, all those things. Since 1950, in the United States, the GDP has steadily
risen and the measures of wellbeing have steadily declined. So, the question is, this push that
happens from Wall Street on double digit growth every quarter is strangling us. My hope is
that, as different articles come out, and maybe you’ll think about getting the book
called “The Economics of Happiness,” and pay attention to Hazel Henderson, there are other
women economists. I think this is a time when we can have an opportunity to redefine the
wellbeing in our culture. That’s what the feminist movement was all about originally.
I hope that the exciting times that we felt way back then will emerge. Thank you. The
fascinating thing is that it is, to me, Esther, and maybe, AiJen it is, to me, what feminism
was about, redefining value and the price of things. The price of this kind of growth
if you’re destroying this much of the planet. And yet, feminism has acquired different meanings
over the years. AiJen, what does the word mean to you? The word feminism, to me, is
about a vision for a different world that’s based off of humanity, the wholeness of who
we are, justice and equity for everyone. Do you use it in your work with the Domestic
Workers Union? Absolutely. Every day. Esther. It’s also about studying, and also about innovating.
Now I’m so worried about two kinds of things. One is all the publishing houses have collaborated
into one or two publishing houses. I think mine was the last book bought in America.
The second is I’m very worried about the newspapers. My dad was a newspaperman. I think, “Is it
enough to have a blog?” Are we feminists able to reinterpret, rethink the means of distribution,
of selfpublication? What can we do to make it our voice, at the same time an echoy voice?
I don’t want it small. I don’t want selfpublication to be for the self. So, I’m hoping that there
will be an innovative way that I can’t even understand because I hardly understand the
Internet. Technology connects, it also divides. How many people in this room are involved
in publishing? All right. Can I recognize one because I don’t know about lots of others.
Amy Shelter from the Feminist Press. Stand up Amy, come on now! The Feminist Press, yeah!
So, that’s one of the questions on the table, does technology help us or hurt us? What about
the vision of feminism? Yeah? Oh, actually I’m Nicole Schulman. Hi, Nicole! I’m with
the Groundswell Community Mural Project, I work with Amy Sananman and my colleague, the
talented Crystal Clarity. And I’ve worked on an interactive mural for you guys upstairs
when we’re done. I wanted to bring it back to labor because I’m involved in labor activism
as well. I’ve worked with The Industrial Workers of the World Union and the Starbucks Worker’s
Union which has a lot of important women organizers such as Liberty Lock who are fighting for
the rights of underpaid baristas throughout the country. I think it’s important for women
of all ages to be involved in the labor movement and support unions and organizing. And not
just the organizing part but also for leadership roles of women in unions because there is
a glass ceiling, not only in the labor market but in the leadership of unions. And I think
we all need to work to make unions more democratic and take more active part in organizing in
our workplaces and demanding more say within labor unions that already exist. And also,
I’d like to give a shout out to giving support to these organizations and things like Bread
& Roses which is an arts organization affiliated with 1199 SEIU. Are you excited about Hilda
Solis, head of the Labor Department? Oh, yes, definitely! Very, very much. Thanks! Who else?
Yeah! Hi, I’m HoneyAnn Peacock and my path in working with women has morphed in many
different paths throughout my career, in the corporate career. But I’ve always been working
on the behalf of all women. What I saw in the corporate world in the 80’s and late 70’s
was that women were really…that was that first big burst of feminism and everybody
was working together. That dissipated as women felt that they…the glass ceiling was raising
a bit and they got positions in the corporate world. The Women’s Movement dissipated completely
because women thought, “Oh, I’ve made it so I’m going and the rest of you, good luck!”
I have been very sad about that fact and I’ve never been able to find a replacement for
it. That’s why I think that this moment, right here in this space with the people who are
here, is a very important moment because as Esther was talking, women, we work in a different
way, we learn a different way. It is a circle, it is collaborative. And I think these are
the times and technology plays a part in this because it’s time for a new way of bringing
our work together and collaborating. And I think that we have here a couple of key groups
that I’m familiar with that I think could be central to a coalescing of us in new ways
and they have to do with media. So Women’s Media Center, Women’s eNews, these women…the
Feminist Press that I just learned about, these are groups…some of the groups and
some of the vehicles around which perhaps we can find a way to organize, coordinate,
collaborate and work. So I just throw that out because I know this has been a huge frustration
for me for a long time, looking for vehicles. And so I try to do them by myself or I’m part
of a foundation or I’m part of my own consulting practice, whatever. But I’d like for it to
be a larger effort. Do you think that the vehicle changed…I think what I’m hearing
you say is the vehicle changed. Do you think that was a part of it that you changed too,
you weren’t up for the same amount of meetings? No, no. I was just kind of observing what
was happening because I was in a position in the corporate world where I could see what
was happening with women in other corporations, what was happening with women in government,
what was happening…it was dissipating because of selfishness. I mean, people felt, “Oh,
well, I’ve got something!” And maybe it wasn’t just selfishness. It was like they got too
involved because of their own career and the movement suffered. Either of you share that
feeling, that experience? Esther? It was a golden moment. It was a moment of great energy
and expectation and connection. Even now when I read memoirs about that time I get excited
all over again. It’s highly possible. Excitement doesn’t have to end, it’s possible for us
to recreate that. We’re ready for it, the country’s ready for it. It’s now, let’s think
of what to do! I have to say, Esther has been in every activist organization I’ve ever been
in. Including one that was in response to the bombing on 9/11. “New Yorkers Say No To
War. Esther was there. Women’s Action Coalition that started at the Drawing Center with artists
in the 80’s, Esther was there. I wonder about this historical chaptering that we do. That
this happened here, this other thing happened there, this thing doesn’t happen anymore.
How do you see it, AiJen? I think each generation has built off of what has existed previously
and folded it in a different way depending on our historical conditions. And I think
that now is the moment of thinking big and bold and trying to really
seize the day in a way that we haven’t for generations. When I think of all the work
and all the groundwork that’s been laid by past generations, that’s going to be the tools
and the seeds of what can grow now. And I do think that this is the moment for us to
lead into this crisis and seize the opportunity, the opportunities that are unfolding to reshape
the economy, reshape a new deal, a real deal for everybody. That we’re going to have to
work with people we’ve never worked with before. We are going to have to have new alignments,
new coalitions. We’re going to have to see our issues through different
lenses. And we’re going to have to integrate and break out of our silos of, this is the
Women’s Movement, this is the Labor Movement and actually see the ways in which a real
sustainable new economy that’s built off of democracy and equality and some sense of justice
is going to have to be one that includes everybody in all these different issues. The Immigrant
Rights piece, the Racial Justice piece, the Women’s piece, all of it needs to be integrated
into a vision for a new economy. I think that now is that moment where we can build off
of what’s been there in the past and try to figure out how that helps to build something
that’s greater than the sum of its parts so that we can seize the day. It’s so exciting
to think of the moment that we’re in. Everything you just said, AiJen, in its historical context.
Where do we get Women’s Day from? Where did we get International Working Women’s Day from?
Well, from an international socialist labor movement of the 1880’s through to the 1920’s.
People who were saying the world is being remade in war, in empire, the growth of the
kind of capitalism that is going to hurt women and the most vulnerable. It was in that crucible
that we got Women’s Day and that we got a global women’s movement and a justice movement.
We’re in a moment just like that again, and I think we need each other all over again.
We need the UB’s that Elizabeth is talking about. I think you were next and then you.
Yeah, I think we have to seize the moment, and we’re at a fantastic time, I think. We
can do a lot right now. Introduce yourself. I’m Linda Stein and I’m a sculptor of female
heroic knights, strong, powerful women. I came from a background where I was taught
that the boy should be stronger, better, smarter. I played my role very well. I was very athletic.
I threw the bowling ball into the alley and the ping pong ball into the net so the boy
could win. That’s what I thought it meant to be feminine. I wanted to be popular and
I wanted to be feminine. But now, I think we should grab onto our anger and remember
our pasts. We’re in an art museum now, thanks to Elizabeth Sackler, who really deserves
for what she did in using the word feminist. I think that we should now write letters,
talk. Eli Brode planned a museum where there’s 87 percent men, 13 percent women. How dare
he? Where is our anger? MOMA has a fourth and fifth floor permanent collection that
has 96 percent men, four percent women exhibited? How dare they? Where is our anger? We have
to talk to men and women. I like to lead lectures on masculinity and femininity and why are
women allowing this to go on? I mean, we’ve had to, but now is a new time. I think we
have a new opportunity and we should grab it. My name is Velva Simone. I’m an artist,
a graduate of Medgar Evers College, which was one of the first in the City University
history in the ’80’s that opened a daycare on campus. Thank you. We also got around to
having the first Women’s Studies in the City University of New York at Medgar Evers College.
Now, just to think back and think of now also, I think of the work that Betty Shabazz did
there. Thank you. She was everyone’s mentor, young and old. Andree McLaughlin, who started
the Women’s Studies program at Medgar. Safiya Bandele having the first Women’s Center in
the City University of New York. So, I come from a time in university in the ’80’s where
there was this great push. Juxtapose that to now. Now we are about to all give birth
to a new vision, I think, in feminism. If you look at the arts, the conversation here
today, this is really a great forum for it. It needs to be understood that this is a catharsis
because it is about transformation. It is about equality on the work front, as well
as caring for our neighbor who’s Mexican who just crossed the border with her children
and they’re needing food, and she’s needing work, and her husband was left behind. I think
all these things talk about a dynamic and interests and experience. Now, in America,
we’re all going to have to give birth to a new vision, and a new movement where everyone
is included, to bring about the birth of equality across the board. Thank you so much. Don’t
go away. I just wanted to say thank you to your perspectives here that we heard today,
and yours as well. Velva, a question for you. Sure. You’ve talked big. If we were to get
really, really… My much missed friend, June Jordon, used to say, “To be really, really,
very, very, very, very specific,” what would you have in a stimulus package today? What
would make the difference for you? We’re talking about roads, we’re talking about bridges.
We’re talking about a lot of jobs for guys. What infrastructural contribution, innovation?
Would it be childcare? I think that’s first and foremost when you think about improvement
or moving ahead, of actually having success, leading the world, as it were, and I think
we’ve had tremendous successes in the past. But, I think there’s no way you can think
about any kind of success for anyone when you don’t think of children’s development
first and foremost, when you don’t think of women and their circumstances and environment.
When you talk about infrastructure, you talk about what, specifically, in the stimulus
package could and does directly, specifically affect us as a people in the United States,
you’ve got to look at health. I think that’s now on your agenda, right? So, I think the
groups who are listening, whether they’re for or against whatever’s in the stimulus
package, have a great responsibility to push forth any other ideas or new agendas that
could be addressed. But I think they’ve pretty much targeted well what our problems are here,
now in America. When you think about feminism, you’ve got to think the children. When you
think of the children, you’ve got to be addressing child development and healthcare first, because
how are they going to make it? Is it in there? AiJen, is it there? Did I miss it, this national
commitment to a national, affordable, maybe free, socialized even, childcare program all
across the country? Unfortunately not. You know, I think that’s the thing, is that in
this stimulus package that was just passed, there’s actually not new streams of money,
not new pools of money. I think it’s on us what a vision for real economic recovery looks
like. That’s where the bold thinking comes in. We’ve got to put back childcare subsidies.
We’ve got to demand labor rights for caregivers. We’ve got to demand pay equity laws. We’ve
got to demand all the things that have been on our shelf for the last 40 years to get
the unfinished business, all of that stuff that needs to get done needs to go into the
economic recovery package, and none of it is there. None of it. I was thinking about
energy from 40 years ago when my students, or the young instructors, had children and
didn’t know what to do with them while they were in school. So, we had a peein at our
president’s office. After a day or two. . . Wait a minute. You have to tell us what a peein
was. We brought the babies in the diapers. After a day or two, the president conceded.
So, there was childcare on campus. We have to do direct action. Where is direct action?
Peein now! Hi, I just also wanted to. . . You want to introduce yourself? I’m Melissa Silverstein.
I remember when WAC started. The Women’s Action Coalition. The energy in that room. I remember
you standing up there at the beginning in the Quaker house. I was so inspired and there
was so much anger that had built up, so I’m very excited that people are angry again.
One pause. Does everybody know what the Women’s Action Coalition was? It was a group that
started in about ’91, ’92, kind of apropos of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.
It was started by artists. It was at the Women’s Center. Annie Philbin and others convened
meeting at the Drawing Center, rather, in SoHo. We then got so big, meetings every week
I can’t remember what day it was, Wednesday or Monday, or something that we’d moved to
the Quaker Meeting House on 15th Street. There were 300 plus people, women, that came every
single week. Madonna came. My mother came. Melissa’s mother came. We did actions. We
can tell you about it. It was an exciting moment. It was really exciting and when it
kind of died out, I just felt like a force was depleted in me. But, I’ve been spending
my time working on issues related to women in Hollywood, in film, in pop culture and
in TV through my blog. I wanted people to think about the influence that films have
on mainstream public. And us, being in New York, we have the opportunity to see a lot
of women’s films, but most of the people who read my site, all they have the opportunity
to see are these big Hollywood blockbusters that don’t star women and don’t have any women
directors. The statistics about women directors and women producers and women writers are
abysmal. The 2008 statistics just came out. nine percent of films are directed by women,
and that’s the top grossing movies. The thing to understand about that, as we’re in this
great artistic center, is that women’s vision are just missing from mainstream America’s
ability to see our stories and what we have to say. I spend a lot of time online and in
my little world. I feel connected, but also really disconnected. So, why am I very excited
to be here to talk about labor issues and other issues? It’s kind of like, how do we
take our connectivity that we have with each other and our disconnectivity? For example,
I’m a freelancer. When you were talking about domestic workers, I was like, we should totally
hook up all the freelancers because we’re sitting in our houses. We have no rights either.
There’s the Freelancer’s Union now, but what do they do for me? Maybe health insurance?
So, there’s a lot of energy that’s kind of disconnected, but if we figure out a way to
connect it. So, I also just wanted to talk about that. All right. Either of you want
to respond? Well, I do think the worker on the economy is a really great way for us all
to connect because we’re all affected by it and women are on the front lines, particularly
poor and working women are really on the front lines of the crisis. Jobs are getting lost.
Women are always the last hired and the first fired, right, especially women of color. So,
how do we see the economic stimulus as providing a chance, or an opportunity, for us to start
connecting in new and different ways with a broad enough platform that we can all work
together around a common vision in a way that really makes sense and is expansive? I would
say that all of these different issues are really connected. There’s the historical women’s
issues like issues of representation and glass ceiling and discrimination in the workplace,
and childcare issues like all of those issues are the cornerstone issues for the Women’s
Movement. All of those things need to get on the radar. Then there’s also new opportunities
to innovate and try to influence how other things are happening, like with job creation.
If we’re going to create new jobs in the workforce to try to stave off unemployment, why don’t
we demand 10,000 jobs for women in community organizing, for example, or job training programs
specific to women in nontraditional women’s fields, like construction, where a lot of
the jobs in the economic stimulus are going to happen. So, how do we start to use this
framework of economic recovery to connect and build deeper relationships and also have
a broad enough vision and platform that it can hold us together for the long term. At
the same time, if we don’t have strong labor unions we will not have change. There has
to be pressure for change. My name is Christina Biatchi and I am an artist and an author.
I rejoice in everything that has been said here. It’s wonderful! I would recommend to
have a new edition of Whack including older women, like myself, and much younger women,
women inbetween and so on. I think we should really do that. That’s all. Well, to be fair,
Whack was intergenerational, very. One of the most intergenerational groups I’ve been
a part of. And I’ll just mentioned what happened to it because I think the trajectory might
be useful. It was very involved when there was immediate stuff and we went and people
went to trails were guys were on trials for rape, and the crimes were underreported and
we tried to stand in consolidarity with women who were victims of domestic violence and
survivors. Whack members got very involved in the 1994 Republican national convention
in Houston. We went down there we had all kinds of fabulous projections from all kinds
of unbelievable artists Sucko, Barbara Crouger, and all these people made fantastic slides
and Roy Anderson did the sound track and they were projected as big as could be on the convention
center in Houston and we had a drum core. Everything was great. The election happened.
People got a little tired. They were tired of a weekly meeting,. They thought we accomplished
something. Clinton was reelected. It was a moment not unlike this one, where there had
been a lot of activism and people got involved in this election like never before, and after
there was this gasp like, “Oh my God this was tiring. Now let’s leave it to them.” And
we can’t. And one question that I want to throw ought to everyone as we move towards
the end of this wonderful program, and Tony Blackman helping to send us out into the world.
Two things I want to remind you of, there are cards like this for you to fill out, there
will be a raffle for a door prize at the end, there is also a reception upstairs after this
forum, more information about that at the back. The question I want to throw ought to
people as we move towards the end of the program: What single intervention would make the difference
for you? If you want to me more connected, and we have the web, and wasn’t that our term:
the feminist term. Wasn’t it the web? We have the web, we have so many people that want
change, we have this moment. What would make it possible for you to transform you’re vision,
this panel into what we need to implement what it’s going to take? Is it Another email
list? I think bodies, our walking bodies. Remember the women for peace that marched
against nuclear energy, that walked in front of the white house. We need to do that again.
We have to march in front of places. I don’t want to be invisible anymore, I don’t even
want to be somewhat visible. I think I want to be heard, I want my voice very loud and
I want us to figure out what we can do for that to happen. What do we need to get? Is
it people in the streets for you, AiJen? What do we need to do to get people in the streets?
What do you need? Well, we need vehicles like the Women’s Action Coalition that can organize.
We need to organize, we need a vision and a program for policy reform that is based
off of our feminist values that’s very clear where we can start moving concrete demands
forward. And we need a great communications infrastructure, we need all kinds of stuff.
We need all of our voices and a vehicle to move them. I should say it went on until 1996,
it was the ’96 convention and it was after that it kind of crashed, not before starting
groups all across the country. There were pods of Women’s Action Coalitions that happened
in Los Angeles and Chicago and all over. So it’s a good four years there, it did have
a little bit of impact. We need another Bella, that’s what we really need. We need another
Bella, that’s for sure! There, that side! Hi, my name is Reynolds and I’m an artist
and an activist and I just want to say that having the Elizabeth Sackler Centre for Feminist
Art, for me is a dream come true because I work here also and I live across the street.
And I was a Women’s History major at Sarah Lawrence double with Art. And I remember coming
here to see Judy’s Chicago, I think it was in 1980 at the Brooklyn Museum and it was
the only thing I could see! You know, in art class it was contemporary that I liked because
it was something I could look at. But anyway, I just want to address a couple of things
that I haven’t heard today. And I think it can be summarized, I went to see a Kerley
Schneeman show this week and there were two issues that she uses her work to address that
I haven’t heard about. One was she had done a show about Lebanon and an invasion in the
80’s that a lot of feminist, or not feminist, goddess antiquities were destroyed. So I want
to say, you know, the feminist movement is international as long as it’s not artifacts
in Baghdad! [laughs] You know, I don’t think we have come as far as we can go. And there
is now an organization called Safe that is planning a vigil on April 10th for museums
because the museum in Baghdad was destroyed when we invaded. And another thing I haven’t
heard today is really a talk about bodies. Kerley Schneemann had menstrual blood [laughs]
on tissue paper in one of her art pieces. And I want to say I don’t think we’re where
we need to be with the woman’s right to choose. When girls in, say Mississippi cannot walk
into a planned parenthood clinic without being assaulted by protestors. This is going on
right here, in New York. It is the same people that wanted to close our museum when there
was a Madonna up that they did not like in the Sensation Show. I led a little march,
I have a kid, called it Moms for the Museum. A nun spit on my kid and cursed us out with
four letter words, all right? A man pulled out a swastika. I thought he was going to
shoot us. This was just a little march with fouryearolds and drunks. All right. Now, these
same people are at Planned Parenthood on Bleaker Street every first Saturday of every month
at 10:00. OK? There’s now a bill at City Council called the Clinic Access Bill to, at least,
keep them to the street so they can’t harass women. All right. Thank you. All right, folks
I want to let everybody lined up here speak, but that’s it. OK? I want you in a sisterly,
feminist, intergenerational kind of way to care about your sisters and to share only
as long as you believe you would like them to share. Given that it is now quarter to
4:00. That is a challenge to me. Gloria. Hi, I’m Gloria Felch. So many threads of this
are so important, but this is what I really want to say. A movement has to move. Power
and energy come from moving into new places, not from standing still. That requires something
that I have heard people dance around today. I see some incredible women who are incredible
leaders here today. The fact that we are here thanks to Elizabeth Sackler, that is incredible
leadership. What Esther did in her life, that is incredible leadership. AiJen, what you
have done is incredible leadership. And yet, what I have heard people say is, “We’re not
here to lead, we’re here to spark.” Well, do hell with that, folks! We are here to lead.
I mean, we must. The answer to the questions that we’re talking about here and a leader,
by the way, in my view, is anybody who gets something done. So, the challenge that I wanted
to put forth and if we have time, I’d like to hear some response to this and that is:
How do we, as feminists, get beyond wanting to be in a circle and sparking but not leading?
All right. Let’s lead. All right. Go. Good. Hi my name’s Mia Herndon and I work in the
Third Wave Foundation. I guess I would just quickly say that in our efforts to lead, I
think we actually have left a lot of people behind. So, my one challenge is, or one of
the things that I think should be a part of that infrastructure, is how do we collaborate
effectively, and how do we ensure that we do no harm to each other? Actually, there’s
a lot of young who are feminists in their work who still don’t claim feminism because
of all the bad taste in their mouth and because of lack of support and the ability to share
resources effectively or to lift up voice when we have opportunities. When the money
gets on the table, and when we’re talking about power, even state power, oftentimes
we lose the ability to hold each other strong. So, I want that to be on the table real firm.
Mia Herndon, Third Wave. Hi, I’m Rita Henley Jensen, editorinchief of Women’s eNews. This
is my perspective, which is we haven’t confronted that the reality is misogyny. What I’m focused
on right now, the connection between the end of welfare as we knew it and the enormous
amount of suffering that that has resulted in and the fact that the United States has
the highest maternal mortality that would be dead women among developed nations. African
American women die during pregnancy, three, four, five times as white women. It’s not
the lack of prenatal care. The recent studies indicate it is nothing but hatred. It is this
stress that we carry throughout our lives, living with the violence, and the poverty,
and the burden of taking care of the children by ourselves that is embodied in the current
welfare law and that results in these statistics. So, I would encourage us all to acknowledge
that all of us are carrying this burden of hatred across the generations. Thank you,
Rita. Women’s eNews, WomenseNews.org. Go. Good afternoon. My name is Eliana Hemenez.
I teach at Elizabeth Irwin high school in downtown Manhattan. I’ve been teaching high
school for 12 years. Oftentimes you talk about feminism located within higher education and
academia. This is where we found our feminist epiphanies, our feminist awakenings, et cetera.
But, a lot of times, we forget the fact that feminism actually is also happening in the
K12 sector. As a feminist teacher, as a feminist activist, as a feminist educator, and I consider
myself a teacher activist, I often feel very alone at these events. There are activists
who collaborate with one another, partner with each other, have foundations that support
them, have organizations that support them, et cetera. But, feminist teachers really work
alone. We don’t have coalitions. We don’t have foundations that support us. We don’t
have a forum, really, to connect with one another. So, to answer your question, what
would be the intervention that I would want to see happen: Three things. I would like
to see feminist teachers in K12 schools make a coalition with each other. What are we doing
in the classroom that makes it feminist work? What is feminist work in the K12 sector? The
second thing is to kind of follow up on me as point before, which is there are people
being left behind. I often feel like it’s young people. Young people are being left
behind and the teachers who are guiding them are being left behind. I would like to see
more work between women’s foundations, feminist organizations and teachers partnering with
each other, saying, “How can we work on this together.” Then, the third thing is creating
some kind of K12 gender studies curriculum throughout our schools, public and private.
There is an organization in Canada called the Miss G Project which is trying to integrate
women’s studies into their schools. I would love to see something like that happening
here. Thanks. So, thanks. I want to thank, also, Elizabeth Sackler for starting the center.
My students, who I bring every year, my feminist studies class, they love it. So, thank you.
Excellent. Ann O’Shea: Hi, my name is Ann O’Shea and I am a family court judge here
in Brooklyn, which is my third or fourth career. I think the thing that’s key for us going
forward is to be able to communicate and to build a structure of communications, and I
just want to tell one very quick story. In 1971 or ’72 I was working with Barbara Siemen
who was one of the leaders of the women’s health movement quite an extraordinary woman.
And we discovered this book that was in typewritten form that was called “Why Would a Girl Go
Into Medicine,” and it was an expose of medical schools and their admissions policies and
how they treated women once they got into medical school, and it was penned by a women
who was known as Margaret Campbell. Barbara and I took to making copies. I was working
at a women’s magazine at the time, and we would make copies, and in the feminist press
we advertised that you could get this book for $2.50 to cover postage. And we were sending
hundreds of them out and using the office Xerox machine to make these books. It was
actually written by a woman named Mary Howell, who was at that time the dean of Harvard’s
medical school, and because of that work, obviously if they had known who she was she
would not have been the dean very long. But there were enormous changes that came out
of that book, and I think that the power of the media and to the extent we have all these
new tools like the Women’s eNews and still the feminist press and all of these new tools,
I think are remarkable and we need to really take hold of those and use them. Thank you.
You’ve got five minutes, folks. I’m Gail Levin, I’m a professor at Kuney and art historian,
and actually the biographer of Judy Chicago. And I wasn’t going to say this but in response
to the high school teacher, Judy has just launched, based on The Dinner Party, a new
K 12 curriculum just this month, which I think might be relevant to the call for gender studies.
What I as an educator wanted to say is, we’ve been talking about what the stimulus needs
for women, and it was mentioned we need to get beyond traditional women’s jobs. So many
women are teachers, and it broke my heart in Obama’s recent community meeting in California
to hear a teacher talk about being laid off after 25 years, and we need to revalue how
we treat teachers in society as a profession. All educators. And the last thing I want to
say is that in this economy especially, we need to make sure, and I feel certain that
Obama has his heart in the right place, I just hope the rest of the government will
go with him…we need to make sure that our young people can afford to get higher education,
can afford to go to college, and that they don’t need to join the armed forces and go
to Iraq so they can pay college tuition. Over here. This speakout is fantastic, and I have
two proposals. My name is Lourda Serispe, I come from Mexico. I would first like to
say that Carmen Barroso is here. Carmen Barroso was one of the founders of the feminist movement
in Brazil. And I was in Mexico 1976 a woman from the [clapping] a woman from the ford
foundation came and said Lourda would you like to organize the first conference of women
studies and I said “fine”, I think we will get some 50 women. So we had the conference.
There were 400 women there. 400 from all Latin American countries, from the United States.
But in the 70’s and 80’s we had a lot of international communication. My house was the hotel for
all visiting feminists in Mexico. My first proposal, petition, plea is we have to again
increase international communication between us feminists. All over. If they could do it
in 1880 when there was still steamboats going across the Atlantic, don’t you think we could
figure it out? Yes, yes we certainly can. My second proposal. I agree very much with
a friend who said that “leadership must lead.” I think in the last 20 years we have deconstructed
everything. The feminine personality, the masculinity, because colonialism we’ve deconstructed
too much. Now we need to construct. We need a new mindset. We need to ask ourselves what
kind of feminism do we have for a new real green deal. All right last comment from the
we here. Hi. I’m Laila Love. I’m actually about to change was I was going to say based
on what she said but I want to say I think that we are in a time when the celebration
of womens’ power is so exciting and so fierce and I saw a celebration in a conference I
went to that Liz Avzec held for “freedom on our terms”. And ever since the idea of celebration
in the movement in the lawmaking that we come together in that way is so powerful and I
have been thinking of an idea that we should start a boat that goes in international waters
and takes womens’ art and lectures and stories from country to country and that we could
come together and do an environmentally sound project where we had an international space
and we could broadcast media from it. We can broadcast art, we can have healing, we can
have nutrients, we can go on rescue missions and we can have this beautiful beautiful love
craft and just make the ocean our mutual space and use the media use these satellites use
what we have in this time right now. So that’s my huge… A real mothership. I’m going to
let each of our guests close before we go to Tony. I just want to say that Grit TV is
on air, it’s on satellite, it’s on cable. It is on our first public television station
as of this month in Philadelphia. You can watch us any time at GritTV.org and subscribe.
There are podcasts of every kind.And I just want to say that Grit TV is really We TV.
It’s a platform and a lot of the organizations mirror, a lot of the people you heard from
today have been guests on our program. It’s about telling the stories, in particular women’s
stories and stories about public interests successes. So please, come to us, you can
write to me Laura, L A U R [email protected] with your story ideas, your shows that are coming
up, your things that you are doing. We have a question of the day, we have a conversation
of the day. We also play videos from viewers, from grassroots groups, from community organizations,
from poets, performers, artists, please it’s at your disposal. I hope that you’ll join
with me, in trying to put the tools of online, onsatellite, oncable, and ontelevision of
more of us, because it’s been in the hands of a few of them for way too long. Let’s start
Esther a closing thought. I sort of feel like I’m with my daughter here [laughter] . I just
feel like what I’m thinking she’s going to do, that I’m was interesting in the house
of academ, and she’s interested in cleaning up the houses of the nation. AiJen. Let’s
build a movement, let’s build a movement that’s intergenerational, dynamic, lead, and strong,
and has the power to really seize the moment. Host: All right. Well, someone who’s going
to take us out to move that movement with all the energy, defiance, and inspiration
that we need is our next guest Tony Blackman. She’s a poet, a rap artist, an actress, the
first ever hip hop artist to work in an official capacity with the US department of the States
Cultural Affairs division. Our US hip hop ambassador, Tony Blackman come on up. I woke
up early in the morning with the pain on my mind The thoughts see I just couldn’t just
leave them behind My stomach didn’t feel quite right I tossed and turned all night tried
to sleep tight But I rose with the sunlight My heart cried but I couldn’t find the tears
So scared, seemed to be running from my own fears Years and years of which were on my
shoulders Closer to success, but the world seems colder Looking for my center but all
I find are splinters in my skull These boots straps I can’t seem to pull on my own Then
my thought being grown, meant you were grown The humbling experiences are all that I am
shown I take a nose dive deep into my soul I’m only treading water, when swimming is
the goal I sit upon the rock, but I can’t find the roll I was going east looking for
the north poll Mass confusion, chaotic intrusions, keep bruising my heart. Is there a book on
how to heal? Get back to the start You know the day. The first day, your first birthday,
Innocent, pure, before being poisoned by the world’s way The pleasantries they get displayed
But when we do that the truth we astray So you ask, how I’m doing, and I say fine. In
one day I have lied for the ninth time I think about all the pain I feel inside I think about
all the tears I done cried Playing this game to win I’ve tried My heart still beat but
many times I’ve died. So, I wanted to open up with this verse. Tired of a small wind
of a performance, and I struggle with whether or not to do this new song or show you this
new video. And I think in this age we are now, for me, the visual is very important.
Thank you, Melissa, who said that, the visual is important, understand the impact that it
makes. I’ve had an opportunity to do some work in the DRC in through the US Embassy
there, and the Department of State. I did a residency there, around the elimination
of violence against women. And I’ve been able to take this work and I run this project called
“Rhyme like a girl.” which came out of my work with freestyle union, use as an improvisation
as a tool to promote social responsibility. Now the whole idea is how to gather collectors
of people to create music that has a message, and how to gather artists, and demonstrate
to them that you can have a message and it doesn’t have to be corny. So somewhere over
the years there are a lot of young artists who think that if they’re too positive they’re
going to be corny, and they’re not going to be cool. And sometimes it just takes someone
to take 20 minutes out of your day and to show them that’s not true. And then they follow
along, it’s really not as complicated as you make it. And they know the distinctions between
good, bad, right, and wrong. So, this actually took place in the Congo, in a place for people
are dealing with some struggles that I can’t even imagine surviving with. When I was there
I discovered how many people die when it rains. Just on a rainy day, people die when it rains.
It gave me a new level of fire. I don’t know if it was Elizabeth who said feistiness. This
word, feisty. I wanted this one minute poem then they’re going to play the video, it’s
this song that I coproduced on the range. It’s based on this poem that I’ve been doing
for about 15 years, which came out of my work, using hip hop as an artist and then as an
educator. I wrote this poem because I am an invisible woman, not because people refuse
to see me, they know I am here But it’s as if my womanliness detracts from my existence
My presence too often mistaken for absence, I am an invisible woman, Whose words don’t
go fast enough, whose beat just aren’t bad enough Whose contribution goes unseen They
know I am here because I was there See, I rock the mic as he did I spit rhymes as he
did I bought hip hop as he did. We nurtured it I am an invisible woman I am an invisible
woman Now, I may not be seen, but I’ll be damned if I won’t be heard The feminine voice
in hip hop This song is on YouTube, everybody. Can we get permission to put it on GRITtv?
All right, it will be on GRITtv, as well. That’s where you can see the rest of it. Tony
Blackman. Let’s give her another hand, OK? Go, Tony! I don’t know. Liz Abzug, everybody.
I was supposed to sum up, but I’m a little bit overwhelmed. I took copious notes here,
of everything that was said. But before I try to quickly do that, I want to invite you
all to the reception that follows this as soon as we’re over in a couple minutes, at
the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art, upstairs on the fourth floor. We’re also
going to be blessed with an interactive… What are we calling it, Amy? Where are you?
We’re calling it a participatory art…what? A “Mural SpeakOut” from Amy Sananman’s group,
Groundswell. We would like to recognize the artists who have done this. I think it’s going
to be really fascinating. Crystal Clarity and Nicole Schulman, who organized it. I don’t
know how I got this job. I actually volunteered to do this. It’s very amazing things that
have been said here today. Before I just summarize very quickly in my professorial… I happen
to teach up at Barnard College, Columbia University, Urban Studies professor, but I teach women
and leadership, so luckily my ear rings to all the things that many of you said. I’d
also like to recognize, though, the men who are in this audience today. Let’s give them
a hand. The reason being, that as my mother the late great Bella Abzug used to say. Men
and women have been doing things in pairs since Noah’s ark. We will not be able to do
this without our good feminist brothers supportive men, who understand the dynamics and the importance
of supporting not only us strong women but their feminine sides as well. Now upstairs,
in Elizabeth Sackler’s Gallery the title of the exhibit is “Burning Down the House”. I
think we’ve really burned down the house here today. I think you ought to give yourselves,
all of you, all of you who made some amazing remarks and all of you who came here. I honor
you. Obviously there is a great amount of energy, anger, will to work into generationally
to not only spark, but to lead, as Gloria Phelps said, which I couldn’t agree with you
more. To work across, race, gender, class, ethic, cultural, LGBT, gender orientation
issues. To work with heart and soul, to work on things such as the economic stimulus package,
so that women and girls issues, new jobs can be created. So that we define what the GEP
that we talk about, wellbeing economy, that we talk about humanity and wellbeing as part
of our GEP that we in our feminism have a new world of innovation. And that we get our
voices out through all media and technology venues. That we pay attention to women’s issues,
labor and women, and not just organizing, at the worker level. But, it is as important
to get women leaders, women’s head of the labor unions. We need to look corporately,
we have seen that in the corporate world and in the 80’s and government worlds. In my view
when it was said that there was a pause of the feminist movement, everybody believed
that we the women had achieved it all. By the way, a lot of students today in college,
a lot of college girls believe that we’ve achieved everything. A lot of girls believe
that there is really no need for a feminist movement. That they don’t understand what
all the ruckus is about, that they don’t selfidentify as feminists. I tell them, you, we have a
lot of work left to be done. We have a lot of unfinished business. We do have tools that
we never had before. We have technology that can bring circles of women together domestically
and internationally. All types of collaborations and collective work, and media vehicles and
art and song and music. We can build a movement both domestically and internationally. We
should link the domestic movement to the international movement and listen to our international sisters,
many of whom have been way ahead in the move for feminism in their countries. I tell my
students and I tell you that the students, particularly, young women who are with us
in this intergenerational battle, many of them who are here today but students often
have to know that there’s a context, there’s a framework that you’ve heard it between Esther
Broner, and AiJen , that we can’t erase what was in the past, in fact, we must build on
it. In fact, we must take that context of the second wave of the feminists work so hard
to create, bring it forth to this current generation. Let this current generation use
it’s form of expression through its own linguistics to create new language for a new feminism.
That there is anger and there is will and there is the desire as evidenced in this room,
to take it to the streets, to move, to take direct action. And that we need to grab an
opportunity of social change that has existed and has been born again through this country
through the elections of President Obama and the role, the race of his movement as well
as Hilary Clinton’s race as the first female modern presidency race in the last many years,
even though we had Shirley Chisholm run in the 60’s. And that no women should be left
behind, no groups of women, no individual women based on race, ethnic, religious, LGBT
orientation, cross culturally, cross economic, social economic status. We had some early
mothers that really showed us the way, not the just the suffragist, but early mothers
in the early part of the 20th century. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, College that has
some of the first great women’s programs that gave birth to this new feminism. We have to
allow this catharsis, this transformation of equality and work to build on it through
realistic measures like the stimulus package. Yes, we need to make sure that there are jobs
for women in that stimulus package. That there are child care benefits, pay equity, rights
for immigrant workers, nontraditional jobs for women in that economic stimulus package.
We have to galvanize our collective spirit, take our anger, take the direct action, use
our creativity through art, film, connect through our creativity and our actions, connect
politics to art, connect women and power poor women, rich women, in between of all races,
all creeds, all nationalities, all backgrounds. We need to, for each of ourselves, decided
how we want to be visible. How we want our individual and our collective voices to be
heard, we have to use the vehicles of the modern technology of the Internet, of twitting
of everything else that’s in there, to express and to cease upon this moment. To make the
new deal, the feminist new deal, I’m not sure if I like the feminist new deal but the moment
to create the Feminist New Deal, a movement where we spark, lead and, in my view, is the
purpose of why those us in this core group of unfinished business sit together very frequently
to think how we can move, lead, inspire, create, and to spinoff the energy that you’ve heard
all of you produce in this room today. There needs to be feminist teachings in K12. I can’t
tell you how much I agree with that point, for men, for boys and girls, for boys and
girls. No longer do I ever want to see a girl in a college class raise her hand and say,
“Excuse me, I apologize, Professor, but.” I have never heard a boy in any of my classes
say that. This is 2009, after all the years of feminist work and all of the kinds of parenting
that has gone on, to see that selfesteem issue still raise its ugly head with girls is really
disheartening. Then, we do have to understand misogyny, Rita. As to the level of misogyny,
and by the way, as I feel was shown during the presidential election towards Hilary and
others, and that we do have to understand that we in the United States have to stop
the high level of maternal mortality. It’s just outrageous that in this century we have
that kind of thing. In the end, we need to collectively embrace the work of our foremothers,
build on the roads that they paved. Take the wisdom of the women who are working, who are
older than us. Take the wisdom of the women who are younger than us. Bring our men along.
Collaborate so that we can create an amazing new women’s movement, one where war will be
ended, love ships will be put into the international waters and I think it’s a great idea, by the
way, Layla and to work so that we can break down the barriers of racism, sexism, homophobia,
classism. Bring together something that my mother really strongly understood in the early
1990’s when she formed her organization, Women’s Environment and Development Organization.
We are a smaller world through globalization, but we really do need feminists in this country
and feminists internationally to work on a common agenda. We do have a moment in this
country with President Obama that we haven’t had for the last 10 years. I think you can
see that in the last 30 days of his presidency, by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and by
creating a council for women and girls, which has never existed before, that there is quick
movement to work on the 21st Century and to create women’s and girls’ rights. It should
not be women or girls, it should not be girls or women. It should not be young women versus
older women or older women versus younger women. That’s why we have created Unfinished
Business. And we need to work together to finish the business of true equality, to create
true gender equity in the 21st Century. I want to thank you all for taking your time
today and joining us here today. Thank you.

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