by Lina Thorne
On April 28 protests called to “Unite Against the War on Women” will happen in 45-48 states plus Washington, DC. Organized through social media by a network of people horrified by the national debate set by the theocrats in government and a willing, complacent media, these protests aim to mobilize the people in this country who care about women and in so doing, reach many more who aren’t even aware of the full extent of the war on women.
Karen Teegarden, a small business owner whose sole previous political activity consisted of support for her local congressperson and campaigning for Obama in ’08, cooked up the idea for the protest after talking with her friend Desiree Jordan about a month ago. She says it was both the newly acceptable open expression of racism within the media and from government officials combined by the relentless efforts on the part of a good chunk of Congress to pass anti-women legislation that spurred her to organize this day of action. “The straw that broke the camel’s back for us about a month ago: you have the trans-vaginal ultrasounds, the personhood amendments, and the Blunt/Rubio amendments, and you realize how extreme these pieces of legislation were… and the mainstream media is covering it as if it’s just everyday legislation. We were just astonished that things had went so far and no one was taking to the streets. My friend said, ‘we should just do it.’ It’s the old adage that, ‘If you just build it they will come.’”
February 19, Karen set up a Facebook group, calling it “Organizing Against the War on Women,” invited several friends to join it, and went to bed. By the next morning, 500 people had requested to join – and since then the pace of growth online has continued at that level. Clearly, the message that we need protest in the streets to respond to the onslaught of laws eliminating women’s most fundamental rights has struck a chord with a large number of people, particularly after it’s been made clear that the misogynists are going after the right to contraceptives as well as abortion.
The Call to Action states:
“There’s a war being waged on women! The reproductive rights issue is only one of the targets. From stripping education budgets that gravely rob our children, to rolling back equal pay laws and domestic violence protections, to changing Voting laws that disproportionately effect minorities and WOMEN — we say, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! JOIN US: Unite Against the War on Women 4.28.12 — a nationwide protest day. That’s just where it starts!”
Karen and her friends have a lot of, in her words, “raw and naïve” gumption going for them but have a lot of advisors as well, long-time activists who are more tied into D.C. They’ve received the endorsement of NOW, Moveon, the Coffee Party, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the National League of Latin American Citizens at the national level and Planned Parenthood and NARAL in some states. " We’ve had some tell us that it’s crazy to attempt to pull together a national day of protest on such notice. They feel we are not going about this in the right way because something like this has never been done before. I’ve never been a believer that you should not do something because it’s never been done before…"
“I really do not ever want us to become part of the Washington bubble… I’m pretty determined that it’s not going to happen. And I think we can be more helpful to these national organizations if we stay pure to what we are.”
Karen sees her efforts as enabling liberal Democrats “to get their voices back,” while also mentioning the involvement of Republicans as well. Her long-term plans are to galvanize a national organization that will carry on with organizing protests and educating and mobilizing appeals to legislators. Another group has started organizing via social media for a national protest in Washington, DC this September.
The need to clearly state what’s at stake for women’s lives (as she says, “we can’t sugarcoat it”) with the desire to unite people very broadly can pose itself as a contradiction as long as we except the framework of what’s already being debated in government at the media. It’s so important that these protests come together as powerfully as possible in the streets, with clear support for women’s fundamental right to abortion and birth control as the core of the war on women. We’ve had enough defensiveness, compromise and capitulation to the war on women – it’s time to put it to a stop.