Alliance for Justice Panel on Healthcare Reform

30 07 2010

This morning, I went to a breakfast hosted by Alliance for Justice that featured a panel on applying the lessons of the healthcare reform debate to other progressive causes.  I was disappointed by how little the panel focused on the application to other causes part, but it was an interesting summary of how to organize for a huge systemic change like healthcare reform.

The panelists were all part of H-CAN, and so their remarks were particularly useful for coalition organizing and well-funded movements.  Big takeaways were: get the funding moving, bring in lots of people (not just those willing to sign on but also organizations that are partially in line with your cause and willing to help tangentially), respect history and don’t back down just because it’s slow, use creative strategies, don’t get too hung up on “purple” states.

I really liked what Ethan Rome said about defining the debate.  Using the public option as an example, he suggested that what you have to do as a progressive organization or movement is to take a concept that’s seen as being “on the left” and make that the center of the debate.  If you can manage to get people talking about an issue like that, then you’re not playing defense the whole time.  I found this particularly relevant with reference to feminism and especially feminist bloggers.  When I think about “feminism,” my mental picture is far different from what the big feminist organizations like FMF and NOW give you.  That’s because my feminism is centered around bloggers, and it’s about the opinions of people of color, people with disabilities, queer people, trans people, people in the developing world, etc. etc.  So for me, a big part of what I think we need to do is to get our online activist messaging into the organizational/political part of the movement.  We want people to think about issues like immigration, disability rights, hate crimes, etc. when they think of feminism.

Another point that Rome made was that although the victory wasn’t perfect for health care reform, it was a starting point.  I don’t love the actual bill that was passed, but he does make a good point.  You take what’s passed and you go from there.  Once the system in this bill becomes the norm, then the debate is whether to keep it or whether to have more.  Building blocks, basically.  I can get down with that.

On a tangential note, I think this event was actually a really good example of how to have an event!  I’ve been to a number of panel discussions, and this was one of the better ones.  First, the Alliance for Justice host kept it short and sweet, which is exactly what an introduction should be.  Second, the panelists were concise, funny, and practical.  They were all fairly dynamic presenters.  They told stories and they made jokes and they didn’t ramble on.  They gave some concrete advice that was relevant to the people in the room.  They may have gone a bit long on answering questions, but they answered the questions and they did so with good, practical advice.  I think a lot of speakers could learn a lesson from that!

Finally, since we’re on a practical activism roll here, I just wanted to share a few points I learned from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s webinar yesterday on the social determinants of health.  One, appeal to emotions.  Know your audience’s metaphors and use those, even if they feel general.  Phrases like “a family doctor for every family” work better than ideologically loaded and less descriptive terms like “universal health care.”  Two, on a related note, avoid acronyms.   Educated people may know what they mean, but to those who aren’t familiar, you just sound like you’re playing inside baseball or trying to show what you know.  And three, if you’re trying to sell a point to people on both sides of the aisle, you can actually do so by aiming the same message at both left and right.  For example, “of course everyone should be responsible for their own healthcare, but it’s not fair if some people don’t have access to healthcare because of where you’re born or how much money you make.”  The first part of the sentence reassures conservatives, and the word “fair” appeals to the conservative value of equity, while the second appeals to the liberal value of equality/opportunity for all.  Good things to keep in mind when crafting a message, methinks

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Motherhood, Privacy, Choice

30 07 2010

As I said in my last post, I have had a bit of radio silence and I do apologize for that!  The combination of a new job, some personal issues, and a few Sooper Sekrit projects have put me out of blogging commission, but only temporarily.  I’ll try to get back to a once-a-week or more schedule here, and I thank you all so much for your patience.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about children, about mothering, and about where those topics intersect with feminism.  I had some mixed reactions to the recent guest posts on Feministe that addressed the topic of young children in public spaces.  I, like a number of feminists, am happily child free.  I don’t hate children, in fact I have worked with children of different age groups in a few capacities, but I am child-free by choice.  I enjoy interacting with children, and I also like to have adult spaces where I do not have to interact with children.

I agreed with the poster on a number of points.  Children are human beings, and feminism does need to recognize the importance of mothers and girls in the movement (as well as fathers and boys).  I am a strong believer in the “flip side of choice,” aka the choice to have a child and the need for support of children.  I think the “it takes a village” concept is awesome, and I also believe that a form of “community parenting” can be a very good thing.

On the other hand, I don’t like it when I feel like someone is telling me that it is my responsibility to interact with and comfort an upset child in a public space.  I do think that if a child is crying and no one volunteers to comfort the child, it’s the mother’s job to take the child outside, calm him or her down, etc.  It’s also a mother’s (parent’s) job to teach children appropriate behavior in public.  Sure, it would be great if mothers could say “my child is well-behaved and thus should be able to enter all public spaces.”  I sympathize with the poster, who expresses concern about mothers being isolated or stigmatized.  But the fact is that unfortunately, most mothers do claim that their child won’t cry or scream in public, and usually somebody does (ruining it for the rest of them).  I can imagine how frustrating it is for parents of quiet children when someone brings in a noisy, disruptive child and the animosity gets focused on the parents of the quiet child instead.  But I don’t have a handy solution.

The fact is that society shouldn’t stigmatize mothers, nor should it stigmatize those of us who are child-free.  I am so tired of having the heterosexual relationship model foisted on me, so tired of having happy families and cute kids shoved in my face, so tired of medical professionals insisting that I will want a kid one day, so please take our fertility literature.  Just as I’m sure mothers like the poster on Feministe are tired of being ridiculed for their choices.  I hate to say it, but… can’t we all just get along?





We interrupt this long radio silence for some breaking news…

22 07 2010

Eeeee!  The IGLHRC has UN lobbying accreditation!  This is huge, y’all!  Despite my total lack of confidence in LGBT rights in my own country, it seems like the world is really starting to move.  I love the creative activism going on in Latin America, especially, but really all over the world.

More from me soon, I promise.  A new job and some personal exploration have put me out of commission for a bit, but I’m not dead yet 😀