CLPP 2010: Closing Plenary: Undivided Rights: Building Power, Linking Movements

In this past year, abortion rights have not been the only target of the right-wing populism sweeping the country. In this time of economic vulnerability, the resurgence of conservatism, rhetoric and violence threatens to turn back progress on multiple fronts – from health care, to education, to environmental protection, to the civil rights of our communities. [This plenary discusses] how the struggle for reproductive and sexual rights is intricately linked to movements for economic, social and environmental justice and peace, and how working together we can build real political power through the progressive energies of young people and grassroots activists across borders and across communities.

Some quotes from this powerful and practical closing plenary after the jump.

Meredith Crafton, CLPP alum and law student:

The opponents of abortion have really intensified their campaign this year. The health care bill, violence, tea parties are showing us we have to fight more even though we thought we’d won some ground. One of the things that keeps me going forward is that all of our movements, all of our identities are related. I am inspired by everyone here who is willing and able to speak from their heart and speak that truth to power.
A lot of my work recently has been in the environmental movement. The nuclear industry is saying, nuclear is the solution to climate change. It’s posing a solution, and it can be an appealing solution, because nuclear power plants don’t produce as much pollution as coal plants. But pitting those two against each other is not recognizing the reality of both those situations. So if you take any question that’s being posed to you and break it down, recognize that’s it’s more complicated. So the nuclear plants, where is it happening? On indigenous lands. The plants are being powered by coal plants.
So it’s asking these questions, finding that nuance, making those connections. How can we create a solution that’s good for us now and in the future? The goal is to work ourselves out of a job.

Liza Fuentes, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health:

Immigration status is a fundamental determinant of your reproductive health status. Organizing immigrant women has been one of the most successful things we’ve ever done. Including immigrant women in our work is part and parcel of what we do. At every panel I’ve been to immigration status has been brought up. So I thought oh, we’re good. And then I remembered that we’re here. And we do need to talk about it because others don’t know.
Immigrant women themselves and the context of immigration has to be a critical gear in the works that drives the movement. The idea that there’s immigrants and non-immigrants and we have different lives is a false dichotomy that’s created by policies. Families in this country aren’t just immigrant and non-immigrant. Millions of people live in mixed immigration status households. Leaving out immigrant women’s reproductive health and rights in our work is dangerous because leaving that piece alone doesn’t just leave immigrants where they were before. If you advance rights for some people and leave out immigrant women you create a context where you are making them a scapegoat for lack of rights in other arenas. And you’re also creating a precedent where they can be left out.
If we build a movement for reproductive justice that leaves out immigrants it’s not reflecting our lives. And also, including immigrants is the right thing to do.

Pam Chamberlain, Political Research Associates:

I think we have to realize we’re in the midst of the rise of a social movement that must be taken seriously. We call the tea party movement by a bunch of names that are pretty funny. It may feel good in the moment but it doesn’t do much to combat them.
These groups are part of a new wave of right wing populism. Quinnipiac College just came out with a poll that says 13% of the country now identifies as part of the tea party.
Conspiracy theories encourage people to find simple answers to complex problems and to blame someone else who may not be at the base of the problem.
I think we need to acknowledge that if threats of violence are not combatted quickly they will become real violence.
We need to understand where these lies come from and hold the pundits who spread them accountable. We need to rebut the arguments in logical ways so that people hearing them on talk shows or radios can hear an alternate view. We need to hold government itself accountable for consistency about who are considered enemies in this country. We need to speak out against the use of women’s issues and sexuality issues as wedge issues in Congress. We need to say that if I’ll help your movement you’ll help my movement, but it’s not enough to think in those terms. All of us share the same enemy, the same opposition: groups of people who would like to maintain their unearned wealth and power.

Kenyon Farrow, Queers for Economic Justice:

For me there’s no way to look at reproductive justice and economic justice as separate issues, because for a long time our country has used poverty as a way to paint people as deviant and sexually deviant, and as a reason to curb their reproductive choices.
We’ve been working on a campaign with other organizations in New York City to make it easier for transgender people to access welfare and public assistance in New York City. Requiring people to show IDs impacts trans and gender non-conforming people, impacts immigrants, impacts people who have been incarcerated, and impacts poor women in the south who were not given birth certificates.
I want us to think about the ways reproductive justice, economic justice, queer liberation, immigration justice are linked in very specific ways, and that we have the ability to resist in very specific ways the way we are painted by the right.

Miriam Yeung, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum:

I’m scared of the tea party movement too. But we know this enemy. Instead, I think we should be scary. This room scares the bejeesus out of them. So let’s be more scary, because what we are doing does scare them. This idea of sex, and particularly women’s sex, for pleasure scares them. So let’s have more sex!
The administration is full of progressive allies we have fought and struggled with. So I think there’s a really rich potential for policy wins. We need to develop more plan B solutions. We have a seat at the table so now we need to bring policy ideas. We are not as good at coming up with solutions as at saying, oh shit it’s bad. Pick any problem and try to answer it. And then tell us and I swear to god I will bring it to the White House myself.
Second, what our movement needs is funding. In terms of the funding world there is very little funding for feminism and gender justice. All of that money gets sucked into reproductive rights and reproductive health. We have to start taking responsibility for building this movement ourselves. And that is about passing that basket around, why I stand up and making funding pitches. And we need to get better at asking our friends.
We also need to learn how to play politics. How did we get Bart Stupak in the Democratic party? When people who should be our friends don’t work for us we need to punish them. We need to be scary at the ballot box.
We need to do the progressive equivalent of [tea party actions,] outrageous non-violent acts of courage. Because we too can get media coverage that way.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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