Darcy Burner in green collared shirt, wearing glasses, smiling

The Feministing Five: Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner in green collared shirt, wearing glasses, smilingDarcy Burner is the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in Washington’s First Congressional District. Right now, polls show her leading in the Democratic primary. This is great news for feminists, progressives and anyone else who cares about equity.

Darcy is an unyielding advocate for women’s rights. This year at Netroots Nation, she delivered the keynote speech in which she urged women to “come out of the closet” for abortion, asking all women who have had an abortion to stand up. Then she asked everyone else who knows someone who has had an abortion or stands with someone in their choice to end a pregnancy to also stand up. In short, for anyone who has seen the speech, the message was clear; we need to take the shame away from abortion. When one in three women have had an abortion, this issue is a lot closer to home than most think. Naturally, despite the clarity of her message, the right wing immediately criticized Darcy for “applauding abortion.”

This is Darcy’s third time running for Congress. But in spite of the huge obstacles she faces, she refuses to falter or compromise on her firmly progressive values. She wants to stand up to large corporations and “sue the bejesus” out of them for wage discrimination, pursue targeted boycotts against conservative funders, and she’s even in talks with developers to create an iPhone app that allows consumers to see which products are funded by right-wing or unjust companies. Not only are her politics on point, but her pragmatism combined with her ability to gauge modern trends in politics, culture and technology, makes her a very appealing candidate — one that can not only win, but the change the tide in politics.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Darcy Burner.

Anna Sterling: What was your initial reaction to the conservative smear campaign saying that you cheered for abortion?

Darcy Burner: I wasn’t surprised by conservatives coming after me. They’ve long had a habit of doing that and coming after women they consider uppity. That was expected. What I will admit was unexpected was that one of my Democratic primary opponents, a woman who describes herself as pro-choice, had her PR people planting stories in the press here claiming I had asked people to cheer for abortion. She did this in order to score a cheap political hit regardless of the cost to the values that we all hold. That was profoundly disappointing.

AS: As feminists and people who are pro-choice, what can we do to encourage our relatives, loved ones, friends and coworkers to come out about abortion?

DB: What I found so far was that opening the dialogue and making it clear that it was okay to come out resulted in a lot of people sending us stories about them coming out to their family and friends. That’s progress. We have to figure out how to make it okay personally and how to make it okay publicly.

One of the things we’ve seen in the LGBT movement is that as more people come out and as more support structures for people coming out such as the “It Gets Better” project are created, that it’s changed the dynamic a lot. We have to give women in our lives encouragement, but also to set up some sort of structure so they don’t feel that they’re alone. Having the ability to come out in a somewhat public way and to have women around you would make a big difference.

AS: Why is it such an important political agenda for the right to attack women’s rights?

DB: I think part of what’s going on is a real philosophical difference about who should have power and who shouldn’t. There are people who genuinely believe that God and nature intended for men to have power in households and that we feminists are messing that up. Those beliefs are deeply held. I think it’s about power over: who has power and who doesn’t? There are a lot of people that believe that men are entitled to have power over women. I fundamentally disagree. I am of the radical belief that women are actually full human beings.

Both of the pregnancies my husband and I went through were life-threatening to me. The idea that men think I shouldn’t have access to birth control to decide when and if I get pregnant, that they think they should get to decide what risks I should be forced to take in pregnancy, is incredibly offensive. I have come out very strongly in favor of two basic things which make me progressive. One is the idea that all human beings have fundamentally equal values, which apparently is a really radical idea. The second thing is this idea that cause and effect actually matter. It matters what the truth is. It matters as they said on The Newsroom the other night: “Hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure, not gay marriage.”

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

DB: There are three people who if you understand their stories, you will understand to a large extent what drives me. They are Eleanor Roosevelt, Alice Paul and Mother Jones. Those are my three real life heroines. For my fictional heroine, Neal Stephenson, who is a local author and writes science fiction, often has very strong female characters in his work. They also tend to be geeks, which appeals to me as a former programmer. I’d like to see us have more and stronger role models in fiction than we do right now though.

AS: You’re going to a desert and you get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

DB: The drink is definitely green tea, which I live on. The food would probably be tofu, preferably baked or seasoned in some way. I would probably take Hillary Clinton. I think I could have a whole lot of really interesting conversations with her.

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