The Importance Of Women’s Political Voices In TennesseeAugust 13, 2012 - Author: newscoma - Comments are closed
As I said in yesterday’s long rambling diatribe, I spoke last weekend at the Women’s Political Empowerment Caucus held in Jackson on August 4th (note to self, no more photos ever) and it was fantastic.
A lot of what I said there is what I say on this blog quite a bit so you pretty much know where I stand on the importance of women’s voices in politics. I was humbled (and I really mean that) to be in such an amazing group of women talking about issues that are extremely important to me.
Let me explain something quickly: I was a lucky kid but there were still times growing up in the 70s that there was an unspoken message that women needed to keep their politics to themselves. Needless to say, that didn’t take when it came to me and I’ve been pretty politically active since my grandfather (who was an Eisenhower republican) made me watch the Watergate hearings on television. But I learned early that although I didn’t take easily to remaining quiet on things I’m very passionate about, that there were going to be some walls and barriers to plow through.
In the online community, there are times when political opinions or commentary becomes toxic. Women get hell sometime and it reverts to some rather misogynistic horse poo thrown at us. You know, if all else fails, myself and other online scribes are called a “bitch” or the like. It happens. I don’t like it but also remember I come from a news background. People yelling at me on the innertubes isn’t pleasant, but I’ve put meth dealers on the front page of the newspaper and believe me, they are much scarier when they are glaring at you from across a half-filled room.
Back to the workshop, one thing that was quite incredible was being in a group of women who were validating each other. Rep. Karen Camper spoke of the importance of women being in office and having a seat at the political table in state politics. Jo Matherne, the mayor of Brownsville, had never held office before but saw that she wanted to see positive change in her community and decided she had what it took to make things happen. Lynn Williams, who I’ve only known before on Twitter, needs to speak at every event that is held across the state. She believes, as I do, that mentoring is so important and encouraging conversations across the state is very vital.
“We need to partner,” Williams said. “We need to share resources. Find coalitions. Network. Women’s voices count.”
And you know, I’ve been saying that and hearing her say that made my heart sing. I think we have fragmented not only our resources but our collective voice, yet here was a group of people saying we need to bring things back together.
Each speaker had their own story from Judge Christy Little talking about campaigning and canvassing to Jennifer Rawls, who is the Director of Communications and Public Information Officer for the city of Clarksville (and also has a book so go buy it) who knocked it out of the ballpark. Her message was that participation at any level is crucial.
In the current political landscape, we forget that even the smallest gesture to get a particular candidate in office can be helpful and meaningful. You don’t feel comfortable canvassing or registering voters in a crowd, make sure the volunteers are fed. If money is an issue (and when is it not for many of us), buy a couple of cases of water from a local market and drop it off by the campaign headquarters. Water is manna from heaven on hot campaigning days, especially during the summer months. A lot of volunteers may need a homecooked meal, and if you can cook, drop them off something to eat because a lot of them are young and may not be originally from that area they are working in.
I’m not lying, a home-cooked meal is a big deal when you are miles from home.
Leaders just lead, and sometimes there are non-traditional ways to participate in politics. And results can and do happen when everyone is on the same page.
I spoke of several things but the one thing I did discuss was that we do need to look at more powerful ways of communicating. Now that paywalls are a very real reality with newspapers, we have to keep messaging channels open and we need to support strong political female voices. Buy Betsy Phillips book, buy Jennifer’s, buy Paula Casey’s book on the suffragist movement and how Tennessee tipped the scales. Learn more about the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus. Know that there are bloggers out there like Rachel Walden doing the heavy lifting and that Biz Girl and a plethora of female bloggers are amazing at KnoxViews. And Southern Beale does not mind throwing a punch when it is needed.
And of course we can’t forget the work that Mary Mancini does tirelessly.
Any sort of involvement is imperative if we want our voices to be heard and, believe me, it won’t be easy but nothing worth having ever is.
So I’d specifically like to thank Alma Sanford and Sandra Bennett for inviting me. It was one of the most validating experiences I’ve had this year. I love it when people talk to each other and not at each other, and this experience made me fired up.
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