and introduction by Judith Stadtman Tucker
3, 2004 was a pretty rough day for me. I dragged around
all morning with a bitter taste in my mouth and a nasty mixture of
dread and disbelief settling like two tons of concrete in my gut.
My heart felt battered and bruised, like the desperate hurt following
an especially bad break-up. Over the course
of the day, I read and responded to a half-dozen stunned and grief-struck
emails from friends and family. I choked back tears when listening
to Kerry’s concession speech. I entertained grim fantasies
of dousing myself with something flammable and setting myself
alight in protest, like a Buddhist monk— and you know things
on the national scene have really hit a low point when middle-class,
middle-aged moms start contemplating ritual suicide. Gloomily, I
predicted our country had passed the point of no return, and
started to wonder if America is still a place I want to call “home.”
I drank a couple of glasses of red wine and went to bed early. And
on the morning of November 4th, I was wide awake and ready to fight.
Because the alternative— that those of us who still care about liberty, equality, justice and the future of humanity
might let ourselves to become unmoored, that we might become paralyzed
by our own down-heartedness and skepticism— is unthinkable.
Because then the bad guys win, and there’s just too much at
Chaudhry, I agree we need to take some time to sit with the
pain. (Chaudhry writes: “I’d planned to get pregnant
next year. Maybe I’ll just stay home with the baby –
lose myself in motherhood as some women do when defeated in other
parts of their lives.”) And like Katha
Pollitt, I think a clear-eyed-assessment of exactly what we’re
up against— and by “we,” I mean those who consider
themselves part of the progressive movement— is probably
a warranted. But then I think we need to get going. Like the headline
of economist Paul
Krugman’s November 5 column for the New York Times— borrowed
rock-out political ballad by Bruce Springsteen— I say:
“No Surrender.” Like social commentator Bob
Herbert, I say: it’s time to get “back to work.”
Dionne, Jr. of the Washington Post, I say: “Don’t
mourn. Organize.” But what really convinced me this is
no time to throw in the towel was an essay on the “Optimism
of Uncertainty” by historian Howard Zinn from a collection
Impossible Will Take a Little While:
In this awful world
where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to
what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay
involved and seemingly happy? I am totally confident not that
the world will get better, but that we should not give up the
game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate;
life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning.
To play, to act, is
to create at least a possibility of changing the world. There
is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment
will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by
the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes
in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against
tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed
invincible. What leaps out from the history of the past hundred
years is its utter unpredictability.
insights into the patterns of social change seems particularly relevant
to the course of women’s progress in the United States. For
long years— decades, even— resistance to women's
full equality seems impossible to overcome. And then something shifts.
A door opens, and there is a different world waiting on the other
side. We “caring people” just need to keep pushing.
The MMO asked Kristin
Rowe-Finkbeiner, author of The F-Word –
Feminism in Jeopardy: Women, Politics and the Future, to comment on what happened in the November ‘04 election and
what lies ahead for women— and mothers— who want social
the 2004 campaign season, a number of feminist organizations targeted
women— especially single women between the ages of 18 and
29— with aggressive “get out the vote” campaigns.
Is there any indication that young women voters turned out in greater
numbers this year than they did in the last presidential election?
Kristin: Yes, the
good news is that there was an increased voter turnout in people
aged 18 – 29 years old in the 2004 presidential election.
According to the Center
for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland, turnout of 18 – 24
year olds was about 42.3 percent, which is up from 36.5 percent
in 2000. Turnout of 25 to 29 year old was about 58.8 percent, up
from 53.1 percent in 2000. As of late November 2004, this data is
not yet broken down by sex.
The bad news? Even with
the increased youth voter turnout in 2004, 58 percent of 18 to 24
year olds didn’t bother to cast a ballot. There is still work
to be done.
Now the numbers that
show the youth vote in relation to overall voter turnout get a little
tricky, so hang on to your hats. Here goes: Although there was an
increased turnout in the younger age groups, the overall voter turnout
also increased for all age groups, so voters under 30 constituted
about the same proportion of all voters as they did in 2000 (18
MMO: Were there
any significant gains or losses for women in Congress and the states
more women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in
the 2004 elections. According to the Center
for American Women in Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University,
at least 65 women (out of 435 members) will serve in the U.S. House
of Representatives when the 109th Congress convenes in January 2005.
This means that women will make up 14.9 percent of that body, which
is a record high, up from 13.8 percent last year. The U.S. Senate
kept the same number of elected women, 14 out of 100 Senators (14
Here again we find more
work needs to be done. More women need to run for, and be elected
to, public office. Women make up half the population, and 14.9 percent
is hardly half.
Now here’s a tricky
question: Is it sexist to say that more women need to be elected
to public office? The answer is a solid, No! Electing
women to public office, regardless of political party, changes the
way women’s issues are addressed. Numerous studies support
this fact. One such study by the Institute
for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that “women’s
presence in legislatures and other state-level elected offices is
closely associated with better policy for women.”
MMO: In your opinion, what policy or civil rights issues should
young women pay special attention to as the Bush administration
enters its second term? What organizations and research groups are
tracking these issues now?
certainly are some very important issues that all women should pay
attention to in the next four years. Restructuring of social security,
and U.S. Supreme Court appointments and decisions relating to reproductive
rights are at the top of my list these days (eight of the nine justices
are 65 or older, so there could be as many as four new appointments
in the next several years). Other important issues include proposals
for paid family leave, subsidized child care, and health care solutions
for families. Many think the gender wage-gap is directly tied to
the lack of federal family friendly policies in the United States.
Quite a few organizations
are tracking these issues, including: The
Feminist Majority Foundation, National
Organization for Women (NOW), NARAL
Pro-Choice America, and more. The F-word has a list
of over 200 resource organizations in the appendix that includes
descriptions of the issues each organization covers along with contact