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Category: Politics, WMC

Netroots Nation’s “Year of the Woman”

| June 13, 2012

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It felt like "the year of the woman" at last week's seventh annual Netroots Nation progressive bloggers' and online activists' conference in Providence, Rhode Island (a gorgeous place, incidentally, which you should visit soon—and stay in a union hotel if they're not all full). The Women's Media Center was right there in the mix throughout the entire conference. Our board chair Jodie Evans, our founding president and current board member Carol Jenkins, our Media Relations Manager Cristal Williams Chancellor, and our Women Under Siege project director Lauren Wolfe attended. So did I, delighted to have the opportunity to wear all of my hats—woman, techie, and political junkie—at once.

On the day before the conference proper, we had been invited to attend the first-ever Netroots Women Connect event, a gathering of seventy or so political women for a day-long strategy session about what it means to play offense, both politically and culturally, in this moment of breathtaking hostility toward women as full participants in American life. The event was jointly organized by the Netroots Foundation and the Women Donors Network. Jen Ancona, who is on staff at WDN and a member of the Netroots Foundation board, created a Netroots Women Connect Storify to recap our very full day of strategizing, building bridges, and woman-powered troublemaking.

We were also honored to be a part of two truly fantastic panels during the main conference. In the first breakout session of the first day, Carol was on the "Women Rule: Keys for Social Media and Electoral Success" panel, along with Anita Sarah Jackson of MomsRising.org and WMC Progressive Women's Voices alums Veronica Arreola of Viva la Feminista and Joanne Bamberger of PunditMom.

On Saturday morning, Lauren participated in the "Safeguarding Democracy: Innovations in Technology and Human Rights" panel, alongside WITNESS' Matisse Bustos Hawkes, Be Bold Media's Sabrina Hersi Issa, Digital Democracy's Emily Jacobi, & moderator Caitlin Howarth, a Roosevelt Institute fellow.

After her panel, Lauren was also interviewed live on Take Action News With David Shuster on We Act Radio.

We also livetweeted the genuinely inspiring "2012 and the War on (and for) Women" keynote, featuring Democratic Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Hawaii Senate candidate Mazie Hirono, and Democratic Congressional candidate Darcy Burner of Washington's 1st District. Progressive Women's Voices alum Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post moderated.

Another noteworthy panel (for which we were in the audience, but giving our overworked thumbs a rest) was "Behind the Camera: Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Media and Culture." Speakers were Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, Elana Levin of Advomatic, ThinkProgress blogger Alyssa Rosenberg, and video game designer and writer Alli Thrasher, and theirs was a most satisfying panel even before the Q&A period's bracing dispatch of a question with a deeply anti-feminist premise from a conservative blogger, via a cameo appearance by WAM!'s Jaclyn Friedman.

Cristal and I were also invited to a breakfast hosted by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, for a small group of advocates in the online space, to exchange ideas about what online advocacy for women's health looks like going forward in such a polarized environment. Cecile opened by speaking of the ways in which Planned Parenthood and its netroots supports could build on the unprecedented success of February's intense, people-powered four-day online advocacy campaign to persuade the Susan G. Komen foundation to restore funding to Planned Parenthood for the breast health services it provides, primarily to low-income women. The conversation then turned to Mitt Romney's extreme positions on matters of women's health: "John McCain is a mainstream moderate compared to Romney on women's issues." As Cecile pointed out, Mitt Romney is on the record as saying Griswold v Connecticut was wrongly decided—that was the Supreme Court that granted married couples the legal right to contraception, way back in 1964. As for Senator McCain? Well, he's one of the few GOP Senators supporting Sen Jeanne Shaheen's push to grant abortion access to raped military women.

There were so many more women-centric panels (youth reproductive health/rights/justice; feminist comedy; sexual freedom; 'Ask a Sista') and parties (EMILY's List; Center for Reproductive Rights; WAM!) that we ran ourselves ragged trying to hit them all, and still be a part of panels and events hosted by our LGBT, labor, and POC allies, among so many others.

But no regrets, not a one: as Darcy Burner said in the moments after her keynote's moving request that all those willing to stand with women who'd exercised their right to abortion rise and be recognized as allies to those women: "This is how we change the stories in people's heads."

We come together; we stand together.

And then we fly home to collapse for fourteen hours into exhausted, happy sleep, all the while dreaming dreams of a world of justice, compassion and equal opportunity for all.

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