Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan: Transcript for Episode 1, 2012-08-26
| August 28, 2012
Voiceover: You’re listening to Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan on WeAct Radio 1480AM.
Robin: Welcome to Women’s Media Center Live. I’m Robin Morgan. You’re tuned to WeAct Radio 1480AM in the Washington, DC area, or you might be streaming us live through audio and video links at wmclive.com. To the US Audience: Happy day women won the vote! And a special welcome to the international family online from (that I know of) Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the pioneering feminists in Kurdistan.
With this show we hope to go behind the camera frames and between the headlines into what I call the “alternative reality” that most women inhabit. Our media is still staggeringly comprised of pale males. And the public gets half the talent and half the story. So we want to expose the real impact of this on men as well as on women. We want to have a “safe-house” here in this hour for extraordinary guests national and international, famous and not-yet-famous, to come and relax and be honest.
A few practical words: If you miss one of the shows, you’ll be able to find us as an iTunes podcast, a YouTube video, and a transcript over at womensmediacenter.com. We’re not going to be able to take calls, at least not at first, but we do have a comment line. And I would really, really like to hear from you. The comment line (haven’t memorized it yet) 347-903-WMC1. And we’ll also check for comments on Twitter hashtag #WMClive.
We share the mission of the Women’s Media Center (or the WMC) which was founded only 7 years ago- my god how time flies when you’re making revolution- only 7 years ago by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and me. And that mission is to make women visible and powerful in the media so we can all have real democracy. You can find out and be part of many interactive programs on the website at womensmediacenter.com and I can’t resist, I want to share some of them with you right now. This is not a commercial this is an act of pride.
Women’s Media Center does media training. Progressive Women’s Voices trains women in media skills and leadership skills because in the age of information wow, do we need those. Media Monitoring and activism: Sexism Sells But We’re Not Buying It is a program we initiated back during the last presidential campaign when Hillary Rodham Clinton was being vilified but we haven’t only defended women of progressive bents; we’ve defended Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. In other words, whether you agree or disagree with someone’s position, confront them on their position; don’t confront them on their gender. When you demean one woman for being female, you demean us all. Then there’s Name It. Change It. This is one of my favorites. Because of media monitoring and rapid response, we have wrung apologies from some of the major male anchors and talk show hosts for sexist remarks through pressure. Name It. Change It. is a really special program. Then there’s #sheparty on Twitter, which is a happy hour, every Wednesday from 3-5pm. A lot of programs for media and girls: Progressive Girls Voices- training girls in media skills so they grow up empowered, Girls State of the Union, SPARK. Then there’s media experts: You know how they always have said, we would have them on but we can’t find qualified women, well there’s no more excuses because SheSource is the Women’s Media Center’s huge database of women experts on virtually every subject. All issues are women’s issues, so why shouldn’t we have experts on every subject. Then there are special media initiatives like Women Under Siege which is a new project that tracks and documents how rape and other forms of sexualized violence in conflict zones in the twentieth and twenty first centuries have factored into genocide. And because they weren’t given attention by the media it turned into genocide. If they come for us at night and you do nothing, they come for you in the morning.
And then there’s media content on the website: new features that our web editor Mary Thom assigns and edits from known and not-so-well-known writers, and activists and journalists but on subjects and with a passion that they’re not able and free to exercise elsewhere. And then there’s publications: the one, the publication that blows me away is the 2012 Status of Women in the US Media Report. If you have curly hair it will straighten it, if you have straight hair it will make it curly. Visit the website, the statistics alone are worth the trip. Did you know for example that less than 13% of talk show hosts are women? Which reminds me that I want to pay credit in sisterhood to those feminist hosts preceding this show who are highlighted in a feature on womensmediacenter.com right now. Sisters, I will try do you proud.
So now to the rant. Well the rant. The first thing to say about the rant is that the views expressed are mine alone and the commentary does not represent the views of the Women’s Media Center. Second thing is, these are people and issues that made me talk back to my TV and grind my teeth this past week.
For example, folks who think that Paul Ryan has sexy eyes: what? Are they into ferrets?
For example, Julian Assange, you know that he’s been wanted for some time in Sweden for questioning on accusations of rape, sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion brought by two women in Stockholm. So he’s fled and he’s been in Britian which wants to extradite him to Sweden and he fought court cases and he lost court cases and so now he has taken refuge in and has been given asylum by Ecuador and their embassy in London. From whence he wholeforth denounced women in Sweden as feminist, denouncing Sweden as feminist- ah! Take that Sweden! And posturing himself as a martyr to free speech and journalism because he claims the US is vamping on him because of WikiLeaks of classified documents but the interesting thing to me now is that this great champion of press freedom and martyr to it is taking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy. The current President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and his regime, it’s a leftist regime but it’s authoritarian has been accused of persecuting and jailing journalists who criticize him and his policies. So I’d like to know what part of “no” and what part of “cognitive dissonance” Julian Assange does not understand. So many troglodytes, so little time.
Teeth grinder: Todd Akin. Well, by now I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on this because we’ve all heard 24/7 about his claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have mystical biological powers that shut down our reproductive…we don’t get pregnant. I want to bring two aspects to this that I haven’t heard much or any attention given in the press. In his willful ignorance, Akin seems to have never heard of ethnic cleansing rape. As in the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia, as in Rwanda, too many places. This is where one side of men, in trying to send a message to the other side of men, rapes “their” women with the specific intent of impregnating them so that the conquering sperm eradicates their ethnicity. The motive in fact is impregnation for that rape. The other thing I want to add to the discussion is that the term “criminal sexual assault” and the concept of degrees of criminal sexual assault was won by years of work and effort by feminist lawyers who were trying to expose the history of the definition of the crime of rape in English common law and it’s a very patriarchal history. Rape originally meant the violation of an unmarried virgin in English property law. She was the property of her father. Marriage was a property transfer from the father to the husband. So if you violated the virgin, you were violating the property rights of the father. And that required no proof, just the father saying, “You violated my property rights.” But when it moved from that property context into the individual context and the woman became involved, suddenly you needed proof. Suddenly you needed emphasis of, evidence of struggle, suddenly you needed coercion, suddenly you needed a prompt complaint- none of which was applicable for robbery or murder. I can actually remember- back in the days when pterodactyls flew- a few decades ago, when marital rape in this country was not a crime. In fact rape was defined as, “forcing sexual intercourse on a person other than the wife of the accused.” Think about it.
But, there was stuff that made me happy this week as well. Curiosity exploring Mars—happy. The Perseid meteor shower—happy! The Augusta National Golf Club finally—kicking and screaming—admitting women—happy. Look, I’m so not into golf but I know a lot of business and political and media and power transactions take place on golf courses and that’s why they haven’t wanted us there so wherever those transactions are taking place I want women to have the right to be there.
And last, almost happy-making, I admit it: Tropical Storm Isaac—not only because it’s named for yet another poor biblical son with patriarchal issues, father issues, Dad, you’re killing me—but also because if I were a religious fundamentalist I would bellow the following : Ahem, Old Testament God), “Extreme right wing religionists who have seized control of what was once Lincoln’s Republican party, thou hath brought upon thyselves vengeance for thou sins against women and thou must sacrifice thou first born convention day and be drenched not only in thy longtime sharing of Akin’s calumny against women, but yea! drenched in the downpour of the tropics worse because of the climate change thou denyeth.” Fortunately I’m an atheist wiccan so I’d never say that but remember when Pat Robertson declared that the New Orleans devastation was the fault of Ellen DeGeneres? Well…
And that’s the rant this week.
Now, we’re not gonna yell on this show, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice verbal karate moves while being lethally soft-spoken. One is our interview with the media stance. Among the questions I would like to ask the media is the one about false equivalency. You know this one. This is the one where we organize a demonstration of say 500,000 people on abortion rights and they organize a demonstration of 12 standing at the side of the road sending us to hell, calling us baby-killers and the media says “two sides, two demonstrations on abortion.” I sometimes think that if they said the moon was made of green cheese and we said “actually…” the media would say, “Sides differ over composition of the lunar surface.” They also are preoccupied- the media- with two sides to every question. Well, there aren’t always two sides to every question. First of all, sometimes there are just one- there are not two sides to the fact the world is round and not flat. That’s fact. But sometimes there are more than two sides. Three sides, five sides, eighteen sides. If you have questions you’d like to ask the media, the comment line is 347-903-WMC1 and Twitter hashtag #WMCLive.
Another move in verbal karate is the “Surprise! Words really do mean things!” chop. Why do we ever adopt their terms? Like their phrase “pro-life.” They’re not pro-life, not of the woman, if the child is already born, certainly not of the child, Akin wanted to take funding away from school lunches. We are pro-choice, they are anti-choice, that’s it.
And last, the sexist word of the week, and its gender-free alternative. Everybody knows about “fireman” and “firefighter” but sometimes even feminists and well-intentioned antisexist men use words with sexist roots without knowing it, unwittingly. So this week’s is: disseminate, seminal, and seminar. They all stem from the root “semen,” but not just semen, semen as the sole creative crucial force to initiate energy. Well, it’s one of them, but without the egg, not so much. For “disseminate” we can use “distribute” for “seminar” we can use “ovular” for “seminal” we can use “germinal.” There, now you can play “Gotcha!” with your friends.
So now we’ll pause before returning with two very interesting guests and for our last half hour we’ll be talking to pal of many decades Gloria Steinem but we need to take a short break for our listeners on WeAct Radio 1480AM This is Women’s Media Center Live Talk Radio with a Brain. I’m Robin Morgan and we’ll be right back.
[Voiceover with Music:] Coming up: The teenager who successfully launched a national campaign to get a woman moderator for the Presidential debates, Emma Axelrod, joins us next on Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan 1480AM on WeAct Radio.
And we’re back! On October 16, for the first time in 20 years, a woman- veteran reporter Candy Crowley of CNN- will moderate one of the Presidential Debates. And on October 11, ABC newswoman Martha Raddatz will be the moderator of the Vice Presidential debate. Why the change? Well, last May three New Jersey teenagers- not old enough to vote- Elena Tsemberis, Sammi Siegel, and Emma Axelrod- organized a petition on Change.org calling for the Commission on Presidential Debates to appoint a woman to moderate one of the debates. Their petition drew over 115,000 supporters by mid-July, so they went to deliver the signatures to the Commission, and were turned away at the door. But then came the victory. It’s a partial one since all the moderators are still European-American but the campaign did succeed though the commission would never admit it. Emma Axelrod, I’m pleased to say, is a graduate of the Women’s Media Center Progressive Girls’ Voices and she joins us today by phone. Emma, are you there?
Emma: Yes! It’s so great to be here.
Robin: It’s so great to talk with you! Tell me, what propelled you three to do this?
Emma: Well, when we learned that there hadn’t been a woman moderator for 20 years we were shocked and wondered why we, people of our gender, were being overlooked as people who could be totally awesome in fulfilling this role and we just wanted to do something about it.
Robin: Oh it’s fantastic! Tell me, if you were the moderator, what kinds of things would you like to ask the candidates?
Emma: Well, I’d like to ask them about big issues facing our nation for all people but of course especially women’s rights. I’d like to ask them about their views on birth control and equal pay- why women are still earning 77 cents to a man’s dollar.
Robin: Good things! Do you think that the other moderators will ask them these things in the absence of a woman?
Emma: They might, but it’s still important to see a woman asking them to know that women have their own role in deciding these important decisions that will affect our lives so I think it’s very important to see a woman up there even if the issues will be discussed addressed them.
Robin: Exactly. You give me hope. Give us an answer to the media that sometimes says, “Young women aren’t interested in feminism.” I don’t understand this because I speak a lot and I see audiences with lots of young women and some young men and they’re all royally pissed for the right reasons and I don’t think I’m hallucinating them. And then there’s you, and Elena and Sammi. What would you say to people who say, “well younger women don’t care about feminism”?
Emma: I think that they’re wrong. I know a lot of young women, like me, who are very concerned about the issues that face us just because of the gender that we were born into. Maybe some girls are portrayed on the media, on TV, celebrities as caring maybe some girls who do care don’t know how to voice their concerns but the concern is definitely there.
Robin: Where are you going to take your concern from here, Emma? I should have congratulated you, by the way, on the success of this- congratulations! I hope you’re celebrating. How has your life changed, by the way, since the victory?
Emma: A lot of people have seen us on TV and like to congratulate us. I guess more than anything the change has been internal because now we know that being able to create change is possible and it’s sort of freeing, liberating to know we have that power as young women so more than anything the change is internal. But I’m not really sure what our next steps will be, though we’re definitely interested in creating more equal representation.
Robin: That’s great. What do you plan to do yourself, in your own life?
Emma: Well, I’m going to be putting most of my attention into school in the next couple years. I’m going to be starting my junior year of high school so that’s going to require a lot of work but I want to put myself in some powerful career position in my future maybe create some of that equal representation just by being there and encouraging my female peers to do the same.
Robin: Ah, boy, you are fantastic! You give me hope.
Emma: Thank you!
Robin: You are the future, and the present as well. Thank you so much for being with us, and I hope you come back when you make more good trouble.
Emma: Thank you, haha.
Robin: Thank you again, Emma. Bye-bye!
Emma: Thanks for having me.
Oh wow. Now, for those of you who are, as I am, concerned unto panic over what’s happening with voter suppression in this country, our next guest is of special importance. Melanie Campbell is the CEO and Executive Director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. She’s the convener of the Women’s Coalition for Dignity and Diversity in the Media and she’s an expert on voting rights, civil rights, women’s rights, election reform, and cross-cultural coalition building. And we wanted to talk with her about voter ID campaigns, the general scandalous voter suppression and assault that’s going on in our country but because of her schedule she couldn’t be with us live today so a few days ago we sat down and taped this conversation.
Robin: Let’s get right to it, the voter suppression assault that’s going on. Despite that there is absolutely no proof of voter fraud that the folks behind the assault claim is epidemic it’s just blatant suppression of the vote in target populations so Melanie, you’re the expert here, recap if you can, briefly- we have limited time, some examples of what’s happening nationally in terms of voter ID laws in some places or early voting restrictions or I gather in some places poll-watchers are even no longer permitted to tell people which polling places to go to vote and then there’s Texas and Ohio and South Carolina, anyway, give us some examples.
Melanie: It’s a voter suppression tsunami. If you think of places like Florida and Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee as examples of places where the early vote has been cut- where in 2008 that’s what helped get the turnout back up. Look at Florida, Texas, and South Carolina, they’re making it more difficult for people to register. The challenge is that we’re going backwards.
Robin: You know, the impact of these voter ID laws or the suppression in general is huge. I read about Vivian Applewhite who is this woman in her 90’s from Philadelphia who had marched for voting rights with Martin Luther King and had voted in every single election since I think 1960 and because her social security card was stolen from her purse and she’d been adopted so her birth documents didn’t match her other documents, whatever, it was bureaucracy, and she wasn’t allowed of course then to vote. This is obscene. It took her months to fight the bureaucracy and finally get a temporary ID. So talk a little about the impact of this suppression, especially on the African American community, but also on older people and disabled people and students, and single moms with small kids, and caregivers who can’t get out at certain times. Give us a human impact report.
Melanie: Your example, the woman from Philadelphia, is true in many places, including in Georgia for example, you have to have a valid driver’s license, all the information has to be current. Well, 36% of Georgians over 75 don’t have driver’s licenses. That’s not a black thing or a white thing, that’s an American problem. And you have what is taking place, so at the end of the day, we know we have 76 days left and what we have to do is it has to become a national movement to push back on this. US Attorney Holder talked about this being a modern day poll tax and it is.
Robin: It is!
Melanie: We have to push back. Our lawyers are fighting. The legislatures are fighting where they can. But we the people have to fight back, and get those voter IDs and push back where we can before some of those rules before they have a huge impact because I’m really worried about what’s gonna happen on election day when people show up who have been voting for 40 to 60 years and young people who voted for the first time in 2008, it’s not a good thing for America.
Robin: You know, I cut my political teeth in the civil rights movement with guess what? voter registration. So this is so basic to me, I mean, I don’t understand why people aren’t in the streets over it. This is the pulse…this is suffrage and they’re taking it away again. Is there something specific that you can suggest that voters can do to make sure their vote counts?
Melanie: Yes, well first of all, register. And verify, I don’t care how long you’ve been voting, check your voter registration status right now. It’s August, we’ve got some time. Visit the election protections website- and there’s many others out there- to check your status, know if you need a voter ID. We have a Cost of Freedom app- a web app- so people can check in any state. You can go to the National Coalition site: ncbcp.org. Information is gonna be power. And then, a lot of the organizations are working to help people if you cannot afford some of this stuff. Lawyers are there waiting on the Election Protections Hotline, I’m working very closely with Barbara Arnwine, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. They have lawyers now; they usually don’t do it until the month before the election. They have lawyers and law students on the phone at 1.866.OUR.VOTE. Pick up that phone and call and check your status first.
Robin: You’re wonderful. Listen, we’ve gotta go but this is very helpful and you’re just fantastic. Will you promise to come back?
Melanie: Oh most definitely. And thank you for the invitation, anytime!
Robin: Thank you! It’s time for a short break. This is Women’s Media Center Live, the talk show with a brain, on WeAct radio, 1480AM. Do not go away, there’s lots of good stuff to come.
Music and voiceover: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney should answer before they get your vote. You’re listening to Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan on WeAct Radio 1480AM.
Hi, hello, welcome back. We’re back this time, we’re on the phone, I hope we’re on the phone with Gloria Steinem who is somewhere in the Pacific Northwest trying to finish a new book which attempt I am dismally interrupting. Gloria are you there?
Gloria: Yes, I’m here, I’m here!
Robin: Oh that’s a comforting voice. Happy women’s equality day!
Gloria: Yes, happy day to you, too, absolutely. And you know, I want to share, in the midst of things that are not so cheerful, I’d like to share the very cheerful place I am, which is called Hedgebrook. It’s a women writers’ retreat (or advance) for women all around the world and is free and half a dozen terrific women get all day to themselves on wonderful Whidbey Island and the have great conversations at the kitchen table at night.
Robin: Sounds very good. What did you say to me the other day, that you’re a short walk away from a field of lavender?
Gloria: Yes, yes a beautiful field of lavender. Whidbey Island may be somewhere people know but if not you should try it; it’s a huge island a ferry ride away from Seattle and Hedgebrook is 48 acres with little cottages that people live in. It’s truly beautiful.
Robin: And you deserve it. I hope you go wading in the field of lavender and just breathe.
Gloria: Yes. Actually, I have it here and I wish I could transmit it to you.
Robin: I could use it! Well, I’m going to be very unhelpful about this, because I’m going to pull you back from the field of lavender but only for a little while. This is a conflict between me as your friend who wants you to not do this kind of interview and now as an interviewer who wants you to do it- schizophrenic once again. Have you seen, have you had a chance to see the new University of Southern California Annenberg/LA Times poll on politics and the press?
Gloria: Yes I’ve seen some of the results and I think it’s fascinating and important to know that so many more people are continuing to trust traditional and local media. That’s a very important finding. And that the more media they consume, the more likely they are to vote democratic. That has something to say about the different fact levels between the two parties. But I think overall it speaks to the fact that the most important thing is a trusted messenger and I suspect that people go more to traditional and local sources because they have some idea that the New York Times or whatever other traditional source is going to be trustworthy and accurate. And Robin, if you don’t mind my saying so, I think that’s the power of this radio show. People understand that you’re not going to lie to them.
Robin: I’m not going to lie to them. This has gotten me in so much trouble for so long- the not lying, as you well know. But maybe now it’s time for a little truth. SO thank you, darling, thank you for the support. Are we not proud? I wish Jane were here. She will be in a few weeks, but are we not proud of what we hath wrought? I’m back in the Old Testament God. This is the newest baby of the Women’s Media Center.
Gloria: Yes, and I want to speak up for radio as a medium because it is still the most democratic. Literate or not, whether you have expensive equipment or not, you can wind up a radio and tune in. I mean, my dream is that one day, we’ll have a satellite so that around the world, with or without electricity people can use wind up radios (especially women) and talk to each other.
Robin: Especially in the global south, I mean, it is the media, much more than any other kind. Well, are you ready for some breaking news? Because I would like you to comment on this, just as if we were a grown-up interviewer and a grown-up interviewee and not just us. Breaking news (which has never been heard before and we’re breaking now) is brand new research out of the Women’s Media Center partnered with the 4thEstate which is analyzing media coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign and election. They’ve crunched the numbers on the by-lines of women covering the election; they’ve looked at 35 major newspapers- the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, all the major publications- to see how many stories were written by guys versus how many written by women. They looked at only straight news reporting- no opinion, no bloggers- at all articles covering the presidential election. It turns out 76% were written by men, 24% by women. The numbers are close for both primary coverage and general election coverage. During the primaries 76% were written by men, during the general 73% were written by men, so although I have an idea what you might say, you wanna make a comment on that, please?
Gloria: First of all, I think it’s important as a proviso, in case people have just tuned into us for the first time that we are not talking about biology here. We well understand that there are more men who are more pro-equality and feminist than some women. But it does make a difference whether you’ve been walking around for 40 years as a female or a male, or as a white person or a person of color, and so it is very important to have media that looks like the country. And this is profoundly, profoundly different. It’s especially sinful in this election because the gender gap and the race gap are completely the other way.
Robin: That’s right, that’s right. And these are the folks who are determining what is news. How news will be consumed, defining it. Sometimes I think people that because after much struggle we won the fight so the folks who are in front of the camera are a more representative mix- ethnically, gender-wise, etc- sometimes you’ll even see two female anchors together- whoop-dee-doo! But I sometimes think that people don’t understand that what goes on behind the camera is where the real rubber meets the road- the producers, the directors, the folks who define what is news and in this case define what is election coverage.
Gloria: Yes, and what you were saying earlier is so important, that even the idea of fairness is that there are two sides to every issue when in fact there may be one or thirteen. Furthermore, the definition of objectivity is being evenhandedly negative. It is part of the reason people get so frustrated with the media because it’s not reporting on positive solutions, it sees itself as mostly reporting on the negative. What also makes me throw my slippers at the television set are the generalities about the American people. I counted 27 the other morning on the news, as if we were one homogenous lump—
Robin: The melting pot.
Gloria: Yes, well, we’re more like a big tossed salad with each element keeping its flavor.
Robin: An antipasto!
Gloria: Haha, but if you think that we’re 300 million, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-lingual folks who arrived here somewhere between yesterday and 100,000 years ago, I mean, it is profoundly, profoundly different which is partly what I’m trying to write about in this on the road book that has been going on now for a dozen years.
Robin: In other words, the concept of “the Americans” or “the American peoples”? What can we devise as the alternative?
Gloria: Well for one thing we can reason from the bottom up, instead of from the top down. For instance I was in a school district recently where children speak 127 different languages. Yet that school district is subject to the uniform paper test of the district and on top of that, since school spending is heavily based on real estate taxes those students who need the most get the least. If these kids who speak different languages just have a little boost in the beginning they are going to be the source of immigrant energy that this country has been created by and they are also going to be links to other countries in the world.
Robin: It makes you crazy.
Gloria: And yet they are getting even less of an investment than the kids who uniformly come to school speaking English. So if we just, go on the road so to speak- which is where I spend my life- if we just look at the reality, we can make so much better decisions and uniformity is not a virtue. People who experience something are the experts at deciding what to do about it.
Robin: That’s always been the theme of the women’s movement, that each woman is an expert in her own life. Starting back when rape in marriage was not a crime, she needed to be to be able to say, “I don’t want this.” Anyway, we’re going to have to take a break shortly and then we’re going to come back and maybe talk about the conventions that are starting- good news or bad news- I’m not sure, and about some new ideas that you and I have discussed that sound really very exciting to me. So we need to take another break; I’m Robin Morgan, this is WeAct Radio 1480AM and you’re listening to Women’s Media Center Live, talk radio with a brain, which we’ll be right back with-tada!- Gloria Steinem.
[Voiceover with music] Coming up next more with Gloria Steinem, as she reflects on the day women got the right to vote and the questions she has for the presidential candidates. This is Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan, 1480AM on WeAct Radio.
Robin: And we’re back with Gloria in the lavender field.
Gloria: Yes I’m still here!
Robin: Oh I have separation anxiety when I don’t hear from you! So let’s talk for just a minute, not too long, about the conventions because they used to actually mean something and they’re now weeklong commercials and yet as a news junkie I’m probably gonna watch them anyway. The Republican one will be, you know, you can go snow blind from watching it because it’ll be so white and the Democratic one will be a bit more representative. And I must say, kudos to them on the platform plank about gay marriage; they should have praise where praise is due. But you think there’s anything salvageable in the conventions?
Gloria: You know, I do, if you consider the level of reality TV we usually watch on television, these are far, far more real and they do have a virtue in the sense that people are together in all five senses. We are so used to the Web and looking at a screen that we forget that the reflector cells in our brains don’t work that way that the chemicals of empathy don’t work that way. There’s a virtue to people being physically together as these people are. I don’t think we should turn our noses up at that. I would like to say one thing about the conventions, however, which is that the platform of the Democratic Party represents the majority views of Democrats but the platform of the Republican Party does not reflect the majority views of republicans because the Republican party has been taken over by a right-wing, extremist group, many of whom used to be democrats. I always feel I should apologize to the republicans; they’re the old southern democrats who beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 left the democratic party and gradually took over the Republican party. I think women especially feel this deeply because they are republican by heritage and the republican party was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and in many ways more supportive of equality than the democrats for many many years. They have not left the republican party but the republican party has left them. If we just look at the issues and vote for ourselves, I think we’ll be fine, but we need to get ourselves out of this polarized situation in which half of the equation isn’t even representing the people so-named.
Robin: There’s a group of young republicans- women and me- who are, sort of young turks who are rising against this and particularly the social conservatism. They may be fiscally conservative but they are pro-abortion rights, they’re pro-contraception, they’re pro-women’s rights, gay rights, gay marriage. We’re gonna have one of these women on the show in a few weeks, I hope. To encourage this, you know. They should take back their party.
Gloria: Yes, there could be nothing more important than that, really, than taking back the republican party because since we only have two parties and one of them is controlled by a very small minority, we’re just stymied. You see it in Congress most obviously but you see it in the two sides to every question- you know, one side saying the sky is green and the other saying it’s blue.
Robin: Well also because the more right-wing they become the more the middle moves to the right so the democrats don’t have anyone holding their feet to the fire except us and that they can ignore. Remember a few weeks ago when we were playing with questions that we would like to ask the candidates- were there such a chance? You had some absolute wonderful ones- do you have any of those still in your memory?
Gloria: One is- and has become stronger now that there’s new research out showing that the single most important element in whether a country is institutionally violent or not is not poverty, hunger, democracy, or religion it is the degree of violence against women. We’ve always known that the function of the gender roles at the bottom was to get men to go to war and be masculine to get women to have babies and be feminine at the extreme. But this proves by data gathered externally that the status of women and the treatment of women is the single biggest indicator of institutional violence. So I would ask both the candidates how this plays in their foreign policy- as the single most important element of keeping the peace and keeping this spaceship Earth going- how does it play out in their foreign policy?
Robin: That’s a wonderful one. It’s also nice to have scholarship validate what women have been saying all along.
Gloria: Yes, it’s helpful because it’s an objective view from the outside.
Robin: Do you remember any of the other ones? There were so many good ones that you had. At a certain age, you know, our estrogen goes and our memory just goes with it.
Gloria: I have my issues I’ve fallen in love with, can I talk about those?
Robin: Of course you can, this is our space; you can talk about anything ums wants to talk about.
Gloria: It suddenly occurred to me that the very good-hearted people all over the world- and especially here since this country has capital punishment and other democratic countries don’t- who are working against capital punishment that we all need to see capital punishment without gender divisions. We need to work not only against what’s perceived and what happens to a relatively few number of people as capital punishment and the stoning, all of the honor deaths, everything that is capital punishment for women. The first is state actions the second is state inaction, but both are capital punishment. I’d like to put this idea out into the world to all of the good people working against capital punishment to open both eyes and get rid of the gender division.
Robin: It’s very important, for years- and you’ll remember this- we were pounding at the doors of Amnesty International because what was considered persecution was in their mandate state persecution. But of course women don’t, in a sense, exist in the public realm, we exist primarily worldwide in the private realm, in the home. All the tortures of women—sati, purdah, battery—you name it—child marriage, female genital mutilation, didn’t qualify because they were done in the home—and AI has changed over the years, thank goodness, and that’s a real step forward, a great leap forward. But to put it in terms of state action or inaction, I think covers that and this would make such a huge difference in repositioning the stonings, the beheadings…
Gloria: I want to write about it, to get the facts out about it and I will do that but I think that another way of saying it is definitional. What happens to men is “political,” and what happens to women is “cultural.” But actually it is all political. It can be changed.
Robin: It’s like, when men make it it’s art, when women make it it’s crafts?
Gloria: Yes, exactly.
Robin: What are some of your other wonderful ideas that you had? You said you had a wishlist of ideas.
Gloria: Because of all the recent disasters, certainly gun control has been with us as an issue for a long time. But because of the recent killings domestically, and the demonstration at the United Nations, that our gun control forces are favoring the sale of arms all over the world; they are very, very powerful at the United Nations. It seems to me that only the women’s movement is going to take up gun control and this needs to be a big mainstream movement like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We certainly have a right to, because guns in the home are much more likely to be possessed by battering men, people who are violent and also much more likely to hurt or kill someone who is in the home than to kill any intruder. Yet the whole gun issue is spoken of as if somehow its protecting us. Both by default and by right, the women’s movement, per se, needs to take up gun control.
Robin: It seems that a woman’s work is never done, is it? I mean, first of all, as soon as we win some, we never get credit. If I hear one more person say, “They gave women the vote”- 50 years, 100 years, and women won it. But it never ends, I think my dying word will be “Actually!” and then splat, because I would love to stick around to see how it ends, but it won’t ever end because there will be more issues and somehow it’ll be up to us. More and more men are taking up the cudgels and joining in so that’s encouraging.
Gloria: Absolutely. And if the public opinion polls had the wit to ask men and issues, and who is a feminist and who isn’t they would be very surprised.
Robin: They would be surprised. We have time for maybe one more idea if you have one more idea to lay on the world.
Gloria: I would go back to basics and say, if I had one wish for the women’s movement worldwide, or people who are trying to achieve a world in which we are linked rather than ranked- whether we’re male or female or whatever country we came from- I would wish (and this may make you laugh but I think it’s true) for a worldwide AA- Alcoholics Anonymous. That is a grassroots movement of small groups meeting by the Zambezi River, by the YWCA, in a church basement, all over the world, as with AA groups where you know even if you move from one city to the next, wherever you move you know that you can find a group. They’re leaderless, they’re democratic, they’re free. We are communal creatures so we need to have each other’s support. If we’re isolated and alone, we come to feel crazy. It’s of course where all social justice movements start—black churches in the South in the civil rights movement or the Chinese revolution or the women’s movement and consciousness raising and now we call them book clubs- it’s where movements start and I think we forget that. We especially forget that in the Internet age. Even though you can’t raise a baby on the Internet, you can’t raise yourself or change yourself on the Internet; the highest purpose of the Internet is to bring us together physically and especially in small groups.
Robin: You know, you let you loose in a lavender field and you come up with some very good ideas. We should do this a little more often but the world doesn’t permit it. Are you hungering for Chinese food? You know your women’s group here is waiting for you to come back so we can have Chinese food together.
Gloria: You know Robin I have a request, if there’s time this time or maybe next time. Explain why it is that this is your heritage—that radio is your heritage—why it is that you can time yourself down to the last millisecond.
Robin: Well, you would do this wouldn’t you? It’s because you can still hum my theme song from when I was four. I’ll do it very fast and eventually I’ll do it in greater depth. Yes, yes, yes, world, when I was four years old I had a radio program called “Little Robin Morgan,” and Gloria claims that she heard it and to this day she still can hum the theme song. So that’s one reason why I’m back—you know you return to your roots, no matter what you do. Yeah, I was a working kid and always wanted to be a writer and got out of the business when I was in my teens by the jaws of life and extricating me. So there, Gloria has outed me—actually I outed myself in the memoir, Saturday’s Child—but you did it on the first show and I love you for it.
Gloria: Laughing, I think people should know why you’re so good at it.
Robin: Thank you and bless you. I love you and we miss you! Take care of yourself and think more good thoughts and smell that lavender.
Gloria: Yes, and I’ll see you very soon and congratulations on this very first show for Women’s Equality Day; it’s great.
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