Silent no more

It is 3:00pm on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. In a few minutes I will go home for a solitary (and introvert nerd) evening of channel surfing through the election returns. I must confess that I will be relieved when it is over, although we cannot be certain of when, exactly, it will be over.

audre lordeFor the past several weeks, I have been pondering and, sometimes haunted by, the words of the late great writer activist, Audre Lorde: “your silence will not protect you.” In the early days of our movement, this was a mantra among survivors―survivors of gender-based violence, racial injustice, and myriad forms of oppression and hate. The phrase continues to surface during times of struggle, protest, and bold creativity. And lately, I have been practically choking on them.

How could it be that I―as someone who craves a better path forward and wants desperately to practice the beloved community we whisper/speak/shout about―have been so silent about the vitriolic atmosphere that enveloped all of us during this election season? I have been anxious and agitated, painfully aware of my leadership of a 501(c)3 that is prohibited from endorsing (or rejecting) or seeming to endorse (or reject) candidates for elected office. There have been daily cautions about what we can and cannot say, and fear about appearing to be partisan. Through it all, I have felt that I compromised my own commitment to speak the truth, to confront misogyny and racism, and to stand with immigrants, people with disabilities, and communities of all faiths. My silence does not protect them. It does not protect you. And it does not protect me.

The presidential campaign brought me to the edge of tolerance. The spin, the analysis, the polling. The recordings, debates, interviews, videos. And all the while, Audre’s voice in my head: “your silence will not protect you.”

Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I will go to the office. I hope (read that as BIG HOPE) that we can put the election fatigue behind us. I hope we can celebrate a historic moment for what it is. Silent no more. Forward we go.

#WhyImVoting

o-WHY-IM-VOTING-900

I have a confession; I don’t have a perfect voting record. I looked it up and there it was, in my face, elections in which I simply did not cast my ballot. This sent me down a spiral of self-criticism, I mean, what was wrong with past me!?

But today is Election Day and I have another chance. Women have a lot of reasons for why they are voting and guess what? Voter turnout for women is high, and it’s no wonder. Reproductive rights, equal pay, access to quality education—there is a lot at stake.

Here in Washington State we have dueling gun safety initiatives and key state legislative and congressional seats that are up for election. By voting I participate in making sure dangerous people are prevented from accessing guns, and I get to choose representatives who will fight for essential services for struggling families and survivors of domestic violence. I get to actively influence the political structure and decision making, all of which impacts my current life, my future, and my beloved community.

I’m sure I had a lot of excuses for not voting in the past, but really what matters is that I voted today. I voted because I believe we should be paid the same as men, that we should be able to make decisions about our own bodies, that survivors of violence shouldn’t be more vulnerable because it’s too easy for their abuser to illegally get a gun, and that services are available to those who need them the most. This is #WhyImVoting. So get out there and vote too, because your voice matters!

Let’s NOT talk about Michelle’s dress

First all-woman delegation

In the wake of Election Day, women emerge victorious! History was made in the U. S. Senate when women secured more seats than ever before. In New Hampshire, they added two female Representatives and a Governor to their two women Senators for the first all-woman delegation. Let’s hear it for strong, smart women leaders! What an incredibly inspiring thing—especially for our young women and men—to experience. Progress!

*(insert record scratch)*

And then I see the “news” about Michelle Obama. Apparently, she committed a fashion faux pas on election night and wore a repeat dress. Even Sasha and Malia were not immune from fashion commentary. The point is—I saw nothing in the news about the First Lady’s prospective work for the next four years. Nothing about how she might continue her ground breaking work on the health of our youth, or how she could expand her work on food justice for the poor (OK, maybe that’s just my wishful thinking…) Anyway, there was nothing of substance discussed. But women have secured more seats in the Senate than ever before, you say. This is progress. What’s the harm in a little fashion commentary?

By focusing on what important, smart, powerful women are wearing and how they look, we are sending the message to young girls: this is what you should spend your time, energy, and money on. Don’t listen, girls and boys!

It’s time to move forward, and what better inspiration than last week’s election results. We have work to do and ground to gain, but we are headed in the right direction. Women’s voices will be better represented and that creates both policies and a culture where women are more respected, have more good choices available, and are ultimately safer.