Postcards From Boston | The Nation


Postcards From Boston

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Howard Dean is No Diva

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According to Barbara Lee, (no relation to the California Congresswoman) a Boston-based philanthropist and the organizer of the Revolutionary Women Boston 2004 rally, the event's point was to demonstrate "the extraordinary power of women in politics" and to send the message that "normal women can reach for the stars." Lee also wanted attendees to leave the event having learned that "politics goes with fun."

There certainly were extraordinary women present. The lineup of speakers featured Nancy Pelosi, Madeline Albright, Carol Moseley Braun, Hillary Clinton and a musical performance by Liz Phair. (As a mother of four, Pelosi was supposed to represent the "normal woman.")

Two huge escalators carried the 4,100 attendees from the entrance level and poured them in masses onto the conference floor. Deafening, upbeat music made conversation a challenge. (This seemed particularly annoying to the exhibitors who filled the perimeter of the floor and had to shout to attendees standing on the other side of their table.) Despite the difficulties, I took some time to investigate their wares. Besides Friends of Hillary selling pink T-shirts with the Senator's face pictured on the front Che Guevara-style, free condoms from the Family Planning booth, Barbara Boxer boxers for $12 andsome free stuff stamped with pro-woman logos, there wasn't too much there.

After playing "Sisters are Doin' it For Themselves" by Aretha Franklin andtheEurythmicsthree times, the music died down anda veryun-Diva-like person took the stage. Howard Dean gave a good speech,urging women to run for office, any office--even library trustee. Then camemore music. This time it was "Get Ready for This" by 2Unlimited. (Lyrics were omitted in this version. When I located the song online, I found out why: "Super, dope, deaf, and even outrageous/if I was an animal, they've kept me in cages/so get ready for this! Ya'll ready for this?") Enter Madeline Albright, who exhorted the crowd to get out the vote in November.

When I left the Conference Center with my free Revolutionary Women bag under arm, I thought about whether politics really does go with fun.I didn't want to think that the only way to promote women in high office was to try to make them seem as flashy as Hollywood actresses. How could this flatter someone like Albright? Politics shouldn't have to be stylish or glamorous. Women in politics should generate support because they are impressive politicians and leaders, not because they are divas. And women should be motivated to support other women in politics and run themselves because they want to see change, not because it is chic.

On my way home, my ears still ringing from the sound system, I realized I was feeling a residual buzz from the event. The train was crowded with "revolutionary women" easily identifiable by the black bag in hand. Seeing my own bag, some of them would smile knowingly, or say to me, "you were there?" When I reemerged above-ground I saw those black bags everywhere. Indeed, revolutionary women had infiltrated the Convention city.


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