This week, we were excited to host our third live chat using CoveritLive, this time on the future of feminist activism. The chat featured Nation blogger and Feministing.com  co-founder Jessica Valenti, writer and Jezebel.com  founding editor Anna Holmes and reproductive justice activist Aimee Thorne-Thomsen. Readers submitted over one-hundred questions and comments on issues from the “having it all” debate to intersectionality to reproductive rights. For anyone who missed it, a replay of the chat is available in Jessica’s blog . Below are some of the best insights from that conversation, as well as some other great comments from this week.
From the comment threads:
pbosold: Ms. Hogue: Overall, this is an excellent article. However, I must take issue with your characterization of those people not willing to take out a medical insurance policy (said medical insurance policies to be mandated under the ACA) as "those free-riders who choose not to buy insurance and might otherwise end up sticking the rest of us with the bill." This provision always was, and remains, a huge gift to the for-profit medical insurance industry. A lot of people who don't have medical insurance simply cannot afford it. The simple, intelligent, compassionate solution that every other developed nation has in place is universal, single-payer medical insurance, administered successfully for a fraction of the cost we pay for the same services to the private medical insurance industry.
Politics and all the rest notwithstanding, universal, single-payer medical insurance is what we need to put in place here in the USA. At the very least, start with some version of a 'public option' if we cannot get universal single-payer done in one stroke. The SCOTUS ruling is no victory for America and its neediest people, although it's better than having it struck down to a chorus of gloating from the 1% and their many minions in the MSM and both major political parties.
In response to Ilyse Hogue’s “The Three-Letter Word That Saved Healthcare.” June 28, 2012
Ilyse Hogue: pbosold, i really appreciate you expressing your concerns and, I agree with almost all of them. I fought long and hard for the public option as part of the ACA and I can't imagine how we create a long term solution that is economically viable and also ethical without a version of single-payer.
The "free-rider" language only applies in a system (proposed or enacted) where those who want health insurance are provided viable means to get it. That includes full access for people with pre-existing conditions, subsidies for those who can't afford to buy on the market, and a public option that drives industry prices down. All of these components were part of the original plan that the Administration was selling, so under that plan anyone who didn't have coverage was choosing not to, hence an appropriate "free-rider" tax.
All of that said, I can see where that's not super clear in the article and I appreciate you calling my attention that fact.
In response to Ilyse Hogue’s“The Three-Letter Word That Saved Healthcare.” June 28, 2012
Dan Merillat: This isn't about people voting illegally, it's about disenfranchising minorities and other "undesireables" to swing the vote in favor of wealthier (whiter) voters.The cries of "voter fraud"have been cover for the real fraud—stripping citizens of their right to vote.
In response to Ari Berman’s “Florida Voter Purge is Unlikely to Resume.” July 3, 2012
Scubaguy: It may actually be a good thing that the WaPo gave Wolfowitz the space to make his argument for going to war with Syria. In light of his record, I'd think all but the most extreme hawks would automatically receive his comments with deep skepticism and suspicion. Imagine the preface to any question posed to a politician or military figure about Syria: Do you agree with Paul Wolfowitz, a leading architect for the war in Iraq, on his views about going to war with Syria? That ought to gain a lot of support.
In a more serious vein, it's undoubtedly a good idea for our politicians to be getting lots of calls against any involvement in Syria.
In response to Robert Dreyfuss’s “Wolfowitz Wants War Against Syria.” July 5, 2012
From our live chat on the future of feminist activism:
On young people and established feminist organizations:
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen: What pops up first for me is the amazing work that young women fought to keep birth control as part of the ACA. And while I appreciate the work and courage of Sandra Fluke, there are many young people around the country who led events and discussions on their campuses to fight for birth control. We collected over 1000 images from young activists around the country that we were able to deliver to Rep. Pelosi that elevated the voices of young people around birth control.
Jessica Valenti: On traditional orgs: It feels like mainstream feminist orgs are catching on that there’s change in the air. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is stepping down to create room for younger leadership. And over the weekend, Erin Matson, VP at NOW made a speech at their conference that made some of the membership bristle. She said, “a great organization must evolve to champion young women leading the women's movement forward without its tutelage...[and] must evolve to celebrate young women leading the women's movement forward without its direct instruction.” So folks are recognizing that there’s a lot of self-directed and youthful engagement happening. I guess I just wonder how we can support that best, and how big orgs can support it as well. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that big orgs dissipate or older feminists simply retire - there has to be a way for folks who have established power & stability to use it in different ways that support new activism/younger feminists.
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen: My first thought is that until feminist organizations truly reflect the diversity of feminists, their relevance will not be as strong as it could be. There is more and more activity taking place around the country that doesn't come out of an established organization like NOW or FMF. It speaks to the needs of young people that those organizations are not fulfilling.
Anna Holmes: It's interesting because my fondness for NOW and FMF and other "big" feminist organizations is rooted in part to my mother's generation—I literally grew up with them. The question is, how do these groups assert their legitimacy and relevance for women (young or "old”) who don't have a personal history with these organizations, who don't have that institutional memory?
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen: Beyond that, we need to accept that each generation interprets and re-interprets fights for rights—civil, human and reproductive—on their own terms, and that it totally legitimate. Young people are fighting the battles WITH us and FOR us. If some of our colleagues can't (or won't) see them, then it's our job to lift their voices even higher.
On intersectionality and mainstream coverage of feminism:
Cassandra Leveille: What really got me engaged in third-wave/present-day feminism is its vibrant community online willing to link intersectional issues, cross race, class, gender. On the one hand, it feels like when feminism engages with the mainstream online, we're still stuck at "Privilege 101," and I wonder if it's still useful to have these discussions with people who are unwilling to engage and just move on to other goals (be they legal, as with abortion, equal pay, etc. or attitudinal). I don't think the end-goal of feminism is "having it all" and what that has become shorthand for, but it has to address equal rights on so many fronts as a human rights movement. I'd love to hear you all speak to that.
Anna Holmes: This may sound simplistic but I like to approach it as a given—I like to imagine, and then create, a world and a narrative that treats the experiences of women of color not as sideshows but as mainstream. Even if no one else is.
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen: The intersectional work is happening in communities, but most of what we hear about, and what gets funded is not that work.
The truth is that we still have so much to fight for. Women of all ages are still struggling for equality in this country and feminism has helped give many of us tools to try to achieve that. That said, we are far from done.
Jessica Valenti: The question from Cassandra is a great one and something I think about a lot. Take the "war on women" stuff for example. Great that feminist issues are getting so much play in the mainstream, but if it stops at Komen, or transvaginal, is that really progress? Or is it the kind of progress we should be fighting for?
Anna Holmes: I think it's hard to quantify progress in *any* situation but especially difficult over the past few years because a lot of the mainstream attention being given to feminist issues right now is in direct relation to the INSANITY being pushed by those who want to dismantle and destabilize the gains we have made.
Jessica Valenti: I also would love to see feminists take up a more proactive fight. It feels as if we’re constantly on the defensive - like Anna said, a lot of the great stuff we’ve seen happen has been reactionary activism. We’re fighting to stop the constant rollback of rights. So how do we create a more progressive agenda?
Anna Holmes: That's a great question, Jessica. My initial, simplistic answer is: MAKE A LOT OF NOISE.
On the inclusion of more trans voices in feminist spaces:
Anna Holmes: Jessica and Aimee: I also think that part of doing it right in terms of trans issues is making sure that our peers understand what those issues are, and then explaining why they are important. I think part of the reason that these issues are pushed to the side is because the voices that dominate feminist spaces - either consciously or unconsciously - push them aside or make no effort to understand them.
Autumn: One thing is to consciously add trans voices in the vein of "nothing about us without us"—as Feministing has done with adding Jos as a voice.
On building an offensive strategy:
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen: Honestly, we can't talk about an offensive strategy that isn't multi-dimensional. It must include comprehensive sex education, maternal and infant health care, education opportunity, etc. If we silo our responses to these attacks, we undermine our ability to build a broad movement of support for all of our issues.