The Marque of Marquees

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Religion is a sensitive subject for many people. It is always a risky business to deal with beliefs. The very nature of faith and belief precludes rational critique. Yet people insist on attacking beliefs as if they were a debatable point, and therefore cause people to further entrench themselves. Maybe it’s my UU background, but it seems to me that that is an excellent way to generate hate.

Rather than debating beliefs, it seems as though looking at what people say and comparing that to what they do may be a more productive activity. I’m not event talking about specifics like birth control or response to the LGBT community. I’m talking overarching ideas.

For instance, one of the church marquees near where I live has the following message: “Nothing is stronger than the power of God’s love.” I find this a positive message no matter denomination, religion, or lack of either. Yet the denomination the marquee is in front of is known, not for spreading God’s love, but for threatening the results of his wrath. These are the same people who are out there holding “God hates (fill in the blank)” signs and insisting if you don’t follow their way exactly, you will go to Hell. How do they expect to attract people with words of love when their actions spread discord?

Looking at the alignment of spoken beliefs with observable action is the best way to evaluate a group of people from a committee or ministry to an entire denomination. It is also the best way to make yourself a better _______ .

Another marquee, down the street in the other direction, has this message: “If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it. To me, this is much more in line with professed belief. If you put faith in God to lead you through your life, you will also be open to the tools He puts there for you to use. It is a message about the benefits of faith, rather than a statement of strength that comes off as simplistic or braggadocio.

The irony between these two marquees is that they are from two separate congregations of the same denomination. I wanted to point that out since in every discussion there needs to be an acknowledgement that the words “all”, “every”, and “none”, are as inaccurate and divisive as “never” and “always”. I have friends whose political and social beliefs I abhor, yet when it comes down to it, on a one on one basis, they are good people who genuinely try to live with the love in their heart that their religion dictates.

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You’re Doing What? Why?

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The Wear All White for Women’s Rights movement (http://www.facebook.com/WearAllWhiteForWomensRights) is sponsoring an event on April 2nd that encourages people to wear all white clothing (or as much white as possible). We’ve even provided patterns for iron-on and do-it-yourself T-shirt logos. Honestly, I expected more hate mail than we’re getting. Except for a couple of fairly civil and respectful disagreements, most of our headaches due to combative postings are coming, not from opposition to what our ultimate goal is, but our initial step: getting as many people to wear all white on the same day.

Here’s my response to one such combative message:

<name redacted out of respect>, you are quite correct in that congressmen and senators will ignore a bunch of people in white. But keep in mind that every movement, every mass uprising against oppression, every attempt to change policy requires a certain critical mass. Socially speaking, that is what this movement is about.

The white clothing is not for the policy makers, but for us. It lets us know in a visual way that others share our viewpoints, and that they are willing to at least be publicly identified as someone who holds that opinion. When I see someone wearing all white on April 2, I know I can network with that person, I know that here is someone I can work with to fulfill the next step of the process.

This _is_ the first step in doing something. The first step in dealing with any problem is acknowledging it exists. Admitting to ourselves and to others in such a public way provides an impetus to action that may not otherwise exist. For those of us in areas where the purpose of this movement is…unpopular, publicly taking a stand is a huge step. For you it may be this is a silly and unnecessary part of the process, but for me and others in similar situations, this is a critical point. Please allow us the time it takes to catch up with the rest of you who are already so publicly committed that the only step remaining is writing personal letters to the people we voted in…and hopefully are about to vote out.

A little later we were dissed as being “slacktivists”. As you can imagine, this pushed a few people’s angry buttons. Our response, after the initial anger-in-response-to-insult bit, was:

<name redacted out of respect>, thank you for sharing your opinion. It’s great that you’re willing to really get into the thick of things and get your hands dirty. We’ll miss you April 2, but maybe you’ll lead the way on the next stage of the cause.

It did, however, get us thinking and looking around. Guess what we found! It turns out “slacktivists” provide some of the most meaningful support any cause could desire. Here’s an excellent illustrative article: Why Slacktivism is Underrated.

 

Here’s an additional viewpoint on why we’re doing a visibility protest: Why a Visibility Protest?

I’m Wearing White. Are you?

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Here is the text of a press release for the Where All White for Women’s Rights movement. This movement was started by a long time friend of mine, currently living in NYC. I don’t often make a big deal about actions I’m taking, but given the topic and the number of women among my friends, it just made sense that when asked to be part of her campaign team, I joined (and used my real name). That’s right. Quiet me has volunteered to be loud about something. As I said in a Facebook status: “I’ve put my foot in it, now…this is going to be interesting.”

Press Release:

Based on the Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee’s nonviolent protest for women’s rights in Liberia, I have started this protest as a single woman in New York, a woman who is horrified at watching my rights being stripped away in this country that I love so much. I can no longer sit back and do nothing. I am beginning this grass roots movement to stand up for my rights, your rights, human rights. Will you stand with me?

Before this year, I was your average American person, not really political – just trying to live my life, pay my bills, pursue my dreams – same as the next person. I voted in major elections but that was the extent of my political prowess.  Then things started showing up in my facebook newsfeed – things from my politically active friends who did read about what was going on in the world.  Needless to say, I was upset.  I started finding articles for myself – and I am now more than upset, I am scared.  The more I read, the more frightened I have become about what is happening to my rights as a woman.  So I did what I could.  I resolved to vote this year, to continue to educate myself more thoroughly, and to talk about it with others and get the word out.  I’ve posted articles I found on facebook and twitter.  I’ve written notes about it.  I’ve talked to people about it in bars and restaurants and subway cars.  I’ve looked into places to volunteer my time.

Then I stumbled upon an article about Leymah Gbowee, the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, awarded to her for her work in Liberia. What I read was an inspiration. If one woman could do it there, then why couldn’t one woman do it here? So I am setting off to follow her example, to no longer sit idly by as my rights are stripped away by lawmakers, but instead, to stand up and be heard – and I’ve realized that I want help.  I want to make this into a viral grassroots movement for all the other people out there like me, people who are horrified by what is happening but aren’t sure what to do.  I want to turn postings on social media into a visual force to remind the country, lawmakers and citizens alike that nothing happens in a vacuum and that there are many voices desperate to be heard.  I want an outlet for those voices, a place where they can come and not only be heard, but also make an impact.  Most importantly, I want a way in which every person, regardless of income, ability to travel, age, gender, race, or political leanings could participate.

Along the way I’ve picked up a pretty amazing team. 

Jasmine Witmer recently received a Bachelor of Arts in history and women’s studies, subjects that reflect an on-going interest in women’s welfare, past and present.  For some time, activism has played a large role in her life, most notably when she participated in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s  “Practicum for Advocacy” at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and when she traveled to El Salvador to record oral histories of female Guerilla war survivors. For this campaign, Jasmine is acting as a media consultant and assistant publicist.

Cass Morris works in the education department of the American Shakespeare Center and is also a freelance writer of historical nonfiction and genre fiction. She has joined the project out of frustration with a national legislative trend that treats her body like state or public property. Cass is acting as a social media consultant and assistant publicist.

Shandy Smith is a musician, martial artist, and writer. He joins the team as researcher, general cheerleader and all around go-to guy. As a multi-form artist, the right for individual expression is hallowed to him, so when I invited him to be part of the team, he joined up with a hearty smile.

And me?  I’m just a girl.  I live in NYC, pursuing my dreams of becoming a successful theatrical director.  I didn’t consider myself political until recent events forced me to pay attention.  And now I head up this team of wonderful people, trying to reach and motivate as many people as possible. Which brings me to this.

The real goals of this movement are empowerment, education, motivation and change.  I want us all, average citizen and lawmaker alike, to remember who has ultimate control over this – and that’s us – the voters.  I know our political system is far from perfect, but if we don’t speak up when it matters, then it will never get any better.    I want everyone to have a voice, and I want to find a way in which all those voices are heard. Restrictions or laws that affect only on a single subset of people (in this case women) are discrimination, pure and simple.  All people should fight against discrimination, in all its forms, at all times. Leymah Gbowee had a great idea that began with just a handful of women wearing white (five according to her interview) and eventually spread across the country to thousands, enabling her and her movement to vanquish a dictator and enable peace talks for her war torn country.  If Gbowee can do all of that with a grassroots protest there, then imagine what we can do here!  Please, stand by women’s rights and wear all white on April 2nd. Make it noticeable, and tell people why you’re doing it. Post on the community facebook page, share your stories, photos and videos. This is way for everyone to stand up and speak out, regardless of age, race, location or ability to travel.

Lawmakers today seem to have forgotten who those laws are being made for; seem to have forgotten how many of us there are who vote to keep them in office, or to take them out. How about a friendly reminder?

I stand by and for women’s rights.

By wearing all white, or a white shirt with pink “I support women’s rights” on this day, April 2, 2012, I am reminding those who write and pass bills:

Those women deserve honesty from their doctors – 100% of the time.

That a fetus’s life is not more important that the mother’s life.

That state sanctioned rape is still rape and not ok.

That it is not ok to charge a mother with attempted murder for a miscarriage.

That it is not ok to force women to carry a stillborn baby to term.

That it is not ok to take away the funding of women to receive medical treatment to make a political point.

That it is not ok to fire a woman because she is taking a medicine you disagree with.

For these and many other things currently being debated about in legislature, I stand for and by women’s rights.

Leymah Gbowee said, “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.”

Here is a way to start:

Commit to wearing all white on Monday April 2. Send this invite to people you know. Call your senators and congressmen and let them know you do not approve of what’s happening right now. Stay informed. Talk about it. Shout about it. Do not stop until they have listened. Start visual protests of your own. Vote. Vote. Vote. Do research on what candidates actually believe and look at their voting history. Stay informed. Vote. Be the change.

Will you stand with me?

https://www.facebook.com/events/191936044250957/

Please join in the community to share pictures and stories:

https://www.facebook.com/WearAllWhiteForWomensRights

Contact wearwhite4womensrights@gmail.com