Fighting for Democracy: Building Local Pro-Choice Campaigns for Legislative Wins

The Woman Project, a new 501(c)4 in Rhode Island, is working to pass statewide legislation for reproductive freedom.

In the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, reproductive freedom appears to be more threatened than ever. So what’s a pro-choice advocate to do?

One thing that some feminist activists are doing is incorporating their art into their activism. And in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation, these art-activists are pushing hard for the state to codify abortion rights so that the service will remain in place in the state even if the federal courts overturn Roe v. Wade.

These art-activists call themselves The Woman Project (TWP), and starting in 2017 as a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization, they are angling to make sure that women’s rights are protected at the state level, starting with access to reproductive services.

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Male Feminist Scholar Resigns Over Allegations

Michael Kimmel on May 22, 2018, speaking as part of a panel about workplace culture sponsored by the Women’s Funding Network and other conference partners.

Here’s some disturbing news: a male academic who appeared to be a strong ally of feminism, Michael Kimmel, is facing serious charges of sexual exploitation and other inappropriate behavior.

It’s always extra disturbing when this happens with someone who is considered an ally of feminism, so be prepared to have a full range of emotional reactions to this story.

As you sort through your anger, sadness, confusion, and feelings of betrayal, don’t forget to recognize how this is also a positive story about how women are speaking up and changing the game. Exposing these problems will help prevent future abuse and exploitation, particularly in academia. With the number of women in leadership increasing toward critical mass in different professional sectors, we may hear a lot more reports coming out like those about Michael Kimmel.

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Ms. Foundation Shifts Strategic Course Toward Women of Color

The Ms. Foundation’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan targets low-income women, many of whom are women of color. (Photo Credit: Ms. Foundation Strategic Plan, Building Power: Advancing Democracy)

The nation’s oldest public women’s foundation recently announced that it will steer in a new direction over the next five years — toward growing its commitment to low-income women and women of color by more than $25 million.

In addition, the Ms. Foundation will form its first-ever political fund, which will support the legislative agenda for women and girls both nationally and locally.

With Teresa C. Younger at the helm, the  Ms. Foundation for Women is joining other big funders in the feminist philanthropy space, including the NoVo Foundation and Prosperity Together (the national coalition of women’s funds focused on low-income women and women of color) in making economic, social and cultural equality for women and girls of color a central feature of its strategic plan. “Women of color are a political force to be reckoned with,” said Younger, in a press release announcing the new strategic plan. “In 2018, we delivered unprecedented electoral wins in Alabama, Georgia, and New York — yet we are sorely underrepresented in philanthropic investment, with only 2% of that spending going to women and girls of color.”

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Top 10 Happenings in Feminist Philanthropy for Mid-Summer 2018

Feminism is taking a beating in the summer of 2018, but the fight is far from over.

It’s summer: the time of year when I start feeling like a slouch, like I’m not getting enough done, and may never get enough done again. But then I remind myself of a wise Chinese Proverb: Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

Relaxation is an essential part of being human. Relaxing doesn’t mean you’re not as rugged as everyone else. It doesn’t make you weak and ineffectual. Relaxation makes you who you are, and who you are becoming. 

So I am welcoming this period of reduced work and enjoying the gorgeous weather this summer in New England. And at the same time, I am keeping my eyes and ears open to the world of feminist philanthropy, where fascinating, and frightening, events continue to transpire.

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Women Donors: Rhode Island Women Candidates Need Your Help

Marcia Ranglin-Vassell took down House Majority Leader, John DeSimone, in 2016. DeSimone was a close ally of House Speaker Mattiello. Now it looks like the party is trying to take Ranglin-Vassell out.

Bob Plain sums up the sad state of affairs in his post, RI Dem Party Doesn’t Endorse Three Progressive Female Legislators, so I’m going to quote extensively from him.  The upshot from my perspective is that the Rhode Island Democratic party’s abandonment of progressive women candidates is a huge misstep for the party, along with their recent endorsement of John Carnevale, who is still on trial for perjury and in 2012 stood trial for charges of first and second degree sexual assault.

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Meet Attica Scott, Democrat for State Legislature in Kentucky

Attica Scott, Democrat running for re-election in the Kentucky legislature.

In 2010, Representative Scott graduated from the first class of Emerge Kentucky which prepares Democratic women to run for office.

In 2016, Attica defeated a 34-year incumbent to become the first Black woman in nearly 20 years to serve in the Kentucky state legislature. Moreover, Attica is the only woman of color in the entire Kentucky legislature. In 2017, Representative Scott was named to Essence Magazine’s list of #Woke100 women in the U.S. She is running for re-election to the state legislature this year.

Attica is an inspiring person and powerful speaker. Here is her Tedx talk:

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Abigail Disney: Feminist Changer, Feminist Changed

Screenshot from a Facebook discussion: Abigail Disney, left, with Rev. Rob Schenck, right, on the release of his book, Costly Grace.

An email arrived from Fork Films. Who can open and read the mountainous volume of emails one receives these days? This one, however, I opened.

There was Abigail Disney sitting with Rev. Rob Schenck. He is the center point of her own first directed film, The Armour of Light, released in 2015. In the process of making the film, the arch-conservative preacher wrestled with his position on guns, and came to the conclusion that gun use was contradictory to his position on right to life. He has now formed The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute to combat present social crises. The current special focus of the Institute is on gun violence in the U.S. from a Christian, ethical perspective. Abigail Disney, filmmaker, activist and philanthropist, is a Governor on his Board of Directors.

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That’s Harassment: Avin and Schwimmer Help Us Figure it Out

Screenshot from a scene in “The Co-Worker,” one of six short films directed by Sigal Avin.

There’s the philanthropy that happens when people invest money to promote social change, and then there’s the philanthropy that happens when people take their money and their talent, and employ them in a way that addresses a social problem. Celebrities, particularly multi-talented and highly educated ones, have a unique capacity to combine their financial capital, talent, and public stature in order to push for needed social change.

That appears to be part of what happened when Israeli-American filmmaker Sigal Avin teamed up with several feature actors including David Schwimmer, Cynthia Nixon and Bobby Cannavale, to film a series of six short films called, “That’s Harassment.”  In each of these three to six minute cinéma verité shorts, the viewer is positioned as a cringing voyeur while scenes of sexual harassment unfold. Since debuting in the spring of 2017, these films have been adapted into 30 second public service announcements that are getting wide visibility.

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April 11 at Union Seminary: Helen LaKelly Hunt and Rebecca Walker

With so much going on in women’s philanthropy, we love it when gender equality thought leaders come together to talk about where the movement for women’s rights has been, and where it’s going in the future.

Riffing on the 1970’s anthology edited by Robin Morgan entitled Sisterhood is Powerful, Union Theological Seminary, in partnership with The New York Women’s Foundation and the Feminist Press, are presenting a conversation on April 11th featuring longtime women’s philanthropy pioneer Helen LaKelly Hunt, and one of Third Wave feminism’s leading thinkers, Rebecca Walker. Hunt and Walker will be focusing the discussion on healing some of the divisions within feminism, particularly related to race and class. The goal of this event is to “offer tools to build an affirmative culture that can contain difference and meaningfully address white supremacy.”

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Women’s Funds Show Philanthropy the Way to Transparency, Diversity

Happy Women’s History Month. There are only a few days left to this month of focusing on the value of gender equality and the arc of its progression throughout time. I spent a lot of time this month researching and thinking about how women’s funds feed social change. Most of what I learned reinforced the theory that women’s funds represent a unique approach to philanthropy that the rest of the sector would do well to replicate.

My last piece for Women’s history month on this topic is published at Daily Kos, a site dedicated to the larger sphere of progressive political change.

As Philanthropy Opens Up, Women’s Funds Show the Way

Something unusual happened recently in philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates opened their annual letter by answering 10 “tough” questions from the public about their philanthropy. The Gates’ Q&A is just one example of philanthropists becoming more responsive to the public. Funders are growing more aware of the value of engaging with the communities they seek to serve. The Fund for Shared Insight (FSI) which is dedicated to bringing more openness to philanthropy, is cultivating this trend; it added five new foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this past year: Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, James Irvine Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network, bringing the number of funding partners in the collaborative to 39.

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