In this election cycle, a record number of women are taking on powerful incumbents and systems that have stalled progressive policies in states across the country. Case in point: Alessandra Biaggi, who is running for New York State Senate in District 34 in Westchester and the Bronx. Biaggi is only thirty-two years old and is a former policy aide to Hillary Clinton. She is also a lawyer who served as counsel to Andrew Cuomo.
And after last week’s enormous primary upset of 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over ten-term U.S. representative Joe Crowley, well, this moment is meeting Alessandra Biaggi. Courageously, she is taking on a sitting New York State Senator, Jeff Klein, who has led an obstructionist group called the Independent Democratic Conference, comprised of seven Democratic state senators who have caucused with the Republicans. Jeff Klein’s alliance with the Republicans has enabled the blockage of a slew of progressive legislation, including early voting and codifying reproductive health rights. Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference also blocked Andrea Stewart Cousins, a female state senator from Westchester and the Bronx, from becoming the majority leader of the Senate.
Great news for progressives in Rhode Island, as Moira Jayne Walsh and Bridgett Valverde prevail in their efforts to correct the Democratic party after it veered off course and endorsed some decidedly unfit candidates. From WPRI:
Bowing to heavy pressure from progressives locally and nationally, the Rhode Island Democratic Party on Thursday rescinded its endorsement of two controversial General Assembly candidates.
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.
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.
The NoVo Foundation is one of the largest private foundations to advocate for gender equality and has specifically focused much of its funding on reducing violence against girls and women globally. In their most recent initiative, the Radical Hope Fund, the foundation donated $34 million in grants to 19 different organizations around the world.
The Radical Hope Fund began as a response to the 2016 election. Seeing the increase in attacks on women and girls as well as LGBTQ populations, immigrants, people of color, and refugees, the foundation felt compelled to take action in a new, bolder way. Thus, the Radical Hope Fund was born, initially pledging to donate $20 million to selected grantees, but eventually deciding to deepen that commitment to $34 million.
When I told my husband I was going to a three-day retreat on gender reconciliation, he was genuinely excited for me, but he couldn’t help getting in a sarcastic reference to cliché. “Are you going to hold hands and sing kumbaya?” he asked.
I thought for a moment, and then my eyes lit up. “I think so!” I said.
The Gender Equity and Reconciliation International (GERI) retreat held in Framingham, MA did indeed involve some hand-holding and song-singing. But it also did much more, traveling into a realm of meaningful communication and understanding where I have never been before.
A novel about a feminist foundation is incredibly rare. A novel about a feminist foundation that is both compelling and reifying is even rarer still. I think it’s safe to say that The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is the first of its kind: an adventure and social critique novel about feminist philanthropy.
At one point Faith Frank, the central feminist in the story, talks wearily about how saying the words “feminist foundation” usually causes most people to stop listening immediately. But as many of us know, some of the most important and fascinating work is happening in the gender equality funding sector. The Female Persuasion helps to elucidate this strange and powerful world where money and idealism collide.
While there has been a recent rise in the number of women running for offices across the United States, the journey towards gender equality in politics is not moving fast enough. Statistics shown in a recent paper written by Saskia Brechenmacher, an associate fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy and Rule of Law Program, prove that gender equality in politics is still far from reach, yet many European countries have come significantly closer to this goal. Brechenmacher’s paper provides research about the efforts of such countries and identified moves the United States can make to reach gender equality sooner.
These are exciting times we live in, as record numbers of women run for political office all over the country. And, of course, there have already been some fabulous victories in the last few weeks including, but not limited to Stacey Abrams and Jacky Rosen (from this former temple president to another, brava!)
But those candidates are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other interesting women running in important races that don’t get as much press. For instance, Deidre DeJear is running for Secretary of State in Iowa and Veronica Escobar running for Congress in Texas. These are amazing women running in tough places for important positions.
Good news for gender equality philanthropy: another large prize is taking on gender issues this year. The 2018 Roddenberry Prize will go to four organizations ($250,000 each) that have realizable plans to address problems at the intersection of girls’ education, women’s rights, and climate change.
Not familiar with the Roddenberry Prize? It was launched in the fall of 2016 at the Smithsonian, in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and in 2017, the first prizes were awarded. The Roddenberry Prize is sponsored by The Roddenberry Foundation, which was founded in 2010 with a mission to support “remarkable people and organizations who can disrupt existing dynamics, challenge old patterns of thought, and discover new ways to help us move towards a better future.” You can learn more about the Roddenberry Foundation here.