November 2018 Newsletter

A Chant For Our Times
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On Saturday October 27th, 11 worshipers were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue, ending a traumatic week filled with domestic terrorism. During the vigil on Sunday, as Rabbi Myers concluded his remarks, a chant broke out – a single word, repeated over and over: Vote. The anguish, the frustration, and the anger coalesced into a powerful call to action: “Vote, vote, vote, vote...”

Click photo to go to video link

It’s not quite the salve our souls need right now. But it is the most visible lever available to jimmy our way out of the bleak circumstances of our America. Our hearts break for the families of these tragedies. And when prayer seems like “not enough,” a tangible call to action gives us hope that we can honor the fallen in some way – VOTE.

The last two years have felt like regress. When the White House created a new rule that allows employers to opt-out of covering contraception that felt like a backslide for women’s rights. Birth control pills are often prescribed to women with heavy menstrual bleeding and endometriosis as a first line treatment. 
 
What does it say about a society that makes women’s access to medicine secondary to the objections of their employer, who covers other health benefits? 
 
What does a backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits signal to young women thinking of reporting a sexual assault? 
 
What happens to the fundamental rights of agency and autonomy enshrined in our Constitution when it comes to the reproductive integrity and autonomy of women’s bodies and their choices? 
 
I can’t help but ask myself if we are losing ground. I know I am not alone in feeling defeated sometimes.

But even a cursory examination of the past gives me fuel to take on the future. I think back to 1961, when Estelle Griswold opened up a Planned Parenthood clinic and began providing birth control information as an act of civil disobedience against draconian state laws banning contraception to married couples in Connecticut. She knew she would be arrested, and she was ready for the fight. She took her case all the way to the Supreme Court where a 7-2 majority ruled in her favor and supported the right of married couples to make decisions about birth control in privacy (The case that gave unmarried couples the same access to birth control wouldn’t be adjudicated by the Supreme Court until 1972).
You may feel disheartened that the changing composition of SCOTUS may erode the Constitutional rights of some Americans. But take heart in the arc of history as displayed by the case of Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co
Lilly Ledbetter was the only female Production Supervisor at a Goodyear plant in Gadsen, Alabama. For 20 years she worked a 12-hour night shift, once saying about her job “There was nothing I wouldn’t do, no matter how dirty or hard.” Right before she was set to retire in 1998, she received an anonymous letter informing her of her pay in comparison to the compensation of men at the plant, doing the same job she was. Ledbetter was making a quarter less per dollar than her male counterparts. She was furious and sued Goodyear for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
In 2007, the Supreme Court threw out her case on grounds of statute of limitations. A decision that the Notorious RBG vehemently dissented (we love her).

But in 2007, soon after the decision, Democrats took control of the House and in 2008 Obama was elected President. The first bill Barack Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which would change how the statute of limitations were interpreted in these cases. Lilly Ledbetter lost her own case, but ultimately helped score a win for all of us through Congress and the Executive Branch. The voice of dissent, even from one woman, can be powerful enough to change the nation.

We are part of a long tradition of using the tools of the body politic to create the world we want to live in. That’s why, for the entire month of October, the NextGen Jane Instagram account covered important House races, reproductive issues to ask your local representatives about, and Supreme Court cases which laid the groundwork for interpreting the law (Check out the hashtag #JaneVotes on Instagram to see our posts).
In an era where women’s bodies are politicized, companies that are actively creating products to enable female agency can’t sit on the sidelines and pray for the best. We must act.

In the month long endeavor, we found new women to watch as their political careers blossom. We learned nuances in how laws are created and interpreted in our country and the loopholes that leave people behind. And we were reminded that our fight has gone on for many decades, with many women who have come before us – giving us hope that change does happen, even if it’s slow.
Women running for office:  Washington Post
We experienced a few LOLs along the way as well. My favorite line was from incumbent Dave Brat who is running against ex-CIA agent Abigail Spanberger in Virginia. He is caught on video saying: “the women are in my grill no matter where I go.” To which I say, Yes we are, bro, yes we are.

This weekend, as I make my way through California’s ballot proposals and prepare to participate in CA’s direct democracy, I will take heart in our checks and balances and in the knowledge that an informed, activated citizenry can still make a difference.  
See you at the polls,

Ridhi


p.s. Take a picture of yourself or your surroundings on Nov 6th and your "I Voted" sticker and tag us @nextgenjane <3
Copyright © 2018 NextGen Jane, All rights reserved.


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Stephen Gire