Rising Into Power…by Dr. Pat Washington, Scholar and Activist

Pat Washington at Mic-1On February 14, 2013, one billion women and the people who love us will be gathering around the world to celebrate V-Day’s 15th Anniversary. Eve Ensler has invited us to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to violence against women and girls.

This invitation is about more than one day. It is about an ongoing commitment to change. When San Diegans add our voices and energy to the movement, I hope we also have our voter registration forms present to sign up as many eligible female and male voters as humanly possible. I hope we follow up on those registrations with community forums, social media alerts, and legislative updates to help voters understand that elections have consequences, and that we have to closely monitor and regularly advise those we elect from one election cycle to the next. I hope that, as we share our collective commitment to raising awareness about ongoing violence against women locally and around the globe, we also raise awareness about the urgent need to elect a far greater number of progressive women (and men) to local, state, and national office in order to more quickly enact legislative policies that reduce the violence in women’s daily lives when a legislative fix is needed. I relish the thought that while we are raising monies to donate to local agencies that serve women who have been harmed by physical, sexual, emotional and other forms of violence, we also consider amplifying the voices of women voters and women elected to serve our families and communities, particularly the voices of women long underrepresented in the halls of power.

Pat Washington TVI want to believe that we are teaching our young women (and men) that raising our voices in the streets as activists must assuredly be accompanied by raising our voices—and increasing our presence—wherever decisions are being made about how resources are allocated for the health, education, and welfare of our most vulnerable populations.

And I want us to continue pointing out that while women have come a long way since The Vagina Monologues movement began in 1996, we cannot rest on our laurels while women remain so devastatingly underrepresented in elected office—the very positions of power and authority that make decisions about the advancement of women’s equality in the family, on the job, in education, and other settings can serve as either breeding grounds for people’s inhumanity to women (and others) or as places where equality reigns.

According to a report issued in July 2012 by the Center for American Progress, women are still grossly underrepresented in local, state, and national elected office. Locally in San Diego, as well as statewide, certain women are even more underrepresented than others. To its credit, San Diego just elected its first African American woman to serve in the California Assembly (Weber-D). However, San Diego City Council has yet to see its first elected woman of color. Ditto for the San Diego County Board of supervisors—which routinely rejects federal dollars to assist poor families. And, trendsetter that it is, California is behind states like New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Arizona, and Vermont because it has never had a female governor.

Each year, V-Day raises awareness and monies to combat violence against women.  It also underscores the interconnections between violence against women and gendered disparities in access to institutional and cultural resources. This year, let us strengthen the message by making the connection between those impacted by the decisions of the powerful and the need for us to place a greater number of progressive women—particularly women of color—in the positions where decisions are made about our lives.

Strike.  Rise.  Dance.  Decide.

Pat Washington MicDr. Pat Washington is a women’s studies scholar and activist. Her publications to date have focused on the impact of social location (race, sex, class, sexuality, etc.) on the nature and quality of services available to survivors of sexual violence; within-group oppression in communities of color and in mainstream lesbian and gay communities; and resistance/social justice strategies. She is an award-winning teacher and a prolific scholar, and she has received widespread local, state, and national recognition for service and activism. Pat will be dancing on February 14, 2013.

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