As any activist leader will tell you, any media coverage of your organization is a coup. Nick Espinosa dropped 2,000 pennies on GOP candidate Tom Emmer's lap on July 14 and brought Boycott Arizona Minnesota from a Facebook fan page to the Star Tribune's front page.
My organization, the Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for Women, made headlines last week with its announcement that its political action committee had endorsed Matt Entenza in the DFL primary race -- with the implication that we had snubbed Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who in fact received the same endorsement from our political action committee, just several days later.
Personally, I think Espinosa had the better media action plan.
I am Minnesota NOW's state president and have been since 2006. I was not an active member when our organization's PAC guidelines were drafted, so I do not know why our bylaws allow for multiple endorsements -- but allow they do, and when our PAC met on the morning of July 17, we operated under the assumption that more than one candidate for governor might earn our highest rating, an A (neither Emmer nor Independence Party candidate Tom Horner submitted a questionnaire).
Our committee is no different from any other. Our members offer opinions as distinctive and diverse as their life experiences and personalities. We debate. We argue. We find ourselves trapped in a windowless conference room on a sunny day and decide to continue the discussion later, as happened in the case of Kelliher's rating.
Nor is our movement different from any other. Feminists battle both within and without as they attempt to define feminism as they understand it. In 2008, Sarah Palin attempted to appeal to the women who eagerly cast their votes for Hillary Clinton in that year's primaries (myself included) by calling herself a feminist. But it takes more than being a woman to be a feminist -- as our male PAC chair would agree.
For me, feminism is about creating a world in which all women (and therefore all people) have the ability to achieve their full potential. Feminism means equality and opportunity for all women, not just a few. Sarah Palin's successful career would not be possible without the work of women's libbers from the '60s and '70s (though Palin's opposition to abortion rights ignores a crucial aspect of the movement: If any woman is deprived of the right to control her fertility, she is deprived of her full humanity).
Speaking for myself alone, I appreciated that Matt Entenza made appearances at both a MN NOW state board meeting as well as an initial planning meeting of a coalition to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in 2012. His running mate, Robyne Robinson, contacted me to introduce herself. Both discussed their unequivocal support for equality for all Minnesotans, across barriers of gender, economic status, race, age and sexual orientation.
My attempts to search Kelliher's campaign website for a statement on women's equality have come up short. After Nancy Pelosi's support for the Stupak Amendment to health care reform last winter, I've grown too impatient to trust that women's rights will appear one day on a candidate's agenda.
And impatience is a personality trait that I brought to the table in that windowless room on July 17. Others brought enthusiasm, some brought exasperation. My friend Barbra brought donuts, but no one thought to bring a bag full of pennies. Perhaps that's for the best.
Shannon Drury, president of Minnesota NOW, is a writer, at-home parent and community activist. She writes a regular column for the Minnesota Women's Press, with additional work appearing in HipMama, Literary Mama and Skirt magazines. She blogs at www.theradicalhousewife.com.