Monthly Archives: May 2017

7 posts

How Writing Novels Taught Me I was a Feminist

By Heather Webb

I’m new to the CT NOW blog, and have been looking forward to contributing, but I must admit, I stared at a blank screen every time I sat down to write this piece. How could I contribute to such a dynamic, inspiring group in an original way? At last, I got my answer. I need to start at the beginning.

I have to talk about the word feminism.

Feminism was a dirty word when I was growing up. It was synonymous with those women who didn’t believe those “girlie” things like makeup, dresses, or staying home with their kids held value. Being a feminist meant you didn’t participate in any sort of activity that perpetuated classic gender roles. It meant you hated men and saw little value in what men contributed to the world, at least not on an emotional or spiritual level. It meant you couldn’t fawn over ball gowns or take care with your appearance. This is what I thought it meant to be a feminist growing up. As it turns out, I was wrong.

My parents were very supportive and pushed me to achieve, so when I look back at my ideas surrounding feminism, I wonder where I picked up this meaning. It certainly wasn’t from them. Was it through television or radio? Ads and magazines? Society at large? I suspect, like all great movements, there is progress—and there is backlash. When progress for the feminist movement was made in the 1920s and 30s, there was backlash to contain it in the 1950s. The same thing happened in the 1960s and 1970s—major progress. Yet by the time I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, the message had clearly changed. I had become a victim of the next wave of backlash.

I continued to follow my own path, discover my voice, and help other women around me do the same in any way I could as a young teacher and coach, friend and mother, but I never uttered the words:  I am a feminist. I didn’t want to be ridiculed or categorized with those “feminazis,” as I’d heard were particularly distasteful all those years.

Then one day I awoke from a rough night’s sleep. I’d had this dream several nights in a row and though it wasn’t a bad one, I couldn’t seem to shake it. Oddly enough, it was about Josephine Bonaparte, daughter of a struggling sugar plantation owner turned empress of France. (Strange, yes?) Needless to say, I began reading about her and fell in love with her bravery and sacrifice and suddenly knew to my very core that I had to write a novel.

When reviews poured in for this first book, or I chatted with readers, I kept hearing things like: “I really like the way your characters are interesting women who struggle to find their strength.” This made me happy, of course, because struggle and growth are key to a good character story. But I left it there, in my mind. I write for women, primarily, yet I still hadn’t assigned that word to my books—or to myself.

The revelation came, as revelations often do, like a clap of thunder during an ordinary moment. I was working on a new idea for a novel, so I picked up the phone to discuss it with my agent. We got to talking and at one point she said these words: “I think this is an excellent idea, especially since your books have a feminist slant. You should write what speaks to your heart.”

That was it. That moment. I paused, struck by her words. Did my books have a feminist slant? I chose stories that spoke to me, about extraordinary women doing extraordinary things to surmount their circumstances. That was all. They weren’t feminist, were they?

In that moment, I looked back at my life and realized how hard I had strived to help girls and women speak up for themselves and be confident. How often I lent a hand, offered a word of praise, bolstered spirits because I truly love people, and truly love to help them feel good about themselves. I had done this because I believe we are all equals, striving for the same things. And that somehow, my womanhood was tied to this very strong need inside me to help others become their greatest selves.

In that moment, I realized I was very much a feminist and always had been.

The idea that I had once been afraid to call myself a feminist, that I was afraid to be called a “feminazi” enraged me. I realized then, the deep level of shame associated with calling yourself an activist, a feminist, and that “feminazi” was a word used to control us, to stamp out our voices. I became enraged by this horrible shame perpetuated in the media—and the world at large. I knew then, we must continue to fight to eradicate it, and to speak our truths out loud, with open hearts.

The word feminist signifies strength, and hope, and power. It is synonymous with self-love. It is a textured word that encompasses a long history of every hard-fought win, every struggle women have endured through the centuries to be respected and admired. It’s a word I love.

Now I am a writer, a stay-home mom, a baker, a wearer of red lipstick and heels and nail polish, and I am an ass-kicking feminist who fights for what she believes in. I am all of these things, and I am proud.

CT NOW member Heather Webb is the author of historical novels BECOMING JOSEPHINE and RODIN’S LOVER, which have sold in six countries and have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. RODIN’S LOVER was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. Up and coming, LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, an epistolary love story set during WWI will release October 3, 2017 from HarperCollins. Heather is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend. Find her on Twitter at @msheatherwebb and on Facebook by clicking here.

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SOLD OUT!! >> CT NOW hosting advance screening of Wonder Woman on June 1!

As of May 27, our Wonder Woman screening is sold out!!

Join CT NOW for a private screening of the new “Wonder Woman” movie the day before it opens nationwide AND help raise funds for CT NOW’s scholarship fund, which each summer pays the FULL TUITION for two Connecticut women to attend the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.

  • Thursday, June 1
  • 6:30 p.m.
  • Cinemark North Haven, 550 Universal Drive N, North Haven

Tickets ARE SOLD OUT as of May 27. Cost of $25 per person includes admission, small popcorn, drink, and you seeing Wonder Woman a day before everyone else, PLUS the great feeling of knowing that your purchase will help increase the number and influence of Connecticut women in politics.

Be a superhero and celebrate the Wonder Woman inside of you! We’re looking forward to a great night!

Email questions to president@now-ct.org.

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Travel with CT NOW to the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington on June 11

The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women is organizing three buses to the national Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., which will take place on Sunday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Please consider traveling with us to this important event to remind our administration that, as Lin Manuel Miranda said, love is love is love is love …

All the buses are Skeddaddle buses, meaning the more people who ride each bus, the cheaper the cost of each seat. The three buses will leave Connecticut at 1 a.m. June 11 and arrive home at roughly 1 a.m. June 12.

Ample parking is available at each bus departure site, which will be:

THESE ARE THE CORRECT DEPARTURE SITES, even if they are not what are currently listed on the links. Skeddadle is in the process of making needed corrections. Please spread the word and reserve your spot today! Your credit card will not be charged until 48 hours before departure.

Details about the march will be shared via CT NOW’s Facebook page as they become available https://www.facebook.com/CTNOWChapter/.

Questions? Please contact CT NOW volunteer extraordinaire and Protest March Coordinator Sarah Aaron-Bromley at seabromley1@yahoo.com

 

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Voters Will Remember Who Took Their Health Care Away

A statement from national NOW President Terry O’Neill:

Today’s narrow vote for a disastrous health care bill will come back to haunt House Republicans. The members of Congress who voted for this bill have sealed their fate with the electorate. Billionaires and conservative superPACs may have bought their vote today, but they can’t buy a blindfold big enough to keep voters from seeing the truth.

Getty Images

The truth is that this bill will take health insurance away from tens of millions of people, many of whom are already living at the margins. The bill encourages mean-spirited Republican governors to opt out of the essential health benefits that are a lifeline to so many, and to allow insurance companies to deny benefits to tens of thousands of people with pre-existing conditions.

Under the AHCA, surviving sexual assault or domestic violence, battling postpartum depression, or having a cesarean section would all be considered pre-existing conditions–at a staggering cost to women. Black women are at a disproportionate risk for breast cancer than other racial and ethnic groups, and breast cancer survivors would see their premiums shoot up by over $28,000.

Now, it’s up to voters to deny their bought-and-paid for members of Congress another term in office. We will make it our top priority to unseat everyone who voted for this extremist attack on our health care rights today

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Thank you, Sen. Blumenthal, for calling on Trump to stop and reverse his anti-woman agenda

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal: You are a hero and a champion for women.

The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women applauds and thanks you for leading the effort in which 31 Senate Democrats sent a letter today to President Trump, calling on him to reverse his harmful anti-woman agenda and, instead, prioritize women’s access to health care, employment opportunities, and education domestically and around the world.

The senators reminded Trump that the ongoing threat his administration poses to reproductive rights and economic security has motivated women and men nationwide, and warned him that he can no longer ignore this groundswell.

“During the relatively short time since your inauguration, women and their families have been under a constant and unprecedented attack,” wrote the Senators. “While women have succeeded in fighting back against key aspects of your agenda thus far, there is no question that your leadership threatens to roll back decades of progress on women’s health and rights, as you have taken even standard Republican policies to a new and devastating extreme.”

In the letter, the Senators called it unacceptable that the Trump administration has caved to the most extreme anti-women’s health special interests by supporting defunding Planned Parenthood, including provisions in the Republican plan to repeal the ACA that harm women and their families specifically, reinstating an expanded version of the harmful global gag rule, working to fill the government with anti-choice voices, nominating to the Supreme Court a justice who could put Roe v. Wade at risk, signing a resolution eliminating important protections in the Title X family planning program, and much more.

“If your administration began to listen to the people it represents, you would reverse your harmful agenda and start to prioritize women’s access to health care, employment opportunities, and education domestically and around the world,” concluded the Senators. “We call on your Administration to do just that, and put the lives of women and working families ahead of ideological and partisan attacks.”

Click here to read the letter in its entirety, and please share this post if you agree!

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CT NOW ACTION ALERT: Ask your legislator to support SB 586!

It is imperative that before the current Connecticut General Assembly session ends in June, our state legislators vote to support Senate Bill 586: An Act Expanding Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents.

If Congress votes to repeal the ACA and replace it with the latest version of the AHCA – something that could take place any day – states would be allowed to slash essential health benefits like maternity care, and insurers would be allowed to charge people with pre-existing conditions excessively high amounts for coverage.

We need our state legislators to take action on SB 586 IMMEDIATELY, which for Connecticut residents would protect essential preventive, and other health services, that currently exist in the ACA.

Contact your state representative and state senator today, and tell them you want SB 586 passed before the end of the session.

Shared by the Connecticut Coalition for Choice — of which CT NOW is a proud member — reasons for passing SB 586: An Act Expanding Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents include:

  • In Congress, politicians have been working overtime to rip healthcare away from Americans, eliminate no co-pay birth control for 55 million women, and shut down Planned Parenthood. Together, these policies would be devastating to women’s health care in this country.
  • The fact that the House ACA “repeal-replace” effort has failed to date, does not mean that opponents of the ACA won’t continue to attempt to muster the votes for a repeal. They’re considering planning alternatives that include eliminating essential preventive benefits including maternity care, and establishing “high risk pools”— among other cutbacks.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, has broad regulatory authority to negatively impact aspects of the ACA including the essential preventive benefits, whether or not Congress votes.  Price has worked for years to defund Planned Parenthood and does not support the contraceptive benefit.
  • A contraceptive equity bill in Connecticut is a critical step to ensure access to contraception without copays, whether or not the ACA is repealed.  This bill is important both for the health and financial well-being of the women of Connecticut.
  • No single state bill can replace all of the reform measures provided under the AC, including preventive care without cost sharing. This bill is a critical step. We are grateful to have bipartisan support from both the Connecticut Senate and House.

Let’s do this NOW!

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Bill Shine Gone, but Toxic Culture at Fox News Must Change

A statement from national NOW President Terry O’Neill:

Fox News has done the right thing by showing co-president Bill Shine the door, but that doesn’t mean they have “fixed” their harassment problem.

Sexual harassment always goes beyond the behavior of individual men. For every harasser who gets away with targeting women, there are many others lurking in the background–individuals who enable and conceal their misconduct. Serial sexual and racial harassment could not exist without these complicit individuals–and Bill Shine was one of them.

Shine’s dismissal from Fox News is a victory for women who have been victims of this toxic culture of harassment, but we are troubled that it has taken the network so long to come to this decision. It has been clear from the get-go that the harassment culture at Fox News is pervasive. By choosing to remove Bill Shine now, the network has demonstrated that it is more concerned with mopping up after a PR mess than actually taking action to protect women.

NOW continues to call for a thorough, independent investigation by New York City and State authorities into the culture of sexual and racial harassment at Fox News. The network must be held accountable for its role in harming women and take real action to curb harassment. They need to ensure that both past and future victims see justice–particularly women of color, who bear the double burden of racialized sexual harassment. (Look no further than when Bill O’Reilly called a female, African-American employee “hot chocolate.”)

NOW calls on Fox News to go beyond papering over its harassment problem–by making concrete policy changes that will actually protect women. Removing Bill Shine is a positive step, but won’t be enough on its own.

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