Book Group to Focus on Race & Racism

By Ellen Miller
Moderator, Feminist Book Group

The books chosen for April are on the topic of racism and how it impacts women in our culture. The first book we will discuss is So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Recently on the NY Times best-seller list, Oluo has written a personal and balanced and brutally honest book in which she presents complicated situations in a way which makes them seem simple.  It is brilliant in its insights, plus she uses humor to help us understand things which are really not very funny.   Depending on your experience with racism, you are also encouraged to read Waking Up White by Debby Irving, and  White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

The April meeting will be on Friday, April 5, at the West Tisbury Free Public Library starting at 5:15 p.m. If you do not get to the library before they close the front doors at 5 p.m., come in the program room door which is off the porch in the back on the right side of the building. If you would like to bring a snack please do so, and bring any women friends you think might be interested, as well as your ideas for topics and books to read.

There seems to be some confusion as to what the book group is all about. We are a project of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos, although you don’t need to be affiliated either one to participate in the book group. Susanna Sturgis put together a film festival of women’s films last year.  Five of the six Island libraries hosted at least one film, and they were great. The Women’s Committee also compiled a list of recommended films mostly by and always about women.

Partly out of that experience we decided to put together a book group. Our mission is both to inform ourselves about the history of the women’s movements in the U.S., and about legal and economic and cultural issues confronting women in our country today (particularly here in Massachusetts and on Martha’s Vineyard), and then to figure out how we can help effect change.

Although there are hundreds of wonderful books about women’s lives, fiction and nonfiction, novels and biographies (all of which I will include on the book list as you recommend them to me), the focus of the group needs to be on books from which we can gain insights into particular issues confronting women in our culture.  In addition, in choosing books to read as a group we need to make sure they are still in print and readily available both through the library system and for purchase.

We are certainly interested in suggestions both for books and for topics. Just to give you a heads up, the topic for May will be the history of the women’s movement in the U.S. If you have a particular resource you want to read (or have read), please let me know and we will try to find it.

MV Women’s March 2019

The weather was blustery, the forecast daunting, but about a hundred Vineyarders turned out for last Saturday’s march, delighting organizers who were expecting far fewer to show up. And unlike most Vineyard demonstrations, it really was a march: after rallying at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, most of us walked down the Beach Road, over the drawbridge, and down New York Avenue to Washington Park, near Oak Bluffs harbor.

Five Corners is the go-to place for island demonstrations, with good reason: it’s centrally located, there’s plenty of room to stand (crowd estimates for last summer’s “Families Belong Together” demo ran as high as 350), and even in January the traffic in all directions is pretty much continuous. Five Corners, however, is both noisy and windy, which means that demos there almost never include speeches or music.

Organizer Margaret Emerson addresses the crowd. Photo by Daniel Waters. Used by permission.

Here too, Saturday’s Women’s March broke with tradition by featuring two speeches and the reading of a poem. Organizer and Women’s Committee member Margaret Emerson, aided by a blue bullhorn, kicked off the event, saying:

We are here at a great time in our nation’s history. In spite of the terrible daily news coming out of Washington about the current administration, we live in a time of renewed awareness of what our democracy means and how we can be involved to keep our government on the right track and our democracy strong.

The 2017 Women’s March brought about changes in our federal, state, and local government. Women became mobilized to the point that more women were elected to the US Legislature than ever before; Women-lead political groups were formed in our state and our island, and political activity has energized us to run for office, lobby, work on campaigns and make a difference in the lives of many. Ask any spouse, partner, child, or friend and they will tell you the change is here and it is here to stay and to be passed on to the next generation of activists.

She went on to list the “Why we march?” priorities of the national Women’s March: civil rights and liberties, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, reproductive rights and justice, disability rights, economic justice and workers’ rights, and an end to violence against women.

Carla Cooper of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Daniel Waters.

Next up was Carla Cooper, founder of Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard, who spoke of how the 2016 election and the 2017 Women’s March changed her life:

I went to the first Women’s March in Boston in 2017 because I didn’t know what else to do with my fear and my anxiety. I didn’t know where to put it. It was the first time I ever participated in anything remotely political. And it was a life-altering experience for me. I was surrounded by thousands of beautiful people who turned my desperation into hope, and inspired me into action. And while two years ago, the Women’s March for me was all about Trump, today it’s not about him. It’s about us, and what we have been able to accomplish, in spite of him.

Out of the smoking crater of the 2016 election arose a monumental upswelling of grassroots activism all across the country. We emerged from the dark fog of the aftermath of the election, and we found each other. We’ve grown from a community of reluctant resisters to a community of eager activists and leaders. During the last two years, we organized, we rallied, we protested, we campaigned, we registered voters, we knocked on doors, we wrote thousands of postcards, we laughed, and we cried – and we drank a lot of wine. We agonized over our defeats and we celebrated our victories. We watched women run for office and get elected in record numbers. 102 women were elected to the US House of Representatives! 14 women were elected to the US Senate! And 9 women will serve as Governors! And we helped create the blue wave that won back the House of Representatives!

The rally concluded with the reading of “Who Will Mend Me?,” a poem by Lorraine Parish, another Vineyarder who was called to action by the 2016 election. Despite the bullhorn, most of the words got lost in the wind and traffic noise. Fortunately palmcards with the entire poem, in which the poet speaks in the voice of the United States, were passed out to listeners. Here it is.

Women’s Committee members Cathy Walthers, Maggie Brown, and Maria Black all attended the Boston Women’s March, where they helped with the activities of the Massachusetts Coalition to End Child Marriage. (You’ll be hearing more about this issue. A new bill to end child marriage in this state was recently introduced.)

Also at the Boston march was Lorraine Parish, which is why she wasn’t at Five Corners to read her own poem.

 

Feminist Book Group Starts Feb. 1

It is not news that women’s rights, dignity, opportunities, equality, and justice have precious little support in our culture, either from the law, from our families, and even from other women. The time has come to fix that. But before we can start to change things, we need to arm ourselves with the facts. The Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos is starting a reading and discussion group to learn more about and provide an opportunity to discuss women’s legal and cultural issues.

Starting on Friday, Feb. 1, the Feminist Book Group will meet on the first Friday of each month, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m. in the program room at the West Tisbury Public Library. If you are not in the library when it closes at 5 p.m., you may enter the program room through a door off the porch on the right side of the building.

The book we’ll be discussing at the Feb. 1 meeting is Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Good and Mad examines the transformative power of women’s anger, including both historical perspective and insightful comments on today’s events. It has been chosen one of the best books of 2018 by the Washington Post, NPR, People, Esquire, Elle, and Wired (among others).  It is available at bookstores, at Amazon.com, through IndieBound (a community of independent local bookstores), and through the CLAMS system, both in book form and as a CD.

Upcoming titles will be posted on this website, so please sign up to “follow” and you won’t miss anything.

Women’s March 2019

The Women’s March is happening again, nationally and internationally, and you don’t have to leave the Vineyard to participate!

On Saturday, January 19, we’ll gather at Five Corners at 1 p.m. and march along the Beach Road (etc.) to Washington Park, near Oak Bluffs harbor. Bring a sign! Bring friends!

The main march will be on Washington, D.C., and sister marches are happening in many places, including Boston.

This year the theme is #WomensWave. From the national Women’s March 2019 website:

It’s time to march again.

The 2017 Women’s March inspired hundreds of women to run, millions more to vote, and dozens to win elected office. The 2019 Women’s March marks two years of resistance to the Trump presidency, two years of training new activists, and two years of building power. And this time, we’re coming back with an agenda.

And:

The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. Women’s March is a women-led movement providing intersectional education on a diverse range of issues and creating entry points for new grassroots activists & organizers to engage in their local communities through trainings, outreach programs and events. Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.

Come connect with other women working to make change on Martha’s Vineyard!

Missing: Abortion Services on MV

Did everybody see this important story in the May 24 Martha’s Vineyard Times?

It’s titled “New Study Reveals Gaps in Island Reproductive Services,” and that’s exactly what it does. The whole thing is worth reading, but here are the key points:

  • The study referred to in the headline, “Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health on Martha’s Vineyard,” was conducted last fall by Rural Health Scholars, a group of students from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and Medicine.
  • From the story: “The main findings of the study revealed a need for sexual education revamp at MVRHS, better support for the Island’s LGBTQ community, and inaccessibility to pregnancy termination services.”
  • Health Imperatives, the nonprofit that runs the M.V. Family Planning Clinic on State Road, Vineyard Haven, is federally funded and so can’t provide “pregnancy termination services,” i.e., abortions.
  • Not only is it impossible to get a surgical abortion on the island, medical abortions (a series of pills taken within the first eight weeks of pregnancy) aren’t available either.
  • Local pharmacies aren’t allowed to carry abortion pills, and to even prescribe the pills,physicians have to be certified by a pharmaceutical company.

To address the lack of access to pregnancy termination services on the Vineyard, the Friends of Family Planning (which supports the M.V. Family Planning Clinic) will host a public forum and panel discussion at the Old Whaling Church on August 4. What do Vineyard women want and need, and how do we best organize to get it?

Note also that Cecile Richards, former head of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will be speaking the very next day, August 5, at 7:30 p.m., as part of the summer M.V. Authors’ Series. Tickets are now available from Brown Paper Tickets. $45 includes a copy of Richards’s new book, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.

This sounds like a great opportunity to step up our efforts to improve women’s health care on Martha’s Vineyard!

“A Taste of Honey” Rescheduled

A Taste of Honey, the eighth and last film in the Women’s Winter Film Series, had to be cancelled because of weather. It has been rescheduled for this Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. at the Edgartown library. Please join us!

This 1961 UK film was startlingly ahead of its time and has plenty to say to our own era. From the Edgartown library e-newsletter: “With its unapologetic identification with social outcasts and its sensitive, modern approach to matters of sexuality and race, Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey — based on her prize-winning play — is still a startling work of realism. Directed and co-scripted by Tony Richardson, it remains a defining film of feminist and working class cultural movements.” It stars Rita Tushingham (who won a BAFTA and a Cannes best actress award for her performance), Dora Bryan, Robert Stephens, and Murray Melvin.

Virginia Penta Munro, the Edgartown library’s program director, curates consistently excellent film series. She suggested both this one and Frida for the WWFS — excellent choices both.

Focus on Women @ MVFF

The M.V. Film Festival’s March 15–18, 2018, festival includes these four films that explore women’s lives from a variety of angles. Lots of other good stuff too! For schedule and more info: http://tmvff.org/.

Unveiled
In the Taliban-controlled area of Waziristan, where sports for women are decried as un-Islamic, and girls rarely leave their houses, young Maria Toorpakai defies the rules by disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sports freely. As she becomes a rising star, however, her true identity is revealed, bringing constant death threats on her and her family.

Jane
Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.

RBG
Amy Nicholson in Variety: “To young fans who’ve slapped Ginsburg’s face on T-shirts, coffee mugs and a million memes, she’s a hero, icon, and rebel, the yas queen of the judicial branch better known for Kate McKinnon’s Saturday Night Live impersonation than her hard-fought feminist victories.

“RBG colors in that knowledge gap, showcasing the Ginsburg who argued for equal rights in front of the Supreme Court before SNL was even on the air. This spry celebration reveals that the real Ginsburg is neither beast nor badass, but an even-tempered, soft-spoken mediator—not typically the traits that inspire rousing high-fives, but qualities that honor the slow, uphill slog of positive change.”

The Divine Order
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Divine Order is set in Switzerland in 1971 where, despite the worldwide social upheavals of the previous decade, women were still denied the right to vote. When unassuming and dutiful housewife Nora (Marie Leuenberger, winner of a Best Actress award at Tribeca) is forbidden by her husband to take a part-time job, her frustration leads to her becoming the poster child of her town’s suffragette movement. Her newfound celebrity brings humiliation, threats, and the potential end to her marriage, but, refusing to back down, she convinces the women in her village to go on strike … and makes a few startling discoveries about her own liberation.