Hundreds gathered in Sacramento on April 28 as part of a nationwide demonstration to stand up for women’s rights and pursuit of equality.
The protest was targeted at recent legislation participants said would set women’s progress back after decades of development.
“The amazing thing about the event is that it’s happening in every single state,” said Unite Women Media Representative Suzy Silvestre. “Republicans are denying this is happening, yet they are implementing bills that influence women and our lives.”
“The GOP has written nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation just in this last year, all of them designed to set women’s rights back 40 or more years,” said Susan McMillan Emry, founder of Rock the Slut Vote (RTSV) United, in e-mail.
RTSV is a small group aimed at fighting the GOP’s efforts against women. The organization tabled at Saturday’s rally, providing a place for people to get up and talk as well as implementing its own awareness campaign.
RSTV also raffled off $500 college scholarships in a drawing dubbed “Rush Limbaugh thinks I’m a slut,” one of which was won by UC Davis junior linguistics major Rachael Delehanty.
“Our goal is to galvanize women to get informed, get involved, get registered and vote,” Emry said.
“It’s about voter registration, but it’s also an awareness campaign, with dog tags and t-shirts to create awareness about what’s going on legislatively,” said Somer Loen, who helped organize RTSV’s tabling event. Loen is also an active member of the Bay Area Coalition for Reproductive Rights (BAYCOR).
“It is particularly important that we reach younger women who may have taken women’s rights for granted until now,” Emry said.
Incidents of younger women being affected by the GOP’s efforts have showed up recently in the media, such as the Rush Limbaugh fiasco, which is partly the origin of RTSV’s name.
“The word ‘slut’ is one of the GOP’s favorite attack words used to silence women,” Emry said. “We deliberately chose to embrace this word, to shine a spotlight on it, and wrest all the power from it.”
Many recently publicized events have sparked calls to action. For Silvestre, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the Susan G. Komen’s Foundation attempt to deny funding to Planned Parenthood.
“They eventually retracted their decision and gave back funding,” Silvestre said, “but there were new board members that aligned with Republicans, and they didn’t want to give back funding because they [Planned Parenthood] provide abortions.”
Silvestre, previously not one to take to the streets, was inspired by the passage of legislation in other states that diminished women’s rights.
“When I saw what was happening with the foundation, and then Virginia, and all these things started coming out, there’s no way I could let this happen,” Silvestre said.
Virginia passed a piece of legislation earlier this year that would force women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound by vaginal probe.
More recently, Arizona legislators are trying to pass a bill that would allow employers to fire women for using birth control for purposes aside from health reasons.
While California doesn’t necessarily abide by this nationwide trend, recently trying to pass a bill that would enable nurses to provide abortions, Silvestre pointed out that sticking up for women in other states is essential.
“We’re a part of the U.S. and we have to stick up for women that can’t,” Silvestre said. “Women that are oppressed by men, women in rural areas; we have to stand up for them.”
The march in Sacramento, explained Silvestre, was predominantly in solidarity with these women.
According to Silvestre, the march and rally were a great success.
“We had three to five hundred people come out,” Silvestre said. “The speakers were great and very motivational.”
Loen reported an impressive and diverse turnout as well as a positive atmosphere at Fremont Park’s tabling event.
“It was probably one of the most positive rallies I’ve ever been to,” Loen gushed. “People were really responsive. We shared a lot of information about legislation that people had not known.”
“All of the real work is done and now it’s about educating people and keeping them informed,” Silvestre said.
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