Washtenaw NOW News #8

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Edition 8, 8/26/15

Dear Feminist Friends and Allies,

 Happy Women’s Equality Day!  It was 95 years ago yesterday that women in the United States first won the right to vote.  I have been wearing white all week, as the Suffragettes did, to honor their accomplishment! 

Where has the summer gone?!!   We have a number of exciting events coming up in September, so get out your calendar!

First, our September Feminist Happy Hour will be held on Thursday the 10th from 7-9 PM.  This event, for those of you who have not yet come to one,  is a monthly opportunity for like minded people to get together in an informal way to discuss whatever is on our minds.  The topic might be news that makes us furious because it is disrespectful to women, or women who are in the news in some really positive way.  We might discuss something that has happened to us or to someone we love that felt sexist and wrong, and how best to handle such situations.  

So what we talk about during Happy Hour is a function of who shows up and what’s on our minds.  This time State Representative Gretchen Driskell will be joining us!  So one topic of discussion will likely be why she decided to run for office the first time, how being on City Council led her to become the first female Mayor of Saline and then a State Representative, and what motivates her now to declare herself a candidate for U.S. Representative!

We are moving the location of our September Feminist Happy Hour to Washtenaw Community College, where we will be guests of the Political Science Club.  Thank you Rosie Van Alsburg for suggesting this collaboration!  Although beer and wine will not be available as it was at Bona Sera, we will have a quieter space to chat and there will be free cookies!  We do not yet actually have a room assigned to us.  As soon as we do, I will send that critical information out to you.  Meanwhile, save the date! 

Second, EMU’s annual Feminist Fest will be held on September 15th from 12 – 3 PM in the Student Center Ballroom on the EMU campus.  This event features booths where  local feminist groups introduce themselves to the students on campus and to each other.  Washtenaw NOW will be there again this year with fliers, great buttons, bumpers stickers and T-shirts.  We are looking for two volunteers to help staff our booth.  Please let me know if you are interested in helping at this fun event!

Third, Kathryn Ausilio, an intern for Focus Features studio, has invited us to the free screening of the new film SUFFRAGETTE at 7 PM on September 17th at the Michigan Theater.  Inspired by true events, SUFFRAGETTE is a moving drama exploring the passion and heartbreak of those who risked all they had – their jobs, their homes, their children, and even their lives – for women’s right to vote in 19th century Britain.  This stirring story centers on Maud (played by Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join early-20th-century Britain’s growing suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), Maud becomes an activist for the cause.  Watch the trailer. Tickets are free, however you must get your ticket in advance.  I will have 20 free tickets for NOW guests – first come, first served, so let me know ASAP if you want one!   SUFFRAGETTE  will open in select theaters on October 23rd.

Fourth, we will host movie night with free popcorn (real butter!) and beverages at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum Archives at 7 PM on September 23.rd   Our featured film will be Miss Representation, to be followed by a discussion.  This documentary, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival,  explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.  Watch the trailer. The museum is located at 220 North Huron Street in Ypsilanti, and the entrance to the Archives is to the left of the museum’s front door.

We covered many topics at our August happy hour, including Eden Foods, trafficking, cultural proficiency, new leaders in the Ypsilanti Community Schools system and the erosion of abortion rights.  In discussing the last topic, a book entitled The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was recommended.  This story is set in the near future, after a totalitarian Christian theocracy has overthrown the U.S. government.  It explores themes of women in subjugation, and the various means by which they regain agency. Check it out!

Lastly, here is an update on the Eden Foods issue. For the newcomers to our group, Eden Foods is an organic foods company that is based locally and markets its fine products nationally.  Their President and CEO Michael Potter pulled a “Hobby Lobby,” suing to avoid having to cover birth control as an integral part of their employees’ health care coverage.  They won that suit in February.  So although birth control is currently covered,  we don’t know what the future holds when this health plan ends in 2016.   We sent Mr. Potter a letter in March, and received a prompt but unsatisfactory response.  You can find these two letters attached to your previous newsletter dated 5-2-2015.  They are also available in Newsletter #6 on our website http://nowwashco.org

After additional research, several meetings of a work group and much discussion,  we sent Mr. Potter a second letter (Michael Potter 2).  We received an unsatisfactory response to this letter as well (NOW.ltr.13July2015).  I then sent Mr. Potter’s secretary an email offering to meet with him (Mtg. Req.).  This offer was rudely rejected, but I have not attached the actual wording for you because of this message at the bottom of his response: 

PRIVILEGED and CONFIDENTIAL:  This electronic message and any attachments to it may contain information that is legally confidential. This information is intended only for the individual addressee named above and is not intended to be disclosed or distributed any further. Access by any other party is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this message or attachments is strictly prohibited and could be a violation of law. If you have received any of this information in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete or destroy this message and/or attachments.

Meanwhile Washtenaw NOW’s bright orange postcard initiative, encouraging Mr. Potter to continue to provide birth control as an essential part of his employee health care plan, was successfully rolled out at our Ann Arbor Art Fair booth!  Thank you to the many volunteers who staffed our booth and spread the word!   We are currently contacting potential allies across the state and country to join us in our initiative.  To date more than 500 signed postcards have been mailed out!  Special thanks to our friends in the  Oakland –Macomb NOW Chapter,  who have been particularly helpful!

In a separate initiative, members of the Peoples Food Co-op in Ann Arbor circulated a petition asking their Board to consider a boycott of Eden Foods.  They submitted 919 signatures, and needed just over 800.  But 226 signatures were invalidated!  Whereas for elections the co-op board usually tries to verify questionable votes, no such attempt was made for this petition.  In fact, the Board refused to tell the petition circulators which signatures were invalidated or why.  If you are a member, you may want to register your dismay with the Board of the People’s Co-op.  This undemocratic process makes a mockery of the idea that a co-op is a member owned and operated store interested in promoting social justice through their purchasing practices, and turns it into just another grocery store.

In a second separate initiative, members of the Ypsilanti Food Co-op circulated a petition that got enough signatures to require their Board to host a discussion of the issues raised by the Eden Foods lawsuit.  While again no action was taken against Eden Foods, the Ypsilanti Food Co-op Board did appear to take seriously the idea that the co-op mission includes the promotion of social justice.  They decided to establish a Food Ethics Committee to further explore this issue.  It will convene shortly, details to follow.

So that wraps up this newsletter!  See you in September!

Cheryl Farmer MD, President

Washtenaw NOW