Anyone who has spent time arguing about politics–particularly hot-button issues like abortion–is familiar with “glazed-eyes, nodding syndrome” which is what happens when listeners (who may even agree with us) grow uncomfortable with the topic and hope to goodness we move on, soon, and yes, yes, women’s rights blah blah blah. It’s just politics, these expressions tell us; why act like it’s so personal? Or maybe it’s just too depressing and abstract to contemplate.
But when you’re a woman–or a person of color, or an immigrant, or someone dependent on government programs for health or retirement–in this current political climate of austerity and rollback, you don’t have the luxury of having your eyes glaze over or feeling like it’s depressingly abstract.
For you, the political is deeply personal; this is your life.
That was why I was so proud to hear Debbie Wasserman-Schultz use those terms when she confronted Florida Governor Rick Scott over the slew of abortion restrictions that have gone into effect in the Sunshine State. She spoke these words at a local Planned Parenthood Rally. Via the Florida Independent:
“I have never felt my right as a woman was more threatened than I do today,” she said. “This is personal.” Wasserman Schultz also told the many activists in the crowd they should not let the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott “undo everything [they] have accomplished.” “Tell the governor to stop playing politics with women’s health,” she said.
I’ve written before at the Sisterhood about my admiration for the role Wasserman-Schultz, the new DNC chair, has taken in fighting for reproductive freedom and other women’s issues.
It’s particularly brave because she’s a woman who’s obviously a prime candidate for political superstardom, and yet she’s totally afraid that the media and the public will pigeonhole her as someone passionate and vehement about women’s issues alone (in this she’s joined by my senator, Kristen Gillibrand). She’s not worried that her insistence on making the political personal and vice-versa will lead to glazed-eye syndrome.
In fact, she’s confident of the opposite. She’s freely speaking her mind, and she actually believes that doing so - that fighting back hard against the “war on women”- will help her party.
By maintaining her faith that misogyny will backfire against her political opponents and self-identifying with feminist policies, she’s showing the kind of leadership I wish we saw more nationally.