Friday Round Up on Monday: Women See Red and Get Over the Pink

by Gloria Feldt on February 6th, 2012
in 9 Ways Blog, Create a Movement, Leadership, Politics and tagged , , , , , ,

UPDATE 2/7 : Karen Handel resigned  her position at Komen this morning, angrily claiming she was right, everyone else was wrong, and that she would be telling her side of the story. Oh sister, this plot just keeps thickening!

It’s been quite a week for the women of America, as two women’s health care icons, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood squared off. I’m not sure why Planned Parenthood waited so long to tell people the Komen Foundation had decided last December to discontinue funding them, but I do know if the women’s movement seizes this moment, which has obviously cracked open something much larger than any particular organization, it can create an amazing resurgence that will last another generation.

I wrote this in the Daily Beast today cheering you on: Women’s Tahir Square Moment…
(Your comments, shares, and links will be appreciated!)

At last, women saw enough red to get over the pink, the fear, the preference to play victim rather than embrace our own power. And that’s exactly how to stand down ideologues terrified of women getting a fair shake and the small but powerful fringe obsessed with other people’s sex lives. (read the rest here).

Here’s a round up of some of media that caught my attention during the past week. I’d love to capture other stories you particularly resonated with—so please post them in the comments section below.

First there’s the reportage:

RHReality Check always has some of the best, fastest, and boldest reporting:
It’s no secret that anti-choice legislators at the state and national level have made Planned Parenthood the central focus of their anti-woman agenda, spending well over half of entire legislative sessions in some states focused on cutting funding and limiting access to reproductive health services. At the national level, the ongoing witch hunt aimed at PPFA has taken many forms, one of which includes a “Congressional inquiry” launched by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).

Here’s the transcript of a remarkable interview–Brinker’s failed damage-control interview two days later with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, by which time Komen’s story about why they were defunding PP had changed.

Student Activism explains why Komen’s ultimate apology wasn’t a real policy reversal but rather a lame attempt to placate everyone:

The new statement does not pledge Komen to reverse its funding decision, and it does not promise Planned Parenthood any new funding. Let’s look at the relevant passage:

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”

No comment. Absurdity speaks for itself, as does the title of this piece:
Despite About-Face, Komen Funding Conflict Far From Over
“We are really afraid, because these people who are opposed to Planned Parenthood were threatening to disrupt our races or sponsors to our races,” said John Hammarley, a Komen senior communications adviser until late last summer. He said that part of his role was to help the foundation’s affiliates across the country to manage these complaints. He advised affiliates to be prepared for the worst, but most threats had yielded only a handful of placard-carrying protesters…

When the decision was finalized in December, the thinking was that not announcing it publicly would help avoid controversy, said John D. Raffaelli, a Komen board member.
“We didn’t tell anyone except Planned Parenthood,” Mr. Raffaelli said. “We wanted to keep it quiet. We didn’t intend for this to be perceived as a victory for anybody. The whole approach was to not issue press releases to do anything to hurt Planned Parenthood.”

(I could not help myself—I left this comment on the article:

What a bunch of bs comments from Komen executives in this article! Here’s what I learned from 30 years leading various Planned Parenthood entities and dealing with controversy every day:

When there is controversy, the best thing to do is what you know is right. And what you know is right is to fund organizations that actually provide breast health services to women. There shouldn’t even be a question if you really are serious about doing what’s best for your mission. For sure, those anti-choicers picketing your events aren’t going to do a darn thing to provide the health services that women need.
In sum: When you can’t please everyone, do what is right. I suggest that you emblazon this upon your hearts as you go forward to try to repair the damage you’ve done to your brand.)

A selection of the best commentaries:

From John Aravosis at AmericaBlog, always one of the most incisive:
Komen said a lot of things last week. Most of them contradictory. First they killed Planned Parenthood’s funding because of the GOP congressional investigation, then they blamed it on their new-found opposition to “pass-through” grants, then in their apology they suggested that the real problem was the investigation, but maybe they’d still kill the grants in the future because of the pass-through. It was masterful obfuscation considering how amateurish was their handling of the disaster for most of the week.

Sarah Seltzer’s take on why we still have these problems is spot on IMO:
I have to wonder how much the pro-choice movement’s own PR strategy of focusing on Planned Parenthood support of screenings and pap smears and so on at the expense of focusing on abortions has allowed the group’s ideological opponents to target those very things. I wonder if at some point during the long, long year for women’s healthcare that was 2011 we should have shouted “providing safe abortions is a moral good!” or “abortions are a necessary part of comprehensive health care!” instead of “but, but Planned Parenthood doesn’t just do abortions — they also do cancer screenings!” And then they came for our cancer screenings. Just as abortion has become a pariah, a separate class of healthcare instead of a part of it, wonderful organizations that perform abortions as part of a full range of health services are finding themselves cut off from the mainstream.

Here’s the thing. Women’s health will always be political, because we still live in a patriarchy, one in which every gain is met with backlash. As Ehrenreich notes, wryly, about breast cancer — even its current lack of politicization is political, its wide mainstream support a safe alternative to radical critique of our society and its effect on women’s health:

Katha Pollitt at The Nation opines:
Komen miscalculated by thinking its base cares only about breast cancer: in fact, those women in pink t-shirts and sneakers, raising their thousands upon thousands of dollars a year for breast cancer research, understand quite well that women’s health means more than tumor-free breasts. If Komen understood that but thought—and maybe still thinks—it can deceive those activists, or gradually shed them and acquire a whole other, equally dedicated, base of anti-choicers, it will dwindle and die. Anti-choicers are not interested in breast cancer activism; they’re interested in stopping abortion. They proved that by their eagerness to deprive of breast care women for whom PP was the only available option.

From Rebecca Traister and Joan Walsh at Salon:
More than that, though: The starkly observable attack against something as crucial and basic as breast exams for poor women, as well as the fact that so many divergent voices were pulled into it, meant that the conversation was not about partisan politics; it was about women. For the first time in what feels like forever, passion and fury were being loudly, proudly given in a full-throated voice, on behalf of women – women as moral actors; women as citizens with rights, health, bodies, freedoms; women as people with families and economic concerns.

Now what for Komen? Art Caplan, the nation’s pre-eminent bioethicist says nothing will fix Komen’s internal corruption short of the resignation of their executive staff and board. Do you agree?

From Shakesville: “Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb throw. Cry me a freaking river.” — Jade Morey, on Twitter. Who is Jade Morey? I do not know. However I do know who retweeted, and thus supported and endorsed that sentiment: Karen Handel (that’s a link to the screenshot, as Handel tried to scrub it later by deleting it).

Like my mother used to say, “I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.”

Actions you can take that will make an indelible impression: (Sorry, I missed the Superbowl, but this post still has great ideas you can use.)  List of Komen funders.

The most important action is to speak out like these women did:

At last, the energy of the feminist movement has risen like a Phoenix. I have gotten many enthusiastic emails today. This is not a time to forgive Komen Foundation, this is a time to find an alternative. –filmmaker Lilly Rivlin

“@gofeminist: “I became a feminist because I realised I wasn’t alone” Joana Burigo #gofem” what happened this week w/Komen v PP

Extras, in case you haven’t had enough yet:

The most unbelievable flip-flopping, like a fish just pulled from the lake trying to figure out “Where the heck am I and why am I here?” Komen spokespersons have adopted the anti-choice technique of making up the story as they go. Unbelievable, unless you’ve dealt with right-wing anti-choice folks in person.

Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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5 Responses to Friday Round Up on Monday: Women See Red and Get Over the Pink

  1. Aletha says:

    The Momocrats and Feminist Peace Network blogs wrote up some of the reasons I have long been suspicious of the Komen foundation.

    Today the New York Times has an essay by Dr. Susan Love which brings up what I think is an important point:

    But the furor misses an important fact: Women have been led to believe that screening is the best prevention.

    Dr. Love does not mention that it is debatable whether mammography is even the best screening method, or if it does indeed save lives. The controversy about that is not limited to whether women should start getting mammograms at age 40 or 50. The intensity of the X rays used for mammography has been toned down significantly over the years, but any form of ionizing radiation is quite capable of causing cancer. There are non-invasive safe alternatives that could reduce the need for mammography to confirming the presence of a tumor, but for some reason they get very little attention, and FDA refuses to approve them. The Komen Foundation has serious conflicts of interest. Presumably FDA does as well.

    Regardless of all that, it is heartening to see such outrage at the Komen Foundation playing politics with women’s health. Perhaps it will last longer than the relatively muted outrage President Obama fomented when he has done that. The Komen Foundation felt compelled to reverse its decision. Why not the President?

  2. Gloria Feldt says:

    Yes Aletha, now that Komen’s investigation has been turned around on itself, many of these issues of dispute and controversy in the field of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment will be further opened up. All to the good for women’s health in the long run, most likely, as minority opinions get some attention.

  3. Aletha says:

    I hope so. Meanwhile the President is at it again, trying to allay the concerns of the Catholic bishops over the requirement for contraceptive coverage. It appears nothing has been worked out yet, and it is hard to imagine how he will “find ways to implement that policy that allay some of those concerns.” It is also hard to imagine why Obama thinks he needs to appease the Catholic bishops, since a majority of Catholics “think employers should be required to provide this kind of insurance coverage.” Is this triangulation at its worst, or what? Or is Obama just trying to offer a compromise where he knows no compromise is possible, so he can say he tried to find the right balance?

  4. Stacy B. says:

    Hey Gloria!

    I foresee a great future for Karen Handel as a Fox News analyst or as the head of Concerned Women for America as she takes her rightful position on the cross, nails and all. You know, victim that she is.

    Brinker (and Komen) made a big mistake when they took cancer survivors, families, health advocates, women’s rights advocates etc. as dupes as if we wouldn’t notice that the anti-choice movement was trying to use breast cancer as the new proxy war against abortion rights, contraception and pretty much everything else.

    What is incredible is that Brinker, who is obviously a very smart, business-savy person, handled this so poorly from start to finish. That interview with Andrea Mitchell was physically painful to watch. You could almost hear every public relations professional all over the globe gasp in horror. That Brinker, who apparently knows Mitchell (a breast cancer survivor) personally and perhaps assumed it would be a softball interview as a reult, didn’t “get” what people, including obviously Mitchell, were so outraged about, raising important questions about Brinker’s leadership. That Brinker seemed to not know what Handel was doing during the crisis- ie. taking to twitter and retweeting offensive jabs at Planned Parenthood and Komen supporters, thereby making matters worse- is pretty incredible. Has Brinker totally lost touch with the original mission of Komen? Has she been corrupted by power, political access and yes, wealth? She flew a little too close to the sun and got burned?

    Brinker managed to suicide-bomb her own organization and the so-called Komen “brand” (controversial in itself b/c of how breast cancer is now a pink commodity to be bought and sold) in a mere 72 hours- stunning. This is a morality tail of sorts, even apart from the issue of abortion rights.

  5. Gloria Feldt says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Stacy! (btw, happy to “see” you again.) I would love to do a whole case study on Komen’s amazing public relations folly. And perhaps its total corruption within. Of course, PP is not exempt from some of the same problems. But the side of the angels is clear in this conflict.

    As luck would have it, I had a chance to tell Andrea Mitchell today how great I thought her interview with Nancy Brinker was.(She was finishing up a segment at MSNBC as I was arriving to do one.)She said it was incredibly painful for her, which I’m sure it was.

    Then there was the perfect storm of the Canadian video and all the other concerns about Komen’s approach to the issue of breast cancer coming to a head at the same time. I wouldn’t even buy a box of salt that had the pink ribbon on it at the grocery store this week. I imagine there are millions of such decisions being made all over the country. (For sure, I’m not buying a pink Bible OR a pink gun!)

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