by Pamela Powers Hannley
The War on Women has been raging nationwide with Tea Party-controlled state legislatures and governors signing into law multiple bills that attack women’s rights, families, and social safety net programs.
At the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), First Lady Michelle Obama and other speakers at the DNC’s Women’s Caucus meeting repeatedly stressed the themes of equal pay for equal work, access to care, discrimination, choice, and the power of the women's vote. With several standing ovations and chants of "fired up, ready to go" and "four more years," the Women's Caucus had the feeling of an old time tent revival.
Although the First Lady was the featured speaker, several guest speakers warmed up the audience of approximately 400 women (and a handful of men).
Video and more details after the jump.
Addressing the issues of environmental contamination and health, actress and cancer survivor Fran Drescher warned of the chemical risks of life in the United States and urged Congress to update legislation to protect citizens.
Do we really know what chemicals are in our food, our cosmetics, or our cleaning supplies? Drescher asked rhetorically. It is not acceptable that our children are exposed to more than 300 chemicals through the umbilical cord and that American mothers’ breast milk has more flame retardant than any other women in the world, Drescher exclaimed, as she challenged women to ask more questions and to lead, not follow.
Labor secretary Hilda Solis continued the theme of women's power.
"Women are here to stay, and our voices will be heard," Solis, the first Latina cabinet member said. "Now is not the time to turn back."
President Barack Obama will fight for "that Big O for opportunity" for women, Solis said, and reminded the audience about his strong stances on access to contraception and healthcare, equal pay, and ending discrimination in health insurance premiums-- in addition to appointing two independent women to the Supreme Court.
"We need more women in public and private sector jobs and in public office, but we also need to help the women who tuck their kids in at night and then go to clean those offices," Solis challenged, as the crowd roared.
"We are not soccer moms standing on the sidelines of an important game,” Moms Rising President Kristen Row-Finkbeiner said. “We are in the game to win!"
"More than 80% of women in US have children by the time they are 40… Medicaid provides healthcare to 1 in 3 American children" and Republicans would get rid of that, she warned.
Promoting the Affordable Care Act, Row-Finkbeiner encouraged attendees “to mobilize for candidates who will fight for equal pay and healthcare."
"In Charlotte, we have a message: don't mess with women," exclaimed Jehmu Green, first African American president of Rock the Vote.
“I have not put on a single uncomfortable shoe since I have been here because we have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of walkin’ to do."
Greene said she packed a variety of outfits and shoes for the convention. She packed her “comfortable shoes [running shoes] and her pretty shoes [high heels]”. When she got dressed for the Women’s Caucus that day, she said she considered wearing her high heels.
They are such pretty shoes and so well-packaged for the journey-- "just like Mitt Romney," Greene explained.
Making an analogy between Romney and President Barack Obama, Greene said that instead of choosing her uncomfortable but pretty shoes that morning, she chose her comfortable, reliable shoes. They put a pretty package on him [Romney] but “that pretty little package is not going to help heal our country," she concluded.
The only man to address the Women’s Caucus, Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis began with a compliment, "You're beautiful, but you are more than beautiful; you're powerful!"
Lewis said that his mom told him to not question black/white separation in the south when he was growing up. "Don't get in trouble," she advised.
"Rosa Parks inspired me to 'get in trouble'” said Lewis. “It is time for Democratic women to 'get in trouble!' We have worked too long and too hard to go back.
"No government should tell a woman what to do with her body. We must march to the polls together this fall."
When the First Lady took the stage with Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, literally hundreds of smart phones and tablets rose from the audience to capture photos and videos of the nation’s two top women.
There was electricity in the air, when Mrs. Obama said, alluding to women’s rights and equal pay, “It’s all at stake. It’s all on the line this year. All of those gains. All of that struggle.”
But this election is about much more, she explained.
“It’s about how we want our democracy to function in the future. Do we want to give a few individuals far bigger say than anyone else?”
“NO!” roared the women.
“Do we want our elections to be about who buys the most ads on TV?”
“NO!” they responded in a call and response.
“Do we want our kids and grandkids to walk away from this election feeling like ordinary folks and their voices can no longer be heard?
“Are we going to show our next generation that we all have an equal say in the voting booth? And we all have a say in our country’s future no matter how much we make? Or what we look like? Or who we love? And we all have an equal say in our democracy?” Mrs. Obama asked.
By the end of the two-hour meeting, women were on their feet waving fists and chanting, “Fired up. Ready to go.” Judging by the energy in the room, those weren’t hollow buzzwords.