Words and photos by Dionesio C. Grava
First posted in pinoywatchdog.com
The fighting words emanated from the stage: “Makibaka!” Some in the crowd responded: “Huwag matakot!”
It was a largely mainstream rally but Filipino American militants were represented. The many lady speakers included Jollene Levid, who led the chant. She is chair of the Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization and Marginalization (AF3IRM). Cheryl Zarate of Kabataang Makabayan (Kmb) and Angela Bartolome, representing the Stand with Grace Campaign, also spoke.
The Women’s Equality Day rally in Hollywood Blvd. on Sunday was an opportunity for feminists, organizers and other female cause-oriented groups to vent grievances and hurl tirades against just about everyone they perceived as being unjust, unsympathetic or exploitative to womenfolk.
Many, like Ms. Levid, made big deal about the issue of their own body. She said, “We demand full women’s reproductive rights… now!” Levid also wanted access to housing, welfare, childcare, healthcare, better workplace condition, full equality and respect,.
Reading a prepared statement, Levid said that with election day fast approaching women’s choices and voices are exploited by parties of all stripes solely for their own gains. That’s why they must continue “efforts to highlight parallels among local, national and international issues in order to arouse, organize and mobilize the masses.” The statement was also shared by the KmB.
Ms. Bartolome was advocating for the support of “Grace Grande, 40, and her two sons seeking political asylum from persecution, prosecution and possible bodily harm stemming from Ms. Grande’s refusal to continue as a concubine of a powerful Philippine politician nearly double her age.” According to press reports, Ms. Grande was referring to Patricio Antonio, a party-list representative in the Philippine Congress, and that she was seeking help supposedly because her life and her children’s lives are in danger.
The theme of the rally was “Defend women’s rights – We won’t go back!” Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republicans in general got some flak because they are considered enemies of abortion and other feminist causes.
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the granting of the right to vote to American women on August 26, 1920, on an equal basis with men. This 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced in 1878.
August 26, 2012, was the day before the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and rally organizers announced that “Supporters of women’s rights who cannot make it to Tampa to protest the Republican National Convention will protest to stand up for women’s rights in their city, instead.” That Sunday protest rallies were also held in the cities of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Lexington and Milwaukee.
Most of the animated speeches were centered on women’s right to abortion. American women, some speakers said, “won the right to abortion 39 years ago. We will not let the right wing take us back to the dark ages of women’s history. Women will not stand by silently while politicians play political football with our rights.” They have to stand together in the streets and fight back, they said. They also urged the use of the ballot box and vote against those who are in the way of their goals.
In addition to the right to use their bodies as they deem fit, WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) also demanded in a press release, among others, access to safe, legal abortion and birth control – on demand. They wanted healthcare that covers these services and access to it for all women. They wanted the information that they need to stay healthy, including an end to abstinence-only sex education in schools. There were also calls to end budget cuts.
WORD had also launched a petition campaign demanding the resignation of Congressman Todd Akin (R) “following his outrageous and sexist remarks attacking rape victims and women’s right to choose.”
There was also a statement of Donna Goodman, a top official of a labor federation, that reads in part: “We believe that access to reproductive choice – the basic right of women to control our own bodies – is a fundamental right and must be defended.”
Some speakers were liberal in the use of the F___ and V___ and other risque’ words. There was even someone claiming to be only 15 who seemed to delight in the use of such words. “I don’t want so-called moral or vile anti-women laws near my V__,” she grandly proclaimed followed with one of her childish snickers.