Updated 2020 Legislative Agenda

Thank you all so much for joining us in June for our listening session on how your organization or community is experiencing the current moment. Because of your contribution, we were able to successfully update our legislative agenda to incorporate content on Covid-19 and we also applied an explicitly anti-racist lens to our recommendations. Please click here or below to download the new report!

Mental health and Self-care during COVID-19

Individuals with anxiety disorders experience repeated, extreme, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often anxiety disorders involve continual episodes of impulsive feelings of intense fear that can last for varying lengths of time. According to the National Mental Health Association, anxiety and depression are more common in women. Women who birth children may experience postpartum depression and other maternal mental health challenges that can affect the development of their child.

The impact of COVID-19 has only exacerbated the conditions that breed depression and anxiety. The social distancing necessary to survive this pandemic has forced many into isolation that makes worry worse, particularly for women who live alone. Overwhelming thoughts like “How long will this last?  Is my family being safe? Will I stay healthy?”,  are constantly at the forefront of the minds of many. Those thoughts are met with the task of processing around the clock news coverage, headlines, and social media clickbait about the threat of the pandemic and the impact it is having. Another issue is having to sort through the facts from the rumors and misinformation.  Many individuals report an increase in stress, fear, loneliness, and sadness as a result of the pandemic.

For those overthinkers and individuals with anxiety or depression, these super-uncertain times are really taking a toll. Now more than ever it is important that individuals and communities prioritize mental health. What does that mean?

Quarantine increases isolation, and for folks with anxiety or depression that can be a recipe for disaster. In a recent Facebook poll, we heard from several women about their routine which included:

  • Refusing to engage in conversations that heighten your anxiety
  • Limiting the interactions with individuals who want to talk only about fatalities
  • Getting fresh air every day
  • Taking up crafts or home projects to calm thoughts
  • Praying and meditating
  • Exercising
  • Playing games with children
  • Scheduling virtual dates with friends and family

how-to-stay-healthy-from-home-during-covid-19

What are the things that work for you?

What should be included in local governments’ post-COVID plan to address mental health and promote evidence-based services?

 

EVENT: Listening Session to Discuss NC’s Changing Feminist Policy Landscape

Police violence against black and brown bodies and the global pandemic are parallel plagues across this nation. For many of us, working at the intersections of multiple crises is not a new task. However, these new and more uncertain times have exposed the fault lines of just how broken things are, leaving so many questions to consider. It also exposes how ready we are for change.

What is the role of the feminist movement in addressing structural and institutional racism? What are the vulnerabilities in our diverse community of NC women? Why is front line work so gendered? What does it mean if childcare fails? The Atlantic has described this pandemic as a “disaster for feminism” and we agree that this public health crisis has had a significant impact on family life, especially for women. Additionally, the pandemic has exposed, for the first time for many folks, the reality of what Mikki Kendall calls “Hood Feminism”, the feminism of women for whom there is a constant thought and effort to secure safe and sustainable housing, decent available food, good schools, and equitable instruction.

These are the musings of my mind; we want to know what’s on yours. What are your NCWU member organizations seeing as the impacts of the pandemic and public health crisis on your stakeholders? What would a women’s agenda for NC’s COVID recovery look like? Other states are starting to publish similar recommendations–see the Hawaii Women’s Commission proposal or this op-ed from California’s Rep. Jackie Speier. We’re interested in compiling a similar effort for our state. Ideally, this would be a reflection of your evolving policy priorities for the legislature as you are witnessing and experiencing the impacts of the pandemic on your stakeholders. This could either take the form of an addendum to our 2019-2020 legislative agenda, or a discrete product such as the Hawaii example. Please share your ideas and reactions with our policy director Lyric Thompson at lyrict@gmail.com, which she will curate in a running list that we can discuss as an NCWU community on a Zoom call on June 23rd at 4 p.m.

Register for the Zoom Call

P.S. Read our new blog post and take our survey! We want to hear from you!

Where Are the Pink Pussy Hats When Black Women Are Dying?

This week, blackout Tuesday was a day to center the voices of black people and amplify their stories and experiences. This is a necessity each day, not only Tuesday and not only this week. The 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence honoring the memory of George Floyd this Thursday was an act of solidarity that must extend every minute of every day, and must expand to include the memory of black women, like Breonna Taylor and Michelle Cusseaux, who have also been murdered but have not been memorialized with the same energy and fervor because of the intersecting and cruel legacy of sexism and racism in America.

As we consider the actions necessary to end racism and call out white supremacy, I hope we remember that we do not have to look far to find more work that needs to be done. When I think about healing and ending systemic racism and state sanctioned violence, I’m not certain of the way forward, but I know we don’t move forward without acknowledging the erasure of black women and their experiences across many of the social justice movements, including the larger feminist movement.

Something has shifted this week. The stream of black squares on instagram, the proliferation of organizational and individual solidarity statements and posts with symbolic images create the necessary echo chamber that carries the message farther than it has before, but what is next? Speaking out is step one. For NC Women United, as an explicitly anti-racisit organization we know that ending racism also includes dismantling the parts of white feminism that exist to promote the safety of middle-class white women at the expense of black women. The conversation about police brutality does not live in a vacuum outside of the world that allows the Amy Coopers of the world to weaponize their tears against a black man. These are both problems for the feminist movement–in all of its diversity–to address.

For many black women, especially those in the feminist movement, we are all too familiar with the tone deafness that occurs when we speak our truth and we are used to reminding people to see us, to respect our opinions and trust our ideas. During the summer of 2006, Mariana Ortega wrote “Being Lovingly, Knowingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color.” In this piece she speaks to the racist ideologies within feminism that claim to speak for all women while only recognizing the needs of black women when it furthers an agenda or creates an inclusive appeal–inviting Black speakers to an event or to sponsor a march at the last minute, when all of the planning is done, in an obviously last-minute scramble to be more inclusive. Black women have been so overlooked by mainstream white feminism that many, like Alice Walker, have denounced it completely and instead cling to the term womanism which incorporates an adoration for black womanhood AND a commitment to improve the quality of life for all folks that experience oppression due to race or class.

Last year during many of the women’s marches, women were still seen adorning knitted caps known as “pink pussy hats”.In response to this there have been many conversations about how exclusionary that was. “Not all women have pussys and not all pussys are pink.” That feeling of being overlooked is still a stain on our movement that has to be healed. Our agendas should reflect the changes that we need to see around us. When we talk about reproductive rights and reproductive justice does that include the mortality of black women during childbirth? What is #Metoo without also reconciling the reality of false reports of rape against black men? How do we care about increased civic participation and not fight for the rights of incarcerated mothers who give birth in shackles? How do we fight to close the gap in wages and ignore the school to prison pipeline? Where are the pink pussy hats when black Women are dying? These are only a few points of a very very long list of intersecting items. We have to be intentional about addressing the oppressive experiences of black women and avoid clinging to tactics adopted from movements that excluded them.

At NC Women United, we are committed to lifting up these stories and experiences and will work, from this day forward, to incorporate them more meaningfully in our advocacy. Building on our efforts to better center race and class in our policy education and advocacy, we will be refining our signature products–our legislative agenda and report card–to ensure they are advancing an explicitly intersectional and anti-racist agenda. We will not take only a gender lens to NC policy, asking “What about women?,” but an intersectional lens, “What about Black women? What about Latinx women? What about LBT women, and gender non-conforming people? Rural women? Disabled women? Migrant women? And, importantly, how do the choices of North Carolina policymakers–and the messages of the NC women’s movement–impact people differently on the basis of these different streams of discrimination?”

We are a movement that is stronger together, and today we recommit to working with our member organizations and the women of this state–in all their diversity–to ensure that we do everything in our collective power to center that diversity and strength in our work. Together, we have the power to make invisibilized women visible, to lift up their stories to inform the choices of North Carolina policymakers accordingly.  We invite you to share your unique experiences of this moment with us as we refine and update our post-COVID legislative agenda, toward a more inclusive and lasting progress.

Sincerely,
Charnessa Ridley
NCWU President

Survey: What do Women Need in a State Response to COVID?

For many of us, working at the intersections of multiple crises is not a new task. However, these new and more uncertain times have exposed the fault lines of just how broken things are, leaving so many questions to consider.

Why is front line work so gendered? What does it mean if childcare fails? What are the vulnerabilities in our diverse community of NC women? The Atlantic has described this pandemic as a “disaster for feminism” and we agree that this public health crisis has had a significant impact on family life, especially for women. Additionally, the pandemic has exposed, for the first time for many folks, are just now waking up to the reality of what Mikki Kendell calls “Hood Feminism”,; the feminism of women for whom there is The constant thought and effort to secure safe and sustainable housing, decent available food, good schools and equitable instruction.

Arguably this pandemic has had a profoundly classist impact For the first time some women are having to worry about groceries, diapers, clean water, eviction, access to quality health care and hygiene products. However, with nearly 40 percent of jobs under $40, 000 lost and the possibility of a vaccine not being widley available, it does invite the prospect of class genocide.

For women in communities of color this “survival mode” is a switch that never turns off. Has this been a disaster for feminism or has this caused a leveling of the playing field that now requires us all to work towards building the infrastructure that never allows these basic needs to go unmet? We do not have all the answers, but this is a dialogue that we would like to have with our members. The following zooms calls are available so that we can hear from you. How are you? What are you working on? What have you seen and experienced during this time?

We are committed to addressing the challenges that exist for women and families in our state. With a critical election on the horizon it is even more important to have a collective agenda that will enhance the quality of life for all women. But we need your help. What are you experiencing as the impacts and effects of this pandemic? Please take our survey, from which we are compiling a picture of how the women of NC are faring, which will inform our advocacy agenda for what the state’s response to COVID should address.. We know there is no such thing as gender-neutral policy choices–they are only gender-blind, unclear how they might affect people across gender, race, immigration status or other lines. We hope to make these differences clear to NC policymakers.

Won’t you join us?

Click here to take our survey!!

 

Our 2019-2020 Legislative Agenda

Built on a survey of our member organizations and women across the state, our legislative agenda is a snapshot of the most important issues facing the women of NC today.

Given our history of an intersectional approach to feminism, we have reworded our categories of issues and have added a new one:

  • Economic Stability
  • Expand Access to Healthcare
  • Promote and Inclusive and Equitable Democracy
  • End Gender-Based Violence
  • Advance Climate and Environmental Justice

Here is the full report:  NC Women United Legislative Agenda | (PDF)

Would you like to participate in our Advocacy around the Agenda? in developing revisions?

Please contact us at info@ncwu.org for more information on how organizations and individuals can join us in our work.