MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — As I mentioned on Friday, there are panels on top of panels. There are so many sessions and panels that I can’t go to all the ones that I want.
I did get out to six events on Friday. First stop: a one hour and 15 minute session titled “Tiger Moms vs. Mama Grizzlies: Engaging Moms.” The panelists were Joanne Bamberger, who was the panel moderator and publishes the PunditMom blog; Anita Jackson (pictured), the social media director for MomsRising.org, who also blogs under the handle “Rolling” here at MotherTalkers; Krystal Ball, a television pundit who ran for Congress in 2010; and Cynthia Liu who publishes the K-12 News Network.
The biggest takeaway from the discussion was that women make up most of the electorate and online presence like flickr, Twitter and Facebook, yet we haven’t translated that to power in either the public or private sectors.
“There are 28 members of Congress who are under the age of 40, and only 3 are women,” said Krystal Ball. Ball ran for office in Virginia two years ago at the age of 27 with a baby in tow. She was actually told by some potential voters that they wouldn’t vote for her because they thought she should stay home with her baby.
“I was inspired by motherhood to take action,” she said. “I had always been an engaged poltical observer and…when I had my daughter, I thought of what kind of country I wanted to pass onto her.”
Ball, who is now a pundit everywhere from MSNBC to FOX News, said she learned a lot about how women, in particular mothers, engage in the political arena. Here were some interesting points:
-As a mom, she framed all issues as “family issues” and said it was about the world we were passing onto our children.
-The vast majority of her volunteers were women, including many mothers. Her female volunteers were reluctant to phone constituents or meet them face-to-face. They preferred something behind the scenes like stuffing envelopes. “The reason that women don’t run for office, even though they are half the electorate, is that they don’t want to offer their opinions,” Ball said. “Twelve or 13 percent of op-ed writers are women.”
She built on that point saying that the political talk shows are “made for, made by and hosted by men.” Subliminally, women are receiving the message that “politics is a man’s sport.”
Cynthia Liu, who is a contributor to the Momocrats blog and publishes the K-12 News Network, said it’s mostly women who are volunteering in the schools, both in the classroom and in fundraising. She said that the PTA was a “farm system for future legislators.”
Anita Jackson from MomsRising.org emphasized the importance of paid sick days and flexible workplaces for families. She started her talk with good news: Connecticut became the first state in the country to offer up to five paid sick days to all workers. For more information on family-friendly, flexible workplaces, she pointed the audience to the website Custom-Fit Workplace. (The book, by MomsRising.org co-founder Joan Blades, is a must-read for all employers and their workers!)
Following the “Mama Grizzlies” panel discussion, I caught Congressman Luis Gutierrez at the end of a session he had with Markos regarding immigration. (Yet another session I missed due to a scheduling conflict!) Let me tell you, there is nothing but mad love for Rep. Gutierrez in the Latino community. I, too, was star-struck.
At the end of the session, he was surrounded by members of our community who thanked him for his service — he has been brave and outspoken on the immigration front — he had a good sense of humor and joked with us in “Spanglish.” He took the time to take pictures with us as well:
Speaking of rock stars, in the middle of the day I co-hosted a coffee roundtable discussion with Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association. Can I just say that Lily is one impressive woman? She is not only one of the top labor leaders in the country, but also one of the most influential Hispanic educators in the nation.
She started out as a lunch lady, worked her way up to a kindergarten aide, when a teacher encouraged her to go to school and become a teacher herself. After only 9 years on the job, she was named Utah’s Teacher of the Year.
She personally met with us parents to take questions and also hear from us on how teachers and parents can work together to support public education. I was grateful to have our Shenanigans there since she was able to speak about her experiences as a school board member of a small, rural school district.
This was surprising to me, but Lily favored local versus federal control of schools. She said that the federal government often passes unfunded mandates and “one-size-fits-all” solutions that don’t benefit rural schools. For example, a teacher in a rural school district often has to teach multiple subjects whereas a large urban district has the money and staff to have a teacher for every subject. Rural schools, by the way, make up 20 percent of all public schools.
She also dismissed the notion that teachers unions are dominated by raging liberals. One-third of NEA’s members identify themselves as Republicans. She did say though that NEA’s Republican members in Wisconsin are really regretting who they voted for last year. She is hearing a lot of, (paraphrased) “I voted for the Wisconsin governor because he was against gay marriage. I didn’t think he would go after my pension plan!”
Yes, elections matter.
Lily said this and more in an education session, in which for the first time at Netroots Nation, she shared the floor with the American Federation of Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten. If there is anything I took away from the session it was Weingarten’s suggestion to “follow the money” whenever anyone opposed the teachers unions. Among the billionaire families looking to break up the unions and dismantle public education are the Koch Brothers, the DeVoses and the Walton Family Foundation. I would add another billionaire for reform: Bill Gates.
Lily made a joke about how almost none of her members were billionaires.
Setting joking aside, Weingarten added: “When we and parents are together as one, that is an asset….No amount of money is going to pierce that trust.”
After the education session, I attended three more events. Yes, there are panels on top of panels and parties to boot, which is why I will continue this diary tomorrow…