By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
It's late in the morning of June 25, and the grassroots feminist organization Women For: Orange County (OC) is holding its monthly meeting inside the Irvine Water District's Duck Club. The documentary Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition—an incendiary film implicating the moneyed brothers in everything from school re-segregation to voter suppression—has just finished playing.
Furious chatter erupts among the crowd of predominantly older women. "We've seen these films," one woman interrupts. "We know about the Koch brothers. What are we going to do about it? Why haven't the Koch brothers been sued in a major way?"
The group is silent. One woman offers, "I always drop a note in Costco's suggestion box, telling them to stop buying Georgia Pacific paper because the Koch brothers own it."
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Another chimes in: "I don't know where this came from, but why don't we call them the cock brothers?"
Another woman suggests the campaign slogan "Choke the Koch."
A group of mostly retired women advocating for a liberal fantasy in a conservative county, Women For: OC is easy to parody. But while jokes about cock brothers and notes in Costco suggestion boxes may seem trifling, these women are bulwarks of the left, and their resolve is steely.
Women For was founded in Los Angeles in the 1960s, a byproduct of second-wave feminism's preoccupation with reproductive rights, female sexuality and workplace inequality. "Women For: LA had such a reputation that when something would happen, the newspaper reporters thought they would have a comment on it," board member Marilyn Vassos recalls.
Vassos, a longtime member of Women For: OC and a legendary local activist, found solace among the women of the Los Angeles branch, deeming them her "sages." Growing up with rigid expectations of femininity, Vassos felt confined. "Most of my life, I was silent," she explains. "When I grew up, women got married. It was abnormal that I wasn't married when I finished college."
Vassos broke her silence as she aged. The former sixth-grade teacher has been arrested several times for civil disobedience. In one incident in the 1990s, she and her husband were arrested for protesting at a teacher's rally. With the help of the ACLU, they sued the Los Angeles Police Department for infringing on their right to peacefully assemble.
The isolation of being a feminist in a conservative world also inspired Judy Curry to join the organization. Her warm but firm manners betray a childhood in the midcentury Midwest, where, she says, "there is a Lutheran church on every corner." A UC Irvine alumna, Curry worked in law enforcement, a place where right-wing ideology dominated. "I was a square peg in a round profession," the board president jokes.
According to Vassos, the Los Angeles branch died out with the loss of older board members. The organization's Orange County counterpart was founded in the '80s by Vivian Hall, an activist who ran for Congress in 1976, and writer Lynn Osen. Women For: OC today champions virtually every progressive cause, all pigeonholed under the banners of human and civil rights, peace and justice, education, health care, and the environment. The women insist, however, they are nonpartisan.
A sampling of their involvement is akin to a laundry list of lefty agitation: advocating for LGBT issues in Orange County and statewide; protesting fracking in the county; donating new undergarments to Indian reservations and cosmetics to female prisoners; working with post-incarceration support organization Homeboy Industries; and, this year, partnering with Stop Hunger Now, a meal-packaging program for malnourished communities.
The most recent cause to capture the organization's attention is the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which closely held corporations were granted the right to deny specific contraceptive coverage to employees on religious grounds. The board drew a connection between the Supreme Court decision and Orange County's own religious-reproductive standoff in the merger of Hoag Hospital and St. Joseph Health System, which effectively banned abortions at the hospital due to St. Joseph's sensitivity to the procedure.
"This is not Mississippi," Curry says, sharply pronouncing each word. "This is Orange County, California. You cannot pull this crap here. . . . You have the right to do with your body what you want. How dare the men in dresses tell the women . . ."
Board member Felicity Figueroa cuts in: "Well, if it were truly men in dresses, we'd have a much easier time." The women laugh at her subversive, anti-Supreme Court one-liner.
Figueroa is in charge of the Great American Write-In, one of the organization's two large annual events. "The write-in is . . . there for people to write letters to their congressmen, their legislators and their decision-makers on all of the issues brought up by the 50-plus organizations that have tables there," Figueroa explains. This year, more than 300 Write-In attendees generated 2,000 pieces of mail. (All postage and stationery was paid for by Women For: OC.)
The Suffrage Day Luncheon, dubbed "the oldest feminist event in Orange County," honors community members who champion the organization's values. It's held annually on a weekend as close to Aug. 26, the day the 19th Amendment was passed, as possible and is attended by more than 100 people.
Sounds like these ladies are just having fun, pretending their efforts have significance. Some women play bunko, some ladies go bird watching, and some women imagine themselves as relevant political influences. Let them have their fun. Kind of like giving kids play money or playing with dolls.
Where are all these feminists for the women raped by the local US military and the DA and cops ignore them! Feminists have done nothing for women raped by the military!
"Furious chatter erupts among the crowd of predominantly older women" Yeah we know, its really annoying when women do that. Talk, chatter, giggle, repeat.
These screaming meemies represent the typical liberal.
Loud-mouthed, angry, emotion driven, hysterical, radical, mindless, smug, self-loathing, self-deluded, pompous, ill-informed, loopy, loony twits.
What truth? The truth is that equating feminism with misandry is incredibly unfair. And from what I've observed it seems we women are supposed to "take it on the chin" when a man criticizes the female gender but when the shoe's on the other foot we gals are "man-haters". How convenient.
Is that anything like "lather, rinse, repeat"?
"I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair...." :-D
Actually, some of us feminists prefer to be called "harpies". (harumph)
another one of your big lies
women are never "expected' to take it on the chin ( unless we're talking about…oh well nevermind)
its the males who get played that they should remain chivalrous
and a man comes across as a wimp if he argues with a women
come on even you know that
while the term feminist has evolved to sooth the harshness brought on by the Gertude steins and those types
it again , allows for equivocation which I and even many feminists detest
... as you wish.
Honestly, I think we should judge people as individuals and not what we would "expect" from their particular gender. I personally don't believe a man who argues with a woman is a "wimp". And if I were behaving in an unbecoming manner I sure as heck wouldn't "expect" a man to keep his trap shut just because I'm a human being who happens to be a woman. But I do resent being called a "man-hater" because I would refuse to take crap from a human being who happens to be a man. Even to this day, women who dare complain about the inequalities that still exist between the sexes are painted as shrill, ungrateful bitches because they demand equality. This is the 21st century and American women are still waiting for the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) to pass.