The Florida House banned the word “uterus” … and the National Organization for Women are “radical.” Really. (More)

This week’s Morning Feature schedule is different. Thursday we discussed President Obama’s Afghanistan policy. Yesterday we had a special Friday edition of “Ask Ms. Crissie.” Today through Monday I’ll report on the national NOW conference in Tampa.

Daring to Dream NOW, Part I – “Radical”

The theme of 2011 conference of the National Organization for Women is Daring to Dream: Building a Feminist Future. That shouldn’t be a “daring” dream. But as Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler famously said:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that a spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) described yesterday’s peaceful rally outside the senator’s office as “radical liberal vitriol.”

His office is across the street from the conference site, though we didn’t go all the way there. We stayed on public property, a sidewalk about 300 yards from his building. We even interrupted the march to wait for the walk sign on the traffic light. Twice. Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor was already scheduled to deliver the welcome address, and the organizers thought it would be better if she didn’t give that speech at the city jail.

So we carried signs and a banner, and chanted radical sayings like:

You say cut back … We say fight back!

Tell me what democracy looks like … This is what democracy looks like!

Lest anyone say feminists lack a sense of humor, we added:

Two, four, six, eight … You can’t make us procreate!

This was all “radical liberal vitriol” because we were protesting the Republican federal budget plan to privatize Medicare, and Republican assaults on unions, public schools, social services, and reproductive freedom in state capitals across the country. Had we been carrying guns while calling President Obama a socialist, questioning his citizenship, and demanding tax breaks for corporations and millionaires … we would have been….

“The voice of reason”

That’s how Sarah Palin described the Tea Party. We got a giant mugging of tea last November in Florida, with the election of Gov. Rick Scott and a spate of other Tea Party-backed Republicans in our state legislature. And being all about freeing us from the burden of government regulations, a key item in GOP agenda was more regulations on reproduction.

That prompted State Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando) to declare in a floor debate that his wife should “incorporate her uterus” so Republicans would stop trying to regulate it. Republican House leaders promptly banned the word “uterus” in the Florida House, terming it “inappropriate for children and other guests.” Clearly that’s “the voice of reason.”

Susannah Lindberg Randolph, who radically suggested the “incorporate her uterus” line to her husband, radically proposed forming “a powerful, secret organization” called The Uterati, and a radical political action committee: U-PAC.

And radical organizers at the NOW conference radically displayed a stuffed uterus, which NOW President Terry O’Neill radically held up for the radical audience before radically introducing Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

“I told you a woman couldn’t do it.”

Chief Castor attended the University of Tampa on an athletic scholarship and in 2006 was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduating, she joined the Tampa Police Department, where she was elected president of her police academy class and widely recognized as a future leader. The Focus on Four plan she advocated while serving in the Criminal Intelligence Bureau has resulted in a 61% drop in Tampa’s crime rate since 2002. In 2009, then-Mayor Pam Iorio appointed Castor Tampa’s first woman Chief of Police.

“When I talk to community groups,” Chief Castor told NOW yesterday, “they know I’m a woman. They know I’m lesbian. And they don’t care. They just want me to be a good police chief.”

Yet she knows it’s not that simple. “If a man fails in my position, he fails as an individual. If I fail, it will be ‘I told you a woman couldn’t do it.'”

Chief Castor willingly embraces that challenge, saying she frames it as the challenge of being another role model for girls in Tampa. She said she follows in the footsteps of trailblazers like Sandra Freedman, Tampa’s first woman mayor, and the recently retired Iorio, as well as former University of South Florida President Betty Castor and her daughter, Rep. Kathy Castor (R-FL). (Chief Castor is not a relative.)

“This is a great city for women,” Chief Castor said yesterday. “Every year, more women run for and win office in Tampa.”


The focus then shifted to a panel discussion on body-image. That’s radical because, as Rush Limbaugh said this month, “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

So we heard from Gabi Gregg, the founder of Young, Fat, and Fabulous. She said she never really wanted to be politically active, but “It’s impossible to [talk about accepting your body as it is] and it not be a political statement.”

We next heard from supermodel Kate Dillon, who said she decided to quit “skinny modeling” after a show in Paris, when someone said “Wow, you look great” after Dillon had been “throwing up and everything else for ten days” because of an intestinal virus. After a two-year hiatus – and gaining 40 pounds – Dillon rose to worldwide star status as a plus-size model. She talked about loving our bodies the way we love spouses, partners, or friends: as they and we are.

“I thought I was a feminist before I had my baby,” Dillon said. “Now … I’m a rabid dog. Women are awesome.”

Finally we heard from Katie Makkai, who performed her award-winning poem “Pretty.” It contains adult language, but I’ve chosen the unedited version regardless:

Yes. We’re radical.


Happy Saturday!