Blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking for Choice: An interview with Gloria Feldt
Happy 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day!
Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and to celebrate this occassion, we wanted to discuss one of the more exciting new developments in Choice organizing: the use of social media. Who better to speak on this topic than Gloria Feldt, whose passion for Choice organizing remains strong after 30 years of leadership at Planned Parenthood. Gloria volunteers on the board of the Women's Media Center and the Jewish Women's Archive, and worked as a consultant for Not Under the Bus, a platform and aggregator for the many media campaigns working to combat stop anti-abortion measures in healthcare reform.
Has the use of social media, particularly with Not Under the Bus, made it easier to organize the resistance to anti-abortion measures in both the House and Senate healthcare bills?
Gloria Feldt: Social media -- such as Facebook, Twitter, Stumble, LinkedIn, and blogging -- is incredibly exciting. First of all, women are over 50% of social media participants so we can reach progressive women activists who are engaged in women's reproductive rights, health, and justice in a very direct way to share information and mobilize action. I always like to say a movement has to move and activists have to act. Social media makes it simple and efficient for each of us busy people to take action every day for a woman's right to choose.
Second, social media is so inexpensive that even grassroots local groups can have access to its power to communicate and activate. For example, the Not Under the Bus project that I've just been helping the Women's Media Center to start was able to touch almost 20 million people with ad budget of less than $10,000 and the help of a social media consultant who knew what she was doing. I have heard many pro-choice people bemoaning the fact that Focus on the Family is spending over $2.2 million to run an anti-abortion ad during the Superbowl. I say let them! We need to keep reaching out to our constituencies--and now you know we can for a lot less money.
Do you see social media engaging a younger constituency, or as a way to bring younger feminists in to the fold?
GF: Surprisingly, the majority of participants in the Not Under the Bus campaign were over 30. That's fine, but we must engage those under 30 in the cause and speaking in their own tongues about why it's important to them to have the human right to make their own childbearing decisions.
So much of social media, blogging in particular, seems to occur in a vacuum. If Pro-Choice feminists are writing for Pro-Choice feminists, are we merely “preaching to the choir?” Can social media be effective in reaching beyond pre-established Pro-Choice networks?
GF: The concentric circles have to keep on growing, and it doesn't just happen. That seemingly spontaneous viral marketing takes lots of strategy and work. But growing the circles is one of the great things about Twitter and Facebook. You never know who is going to connect with your ideas. For example, I have found a most interesting and influential network of feminist businesswomen through social media. They hadn't been activists but their sensibilities are there, and when they can take actions that are quick and simple but effective like writing a letter to their legislator or dashing off a letter to the editor or response to a blog post, they do it. Voila, the movement grows.
Overall, what are some of the biggest positive and negative changes you have seen take place since you began organizing for Choice?
GF: When we have a proactive agenda, the movement moves and that is always a high regardless of who is in office. Getting contraceptive coverage in health insurance, for example, was a huge high for me. And making emergency contraception into mainstream medicine. When the movement just defends against attacks, it inevitably withers.
What is your hope for the rest of the Not Under the Bus campaign to protect Choice in healthcare reform?
GF: I want to change the conversation. Whoever decided it was ok to accept the Capps amendment that codifies the Hyde amendment denying poor women, federal employees, and women in the military coverage for abortion services under government plans was wrong, in my opinion. And by starting off in that compromised position, women ended up with much worse. Should health reform pass -- which after the MA elections is certainly not guaranteed -- we'll either have the Stupak or Nelson amendments that will make it highly unlikely that even women who pay for insurance with their own money will be able to get abortion coverage in the future. So with Not Under the Bus, we had a vehicle to put women back in charge of driving toward health care that's fair, safe, and covered. We have been among the few organizations willing to stake out the position that Hyde was wrong in the first place, health care is a human right, and abortions is health care that should be covered.
Gloria Feldt is currently working on a book titled "Unlimited" about women's relationship with power. She invites you to visit her at www.GloriaFeldt.com, where she blogs on Heartfeldt Politics, Courageous Leadership, and Powered Women. You can read her reflections on Blog for Choice Day and the annviersary of Roe v. Wade here.