Fostering Inclusivity Within the Women’s Movement: Lessons from the Rethinking Sisterhood Webinar

Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Megan Elias

This piece is part of a series on the “Rethinking Sisterhood” webinar panels. Take a look at our articles on the first panel, third panel, fourth panel, fifth panel, and our article on the series as a whole for more about Mrs. America and activism.

Generation Ratify and co-organizers agnès films, Directed by Women, Equal Means Equal, Media Equity, and Women Occupy Hollywood continued their “Rethinking Sisterhood” webinar series this past Thursday with another great conversation between excellent panelists. This series,which you can view live on Thursdays from 5:00-6:00pm EDT,  brings to light current efforts being made to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and reminds the media of the importance of covering that struggle for equality that is unfolding now. 

“On the Ground Experiences with Characters in Mrs. America,” the second webinar in the series, brought in panelists who had real-life experiences with Phillys Schlafly, Bella Abzug, and other characters portrayed in FX’s Mrs. America, created by Dhavi Waller. The panelists discussed what it was like to work in Schlafly’s presence, what the TV show got right, and what it missed. The conversation also covered the progress that has been made in individual states with ratifying the ERA and emphasized the need for coalition building within and without the women’s rights movement.

A screenshot of the panelists during the webinar.

I was able to log in to attend this panel, and like many other events being held now, all I had to do was RSVP on the event’s page with my email. I was sent a link right to the panel and easily followed it through that. All the panelists were impressive just hearing their credentials, and listening to them speak about their work was inspiring. Jennifer Hall Lee is a writer and filmmaker, and she directed the documentary Feminist: Stories from the Women’s Liberation Movement. Laura Callow is the past chair of Michigan ERA America, a coalition created to fight against the movement against the ratification of the ERA in Michigan, and she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010. Bamby Salcedo is a transgender Latina woman who is president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. Additionally, she developed the Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness in Los Angeles. 

The webinar began with a short clip of an interview with Phyllis Schlafly that was conducted by Lee. Through the interview, we’re able to see how Schlafly justifies and reasons her work against the ERA. After the clip, Lee talked about how Schlafly would, in a roundabout way, acknowledge that the women’s liberation movement had made some of the things Schlafly was doing possible. She also mentioned that this cut didn’t make it into the film because there were so many factual inaccuracies that Schlafly stated that she would then have to refute in the film.

Something Lee and Callow talked about was how Mrs. America fails to really capture Schlafly’s charisma. Lee noted that she enjoyed being in Schlafly’s presence though she disagreed with Schlafly in every way. As the conversation moved forward, the panelists revisited their personal fights for the ERA. Callow discussed how she did research on anti-ERA rhetoric in order to debunk the myths they were spreading. “This research was necessary because the media never made any attempt to refute even the most egregious claims against the ERA,” she said. Throughout the talk, Callow was engaging and spoke with grace and candor. As a raised Michigander, I was proud to hear that we were the 17th state to ratify the ERA, and that from Callow’s decades-long activism grew so many opportunities that I have today, like being able to open my own credit card.

The official art for the webinar series.

Bamby Salcedo was extremely inspiring, and I connected a lot with what she said. She brought a new perspective to the panel as a trans woman of color. I really appreciated her commentary on the women’s liberation movement as a whole today. She recognized that we have accomplished a lot of great work so far, but we still need to amplify the voices of trans women and women of color. As a woman of color myself, it was refreshing to hear someone so eloquently acknowledge the steps that we need to take to be more inclusive in the women’s liberation movement. Salcedo said that figuring out how to be “inclusive of all of the individuals who are most marginalized” is one of the most important aspects of this fight.

What echoed throughout the panel was how much work we must continue to do to make the ERA the 28th Amendment. Coalition building is key both within the movement and to communities outside of it. If we are divided, we will be weaker fighting our common enemy — the patriarchy. We can achieve our goals if we all work together and lift each other up. Salcedo said it best: “It’s time for us to wake up and really understand the power we have. Only together we will get to the finish line.”

I left this panel feeling reinvigorated. All the work these women and others do to keep us moving forward made me proud to be part of the movement. I encourage you to watch the next webinar on Thursday, May 28 from 5:00-6:00pm EDT.

You can learn more about Generation Ratify on their Website, Instagram, and Twitter and watch the webinar on their YouTube. For more information, check out our pieces on the first panel, third panel, fourth panel, fifth panel, and the “Rethinking Sisterhood” series, and learn more about Sophie on her profile.