What about the ladies with this boycott thing?

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I can’t argue with Markos Moulitsas for keeping his pledge to boycott Arizona until SB1070 is fully overturned and I doubt he’s going to be persuaded out of it, judging from the scathing statement he issued about Phoenix hosting Netroots Nation in 2015.

I made very clear in the wake of Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 that I would not be setting foot in the state, nor spending a dime in it until the law was revoked. The law, however gutted by the courts, remains on the books, as does systemic harassment of Latinos, so my pledge still stands.

In a subsequent post he clarified that his not going was a personal choice and not a statement on what anyone else decides to do.

1. As a Latino, I do not feel safe in Arizona, a state that continues to profile and harrass Latinos because of the way they look. So I’m not going to go, nor am I going to put my family or my staff at risk.

2. I am not leading a boycott. I am personally not attending. I don’t care if you go or don’t go. I won’t think better or worse about you regardless of what decision you make. But organizationally, I won’t spend a dime on a state that has codified overt racism. If you disagree, that’s fine! If you agree, that’s fine! You get to make that call.

What WILL make me think less of you is if you outright disregard the real fears and anger that SB 1070 generates among people of color. I can concede that there are two genuine sides to this issue, that both the arguments for and against attending are valid, and that we can make our own choices on the matter and not be “wrong”. Don’t be a pompous ass to people of color and sympathizers on an issue that cuts so deeply and emotionally, because really, just don’t.

On the other hand, don’t be an asshole to those who want to attend, because there are valid reasons for doing so as well.

Not gonna argue with number 1 and I’m glad Kos isn’t leading a boycott. Because that would be re-starting a boycott that was already ended years ago, as John Loredo explains:

“Thank you for supporting the boycott we called. We called for the boycott to bring economic pressure onto the state and to force Arizona business leaders to get off the bench and into the immigration fight. It worked. The year after Senate Bill 1070 passed, business leaders testified at the State Senate and took the position that Arizona could no longer sustain the economic boycott and the legislature needed to stop passing any more harmful immigration bills. Since that point, not one immigration bill has passed at the Arizona state legislature. We accomplished our goal, and those of us who called for the boycott called it off. We hope those that respected our calling for the boycott will respect our decision to call it off.

As I’ve explained many, many times (and I’ll keep doing it), the business community in Arizona deliberately went silent on SB1070 after then Senate President Russell Pearce stripped out employer enforcement language and in order to ensure a GOP sweep in the 2010 election. After they got spanked hard for that economically, business leaders not only reined in anti-immigration bills but also were swift to react to SB1062 when threatened with boycotts by the LGBT and other progressive communities.

Which leads me to wonder: What about the ladies? At what point do the constant and vicious attacks on women’s basic human rights and ability to access safe and legal reproductive health care by state legislatures become intolerable enough to warrant the boycott of a state? What would be enough to draw organized progressive resistance to an anti-choice bill such that it might cause the business elite of a state, who usually shy away from the “controversy” of reproductive politics, to maybe take notice? Mandatory vaginal wanding? Personhood for fertilized eggs? Michigan has passed some pretty nasty anti-choice legislation in the past few years yet no participant that I’m aware of, including Markos Moulitsas, objected to Detroit hosting Netroots Nations.

I am aware that by even broaching the topic I am inviting accusations of being divisive and of putting my trivial little ladies issue ahead of More Important Things™. To which I respond: too bad. I once had a columnist for the Phoenix New Times defend his support of anti-choice but pro-immigrant rights politicians to me on the basis that “women aren’t being put in jail for having abortions yet”. He was, of course, ignoring the fact that some undocumented immigrants also happen to be women who badly need inexpensive and confidential reproductive health care. Such as the kind provided by Planned Parenthood, from which one of the columnist’s favorite anti-choice legislators voted to cut funding. I guess the dudely columnist never considered how much worse being rounded up by Arpaio’s goons would be if you also had an unplanned pregnancy to contend with on top of it. He was definitely not the first person I’ve encountered who feels there are “human” issues and “women’s” issues and never the twain shall meet.

It could be that part of the reason that reproductive rights are often treated as a secondary issue among progressives – to the extent that boycotts aren’t even considered in the face of some pretty vile laws passed in state legislatures – is that the public face of the pro-choice movement remains very much that of affluent white women, who happen to be the least likely to be harmed by anti-choice laws. However, while I absolutely concede that the pro-choice movement needs to work on inclusiveness and diversity, the same critique has been leveled at the LGBT rights movement, which has long been seen as largely white and urban and male. That didn’t stop the fervor for a boycott over SB1062 and the quick responsiveness of the business community to it. I’m forced to conclude that something deeper and more insidious is at work here. That something is called sexism.

You may be tempted to tell me to go ahead and start a boycott right now if I think it’s so important. My answer to that is that I don’t honestly know if there would be any point to that. Given the near inevitablity that a bad anti-choice bill will introduced in the Arizona legislature next year, would the call for a boycott of a few of us here be joined by significant enough numbers of people and organizations within and outside the state? Would Netroots Nation even consider pulling the conference out of Phoenix? Would Arizona pro-choice activists calling for NN to pull out be supported by fellow progressives, or resented? I’m posing this merely as a thought exercise at this point.

When SB1070 was signed in 2010, a boycott was immediately organized and it succeeded. When SB1062 passed the Legislature earlier this year, the mere threat of boycotts was enough to send in the Chambers of Commerce to kill it. One week after SB1062 went down Governor Brewer signed a bill that allowed surprise inspections of abortion clinics. Apart from a couple small-ish demonstrations at the State Capitol, which I participated in, the overall reaction of the progressive community was “meh”. One of the very valid reasons Markos gives for refusing to set foot in Arizona is that Latinos are routinely targeted and harassed. Well, the same thing is happening to women – and women of color disproportionately – in Arizona and several other states as they seek the reproductive health care that enables them to have some economic security and participate fully in society. I’m seeing a lot of talk on DailyKos about solidarity these past few days but, as much of America is starting to resemble 1965 in terms of women’s reproductive rights, I have to ask where is the solidarity with the ladies? What is it going to take?

7 responses to “What about the ladies with this boycott thing?

  1. Donna – sorry for not making my point more clearly, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that if we believe in collective solutions we have to take collective action.

    What if Kos were a woman and decided that he, along with his organization, would boycott AZ because of the medieval birth control restrictions being put in place here having a huge personal impact?

    This is illustrative of a type of insular single issue stubbornness that is only counterproductive. Period. If this is what passes for Kos’s “leadership”, it’s time he took a sabbatical.

  2. I think NN made a great choice in coming to Phoenix. Arizona is a purple state trapped into a red state government by long-term gerrymandering. After independent redistricting, things will eventually shift– especially if Latinos start voting in significant numbers.

    My point is that Arizona is a state where NN and progressives can make changes. If they went to New York, Mass., or California, they would be perching to the choir.

    On women’s issues, you’re spot on. The problem is that even among progressive men, I encounter sexism. We have to do it ourselves because I don’t see any of the other groups helping us.

  3. The single issue boycott problem is representative of what keeps liberals divided. It’s how we have always shot ourselves in the foot and history provides a wealth of examples.

    Make a map of all the issues and where we will allow ourselves to go while remaining true to our values. See a problem? We’ve probably ceded most of the country to the extreme right.

    Kos needs to get over himself. Making a personal decision is just fine. Bringing the Kos organization into it as well is not a personal decision and shows the hypocrisy of his argument. Kos shows himself to be nothing more than an arrogant self serving dictator by making his decision more than a personal one.

    Get a grip, liberals. We live in an extreme right wing country. We don’t have the luxury of taking our ball and going home whenever our precious single issues are offended. There is a larger objective and until folks like Kos grow up and get with the program, we’re doomed to continue our culture of loser liberalism.

    • Donna Gratehouse

      JM, I’m sorry you think the bodies, health, and lives of half the population are a trivial issue that can be bargained away for some unspecified greater good. It’s thanks to that attitude that we are now re-fighting over BIRTH CONTROL.

      BTW, I am not calling for a boycott of anything. I’m simply pointing out that progressives don’t put up organized resistance to attacks on women’s rights like they do on other groups of people’s rights. So it’s no coincidence that the attacks on (mostly poor) women are getting increasingly savage at the same time that things are improving for other groups.

      But thanks for your input.

    • Thomas O'Neill

      Since I’m gay I frequently am accused of single issue advocacy – but it isn’t true. I support immigration reform and women’s rights and basically equal rights for everyone, which I think is what a liberal should do.

      Dividing us by declaring that one group is not worth considering is the best way to defeat liberals. We must hang together or surely we will hang separately.

  4. Arizona Eagletarian

    Of course Markos isn’t going to be persuaded. But if people don’t try to persuade him, he might decide on his own to change his mind.

  5. Thomas O'Neill

    I agree with Kos, and think that NN made a stupid choice in selecting AZ.
    Of course this is a pattern that has irritated me for a long time – gay rights
    groups have often chosen to hold their meetings in states with the worst anti-gay laws and never reward our friends.