Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR)
The Challenge to Act: How Progressive Women Activists Reframe American Democracy [30 October 2008] http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/I920ChallengetoAct.pdf [full-text, 64 pages]
New Report Outlines Seven Values that Motivate Women's Activism and Reframe American Democracy [30 October 2008] http://www.iwpr.org/pdf/I920Release.pdf
Washington, DCA new report, The Challenge to Act: How Progressive Women Activists Reframe American Democracy, issued by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) today calls for political leaders and progressive activists to speak to the values that inspire women to act for social change. The report was informed by a diverse Working Group on Women's Public Vision. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, a member of the project's Working Group said: "Just as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Rev. William Sloane Coffin and Rabbi A. J. Heschel provided moral leadership for progressives forty years ago, it makes sense for today's progressive movement leaders and politicians who want to change society to call upon the strength and inspiration that people derive from their values. Political leaders hoping to understand what inspires women to vote and take action, in particular, will need to pay attention to the language and approach of progressive women activists. These women are transforming their communities and, as the report title suggests, reframing our democracy."
Based on over 120 in-depth interviews with women from diverse backgrounds, the report provides a portrait of a hope-filled, faith-based political vision that is inclusive and inspiring. It finds that even in the midst of their significant differences, progressive women activists often articulate a core cluster of values that are integral to their motivation for engaging in social action. These seven values providethe basis foran innovative and transformative approach to politics and public life, according to the report.
The values outlined in the report challenge current debates about "moral values" by providing a different vision for American democracy, one that is enhanced by the experiences of progressive women activists who feel called to serve their communities but whose voices and priorities often go unheard and unaddressed in public life.
The seven values highlighted in the report are: Community, Family, Equality, Power, Compassion, Balance and Practice. The report describes these values as "Community, where people from all walks of life gather to define and pursue the common good; Family, which offers life-giving relationships and shared care-giving; Equality, which gives us all the opportunity to pursue our own chosen goals and paths; Power, which ensures that public life includes and responds to diverse voices; Compassion, which is a sensitivity to the emotions and experiences of others that requires us to eliminate injustice and respect the complexity of others' life choices; Balance, which allows us to negotiate the multifaceted nature of our lives without sacrificing our most cherished goals and ideals; Practice, which enables us to bring our values to life through action."
"This report is timely given the deep insecurity about the future of our economy. We see now a great need for rethinking the path of our nation, and the values lived out by the women we interviewed such as community, equality, and compassion provide us with the frame for a new set of priorities," remarked Dr. Barbara Gault, acting president of IWPR. "They provide us both a means to and a vision for a better America." The Challenge to Act lays out specific examples of how these values could reshape progressive politics and organizing at the national and local levels. As an example, the report considers how popular conceptions of policies supporting mixed-income, mixed-use housing are challenged when viewed through the lens of the value of community.This value makes it clear that these policies are not simply targeted welfare policies but rather policies that encourage interconnectedness and community building and that engender a sense of trust and solidarity across difference, all of which strengthen our democracy.
The report also gives the example of poverty among single mothers, a lightning rod issue that has received a great deal of focus in the "moral values" debate. The authors argue that approaching the issue of support for poor single mothers through the framework of compassion, or sensitivity to the experiences of others, calls on us to recognize that we all come up against hardship and that adversity and circumstance often present us with less-than-ideal choices. It also calls on us to consider policy responses that fill the resource needs of poor single mothers rather than one-size-fits-all prescriptions like marriage promotion that make assumptions about the choices women have made.
AND MORE.... ______________________________ Stuart Basefsky Director, IWS News Bureau Institute for Workplace Studies Cornell/ILR School 16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor New York, NY 10016
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