Values & Vision: How to Evolve Together

Changemakers Alliance (CALL), the action-oriented spinoff of Minnesota Women’s Press, begins a statewide Values & Vision series of discussions on January 5. This new series brings rural, suburban, and urban women together in virtual conversations about what Minnesotans care about. With underwriting support, we hope to have in-person discussions around the state this summer.

During each discussion, a moderator will lead participants to explore questions prompted by book excerpts, video clips, news items, and other thought-provoking content. As the network grows, conversations will focus on how to create a more inclusive and connected Minnesota based on the values these discussions reveal.

In essence, Values & Vision is a kind of salon — a hybrid of book discussion, related to current events and issues — that takes the extra step of leading to solutions, solidarity, and action.

One articulation of the need for this new model of story sharing came during our “Diversity in Politics” conversations last fall. Edie Barrett, who was running against an incumbent for Minnesota House in Ortonville near the South Dakota border, indicated she was running partly because she wanted Minnesotans to consider:

“How do we find our way back to each other and to the values that connect us?”

Solution to Gender-based Violence

Our first Values & Vision conversation is around the book “The Bonobo Sisterhood: Revolution Through Female Alliance,” by Diane Rosenfeld. She is a legal expert who created the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School. Bonobos are apes, similar to chimpanzees, found in forests south of the Congo River. They share 98.7 percent of their DNA with humans and are matriarchal.

The book is about how “to thwart sexual coercion and collapse the scaffolding of patriarchy.”

On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines in the U.S. receive more than 20,000 calls for help; hotline staff receive an average of 14 calls per minute. The National Network to End Domestic Violence conducts an annual survey to offer a snapshot of domestic violence in the U.S. On one day in 2021, 38,608 women and children found refuge in temporary domestic violence housing and 31,424 received counseling, advocacy, and transportation. More than 9,000 requests for services went unmet. Housing has become an even greater need since the pandemic.

January 5 discussion, 7pm
“The Bonobo Sisterhood: Revolution Through Female Alliance”
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Required Reading: Book Excerpts
Listen: Diane Rosenfeld Q&A

Rosenfeld’s master’s thesis at Harvard years ago was titled “Why Doesn’t HE Leave?” She has long questioned why the solution to domestic violence is sending women and their children away from home.

In her book, Rosenfeld uses the term “patriarchal violence” to identify the male coercion that is used in order to perpetuate a male-dominated social order. We rely on a largely male-led legal system that has proven inadequate around protecting women and children from aggressors.

“Part of why we view patriarchal violence as inevitable is that until now we have not had a proven way to eliminate it,” she writes. “We’re taught to rely on laws or law enforcement to protect us. But the moment we delegate our safety to someone else, we give up our power to them. Bonobos show us that uniting with other females and allies, coming physically to one another’s defense in numbers, will shut down aggression.”

She quotes biological anthropologist Amy Parish: “Bonobo females live the goals of the human feminist movement: behave with unrelated females as if they are your sisters.”

Ellie Krug experienced some of this support when she ran, as a trans woman, for school board in Carver County. After pushback from some people who thought she would introduce gay porn to students, supporters — some of whom she did not know personally — rose to her defense publicly. She writes about her campaign, which she won.

Diversity in Politics Series

Edie Barrett and Kari Dorry were among the new Minnesota candidates who lost to incumbent Republican men in Greater Minnesota districts. Dorry’s opponent has been in legislative office for 26 years. Barrett wrote, “I feel that Kari and I were up against the old white male patriarchy. Tradition. Status quo. Who and what is familiar, comfortable, known.”

Edie Barrett

The Twin Cities has been more open to diverse leadership, but expansion is possible statewide. New York–based VoteRunLead (VRL) chief political officer Sabrina Shulman said at a local post-election celebration that the organization has focused its attention in Georgia, New York, and Minnesota, partly because of potential to achieve gender parity in politics.

In 2022, 101 VRL women trained by the organization were on the November ballot; 66 percent won their election. Women gained five seats in the Minnesota legislature in 2022 and now have 38.3 percent representation, which ranks 16th in the nation. Nevada has the highest rate, at 60 percent.

Senator Patricia Torres Ray was honored in December for paving the way for the largest diverse group of Minnesota candidates to enter elected office in 2023. Both Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar were at the Women’s Club of Minneapolis event, thanking her for making it possible for them to have the leadership they now hold.

Torres Ray is clear that she is not retiring, as she steps away from 16 years as a Minnesota senator. “I want to make sure that we eliminate the inequities that exist in this state. We have far too much poverty in our Indigenous communities, in our communities of color, among immigrants. We are not doing enough,” she says. “The most difficult problem is that those who have so many resources are unwilling to share. Well, we are stronger than them. There are more of us.”

Multi-racial Coalition?

At a talk held at the University of Minnesota, Nikole Hannah- Jones shared her insights after editing “The 1619 Project” for The New York Times Magazine, which reframes slavery at the heart of the national narrative.

She said many people like to see hope because our country’s demographics are changing, which can lead people to think positive change for all Americans is inevitable. No, it isn’t, she says. She indicated people tend to want to be optimistic because it lets us feel good. Instead, Hannah-Jones said, “I want you to leave with a pit in your stomach, that we could have a better society than we have. And I want to be clear, this is not the story of Black people. This is the story of America. Black people may suffer the worst, but we all are suffering.”

The United States imprisons more people than any other country. While Black people are disproportionately imprisoned compared to people of other races in the U.S., most of the approximately 2.1 million prisoners are not Black. The U.S. child poverty rate of 21 percent is among the highest in the developed world; most people who are impoverished and food-insecure are not Black. White Americans live an average 3.6 years longer than Black Americans, but they live shorter lives than white people in other countries.

Millions of white Americans cannot go to the doctor, Hannah-Jones says, because “we are the only Western industrialized country where your health care is determined by whether you have a job that wants to offer it to you or not.”

In the future, Values & Vision will explore insights from the book “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.”