Walking In

Today I accidentally walked into the Board meeting of the National Political Women’s Caucus at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Los Angeles.

Let me rewind. What was I doing there in the first place? I was supposed to attend the Amnesty International Western Regional Conference at the same hotel this weekend. And indeed, I did go to some keynote addresses. However, in between the enormous amount of programming that they offered, I saw that the events announcements board at the hotel said: National Political Women’s Caucus. As I had decided during my year off that I wanted to eventually enter politics (as well as work in art), I stopped dead in my tracks and decided to go check it out. I became interested in politics because of books that I had read and things that I had seen and discussed during my year off. I realized that many women aren’t aware that the extremely low representation of women in American politics isn’t “normal”. The US is the 80th around the world in females in office. Other countries have had, or are currently electing, female presidents and prime ministers. And that generally translates into crackdowns on corruption, more money allocated to family planning, and lime thrown upon the struggles that many women face that slip through the cracks of a system. Besides all of the other problems that arise when women aren’t participating in decisions that affect them, I cannot believe that women still do not have equal constitutional rights to men in this country. That is not a partisan/religious/controversial issue. That is an absolute human right. The ERA has been sitting dead for 80 years. Women absolutely need to vote, and also head into office if they want to work on the issues that affect themselves, and other marginalized communities.

Anyway, for all these reasons above, I knew that I wanted to go to the meeting. I left AI and I went up to the fifth floor, to the Parlor Suite. I expected to see a room full of women, lecture-style. I had just come from an auditorium with a sea of Amnesty International heads. However, I opened the door to a rather small room with a large long table and perhaps 10 women sitting around it. I was so shocked that I closed the door immediately. I opened it up one more time, rather hesitantly and almost in spite of myself. Then I walked in. I said, “Hi. My name is Ani Hao. I’m here for the Amnesty International conference but I saw that this meeting was going on and I’d love to sit in and learn about your organization and the work that you do.”

I had no idea that it was the Executive Board meeting. That became very clear, though, in a matter of five minutes as the VP of Development started describing out her latest initiatives, and every woman weighed in on them. I was absolutely thrilled. In true parliamentary or rather, congressional, manner, each woman held the floor and many argued eloquently and persuasively for the future and vision of this organization.

They were so generously receptive that they asked me to introduce myself after the VP of Development had finished. I also weighed in about the college understanding of women in office in America and the bills that Congress has passed (or not passed, in the case of the ERA) that constrict American womens’ rights. I said that most college students are not aware of these issues. There isn’t a kind of political mobilization of American women going on. I feel like many have settled down their hanches, convinced that our mothers in the 70s fought the hard fight for us and that we are now treated equally and that discrimination is much worse in other countries. Not necessarily, ladies. I told them that they need a slogan to catch a college demographic’s attention and to make women’s representation in politics “cool”. I also told them that I liked their diversity efforts, represented in diverse women in their public relations and advertising materials. Women need to see themselves, and all of themselves, in order to believe that they can achieve something.

They invited me to their EMMA (Exceptional Merit in Media Awards) ceremony taking place tomorrow at the Skirball Cultural Center in West LA. I am so honored to have met this amazing Board, and lucky to go to this awards ceremony tomorrow as a guest and meet incredible people doing incredible work. I’m bringing two friends who work in media and have also invited Keren Taylor, the Director and Founder of WriteGirl, the NGO where I intern and have spotlighted previously in this blog.

I’ll keep you all updated about tomorrow’s award ceremony. Here’s to walking into doors once you find and open them.

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