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Reclaiming Our Value

Updated: Feb 23

After years of unsolicited critique and scrutiny by Marblehead's legacy civics aficionados and civics groups, we are going to evaluate their intent and impact and ours since 2020.

The first we notice is the reliance on the suffragette civics model - the antithesis to PowerUP!. A philosophy which was not designed for equality and relies on fitting into the systems which perpetuate divisions and assign value based on race, gender, identity, age, ability, religion. PowerUP! builds collective power, and welcomes all who have a passion for democracy and are guided by love. It is easy to see where we will not align, but we both have a right to exist. We also have a responsibility to hold each other accountable when the impact is contrary to the intent - and with that lens we offer this blog.

Sisterhood happens when women view each other as deep wells of support and inspiration — as teammates — instead of competitors.

The Highlights: 

  • Protecting the Hedgemony

  • Crash Course on White Feminism

  • Internalizing -isms

  • Marblehead Microaggressions

  • Co Co Co-option

  • Mental Gymnastics

  • Reclaiming Our Value

The Takeaway:

It is encouraging to see increased engagement within the Marblehead legacy political structures and platforms. Since PowerUP! will never be recorded nor connected to the renewed energy of these organizations, we will - and will do so full of gratitude for the support and to ignite the passion of other communities who see opportunities to #GetInvolved.

The -isms (including white feminism) are our biggest obstacles. All are codified into invisibility. The two we most often face and which spurred this blog are misogyny/sexism and white feminism. Like most -isms, sexism is an institutionalized system with historical, political, educational and economic dimensions. We innately prioritize men's experiences, and view gender-based issues as we have been conditioned to - through the white male lens. Women have learned to use the same tactics used against them - against other women. We have even learned to choose shame and blame of victims of violence - even if they are little girls - and to vilify women leaders if they hold men accountable. This blog is for all of you who have been and are being attacked, shamed, blamed and vilified.

The Details

Protecting the Hedgemony. The idea of a PowerUP! Model was shared with all the town’s legacy groups. Imagining the collaboration as deeper impact was motivational. Most, including the LWV, immediately dismissed it. The LWV went farther, saying that I should do something “nice” for the town instead. The dismissal was clear, but the rationale was bizarre: They saw us a threat. We ignored it and kept inviting them.

Sisterhood happens when we become curious instead of defensive.

Crash Course into white Feminism. We are expected to make space but only for white women, and without seeking systemic change or accountability. The first token woman leader we were expected to support had spent twenty years denying hate/bigotry, police officer misconduct; ignoring fiscal responsibility, cronyism and nepotism, subterfuge, and inequity. When 2 women joined her Board, she allowed the incumbent men to bully, exclude and minimize them in public meetings. We have never supported any woman/person who does not have the capacity to represent every single person in the community. - regardless of their self-identifying label. This decision cost us members, but we honored our mission.

Sisterhood happens between women who are secure enough to stop being afraid of each other and instead lift each other up.

Internalized -isms. In response to our legislation to make public meetings all-accessible, the town appointed a “feasibility study group” vs. calling for a Town Meeting vote. The handpicked Group was made up of LWV women and male town representatives - none with ADA or technical expertise. We coached the women on instances where men were factually wrong, used gaslighting or ableism, sexism as obstructions. None of them noticed. Town Meeting voters passed the Article...only to have the Select Board deem it “advisory”, not mandatory. No one has challenged this sleight of hand.

Sisterhood does not require the same beliefs or thoughts or political parties or churches - but we should be united in combating the systems which oppress us all.

Marblehead Microaggressions. At an August 2023 Marblehead Dems fundraiser, we invited our two colleagues - both are Black. At check-in, the women at the table refused to give us name tags, claiming we had not registered. She sent us to another woman, who also refused entry. Even after providing proof, they insisted our names be put on a list. When we gave Nelly’s name - the woman challenged its legitimacy. While we were in a circle chatting, one of the same women angrily walked over to shove her fingers into our invited colleague - who had only just entered - yelling and finger jabbing to emphasize that name tags were required. After all of us had our nametags, another woman stomps over to our colleague to tell him that we were blocking people. No one else in the area was asked to move. The opening speech came from a U.S. Representative - he spewed  Xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment. We looked at each other, mouthing "Where the hell are we?" The legacy organizations and "progressives" in attendance did not find this offensive - but folks sure found being Black offensive.

Sisterhood is about celebrating each other and being a role model for the next generation.

Co-option. Immediately after distributing our 2023-24 Leadership Evaluation template, LWV representatives expressed their disapproval because it did not include the School Committee. Our explanation: we would not be part of the misogyny based hyper-focus on the SC. They accused us of giving the SC a "pass". A month or so later, our eval was co-opted, made ONLY for the School Committee to give them a failing “grade” to be published in the paper. The LWV signed on for support and showed up at a SC meeting to demand the members participate in the public flogging they were graciously hosting. THIS was acceptable. Unacceptable was our evaluation template - designed to empower the community to identify their own priorities, and in general foster informed voting.

Sisterhood disrupts the systems which designate the legacy organizations as the sole power holders and makes space for all. 

Mental Gymnastics. Everyone paying attention knows violence against women/girls is an abhorrent human rights issue. It excludes us from the rights and freedoms of safety in our own homes, schools, online and in any part of governance/democracy. Yet, LWV reps were infuriated when we published a Call to Action - which supported women in leadership under attack with examples of violence recorded - telling us to “cool it”, our anger was unjustified and closed with the incongruent assurance that if we “relaxed” we would see there was plenty of room for differing views. Women being offended by our CTA to denounce violence against women - what mental gymnastics it must take to justify violence. *We continue to support women in leadership who see value in intersectional feminism, representative democracy. We also will continue to work with HAWC and YWCA to find ways to reduce harm for those experiencing violence*

Sisterhood is the phenomenon that occurs when women start seeing each other as one-of-a-kind works of art.

Without accountability, progress is individual and exclusive not collective and inclusive. Without accountability well intentioned groups are oppressing authentic efforts to rebuild and reimagine how we work with, for and alongside each other. There is phenomenal power in solidarity, in sisterhood, and in building bridges. PowerUP!'s impact will not be measured by those who benefit from our complicity. Our resources and intent will not be twisted by those who do not see each of us as a one-of-a-kind work of art trying to make the world more beautiful and kind for the next generation. It is time to reclaim our worth, our value and our voice. We have lots of work to do!

Full poem by Glennon Doyle:

“Sisterhood is the phenomenon that occurs when women quit seeing each other as mirrors, or reflections of themselves, and start seeing each other as one-of-a-kind works of art.

Sisterhood happens when women view each other as deep wells of support and inspiration — as teammates — instead of competitors.

Sisterhood happens between women who are secure enough to stop being afraid of each other; who do not feel that another woman's different life choices are a judgment of her own choices.

Sisterhood happens when we become curious instead of defensive about our differences.

Sisterhood does not require the same beliefs or thoughts or political parties or churches. Peace is not about becoming the same; it's about becoming okay with being different.

There is so much untapped power in sisterhood."

~ Glennon Doyle 


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