The Imus petition -winning and dealing respectfully with our differences
This week I had the deep satisfaction of seeing respectful debate arise among MomsRising members about whether or not the Imus petition was within the MomsRising agenda. It's wonderful to hear our members speak passionately about our shared mission.
I want to share the process by which we came to the petition because it is the product of an important dialog within MomsRising core team that brought us all to a deeper understanding of our work at MomsRising and our connection to each other. The outcome was the E-outreach we sent on Wednesday, the day the sad faces of the young women of the Rutgers Women's basketball team were on the front page of the New York Times. The discussion started Tuesday when one member of our team sent a query to all asking whether we should respond to the comments made by Don Imus. Many of us weren't sure that this issue had a strong enough connection to the MomsRising mission. Then Anita--new mom of a beautiful bi-racial baby girl--spoke. Her words were gentle but strong: this hurt her, as a mother. She was clear that she was ready to work for a culture that would not tolerate this kind of public entertainment, for soon her daughter would grow old enough to experience the indignity, the hurt. Our team has diverse voices and, as we dug in, we came to the conclusion that, indeed, as a voice for mothers and as mothers ourselves, we should speak up and condemn Imus'public humiliation of the young Rutgers women.
Our petition read: "Mothers of all colors must come together to build a culture that is respectful to our children, girls and boys. The comments that Imus made on the radio about Rutgers University Women's basketball team were horrifyingly inappropriate, and he should be fired."
Over 4000 people signed this petition. A number of MomsRising members wrote to say that they did not approve. I wish that we were able to include everyone in the heart-felt dialog that guided our decision. I want to acknowledge that some MomsRising members thought we overstepped our mission. Part of our team's conversation centered on fact that "TV We Choose and Other After-School Programs" is the 4th point in The Motherhood Manifesto and thus the Imus incident falls into our scope of work. The media has a profound effect upon our children's lives and we believe we must have a say in what content our children are exposed to.
We learned late this week that Don Imus did lose his job. By working in coalition with civil rights, media advocacy, and women's rights organizations, we have a powerful influence on media content. While some people feel that "shock jocks" are to be a tolerated (if not accepted) part of our media culture, we feel that making harmful comments about young women is not acceptable. We can not allow our children to be undermined for the sake of entertainment. This is not government censorship. This is citizen consumers of the media saying, "Some kinds of speech harm us all," and demanding appropriate consequences.
Thank you all. We will do our best to bring you opportunities to work on issues important to supporting our families; and if at times those opportunities don't strike some of you as the right fit, please remember that this work of building a family-friendly America is all about respecting our differences as well as our shared goals. We deeply appreciate your participation in this dialog and work.