Women’s March Speech 2020
By Tiffany Shlain
Hello San Francisco!
I am a native San Franciscan and went to UC Berkeley.
I love our history of Free Speech, Women’s Rights, Queer Rights and Activism!
And the momentum that always starts here in the Bay Area and creates ripples of change that is felt throughout the country and world!
Now I want to tell you a story of when I was a young girl on a roadtrip with my dad...here is what he told me and my sister.
“You two...have a special power as women.
Men know this and will try to do a lot of things
to try to diminish your power…”
But the key is to understand:
you hold immense power…
and remember ...don’t misuse it.”’
See my father wrote books about women and power…..He looked at the history of civilizations and asked why so many changed from matriarchies to patriarchies,
and how women, today, might understand that ancient power.
My mother also searched for ideas on women and power.
When she was young, she wanted a meaningful career before becoming a mother...
---but got pregnant ...and was faced with raising children while wanting a career so badly.
It wasn’t until after three kids that she finally was able to go back to school... and she wrote her dissertation on
“The impact of female mentors on successful women.”
Because she felt like she didn’t have any mentors.
So both of my parents
were trying to understand how society had obscured or diminished women’s power.
I took that mental path they created for me and searched as well.
I made a film about the 10,000 year history of women and power called 50/50.
Do you know what I learned?
That the earliest written laws reflected
Women could choose to marry ... and divorce.
Women were healers, shamans, religious leaders, warriors and lawmakers.
All genders were respected. Third genders, were recognized and celebrated!
We’re talking over 10,000 years ago this was happening!
So it’s not like we never had power.
We are actually trying to regain and use the immense power we have...get the balance of power back to where it was!
Now in my family history, we've always been aware of power dynamics because today I also speak to you as a as a granddaughter of Jewish immigrants.
In the big picture of history, Jews have often been the target of those in power.
Over 100 years ago in Russia, My great grandmother on my mother’s side hid in a pickle barrel and watched parents and grandparents get shot.
Her entire town was murdered in the pogroms.
My grandmother and her siblings then had to walk across Russia to survive and one of her siblings died from the journey.
Around that same period in a different section of Russia--My grandfather on my father’s side, was awoken in the middle of the night by his dad ...and wasn’t able to say goodbye to his mother or siblings and put in the back of a hay truck…he was told to travel to America to make enough money to get his family out of Odessa.
He was 15.
He spoke no English, worked hard in America, and kept writing letters and sending money back to Odessa, hoping they could save enough to join him... The letters never made it to them.
Most of his family died in the holocaust.
I share these stories of my family’s experience of hate and struggle to recognize that I would not be standing here today....if it would not for my grandparents courage, or America’s Open Arms..
Great Immigrants have helped build our country!
SO many of our histories share that immigrant experience...or history of struggle.
My background has taught me to fight for immigrants, for the persecuted, to always work hard, and to try to
always be a mensch.
The word mensch is a Yiddish term that means an upstanding person. It’s the highest compliment you can give someone. It’s traditionally been used for men..(of course) but I have made it my goal to also have it be used for women…
or any gender identity..
Anyone who is a person of integrity and honor and who fights for justice!
A mensch stands up to racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia...islamaphobia….and anti-semitism.
A mensch uses their power to help others.
I feel so fortunate to have fallen in love in my twenties with a man who embodied menschiness..
We all need to channel our inner mensch to fight the hate that has been rising in our country and around the world.
I have great concern that Anti-semitism is on the rise. This ancient form of hate is being twisted and manipulated to
marginalize Jewish women from many progressive movements.
We need to embrace each other, as we work to keep our country safe and open for all people.
We all want equality and freedom
and we all, Jews included, deserve to be safe from harm.
We all need to live free from harm.
I also stand here as a mother of two daughters:
Odessa & Blooma
Ken and I named our daughter Odessa in honor of where our grandparents came from...and Blooma’s name also represents people in our family who we have lost.
For our children, and your children, we’re here to fight for women’s rights in this country!
I mean how is it that the Equal Rights Amendment which was first introduced in 1923 has still not passed?
Let’s take a moment to cheer for Virginia’s ratification this week that gets us closer! (pause for applause) However, passage is still not guaranteed.
And How is that in America in 2020, we are still fighting for a woman’s right to choose when and if she has children?
It’s all about power. And there is a large swath of the population, not only men, who want to contain and suppress women’s power. Why? Because it threatens the patriarchy, it threatens the status quo.
Now being able to create life is part of our immense power.
However, because growing a child and caring for a child is so all consuming, removing the choice of when women have children is a way to keep us out of the public sphere to--- keep many women in lower economic positions and try to hold back our power.
I often think that men make large phallic buildings and wage wars because they can’t create human life.
We get it! You’re powerful too.
Now please put down your intercontinental ballistic missile!
Which brings us to our president…
I told you what a mensch is….
And Trump is The Anti-Mensch.
He spews hatred and has paved a path in America for hate to spread and divide us.
Which is why we mustn’t give him power over us.
We take back our power by showing up today! (wait for applause)
We also take back our power when we keep him out of our heads 24/7.
Our devices give him direct access to us to repeat lies, distort reality, stir up divisiveness, distract us, and scatter us.
OUR DEVICES CAN BE... DIVISIVE!
So while it’s important to stay informed about what’s happening in the world, but we must reject his attempts to control us and our behavior.
People say they are online reading news headlines all day long on news outlets and social media.…..because they don’t want to MISS out.
But when you’re online all the time…. you miss out…
on life.. You miss out on perspective!
By turning off our cellphones regularly, my family turns all screens off a full day once a week…
So can find time to think and stay healthy and find joy…
so we can keep fighting for important issues that we care about, which is especially important in this election year!
When we unplug and turn off the screens regularly, we reclaim our own power.
The president wants to play to our weaknesses, but if we remember our strengths...Like empathy, courage, perspective...we will win.
Because we have the power to VOTE.
And we can use our power wisely.
So many people think power is finite. which is why they often strive to have such a strong grasp on it.
But I believe power is infinite.
The more power is shared, the more it expands, and the more we can shape our world into a world we want to live in!
That’s what my father was trying to tell me on that road trip all those years ago: We misuse power when we don’t share it.
So let’s imagine we are all together in a car -on a road trip...called life…
on a path paved from the centuries of courageous people….and I’m here to tell you that when we
All link together as mensches,
Jews, Muslims, Christians,
Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, spiritualists,
disabled and abled bodied,
neuro-diverse and neuro-typical
All women, men, non binary, hetero and queer,
all races, all clases, — all people…
and form the most powerful group of beings to realign our country to the country we want to live in!
Then Our Power is Infinite!!