The Menopausal Militia

Opening Night on the Floor of the Democratic National Convention.

The Menopausal Militia
by Zabet NeuCollins
September 4, 2012

“The future of the election is up to us,” cries Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It’s up to us.” The words resonate through the room where the Women’s Caucus is meeting just hours before the Democratic National Convention begins. The sizeable crowd present, numbering in the hundreds, cheers in support, and I find it hard not to drop my camera and join in. Earlier, Richards had walked onto stage to a standing ovation. Now, after delivering a powerful speech that called women to arms in the fight for the U.S. Presidential election, she receives another.

“The Menopausal Militia.” That’s what the President’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett calls the older women in the crowd in her speech a bit later. “By 2020, the youth will be 40% of the voting population. I call us the menopausal militia,” she says, asserting that the older women in the crowd are just as important as the youth. Together, she infers, we have to “move forward”and not back.

Moving forward is a big theme in all the caucuses I attend today. “This election is about us. We cannot afford to go backward,” says the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Brian Bond, at the LGBT Caucus. “Women are not going back!” cries the chair of the DNC, Debbie Wassermann Shultz.

One has to ask, why not? What does “going back” mean?

At the Women’s Caucus, there is a lot of indignation towards the Romney-Ryan ticket. Recent comments made by the GOP have furthered fueled this indignation, including Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s claim that the female body has ways to shut the whole reproductive system down during a “legitimate rape.” The Republican Party’s platform calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Celine Richards, a prime example of an indignant woman, yells in her speech, “I can’t believe we have to fight this shit again!” She was referring to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision made in 1973, which deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. “It’s like the secret to unemployment is in our uterus,” says Richards incredulously.

While LGBT issues haven’s been as spotlighted in this convention as women’s issues, the LGBT Caucus stressed the importance of the reelection of Barack Obama. Many felt that the Romney-Ryan ticket would be very detrimental to the progress the LGBT community has made and will continue to make, especially the progress made within the last four years. The Democratic Party Platform, released earlier Tuesday morning, contained a plank affirming the party’s commitment to marriage equality. The Republican Party Platform, in comparison, supports Romney’s effort to ban same-gender marriage.

Although the focuses of these caucuses were different, the messages were the same: end discrimination, move forward, and elect Barack Obama – with the promise of equality and justice for all.

Zabet NeuCollins is a sophomore in college, majoring in human ecology. She travelled to Charlotte for Labor Day and the first day of the Convention.