Prosecco Think Tank Global Goes To Philly

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Philadelphia had its first Prosecco Think Tank a couple weeks ago. I hosted and invited a collection of friends and my mother who was visiting from Cleveland, OH. I was particularly pleased to have this event while she was in town. A few years ago my mother gave me a bit of a scolding about my generation’s apathy around women’s rights. My defense at the time was that my generation was most likely to choose what company to buy from based on the ethics of the company, most likely to support LGBTQIA rights, and the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in American history. I argued that we just have different priorities but we aren’t apathetic. As it turns out, I was selling my generation short.

The first Prosecco Think Tank (PTT) I attended in London started with everyone going around the room introducing themselves and saying when they first realized they were a feminist. I started this PTT that way as well. Most people identified a course or professor or event in college that helped them to realize that they were feminists (well done, high education). A couple people asserted that they’ve never identified themselves as feminists but then described the principles of feminism as important to the way they live their life. The conversation naturally flowed to other topics so we didn’t focus on this much but I plan to bring it up at the next PTT: What are people’s feelings about the label of “feminist” and the difference between the principles of feminism and the feminist movement. Of note, the two people who did not want the label “feminist” attached to them were women of colour.

The backgrounds of the people in the room were relatively diverse and the most interesting part of the conversation for me was about how gender equality plays out in different cultures. We heard about expectations of women in Cambodian, Indian, Jewish, and rural American cultures. My mother (the only non-millennial) talked about expectations of girls and women when she was growing up. The pattern I noticed was that the women from each of these backgrounds felt that their own family allowed them to defy the standard expectations and limitations put on women by their larger community.

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At one of our PTT's in London, we had discussed the importance of men identifying as feminists and getting involved in the women’s movement. We talked about raising our sons to be feminists as a critical act in furthering gender equality. We talked about gender equality making the world better for men as well as women. With this in mind, I invited several men to join us at our PTT and one of my male feminist friends came. He actively participated in the conversation but didn’t dominate or mansplain. I point this out because our society has told white, straight, Christian, cis-gender, educated, middle class, able bodied men (this guy) that they are entitled to take over whatever room they are in. I suspect that this man’s study of gender issues and self-reflection contributed to his ability to sit comfortably in a room of women feminists and not feel compelled to speak on every issue. These are the sorts of men we need more of.  

I received amazingly positive feedback on the PTT. My mother was delighted with all my friends. The locals were eager for the next one and one of the women offered to host a future PTT. People started talking about who else should be invited. In the past year, particularly since the November 2016 US election, there have been countless meetings, forums, and events designed to create action. I have attended and organized many of these. They are necessary and when done correctly, productive. But they are also a lot of pressure and the sheer number of them is exhausting. It is important to have spaces where ideas can be brainstormed and issues can be discussed without an agenda or demands for deliverables. If action comes out of these sessions (as they often have with the London PTT) that’s wonderful, but releasing the pressure to fix the world in a single evening is one of the greatest strengths of the PTTs. My mother reminded me that in her day these sorts of gatherings were called consciousness raising” meetings, a practice adopted from the civil rights movement. This method of action is tried and true and Prosecco Think Tanks are the most recent (and dare I say most enjoyable) iteration of this tradition.

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Article by Claire E. Ryder

Director of Refugee and Immigration Affairs

Women's March PA

www.womensmarch-pa.org