Here we were, Tea Party members, third row front and center at the Freight and Salvage Theatre in Berkeley, waiting for the lecture to begin. Our speaker was Ruth Rosen: feminist, liberal progressive, author, columnist and all around women’s liberation chronicler. This diminutive figure in a dress and matching pink scarf was introduced with all her college letters, literary successes and public writings.
We had come to hear her lecture on “The Tea Party and Angry White Women”. I braced myself for what was to come, as did the other members who had found out about the lecture.
Ruth Rosen did not disappoint.
She began her diatribe by saying that the women of the Tea Party were racist and xenophobic. The crowd nodded and ate it up. I could feel my blood pressure rising. How dare she label us like this? She has no idea who we are or how we feel. I kept my mouth shut. It was all I could do to stay seated and the lecture had only just started. She continued, “Women of the Tea Party are angry. Angry because we are being held back by our husbands and marginalized, ignored and side lined by the GOP.” She also stated a woman joins the Tea Party because either her husband belongs or someone in her family belongs, and/or it serves as a way for these women to obtain a career they never could have otherwise. She pointed to Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots as an example of a woman who she said came from nothing, had a bankrupt business and through the tea party found a successful career making over $6,000 per month. She stated that the campaign Nicky Haley ran was a clear example of the good ole boy GOP network stifling and oppressing woman. Now I was laughing inside. Really??? Is she serious? We are being held back by our husbands and the GOP??? And we only do this to follow our gun toting husbands or to fulfill our desire to have a career? Hahahaha. Right….. We are oppressed by our husbands and the GOP so we become leaders of the Tea Party? I knew then that she had NO clue why women of the tea party do what they do and she never would. What a crock! But the audience was just accepting this nonsense as fact. I was thinking this is surreal. These people clearly have no concept of what it means to be conservative in America.
Ruth Rosen continued, saying that the men in the Tea Party accept its ideas because it is easier to swallow them, coming from women. She claimed that the reason there are mostly women leading these groups is that the men push women to the forefront because having a woman say that she and her children want less taxes, smaller government and do not need the government to take care of them is much more palatable coming from a woman. So now the men are using us as their puppet mouth pieces?? Man she is really delusional now…… The idea that women can stand on their own two feet, take care of their children, household and do it without the governments help or blaming others is completely foreign to these people.
Ms. Rosen seemed to feel comfortable with the audience. “You know those conservative women; women love men who love guns!” There was a low twitter in the room.
Ms. Rosen then made a derogatory remark about our Constitution; more twittering from the audience. I turned to look back to see who was laughing.
“Oh yes,” she said “and all this is funded by wealthy donors, but I haven’t had time to research this, though.” Ms. Rosen stated that the Tea Party does not focus on social issues. Taking the “typical liberal” poke at Sarah Palin, she noted that conservative women never wear pant suits. They always wear dresses and they use their children as “props.” She said that conservative women play up their attractiveness to appeal to men and women and to engage the men. This is just crazy talk. I wear pant suits all the time. LOL.
Then Ms. Rosen said the most unbelievable thing…. She stated that when the Tea Party says it wants to “Take Back America” what it really means is women should go back to the 1950’s and be housewives and minorities and black should know their place. I was outraged, but I didn’t want to blow up in front of the group. It was all I could do to restrain myself. Thankfully her speech was almost over.
She closed by using the only correct information in her lecture, that the Tea Party thinks that Government is part of the problem.
We were stunned at the truly unbelievable, incorrect and derogatory information coming out of this woman, and she seemed truly baffled by the enormity of Tea Party’s grassroots organization as well as its purpose and workings.
It was time to make ourselves known and debunk the false information this woman had spoon fed the audience. At question time I raised my hand, grabbed the microphone, and in a calm and methodical manner proceeded to enlighten this group with the truth about the Tea Party. The crowd let out an audible gasp when I identified myself as a tea party person. The atmosphere was tense. Then they fell silent and waited for me to speak.
I proceeded to tell the speaker that I had not come to disrupt or argue, but to hear what someone who had studied the Tea Party, but was not involved had to say about it. I told her and the audience that she is completely wrong about the characterization of our movement. We are not oppressed women looking for careers. We have tremendous support from our husbands. We are concerned about the size of our debt and the future our children will inherit. We do not know the Koch Brothers and are not funded by any wealthy donors. We do push social issues and are not controlled by the GOP. I said that if anyone in the audience would like to ask any questions about the Tea Party I would be happy to answer them.
Several other Tea Party members stood and spoke. The audience gasped and whispered….. OMG there are more Tea Party people here, then fell quiet and listened to each of us. (And none of us wore dresses.)
After we all finished we all went to the lobby where they had a buffet spread for the attendees. We (the Tea Party people) were inundated with questions. People were lining up to talk to us and take pictures. It was really funny. Many thanked us for coming and said that we had guts for showing up. They appreciated hearing from us and wanted to learn more. I’m glad we went and set the record straight. Many of them had never met a REAL Tea Party person. The organizers asked us to come back and speak as part of panel discussion at a later date. Stay tuned…….. Today the Tea Party made great strides in tearing down the left right paradigm. I think we changed a few hearts and minds.