In Council News, Helen Gym, News by Helen Gym

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Councilmember Gym Marches with 2,500 Philadelphians, Speaks on the Rights of Women and LGBT* Americans in Reclaim MLK Speech

Read the full text of Gym’s speech below:

Here’s to our warriors: the seamstresses and factory and farm workers, our nurses, security guards, hairdressers, bus drivers, and librarians. Our gardeners, businesswomen, teachers and those who care for our children and our seniors. To our girls, to our girls – our present and our future all wrapped into one – to all women, especially black women, immigrant women, Muslim women, indigenous women, queer and trans women fighting to make this society see and hear us, for ourselves, for our families, against racism and sexism, against poverty and homelessness, and for a continuing and evolving definition of womanhood.

It is hard to imagine that this week we will see a massive transition in our White House. Today, we still have First Lady Michelle Obama who talked about what it meant to see her own daughters grow up in a house built by slaves and declared that “the measure of any society is its treatment of women and girls”. And at the end of this week, we will have a president who has consistently demeaned and objectified women – calling us dogs, slobs, and fat pigs – and has boasted of sexually assaulting us, saying you can do whatever you want when you’re famous.

As a mother of three children, this election cycle has torn at my heart as I watch my two daughters and my son exposed to gendered hate and violence I’ve fought against my whole life.

And at the same time, let’s not be naïve. The America we woke up to on November 9th was always there.

In Philadelphia and in Pennsylvania, we have seen the same sickening mentality at play, whether its Porngate emails circulating among Supreme Court Justices and prosecutors, or a sexual predator protected at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, or this City’s largest corporate empire freaking out over pay equity – I’m talking to you Comcast – Let us take the warning of Maya Angelou to heart: When someone shows you who they truly are, believe them the first time.

  • When we’ve got millionaire Republicans bragging about their profit margins but refuse to raise the minimum wage, then that is something Women must lead to change.
  • When Philadelphia eviction rates overwhelmingly impact women of color and are more than 4x higher than the rate of foreclosure, that is why housing as a human right is a Gender Justice issue.  
  • When Philadelphia is the nation’s poorest large city in a state that spends more than 10x more a year per prisoner that it will on a child in a public school, as mothers of our sons and daughters, education justice and fair funding IS a Gender Justice issue.
  • When we’re starved for funds to address domestic violence and rape, when Congress is moving against Planned Parenthood and healthcare for all, when teachers who are overwhelmingly female see their labor rights under attack, those are Gender Justice issues.
  • When mass incarceration and deportation rips apart families, and immigrant and refugee mothers and babies are imprisoned indefinitely at Berks State Prison just an hour away from here, then immigration reform IS a Gender Justice issue.
  • When the lives and bodies of queer and trans women are violently disregarded by our justice system, LGBTQIA rights are a Gender Justice Issue.
  • When we are shellshocked by what happened to Sandra Bland, when we know our mental health is criminalized, when we can’t or won’t say her name, THAT is a Gender Justice issue.

It costs billions of dollars to keep so many so poor. It was an immoral and racist agenda that has allowed this to continue. It will take a moral and unified revolution to reverse it.

That is why in this city we will stand strong for reproductive rights and freedoms, why we’re fighting for paid family leave and a fair work week, it’s why we’re standing up for immigrants and defending our Muslim communities, and why we demand investment in our schools and real criminal justice reform. Standing for Gender Justice is standing for Economic Justice. It is standing for Racial Justice, and a politics of humanity and human rights that must challenge and upend this nation’s attitude toward business as usual.

I ran for City Council because I believed in the power of the people to fight for a politics so different from what we’re used to seeing. And look around us today: This is the diversity, the energy, the experience which must lead a torn nation forward. We were built for this moment.

We are creating the moral agenda for our time. Together we will challenge this nation to be bigger than politics, bigger than an election, and to build for a future that we will make our own.


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