“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Such was the message espoused — via an African proverb — by feminist Kate Karpilow on March 7 at the annual Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee luncheon. Karpilow headlined a string of speeches that echoed that notion, with remarks from Rep. Lois Capps, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf.
Held at the Montecito County Club, the 13th annual event also drew, among others, 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, Goleta City Councilmember Paula Perotte, Goleta Planning Commissioner Meg West, Santa Barbara School Board member Monique Limon, and Susan Rose, a former county supervisor and one of the founding members of the committee. Guests dined on spinach salads and lemon bars.
“Every official knows to show up here,” Capps said, including the “few brave men” such as 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara City Councilmember Gregg Hart who attended. Despite some of the “good men elected,” Capps said the need for groups like the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee remains. “We still have some work to do,” she said, adding that women must stay “ever-vigilant but ever-rejoicing.”
Jackson also spoke, kicking off her comments by lambasting the “right-wing wackos in Washington” while championing state efforts to raise the minimum wage, increase reproductive-rights access, and expand family leave policies. Still, Jackson said, more women are needed on top companies’ boards of directors to ensure that female-friendly policies are available to employees.
Wolf, who is fighting to keep her spot on the dais from Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves, thanked the committee for endorsing her not only when she ran for supervisor in 2006 and 2010 but also when she ran for the Goleta School Board many years ago. She called her supervisorial seat “a very important one” on the board and said she will need money to hold onto it. (Although the next campaign figures won’t be released until the end of the month, the political committee for the Service Employees International Union recently added $40,000 to Wolf’s coffers, bringing her fundraising total to about $150,000; Aceves garnered about $106,000 in 2013.)
After being introduced by Rose — who said Santa Barbara is “a community where women in public office are the norm, not the exception” — Karpilow, whose titles include founder and director of the Women’s Policy Summit and executive director of the state’s Center for Research on Women and Families, dove into her speech. She said she originally titled the “Seven Steps to Building a Stronger Women’s Movement” but said she had to change to “Ten Steps.”
She first spoke of what she called her string of “what the heck is happening?” experiences that made her see how women and girls were being overlooked statewide, with “gender as an afterthought.” Her talk was rich in numerical lists. She talked about what she sees as the six challenges to the women’s movement going forward, including funding, leadership, and a generational shift.
How to address those challenges came in her titular 10 steps. Harsher priorities, Karpilow said, are needed to address women’s issues at the state legislative level, as is holding elected officials more accountable to supporting women’s issues. Some existing women’s organizations, she continued, need to be willing “to press the refresh button” if their message isn’t working, as getting younger women involved in the movement — while keeping the “seasoned” women involved too — is crucial to its future. She also called for more “feminist fathers” and male participation in women’s issues.
The data showing higher numbers of women in poverty, low wages for female workers, a general cultural acceptance of violence against women, and minimal top corporations’ lack of females in power, Karpilow said are red flags and “a call to action.”