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Citizen Activists in the Internet Age and the War on Women

April 25, 2012  |  Chandler Marrs, PhD

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I have not written a blog in many weeks, being knee deep in software development, pitching and just business in general, I just have not had the time. Gratefully, we now have a fantastic team of writers and editors who can manage without me. With all of the negativity and the downright stupidity of the American political scene, I thought some positive trends deserved attention, and hence this post. There is a resurgence of citizen activism that is successfully and positively changing the legislative process. This inspired me. I hope it inspires you.

Passage of the JOBS Act

For those of you not on the investment bandwagon, the JOBS Act which stands for the Jumpstart Our Business Startups  will legalize crowdfunded investment for small companies, like Lucine, and democratize the investment process. It will allow average, everyday citizens, not just the super wealthy, to invest small amounts in new companies- it will allow crowd-funded investment.  You can read more about the legislation here.

What is truly remarkable about this legislation is the story of this bill came to be. Three entrepreneurs wanted to fund their start up. Eighty-year-old SEC rules prohibited the crowdfunding of investment to private companies (Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms are not technically investment. They more akin to sponsorship). These three guys decided to change the laws and regulations. They began a grassroots, Internet driven campaign and with much effort and persistence, succeeded. No ALEC or other nefarious Super PAC, just three guys and an idea. How cool is that?! Citizen activists have power in the Internet age.

SOPA

SOPA –the Stop Online Piracy Act  was stopped dead in its tracks by the Twitterverse. At first glance, the legislation looked benign enough; who wouldn’t want to stop online piracy? On closer inspection, however, this legislation would have seriously limited the ability of Internet users to do business, especially small blogs, content related and social media type ventures. SOPA was stopped by intense Internet activism beginning with millions of average users and then followed by wide-scale Internet blackouts by Wikipedia, Digg, even Google protested. Citizen activists have power in the Internet age.

RWA

A few months later came a less well known bill, the Research Works Act (RWA), that would have prevented public access to taxpayer funded research by giving all rights to the publishing houses. RWA was pushed by Elsevier, one of the most powerful and profitable academic publishing houses worldwide.  Scientist, academics, and average citizens rose up and said NO, promising to boycott Elsevier (the Cost of Knowledge protest) had it passed. The outcry killed the bill and I think might ultimately change the business of academic publishing for the better.  Indeed, more and more universities are opting for open source publishing venues to counteract the high cost and the access barriers publishing houses have instituted in recent decades.

The success of citizen activists in social media age is just beginning. Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that deemed corporations people and opened the flood gates for Super Pac sponsored elections, may have been the far end of the pendulum, which now must swing back. Americans have woken up from a decades long slumber and are realizing that they can make a difference. This may bode well for women’s rights, if we wake up and begin the arduous, but completely doable, task of creating and passing the legislation that matters to us (and voting out the scoundrels seeking to limit our rights).

The War on Women

The War on Women, though disputed by many, is evidenced by a very real and dangerous rollback in women’s health rights; rights many of us took for granted. At last tally, over 900 bills had been proposed restricting a woman’s access to health care and limiting her rights to make he own health care decisions, this year alone. Indeed, it wasn’t until the all-male birth control hearings and the subsequent diatribes by Rush Limbaugh, that many of us began to pay attention. Only then was the public outrage palpable, but outrage without focus or discernible goals to change something is, in my mind, a waste. We cannot just get mad. We need to fix this mess. We need new leaders, new laws and a new game plan for protecting the rights of our daughters.

This weekend, women will be uniting across the nation to protest the War on Women. When the outrage settles, we must begin to act. As the citizens responsible for initiating the JOBS act or stopping SOPA and RWA demonstrated, average citizens can change policy. Super PACs and the super wealthy are powerful, but not as powerful as millions of angry, Internet-connected, women. Hell hath no fury…

Let’s focus that fury on ensuring women are granted the basic human rights afforded the male citizenry. If three guys with an idea can change 80 year old, heavily entrenched, heavily bank supported, investment laws, if tweets can lead to the blockage of the media industry’s takeover of the Internet, and if scientists can all but take down a major publishing house, then certainly, women can get laws passed and politicians in office that support women’s rights.

For information about the War on Women protests planned for this Weekend, 4-28-12, click here.

What are you going to do to improve women’s rights?