Rachel Murray: Hello everyone. Welcome to our latest LinkedIn Live. I am Rachel Murray, pronouns she/her, from She Geeks Out. I am the co-founder, co-CEO, you can check us out on all the things. I am so excited to welcome my amazing guest, Sasha Goodfriend from Mass NOW to talk about all things policy, change, feminism, how we can all make things better in the world. So welcome, Sasha.
Sasha Goodfriend: Thank you so much, Rachel. It’s so great to be here and with everyone.
Rachel Murray: Thank you so much. Well, let’s just dive in. I’ve got a series of questions to ask and if anybody’s got follow ups, feel free, we can always chat it up later on. So well let’s start with, I would love just talk about what you’re doing. What is Mass NOW? What does it look like? And a little bit about your journey, what led you to this role?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah, so Mass NOW has actually been around for over 50 years. It was inspired by women coming together and realizing that issues that aren’t talked about in the public that they were experiencing were relatable and that together they had a voice to address issues like abortion access, equal pay, so many different issues, economic inequality. And 50 years later a lot of the issues we’re still working on.
Sasha Goodfriend: But I think that we’re working on them. We’re able to make a lot of great strides here in Massachusetts that sets the record for the rest of the country. So we have three branches. We have the Inc, which fights for over 40 bills in the State House. We have the Foundation that does research on feminist policy to make the case to pass it in the State House, and we also have the PAC, which is a Political Action Committee that endorses feminist candidates for office and works to get them elected so that we can have more feminists there ready at the State House to vote on our bills.
Sasha Goodfriend: So top of our agenda currently is addressing period poverty through a bill to make period products free in schools, prisons, and shelters. This is a bill called the I AM Bill and we’re doing research in the Mass NOW Foundation to see where period poverty, what it already looks like for menstrators, and what are the ways that we can address it.
Sasha Goodfriend: And then we are just off of our primary elections here in Massachusetts and just have a couple of months to the general election. So there’s really an everyday feminist is what our community of members does. I was introduced to Mass NOW 10 years ago when I was a sophomore in college.
Sasha Goodfriend: And I was a student activist actually, and looking to make the connection to the women and gender studies classes that I was taking and the ways that we could take action in our community. Then I joined the board in 2014 when I graduated college and then I was elected to the board co-president role in 2016. And in 2019 Mass NOW transitioned from being a volunteer led organization to one that is now staff led so that we can make feminist organizing real work.
Sasha Goodfriend: So I am so incredibly grateful to have been a journey with Mass NOW seeing the bills that we’ve been able to pass and what the power of feminist organizing can really do.
Rachel Murray: Oh, my gosh. Okay, so I have a bunch of questions, but I wanted to talk a little bit about, we’ve mentioned feminism a few times, and even now in 2022, in this wild world that we live in, people are still uncomfortable with that word. So I would just love to hear your thoughts on what a feminist is, why we all should be feminists, and yeah, those are my questions?
Sasha Goodfriend: That’s such a great question to start out with because I probably did say it like 15 times already.
Rachel Murray: No, I know. I’m the same. I love it.
Sasha Goodfriend: So feminism is gender equity. What’s good for women is good for families. For example, this is not about switching from a patriarchy to a matriarchy, as some might fear, because we really believe and know that when we’re not discriminated against based on gender stereotypes that are more often than not actually not even rooted in science and rooted in cultural stereotypes we can all succeed.
Sasha Goodfriend: Succeed in terms of business, for example, when we’re talking about pay equity and how Mass NOW, for example, helped pass the most comprehensive pay equity legislation in the country in 2016, we did this because we were able to show through collaboration with the business community that when you pay women equally, actually the business does better as a business and then everyone is happy.
Sasha Goodfriend: The state is happy because that’s good for our economy and taxes and revenue. So it’s hard to believe sometimes that I think a feminist democracy is possible and that it does work. And that’s why… What I love about what we’re able to do in Mass NOW is focus on scaling up solutions that already exist and work. And so we’re doing that. We did that with pay equity. We’re doing that with period poverty. We’re working with a lot of organizations doing that with childcare, which would be monumental.
Sasha Goodfriend: But the thing about feminism I think that also people get tripped up on is that we know we are not defined only by our gender. It is a big part of our lens and how we go through the world, but we’re also defined by our race, our language, our nationality, our size, all of these different privileges and/or marginalizations that we experience.
Sasha Goodfriend: And intersectionality is so key to talk about when we’re talking about feminism so that we’re not centering a white normative experience because when we’re not explicit talking about intersectionality, that normative majority culture does often take over in really problematic ways that do distort the way we look and understand at issues and solutions.
Rachel Murray: That was so beautifully said. And I just want to highlight too what you said sort of the top too, everything I just absolutely agree with, but at the top of it, I love that you mentioned now going from a patriarchal to a matriarchal and it’s this idea of that if we embrace feminism then therefore people get less somehow. That there are people who are going to not benefit from it. And so thank you for highlighting that this really is an idea that benefits everyone.
Rachel Murray: And I’m so glad that you mentioned the intersectional lens, and I think that leads into the period poverty piece. And I would just love for you to talk about that as well because I think that maybe a lot of folks don’t know about that?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah, periods are so much fun to talk about.
Rachel Murray: [inaudible 00:08:08] LinkedIn, by the way. I love that we’re talking about periods on LinkedIn. Let’s just do this
Sasha Goodfriend: Exactly. We should definitely be talking about periods on LinkedIn, at the workplace, at the State House. In 2019 when we introduced the I AM Bill, we did our research and it was the first time that the legislature had ever talked about periods. And it turns out legislators can’t talk about periods for the first time effectively, especially if they’re not having those conversations at home because most people aren’t as well. And we’ve seen a lot of workplaces, even though the bill doesn’t cover the workplace, we have seen a lot of workplaces be prideful about leading with equity and transparency and having period products in their bathroom. So shout out to all of those companies doing that. And if your organization is not doing that, maybe that’s an initiative you can start?
Sasha Goodfriend: But what is period poverty? Period poverty, in short, is not being able to pay for menstrual products. But sometimes that looks like choosing to pay for menstrual products or food and/or rent and/or not leaving the house and/or using period products for too long. All of those things that people have maybe made way to get around it are also examples of people not having a menstrual dignity.
Sasha Goodfriend: Menstrual health is a human right and it’s not seen as such because it’s not covered by federal funding like WIC funding does not cover menstrual products. SNAP, food stamps, does not cover menstrual products. Most food banks don’t necessarily have menstrual products. Shelters don’t have menstrual products, by and large across the state, schools of course. And even if you see a dispenser, it might not be filled. And who has $0.25?
Rachel Murray: Nobody. I know. Nobody.
Sasha Goodfriend: So I think that there’s the literal poverty of it in terms of menstrators the economic burden of it and non menstrators don’t. So there’s inequity in that. But I think there’s also a lot around the shame and the stigma.
Sasha Goodfriend: The fact that it’s so relatable that there’s been so many times when you get your period and you don’t expect it and you don’t have access to a menstrual product and it’s on you to be find out a quiet, invisible way to handle it instead of non menstrators go to the bathroom all the time and expect there to be toilet paper and we don’t even know how much toilet paper costs because we’re not judging it as a option. It’s a human right.
Sasha Goodfriend: And so bringing the invisibility of it out into a public good. The state should pay for menstrual products just like they pay for toilet paper and it’s cheap on top of that. It’s cotton.
Rachel Murray: Yeah, that’s so brilliant. I learned four things from that, so thank you. I was like, I know all about it, but no, so thank you for sharing that. I never even made the connection. Of course, toilet paper is free and you don’t even think about it. So thank you for sharing that. I want to talk about some of the actions that you’re taking related to this work. I know that you’re doing some period popups and you’re doing some other series. Can you talk about some of the actions you’re taking?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah, so our big goal is to have people talk to their legislators about the I AM Bill. And you can do that by going to our coalition website. It’s mmecoalition.com. That stands for Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition and there’ll be a popup that directs you to a fill out form where you put in your name and your address and your legislator, it will auto populate. And we give you talking points, but I’m sure everyone already has some ideas about why they think menstrual products should be free in schools, prisons, and shelters.
Sasha Goodfriend: So that’s the first action item that I want to give a plug for. But also when you go to the coalition website, you’ll see the work that the Fall River Menstrual Equity Project is doing. You’ll see some of the surveys that we’ve done in the past where there are or are not menstrual products and where there are gaps and how you can donate to support menstrual products at shelters and/or host a period product drive in your community.
Sasha Goodfriend: There’s so many different ways to get involved in the menstrual equity work and one of the things that I love about our coalition that I think is different than most coalitions is that we have over 300 people. We have individuals who are not necessarily affiliated with organizations, just activists who want to get coalition updates and hear about how they can get involved.
Sasha Goodfriend: One of the most fun things also that we’re doing, I should say now, I think this is a timely time to share this announcement, is we’re doing a period art popup. I don’t want people to think that they need to be policy oriented in order to get involved. Talking about periods is part of the culture change work that needs to happen and our creatives are central to that. So we’re having our fourth period art pop up at Boston City Hall opening Wednesday, October 12th.
Rachel Murray: Awesome.
Sasha Goodfriend: Is that Wednesday? And it’s over 15 different artists of all different mediums. So taking up that space in a building like Boston City Hall is going to be really powerful, I think.
Rachel Murray: Amazing. I’m making notes. I’m going to add it all into the chat. That’s great. And then also your PAC, as well, and especially thank you for pointing out, oh my gosh, I can’t believe how close we are to the general election. How is that going?
Sasha Goodfriend: The PAC is going great. We had some really exciting wins in the primary. One of which is our former PAC co-chair. So love seeing that leadership pipeline. Shout out to Samantha Montaño, who just became the state rep elect for Suffolk 15, in Jamaica Plain, where I live, admittedly.
Rachel Murray: I’m like, “Me too. Wait, no, that was before me. No, I don’t live there anymore,” but I’m like, “Oh, yeah Samantha.”
Sasha Goodfriend: It’s a new district. There’s been some education we’ve been doing about that, but she will be the first LGBTQ Person of Color ever elected to the State House in Massachusetts, for example. That is a huge win and also we have a lot of work to do to make sure she does not stay the only one because no one wants to be the only one of anything in a room of however many people and obviously a representative legislature is our goal.
Rachel Murray: Amazing.
Sasha Goodfriend: So we’re really excited about Sam’s race. There is also a lot of races though about progressive champions that we need to keep in the State House that are coming up with actually really scary challenges here in Massachusetts. And if we don’t show up to turn out voters to vote up and down the ballot, then we could actually have some real problems in Massachusetts, especially in the [inaudible 00:16:28] race of course, that’s a huge one for Massachusetts and we can’t take for granted that we have as much support as we think we do because this is our first general election out of the pandemic.
Sasha Goodfriend: And so there’s so many different ways to get involved in the PAC. We are online so you can join from anywhere. We meet biweekly to share updates on the different races that we’re endorsing in. We’re doing phone banking online, so we’re calling voters and that’s 100% talking to people. We’re not leaving voice messages. And then we are also meeting in person and door knocking the old fashioned way and we’re talking to voters that way. So there’s lots of different ways to get involved.
Rachel Murray: Wow. Okay. So this leads me to my next question, and again, I just love that we’re having this in this sort of more corporate space. I think that a lot of people at companies understandably get really nervous when they talk about politics. And we’ve talked about this before around civic engagement versus politics. So can you just talk a little bit about the difference and maybe why it’s okay to talk about civic engagement in a corporate environment?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah. Well, I think that the one thing that it’s important to know is that we as individuals when we’re not representing our organizations are allowed to donate to political candidates. If you work for the city or the public sector, that’s not true. So you’re allowed to have your own opinions, and in fact that’s how democracy works. And if we don’t participate then we’re only allowing the people who know how it works to play the game.
Sasha Goodfriend: A lot of people are surprised when they hear we have a PAC or that we do lobbying because when they hear PAC and lobbying, they think big oil money or the NRA, for example. And those are the bigger PACs but we can do the same thing and we can organize, we can fundraise, and we can donate. When you donate as a PAC it’s not as an individual. So there’s that benefit as well for individuals.
Sasha Goodfriend: But we also kind of see ourselves, we’re a member based organization, and we have thousands of members across the state and there aren’t a lot of member based organizations that are introducing people and creating that feminist network and community anymore. Colleges and universities often have that. Maybe undergrad institutions too, employee resource groups exist for the LGBTQ community, for example. There’s different affinities, but I’ve never heard of a feminist employee resource group and there needs to be one, but you can join Mass NOW and kind of create that feminist professional community too.
Rachel Murray: Oh, I love that. I love that. Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Because I know one thing we talked about is like, “Oh yes, it feels very urgent. We all,” and you are 1,000,000% correct. It’s funny, I was listening to Pod Save America, it’s funny because it’s all the guys from the Obama and then they were like, “There’s no way that Trump is going to win and the polls and whatever.” And so now they just have so much PTSD every time they’re talking about the election that’s coming up and things are looking a little bit better for more progressive policies because of all the wildness that’s happening on the conservative side.
Rachel Murray: And it’s so funny because there’s so much doubt around the polls to sort what you were saying is there’s a lot of thinking around like, “Oh yes, things are looking better.” But who’s actually talking to these people who are doing the polling? Maybe there are folks that don’t want to share their real beliefs so they don’t actually say it.
Rachel Murray: So you don’t really know until people actually show. So that’s why it’s so important to get the vote out and make sure, I talk about this, we’re actually doing, which I think you know about, a letter writing campaign to help sure up more people going to the vote because my personal feeling is if voting didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be so many people in power trying to remove that ability for people to do so.
Rachel Murray: So it’s like, “Please, go, do it. Even if you think it’s a lock, just go, do it.” And it’s such an amazing gift that we have. It’s the one thing that we absolutely can do to really make a difference even though it doesn’t feel like it.
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah, I think a lot of people I had talked to also feel like they know the system is broken and it doesn’t work. And so it’s frustrating to participate in a broken system and it’s a yes and.
Sasha Goodfriend: Obviously the world is very different than it was in the 1700s and our culture is different and we do need to change that, but we can’t do it by not participating. And things are changing. The Boston City Council looks very different now than it did 10 years ago. I was looking through the PAC archives and I saw the questionnaire that Ayanna Pressley filled out her first time running for office and look at her now. So it is exciting to win in the city [inaudible 00:22:13].
Rachel Murray: Sasha, literally, I just had a conversation with a good friend that was exactly the same thing, talking about how it’s a broken system so yeah, don’t participate, but when you do that, that’s exactly, I’m like this, I have this terrible, it’s like, “This is how the terrorists win.” When people just say, “Oh it’s broken, forget it, let’s get rid of it.” That’s happening with education. That’s what happens with healthcare. That’s what’s happening with so many systems. If you don’t try to fix it…
Sasha Goodfriend: And it’s really such a privileged thing to say in a lot of ways too because it might be okay in your personal bubble here in Massachusetts especially, but we have to vote because not enough people can vote.
Rachel Murray: So real, so real. That’s the slogan, that’s the quote. And so to that point and why voting is so important, we talked a little bit about this too is like, “Okay great voting has happened, the elections have happened.” But then there’s all this in between time where people sort of step away because understandably everybody’s got their own lives and work and other things to think about. But this is where I think the civic engagement piece comes in. So I’d love to just hear your thoughts on that piece?
Sasha Goodfriend: This is one of the things I love about Mass NOW is that we kind of are on all the levels. We’re doing the endorsement and then there’s a policy work for when the legislature is in session and then there’s implementation. So it’s really full circle and it’s a 365 day a year job, for sure.
Sasha Goodfriend: So with civic engagement, I talked about how you can go to our coalition website and get an action alert and I love how easy it is now to find out who your legislator is. Because when I joined Mass NOW I didn’t know the difference between my state rep and my state senator and then the congressional and then the city level. So this tells you who it is and walks you through how to write the email and what to say.
Sasha Goodfriend: But what we want to do, ideally, is be building people’s relationships with their legislator. We know we sent out maybe a thousand letters to legislators over this legislative session and that has brought our bill to pass the Senate unanimously because it did get enough attention. But there’s a lot of bills that legislator support, but they’re not going to pass unless it’s really a priority for them.
Sasha Goodfriend: Especially in Massachusetts. We don’t pass bills fast. We pass them very slow. A bill somehow needs to be introduced on the ground and understood for eight years on average in order to be validated enough to pass. Other states pass policies so much faster.
Sasha Goodfriend: And when you talk to your legislator about periods, they will remember that because they probably have not spoken to many people in their entire life about periods. They’re going to remember that later in the day. They’re going to remember it the next day. They’re going to have more questions. They’re going to have to face the issue and think about it more than they will when their staffer reads the email and notes it and tells them the report of X amount of people.
Sasha Goodfriend: It’s this personal stories and we all have a period story. Many of us, we all have a childcare story, but we’re not used to talking about them as childcare stories because we’re used to saying that’s just the way the world is and you don’t talk about it. And so that’s also the work that Mass NOW does is we teach each other, we practice together in consciousness raisings, in community, in fun space like, “This is how you get your story in three minutes when you’re talking to a legislator so that they know what points to be left with.”
Sasha Goodfriend: So we’ve done trainings online for how to schedule meetings with your legislators. We used to do Lobby Days to help do that in the past. Now things are kind of more spread out. But that is all to say that we’re still happy to work with people on helping them craft their story and schedule meetings with their legislator. And that might sound really intimidating to do for the first time, but I’m going to say the goal is actually to do that a couple times a year.
Sasha Goodfriend: See your legislator all the time because as a constituent that is your right. They should know who are, and you don’t need to be a donor either, for them to know who you are at all. They probably have public events that they’re going to and that’s the real lobbying that we can do without paying for traditional lobbyists like other organizations do. That’s grassroots organizing power.
Rachel Murray: So that’s so good and it’s also scary, but to actually talk to people, it’s related to the question I was going to ask, which you kind of answered, that sort of feeling of helplessness. I feel like you’ve given a lot of examples for ways that people can get involved.
Rachel Murray: I honestly, I don’t know how, and I and I have friends too who just are in it, who do it outside of their work. It is time commitment. It is putting yourself out there and really dedicating yourself. I don’t want to use the word hobby, but it’s people are dedicating that non-work time to do this work. But I think a lot of our folks in our community consider themselves more introverted.
Rachel Murray: So you mentioned the door knocking, but there’s also the letter writing. Are there other sort of more introverted ways for people to do it? Or folks that maybe don’t really have the time if they’re caregivers outside of work and they really just don’t even have the time or the bandwidth to do it? Are there sort of quick ways to get involved?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah. The letter writing and maybe sending the link to other people to ask them to do it as well is definitely the grassroots organizing in action. I think that’s a really good point about the introverted extroverted nature of the work that I’ve never thought of before. So I think I’m going to be thinking about that more.
Rachel Murray: Yeah. I think about it all the time as someone who is an introvert.
Sasha Goodfriend: We do have programming that is just an attendee thing where you don’t necessarily have to participate in a consciousness raising discussion, but maybe we should create more introverted ways specifically for people to get involved beyond letter writing because that’s a really good point.
Rachel Murray: Well, let’s talk. I am happy to be a canvas for you too. And as well, I’m sure our community would love to support too. And I want to note that you’re specifically talking about Massachusetts and there’s so much happening and I think people, and obviously this is a global conversation, anyone can participate and watch, but it’s interesting with Massachusetts because it is viewed as so progressive and yet we talked a little bit, not to fully go back to the I AM Bill, but it’s interesting what you had mentioned to me in a previous conversation around the fact that it’s actually passed in a lot of other places that are a lot more conservative.
Rachel Murray: And so that dynamic of, so Massachusetts historically has had what Republican governors and maybe a more Democratic State House and Senate, so maybe there’s some conflict there, but just sort those types of conversations. Can you talk a little bit about that maybe misconception of progressive states?
Sasha Goodfriend: Yeah, I’m so glad you brought that up. So since 2019, only in the last three years, 17 other states have introduced and passed policy about making period products free in schools. So that’s not even the tampon tax, which is maybe the first tier, don’t tax tampons.
Sasha Goodfriend: But why don’t we pass this bill in Massachusetts? I get this question all the time too. There’s so much support, it’s bipartisan, it passed unanimously. Some of the other states that passed it are Alabama, Texas, Nevada, Wyoming, because even Republicans can see that menstrual products are necessity and even Trump passed policy to make period products free in jails. Not giving his administration any credit for that.
Sasha Goodfriend: But why is it not brought up for a vote in Massachusetts? It’s just because people haven’t heard enough about it yet. There’s other things that they’re hearing more about. I think too people are worried about how are we going to do this? Who’s going to get the products? Where are they going to go? How much does cost? And no one else is doing the work to figure that out, which is why we are doing that, to present it to them.
Sasha Goodfriend: And I think that there’s a lot of… What we saw in June at the end of the formal legislative session here in Massachusetts is that there’s a lot of politics that have nothing to do with the content of the bills that have everything to do with the Chambers House and the Senate feeling some sort of way, the legislature and the governor’s office having their own dynamic, and that is really disappointing and I would like to think that, and if I’m in this democracy, people will get along better.
Rachel Murray: I love that. What a perfect way to end. I just chef’s kiss. Sasha, is there anything else that you would want to add or share? No pressure.
Sasha Goodfriend: No. I just want to thank you so much and the whole She geeks Out community for taking up all the space that you are in a traditionally male dominated field because we need the private sector, we need all sectors to be thinking with the feminist lens, and you’re able to create that network of people to also know that they’re not the only ones doing that work. So I’m just really appreciative to be in community with you.
Rachel Murray: Oh, same. It’s an honor and a privilege, really, to spend time with you and to hear your passion and I’m just glad that we can amplify and get some more legislation passed to make the world a little bit better and brighter
Sasha Goodfriend: One day at a time.
Rachel Murray: One day at a time. Thanks everybody.