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Piper Perabo Talks Feminism, Intersectionality and Local Elections

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Piper Perabo Talks Feminism, Intersectionality and Local Elections
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Piper Perabo was always a feminist, she says, but it was only within the last few years that her feminism became active and intersectional. 

As a white woman with a suburban childhood, a college education, and a massive platform as an actress (Coyote Ugly, Lost and Delirious, Cheaper by the Dozen), Perabo admits to possessing much privilege — and she’s using it to push women to vote and run in local and state elections. 

“I don’t want to see these state legislatures where — there’s like three female senators in the Alabama Senate. That really makes me angry,” Perabo said in a conversation over the phone. “I’m ready to talk about who’s running for governor right now, who can we run against Kay Ivey? I know there are smart women in Alabama.”

With the abundance of organizations out there looking to support women interested in running for office — Run For Something, VoteRunLead, etc. — Perabo says it’s easier now than it ever was to get involved, “and that’s the fastest way to make change in this country.”

Like many women, famous or not, the galvanizing moment for Perabo was during the 2016 presidential election, when now President Donald Trump bragged behind closed doors about sexual assault.

“That shook me into being awake and realizing there’s a lot more work to do than I realized,” she says. “My views always aligned with feminism, but I didn’t know I was needed in the fight. I thought we were much safer than we were.”

She’s since used her voice to speak on a range of issues, including immigration, trans rights, funding for Planned Parenthood, the rise of white supremacy, DACA and dreamers, unions, the Black Lives Matter movement, the #metoo movement, and, most recently, abortion access.

Within the last two months, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia, and Ohio have all passed restrictive abortion bans with varying degrees of penalties for women who have abortions and doctors who provide them. All were written and passed with the intention of eventually appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court with the hopes of overturning Roe v Wade.

In response, Perabo has reposted content from pro-choice groups like UltraViolet and NARAL Pro-Choice America, asking her followers to support abortion access by funding it, a radical notion even for some pro-choicers.

“These abortion bans are horrific and now’s the perfect time to help people access abortion,” Perabo wrote on her Instagram page, providing links to organizations offering financial and logistical support to women seeking abortions in states that have limited access.

Perabo says her interest in such a broad cross section of issues comes from a self-awareness she picked up by listening to people who don’t look like her. Namely, Brittany Packnett, who Perabo will share the stage with at the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio’s Keyholder event this Wednesday, May 22.

“I think when you talk about, ‘What can women do, where do we start?’ if you’re really trying to figure out how to get into this feminist movement, resistance movement, progressive movement, a small thing to do is open up the side of your Twitter feed or Instagram where you’re following, look at all the icon pictures, and if they all look like you, you got to change it up, because that’s how you get your information,” Perabo advises.

The next step is finding people in your state, city, or district whose beliefs and values align with your own, she says, and supporting them in local and state elections — or running for office yourself. A lot of women don’t think they have the background or skill set to run for office, but she says just having experience as a woman is enough —  “whether it’s taking care of elderly parents, dealing with your children in the school system, dealing with your own healthcare, dealing with your job and your coworkers, women are so prepared already to run for office.”

“Sometimes you see these women running for Congress, like in the last cycle. They’re like, fighter pilots, they’ve all done incredible things,” she continues. “Look at Tammy Duckworth [D-IL]. She crashed her black hawk [which was shot down, causing her to lose her legs], she’s got her baby, she’s amazing. There are these heroes that make it into federal office and you’re just like, ‘I’m just a person. I don’t have that much.’ But that’s not true, especially at the local and statewide levels. You’re already ready to run for office.”

Perabo, along with two-time Olympian gymnast Aly Raisman and Brittany Packnett, a former member of the Ferguson Commission and President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, will talk local elections and more this Wednesday at the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio Keyholder event. It all goes down at the Ohio Theatre, at 39 E. State St. on May 22, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

For more information and ticket info, visit womensfundcentralohio.org/keyholder.

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