Published on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 by New York Newsday
Women Plan 'Pom Pom' Protest
by Dionne Searcey
Women arriving in New York this summer will bring pom-poms and panties along with their political posters when they protest the Republican National Convention.
Hoping to add wit and femininity to the traditionally male-dominated protest scene will be Axis of Eve, whose members flash their underwear as a form of protest and the Radical Cheerleaders, a short-skirt-clad political pep club that practices "activism with pom-poms and middle fingers extended."
The women's groups from across the country that are spending the summer organizing political Pantyware, rather than Tupperware, parties and fashioning pom-poms from tablecloths in preparation for RNC rabble-rousing have come a long way from their less choreographed bra-waving forbears of the 1960s women's rights movement. Besides skits, songs and role-playing, some of the groups use their sexuality to deliver political messages.
Axis of Eve members, for example, with their skimpy panties emblazoned with racy political logos such as "Weapon of Mass Seduction," are a far cry from stereotypical burly union and bearded hippy protesters.
"As women, our bodies can often be used against us to objectify us ... but we're trying to be fun and disarm people through humor and get women involved," said a 33-year-old women's studies professor from Brooklyn who calls herself "Eden Eve."
Many of the groups will gather tonight at White Box, a gallery at 525 W. 26th St. in Manhattan, for "Majority Whipped," a dress rehearsal for the convention.
While the groups, which all welcome men, promote a feminist agenda, such as supporting abortion rights and fighting sexism, they also protest everything from the GOP's environmental policy and members' refusal to fund stem-cell therapy.
It's all a part of what they call "creative resistance," a tactic they say is more appealing than waving posters and chanting.
One Manhattan band dons oversized bras and red-white-and-blue wigs and straps toy missiles to their bodies. Songs include "Show us the Way to the Next Oil Field" and "Shop in the Name of War."
Women performers, some of whom use slogans laden with sexual innuendos, said they know they risk not being taken seriously or turning off observers.
"This is sort of the level that our frustration has led to," said a band member who identifies herself as Dolly Daily Bombing. "We're at the end of being able to be respected in society as activists."
Charlotte Koons, an organizer of Code Pink's Long Island chapter, said her group uses gimmicks that won't overwhelm its audience.
To protest sales of gas-guzzling Hummers, for example, the group held a "hum-in," where members hummed outside congressional offices.
"You have to break through to people's apathy and have to engage them," said Koons, of Northport, "because this culture has made us demonically short attention-spanned."
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