Feminist Group Flourishes on the Hill

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As its name suggests, the feminist group/women’s circle, Seismic Sisters, wants to make a rumble. Started on Potrero Hill in 2012 by Kim Christensen, the group meets monthly or so to socialize, support one another, and engage in political activism. It consists of Christensen’s friends, as well as friends of her friends. Despite spreading solely by word of mouth – Seismic Sisters has no website, nor social media presence – events regularly draw upwards of two dozen women. In the past year, the number has swelled to 40; Christensen invites as many as 100 females to events via evites.

“It’s grown organically, through connections that I’ve made and through friends who bring someone else,” she said. “It’s just me and my friends, and that’s how I want to keep it. It fits my style and what I enjoy, and if I’m not enjoying it, I’m not going to do it.”

The exclusivity of invitations doesn’t translate into homogeneity, however. Participants are single, married, mothers, gay, straight, bisexual. They include authors, activists, business owners, nonprofit leaders, technology workers, and others, ranging in age from their 20s to 70s.

“One of my goals was to make it intergenerational, to have a variety of age groups, because everyone is bringing something to the table,” Christensen said. “The younger women bring a new, fresh perspective, and older feminists act as mentors. It’s a great combination.”

Christensen started the group because she saw progress being made in terms of gay marriage and legalizing marijuana, while women’s rights – including related to abortion and reproductive rights – are under fire. It appeared to her that women’s steady advance peaked in the 1990s, and has been largely stagnant since then. Over the past 20 years, instead of seeing women continue to rise throughout society – in politics, business, advertising, engineering, tech – the gender still generally fills less than 20 percent of senior management or executive positions, where key decisions are made. To influence policies, women’s representation on boards must be at least 30 percent, according to studies published over the last 15 years in such journals as The Financial Review and Management Science.

“The gas seemed to have gone out of the women’s movement, and I thought it was time to recharge it,” she said. “I thought, ‘Let’s get the band back together,’ so to speak, and this time make it a big marching band.”

The “marching band” came together at the Women’s March last January.

“It was an incredible time, when moms and daughters came together,” Christensen said. “Even sons were there standing up for women’s rights and saying ‘This is unacceptable’ and doing political activism together. It’s sad we have to do this, but I noticed it was really meaningful marching together.”

Seismic Sisters has attended the annual lunch hosted by Emily’s List, a political action committee, and holds “ballot and brunch” gatherings, where members divvy up the ballot, research an initiative, and report back to the group on findings and voting recommendations. Politics is a strong focus for the band, which works to increase women’s presence by supporting not only Emily’s List, but Emerge, a California group that trains women on how to run for office. Earlier this year, Christine Pelosi, daughter of Nancy, ran a political bootcamp for Seismic Sisters, encouraging participants to turn an issue they felt passionate about into direct action.

Camaraderie and a personal touch make Seismic Sisters work, according to Christensen.  “We’re friends in real life,” she said. “I find that’s the secret sauce of the group; we’re building community and deep friendships in the women’s circle.”

Building friendships and community means supporting one another. In a Mailchimp newsletter Christensen distributes every few months, in addition to curated news articles relevant to feminism, she promotes friends’ projects, such as an art show, play, or documentary. Members also attend conferences together.

“I have a friend who is a woman in tech and she speaks at different conferences,” she said. “We’ll go and provide a cheering section.”