Sandra Fluke, Molly Katchpole Named to TIME ‘Top 100’ Poll
In addition to the usual celebrity suspects, TIME magazine’s 2012 “Top 100” poll added a few young progressives to the list.
Campus Progress caught up with Rebuild the Dream’s Molly Katchpole—known for her successful campaign pushing Bank of America to back off implementing a $5 debit card fee—and Sandra Fluke, who was launched into the media spotlight when conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh characterized her as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking out about women’s health rights.
Both were nominated on TIME’s list as being some of the most influential Americans this year.
Although excited for the mention, Katchpole said she wishes there were more young progressives to share the platform with.
“It feel s pretty cool to be one of the only millennials on it, but I was kind of surprised and was hoping there would be more young people on it,” she said in an interview. “There are all sorts of awesome young people working on the DREAM Act—efforts are almost entirely driven by young people. Young people and environmental work, young people at Occupy. … I think the list is amazing and wonderful, but at the same time, what the hell are Jessica Simpson and Ryan Seacrest on there?”
Most “millennials,” or young Americans, mentioned on the list were athletes (Jeremy Lin), pop stars (Adele), and social media entrepreneurs (Mark Zuckerburg).
But along with Katchpole and Fluke, TIME included a few other progressive and highly influential folks like Tim Poole, who live streamed much of the of Occupy Wall Street movement to a national audience, Ben Rattray who founded Change.org, and Erik Martin, the Reddit-er who rallied against the troubling SOPA and PIPA bills.
Katchpole said she sees the nod as another way to get young people’s messages to the forefront and, at Rebuild the Dream, she has narrowed her consumer activism to focus intensely on student loan debt.
Earlier last month, Katchpole stood alongside student loan borrowers, consumer advocates, and Campus Progress representatives to petition Congress to prevent the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans from doubling to 6.8 percent in July. On average, students could pay as much as $3,000 more in interest if the rate doubles.
“[The student debt] crisis—it is surprisingly how much it needs to be talked about and nobody is really saying anything except for a couple of groups,” Katchpole said. “Now it’s getting bigger, and it’s on the news every so often and that’s what I am interested in working on.”
For Sandra Fluke, making TIME’s top 100 list doesn’t rank high on her activist agenda—but if it helps bring women’s health issues to the forefront, she’s happy.
“I am flattered that folks have added me to that list, but it’s not something I am focusing a lot of attention on,” she said. “It’s more about women’s health being on the list rather than me.”
Though President Obama’s contraception compromise is relatively viewed as a success, it has also put female students like Fluke who attend religiously-affiliated universities on a year-long waiting list for full contraceptive coverage.
“I hope my testimony demonstrated that there are women on our campuses who have terrible medical needs for this contraception and those women should not have to wait another year,” said Fluke, who is while finishing up her studies at Georgetown Law School this year and is also working with a coalition of youth groups and students across the country to convince their institutions to opt out of the delay.
Fluke is also voicing her support for reauthorizing the now-controversial Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Since 1994, Congress’ reauthorizing of VAWA had been a non-issue, but has become one because of the polarized political climate. This year’s renewed act will expand services and protections to women who are underrepresented and underserved, like Native American women who face exceptionally high rates of abuse, women in same-sex relationships, and young women.
Funding the act will help schools, youth organizations, domestic violence agencies, and rape crisis centers engage in rape and violence-prevention education efforts. But some members of the House are standing in its way.
“Some of those communities don’t always garner as much political support as they should and that seems to be playing out in this bill as well,” Fluke said. “It’s really discouraging to see that even on something this important to women, we can’t seem to come to an agreement and prioritize women’s safety over politics.”
Programs geared toward addressing the needs of young women are also at risk if VAWA doesn’t get make it through Congress.
“One of the other things that has been up for debate this year is the definition of youth and young women. [Young] generally means women under 25 and there have been efforts to lower that age to make fewer women able to access those services,” Fluke said. “We know that women who are away from home for the first time at college campuses, or just young women in general, have special needs and they need to be able to access services as well.”
For young people interested in making a difference—either in their communities or on campus—both Fluke suggested narrowly focusing on an issue to create change and preparing to dig in your heels for the long haul.
“Trying to change a specific policy, or bring about a certain type of change that is targeted rather than spending our efforts on student events … can be demotivating,” Fuke said. “I really think the way to go is to find something in our community or on campus that [you] really want to see change and have a sustained effort over an entire year or multiple years for focusing on that.”
The editor-selected final list, in addition to the winner of the online poll, will be announced on April 17.
Naima Ramos-Chapman is an associate editor at Campus Progress.