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A conversation with Francine Porter

A resident of "Suburbia, PA" in the North Hills, dietician and mother of two Francine Porter, 47, has recently joined the peace movement. She now finds herself on the front lines of dissent working for the Pittsburgh branch of Code Pink...

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So, you're a recent convert to the peace movement?

After 9/11, I started paying attention to things heating up between the United States and Iraq, and followed the pre-war media as much as I could. Coverage of protests on TV got me thinking that I didn't like what was going on, how they were talking about invading Iraq.

 

In January 2003, I attended my first major protest over in Oakland -- the first one ever in my whole life. I took my 9-year-old daughter with me. It was the most terrible day in the world; the snow was awful. We lost our car -- I couldn't remember where we parked -- but it was so wonderful marching in a mass like that. I had just caught the bug. I knew I needed to stay active in some way.

 

How did you hook up with Code Pink?

Shortly after that march, I read about national Code Pink on the Internet. I asked at the Thomas Merton Center if there was any way I could get involved with Code Pink in D.C., and they said, "Francine, there's Code Pink here in Pittsburgh." It was an epiphany. I was so excited.

 

What's with the pink?

We wear pink lingerie -- it's a different protest -- and the slips have different sayings on them. Most of our protest signs are pink. It's kind of marketed as a woman's thing, but our membership has men and women.

 

Pink is a color traditionally associated with the softer side of women.

We're reclaiming it for power. I think the color pink is almost like a satire. It's also a play on Tom Ridge's homeland security, all those irritating colors -- like red and orange alert, panic colors. We like to think that pink is the color of flowers, the color of compassion, the color of peace. It's always been my favorite color anyway, so I belonged in this group.

 

And what have you accomplished since joining up?

Code Pink was a big presence at the March 20 one-year anniversary rally. It was bad weather again -- my pink slip was just sticking to me. That same weekend I spoke at Market Square.

 

In less than two years, you've gone from totally uninvolved to giving speeches at Market Square?

It's amazing. I sat down the other day and [sketched out] "Francine's rise to consciousness," and I'm really proud of what I've done in the past year and half.

 

What is your battle dress?

We usually wear a pink slip. I also have a pink crown with pink streamers given to me by another member. And one of my slips I had made for another member: It said, "Mr. Cheney -- here is your pink slip. Don't let the door hit you on the way out," and on the back there was "goodbye" written in about 25 different languages. In the upcoming Healthcare Not Warfare rally, we're marching as pink nurses. I have 25 pink lab coats. We bring extra pink slips and pink clothes to the rallies, so if somebody expresses an interest we pink them out.

 

How important is this element of humor?

We are presenting our message in a feisty way. People love it -- they go crazy over our posters and our slips. We encourage members to be creative, and play off the color pink, off feminist issues or off sexual puns, like "Women say: Pull out." If you're offended by it, sorry, but you know what, it's a great slogan, it's eye-catching. It's an attention-getting, fun group to belong to, but after you strip away all the fun and the feistiness, they're still politically correct.

 

You must go through a lot of pink paper.

Ohmigod! We can go broke buying pink paper. Almost all our literature we try to circulate on pink paper. They see me at Office Depot and they're like, "Pink paper is over there, Francine."

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