Denise Tugade and Linda Tenerowicz: president and vice president of Fem Dems Sacramento

Two top members of the local Democratic women’s club share insights found by mixing feminism with politics.

Linda Tenerowicz, left, and Denise Tugade are leaders of the Sacramento Fem Dems.

Linda Tenerowicz, left, and Denise Tugade are leaders of the Sacramento Fem Dems.

PHOTO BY Nicole Fowler

Visit to learn how to get involved with the Fem Dems and attend one of the group’s meet-ups.

Denise Tugade and Linda Tenerowicz are the president and vice president of Fem Dems Sacramento, an organization of more than 350 members that champions female inclusivity and diversity in politics, equity in the workforce and more. Since forming in 2009, some Fem Dems leaders have journeyed into local politics. They include Kelly Fong Rivas, a former president of the club who is now chief of staff for Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Amber Maltbie, the club’s first president and co-founder, who is a lawyer who specializes in election law and has worked to protect the voting rights of South Dakota tribes.

As leaders of one of the oldest and largest Democratic clubs in Sacramento County, Tugade and Tenerowicz, who are both legislative aides, aim to show that women of different ethnicities and backgrounds can get involved in politics and advocate for issues that directly affect their lives. SN&R checked in with Tugade and Tenerowicz outside the state Capitol to discuss impacts of the new wave of female leaders in Congress, Fem Dems’ plans for 2019 and what being a feminist means to them.

How have Fem Dems impacted local politics?

Tugade: People have been talking about the women’s wave and how many women we got elected to Congress, but it’s not just those women who are at the podium. It’s also about the women who are behind the scenes. We did a lot of phone-banking, walking for candidates and we had a lot of local candidates that we pushed for this year—like Zima Creason, who is on the San Juan school board; Lisa Murawski, who is on the Sacramento City school board; Rosanna Herber and Heidi Sanborn, who are both on the SMUD board of directors. A lot of folks we helped get elected for the first time.

What’s the biggest issue women face in 2019?

Tenerowicz: Where do I begin? I think that given the current federal administration, women are continually having to play defense, and this means reproductive justice and immigration is also a feminist issue. We’ve seen on our border, children are separated from their parents. … Women are continuing to be burdened with attacks not only from the government, but then also with a lack of support. … I think going into 2019, just ensuring that we’re protecting the rights that we do have and making sure that we’re not backing down and continuing to remain vocal against the policies that are problematic.

Are young women engaged in politics?

Tugade: I think they have to be. Our existence is political. By being out in the world we are public commodities. Every choice that we make—from our hair or whether or not you’re on birth control, what industry you’re in—all of those become public choices all of a sudden, whether you want them to or not. In this administration, it’s also political to choose not to be political. It’s something I’ve been explaining to folks who are new to Fem Dems … this is about your continued existence, your ability to move through the world, so you should care.

What are some major projects Fem Dems are involved in this year?

Tugade: We’re taking a leadership role in organizing the Women’s March this year, which is a first. This is really the first year that the march has been community-driven here in Sacramento. There has been a lot of controversy around the Women’s March, and it’s a big tent. It’s true of the Democratic Party as well. There has been a lot of conversation around “What are the core values?” We stepped in to assist with the march because we wanted to make sure that we saw an inclusive march that was really responsive to the community.

Tenerowicz: We’re also helping curate some of the speakers. I think that’s also been a critique of the Women’s March, because the first year, there was an overwhelming amount of men who were speaking. I mean, anyone can be [a feminist], but in a space such as the Women’s March, it’s so imperative to make sure that we’re elevating voices who generally don’t have the chance to have that platform.

What does feminism mean to you?

Tenerowicz: For me, being a feminist means being someone who is very intersectional and looks at feminism as an equity issue and a human rights issue. So, be it their sexual orientation, their ethnic background, even their class and income, I think all of those issues come into play when you talk about feminism. As we continue to grow as an organization, we’re continuing to put pressure on the traditional ideas of what feminism is. It’s not just angry, bra-burning ladies. It’s not just one type of person, but men can be feminists, too. We’re continuing to break down those barriers of what people think of as feminism.

Tugade: My particular brand of feminism is intersectional and that means, where you were born, the color of your skin, your body type, whatever; all of those factors should not shape the outcomes of your life to the degree that they do in our current world. I think the women’s movement has historically left behind a lot of women, and so how do we make sure that we are being inclusive, that we are uplifting all of these voices? Because if we’re not uplifting all of them, then what do we stand for?