Category Archives: women

The Little Woman Speaks

Woman's ListIt’s really tempting to say “Please Proceed” every time a Republican politician speaks “to women.”  The latest wrinkle seems to be an effort to convince women that the GOP is just All For ‘Em, except when they have normal sexual drives and want to enjoy the intimacy of marriage without the possibility of having more children than the family finances can afford.   Unfortunately, the latest Republican adventure into the distaff side comes with a side of over-baked insinuation that masculinity is defined by the number of progeny a man can create.   The days ought to be  long gone when the boys in the backroom would marvel at the virility of a man who announced he fathered ___ number of children.

We had one of those characters in the hamlet once upon a time.  His prideful pronouncements were greeted politely, but in his absence there was more conversation about how the store-owner had to extend him credit every month, his employer had to provide more advances than with any other employee, and his neighbors were often called upon to literally put clothing on his children’s backs.   If the GOP would truly like to address issues of interest to women, then they’d be better served by speaking to the issues of importance to women and not to those burdened by irrational definitions of masculinity.  For example:

Paycheck Fairness Act – Filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2010 and 2012. [Roll call 115]  The House version (H.R. 377) was introduced on January 23, 2013 and sent to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, no action has been taken on the bill since.  The Senate version (S.84) was also introduced on January 23, 2013. It was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Violence Against Women Act – Renewal died in the House in 2012, eventually renewed in 2013 in spite of 138 “no” votes by Republicans in the House of Representatives and 22 “no” votes cast by Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Legislation to mandate pre-abortion ultrasound examinations  – (2011) legislators in 13 states have introduced 22 bills seeking to mandate that a woman obtain an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. Bills in seven states (AL, IN, KY, MT, OH, RI and TX) are very similar to a law enacted last year in Oklahoma that requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure, view the image and receive a verbal description of the fetus

Revision of sex education laws to require school districts provide abstinence-only sex education, while allowing a discussion of contraception only with prior approval from state authorities – MS

Limit abortion coverage in all private health care insurance plans – (2011) Legislators in 11 states (AL, IN, KS, MI, NE, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT and WV) have introduced 18 measures that would restrict abortion coverage under all private health insurance plans. So far this year, one measure has been adopted by a legislative chamber in South Carolina and one has been enacted in Utah.

Require state health departments to develop new and restrictive regulations of women’s clinics – UT, VA

Place gestational limits on legal abortions – NE, KS, introduced in AL, AR, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MD, MS, NJ, NM, OK, OR, SC.  The “20 week limit” was a popular idea in 35 measures patterned after the restrictive Nebraska bill.

Re-introduce child labor into the American workforce – Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber). (A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws) The governor of Maine has recently expressed his interest in rolling back that state’s child labor laws.

Cuts to SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Cuts to Headstart funding – “about 57,000 children will be denied a place in Head Start and Early Head Start as fallout from sequestration. [link]

Cuts to funding for Meals on Wheels for the elderly – Federal funding for Meals on Wheels and related nutrition services accounted for 0.02% of the U.S. budget last year. This year, the programs will have to do with roughly $38.7 million less because of the so-called sequester, which requires uniform cuts across programs regardless of cost-effectiveness. (Sequester)  New estimates about the automatic budget cuts were released Monday by the federal government. The cuts have slashed over $400 million from the federal program’s $8 billion budget.” (Sequester) [CNN]

For more on  anti-woman legislation see Guttmacher.Org and Politicususa. See also, CBPP. On the Paycheck Fairness Act, see Berkeley DP, Huffington Post.


Filed under Politics, Republicans, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Surprise! Women Are Working. Who Knew?

Working Women ChartBreadwinner Moms? Who knew?  The Pew Social and Demographic Trends research finds 40.4% of American families have both adults working.  Predictably, the American Family Association decries the trend observing that women are “designed to serve their husbands.”  This, in addition to:

“Lou Dobbs on the May 29 edition of his Fox Business show Lou Dobbs Tonight hosted a panel of all men — Fox contributors Juan Williams, Erick Erickson, and Doug Schoen — to discuss the study. On this panel, Erickson reacted to Pew’s research by comparing the relationship between men and women to the relationship between male and female animals, concluding that men losing their dominant role in the family is “tearing us apart.” [MMFA]

Really? Now where was all this concern for “family values” when enslaved women were hoeing fields in the American south?

“Of course, the burdens, physical as well as psychological, that came with childbearing were enormous for enslaved women. Expected to put the needs of the master and his family before her own children, the slave mother on a large plantation returned to the fields soon after giving birth, leaving her child to be raised by others. On a smaller farm, the slave’s mothering responsibilities were simply added on top of her usual duties. For the love of their children, slave mothers often chose to stay in bondage, while their male counterparts attempted escape. The female slave was, moreover, faced with the prospect of being forced into sexual relationships for the purposes of reproduction. Perhaps more harrowing, she might be witness to her daughters suffering the same fate.” [PBS]

Oh, but that was so long ago — we should all “get over it?”  Times were different.  They certainly were.  However, while white women were considered too delicate to be exposed to “man talk,” and indeed too fragile to mention body parts, the Black woman was supposed to face a day’s grueling work in the field and then attend to her responsibilities as a house wife.  If this is the ‘traditional’ perspective on marriage and family life, then it was certainly highly selective.

Or, where were the cries of alarm for the American Family when by 1900 Black women and immigrant women dominated the numbers of those In Service.  The mistress of the house could breeze through the living quarters issuing  orders, demand that beds be made to perfection, that food be served on time, that fires be lit or laid up, that washing be completed, ironing and sewing be finished, and by the way they’d like hot water packed upstairs for bathing… that would be at 8.34 pounds per gallon.  For a Victorian era child’s large bath tub that would mean filling a container with a capacity of about  6,032 cubic inches — half full would equal 3,016 cubic inches at 231 cubic inches per gallon.

The attitude which supported the abuse of enslaved women could as easily justify the misuse of servants.  Fragile, ethereal, white women must be protected — Black women, immigrant women were beasts of burden.

Harriet Stanton Blatch’s speech to a convention in Washington, D.C. in 1898 summed up the problem for women in the workplace:

“We have never been “supported” by men; for if all men labored hard every hour of the twenty-four, they could not do all the work of the world. A few worthless women there are, but even they are not so much supported by the men of their family as by the overwork of the “sweated” women at the other end of the social ladder. From creation’s dawn. our sex has done its full share of the world’s work; sometimes we have been paid for it, but oftener not.”

A few years later (1911) women — mostly immigrant women from Germany, Hungary, Russia, and Italy — were the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New  York.  It was the most deadly factory fire in memory, and launched workplace safety standards in this country.  The wage scale didn’t match the sacrifice:

“But you see hours didn’t change. The hours remained, no matter how much you got. The operators, their average wage, as I recall – because two of my sisters worked there – they averaged around six, seven dollars a week. If you were very fast – because they worked piece work – if you were very fast and nothing happened to your machine, no breakage or anything, you could make around ten dollars a week. But most of them, as I remember – and I do remember them very well – they averaged about seven dollars a week. Now the collars are the skilled men in the trade. Twelve dollars was the maximum. ” [GMU edu]

It’s 2013, and women are still paid on average 75% of what their male counterparts are earning.   Working women are “tearing us apart?”  Who tore apart the families of those Africans placed in bondage? Who expected those Black and immigrant women to work full time cooking meals, doing housework, tending to children, and doing the scullery work — and then return at night to repeat the process in their own homes?  Who turned immigrant apartments in tenement buildings into piece work factories for various industrial sectors?  Who expected the girls at the shirtwaist factory to place their lives in peril for seven dollars a week?

If the “dominant role” for men is predicated on his performance as Master of His Domain (while his privileged wife orders the servants around) then this is indeed a thin bollard on which to moor social values.

If the “dominant role” for men is grounded upon differentiating between women of color, or working women, from  his view of his own spouse as the “nest builder,” then the class-ist, racist, perspective is entirely too visible.


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Filed under women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Passing VAWA…again

VAWAS. 47, the Senate bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and 59 co-sponsors, including Nevada Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Dean Heller (R-NV).  Votes are expected sometime after 2:00 pm (Eastern) this Tuesday.

Title IX, section 204 is of particular interest to Native American victims of domestic violence.

“(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in addition to all powers of self-government recognized and affirmed by sections 201 and 203, the powers of self-government of a participating tribe include the inherent power of that tribe, which is hereby recognized and affirmed, to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all persons. (2) CONCURRENT JURISDICTION- The exercise of special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction by a participating tribe shall be concurrent with the jurisdiction of the United States, of a State, or of both.”

There are two exceptions to this jurisdictional framework: If the persons involved are not Native Americans, or if the defendant has no ties to the tribe.

This version of the bill has been modified since the last session:

“The Senate version has been tweaked from the version considered last year, with sponsors scuttling a provision on law-enforcement visas given to undocumented immigrants who’ve been the victim of domestic violence. Democrats did this for procedural reasons — it gives the House fewer excuses to ignore the bill — and expect to address this in a comprehensive immigration reform bill, so the issue isn’t being dropped altogether.

VAWA supporters in the Senate did not, however, get rid of LGBT provisions or a measure that extends tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal land.

House Republicans have balked at these provisions in the past, but at least for now, senators don’t care.”  [MSNBC blog]

Now it will be up to the House of Representatives to step up and do the right thing.

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Filed under women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Alice Paul Wants You To Vote Today

Alice Paul would remind women all over the country to VOTE today.  The suffragette and several cohorts were arrested in July, 1917 and imprisoned for their campaign activities:

“The arrested suffragists were sent to Occoquan Workhouse, a prison in Virginia. Paul and her compatriots followed the English suffragette model and demanded to be treated as political prisoners and staged hunger strikes. Their demands were met with brutality as suffragists, including frail, older women, were beaten, pushed and thrown into cold,  unsanitary, and rat-infested cells.  Arrests continued and conditions at the prison deteriorated.  For staging hunger strikes, Paul and several other suffragists were forcibly fed in a tortuous method.  Prison officials removed Paul to a sanitarium in hopes of getting her declared insane.  When news of the prison conditions and hunger strikes became known, the press, some politicians, and the public began demanding the women’s release; sympathy for the prisoners brought many to support the cause of women’s suffrage.” [AlicePaul.Org]

If Paul and here cohorts could withstand the treatment in the prison, and endure incarceration to promote the vote for women in this country, surely standing in line — even for several hours — isn’t too much to ask to protect:

1. A woman’s right to have a say in her own reproductive health treatment.

2. A woman’s right to apply to the educational institution of her choice.

3. A woman’s right to get equal pay for equal work.

4. A woman’s right to be free of legal discrimination in cases of rape and domestic violence.

5. A woman’s right to be an equal participant in our political processes.

6. A woman’s right to be free from discrimination by health care providers and health care insurance corporations.


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Filed under 2012 election, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Real Women v. True Women

The ancient Greeks weren’t known for their enlightened view of women. However, Homer was certainly aware of their athletic abilities, and made a ball game a plot point in the Odyssey:

In Book Six of the Odyssey some young ladies went to the river to do laundry, “When they had done dinner they threw off the veils that covered their heads and began to play at ball, while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer, and the wood-nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a full head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.” [Homer]

Indeed, veil off, freed of male scrutiny, and allowed personal space, the ladies were enthusiastic enough to wake the Greek hero, and to be the object of Olympian — in the classic sense — praise for excellence.  It’s a long fall from the approval of Leto to the Cult of True Womanhood that hasn’t yet been exterminated from modern rhetoric.  One of the ideological strands playing out in American politics sets Real Women (of whom Leto could be proud) against True Women.

Who are the True Women of American mythology?

The attributes of True Womanhood, by which a woman judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors and society could be divided into four cardinal virtues-piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity. Put them all together and they spelled mother, daughter, sister, wife-woman. Without them, no matter whether there was fame, achievement or wealth, all was ashes. With them she was promised happiness and power. [Welter]*

The concept of True Womanhood is properly categorized as a cult, because it never extended its arguments toward promoting the health and welfare of working women, or women in domestic service.   True Women were pious, pure, submissive, and domestic because they were frail help-mates of the strong white upper or middle class males.  Or, they could be the pious, pure, submissive, and domestic help-mate capable of keeping their own homes after putting in a 12 hour day keeping up someone else’s home or sewing someone else’s shirt-waists.  The cult still demands the same four attributes in modern anti-female rhetoric.

Educating women?  This was acceptable to the cult during the Victorian/Edwardian eras so long as the goals remained the same:

“…to put the education young women are now getting into its true relation to their future. . . . It needs to do more to equip the girl for what I may call the great profession of being a woman, in her social trinity of wife, mother, and member of society. (Dike, 1892a) [ pdf]

Sound familiar?  We’re still grappling with the question proposing  “motherhood” as a “profession.”  Not sure? Contact Hilary Rosen.  [Think Progress]  Still think “frailty” isn’t associated with the concept of womanhood, then consider the humiliation of Caster Semenya, a track star from South Africa who spent altogether too much time in 2009 having to prove that a woman could “do” 800 meters in 1:55:45.  A late kick earned her second place in the 2012 Olympics; the winner clocked in at 1:56:19.  [NYDailyNews] 34/100ths of a second is NOT a test of gender.

It did cause the gentleman of sports to clutch their cravats in 2009.  How could the “feeble sex” clock such outrageous times?  When 34/100ths of a second is enough to call for Gender Testing, Queen Victoria’s complaint must still resonate:

‘The Queen is most anxious to enlist every one who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of “Woman’s Rights”, with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety… It is a subject which makes the Queen so furious that she cannot contain herself. God created men and women different – then let them remain each in their own position.’ (Queen Victoria, letter 29 May 1870) []

The position?  Piety, Purity, Submissiveness, and Domesticity.   Hardly the stuff with which current British heptathlon winner Jessica Ennis is primarily endowed.   Great-great-great-grandmother to the current monarch might be rolling, considering what all those “poor feeble” members of the British contingent are doing?

Even a cursory look at the official Court Circular for the last week shows the reigning Queen (and latest Bond Girl) shuffling almost every member of The Family off to be seen at various and sundry Olympic venues, meetings, and events.  Whatever would the G³-Mother think of Zara Phillips riding astride? Of her mother, Princess Anne, serving on the International Olympic Committee?  If the direct descendents of the Arch-Deaconess of the Cult of True Womanhood have set aside the Four Pillars of Womanhood in favor of savoring Olympic hardware, then the comments of Victoria’s Torch Bearer, Liz Trotta about women in journalism make even less sense:

“Don’t try to make any sense of this hypocrisy. For with their inborn sense of class warfare — as well as their funny clothes — the ladies of the press really believe they are acting on principle, except that the principle is driven by envy, envy of a woman who managed to do exactly what their mothers told them, although they would never admit it: marry a good, preferably rich man; raise your children full time and dress like a lady.” Liz Trotta, Fox News, August 6, 2012 [RawStory]

Thus, while the Trottas of this world harken back to the days of yore, when:

“In Victorian America, women were discouraged from being physically active. The generally accepted belief of the day was that women were naturally frail. Too much physical (or intellectual) stimulation would upset the delicate balance of their bodies and lead to physical illness, infertility, “nervous” diseases, even insanity. Women who were judged by the society to be overly liberated or overly interested in physical or mental pursuits were sometimes subjected to the “rest cure.” They were confined to their beds for weeks at a time and not allowed to have visitors, read, sit up or use their hands. It was believed that this “cure” would calm women’s bodies and minds and make them acceptably compliant and pleasingly frail.” [Bradley U]

No one was about to accept compliance and pleasing frailty from the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team. (Gold) Or, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. (Gold). Or, the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team. (Silver) Or, to remotely consider giving May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings in Beach Volleyball the “rest cure.”  Or, advocate “rest” for the U.S. Women’s 4×400 relay team.(Gold)  The Women’s Eight rowing team? (Gold)  The Women’s Water Polo Team? (Gold)

Anyone want to watch a compliant, pleasingly frail, pure, submissive, and domestic version of Serena Williams on the tennis court? (Gold)  Gabby Douglas demurely shying away from the uneven parallel bars thereby demonstrating her  preference for dressing like a lady?  What of watching Rebecca Soni and Missy Franklin gently playing in the pool clad in heavy flannel “patelot” costumes  or heavy woolen dresses with sailor collars worn over bloomers?
Sounds silly doesn’t it.

However, that would be the outcome if the activist members of the Cult of True Womanhood regained control of the American conversation.  A conversation in which True Women don’t use contraceptives even to prevent a life threatening pregnancy.  A conversation in which True Women don’t make decisions about their own bodies lest they not be judged “pleasingly frail,” and appropriately submissive.  A conversation in which education for women trains them for their position in the Trinity of Wife, Mother, and Acceptable Member of Society.

A conversation in which the Cult of True Womanhood seeks to revert to Victorian principles rather than exalt modern accomplishments.

Sports writer Sally Jenkins summed it up:

“Women out-medaled men for the United States, China, and Russia. I’ll say that again: The leading medal winners for the three traditional Olympic powerhouses were women — despite the fact that there were 30 fewer medals available to be won. We can talk all we want about the financial complexities of Title IX, or try to analyze the stratospheric growth of women’s sports by country or culture, but the bottom line was that the London Games defined something critical: It can’t happen if it isn’t available. With no gold medal to aspire to, no one gets better.” [WaPo]

We could reverse the question:  Which three nations expended the most resources training and preparing female athletes?  The answer is the same — The United States, China, and Russia.   Or, we could ask which three nations prefer the admiration of Leto to the Cult of True Womanhood?  Real women are better than True Women anytime national pride is on the track, in the pool, on the pitch, or in the arena.

* The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860, Barbara Welter, American Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, Part 1 (Summer, 1966), pp. 151-174

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Filed under women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Quick Picks: Bishops To Square One on Contraception

Bishops to Square One:  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pleased to announce their “Fortnight to Freedom,” June 21 to July 4, described by the Catholic News Agency, as follows:

“The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church’s religious freedom. The most well-known action is the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and other services that Catholics and other believers find morally objectionable.”

Now, what was that old line the Bishops used to find so objectionable, could it have been “They want to hang their religions around other people’s necks?”

Tax dollars are going out the back door to private schools.  This may not be what the Alliance for School Choice had in mind:

“While the scholarship programs have helped many children whose parents would have to scrimp or work several jobs to send them to private schools, the money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism, interviews and documents show. Even some private school parents and administrators have questioned whether the programs are a charade.”  [NYT]

How many didn’t believe the programs were a charade in the first place?

Solyndra and Lobbyists in Romney’s Bundle?  If an article included  “Solyndra, lobbyists, fundraising, and Romney” would you click over and read it? Would it surprise anyone that Romney has not released the names of any of his bundlers?  We could guess we’d find the list in the stack with his tax returns?

The Not Debt Crisis?  Next time some one tells you that the national debt is Crushing the Nation!!!  Ask why then have Treasuries remained low after a $35 Billion 2 yr. sale. “The securities drew a yield of 0.300 percent…”  [Bloomberg]

Meanwhile back with the “Job Craters” — JPMorganChase is being sued by employees whose retirement funds were hit by the bank’s Big At Least $3B Blunder. “The defendants were accused of violating their duties to 401(k) and other retirement plan participants by including company stock as an investment option, hiding the stock’s risk, and failing to move participants to safer choices.” [Reuters]   And about their former risk manager… there were red flags. [Reuters]

Infrastructure Anyone: The Chinese say yes.  Reuters reports:

The pace of investment in the likes of roads, bridges and real estate is running at its weakest in nearly a decade, April data showed, suggesting the world’s second-biggest economy is heading for a sixth straight quarter of slowing growth.

To provide some support the government had asked for project proposals by the end of June, even for those initially earmarked for the end of the year, said the China Securities Journal, one of the country’s top financial papers.

Citing government sources, the article said Beijing did not rule out bringing forward next year’s projects, if it thought more investments would be needed to stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile, the American Energy and Infrastructure Act  stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives. [ASCE] There is a House-Senate Committee moving on the topic in fits and starts. [VTD]

Flowing Foreclosure money?  Want to see what your state has done with settlement funds from the Big Five Banks?  Pro Publica has the information in a convenient chart.

Yucca Mountain is Still Dead.  [Las Vegas Sun]

Nevada unemployment rate drops below 12% for the first time in 3 years.  [NNBureau]

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Filed under Economy, education, energy, energy policy, financial regulation, GOP fundraising, Infrastructure, national debt, Nevada economy, Politics, Romney, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights, Yucca Mountain

Dear Rep. Heck, Rep. Amodei, and Senator Heller

The social media is buzzing about radio commentator Rush Limbaugh’s insensitive comments about Sandra Fluke.  There’s no reason to repeat any of his broadcast here.  Suffice it to say they are properly categorized as “hate speech.” [WaPo] House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has called the comments “inappropriate,” [HuffPo] and Limbaugh’s “doubling down” calling for the posting of sex tapes, [ABC] is beyond the pale.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 2,723,322 residents of the state of Nevada, and 49.5% of them are female.  The Centers for Disease Control 2010 study tells us that nationwide 68% of Hispanic women, 89% of white women, and 78% of African American women have used “the pill.” [DB]  We might reasonably assume that these statistics generally apply to women in Nevada.  So, for the 1,348,045 women in Nevada we can estimate that some 72% (970,600)  have used The Pill.  Again, it isn’t necessary to repeat the term used by Mr. Limbaugh to characterize these women.

Mr. Limbaugh has been “excused” for saying, “A Chavez is a Chavez, we’ve always had trouble with them.”  He’s gotten a pass, so to speak, for opining that James Earl Ray should get a Congressional Medal of Honor.  He called the President of the United States a “halfrican America,” “an affirmative action candidate,” and referred to the NFL as the “Bloods and Crips without weapons.”  [NewsOne]

This kind of talk is unwelcome at our dinner table, I should hope such commentary is not allowed at yours.  Indeed, I can think of only a few houses in which these, and similar comments, are taken as “funny.”  These are not places I frequent.  These are not homes which serve as models for family values in respectable communities.

Mr. Limbaugh has his First Amendment freedoms, he is perfectly free to spiel racism and hate, but he is not free to insert such speech in my home.  He may be using the public airwaves to disseminate his unattractive, bigoted, views, but he is not entitled to enter our door.  Hate has no home here.

No one should suggest that merely because Mr. Limbaugh is a racist, or a misogynist, that he must be silenced.  However, when his racism and his misogyny lowers the standard of public discourse then we should, as responsible adults, remind him of the boundaries of civility in a polite society, just as we would admonish a child who inserts unwarranted and uncivil remarks at the dinner table.

As we would frown and tell a child that “That’s not funny,” or “That’s not appropriate,” in the home, we should frown and tell Mr. Limbaugh that his comments on women and ethnic group members are not acceptable.  Freedom of Speech has never been a License to Insult and Defame.  Respectable homes have standards, and we should strive to make our nation a respectable, and respectful, place to live.

In the interest of raising the standards of our national discourse, in the interest of setting examples for our younger citizens, in the interest of advancing respect for all the residents of Nevada — white, African America, Hispanic, and women — I ask that you take exception to Mr. Limbaugh’s comments concerning Ms. Fluke, and that you ask him to apologize to the 49.5% of Nevadans to whom his discourse is objectionable, tasteless, and beneath any standard of civility.

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Filed under Amodei, Heck, Heller, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Bluntly Speaking: Heller Votes for Anti-Contraception Amendment

Appointed Nevada Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) used his 24th recorded vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of the Blunt Amendment. [Sen24] Those voting NOT to table the controversial anti-contraception amendment were:

NAYs —48
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Brown (R-MA)
Burr (R-NC)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Lugar (R-IN)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-NE)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

The amendment failed on a 51-48 vote.

Senator Heller has inserted his “record” on women’s health on his website, but aside from the generalized, and misleading, objections to the Affordable Care Act his statements don’t directly address his opposition to including contraceptive prescriptions in the category of basic health care to be covered by basic health insurance plans.

His opponent in the upcoming senatorial election, Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) offered:

“Rather than focusing on creating the jobs that middle-class Nevadans desperately need, Dean Heller and Washington Republicans have made it a priority to take basic women’s health care back to the 1950s, said Berkley. “The war on women needs to end. With the highest unemployment rate in the nation, Nevadans don’t have time for our senator to be discussing the merits of birth control and mammograms instead of putting people back to work. This is an election about priorities and time and again Dean Heller has proven his anti-woman, anti-middle-class priorities are the wrong ones.”

It should probably be repeated at this point that the Blunt Amendment was about more than simply restricting access to contraceptive medication, as drafted the measure would have allowed any employer to purchase employee health plans stripped of any coverage which the employer didn’t want to offer.

From the perspective of the health insurance corporations, plans could be offered to employers which stripped coverage for Type II Diabetes, or smoking related illnesses, or vaccinations, or cancer screenings, if the employer objected to any “life style” provisions in the more comprehensive policies.  Limited coverage, of course, is a benefit to any health insurance corporation’s bottom line.

Not that Senate Republicans didn’t trot out the “religious freedom” argument and attempt to characterize the Democratic objections as “red herrings,” during speeches on February 29th. (pdf) The “religious freedom” issue, is in fact, the actual red herring in his debate.

The Republicans have been relentless in characterizing the health care reform measures in the Affordable Care Act and the Patient’s Bill of Rights as an “over-reach” of  “government imposed mandates.”  The mandates are not imposed on employers.  Nor, are the mandates imposed on individual citizens.  The mandates are imposed on health insurance corporations which offer what they are pleased to call basic health care coverage.

For all intents and purposes the objections to covering contraceptive medication under the terms of basic health care insurance plans benefits the insurance corporations which do not want to cover anything they don’t absolutely have to.

I can be an employer who believes that animal product tested or based vaccinations are an abomination — but if I purchase a basic health care plan for my employees who do not or may not share my beliefs, then if common vaccinations are categorized as “basic” the insurance company must make such coverage available.

I can be an employee who outrageously  believes that autism is the result of Divine Retribution for sinful behavior — but, if autism screening is categorized as “basic” health care, then the insurance company from which I purchase an employee health plan must make autism screening coverage  available to my employees who don’t share my radical belief.

It is NOT a defense of religious freedom to impose the religiosity of others on those who do not share the beliefs of a single form of religious expression.  No matter how the argument might be presented, it does not do to cloak the economic interests of a few corporations within the folds of American religious freedom.

Now, can we get back to talking about JOB creation?

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In Praise of Angry Black Women

Interesting isn’t it, how language gets loaded?  One of the more obvious tells of good old fashioned misogyny and bigotry comes when the speaker uses phrases like “aggressive” to describe a woman, but “assertive” to describe a man; or, when describing a white woman she’s usually “bitchy,” or “difficult” — but, a black woman is “angry.”

According to the white knights Black people have to be angry, that’s the Black Panther stereotype — the raised voice, the raised fist, the armed men wearing ski masks.  If Black people “knew their place” then they would be smiling and bowing and grateful and would get off the sidewalk when a white person wanted passage.

So, here’s to some Angry Black Woman who deserve more press than they are getting these days.

Madam C.J. WalkerMadam Walker was “angry” enough about being stuck in low paying employment to do something about it, and in the process changed American marketing.  Her hair-culturists trained more hair-culturists who in turn added to Madam Walker’s enterprise.  Credit may go to Anne Malone for the hair treatment formula, but the marketing plan was pure American ingenuity.   Women, Madam Walker believed, were her best agents — not shop girls, not male door-to-door salesman, but women who could address the cosmetology needs of other women.

“Walker continued to tour the country promoting her business and hiring hairdressers and door-to-door sales representatives. She recruited and trained a national sales force that included schoolteachers, housewives, cooks, and washerwomen. Walker’s traveling agents taught these women to set up beauty shops in their homes, keep business records, and make their customers feel pampered and valued.”  [NPR]

Her recruiting eventually resulted in a firm employing some 3,000 and the marketing plan hints at future Tupperware Parties, Avon Calling, Mary Kay Pink Ladies, and a myriad of other products now sold by women conducting businesses from home.  Here’s to you Madam Walker, for knowing that a woman’s place is in the Board Room.

Ida B. Wells — On May 4, 1884 Wells was riding on a C&O train to get home from work.   The conductor ask that she give up her ladies’ car seat and take a seat in the smoking car. The “angry” Ida B. Wells refused, and got off at the next stop — to the cheers and jeers of white passengers. She sued, and won, although an appeals court in Tennessee later reversed the decision.

“Thrilled with her victory and eager to share her story, Wells wrote an article for The Living Way, a black church weekly. Her article was so well received that the editor of The Living Way asked for additional contributions. As a result, Wells began a weekly column entitled “Iola.” []

And so began one of the most illustrious careers in American journalism and civil rights activism.   It’s amazing what a little “anger” can do, this summation and praise of her life’s work would do anyone proud:

“Ida B. Wells died March 25, 1931. She left behind a legacy of activism, dedication and hope for change. Wells’ accomplishments are truly extraordinary given the time and social context in which they occurred. Wells traveled throughout the United States and Europe with her anti-lynching message, she wrote extensively throughout her life on the injustices faced by blacks, and she engaged in a never-ending effort to organize women and blacks. Toward the end of her life she became an ardent community activist, determined to change the path of poverty and crime in Chicago’s inner city. Wells work as a writer, social researcher, activist, and organizer, mark her as one of this century’s most dynamic and remarkable women.”  []

Dorothy Height —  Height was admitted to  Barnard College but was turned away because the institution had an “unwritten” policy of allowing entrance to only two African American students per year.  She could have gotten “angry” but instead chose to attend NYU and achieve a Master’s in educational psychology in 1933.   Her employment record reads like a list of major American institutions of social improvement — case work for the New York City Welfare Department, president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, organizers of “Wednesdays in Mississippi,” counselor to Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, consultant to the State Department on African Affairs, and she was seated on stage as Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States.   [source]

She was awarded the Presidents Medal of Freedom in 1994, she was presented the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush.   She passed away in April 2010, and her funeral was held in Washington D.C.’s National Cathedral.

If there are Angry Black Woman, let us have even more — many more like Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot; or Nancy Hicks Maynard, a pioneer in bringing diversity into the newspaper business; or Zora Neale Hurston, or Barbara Jordan, or more voices like those of Grace Bumbry and Marian Anderson.   Bring on the successors of Daisy Bates, of Mary McLeod Bethune, of Josephine Baker, of Marjorie Lee Browne, and of Pearl Bailey.  We could benefit from having more Lorraine Hansberrys and Fannie Lou Hamers. And thousands of others…

Let us not speak of Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm and Florynce Kennedy in “Quiet Rooms,” but remember what they said to us while they lived and meant for us to do after they passed.  After telling us, “Don’t agonize, organize.”  Florynce Kennedy told us:

“I’m just a loud-mouthed middle-aged colored lady with a fused spine and three feet of intestines missing and a lot of people think I’m crazy. Maybe you do too, but I never stop to wonder why I’m not like other people. The mystery to me is why more people aren’t like me.”  [WomensHist]

Sounds like good advice for life to me.

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>John Ensign: Private Arbitration for Gang Rape & Imprisonment in Shipping Containers?

>Female employees of KBR are advised that according to Senator John Ensign (R-NV) the only recourse to being drugged, gang raped, and imprisoned in a shipping container is the private arbitration incorporated in the fine print of one’s employment contract. [ISS] Ensign was one of 30 members of the U.S. Senate to vote against the Franken Amendment which “prohibits DOD from spending federal money on existing or new contracts if the contractor or a subcontractor requires the employee or an independent contractor to resolve sexual assault, discrimination or certain other claims through arbitration.” [ISS]

In voting with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) we can assume that Senator Ensign adopted the arguments set forth by Sessions on October 6, 2009:

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) “The amendment would impose the will of Congress on private individuals and companies in a retroactive fashion, in validating employment contracts without due process of law. It is a political amendment, really at bottom, representing sort of a political attack directed at Halliburton, which is politically a matter of sensitivity. Notwithstanding, the Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts.” [CngRecord]

As comedian Jon Stewart noted, Republican members of the House and Senate were only too happy to “write and rewrite” contracts given to ACORN, substantially less lucrative than any issued to Halliburton or KBR. Be that as it may, surely Senator Sessions doesn’t mean to abrogate Congressional powers to shape federal contracting? If Senator Sessions, and by extension Senator Ensign, hold that government should be limited in nature, then contending that Congress should exercise no oversight over the drafting of federal contracts is at the very least utterly self-contradictory, imbuing the executive branch with the power to draft unsupervised contracts at will.

Sessions continued: “There is no doubt that contracts are a property right. We do not have any allegations that the contracts Senator FRANKEN is trying to invalidate were imposed on employees or that fraud or coercion was involved in creating them. To invalidate these contracts would violate not only the due process rights of employers but the employees as well. Employees could, indeed, benefit from arbitration rather than having to go to Federal court.”

There might be times when an employee could benefit from mediation and arbitration, but when the employer is contending that a rape occurred as part of Ms. Jones’ employment. KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was imprisoned so she could not report the sexual assault, and then told that if she sought medical attention she would be fired. KBR required she seek redress in arbitration. Frustrated with the slow pace of the arbitration process, “Jones then brought a civil suit against KBR arguing, among other things, that they negligently hired and supervised those who assaulted her. Jones and KBR spent the next fifteen months in mandatory arbitration- a private, secret forum with a mediator hired by KBR to hear Jones’s claims. If Jones lost at arbitration she would have no record of the proceedings, nor would she have any right of appeal.” [Care2] Note that the mandatory arbitration had taken 15 months, was secret, there was no official record kept, and she had no right to appeal the ruling. How Ms. Jones could possibly “benefit” from this form of mandatory arbitration is a mystery.

As the arbitration dragged on Jones decided to fight the arbitration clause and won. On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Jones’s rape and false imprisonment claims were not job-related and thus not covered by her employment contract. Such a conclusion seems simple and apparent to most outsiders, but in fact Halliburton had used this argument to keep Jones and her claims out of a public forum for years.” [Care2]

Contending that such things as rape, false imprisonment, discrimination, and related charges are “employment related” and then using a protracted, secret, and mandatory arbitration process from which there is no appeal protects any contractor from the likelihood that anyone would ever successfully challenge any untoward, or downright illegal, behavior by corporate management or its minions. It was hard enough to imagine that contractor’s behavior in Iraq was not subject to either U.S. Code of Military Justice or Iraqi jurisdiction; harder still to consider that it was not subject to U.S. statutes in general.

And yet, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-LA) and 29 others in the U.S. Senate were ready to vote in favor of corporate management, and the “sanctity” of unconscionable contracts, and against the interests of women who were subjected to everything from the indignity of discrimination to the violence of rape.

Those members of the U.S. Senate who voted in favor of corporate management’s “right” to discriminate against women, and to require a woman to submit to a mandatory, secret, process without recourse or appeal were: [Senate]

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

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