Category Archives: women

Poor George

Breakfast Club TrapPoor George (Will). Poor misunderstood George. He wants us to know that he really really really takes rape so seriously that he’s opposed to “jerry built” campus processes and procedures in place to deal with it. [TPM]

Here’s his first major point:

“What I say is that: A) I take sexual assault more seriously than I think they do, because I agree that society has correctly said that rape is second only to murder as a serious felony,” Will said. “And therefore, when someone is accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not jerry-built, improvised campus processes.” [TPM]

Where to begin?  (1) Sexual assault is a category of criminal activities which includes rape. See NRS 200.364.  It may also include crimes like lewdness with a child.  This leads us to the next (2) point — University of Nevada campus police officers are ” certified under the laws of the State of Nevada. They perform the same function as officers from city, county and state agencies – enforcing all local, state and federal laws and ordinances within the jurisdiction of the University of Nevada, Reno.” [UNR]  The meaning of all this is simple — report a rape on campus and a law enforcement official — not some ‘jerry built’ system is supposed to respond.  Perhaps Mr. Will remembers college differently than the rest of us. However, he has one more big point to make:

“Second, I take, I think, sexual assault somewhat more seriously than the senators do because I think there’s a danger now of defining sexual assault so broadly, so capaciously, that it begins to trivialize the seriousness of it,” he added. “When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching — bad, shouldn’t be done, but it’s not sexual assault.” [TPM]

It isn’t? This is not for Mr. Will to determine. In the case of the University of Nevada campus in Reno there is nothing trivial about the definition of sexual harassment:

“No employee or student, either in the workplace or in the academic environment, should be subject to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments of a socially acceptable nature. It refers to behavior of a sexual nature that is not welcome, that is personally offensive, and that interferes with performance.  [UNRedu]

UNLV’s policy [UNLV pdf] on rape and sexual harassment might be an instructive piece of reading for Mr. Will.  Far from “capacious” or “trivializing” the policy is a straightforward discussion, including definitions of specific terms such as assault, stalking, rape, etc.

This should be about the time for someone to remind Mr. Will of the old saw — when in a hole stop digging. No amount of intellectualizing, hypothesizing, or rationalizing is going to make his comments sound any better than in their original form.

Actually, Mr. Will has had several reminders, from an ob/gyn, from columnists who have shredded his assumptions, and from the St. Louis Post Dispatch which dropped his column.  The saddest part of the entire mess into which Mr. Will has inserted himself is that his arguments are based on little more than the old “Boys will be Boys,” and “She asked for it” canards.

It’s 2014. We don’t need any more recitations of why those two assumptions are devoid of any substance, and equally lacking in intellectual honesty.  Smugness doth not righteousness bestow, and ersatz intellectual rationalizations do not  support reasoned discussions.

Mr. Will has officially joined the Rush Limbaugh school of gender relations in which women are “subject” to men, women are the “lesser half,” and women who don’t care for this situation are ‘phony victims’ or worse… it’s a trap.

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They Just Can’t Help Themselves?

GOP Women QuotesThere’s probably a reason for the GOP “Women’s Problem.”  When Google gives a seeker at least ten+ pages containing lists of quotations*  from prominent Republican and conservative sources, which grate like a rasp on bare skin, then perhaps some people have been providing a fairly accurate assessment of the mentality of party leadership on women’s issues.

Collections of commentary about women’s anatomy, and the functioning thereof, range from A to B, from Republican sources including the infamous “body shutting down,” to the more recent suggestion by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee that “If Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive  system without the help of government, then so be it.”

It’s difficult to corral this herd of cats because so many of them are convinced of the rectitude of their pronouncements because they are supposedly referenced to Scripture.   This exercise does require some illogical legerdemain, including but not limited to equating the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil in Eden to sexual intimacy, and ignoring the story of Deborah altogether — or turning her into some form of early Israeli aggressive housewife.   However, before dismissing the politics of “The Little Woman” out of hand, perhaps it’s time to muse about the underlying political message.   Thou Shalt Not Be Made Uncomfortable.

It’s also a mistake to put all the controversy on the “In this day and age” platter and serve it up as though it were something that just happened yesterday, or at least since the ratification of the 19th Amendment.   There are and have been matriarchal societies long before the modern ‘western civilization,’ and there continue to be such institutions.   However, for some men, raised in households in which male domination was the norm it’s easy to see the origin of their political discomfort with female candidates.   Issues concerning child raising, domestic arrangements, etc. are raised with female candidates which would be dismissed summarily when discussing a male office seeker.

If we want to make someone truly uncomfortable, make that individual actually responsible for his or her actions.  Real intimacy requires mutual understanding and consent.  It is a gift one partner can share with the other.  Force does not create consent, and obviously cannot be rationalized by saying “As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”  Former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender Clayton Williams on rape.

One of the more egregious comments from the last election cycle summarized the discomfort of a man struggling with his own sense of entitlement:

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”  Rep. Allen West (R-Fl.), who lost his 2012 bid for re-election

And, here we have the fear of the uncomfortable notion that sexual intimacy is best achieved when both partners are prepared, consenting, and willing — not merely when the guy wants “it.”  There’s always something just a little sad about a man who takes “no” as rejection, or personalizes it as an assault on his masculinity.

The hyper-masculinity associated with the “she wants it,” “she turned me on,” and “I have to fight’em off with a stick,” isn’t masculinity at all — it’s all too often a mask, a camouflage covering some serious personality issues.   Real men don’t rape, real men don’t count their conquests, real men don’t demand sexual intimacy.

Real men having an understanding of female reproductive systems. Real men create partnerships, and real men don’t feel uncomfortable when the time just isn’t right.  Disappointed perhaps — but subservient, no.

Real men also understand that women are not commodities to be “consumed” as we would collect cars, coffee mugs, and other appurtenances of domestic living.  Translating the I Want What I Want When I Want It of consumerism into domestic relationships is neither productive nor healthy.

Real men know that, and it’s probably passed the time that some real men in the GOP read the 2012 after action report with more diligence.

*Some of the better lists and sources: Cosmopolitan; Liberal America;
 Salon.Com; The New Republican; Washington Post; Sychophantastic; Jane Dough; Huffington Post; Huffington Post.

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The Little Woman Has A Job: The Pill and Prosperity

The PillContraception is an economic issue.  The point seems to be lost on Brian Fischer of the American Family Association:

“Case in point: taxpayer-funded contraception. The utter disaster I call MussoliniCare may soon make contraception free (which means everybody else pays for it) to women in the U.S. This is a perfectly terrible idea. If couples want to have sex outside marriage, and don’’t want to conceive children while doing it, let them buy their own contraception or get it from some non-taxpayer funded charity foolish enough to support sexual irresponsibility.”

We could make the obvious point that the Affordable Care Act simply requires that private health insurance plans offer contraceptive prescription coverage, or that most sexual intimacy happens between married couples.  But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good rant, and the Right’s obliviousness to the point that contraception is an economic issue.

“A much higher proportion of married than of never-married women use a contraceptive method (77% vs. 42%). This is largely because married women are more likely to be sexually active. But even among those at risk of unintended pregnancy, contraceptive use is higher among currently married women than among never-married women (93% vs. 83%).” [GuttmacherInst]

Now, why would this be the case?  The answer is economic:

“One of the most influential and frequently cited studies of the impact the pill has had on women’s lives comes from Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. The two Harvard economists argue that the pill gave women “far greater certainty regarding the pregnancy consequences of sex.” That “lowered the costs of engaging in long-term career investments,” freeing women to finish high school or go to college, for instance, rather than settling down.” [NYT]

True?  Look at the graph from the Department of Labor on the educational attainment of women in the U.S. work force since 1970:

Women Work Force Educational AttainmentIn the 1970’s the percentage of women in the work force with a college education was about 11.2%, a figure which increased to 36.4% by 2010.   Further, we are not speaking of a small number of women, we’re speaking about nearly 60% of the women in this country participating in the labor market.

“In 2009, 59.2 percent of women were in the labor force: of 122 million women in the United States, 72 million were classified as either employed or unemployed. The percentage of women in the labor force has been relatively stable over the past several years.” [BLS]

However if we step back and look at the trends since the 1970’s there’s a picture of increasing participation of women in the labor force which should inform the value of women in the U.S. economy.

Women in Work Force 1970 to 2009We can, and should, engage in discussions about the construction of the work-place and the development of “family friendly” corporate institutions, or the effect of inflationary pressures on American families, [WW.org] (PBR.org] But, the fact remains that only about 7% of our nation’s households are “single income traditional.”   In short, there are more married women in the workforce, they are better educated, and they are a significant source of the economic growth in this country in the past 30 years.   The MGI report for the Wall Street Journal (pdf) highlighted the importance of increasing the female side of the economic ledger:

“To sustain the historic rate of GDP growth of approximately 3% and maintain the United States’ leadership in the global economy, MGI reports that the nation will need a combination of some workforce expansion and a burst of productivity—driven by innovation and operational improvements. Women are critical to both forms of growth…”

It doesn’t take too much imagination or logic to conclude that calls for limiting women’s access to contraception — which allows family planning, enabling women to “engage in long term career investments” — is economically counter-productive.   Nor does it require much effort to acknowledge the conclusions that increased earning power is associated with access to contraceptive prescriptions.

A study by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein and Amalia R. Miller helps assign a dollar value to those tectonic shifts. For instance, they show that young women who won access to the pill in the 1960s ended up earning an 8 percent premium on their hourly wages by age 50. [NYT]

That’s what those “long term career investments” will get you.   It will also continue to propel us toward more income equality between genders.   The NBER Working Paper (pdf 2012) on the subject yielded this conclusion:

“Using state-by-birth-cohort variation in legal access, we show that younger access to the Pill conferred an 8-percent hourly wage premium by age fifty. Our estimates imply that the Pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence of the gender gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s.”

In short, those calling for a return to the Cro-Magnon Era of Masculine Economics  — if indeed those ancestors weren’t matriarchal — are demanding that for the sake of an outmoded social model of male domination we scrap the female contributions to economic growth, dismiss the female contributions to family income, do without the female investment in economic productivity, and impose a specific social ideology upon our entire economic system.

What would indeed be “irresponsible” is to continue to make it difficult for dual income families to succeed in the very real economy we have now.  We could be considering the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, or proposing more child care services such as those available in Germany.  We could be addressing the need for maternity leave and other family-friendly legislation.    In the corporate sphere we could be conversing about the “pernicious mindsets” that prevents women from rising in the ranks, or the revisions of outmoded institutional thinking which equates more time on the job to more productivity for the company.

As long as the public discourse concerning the issues faced by women and their families in the workforce is driven by sensationalistic, misogynistic, and ideological narratives, we will continue to have trouble addressing the real economic issues which have real impacts on our real country, real states, and real families.

References and Resources: “Invest in Women, Invest In America,” Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Senate, December 2010 (pdf).  “Unlocking the full potential of women in the U.S. economy,” McKinsey Group International (Wall Street Journal), 2011, (pdf).   Annie Lowrey, “The Economic Impact of the Pill,” New York Times, March 6, 2012.  “Subsidized Contraception, Fertility, and Sexual Behavior,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Kearney & Levine, April 2007.  The Editor’s Desk, “Women in the Workforce: 1970-2010,” Department of Labor.  “Educational Attainment of Women in the Labor Force,” The Editor’s Desk, Department of Labor.   “The Importance of Sex,” The Economist, April 12, 2006.  “The Opt In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper,  March 2012. (pdf)

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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.

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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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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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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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