Category Archives: Womens’ Rights

The Age Old Problem

It’s getting more difficult to discuss sexual misconduct allegations, perhaps because we’ve not addressed the important question Ruth Marcus ask in her column today:

The national debate over sexual harassment and sexual assault has reached an important and precarious moment as it shifts from what behavior is acceptable to what punishment is warranted. Having under-reacted for too long, are we now at risk of overreacting?

She has made a salient point.  Is James A. disqualified from advancement because he patted a female fanny in times gone by? Is David B. disqualified from elected office because he has a documented history of advances on underage girls?  Must Kevin C. resign because three women accuse him of improper behavior in the office? Must William D. resign because he settled one or more allegations of improper behavior out of court with non-disclosure agreements attached?

In short, the more women share their stories, the more complex the situation becomes because every situation is as different as the individuals and situation involved.  Each of us is going to have to establish a framework for judgments, and there are some areas in which we should be in general agreement.

No one wants to be humiliated, objectified, and victimized.  If someone’s behavior has that effect on someone else, then it’s bad. Period.  Now, comes the hard part — how bad?

There’s Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and Donald Trump level bad.  Multiple women have leveled multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct, some of which fall into the illegal activity category, against these men.  And, now, as Washington Post columnist Marcus suggests, how do we evaluate other, less serious charges?

Do we toss all the pigs to the wolves?  Must every Congressman, Senator, or Staffer resign at the first instance in which an allegation is offered?  Does every producer, reporter, business executive have to pack up the office after being charged in the court of public opinion? The One Size Fits All response certainly appears to simplify the problem but in fact may serve to make the overall situation more complicated.

No one should argue that a woman must feel any form of discomfort about coming forward to complain about crude behavior.  Period.  However, What does she do in a Zero Tolerance workplace about the co-worker at the office party who’s had at least one too many from the open bar and did something for which he apologized profusely the next morning?  Does it depend on “what he did?” On what he said afterwards? On how credible she finds his apology?

Perhaps one way to consider the problem is to operate from the premise: Believe the Women.  If she’s not satisfied, I’m probably not either.  If she is satisfied with the resulting actions, I’m probably OK with the solution.  I do reserve a modicum of skepticism for those whose allegations appear specious or whose persistence is all out of proportion to the available facts.  (I’m thinking here of a woman whose allegations were once dismissed by Ken Starr.)

I do advocate for a woman’s right to choose when to report instances of sexual harassment or misconduct.  It should be HER call.  Questions of assault, rape, and abuse are in another category in my estimation — these are legal issues in which the standards of the legal system should apply.  Meanwhile….

What do we do with garden variety creeps?  The fellows who don’t make physical contact but who can clear the room simply by being in it.  What do we do with the man who only refers applications from men to HR for follow up interviews?  What do we think of men who are perfectly comfortable with the belief that men should earn more than women for the same job because he’s supposed to be “bringing home the bacon?”

There’s one solution I think will work to mitigate the problems — hire more women, select more women, elect more women.  Then I await the day when some fellow in the interview waiting room worries that his suit may make him look fatter….

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

The Power and the Vainglory: Roy Moore’s Sad Mad Power Grab

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, without ever meeting him: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”   The expression actually goes back a bit further in English literature, appearing as “counting spoons” in James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

“Why Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks he is lying; and I see not what honour  he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar.  But if he does really think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”

The metaphor has lost some of its relevancy in an age wherein table spoons come not just in pewter or silver, but in aluminum, stainless steel, and various kinds of plastic.  However, it holds its force as a description of the prudent response to voluble protestations of (self) righteousness.

Did we not wonder why the man was so vehemently anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-modernity?  Why he insisted beyond all reason that a massive monument to the Ten Commandments be installed in his courthouse?   Most counties are satisfied with a smaller, more tasteful, monument located on a nice piece of manicured lawn.  Not so Mr. Moore.  Most public officers were, at least grudgingly, willing to abide by the law of the land on gay marriage.  Not so Mr. Moore.

Most people in this country are willing to tolerate a range of beliefs, even if such beliefs are personally objectionable.  Not so Mr. Moore, who is essentially an eliminationist.  Those with whom he disagrees should be silenced.  Those of whom he does not approve must be incarcerated.   Some scholars have associated the Nazi eliminationism with native antisemitism.  The combination was violently toxic and heinously lethal.  Moore espouses a particularly vehement hatred of Muslims — they are to be excluded from public office and civil society.  Moore has decried that the “government started creating new rights in 1965.”  The date is instructive.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut was rendered in 1965.  Mr. Moore is nothing new on the face of the earth. He’s as old as patriarchal tribal conflict.

He’s as old as the theories of female responsibility for leading First Man astray, as old as the opponents of the cults of Isis, Aphrodite, and  Mother Earth.  There’s no single point of origin for misogyny, but Mr. Moore can find plenty of carefully selected Biblical passages to buttress his prejudices.  We could also assemble a number of equally carefully selected passages to oppose his views.  The common denominator for these views precipitate down to Power.  Not necessarily sex, but power of one gender over another.

This isn’t about a cultural issue, although support for Mr. Moore can be utilized as a “political wedge issue,” under the category of Culture Wars.  However, no matter how it’s implemented, it’s still not a cultural issue. It’s still about good old fashioned garden variety power.

Why else would a 30+ year old man seek the attentions of teenage girls?  Why else would a man grope? Not because it’s a form of play — but because it’s a display of power.  And that’s the last thing Mr. Moore needs to possess — more power over anyone, anywhere, anytime.  The good people of Alabama deserve better representation than that which is so sadly demonstrated by Mr. Moore.

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

To Our Republican Neighbors: You Don’t Get To Talk About Weinstein, Ever

Excuse me, but if Republicans are pleased to discuss the odious adventures of Harvey Weinstein, then I have one statement for them: STFU.  They have no room to talk. They have no credibility on this subject.  This isn’t a matter of “both sides do it.”  No, this is a matter of no one should do it, and it’s the Democrats, the Liberals, who are willing to back up their opprobrium with action.  The Republicans, not so much.

Where’s John Edwards?  Certainly not in a leadership position in the Democratic Party.  Compare to Sen. David Vitter, whose involvement with the DC Madam in 2007 was conveniently overlooked by Republicans in 2010 when he was returned to the Senate.  Where’s Anthony Weiner? Certainly not active in Democratic Party operations these days.  How long did Republicans attempt to cover for Rep. Denny Hastert?  How many blind eyes were averted from Rep. Mark Foley?   And, now we come to one Donald J. Trump,  who’s been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct by at least 12 women (as of October 2016), and while we’re on the topic … what’s on the rest of those Access Hollywood Tapes, the ones we’ve not yet heard?

The ultimate irony is listening to Ultra Snowflake Tucker Carlson present his whackadoodle theory that Sec. Hillary Clinton is somehow responsible for enabling Weinstein’s behavior while he’s sitting in Bill O’Reilly’s chair broadcasting on Roger Ailes network.   As at least one comedian has observed, this renders irony officially dead.

If Republicans want to discuss the widespread and inhumane instances of spousal abuse, sexual assault and harassment, and downright misogyny,  then they may do so — but they don’t get the “both sides” do it argument so long as the Misogynist In Chief is in the White House, and they don’t get to own it while their Secretary of Education is trying to make it harder to victims of assault on college campuses to report and sustain charges against their attackers.

Republicans don’t have the high ground while they make it more difficult for women to control what happens to their own bodies.  Please, don’t try to convince me that you have women’s interests at heart while removing contraceptive prescriptions from mandatory health insurance coverage.  Don’t tell me you care about women’s health while passing some inane bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, especially not when reputable scientific reports indicate there’s no “pain” until at least after 29 weeks, and your evidence to the contrary is spurious at best.   We know why late term abortions happen, either the woman couldn’t get access to abortion services earlier because of unavailability or logistics, or there were serious complications which could be lethal for the fetus, the mother, or both.  [Gutt]

Spare me the rhetoric while Republicans can find every dubious argument under the sun why women don’t deserve to be paid the same as men for the same work.  Thank you, I’d already heard that claptrap back in the ’60s when I was told “men had to support the family,” and other, equally risible bits of self-serving chatter.  One of my favorite examples of the latter being “it’ll just open the way for frivolous lawsuits,” — yes, and now explain to me how a suit brought to gain equal pay for equal work is “frivolous?”  But, but, but, there will be thousands of them!  Thus admitting that the practice is general, and if that’s the case then there shouldn’t be thousands of cases, there probably ought to be millions.

So, spare me you Righteous Republican faux outrage. Spare me your pontification.  Spare me your indignation and alarm until you have called for all the women who have alleged sexual misconduct on the part of your standard bearer in the Oval Office to be acknowledged and recompensed.  Until then: STFU.

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Filed under abortion, domestic abuse, feminism, Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

It’s Always About the Girls?

ESPN’s Jemele Hill posts her truth:  Donald Trump is a white supremacist.  What do we get from the lectern in the White House? This is a “fire-able offense.”  Hillary Clinton goes on her book tour.  What do we get?  She’s blaming every one but herself — when in fact she admits some 35 mistakes for which she took responsibility.  What does the occupant of the White House do?  He re-tweets a bit of anti-Semitic commentary with a GIF of Hillary Clinton being hit with a golf ball.  It would be tempting to oversimplify this, but there is a pattern:  Women being hit, women being fired, or women being otherwise assaulted or attacked is acceptable. There’s a word for this — misogynist.

These would be part of the background noise associated with the current administration, except that the misogyny is part of the administration’s policy, witness the Department of Education’s reversal of Title IX protections for those who report campus assaults.

“Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this latest undermining of survivors’ rights is taking place under the administration of a president who has bragged about sexually assaulting women. An administration in which the acting assistant secretary of education for civil rights, Candice Jackson, suggested, in July (she later apologized), that for “90 percent” of campus sexual assault allegations the complainants regretted having sex, but weren’t actually sexually assaulted.” [WaPo]

So, are we surprised that the Department of Education is dialing back the protections for assault survivors on college campuses?  If we are we shouldn’t be.  The signals have been there all along.

We couldn’t really miss the images of the President barging ahead out of a vehicle, leaving his wife to exit on her own, or the images of him climbing the steps to Air Force One again leaving his wife to mount the stairs without assistance.  Or, images of him holding the umbrella over his own head, leaving his wife to stride in his wake perhaps hoping to get some protection from the rain.  If he will treat his wife with this casual disregard, what can we expect of his attitude toward women he doesn’t know?  Why would we be surprised if he tweets a GIF showing a woman being hit by a golf ball?

So, what do Jemele Hill and Hillary Clinton have in common?  One’s black, the other is white.  One is an experienced politician, the other is a sportscaster and analyst.  One was born in 1975, the other married Bill Clinton in 1975.  One attended Michigan State University, the other attended Wellesley.  What makes them targets from the White House lectern?  They are women.

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

I am getting truly tired of concern trolling: Women’s Day Edition

Yes, ladies you had a fine day. It was International Women’s Day and lots of women did lots of constructive things, and needless to say, while they were doing them the concern trolls were out again. I’ll not name them, they know who they are…

I was told by one pundit on my television this morning that there was a danger of the “resistance” burning out from so many marches and things. Oh, really?  Burn out? Tell that to some women who put in a full 8 to 10 hours of work, come home, do the housework, fix the meals, do the shopping, and make time to hit the streets.  Tell that to women who can make appointments for the kids’ dental exams while fixing lunch and finding the socks that didn’t emerge from the dryer, all in the same 15 minutes.

Tell that to women who work, and know that they are making somewhere between $0.15 and $0.35 less than men for the same job.  Tell that to mothers who know that their kids need the local public schools.  Tell that to grandmothers who remember when the Cuyahoga River caught fire without being reminded by the opening scene of Major League, and don’t want that environment for their grandchildren. Tell that to the aunts of gay and lesbian nephews and nieces, whom they love without reservation and support without conditions.  Tell that to the women who gather for coffee with friends who are Hispanic,  who fear for their relatives and loved ones.  Tell that to Jewish women concerned for the safety of the graves of their elders, the Muslim women who fear for the safety of their children, and the Sikhs who fear for the safety of their community.  Burn out? These women are just lighting the tinder.

If this weren’t patronizing (do I want to use the word ‘condescending?’) enough, the boo-birds from the Occupy moments are back.  It’s OK to be “intersectional” just don’t talk about it so much.  Huh?  I get the part where the leadership should just DO it, but talking is part of the process, and women do like to talk things out.  If that offends male ears, so be it, but don’t disparage efforts to combine efforts and find common grounds for activities.

And, then there’s the “don’t make busy work” argument.  It’s tangential to the Please Focus of the people who found fault with the Occupy people.  What’s the good, they ask, of having a thousand  post cards on a thousand different subjects?  Where to begin?

First, this resistance isn’t a carefully articulated and organized Madison Avenue campaign for a new laundry detergent, and shouldn’t be treated as such. It certainly shouldn’t be evaluated that way.    What’s the matter with having a thousand post cards sent by individuals who have never before engaged with their Representatives and Senators?  That’s a thousand little pieces of contact that weren’t happening before. The more phone calls, letters, and post cards, the less often Senator Sludgepump and Representative Bilgewater can say “I haven’t heard from anyone in my state (district) about this subject.”

Secondly, this argument disparages the efforts of those who are not political professionals. Yes, it would be nice to have a single issue, like George W. Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security, to address. However, this mis-administration is different. It’s not just the assault of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid; it’s a full on attack on environmental protection regulations, on immigrants and their families, on Muslims and their neighbors, on consumer protections, on financial reform legislation, on the rights of labor and working people, on the pensions and health benefits of coal miners, on the neutrality of Internet services…

And, there are those whose circumstances are such that phone calls, letters, and post cards are what they CAN do. Given the seriousness of the assault on American institutions, values, and government, it’s all hands on deck.  Everyone doing what they can when they can, and taking a break every now and then to let someone else run with the baton for a lap.

When politicians focused on signal issues — like Social Security — it was relatively easy to target campaign promises and compare them to delivery.  The current political situation is more properly compared to the ducks on the shooting gallery tracks, forever emerging, forever repeating themselves, forever streaming past; aiming at a single one means the next dozen are missed.  The administration, and its allies in Congress, need to know that every attempt to degrade the values of this country, to dismantle the social safety nets that secure us, will be met with resistance.

The process of comparing campaign policies to governance policy is slowly becoming more clear.  For example, it’s becoming ever more obvious that The Wall, is morphing into a fence, and the fence into fiscal insanity.  What does it do for security to spend money on a highly questionable wall while slashing the budgets for the Coast Guard, and the TSA? What does it do for national security to issue unconstitutional executive order after unconstitutional executive order establishing a Muslim ban?   There’s another issue that will solidify with time.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, and no jobs. A national right to work bill is not in the interest of any worker anywhere in this country, but the Republicans will push it through if they can. It’s all well and good to talk about Buy American, but that sounds a bit hollow considering there are pictures of Russian steel being unloaded recently on New Jersey docks. The parsing was pathetic — pipelines built with American steel became pipelines built with steel already contracted from the Russians.  Making lovely announcements about infrastructure projects are soothing to the ears until we get to the part wherein it’s new construction, with copious benefits for the financiers and not so many for the workers on the projects. Then, “I love coal,” doesn’t quite cover inaction on health benefits for retired miners whose pension funds are running out.

Affordable health care insurance?  Coverage for everyone becomes coverage for those who can afford it? Or, it’s nice to have access, but if a person can’t afford a policy covering personal and family needs access is perfectly meaningless. Remember, the promise was that premium costs would go down, but the average premium increase under the ACA including the outlier in Arizona was a 23% average increase; now the GOP is promising a 30% increase and calling it an improvement!

These, and other issues will solidify into more attractive targets, but it will take some time for the accretion to establish itself.  There will be time for focused attacks, and by then a wonderful horde of newly energized resistance ‘fighters’ will be used to making phone calls, writing letters and postcards, attending protests, going to town halls, and organizing social events for political purposes.  Politics, it is to be hoped, will no longer be a spectator sport.  Perhaps it’s time for the pundits to, as the saying goes, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”


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

The Great Community Health Center Scam portion of the ACA Repeal

We have the House version of a repeal bill, such as it is. Why it took some seven years to compile a batch of pre-existing Republican conditions remains a mystery. However, there is a section which calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and the “cover” for so-called ‘moderate’ Republicans is the “community health center” scam.  Gee, the argument goes, we could be funding community health centers instead of providing support for an organization that may provide abortion services.

First, a hat tip to Vox for an excellent summary of Planned Parenthood funding and its sources and uses.  There’s no reason to replicate the argument here when it is well presented elsewhere.  Further, the community health centers are not the answer to PPA services for several reasons.

About two years ago the Republicans distributed a “map” showing some 13,540 clinics which purportedly could perform the medical services provided by Planned Parenthood. Not. So. Fast.

Those who compiled the list did not specify their criteria for a replacement clinic, so most of the clinics listed on the map didn’t have an ob/gyn on staff. Nor did most have the equipment and staff on board to provide reproductive health care services.

Not only were they not staffed and equipped for reproductive health care services many were not set up to take on a massive influx of patients transferred from PPA to the community clinics.  Private clinics would also have to accept Medicaid patients, which many do not because of the reimbursement rate. Mother Jones summarized the situation:

“Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report issued earlier this month that if Planned Parenthood were defunded, as many as 650,000 women “in areas without access to other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations” would lose their reproductive health care. And a survey by the Guttmacher Institute found that women often value specialized family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood over primary care clinics for reasons such as affordability, increased confidentiality, and a greater range of contraceptive options. Guttmacher also reports that in 103 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety net” family planning service, meaning that a large portion of their patients are either uninsured or reliant on Medicaid.”

Many Republican members of the Congress, Senator Dean Heller included, are relying on the community health care clinic argument to deflect the contention that they are opposing contraception and family planning services.  The community health clinic as a replacement for Planned Parenthood reproductive health care medical services is founded on mischaracterizations of both the actions of PPA and the capacity of the community clinics. It is also a deflection from the real argument about the necessity of family planning services — in short, it is a way to say the individual opposes family planning services without coming right out and saying, “I am opposed to the prescription of contraceptives and other reproductive health care services by Planned Parenthood without having to say I am against Planned Parenthood.”

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Medicaid, Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

It’s Not 1950 Anymore

Women Workplace Back in the day, those days of uncompromising conformity, women weren’t in the workforce in large numbers. They had been. They were home now, advised by various and sundry home & shelter magazines to “make way for the boys coming home” from World War II.  Conventional wisdom said that nice girls got jobs in secretarial occupations, teaching (mostly elementary), nursing (not so much as physicians), and domestic service.  There were the outliers – the women who wanted to be accountants not simply bookkeepers; the women who wanted to design kitchens not merely cook in them; the women who wanted to be engineers crafting plans for automobiles not just driving the kids to Scout meetings.  However, for too long they remained the outliers.

Job interviews until relatively recently allowed men (who did the hiring) to ask women (who wanted the jobs) to ask about the applicant’s love life – the real question being “How long are you going to be with us before you get married and quit?”  Or, “…until you get in a ‘family way’ and we ‘have to let you go’.”

In a way the 1950’s Rules of the Gender Game were as deleterious to men as to women.  The entire onus of family expenses in white suburbs was on the man.  The ‘little woman’ could work for some ‘pocket money’ but this wasn’t considered completely within the Rules.  It was expected in white circles that African American women would work, after all “they had to,” – but again, not as the doctor, but as the nurse; not as the architect but as the cook.  It was all very domestic.

It was all completely phony.  How did so many women acquire basic  bookkeeping skills? Quite often They were keeping the household accounts.  Clean, launder, cook, and keep track of the mortgage and car payments; make sure the charge accounts were paid and the Green Stamps collected in the books for redemption.

It was all economically counterproductive.  How many elements of technological progress were delayed because a qualified women was passed over in favor of a less qualified man?  How many companies suffered because men were promoted and paid more than many over-qualified women, resulting in less overall productivity?

It was all potentially dangerous.

While the economic onus was placed on the male, the sexual issues came down on the female.  It was her place to “control herself.”  Boys would be boys, after all they just  “sowed wild oats,” but the young ladies – it, nay, IT, was her fault.  She wanted IT. She asked for IT. She deserved IT.  She dressed for IT. She didn’t resist IT. She was in the wrong place, the wrong time, doing the wrong thing and “that’s what happens.”

So, if he lurked around the water cooler making cracks about the fit of her sweater over the bra designed to define and shape the bust…that was also “what happens.”   If he didn’t mind a bit if she bent over to retrieve a file folder… If he wasn’t “really serious” if she showed a bit of cleavage, then she shouldn’t mind either. After all, department store catalogs of the era advised women how to dress to “please the husband,” or to attract one.

If the tenor of the times made the sopranos uncomfortable, gee, it couldn’t be more uncomfortable than those girdles with the hosiery clips attached?  Indeed, most men did treat their wives with respect, their children with courtesy, and their friends wives with civility.  However, that didn’t prevent  or indeed even much shame the troglodytes who delighted in patting fannies and snapping bras.  This activity didn’t go un-noticed but it wasn’t enough to make a ‘real’ man feel discouraged.  And that’s the point.

It isn’t 1950 anymore.  It’s no longer acceptable to opine sourly but quietly that Dodgy Roger at the garage is hassling the women in the office; Dodgy is going to find himself on the wrong end of an HR complaint.  It’s no longer acceptable to ignore Jumpy John’s continual disparagement of his female cohorts … it’s another route to an EEOC investigation.  It’s no longer acceptable to say “that’s his private business,” when men engage in obscenities and vulgarities in the workplace. It’s not business and if it’s in the workplace it’s not private.

The hard fact of life for vulgarian men is that while the general atmosphere of the 1950s allowed men to avoid some of the more quotidian consequences of unseemly behavior – boorishness and obscenity have never really been socially acceptable. To believe that they once were is to indulge in a fantasy past that never truly defined a reality; they are left with residuals which still make life more difficult for women.

To engage that fantasy is to forget that even in the 1950s invitations to a backyard picnic dwindled if the boor didn’t mend his ways; social interactions at church, in public, and in private diminished as the unacceptable behavior increased.   The difference sixty six years later is that real men do understand the meaning of ‘consent,’ and that real men are less accepting of marginal behavior.   Real women are less likely to remain quiet about sexual harassment and assaults, although they are still vilified for speaking out as if the entire burden of proper behavior is still attached to them.

She should have reported it. She should have reported it sooner. She should have reported it to more than family and friends. She should have reported it to the police. She should have …. When the real question should be: Why did HE do it in the first place?

So, no, it’s not 1950 anymore.  1950 wasn’t even what some contemporary boors imagine it to be.  Perhaps the best we can do is continually remind the boorish vulgarians among us that while progress has been made and there’s little room in contemporary society for their antics, we still have a ways to go.

We still have some distance to cover to remove ourselves from the make way for the boys mentality, the admonitions of the catalog sales department that a well fitting sweater could please him or attract him; from the uninformed attitudes that boys should be given more latitude than girls in matters of manners and morality.   I agree with the First Lady, it seems unconscionable that we’re still talking about the basics of human civility.

One of the most interesting questions surrounding our current election season is if we, as a society, are as willing to confront the agents of social aggression as we are to confront foreign acts of aggression?

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