Tag Archives: women’s rights

Truth in Numbers

Harper’s Magazine has a long-running feature called Harper’s Index, where they provide survey results without commentary. The subject-matter of those surveys varies widely, but they are generally thought-provoking, and these recent numbers provided the usual food for thought:

• Rank of “attire” among the leading reasons “millennials” are unsuccessful in job interviews: 1

• Rank of their posting inappropriate pictures on social media: 2

• Average salary earned by a full-time-employed male college graduate one year after graduation: $42,918

• By a full-time-employed female graduate: $35,296

• Percentage of Canadians who believe in global warming: 98

• Of Americans who do: 70

• Of Republicans: 48

The numbers prompt a number of observations.

To my older grandchildren, I will simply reiterate my warnings about posting those pictures of partying on Facebook. Your friends may think that goofy drunk face is funny, but future employers will not appreciate the humor. Nor will they conclude that you really can use the English language if you persist in sharing incomprehensible “street language” sentiments. Listen to your grandmother–and pull up those pants!

To my friends of the female gender, I know that confirmation of the persistence of the wage gap doesn’t really surprise us, but it should at least give us a wake-up call. After years of work agitating for women’s rights and w0rking for equity and equal pay for equal work, we still have a long way to go. Let’s gird those loins, ladies, and get back to it!

To the fearful ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand science and climate-change deniers, I have nothing to say. They don’t listen to experts and they reject both scientific research and the evidence of their own experience. They aren’t going to listen to me. They aren’t going to accept the reality of climate change until they’re sitting on an oceanside beach in Indiana. Thanks to them, however, the rest of us are going to have to work harder and smarter in order to overcome their resistance and enact policies that will address global climate change and–hopefully–avert accelerating disasters.

Happy holidays.


Deja Vu All Over Again

For reasons only sociologists will understand, Americans have chosen this particular time to revisit issues about the status of women that I thought we’d settled decades ago.

There are a lot of parallels with racism. We elected a black President, but–faced with that stark evidence of progress–the not-inconsiderable numbers of remaining bigots crawled out from under their rocks. So this President “isn’t American” “wasn’t really born here” “is Muslim”  and must be defeated at all costs, even if that means opposing measures that are demonstrably good for the country.

Here in Indiana, gubernatorial candidates have each selected a woman running-mate. At the federal level, our Secretary of State is a woman; when the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, a woman (gasp!) was Speaker. Everywhere you look, there’s evidence that women really have “come a long way, baby”–a long way from the days I still remember. When I went to law school, women couldn’t even have credit ratings separate from those of their husbands, there were still cultural barriers to women entering the workforce, and young women had few if any role models if they wanted to be anything other than wives and mothers.

Equal pay for equal work? Forget about it!

Family planning? Well, there was the rhythm method and condoms….

What really set women free, what really opened opportunity and set us out on a road to equality was an invention called the Pill. When women had access to reliable contraception, when we could control our reproduction, the world changed.

But just as the election of a black President horrified the throwbacks still clinging to white privilege, women’s steady progress has infuriated the throwbacks clinging to male privilege. (Not that the two categories are mutually exclusive.) There is no other explanation for the eruption of legislation aimed at rolling back the clock. That legislation has attacked women’s rights on multiple fronts (including, unbelievably, equal pay laws), but it is no accident that most of the assault has aimed at our ability to control our reproduction. That ability is the foundation of our equality, and the old men who resent that equality know it.

In this morning’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd takes on the Bishops of her own Catholic Church over their claims that HHS regulations requiring health insurers to provide birth control violates their religious liberty. The column is well worth reading, but her final sentence really sums it up:   “And the lawsuit reminds the rest [of us] that what the bishops portray as an attack on religion by the president is really an attack on women by the bishops.”

Jefferson was right: liberty requires eternal vigilance. Those of us who thought the fight for women’s rights had been won had better go dig out our battle gear.

Be Careful Who You Piss Off

The Huffington Post reports that several officers of the Susan B. Komen Foundation have resigned in the wake of what can only be described as the debacle of that organization’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

When the Foundation decided to play abortion politics at the expense of poor women who depend upon Planned Parenthood for their annual breast exams, it set off a reaction of epic proportions–not to mention a level of scrutiny that the organization had formerly escaped. Questions were raised about the outsized executive salaries, the organization’s habit of suing other nonprofits that had the temerity to use the color pink or the term “cure” in their own efforts, and the percentage of overall funding that found its way to actual breast cancer research. According to the Huffington story, fundraising is down, morale is low, and management is in disarray.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this exercise in self-destruction, but I think the most hopeful sign has little to do with the Komen Foundation and a lot to do with Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood has been the object of unremitting attack by the Right for many years now. Those of us who are older can remember when Planned Parenthood boards drew their members from civic leaders of both political parties; indeed, George H.W. Bush served on the national board until he decided to accept the nomination for Vice-President. The organization was not particularly controversial, because it was understood to be in the business of providing health care and family planning to women who needed those services but lacked the resources to access them.

The abortion wars and the rise of an extremist Right Wing willing to play dirty undermined the formerly widespread recognition of the importance of Planned Parenthood.

Despite the fact that abortion never exceeded 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services, despite the fact that no tax dollars were used for abortion services, and despite the fact that economic pressures made the organization’s provision of women’s health services more critically important than ever, Planned Parenthood’s reputation took a real hit–the result of unremitting attacks and dishonest characterizations.

The response to Komen’s clumsy effort to further de-legitimize Planned Parenthood may have marked a turning point.

When the “abortion wars” were seen as genuinely limited to the question of abortion, most women–even the most pro-choice among us–could recognize and respect the deep moral ambivalence many people feel about the issue. But recent political assaults have torn the mask off of much of the “pro-life” movement, displaying a profoundly anti-woman agenda. It is one thing to oppose abortion; it is quite another to attack women’s right to contraception and reproductive health as a violation of the religious prerogatives of those whose theologies subordinate women.

Women are waking up to the very real threat to our hard-won equal rights. In the process, we are recognizing the attacks on Planned Parenthood for what they really are–attacks on us.

Let’s hope that the people perpetrating those attacks–the Rick Santorum’s and the Eric Miller’s and their ilk–learn what the Komen Foundation has learned: be careful who you piss off. Because–as the saying goes–if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy.


No Real Post Today

There won’t be a real blog post today–I’m spring cleaning.

Yesterday, my best friend told me that I’m the only person she knows who still does a full-scale, top-to-bottom spring cleaning. Maybe she’s right, but for me it is as close as I get to performing a religious ritual.

Part of it is rooted in religion: spring is the Passover season, and generations of Jewish women have internalized the yearly search for “chometz”–i.e. yeast–during which they scrubbed the premises not only of the forbidden breadcrumbs, but for dirt of any kind.

But for me, the satisfaction I get from ensuring that my closets and drawers are tidy, my baseboards dust-free and my windows washed is in direct contrast to the degree to which I am unable  to control anything else.

I may not be able to stem the recent tide of anti-woman rhetoric. I may not be able to wave a wand and achieve equal civil rights for GLBT folks. I obviously can’t control the public’s tendency to vote for reality-challenged politicians. Hell, I can’t even control my weight.

But dammit, one thing I can control is how clean my closets are!

See you tomorrow.

Whose “Conscience”?

Several Facebook friends recently posted the same cartoon: a pregnant woman lying on an examination table getting a sonogram is looking at the machine’s screen as her doctor moves the sensor over her belly. She asks “What’s that other thing in my uterus?”  The doctor replies “The State of Texas.”

The reference is to one of the latest assaults on women, legislation that would require any woman wanting an abortion to undergo a medically unnecessary sonogram. Since the vast majority of abortions occur within the first trimester, when a fetus is difficult to detect, this procedure requires the insertion of a sensor into the uterus through the vagina. In other words, it requires that the woman be penetrated.

In Virginia, proponents of this requirement defeated an amendment that would have required the woman to consent to that penetration.

Words fail.

Let me try to understand where we are, in the brave new 21st Century. It is a violation of religious liberty to require health insurers to offer birth control coverage to women who want it. It’s a violation of conscience to require a pharmacist to dispense birth control to a willing buyer if his religion disapproves of its use. But it isn’t a violation of personal and religious liberty to compel a woman to be penetrated by a device during a medically-unnecessary procedure before she can exercise a constitutionally-protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

We’re lucky women still have the right to vote.

And speaking of voting–the phrase “use it or lose it” has never seemed more apt.