Tag Archives: war on women

Speaking of the War on Women…

Social change almost always happens slowly and unevenly, and while it is occurring, people who were socialized into older worldviews must co-exist (uneasily) with those who have adopted the emerging paradigms.

I am old enough to have seen enormous changes in the way women participate in American society. With the exception of a brief period after high school and before marriage, my mother was a homemaker until my father’s death required her to enter the work force in her 60s. She was one of a legion of intelligent, talented women who should have had a career; she chafed as a housewife and was much happier after she went to work. Working for pay during the marriage, however, would have reflected poorly on my father’s ability to support his family, so like most of her middle-class peers, she stayed home.

Girls were supposed to be demure and decorative when I was growing up. I once overheard a cousin tell my mother “It’s nice that Sheila reads so much, since she’s unlikely to date. Boys like girls who are pretty, not smart.”

Later, when I went to law school, many “friends” let me know they were troubled by my choice; I had three young children, and according to the social mores of the time, my place was at home tending to them. I still remember people warning me that my children would all “do drugs” if I pursued a career–and I vividly recall a partner at the firm I joined (as the first woman ever hired) reassuring me that “There’s nothing wrong with being a woman. Why, we hired a man with a glass eye once!”

So–as the commercial says, we really have “come a long way, baby.” But as the “me too” movement, the persistence of the glass ceiling, and statistics about earning discrepancies all attest, we also have a long way to go.

In 2016, a substantial number of Americans didn’t find Trump’s taped admission of sexual assault reason to disqualify him from the Presidency–and a not-insignificant number of voters explicitly based their rejection of Hillary Clinton on her gender. (A friend of our handyman told me that some men he worked with had volunteered that they would never vote for a woman–any woman– because  a woman simply couldn’t “handle” being President.)

Granted, few prominent Americans are as forthright about their misogyny as Philippine President Duarte, who recently boasted that he had ordered soldiers to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals.

“Tell the soldiers, ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor,’ ” the president said in a speech, recalling a directive he said he had given when he was mayor of Davao City. “ ‘We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina.’ ”

Duterte has repeatedly expressed hostility to women in the country’s political insurgency, saying they should have stayed home and raised children.

Most American politicians avoid expressing anti-women sentiments quite so forcefully, but there are plenty of signs that similar underlying worldviews–ranging from “women should be submissive to men,” to “women should stay home with their children,” to “women really welcome male ‘attention’ and just say no in order to play hard to get”–remain ubiquitous.

These cultural attitudes are a holdover from times long past, when physical strength was needed for most jobs, and families had to have lots of children, both to help support the family and to replace the large numbers who died in infancy.

As any sociologist will confirm, longstanding cultural assumptions are slow to change. As any political scientist will attest, people who enjoy power or status rarely relinquish those privileged positions out of the goodness of their hearts.

When Obama was elected, we saw the depth and persistence of widespread racism that had largely gone underground. As women claim the right to participate in a workforce in which we are both fairly compensated and unmolested, we are encountering equally deep-seated paternalistic resistance.

That resistance will persist at least until the men (and women) glued to Fox News pass from the scene.

Or as I tell my students, once my age cohort is dead, things really should improve.

Speaking of Abortion..

Yesterday’s blog ended with a question about the motives of the anti-abortion culture warriors. Although there are obviously many sincere people who have moral or religious objections to reproductive choice, the punitive measures advanced by many others (together with their utter lack of concern about what happens to the babies so “saved” once they are born) raises legitimate questions about their real agenda.

I’m not much for conspiracy theories; I tend to agree with a colleague from my days in city government who often remarked that incompetence explains so much more than conspiracies. But in this case, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a fair number of the men who have staked out anti-abortion positions (and yes, they’re disproportionately male) aren’t as opposed to abortion as they are to women’s full equality. (Keep ’em barefoot and pregnant, like God intended…).

After all, if you are truly anti-abortion, you’d support programs that reduce the need for and incidence of abortion.

The New York Times recently reported on the GOP’s war on contraception and Planned Parenthood:

One would imagine that congressional Republicans, almost all of whom are on record as adamantly opposing abortion, would be eager to fund programs that help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

That would be the common sense approach, anyway.

And yet since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have been trying to obliterate the highly effective federal family-planning program known as Title X, which gives millions of lower-income and rural women access to contraception, counseling, lifesaving cancer screenings, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

A House subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services has proposed to eliminate all Title X funding — about $300 million — from a 2016 spending bill.

The bill would also slash funding by up to 90 percent for sex education, specifically President Obama’s teen-pregnancy prevention initiative. The only winner was abstinence-only education, whose funding the subcommittee voted to double, despite the fact that it has basically no effect on abstinence and has been associated with higher rates of teen pregnancy.

Federal law prohibits the use of any federal dollars for abortion or abortion-related services, and has for many years. That inconvenient fact hasn’t prevented the “pro-life” posers from insisting that their efforts to eviscerate reproductive health programs serving poor women–programs that save the lives of many of those women–are “pro life.” Of course, they aren’t “pro” anything. They are anti-woman–and fiscally irresponsible.

What Title X grants actually do is help prevent unwanted pregnancies — more than one million in 2012, which translates to about 363,000 abortions avoided. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization, every public dollar spent on family planning services saved about $7 in costs related to pregnancy, birth and infant care, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer. So the proposal to slash the program’s funding is not just inhumane, it’s also fiscally dumb.

A genuine opposition to abortion would require support for family planning programs that reduce abortions. A genuine concern for “life” would include concern for the lives of poor women. A genuine commitment to fiscal conservatism would mandate support for programs that demonstrably save tax dollars.

The operative word is “genuine.”


Those Big, Bad, Trial Lawyers

Richard Mourdock and Mike Pence have been having some problems the past couple of days trying to downplay their enthusiastic participation in the GOP’s War on Women–explaining that they really, truly love female incubators…er, women. (We just need to remember why their God put us on this earth…)

So it may be timely to remind ourselves that the War on Women (and its attendant dishonesty) isn’t limited to matters of reproduction.

For example, I see where the Romney/Ryan ticket is explaining its lack of support for the Lilly Ledbetter Act by claiming the legislation isn’t really about equal pay for equal work. No sireee. It’s just an effort to enrich those awful, terrible, liberal trial lawyers.

A couple of days ago, on ABC, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a leading Romney surrogate, argued, “[J]ust because they call a piece of legislation an equal pay bill doesn’t make it so. In fact, much of this legislation is, in many respects, nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits, which may not contribute at all whatsoever to increasing pay equity in the workplace.”

Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, said something very similar last week, criticizing the proposal as being little more than “opening up the lawsuits and statute of limitations.”

Romney allies have justified their opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Act on these grounds for months. Pete Hoekstra, who is running for U.S. Senate in Michigan, called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay law “a nuisance.” Another Romney surrogate said the law is little more than “a handout to trial lawyers.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) agrees–of course, he approved and signed legislation repealing Wisconsin’s equal pay law, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There’s just one little problem with this effort to pretend that their problem isn’t with women getting treated equally. As it happens, trial lawyers–no matter how clever–cannot collect a fee unless and until they win the case.

Let me put this in language even non-lawyers will understand. Trial lawyers generally take cases on contingency. That means that unless they win the case, neither they nor the client will see a penny. Contingent fee arrangements, whatever their defects, give people access to the justice system who could not otherwise afford a lawyer. Contingent fee arrangements also provide a powerful incentive to lawyers to take only “meritorious” cases–no lawyer in his right mind wants to spend months or years on a case that’s a likely loser and won’t pay a dime. (Even when the lawyer thinks a case is very solid, there is always a substantial risk of losing. As I used to tell my clients, going to trial is always a crap shoot, no matter how strong a case you think you have.)

So–if we follow the argument being made by the Romney camp, they oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Act because lawyers who win cases–by proving that their clients were denied equal pay for equal work–will make money.

But they aren’t against equal pay for women. No siree. If you want to give all your employees who are doing the same work the same pay, why that’s fine. But if you don’t, you shouldn’t have to worry that the big bad trial lawyer will come after you.

They aren’t against equal pay for us girls. They’re just against providing a remedy to those of us who get shafted.

Just like they aren’t for rape. They’re just against allowing a woman who gets pregnant as a result do anything about it.

They may not be humane (or even human), but you have to give them credit: in this, at least, they’re consistent!

If It Walks Like a Duck, Quacks Like a Duck…

Supporters of Mike Pence’s gubernatorial campaign pooh-pooh the notion that their candidate is an extremist. The candidate himself is frantically trying to re-introduce himself with huge ad buys that avoid any reference to his (exceedingly lackluster) congressional performance or to policies he supports.

Did you know he took his wife skating on their first date? Or that his grandfather was a bus driver?

His surrogates are also crying foul about Democrats’ use of a booklet published by the Indiana Policy Review when Pence was President of that organization, called “Indiana Mandate: an Agenda for the 1990s.” I would agree that a manifesto written nearly 25 years ago shouldn’t be relevant today, had Pence ever suggested he had changed the positions it espoused, or had he not consistently voted for the philosophy that booklet expressed.

You can find out about that document here.

Wonder why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, an act to enforce equal pay for women?

Wonder why he has worked tirelessly to completely de-fund Planned Parenthood?

Wonder why he opposes the Americans with Disabilities Act? Minimum wage laws?

Wonder why he supports school vouchers and other, extensive privatization initiatives?

The justifications are all in that first booklet. Pence’s voting record during his time in Congress has been consistent with these and other positions set out in that Policy Review document. That in itself is fine–here’s a candidate who has a very strong ideology and who has continued to support that ideology. The idea of elections is that we voters get to compare the positions held by the candidates and choose between them. Unfortunately, when candidates realize that their beliefs are unlikely to be embraced by the average voter, they do what Pence is doing: they re-invent themselves.

Mike Pence has never shown the slightest interest in economic development, transportation policy, public administration, or the myriad other issues that occupy a governor. His sole passion has been the social issues that divide Americans–and even in the Hoosier heartland, most people do not agree with his positions on those issues. So he’s trying to “re-invent” himself as a softer, gentler Mike Pence.

When someone walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…..he’s a duck. When someone has an uninterrupted history of ideological extremism, he’s an extremist.



Doubling Down

The Chair of the National Republican Party pooh-poohs the notion that his party is waging a war on women–next, he says, the Democrats will accuse the GOP of a war on caterpillars. How silly, how over-the-top! Just another one of those politically-motivated charges that are thrown around during a campaign season.

At virtually the same time Priebus (or whatever his name is) was comparing women to caterpillars (okay–maybe that wasn’t his intent), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (yes, that Scott Walker) was signing a new law –passed on a straight party-line vote–repealing his state’s 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act.

The Equal Pay Enforcement Act  made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court, by allowing plaintiffs to bring suit in state courts. Without it, federal courts are the only proper venue for such complaints. State courts, as lawyers all know, are less costly and more accessible, and typically resolve cases more quickly.

This little skirmish is typical of the tactics being used to circumscribe women’s rights. There was no outright reversal of a right–just a measure making it much more difficult to assert that right. This is the same approach being used by most of the anti-abortion measures that have sprouted like dandelions since the 2010 elections swept Republicans into office: the Supreme Court may say they can’t impose an outright ban, but they can bury clinics in a blizzard of medically unnecessary regulations that make it impossible to operate. They can “protect” poor women who clearly don’t know what they want by enacting “informed consent” provisions more burdensome than those required for major, life-threatening surgeries.

Contraception? Well, God’s Own Party has tried to permit your employer to decide whether your insurance should cover birth control, and the party has made it very clear that given the power, it would get rid of Planned Parenthood.

No war?

The troops are marching down the Trans-vaginal Highway as we speak…..