Tag Archives: women’s rights

Another “Great Migration”?

It’s a truism that reasonable policymaking requires a familiarity with history, and the ability to apply the lessons of history to current issues. That’s one of the many reasons that the current Rightwing efforts to label a major part of American history as (that dreaded) “CRT”, and dispense with its study, is so misguided.

There are lessons to be learned–and legislators in several states (including Indiana) rather clearly haven’t learned them.

Even before the current efforts to eliminate America’s mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people from school textbooks, those texts glossed over the “Great Migration.” That’s a shame, because the legal and social realities that drove Black Southerners North should warn Red state legislators about the likely consequences of imposing disabilities on women.

A recent essay drew that parallel:

As soon as Black Americans had the ability and resources to leave the Deep South after the Civil War, they left…. More than six million Black Americans moved from the former Confederate states to the Civil War-era Union states between 1910 and 1970….

Jim Crow laws were America’s shameful version of apartheid, resulting in racial inequality and state-sanctioned terror.  Jim Crow laws restricted every aspect of life for Black Americans, making it nearly impossible for Blacks, or for that matter white Americans, to reach their human potential. But while whites suffered from the contagious disease of racism, they also benefited at the expense of their Black neighbors.

The same states that practiced the most pernicious forms of Jim Crow are also the states that today restrict the health care rights of women. The lesson of the Great Migration of Black Americans is that people can and arguably should vote with their feet.  Women — by the millions — must be at least contemplating leaving these states and moving to states where their rights are duly respected.

As of this week, 15 states have passed total bans on abortion since the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision. These 15 states do not include Georgia, which recently passed a ban after six weeks, but they do include Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho and Nebraska. The female population in these states is approximately 60 million.

The essay was written by Fred McKinney, a co-founder of BJM Solutions. BJM is described as “an economic consulting firm that conducts public and private research since 1999.” McKinney is also the emeritus director of the Peoples Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Quinnipiac University.

The essay echoed an argument I’ve made on this blog and in the book I recently co-authored on women’s progress: women will choose to attend universities, take jobs and raise families in states that respect their fundamental rights.

Legislatures passing these retrograde laws have failed to appreciate their inevitably negative economic impact.  Businesses understand that women’s choices–where to attend a university, where to accept a job– aren’t abstractions. They are a reality, and  employers  are highly likely to factor that reality into their own location decisions–decisions that are already heavily influenced by the availability of a talented and skilled workforce.

It won’t just be women who exercise their choice to settle in fairer states; there are plenty of men who share women’s political and medical concerns. And as the essay points out, the people leaving backward and restrictive states will largely be those who possess the greatest drive and skills, those who can most easily relocate.

There are also those recent travel advisories issued by the NAACP, Equality Florida, and the League of Latin American Citizens–precursors of other advisories affecting tourism. The economies of a number of states, not just Florida, are heavily dependent on tourism.

These realities will depress economic conditions in Red states like Indiana–an obvious consequence that our truly terrible and unrepresentative legislators have failed to comprehend.

The last Great Migration had an enormous impact on American society. As the Smithsonian Magazine explains:

By leaving, they would change the course of their lives and those of their children. They would become Richard Wright the novelist instead of Richard Wright the sharecropper. They would become John Coltrane, jazz musician instead of tailor; Bill Russell, NBA pioneer instead of paper mill worker; Zora Neale Hurston, beloved folklorist instead of maidservant. The children of the Great Migration would reshape professions that, had their families not left, may never have been open to them, from sports and music to literature and art: Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Jacob Lawrence, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, Prince, Michael Jackson, Shonda Rhimes, Venus and Serena Williams and countless others.

Women’s “great migration” is next.

Red states’ continued social and economic decline can be traced to legislatures that refuse to learn the lessons of history.

Shameless Promotion

Okay–I previously warned readers of this blog that yet another book was in process. This time, it’s a co-authored effort with Morton Marcus, who occasionally comments here. The book is titled: From Property to Partner: Women’s Progress and Political Resistance, and it’s available as either an e-book (6.50) or a paperback (15.00).

Bargains, I tell you……

Morton and I have been friends for 30+ years, and–while we don’t always agree–our disagreements tend to be both minor and civil, and both of us think women are people and equal rights are a good thing.

This is the 11th book I’ve written–and only the second with a co-author. Most have been published by academic and trade presses that did absolutely nothing to market them. (Granted, three or four of them were barely interesting to other academics, but there was no effort at marketing even those that I fondly believed merited a broader distribution.) Morton’s experience with publishing houses has been similar, so we’ve published this book on Amazon–keeping the price reasonable and access broadly available. Hint, hint.

This time, we’re marketing!

Our book–with individual chapters by each of us– considers the progress women have made over the last 100 or so years—from a status that essentially made females the “property” of their fathers or husbands, to today’s almost-equal legal parity with men. It outlines the bases upon which that progress rests, and the very real threat posed by the Rightwing culture warriors who see women’s progress as an existential threat to their continued patriarchal dominance.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the “Afterword,” to give you a taste of the contents:

We began this book as an exercise in social history. The decision in Dobbs was handed down a couple of months after we began researching the path women had taken—the path we’ve dubbed “from property to partner”—and it changed our focus for this effort. Dobbs was a frontal assault on human liberty. Yes, it was a “shot over the bow” of women’s right to self-determination, but it was much, much more. It represents a profoundly anti-liberty worldview that poses a danger to fundamental American constitutional values….

In order to look forward and to act with vigor, we need to understand the technologies and cultural changes that have empowered women over the past years. Now, women (and men of good will) must enlist the technological and cultural opportunities of our times to issue a call to arms. This effort, this manifesto if you will, is intended to assist in a marshaling of building blocks for the critically-necessary program to stem the tide of reaction, to regain what we have already lost, and to prevent the further erosion of women’s personal autonomy. It is the time for all of us to ask, “What else we are at risk of losing?”

So–here’s my shameless plea, and my “elevator speech.”

If you are a regular reader of this blog and feel that its contribution to the current national discourse is worthwhile–buy this book!

If–like Morton–you believe that data “tells the tale” and that an analysis of credible and accurate facts and figures confirms and documents both persistent problems and progress to date–buy this book!

If–like yours truly–you are deeply worried about the culture warriors’ efforts to return women to a subservient status, and interested in the religious and historical roots of their paternalistic backlash–buy this book!

If you want to feel better about the prospects for women’s continued emancipation –buy this book!

And if you do buy it, and after reading it decide that you like it–tell your friends!

We’ll really appreciate it!

I will now return this blog to its usual whining and ranting…..


Oh, Indiana…

I recently read that Indiana’s legislative overlords are taking time out from their attacks on women and trans children, and deigning to address an actual issue–the health of Hoosier citizens.

I haven’t been following those health measures, and to be honest, I lack the background to properly evaluate them in any case, so I thought I’d pose a question to my new research assistant, otherwise known as ChatGPT.

Here’s what I asked:

Please locate Indiana’s relative performance in health related areas, especially drug and alcohol abuse rates, infant mortality, smoking statistics, suicides, life expectancy, and other wellness markers like mental health.

Here’s what I got:

 Sure, here is some information on Indiana’s relative performance in health-related areas:

Drug and alcohol abuse rates: According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Indiana has higher than average rates of substance abuse, particularly with regard to prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids. In 2019, Indiana had the 9th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States, with a rate of 27.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

Infant mortality: Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, with a rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Smoking statistics: Indiana has one of the highest rates of smoking in the United States, with an adult smoking rate of 21.1% in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 14.0%.

Suicides: Indiana has an above-average rate of suicide, with a rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 13.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

Life expectancy: Indiana’s life expectancy is slightly lower than the national average, at 76.7 years in 2019 compared to the national average of 77.3 years.

Mental health: Indiana has lower than average rates of mental health care access and high rates of mental illness. According to Mental Health America’s 2021 report, Indiana ranks 45th out of all states and the District of Columbia in terms of overall access to mental health care. Additionally, Indiana has the 5th highest rate of adult mental illness in the United States.

It’s worth noting that these rankings and statistics are subject to change over time and may vary depending on the specific sources and data used.

You might think that–given the sad state of Hoosiers’ health–healthcare might take priority over efforts to stymie DEI investing and destroy the state’s public schools–but of course, this is Indiana….Even a superficial look at General Assembly priorities is enough to demonstrate lawmakers’ utter disregard for public health.

In the wake of Dobbs, Indiana lawmakers couldn’t wait to ban abortion–despite overwhelming evidence that reproductive care–including abortion–is an essential element of women’s healthcare.

Then, of course, there’s the legislature’s ongoing love affair with guns, despite polling showing that a majority of Hoosiers (including a majority of NRA members) support additional regulation.

Perhaps the most direct evidence of our legislature’s lack of concern for the health of their constituents was this session’s mean-spirited denial of appropriate health care to trans children. I went back to ChatGPT for an explanation of the health consequences involved.

Denying appropriate medical care to transgender young people can have serious medical and emotional consequences. Here are some of the potential outcomes:

Delayed or absent puberty: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may not undergo puberty at the same time as their peers, or may not undergo puberty at all. This can lead to social isolation, low self-esteem, and feelings of dysphoria.

Increased risk of mental health problems: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems as a result of the distress caused by their physical dysphoria.

Increased risk of suicide: Studies have shown that transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care have a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Increased risk of physical health problems: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may be at increased risk of physical health problems related to their gender dysphoria, such as urinary tract infections or other complications from avoiding the use of restrooms that do not match their gender identity.

Reduced life expectancy: Transgender people who are denied appropriate medical care may have reduced life expectancy due to the physical and mental health problems they experience as a result of their gender dysphoria.

Overall, denying appropriate medical care to transgender young people can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. It is important for healthcare providers and society as a whole to recognize and respect the healthcare needs of transgender youth, and to provide them with the necessary medical care and support to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our legislative culture warriors don’t care.





Who’s Winning The War?

The title doesn’t refer to the Ukraine versus Russia war–instead, I want to talk about a far more protracted conflict: America’s culture war.

A few days ago, I shared my opinion that culture will ultimately overwhelm politics. A few days after that, a Washington Post column by Eugene Robinson highlighted a relevant University of Chicago survey of that culture. It appears–and the op-ed is titled–that “wokeness is winning.”

“Wokeness” is winning, according to an illuminating new poll that should — but probably won’t — make Republican politicians wary of hitching their wagon to the anger-fueled culture wars.

The survey — conducted this month by the nonpartisan research institute NORC at the University of Chicago, with funding from the Wall Street Journal — found that on several hot-button issues related to “wokeness”, substantial majorities of Americans believe our progress toward inclusion and diversity is on the right track.

Given the ferocity of current attacks on trans people, it was comforting to learn that 56% of respondents thought that social acceptance of people who are transgender, “has been about right” or “has not gone far enough.”  The opposing view– that we have “gone too far” in accepting transgender people–was held by 43 percent of those surveyed. 

And as Robinson noted, the results just got “more woke” from there.

On “promoting equality between men and women,” 86 percent took the woke “about right” or “not gone far enough” positions, as opposed to 12 percent who espoused the anti-woke “gone too far” view. On “accepting people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” the poll found respondents to be 69 percent woke versus 29 percent anti-woke. On “businesses taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity,” woke beat anti-woke, 70 percent to 28 percent. And on “schools and universities taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity,” wokeness ruled once again, 67 percent to 30 percent.

Even on the subject of pronouns, which GOP demagogues have sought to shift from the grammatical realm to the political, 58 percent of respondents were neutral or favorable toward the practice of specifying “he/him, she/her or they/them” in emails, on social media or in conversations; 42 percent were unfavorable. And on the narrower question of “being asked” to address someone with gender-neutral pronouns such as “they/them,” those polled were evenly divided.

When the survey asked about the GOP’s current effort to ban “inappropriate” materials from the nation’s classrooms, the results were gratifying: 61 percent of respondents  were concerned that “some schools may ban books and censor topics that are educationally important.”  Only 36 percent worried that “some schools may teach books and topics that some students or their parents feel are inappropriate or offensive.”

Of course, 36% is still a troubling number, especially since these are the people most likely to be making noise and challenging educational choices. As Robinson notes, the poll results are unlikely to deter MAGA activists from “hectoring school boards to yank classics such as Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” from library shelves.”

And don’t get me started about the parents who got a Florida school principal fired because a teacher in the school showed students “pornography”–aka Michelangelo’s David.

The least surprising finding of the survey was its confirmation of the partisan divide– a  divide Robinson characterized as stark.

Seventy-five percent of respondents who identified as Republicans said we have “gone too far” in accepting transgender people, as opposed to just 15 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independent voters. Majorities of Republicans also took the “gone too far” position on gay, lesbian and bisexual acceptance, and on promoting diversity in businesses, schools and universities — versus minorities of Democrats and independents who hold those views.

As other media have reported, the one area in which the survey showed less of a partisan divide was on the issue of gun control. It found 

“broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners….71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.”

Overall, the survey confirmed what most Americans understand: American citizens’ partisan affiliations are no longer based primarily on economics or policy preferences. Instead, they reflect profoundly different values, and contending perspectives on Americanism and the common good.

The good news is that Americans who are “woke”–who value inclusion and respect for individual rights– are in the majority. The bad news is that–thanks to gerrymandering and outmoded electoral structures– MAGA Republicans and White Christian Nationalists retain far more positions of authority than they should be entitled to hold in a democratic system, given their minority status.  

The silent majority has evolved, and it’s woke. Now its members need to get out the vote. 




It’s The Culture, Stupid!

During Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, the “ragin’ Cajun” hung a huge sign in campaign headquarters proclaiming: It’s the Economy, Stupid!

That approach, focusing upon economic issues, was evidently a winner at the time. Right now, despite considerable economic turmoil and growing economic unfairness (Gilded Age #2, anyone?), that sign should probably read “It’s the Culture, Stupid!”

In fact, when I read reports about the suicidal stupidity of lawmakers at both the federal and state levels, I remind myself that they are fighting a rearguard battle–that changes in the culture have been “baked in” and will sooner or later make them irrelevant.

I don’t mean to minimize the harm these self-identified “Christian soldiers” can do in the meantime, nor am I suggesting that those of us who are appalled by mean-spirited attacks on everything from trans children to accurate history should take a vacation from activism. But I do believe that cultural change will win the day, and that most people who despair–young people, especially– fail to recognize just how rapid and profound such change has been.

Those of us who are older–okay, a lot older–have seen immense shifts in our own lifetimes. When I delivered a “Last Lecture” at my university, back in 2015, I pointed out that I’d lived through the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the gay rights movement and truly explosive advances in technology, communication and transportation, all of which caused big shifts in public consciousness. Each shift has been accompanied by multiple less-remarked-upon, minor changes in our everyday lives. (Today you can wear jeans pretty much everywhere, and I haven’t seen a girdle in a very long time…)

What really brought the extent of cultural change home to me was research I’ve been doing for a book I’m co-authoring with Morton Marcus, who sometimes posts (usually sardonic) comments here. Morton and I have been friends for some thirty years, and our joint effort–titled “From Property to Partner”– traces women’s progress along that path. ( The book is in the last phase of copy-editing and will be available for purchase soon, at which time I will shamelessly urge you all to buy it.)

When women emerged from “barefoot and pregnant” status, we changed a number of cultural norms, and the extent of that change has been demonstrated in the reaction to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs. 

Jennifer Rubin was one of the many pundits pleasantly surprised by the unanticipated reaction to that first-ever withdrawal of a Constitutional right.

Who could have guessed that preserving access to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.

 A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

Unlike the many positions that divide Americans, support for reproductive rights is not limited to residents of Blue states. In  2018–before Dobbs— there were only seven states in which fewer than half of residents wanted abortion to be legal in most or all cases: South Dakota (42%), Utah (42%), Arkansas (43%), Oklahoma (45%), Idaho (49%), Mississippi (49%), and Tennessee (49%).

I don’t have access to surveys posing similar questions back in the 1950s, but I imagine the results would have been very different. (Not that women didn’t abort back then–they just didn’t abort safely. In my high school days, I was aware of at least two deaths of girls from botched terminations–as the saying goes, the law can’t prevent abortions, it can only prevent safe abortions.)

I’m sure the magnitude of the response to Dobbs came as a shock to the inhabitants of what I think of as “holdout communities”–the bubbles populated by men (and some women) determined to cling to the verities of a bygone society. Those folks need to brace themselves, because the culture has turned sour on plenty of their other pet issues.

And ultimately, culture prevails.