Thursday, July 22, 2010

Half the Sky

The latest volley in the so-called Gender War is a peaceable, even handed one, aimed at men by a man. Nicholas Kristof's column today makes the point why gender equality is necessary. "[M]en have typically benefited as women have gained greater equality." []

Kristof makes the point today that my father realized, and what made my father call himself a feminist, back in the seventies. Men do not want to witness their daughters and wives coming up against sexual harassment, pay inequity and inequality in the workplace.

While in this recession women are making up more of the labor force currently employed, they are paid substantially less--25 to up to 40%less-- than males in the same or comparable jobs. In households that are relying on this paycheck, that is a significant amount of money, which in turn means less discretionary spending money.

Before Kate Millett, Barbara Love and others picketed outside the New York Times in 1968 demanding that help wanted ads not be sex segregated, the jobs women could apply for were teachers, nurses, housekeepers, secretaries, stewardesses, waitresses. If women applied for a man's job, the employer could offer it to her, at a 25% pay reduction. Today, while job ads are not segregated, men still earn more, even if they are working in jobs that historically had been female ones.

Pay inequity is actually an holdover from when men were considered to be the primary breadwinners and head of households--this was actually a negotiating tactic for labor unions in the 1890s! If women are now the breadwinners, and head of households, shouldn't their pay be equitabloe to that of a man's?

In a working lifetime (40 years), men on average earn $431,000 more than a woman (Center for American Progress, via Kristof's article). This is very substantial, especially since it also impacts how much women earn towards social security and their pensions, and since women live longer. . .do the math: more elderly women live in poverty.

The Chinese have a saying: "Women hold up have the sky." We need everyone to work towards equality so we do not have a lopsided sky.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Critical Mass

Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today. The 13-6 vote pretty much along party lines, except that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined the majority Democrats.

Her confirmation by the Senate is expected early next month, then there will be three female justices--Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayer and Kagan- one third of the Supreme Court. And, this is very important, this one third proportion.

While women are not a monolith, and just being a woman does not make one a feminist, the fact that 33% of the Supreme Court Justices will be women is significant. Most political analysts say that when women make up 20-33% of any group including political bodies--than they have reached the critical mass needed to be a minority that is heard, and changes happen that include their perspective. The majority will not be able to overlook the women's different perspectives; these different perspectives will have to be taken in to account. It is at this point that the dominant perpsective becomes inclusive, and we are one step closer to equality in our liberal democracy.

In the article below, Justice Ginsberg discusses the issue:
See the Vanity Fair article:


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Before the fireworks, before you light the grill, or chill that beer take a moment to think about what today really stands for: the day that our founders signed the document that laid forth their grievances and call for independence. We,today, have truncated the list of grievances to "no taxation without representation." We also focus on the 2nd paragraph: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Liberty and equality are the two American values that we hold and cherish,, yet these are the two values that have been contested throughout our history. Today, we are still seeing the tension between individual liberty and our need for national security. Today, equality is still not a given for women, for lesbians and gay men, for minorities, for the poor.
Here are a few examples, a few grievances, if I may, in which equality is still not for all:
Women's inequality
* Women still do not earn the same as males in the same positions or comparable ones. (
* Women still do not have full control over their own reproductive health.
(, or more recently the debate on whether or not birth control is preventative medicine : or when women's lives are trumped by religious doctrine when they go to religiously affiliated hospitals: )
* victim of domestic violence with orders of protection are not guaranteed that the police will respond (see Gonzales v Castle Rock).
Lesbian and Gay inequality
* Gays and lesbians may serve in our military and die for our freedoms but they do not have their own freedom under Don't Ask Don't Tell; and coming to the Supreme Court soon the Westboro Baptist Church claim of freedom of expression to picket outside military funerals. . .
* The majority still thinks that they may reserve the civil and legal benefits and social recognition of marriage to those of the opposite sex ( see for over view of prop 8 case )
* In many states lesbians, gays, anyone who employers think are sexually othered may be legally fired or not hired ( See ) )
Minorities and inequality
* That minorities do not have the same freedoms one only has to look at NYC police practices of stop and frisking people of color
( or Arizona's new anti-immigration law.
The Poor and inequality
* The poor are treated as if they are the cause of their own poverty and punished. If they live in public housing they do not have 4th amendment rights. Minimum wage is not a living wage. The Personal Responsibility Act (Welfare Reform)requires mothers of children age 3 and above to work, yet there is no child care provision, the act also says that women who get said monies must not be sexually active, and the purpose of the act is to make poor women marriageable, because marriage cures poverty (NOT!).
And, of course, the recent Senate decisions not to extend unemployment insurance because that is just extending the economic recession.

So take a moment to re-read the Declaration of Independence

and think about liberty and equality before you chill the beer, light the grill and watch the fireworks.

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