Nel's New Day

March 7, 2017

Wear Red!

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Yesterday, the Senate voted to remove President Obama’s executive order Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. With a party line of 49 to 48, three senators didn’t vote: Flake (AZ), Isakson, (GA), and Sullivan (AK). Five women—Capito (WV), Collins (ME), Ernst (IA), Fischer (NE), and Murkowski (AK)—voted against women’s rights. Recently, Kellyanne Conway, Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) counselor, said that feminists hate powerful women. She’s wrong: feminists hate the actions of powerful women in keeping all women from having rights.

Companies bidding on federal contracts worth $500,000 or more will not need to disclose their history of federal labor or civil rights laws violations of workplace safety, minimum wages, and overtime laws. Companies with contracts of $1 million of over can force employees into arbitration for claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other discrimination. Wrongdoings can’t be publicized by keeping the claims out of court and refusing to allow employees to tell anyone else, even in the case of sexual harassment and assault. Workers reporting discrimination or harassment are sent to private proceedings arbitrated by people chosen and paid for by employers. Proceedings, filings, and decisions are secret.

The GOP repeal of President Obama’s regulations guarantees that workers, especially women who are in the majority of low-wage jobs, lose their “day in court” just by taking a job. People cannot regain their rights until Congress passes a law to reinstate their protections.

A report from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shows what women have lost.

Action: Call your senator (202-224-3121) and say either thank you for voting against the bill—as I will in Oregon—or say that you are disappointed because the senator voted for H.J. Res. 37 that significantly harms victims of sexual harassment and workers.  

Other activities: Women are striking, but 9thers cannot because they can lose their jobs, cause serious problems for others, or suffer abuse in their own homes. Simple protests are not spending money except at small, women- and minority-owned businesses. Another action of solidarity for A Day without a Woman is to wear red.  

Male allies can care for children, do housework, and talk with workplace decisionmakers about family-friendly policies such as paid leave or flexible scheduling.

Yesterday Republicans unrolled its new repeal attack on the Affordable Care Act that includes defunding Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the nation annually serving 2.5 million women, men, and adolescents at its 650 health center. Nearly 80% of these people had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level and prevents an estimated 579,000 unintended pregnancies each year. In 2016, 26% of patients at a Planned Parenthood site said it was the only place they could go for the services they required. Abortions comprise only three percent of its services, and taxpayer money pays for absolutely none of these. Videos used by Republicans in their attacks on Planned Parenthood were proved to be bogus, and even VP Mike Pence couldn’t find any wrongdoing in his state of Indiana.

Defunding” is a misnomer because Planned Parenthood gets paid for its work. The only month that the organization receives is reimbursement for non-abortion health services such as birth control, Pap smears, breast exams, and STI tests, through Medicaid and the Title X family planning program. The bill only prevents Medicaid from working with Planned Parenthood. People could no longer choose Planned Parenthood for health care. Their clinics work like very other health care provider, including hospitals in obtaining reimbursement. People would no longer be allowed to choose Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. In many cases, Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive reimbursements for all the costs of their services.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lied when he said that there are 20 federal community health centers for every Planned Parenthood. This would only be true by counting every dentists’ offices, homeless shelters, food banks, mental health clinics and cosmetic surgeons as “community health services.” The truth is that only qualified health centers number only one-third of Planned Parenthood clinics, and the wait is twice the time–a death sentence for the need for immediate care.

Doubters need to know that Resistance does work, no matter how small. Andrew Puzder, a major violator in sexual harassment, discrimination, and wage violations, won’t be labor secretary. Women who protested the loss of their health care at town hall meetings made GOP members of Congress so nervous that seven Republican senators are no longer strong supporters of repealing health care. One North Carolina school district need to cancel classes for tomorrow because of female teachers’ plans to strike.

The reason for a strike on International Women’s Day is to show how much women contribute to the work force. Visibility makes a huge difference, as shown by the women’s marches, estimated at almost four million people, on the day after DDT’s inauguration.

Actions on International Women’s Day are taking place around the world, for example one in London on budget day. The English movement has adopted the broom as a symbol because together the bristles are strong. Nina Lopez, a coordinator for the Global Women’s Strike, said:

“International Women’s Day feels very different this year. Women are spearheading a global movement for change–this is feminism of the 99%. It’s not just about breaking through the glass ceiling or getting in the boardroom, it’s about recognizing the value of caring and unpaid work. Women throughout the world are doing double the work [of men] because the majority do the work of the home, yet they are still being paid less. That has to end.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is closing the Tower Bridge for the women’s march because, he said, it is “unacceptable that in 2017 in London, the most progressive city in the world, your gender can still determine how much you get paid.” He encouraged men and boys to join the march.

Men, in case you think that tomorrow is a sexist event, you have an International Men’s Day on November 19. I’m curious what missing rights you would want.

Some people object to strikes, boycotts, or other actions that aren’t “ladylike.” A letter to an Oregon newspaper objected to “pussy hats” but didn’t protest DDT’s blatant comments about “grabbing [women] by the pussy.” Without protests, however, women’s work is largely invisible and women’s rights are non-existent. In the home, women have more chores and child care duties than men, and at work women are more likely to have tasks that men don’t want to do. Women get paid less or nothing for their extra efforts while their work is taken for granted. A popular book a few years ago was Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, purporting to show how women can gain ground. Most women who “lean in,” however, just get fired from their jobs. Significant social change doesn’t come without protests—and that includes strikes and boycotts.

Women in the United States by the numbers:

  • 59 countries have had female presidents or prime ministers in the past century, but not the United States.
  • 20 percent of the seats in Congress are held by women, compared to 30 percent in Europe.
  • 10 percent of U.S. mutual fund managers are female, compared to 20 percent elsewhere.
  • 19 percent of women in the U.S. are self-made, compared to 50 percent in Asia.
  • 1 year ago the U.S. Army denied burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery to female World War II pilots because they had never been true soldiers. A second act of Congress was required to restore their rights—again.

In response to DDT’s boast about sexually assaulting women with impunity, Michelle Obama said:

“It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how . . . even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.”

In the last presidential election, 53 percent of white women voted for DDT and many of them supported Republicans. They are now amazed that the GOP plans to take away their health insurance. It’s time for women to wake up and see what they are losing by voting for people who promise to take away women’s rights.

International Women’s Day Message: Wear red, down tools, and buy local.

March 8, 2016

International Women’s Day: U.S. Behind in Gender Parity

Today is International Women’s Day. Around the world, people, countries, and organizations celebrate progress for women’s parity and advocate for change to improve gender equality and women’s rights. Although the UN declared this official commemoration only 40 years ago, its seeds came on March 8, 1857, when garment workers marched and picketed in New York City, demanding a ten-hour day, better working conditions, and equal rights for women. The police broke up the march, and the next march occurred 51 years later when women in needle trades honored the 1857 march by demanding the vote and an end to sweatshops and child labor.

A tradition of women’s unions came after the Civil War when widowhood and poverty forced women into the labor force, much to the hostility of men who refused to allow women into their unions. Women cigar makers, umbrella sewers, printers, tailoresses, and laundresses formed unions. The most famous union came from clothing workers, especially the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, founded about 1900. At that time, women worked in horrible conditions with no overtime pay and were fined for anything—talking, singing, etc. The formation of the National Women’s Trade Union League in 1903 led to strikes against two companies, one of them the Triangle Waist Company where 146 people died in a fire after being trapped by locked doors. Judges ruled against women who were clubbed by police while picketing, claiming that they were “on strike against God.”

The first National Women’s Day in the United States was February 28, 1909 after a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed the commemoration of the U.S. demonstrations on March 8 to honor working women throughout the world. By 1913, when Russia first celebrated Women’s Day, countries settled on March 8 for the date of International Women’s Day. Participation of Russian women textile workers in a mass strike in 1917 helped spark the Russian Revolution. By 1965, the USSR declared Women’s Day as a non-working day, and IWD is an official holiday in 15 countries including China, Ukraine and Vietnam.. In China, women began celebrating in 1924 with a strong women’s movement in the Communist party.

Remarkable working women activists in the United States include Mother Jones, Ella Reeve Bloor, Kate Mullaney, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. At the age of 90, Jones terrorized scabs in the 1919 steel strike. Joining these women were untold numbers of unnamed women who knew that they needed to stand and work together to keep from being individually destroyed. Among these were the women in the Lawrence textile strike who carried picket signs reading “We want Bread and Roses, too.” From this demand for a living wage with a decent and human life came James Oppenheim’s song “Bread and Roses”:

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of, the day,

A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray

Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses

For the people hear us singing, Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

 

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.

The rising of the women means the rising of the race,

No more the drudge and idler that toil where one reposes

But a sharing of life’s glories, Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity,” calling for complete gender equality and the closing of the gender gap in social, economic, political, and other situations. Unlike countries such as Afghanistan and China, the United States does not formally recognize March 8 by giving time off work.

Women in the U.S. lack the same equality as women in many other countries. A survey regarding the best countries for women to live in shows the United States to be 13th. Rankings were determined by five factors: concern for human rights, gender equality, income equality, safety, and progressiveness. The top seven in ranking are mostly European nations with Denmark rated #1 for its earnings-related daycare system and flexible parental leave policies. Sweden is the top in gender equality with women politicians taken half the positions in the Swedish Parliament, education in sexism beginning in kindergarten, and freed education for all.

Canada falls in third place with its quality of health, workplace opportunities, and freedom from violence. Canadian women have access to contraception, and 33 percent of federally appointed judges are women. In the United States, about one-third of the courts—including the Supreme Court—are women.

I repeat: the United States is 13th in ranking.

Other ways in which U.S. women’s equality falls behind that in other countries:

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): Only seven of the 193 member states of the UN have not ratified this “international bill of rights for women” to end discrimination, establish equality, and fight against violence—Iran, Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of CEDAW, adopted by the UN in 1979; the issue has never even gotten to the Senate floor for a vote.

Guaranteed paid leave for mothers of newborns: Only nine countries in the world do not provide this benefit—Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga. Five of these countries—but not the United States—do provide paid maternity leave for public sector workers. Also, 49 percent of countries, including Saudi Arabia, provide paid leave to both parents.

Wage equality: Of 142 countries, the United States ranks 65th in pay equality for similar work. Countries where women are better off include the United Arab Emirates, the Kyrgyz Republic, Egypt, Iceland, Japan, Botswana, Honduras, and Ethiopia. The top five are Burundi, Mongolia, Qatar, Thailand, and Malaysia. In 2013, women who worked full-time, were paid 78 cents for every dollar earned on average by men. Black women made 64 cents, and Latinas made 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

Congress: The United States now has more women in Congress than ever—104 of 535 seats. That’s 19.5 percent at a time when women make up 51 percent of the population. This nation ranks in the bottom half of the world’s national parliaments—72nd of 139 spots with almost 50 ties in the 190 countries, in female population.

Female Head of State: During the past 50 year, 52 other countries—including India for 21 years—have had women leading the country. Other countries with women in charge include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Liberia and China.

Constitutions: Of the 197 constitutions throughout the world, 165—about 84 percent—explicitly guarantee gender equality. But not the U.S. Constitution. Some people have claimed that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment may protect women, but at least one Supreme Court justice—Antonin Scalia—has said that women are not protected by the nation’s constitution. Since the U.S. drafted the post-World War II Japanese constitution, which included equal rights for women, women in Japan have more rights than those in the United States. The Equal Rights Amendment, meant to give women in this nation the protections in other countries, was first introduced to Congress in 1923. Both houses of Congress passed it in 1972, but by the 1982 deadline it fell short of the 38 states necessary for ratification by three states.

One reason for women’s oppression comes from female legislators who oppose equal rights. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Jackie Black (R-TN) work in the U.S. House to keep women from having reproductive rights, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted against giving women equal pay in the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Phyllis Schafley, leader of the Eagle Forum, was instrumental in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment.

In my beloved state of Oregon, House members decided to replace its two statues in the U.S. Capitol’s Statutory Hall. After a popular vote from the people, a commission selected Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe and Abigail Scott Duniway, an activist largely instrumental in gaining women’s suffrage in Oregon before a federal amendment mandated women’s right to vote. Yet an overwhelming House vote chose Mark Hatfield instead of Duniway because the bill’s sponsor was mentored by the long-time influential GOP senator. All the 20 women in the Oregon House—one-third of the chamber—voted against Duniway except one who was excused. At this time, only ten women—ten percent of the total—are represented in Statutory Hall. Just one small example of many showing how females continue to be disadvantaged because many women refuse to support gender equality.

March 8, 2014

Gender Inequality on IWD

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM
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Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The Socialist Party of America began this event over 100 years ago, when it created a National Women’s Committee to recruit women. The committee’s first action was to declare the last Sunday in February as Women’s Day. Two movements, feminist and socialist, came together to fight for women’s social, economic, and political equality.

In a speech at that first celebration in 1909, Theresa Malkiel pointed out, “Though doing a man’s work in the shop and the woman’s in the home, her compensation amounts to but half of the man’s wage. Though being the bearer, educator, and often supporter of the future generation, she remains still powerless to have a say regarding its welfare.” After 105 years, women in the United States now are paid a little over three-fourth of men’s wages, and no country in the world has equal wages for men and women.

A separate day was instituted for women because anti-women sentiment in labor organizations discouraged them from attending the labor-oriented May Day celebrations. Although socialists weren’t totally accepting of female participation, they fought for women’s suffrage. The party’s presidential candidate, Eugene V. Deb, firmly believed in women’s eventual defeat of “human oppression.”

Socialist women delegates took the idea of Women’s Day to the 1910 Copenhagen meeting, and the celebration went international for women’s right to vote. European reformers from the elite and middle-class wanted women’s voting rights based on property ownership, and the efforts of an International Women’s Day (IWD) worked to have political participation by all classes.

March 8 became the permanent date of IWD by 1913. Around the world, husbands were expected to stay with the children while women marched. In Russia, a mass protest on March 8, 1917, may have started the Bolshevik Revolution. March 8, 1975 was the beginning of the Family Code, which made “the equal rights and duties of both partners” the official, legal basis of marriage.

In the United States, women at Berkeley revived the tradition in the 1970s, leading to the designation of March as National Women’s History Month. Gone, however, is the militant activism of the original IWD. Part of this ennui may have resulted from the devastating effect during the 21st century on women’s rights as more and more conservatives took control of making laws—or preventing them. George W. Bush’s 2003 war eradicated women’s rights in Iraq, and religious fundamentalists drastically increased  government control over women in the United States. This year, the Conservative Political Action Conference meets on the weekend of IWD.

While some men complain about a day just for the “ladies,” these statistics show why women around the world need change:

 

  • Women are 40 percent of the paid labor force but have one percent of its wealth.
  • One in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime.
  • 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by a woman’s intimate partner.
  • Over 130 million women living in the world today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. That means that girls have either all or part of their clitoris and inner and outer labia sliced off without anesthesia. Sometimes part of their vaginas are also sewn up.
  • Around 14 million girls, some as young as eight years old, will be married in 2014.
  • Of the estimated 1.2 million children trafficked into slavery every year, 80 percent are girls.
  • Every 90 seconds, one woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, most of which are preventable.
  • Women make up 80 percent of all refugees and displaced people.
  • Only 1 in 13 participants of peace negotiations since 1992 have been women.
  • Women account for 70 percent of the population living in absolute poverty (on less than $1.00 a day).
  • Women comprise 80 percent of victims of hand-held weapons in war.
  • Women are legally bound to obey their husbands in at least ten countries.
  • Only 76 countries have legislation that specifically addresses domestic violence, and only 57 of these include sexual abuse.
  • 128 of 143 countries had some sort of sex-based legal differentiation in 2013, for example, women needing their husbands’ consent to work in some countries.
  • Women spend at least twice as much time as men do on unpaid housework and care work.
  • Almost 40 percent of people think that men should have more rights to jobs than women if jobs are scarce.
  • Women fill only 24 percent of senior management roles.

 

One of the problems in communicating world-wide gender inequality may come from the predominance of men in the media:

 

  • Men own the 20 most-visited online news sites.
  • Male opinion-page writers outnumber women four to one at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
  • White men host all but one of the Sunday morning talk shows.
  • Women comprise only 14 percent of those interviewed and 29 percent of roundtable guests on Sunday TV talk shows.
  • Men outnumber women 3 to 1 as guests on major television broadcasts in the United States.
  • Women own less than 7 percent of our nation’s TV and radio stations.

 

Even the president of the United States ignores girls.  His five-year, $200-million initiative is intended to improve only opportunities of minority boys and young men. There is no mention of girls who experience problems with law enforcement, courts, schools, and home environment. Black girls experience sexual violence at higher rates than white and Latina girls and make up over a third of girls in juvenile detention.  Just like minority males, black girls are often viewed as threatening or disruptive in schools, making them subject to unequal law enforcement responses.

In the United States, women have been imprisoned at almost twice the rate of men as the female population behind bars has grown by more than 800 percent in the last few decades. Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to be in prison, and Latina women are almost 70 percent more likely to be there than white women.

Minority girls and women need economic opportunities as well as their male counterparts, perhaps more because they may be the sole caretakers for children. In 2011, unemployment for both black teenage boys and girls had similar rates, yet between 2009 and 2011, when unemployment rates fell for black men, it rose for black women. In media household wealth, single black and Latina women have $100 and $120 while single black men have $7,900 and single white women and men have $41,500 and $43,800 respectively. Media wealth drops to $0 for black and Latina single women with children.

The new presidential policy follows philanthropic efforts for the past decade. Initiatives targeting black and Latino boys have collected $100 million while those for black and Latina girls have 1.0 percent of that, less than $1 million.

In her speech yesterday at the United Nations, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that women’s equality “remains the great unfinished business of the 21st century.” She asked that “women and girls and the cause of gender equality” be the core of the UN’s agenda to promote development around the world. I would ask the United States for the same efforts in promoting gender equality, erasing the draconian laws that make women second class citizens in this country and enacting new laws to provide equality for the 50 percent of citizens who are rendered unequal by the nation’s laws and policies.

The UN has launched the “He for She” campaign, urging men to take a stand for the belief that human rights for girls and women are a duty of all. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Where men and women have equal rights, societies prosper.”

A new World Bank report on women in the work world shows that gender economic inequality remains a serious problem. The marketplace is not going to fix things. The report recommends government involvement through a “gender assessment” in labor market and growth diagnostics and then enact a wide range of policies that advance gender equity, from improved child care and family leave policies to more female-friendly education programs.

As Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women said, “As you know, women hold up half of the sky. We call on all men also, stand up and hold up half of their part of the sky.”

March 10, 2013

Women Can Change the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:05 PM
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Those of you who read my blog occasionally may have noticed that there have been no recent additions. On Wednesday, February 27, my almost-80-going-on-under-60 partner had a hip replacement in a hospital that is a two-hour drive from our home. Because she had already had bilateral knee replacement and back surgery with no problems except excruciating pain, we anticipated the same ease back into daily life. Boy, were we surprised!

The good news is that the hip is doing fine. The other part of it is that a side effect of the surgery was severe respiratory distress and low oxygen level in her blood, causing her to be moved from the Surgical Wing of the hospital to something called Intermediate Care Unit (ICU). Science is not my strong suit, but I’ve learned that the blood needs an optimum level of hemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body.

After four days in the hospital—including the day of her surgery—my partner was released, and we drove home, happy about getting on with the healing process. No such luck. After the breathing grew worse, we trooped to the Emergency Room in our small-town hospital and found her hemoglobin was about half the bottom of optimum level; she got a blood transfusion the next day. Now lungs are fine, hemoglobin count is up, and she’s on the mend.

I’m writing about her problems because March 8, last Friday, was International Women’s Day. During the past ten days, we have benefited from the care of a myriad of wonderful women—Peggi, the fabulous nurse in the Surgical Unit who knew there was something was wrong with her when others didn’t worry; Julie and Harvest, the nurses in ICU who were always there, delivering medications almost before we asked for them; Susan, Marcie, and the other aides and people whose job descriptions I don’t even know who were just fantastic. (I do need to mention Gabe, the night nurse, who was wonderfully sensitive to our needs and absolutely loves his new three-week-old daughter.)

Once we got home, more women gave us more support: Lee, who sent cards and brought food and kept my partner company; Jess, who made the scrumptious healing Jewish chicken soup; her partner, Jean, who willingly comes over to stay with my partner whenever she was called; our doctor friend Joan, who gave invaluable advice in advocating for my partner and told me what to find out to help my partner; Beth, who fixes fabulous soup and cornbread; Donna, who started out as a dog/cat/house sitter and then became a friend, ordering flowers from Hawaii; Jan, who left a card, a chocolate cake, and flowers for us; Carol, who sent what must be the funniest get-well card I’ve ever seen and added invaluable medical information to what Joan provided us.

Then there were Kathy, who saw her through the transfusion; Deb, who gently took her blood; Josephina, who got information to me quickly, and PT Karen, who has seen us through other physical therapy and will make sure that my partner will soon be walking the beach with me. Other women near and far called us and sent emails of support—Mary, Nancy, Ann, Taylor, Lynn, Kay, Alice, Jane, etc. (It’s dangerous to put in these names because I may forget some of the most important ones! If so, know that I appreciate all of you! And I can’t skip Robert, who went above and beyond to help us.)

International Women’s Day is about the empowerment of women, vital to changing the world, and these women are some of those who have made the world a better place. They are all resilient and talented—and unfailingly willing to help those around them.

Annie-Rose Strasser and Tara Culp-Ressler listed ways in which increased support for women could make the world much better: 

An increase in women’s participation in the workforce would vastly improve the global economy: According to one study, the U.S. overall GDP would rise by 5 percent with this increase. In Japan, it would go up by 9 percent. Education is vital to this increase: the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that each country’s GDP grows by 3 percent for every additional 10 percent of girls going to school.

Both companies and women would benefit with women in leadership positions: Although 36 percent of U.S. companies currently don’t have a single woman on their boards of directors, those with women on their boards outperformed those with all-male boards by 26 percent.

More politically-involvement women would mean better policies for the poor: When women aren’t outnumbered by men, they speak up more for the needs of the vulnerable and advocate for the social safety net. In one experiment that asked groups to set the threshold for public assistance, the groups with fewer women decided on a minimum income of about $21,600 per year for a family of four–close to the United States’ current federal poverty level, but in the groups in which women made up 60 to 80 percent, they advocated for as much as $31,000. In female-dominated groups, women spoke up as much as men, encountered less hostility from their peers, and ultimately influenced their male counterparts to make more generous economic policy choices.

Families would thrive with higher-paid women: The average pay disparity in the United States is 77 cents for women on every dollar that men receive. A woman could feed a family of four for 37 years with the earnings she loses thanks to pay disparity. Economists believe that closing the gender pay gap would be the equivalent of “huge” economic stimulus, and that, in the United States alone, it could grow the economy by three or four percentage points.

If more women held political office, they’d advance more pro-women policies: Around the world, including the United States, women compose about 20 percent of lawmakers, meaning that they cannot represent women’s interests and influence male colleagues. Studies show that without enforcing quotas, voters elect, on average, only 12 percent women.

If women had more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) training, they could participate in the half-trillion-dollar global technology market:  Although the number of women is improving in legal and medical fields, a 2009 study of 121 countries found that women held only 29 percent of STEM researcher jobs. In the U.S., women are so far behind in STEM that the Obama administration has made it one of their priorities to encourage women to pursue science and technology careers.

Government corruption would shrink with more women holding political power: A growing body of research has correlated a greater number of female elected officials with less corruption of power though female leaders breaking up the “old boy’s club.”

One way in which women progressed last week was the renewal of the 19-year-old Violence against Women Act by the House after the Senate passed it 11 months ago. The vote on this, however, shows the GOP opposition to supporting women. During the GOP majority of the House in 2005, VAWA was passed with two Republicans voting “nay.”

In this year’s vote, 138 Republicans voted against VAWA, over half the 235 GOP House members, showing the anti-woman position that the GOP now takes. Male GOP senators followed the same pattern with 27 Republican males voting against VAWA, again over half the 45 GOP members of the Senate.

Despite their protestations, Republicans have banded together to oppose any rights and protections for women. It’s time for women to stop them: women can make the world better! We should make every day International Women’s Day.

[I may not be back for another few days, but with so much news these days, I’ll be blogging as soon as I can!]

March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day–We’re Still Losing

Today is International Women’s Day, a day not only to celebrate women’s accomplishments throughout history but also to look back to struggles and forward to what needs to be done to improve the lives and opportunities of women. During the 100+ years that countries have commemorated women on one day in early March and worked for our rights, we have come a long way in the United States— voting, owning property, controlling our bodies, etc. Yet domestic violence and rape are still rampant around the world, unmarried Saudi Arabia women are still subject to male guardianship, and female genital mutilation is still common. And in the United States we are losing our rights.

In 1945 the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right, the Charter of the United Nations, was signed in San Francisco.  Almost 70 years later, women still lack the same rights and opportunities as men. Many countries worked toward this equality after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which promotes women’s rights as human rights, in 1979.  President Jimmy Carter signed CEDAW in 1980, but the United States Congress refuses to ratify this document that calls for inclusion and equality of women in “all spheres of life.” Thirty-two years after Carter signed CEDAW, the United States is one of seven countries that has not ratified the treaty; the other six countries are Iran, Somalia, Naurau, Palau, Sudan and Tonga.

A tipping point comes when small changes build up to critical mass until one more addition changes everything, reversing the direction. The conservatives have initiated so many state and federal laws that we may have reached critical mass—the tipping point when we start fighting back. Now Republicans, including women, are getting very concerned about losing the women’s vote for their party in the upcoming election. In defending the GOP’s fixation on birth control, Ann Romney, wife of a Republican presidential candidate, said, “Do you know what women care about? Women care about jobs.”

Instead of castigating the Democrats, she should turn back to her own party. Last year, state legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, up from 950 in 2010. Of these provisions, 135 were enacted in 36 states, an increase from 89 in 2010. Of the 135 provisions, 68%—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services; the 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005. In contrast, the majority of the jobs bills enacted in the Republican-controlled states had the effect of lowering salaries, usually for women.

Ann Romney is right that women care about jobs, but women also care about restrictions on their bodies and reproductive rights as shown by protests across the country. When Virginia decided to require transvaginal ultrasounds for all women before they could get abortions, the women silently stood outside the state capitol, even when the SWAT team came up to arrest them. Despite the state backing down, requiring only abdominal ultrasounds, women are still angry.

Across the country, women legislators in Republican-controlled states are protesting. They’re introducing bills stopping vasectomies (because these prevent children from being born) and requiring mental and medical screenings (such as rectal exam and cardiac stress tests) for men who want prescriptions for such drugs as Viagra that supposedly cure erectile dysfunction.

Another case in which Republicans vote against women is the Violence against Women Act. After VAWA expired last November, the Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee held up its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, because not one of them would agree to vote the bill out of the committee. They supposedly objected to lesbians and undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse being covered under the bill. Ann Romney needs to know that women need safety as well as jobs.

Ann Romney has ignored the fact that Republicans have a history of voting against women and jobs. Every male senator voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act in 2009; it passed because three women Republican senators voted for the bill. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 stated that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck. Legislation was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the 180 days began with the first check a person received even if the person was not aware of any inequity for a long period of time.

The Republican senators have consistently blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which provides for equal pay for equal work, despite the House passing this act in 2009—before the conservatives took over.

Across the board, Republican-elected officials at all levels of government and their spokespeople and pundits on TV and radio continually display a lack of respect, civility, and in many cases outright hostility towards women. As long as they continue to do so, Republicans will have more and more trouble getting votes from women, a group that comprises more than half the voters in this country.

Conservatives have been increasingly discouraged about electing a Republican president because of the drawn-out primary. Now they believe this primary can hurt the chances for Republican representatives and senators. Conservatives should extend their worry to the conservatives’ consistently destructive behavior toward half the country’s population.

With their current policies of eliminating women’s rights and making decisions for women, the neo-cons may lose all the gains of the 2010 election. They won that election because they promised to improve the economy and get people jobs; all they have done since they were elected is to take rights away from women.

Jennifer Hofmann

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