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Women (84)

Thursday, 18 October 2012 13:34

Binders Full of Women, and Two Women Bound

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You may have noticed that the Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, was absent from the “town hall” presidential debate at Hofstra University the other night. That’s because she was shackled to a chair in a nearby New York police facility, along with her running mate, Green Party vice president nominee Cheri Honkala. Their crime: attempting to get to the debate so Stein could participate in it. While Mitt Romney uttered the now-famous line that he was given “whole binders full of women” while seeking staff as newly-elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002, the real binders were handcuffs used to shackle these two women, who are mothers, activists and the Green Party’s presidential ticket for 2012.

Rumor in Washington, D.C., has it that House conservatives bent on dismantling the Violence Against Women Act believe they've succeeded by setting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose endgame. They figure, so it's said, that they can either force passage of the House version of VAWA -- a horrendous bill that fundamentally undermines the act's key programs -- or block passage altogether of a reauthorization of this life-saving legislation, in which case they would proceed to defund its programs in next year's federal budget.

by Adele M. Stan

At 87, Schlafly is still on the warpath, gracing any podium that will have her with a font of barbed quips, bad facts and bitter resentment.

On a damp spring evening in Washington, DC, a general in the Republican war on women was dispatched to deny its existence. "The real war on women," Phyllis Schlafly told a gathering of the Young America's Foundation at George Washington University, "is by the feminists who demean women who choose the career path of homemaker, and mislead young women into believing...that a job in the workforce will be more significant and rewarding than marriage and motherhood."

With that, all of the young women in the front row marched up the center aisle and the out of the room, holding protest signs with slogans like, "Stop Sexism," "Stop Bigotry," "Stop Homophobia."

"Oh, I'm so sorry you're not going to stay around and let me convince you that you're wrong," Schlafly said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

A 40-Year War

For all of the shouting about a Republican war on women, you'd think it was a bright, new, shiny phenomenon. But Schlafly's celebrity was born of her brutal and shameless tactics in that theater of war some 40 years ago, when she mobilized the fearful and bigoted against the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment which, but for her efforts, would likely be the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Today, at 87, Schlafly is still on the warpath, gracing any podium that will have her with a font of barbed quips, bad facts and bitter resentment of women who seek to change a social order that she herself navigated in its most unyielding form, with the help of no one, as she sees it, thank you very much.

"Let me tell you, I worked my way through college and got my college degree at a great university, Washington University of St. Louis, in 1944 -- no discrimination of any kind," Schlafly said. "I then went to the Harvard Graduate School and competed with all of the guys -- no discrimination whatsoever -- got my Harvard degree in 1945. And my mother got her bachelor's degree at a great co-ed university in 1920. So all those opportunities were out there before you all were born, and the feminists had absolutely nothing to do with it."

In truth, Schlafly would have been barred from entry to Harvard's undergraduate programs in 1945, as well as from its law school. And while she studied with the men (Harvard, under pressure from feminists, had just begun admitting women to some of its graduate programs), her degree was conferred not by Harvard, but by the women's college with which it was affiliated, Radcliffe. Schlafly also failed to mention that at the time her mother earned her degree, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which -- thanks to the efforts of first-wave feminists -- granted women the right to vote, had not yet been ratified.

For 45 minutes, Schlafly held her young charges in rapt attention, beginning with a prepared text typed on paper, but improvising as she moved through her remarks. She wore a crisp aqua linen-textured jacket with a dyed-to-match button-down, v-neck silk blouse that had little silk streamers at the top that she tied in a bow like a choker. Below the bow lay a heavy gold chain and a thick rope of pearls from which hung a three-inch gold cross. The left shoulder of her jacket was adorned, in the Washington fashion, with a gold brooch in the shape of an eagle, and closer to the collar, the jacket was pierced with a barely perceptible gold pin, smaller than a dime, in the shape of the bottom of a pair of baby's feet. (The anti-feminist organization founded by Schlafly is called the Eagle Forum; the tiny feet are a symbol of the anti-abortion movement.) Her face was framed by her trademark halo of an updo, with an immovable swirl of golden hair molded just above the forehead.

Origins of the War on Women

Friday, 20 April 2012 15:48

Vatican Orders Crackdown on 'Radical Feminist' US Nuns

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Not speaking out against abortion and gay marriage while being too supportive of health care reform draws criticism

- Common Dreams staff

An American archbishop has been appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the United State's largest organization of Catholic nuns, after the Vatican accused the group of promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

Based in Maryland, the Leadership Conference represents about 57,000 nuns and offers a wide range of services, from leadership training for women's religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues. Most troubling to the Vatican, it seems, were positions taken by the group concerning homosexuality and its support for the health care overhaul signed by President Obama. The Vatican also castigated the group for ignoring what the Church thinks are more "crucial" issues, like abortion and euthanasia.

Sister Beth Rindler of Detroit, who is part of the National Coalition of American Nuns as well as a member of the LCWR, told The Daily Beast she is shocked by the report. She believes it is a gender issue between the Vatican men and the American nuns. “The church in Rome believes in the patrimony of God. But we believe that God created men and women equally,” she said. “That’s where we clash.”

The New York Times, in an editorial today, said the nuns "clearly are caught in a classic crossfire of church doctrine, politics and hierarchical obedience."

*  *  *

The Christian Science Monitor: Vatican nun crackdown hits US group for 'radical feminist' ideas

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."

Monday, 16 April 2012 20:12

Meet ALEC's Equally Despicable Anti-Choice Cousin -- AUL

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Think the anti-choicers in statehouses around the country are coming up with abortion bans all by themselves? Think again.

By Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley

When statehouses across the country started passing abortion bans at the seemingly arbitrary threshold of 20 weeks, was it a mere coincidence? When the "right to know" bills that required mandatory ultrasounds -- sometimes transvaginal ones -- before abortions were introduced or passed, in state after state, from Virginia to Texas to Pennsylvania, was that a matter of chance?

Of course not: none of these trends were the product of diabolical mind-sync on the part of anti-choice legislators. Instead, these bills arise from the tradition of blueprint legislation -- the practice of borrowing bill prototypes or model bills from a central national entity and then adapting them for introduction in statehouses. The practice is used on both sides of the aisle, but is particularly insidious in the case of anti-choice bills, part of the "war on women"-- the campaign to erode Roe until it's all but nonexistent.

Blueprint legislation has come to light recently thanks to the spotlight on the right-wing, corporate American Legislative Exchange Council, and in particular ALEC's hand in the proliferation of dangerous "stand your ground" laws, like Florida's, and discriminatory voter ID legislation.

ALEC has taken a hit in recent days as progressive activists, including ColorofChange and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, have convinced major companies -- among them Mars, McDonald's, Wendy's, Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Intuit, plus the Gates Foundation -- to drop their affiliations with ALEC in light of the Trayvon Martin case.

Wednesday, 04 April 2012 15:21

At 11th Hour, Georgia Passes "Women As Livestock" Bill

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By Lauren Barbat

fter an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.

The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions, is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Commonly referred to as the "fetal pain bill" by Georgian Republicans and as the "women as livestock bill" by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to "deliver calves, dead or alive," then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.

The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an exemption for "medically futile" pregnancies or those in which the woman's life or health is threatened.

If this makes its seem like Rep. England and the rest of the representatives looked beyond their cows and pigs and recognized women as capable, full-thinking human beings, think again: HB 954 excludes a woman's "emotional or mental condition," which means women suffering from mental illness would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also ignores pregnant women who are suicidal and driven to inflict harm on themselves because of their unwanted pregnancy.

In order for a pregnancy to be considered "medically futile," the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is "incompatible with sustaining life after birth." The Georgia "fetal pain" bill also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. Given all this, the so-called compromise suddenly does not look like much of a bargain.

Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:51

The Fracking Frenzy's Impact on Women

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Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has generated widespread media attention this year. The process, which injects water and chemicals into the ground to release "natural" gas and oil from shale bedrock, has been shown to contribute signficantly to air and water pollution and has even been linked to earthquakes. But little has been reported on the ways in which fracking may have unique impacts on women. Chemicals used in fracking have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive health problems and there have been reports of rises in crimes against women in some fracking "boom" towns, which have attracted itinerant workers with few ties to the community.

Toxins in Fracking Process Linked to Breast Cancer

Not only do the chemical cocktail inserted into the ground been shown to contaminate groundwater and drinking water, but fracking fluid also picks up toxins on its trip down to the bedrock and back up again that had previously been safely locked away underground. Chemicals linked to cancer are present in nearly all of the steps of extraction -- in the fracking fluids, the release of radioactive and other hazardous materials from the shale, and in transportation and drilling related air pollution and contaminated water disposal.

Some reports indicate that more than 25 percent of the chemicals used in natural gas operations have been linked to cancer or mutations, although companies like Haliburton have lobbied hard to keep the public in the dark about the exact formula of fracking fluids. According to the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce, fracking companies used 95 products containing 13 different known and suspected carcinogens between 2005 and 2009 as part of the fracking fluid that is injected in the ground. These include naphthalene, benzene, and acrylamide. Benzene, which the U.S. EPA has classified as a Group A, human carcinogen, is released in the fracking process through air pollution and in the water contaminated by the drilling process. The Institute of Medicine released a report in December 2011 that links breast cancer to exposure to benzene.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 14:34

Republicans Are Blocking the Violence Against Women Act

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—By Adam Serwer

There are three reasons some Republicans are trying to block the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: Gays, immigrants, and Native Americans.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized twice since then, increased federal penalties for domestic violence and provided funding for groups and services that aid victims of domestic abuse. The bill hit the bipartisan sweet spot of being both tough on crime and oriented toward women's rights. Usually it's reauthorized without much fanfare. This time around, however, several Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), are putting up a fight. Despite the fact that the bill has several Republican sponsors, all eight GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee voted against the bill when the committee considered it last month.

"While this is a bipartisan effort in this Congress, it's certainly a tougher slog than most of us expected," says Lisalyn Jacobs, vice president for government relations at the women's rights advocacy group Legal Momentum.

In a speech before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, Grassley laid out his objections to the bill. Republicans' biggest qualms are about provisions that make federal grants to domestic violence organizations contingent on nondiscrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender victims; rules extending the authority of tribal courts over domestic violence matters; and a section that would provide more visas for abused undocumented women who agree to cooperate with law enforcement.

"I wish we could proceed in a consensus fashion again," Grassley said. "But there are provisions in the bill before us that have never been part of VAWA before. They're not consensus items." Grassley says he wants the reauthorization to pass—just without the parts he considers extraneous. Here's a quick breakdown of what has the GOP riled up.

Monday, 19 March 2012 02:39

Mockery: Women’s new weapon

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From a sex strike to satirical anti-Viagra bills, the war on reproductive rights has some responding with laughs

From a proposed sex strike to mock legislation restricting access to Viagra, women are coming up with increasingly creative ways to respond to attacks on reproductive rights. Many of them are relying on something ladies are often said to be without: a sense of humor.

In case you didn’t catch on, the sex strike is tongue-in-cheek. Annette Maxberry-Carrara, founder of Liberal Ladies Who Lunch — the group that proposed the “Access Denied” protest — tells me with a laugh, “We’re not looking at it as a literal strike.” But they are making a serious political statement. The event’s tagline reads, “If our reproductive choices are denied, so are yours.”

You would have to be profoundly tone deaf to not recognize the satire in recent bills proposed by female lawmakers that proclaim “every sperm is sacred” and restrict access to the blue pill. Last month, Oklahoma state Sen. Constance Johnson offered a bill in response to Senate Bill 1433 — which seriously and nonsatirically holds that a fetus at “every stage of development” has “all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state.” Her proposal states, “[A]ny action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

A handful of similar bills call for men to jump through hoops to obtain Viagra — a mandated cardiac stress test, a rectal exam, even being forced to watch a “horrific” video on the drug’s side effects. Some have managed to make a big statement without a bill: During a protest of Oklahoma’s Personhood measure, state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre stood in front of the state Capitol with a grin on her face and holding a sign reading, “If I wanted the government in my womb I’d fuck a senator.”

Monday, 12 March 2012 16:16

Why the War on Women?

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Remember when John Ashcroft put a drape over the bared breast of the “Spirit of Justice” statue at the Justice Department? The Republicans are now busy trying to cover their own political private parts after flashing a core part of their agenda – their war on women — at an inopportune time.

It’s a motley conservative crew that makes up the Misogynistic Army of the Right. There are those who both fear women and believe them inferior to men. Pining for patriarchy, they seek to subdue and oppress women. There are others carrying water for a health insurance industry eager to save money wherever it can. And others just play for any advantage over Democrats.

Birth control gives women more power over their bodies and their lives, making it harder to keep them in their place. Equal health care costs money. Insurance reimbursement rates (in both private and public sector plans) are intended to drive down utilization. Women are generally more responsible about their health than men, so there’s pressure to reimburse physicians less for treating women than men. Then there’s the anti-Washington, anti-Obama faction that simply condemns anything Democrats are for.

Conservatives have had great success at tuning their racist dog whistles. They’ve learned how to use code to appeal to racial bigots (“welfare Cadillacs,” “Willie Horton,” “Derek Bell,” “voter I.D.”). The conservative chorus is often out of tune when it comes to singing about the subjugation of women.

Regrettably, Democrats have failed to take advantage of the dissonance. Roe v. Wade marked a moment similar to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Oddly, after securing those victories, Democrats began running away from them. In their pursuit of the so-called “swing voters,” Democrats tried to avoid “polarizing” issues, that is, the important ones.

Republicans have been able to hide their antagonism toward women behind the abortion issue, an issue that scares many Democrats and their consultants. I’m not certain why. In Texas, for instance, one hears constantly that pro-choice candidates won’t do well with Catholic Hispanic voters, but I’ve never seen the issue have any influence on election outcomes.

Last year, a Republican state representative in Texas, Wayne Christian, confessed that he was engaged in a war on birth control. My colleagues and I clipped the interview and posted it to YouTube, where it has received a good number of hits at one source or another.

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