Thursday, July 17, 2014

What We've Been Reading- July 18th

Nadine Gordimer, an acclaimed writer, past away on Sunday, July 13th. The Nobel Prize-winning author, was also known for her anti-apartheid activism. She was an inspiration in fighting for peace and equality, as reflected in her novels. "A Guest of Honour" (1970), the Booker Prize-winning "The Conservationist" (1974) and "July's People" (1981) are three of her notable works, cited by the Nobel committee as "giving profound insights into the historical process (and) help(ing) to shape this process," as further discussed in this article. She was also friendly with Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa. Gordimer truly never backed down from voicing her opinions and speaking out on important issues for the sake of equality in South Africa.

Gordimer was born and raised in South Africa, and at an early age, she understood that there were huge issues regarding racial and economic inequalities within the nation. She said, "I early
on began to realize how artificial our life was,” referring to her sheltered childhood as a student at an all-girls, all-white Catholic school. She managed to speak out eventually and express her views through her many works of literature. Gordimer will be remembered and cherished as
an incredible author, activist, and woman.

Fitspo, short for "fitspiration" is an online community consisting of blogs and social media mediums that  are meant to encourage weight loss, diet and exercise through the sharing of success stories, diet and workout tips, and photos. Considered to be harmless by some, it has come under scrutiny in an article by Huffington Post titled "Why 'Fitspo' Should Come With A Warning Label." The problem lies in the fact that the content, which are meant to be encouraging mantras and tips, are actually GIFs that include photos of women with unrealistic figures. Author Rebecca Adams also delves into the frustrations of tedious calorie counting and dietary restrictions quoting one user as stating "There were just too many numbers in my head...I didn't want to look at an egg as being 70 calories. I needed to look at it as something that's nourishing and good for my body." Fitspo gained popularity around the same time as First Lady Michelle Obama launched her advocacy for a healthier America, and while the cause to battle the obesity epidemic is admirable, it is essential that while we promote healthy eating and exercise habits, it is done through positive messaging and motivates these women to strive for a body that is healthy rather than thin.
You may remember Jill Abramson's very public firing from her position as Executive Editor of the New York Times. Her firing, and the way it was handled by the famous publication, drew sharp criticism on social media claiming the Times treated her unfairly, particularly when her publisher cited the reason for her termination being her "brusque" style of management . Jill recently sat down for an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine to discuss what she learned from the incident and her experiences with sexism throughout her career. She also offered some great advice for young women- to be authentic. Admitting that she took the interview to speak candidly to a young female audience, Abramson goes on to say " I did lose this job I really loved -- you have to be an authentic person,"  And after reading a cruel article by Politico, "I did cry. That is my authentic first reaction. I don't regret sharing that."  The day that her termination became public, Abramson posed for an Instagram photo with her trainer in boxing gloves to show she didn't plan on sitting in a corner moping. She believed that message would be important to her kids and others. The full article can be read on Cosmopolitan's website. It is certainly an inspirational must-read.

There are over 10,000 firefighters that serve all five boroughs of New York, and 41of them are women (which is the highest number of women in 30 years). In exciting news that broke this week, one of those women made it into this year's sexy FDNY Calendar of Heroes. Danae Mines, or Miss March is the only woman to pose in the much-loved annual FDNY calendar. The 2015 calendar costs $17.95 and the proceeds go to the FDNY Foundation which trains firefighters, and educates New Yorkers on fire safety.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What We've Been Reading- Week of 7/7

“63 Abducted Females Escape Extremists in Nigeria,” New York Times

As of July 7th, it has been reported that 63 of the girls and women kidnapped by Islamic extremists in Nigeria have escaped. While this is good news, over 200 of the girls are still missing. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is committed to finding them and following any leads that may help locate where they are being held. Boko Haram, the extremist group, has repeatedly attacked northern Nigeria throughout the past five years. They are “demanding the establishment of an Islamic state,” a cause that sparks violent tactics when faced with opposition. This article also notes, “Boko Haram is demanding the release of detained fighters in exchange for the Chibok girls but Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly has refused to consider a prisoner swap.” In short, the Nigerian government and military are trying to fight the group and protect their own people without conceding, but it has proven to be extremely difficult. The government and president have received criticism worldwide in how they are dealing with Boko Haram and, specifically, the abduction of the girls in April. Hopefully they will continue to work closer to finding the girls and keeping their population safe.

"Why Families Face So Many Child Care Struggles"
In an article by Maria Shriver for NBC News, she writes about a new book by Elizabeth Palley and Corey Shdaimah titled, “In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy.” This book explains the history of child care policy in the U.S. Both authors discovered many issues with child care in the United States, including access and cost. One thing they uncovered was the antiquated way our government has looked at child care, and how that affects families in the twenty-first century. They also touched on how men are now  getting more involved in child rearing. Now, it is much more common for both parents to have full time jobs, and fathers have had to be involved more than before. Their book provides hope for the future and ideas to improve the system.

Many supporters of Barack Obama are disappointed in his lack of action regarding immigration reform. Over his 6 years as president, Obama and Congress have failed to pass substantial immigration reform. According to a recent a Washington Post article by David Nakamura and Zachary A. Goldfarb, Obama announced he will redirect immigration enforcement efforts to the border.” In the same speech, he vowed to fix as much of the immigration system as he could using his executive powers. Obama mentioned immigration as a top priority for his second term during his reelection campaign, yet the GOP-controlled House has still not approved a bipartisan immigration bill that was passed in the Senate. With only a few working days in the year left, and a recent surge in women and children crossing the border illegally, Obama pledges to do everything within his power to to reform U.S. border control. There is a lot of tension between Congress and the President regarding his usage of executive power; House Speaker Boehner threatened to sue Obama for overreaching, and the Supreme Court ruled that Obama acted unconstitutionally by appointing high-level aides when the Senate was on recess. Besides this tension in Washington, Obama also faces immense pressure from his supporters, Latino voters, and business with interest to reshape immigration laws. “More than 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended at the border this year — a significant increase from previous years.” In response to this huge influx of immigrants, on Tuesday Obama asked Congress to give approximately $4 billion to confront what he is calling a “urgent humanitarian situation”. The $3.7 billion would go to new detention facilities, aerial surveillance, new immigration judges, and Border Patrol agents. Currently, women in many Central and South American countries have limited opportunities, which explains why so many young girls decide to take on the rigorous journey to the Texas border. In the coming weeks, we will see how Obama and Congress respond to this “urgent humanitarian situation”, and through their action we may see how legislatures regard the rights of women from other countries.

Success (or Lack thereof) in the Feminism Movement- Emily Schacter

Mark Joseph Stern wrote an engaging opinion piece for Slate on July 7th, titled Why Are Women Losing While Gays Win? It’s All About Sex,” discussing the reasons behind the success of the LGBTQ movement in contrast to the repeated defeats in the feminism movement. He cites the recent Hobby Lobby case, of course, and the attitudes of certain Supreme Court Justices to show the misogyny that continues to hurt the feminist movement. Stern suggests that perhaps conservatives favor gay rights more than they would women’s rights; he also says that feminism is about sex while the LGBTQ movement has come to focus more on dignity. I would correct him by saying that feminism may be viewed as all about sex when it really is about basic equality! Otherwise, I loved this article and his connections and observations.

Stern continues to explain that conservatives can set aside sex in the LGBTQ movement and look at the individuals and their personal freedom. Sex does not have to be a major part of the conversation. When it comes to women  though, conservatives, and especially male conservatives (including Supreme Court Justices), cannot separate sex from personal freedom. They do not separate women’s rights from their opinions on birth control and abortion; instead, the line is blurred. They want to control the right reproductive freedom, which essentially controls women and rids them of their basic human rights. As Stern says, “Conservatives clearly refuse to acknowledge women’s sexual freedom as a fundamental right, instead dismissing the whole concept as a liberal crock meant to excuse women from the consequences of their libidinous actions.” The attitude of these conservatives towards feminism and the progression of women is extremely disappointing, condescending, and, in short, unfair. Stern brings up some really great points in this article that could start a very interesting conversation.
Coakley and Women's Leadership Council- Allysha Roth
On July 9th, MassLive journalist Robert Rizzuto reported on Attorney General Martha Coakley’s efforts to organize a Women’s Leadership Council. Since the U.S. Supreme struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law, and upheld that businesses are exempt from providing healthcare coverage to women which conflicts with religious beliefs through the Hobby Lobby decision, Attorney General Coakley has been very vocal in expressing her disappointment with the rulings, and her conviction to overcome the setbacks by designing legislation to fight back and protect women’s rights. Part of the action she is taking includes forming a coalition of pro-choice women leaders dedicated to protecting women’s rights to access reproductive health care and advancing other women’s rights issues such as equal pay. Rizzuto also mentions that, although she did not win the Democratic endorsement for her bid for Governor at the convention, Coakley is leading the polls to win the Democratic primary

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pro-choice advocates “STAND UP. FIGHT BACK.” at the Supreme Rally for Women’s Rights

On July 8th, Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus joined many other women’s organizations at the Supreme Rally for Women’s Rights in Boston City Hall Plaza to express disapproval of the recent US Supreme Court decisions which limited access to reproductive health care. As a sponsor, MWPC mobilized pro-choice citizens, made demonstration signs, and helped set up for the event.  The outpouring of support from the pro-choice community was phenomenal, with hundreds in attendance making their voices heard.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, a former MWPC Board Member and endorsed candidate, emceed the rally. Councilor Pressley’s passion and charisma set the tone, firmly proclaiming, “You should be angry. Hell, it’s mandatory to be angry about injustice.” She introduced leaders in the fight for women’s rights who spoke at the invent including but not limited to Attorney General Martha Coakley, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Governor Deval Patrick, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Executive Director Megan Amundson, and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts President Mary Walz. All spoke of their dismay at the recent Supreme Court rulings in the cases of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  and McCullen v Coakley, which rules against women’s rights in favor of religious freedom and freedom of expression respectively.  Speakers were adamant that they were working tirelessly to combat these decisions with new legislation that will bolster and protect the right of women to access reproductive health care.  Governor Patrick begged the crowd not to be discouraged but rather to use the opportunity to “make a claim” on the government.

The Supreme Rally for Women’s Rights was emotionally charged. Speakers and the crowd expressed anger and disappointment, but in solidarity. The unity of the speakers, organizers, and demonstrators in purpose and feeling, resonated of hope and inspiration. The rally cries rang in tune with democracy in action. Though the Supreme Court made rulings were fundamental setbacks for women’s rights, the Supreme Rally made clear how Massachusetts pro-choice advocates will respond—“When  women’s rights are under attack, what’ll we do? STAND UP. FIGHT BACK.”
Allysha Roth

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tomorrow NARAL will hold a rally for women’s equality at 5 pm outside Boston’s city hall. The MC will be Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. A multitude of legislators [ Rep. Paul Brodeur, Rep. Marjorie Decker, Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Rep. Patricia Haddad, Rep. David Linsky, Rep. Paul Mark, Rep. Kate Hogan, Sen. Mike Barrett, Rep. Anne Gobi, Sen. Stan Rosenberg, Rep. Jennifer Benson, Sen. William    Brownsberger, Sen. Jason Lewis, Sen. Cynthia Creem, and Rep. Tom Conroy] are supporting the event, as well as organizations [ACLU, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Boston Doula Project,
Catholics for Choice, Committee for Interns and Residents,GLAD, Hollaback! Boston,
Jane Doe Inc., Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), MassEquality, MassNOW, Moishe Kavod House, NARAL PCM, Out Now, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministries, and the Women's Bar Association]. 
All Bostonians are welcome to take part in this discussion about women’s equality, and particularly regarding the two recent Supreme Court cases, Hobby Lobby and Massachusetts buffer laws. These two decisions have successfully eroded decades of work aimed at promoting women’s equality. Allowing protesters and bosses to intervene with women’s access to healthcare is a huge setback in this process. Join us at Boston City Hall tomorrow at 5 and together we can send the message that we will not stand for injustice.

What We've Been Reading

In a July 1st article by the Washington Post, journalist Zachary Goldfarb reported on the 13% pay gap between women and men working in the White House. This 13% pay gap is lower than the national average, which is 23.5%. White House male employees earn $88,600 on average, compared to a female employee’s salary of $78,400. Obama has made it clear that equal pay is a priority for his administration, citing his recent push for a higher minimum wage as evidence of his commitment. However, “The White House has not narrowed the gap between the average pay of male and female employees since President Obama’s first year in office,” the Post reports. “One of the key reasons [for this wage gap] is that more men hold the higher-paying, senior jobs in the White House, and more women hold the lower-paying, junior jobs.”, as depicted by the graph below. In defense of the gender pay gap, White House officials claim that women and men who work the same position are paid similar wages. The issue the White House, and many other big employers in America face is the reality that males typically have the higher paying jobs.
Gender discrimination is still evident in the workforce in 2014, but is less obvious than in prior years. For example, many economists believe that the reason women are working lower paying jobs is not due to discrimination, but because of childbearing. According to the Post, “most [economists] agree that one of the key instance where women lose earning potential results from when they take time away from work to care for children.” The break in work for maternity leave translates into a loss of seniority in women’s careers. Furthermore, domestic responsibilities such as taking care of the children fall unequally on women’s shoulders. This means that having children is an economic setback for women, who leave their jobs to tend to the house, children, and cooking, and an economic bonus for men, who can now focus more on their work.
As a young woman looking ahead to an exciting, busy career, I find it unfair that I must factor in childbearing to my career plans, while young men my age do not. There are a multitude of ways employers, like the White House, can combat this inherently unequal practice. By guaranteeing women their job after an extended maternity leave, providing access to affordable day care, increasing their pay, or even allowing more flexibility for their employees can help decrease the effect childbearing has on the careers of women.
This week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of craft store chain Hobby Lobby and other family-owned businesses saying that they did not have to provide birth control to women through their insurance if it went against the company's religious beliefs. Many Republicans have said that it is a “win for religious freedom.” However, in an article written by the Boston Globe they say that this decision is might actually hurt the Republican party in future elections. The article states that there are two groups the GOP has been trying to go after lately, women and young adults, two groups that are more likely to depend on insurance to pay for birth control. A recent poll by Gallup found that 90% of Americans, including 88% of Republicans do not see birth control as morally wrong. The poll also says that a majority of Americans think that “for-profit companies should be required to cover the cost of birth control.” Democratic candidates across the nation are now using this data, and probably will speak out against the recent court decision, in order to reach the key voting demographics.
In an
article for the Huffington Post this week, Soraya Chemaly writes about ten words she thinks women should start saying more: “Stop interrupting me,” “I just said that” and “no explanation needed.” She explains how people socialize girls to be young ladies and that boys will just be boys, meaning girls should be more polite and  should expect a certain amount of rude behavior, like interrupting, from boys. This correlated to what she calls “the gender confidence gap” down the road, where men will frequently interrupt women and ignore what they say. She pointed to several examples, including some notable people such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, where an idea they made was generally ignored until a male college mentioned it or where they were expected to act in more of a supporting role. It is a very interesting article that points to examples of this in all segments of society and how everyone's lives could be improved if women started using those ten words more.