Thursday, July 31, 2014

Women Against Feminism: Documenting Feminism’s Pervading Relevance

While spending some quality time with one of my teen-aged nieces, she said something profoundly insightful and incredibly ironic, “Men need to change their point of view in order for society to change.” I had shown her Miss Representation, a documentary on the role of the media’s portrayal of women in the underrepresentation of women in positions of power. Her cool response to the documentary was disconcerting. She expressed her apathy and pessimism based on the dependency of the cause on the male perspective only after I explained that feminism is really about breaking down the barriers that prevent all people from having equal opportunity and freedom to choose their path. She, like the young women submitting to the blog Women Against Feminism, felt that the feminist movement was outdated, unnecessary and that feminists were mostly man-haters who believed in the superiority of women. 
The Women Against Feminism Tumblr page, which claims to denounce the feminist movement in favor of human rights and the equality of all people, sparked online debates which drew the attention of NBC’s TODAY Show in a segment titled “Is feminism still relevant? Some women posting why they don't need it.” Women posting on the blog end the phrase “I don’t need feminism because…” with statements that range from embracing traditional feminine roles to rejecting misandry and the portrayal of women as victims.
On the Today Show’s segment, journalist Soledad O’Brien and MSNBC anchor Abby Huntsman expressed their solidarity with the feminist movement but admitted understanding of anti-feminist sentiments. O’Brien expressed that she feels the word feminism has been “hijacked” and aligned with the actions of fringe-groups who do “things that are perceived to be bad.” Huntsman, on the other hand, said that feminists could do more to promote the movement in a positive and inclusive light, to be clear that it’s possible to be a stay-at-home mom, pro-life, and/or love men and also be a feminist. Also featured on the segment was Executive Editor Emily McCombs, who wrote a response article to the Tumblr page “I was a Woman Against Feminism, and I Get It (But Also Knock It Off)” in which she argues that anti-feminism is a “subconscious strategy for coping in a sexist society” and “based on an assumption that inequality is the way of the world”. Coming from her own experience she writes, “By gaining the approval of those in charge, I hoped to gain access to the perks and opportunities of masculinity.” In essence, the dialogue sparked by the Women Against Feminism as reflected on the Today Show is not one of whether or not feminism is still relevant, but rather why young women might not understand that it is.
The question then is why do young women have a negative perspective of feminism? The answer is wrapped up in the reason feminism is still necessary. Women who have succeeded in politics and industry are associated with their status as sex objects and with all the worst attributes of power by the media. Media is the primary tool by which young women in the United States learn about the world and they are learning that feminists are hateful. The feminist movement advocates for a level of equality which gives everyone, regardless of their gender identification, the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that align with their own conscience.  There is no denying that there have been groups whose anger and indignation inspired hateful discourse antithetical to the cause of feminism. However, seeking to paint the actions of a few as representative of the greater cause is no doubt the work of those who wish to maintain the status quo. Feminism if for no other reason is still relevant because young women are taught to think feminists and powerful women are bitchy man-haters.
Beyond misconceptions, feminism maintains its relevance because while much progress has been made in the fight for equality, women are still grossly underrepresented in positions of power. The Women Against Feminism Tumblr page proves that feminism has yet to accomplish much needed work. Anti-feminist speech reflects all the various ways in which women are held back from pursuing leadership roles by negative depictions of feminists and successful women. Whether young women identify as feminists or not, the feminist movement does the hard work that allows young women to choose their own paths, regardless if the dream job is stay-at-home mom or President.
In a world that teaches young women, like my niece, that society won’t change unless men want it to change, feminism empowers young women to take the fight for economic equality and equal representation into their own hands. We as a country need feminism because equal representation of all genders in positions of power is necessary in order to ensure that every citizen can enjoy the rights and liberties guaranteed to them. I need feminism because I want to live in a world where equal opportunity isn’t dependent on the male perspective.
-Allysha Roth

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nicki Minaj and the Controversial Album Cover

On July 24th, Nicki Minaj released the cover art for her new single called "Anaconda." The cover features a revealing photo of a nearly-naked, photoshopped Minaj. The cover raised a huge controversy for fans and non-fans alike, with a variety of perspectives appearing in articles all over the internet. Some, such as's CEO Chuck Creekmur in this letter, have deemed this cover "hyper-sexualized" and have criticized Minaj for releasing an image that doesn't send a "positive" message to young girls. In another vein, others worry that the artwork for this single only perpetuates the sexualization of black women as well as furthers the sexist culture of hip-hop. 

However, many have argued that Minaj is taking an empowering stance by embracing her sexuality and determining how she wants it to be portrayed. In an article published today by Feministing, the author highlights the trend of backlash only occurring when "a black woman has presented herself independently of the hetero-male gaze," and argues that this type and extent of backlash doesn't occur when male hip-hop artists objectify and hyper-sexualize women, especially black women. Furthermore, in this article, Jezebel applauds Minaj's artwork, stating that it proves women "can exert [their] sexuality without being reduced to it."

Nicki Minaj might not be running for Congress anytime soon, but the conversations around women and media are very important to the conversations we have here at MWPC. It also raises questions about how body politics influence our discourse. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What We've Been Reading- July 25th

Salem Mayor Takes on Gordon College  
Evan Allen from the Boston Globe reported on Gordon College’s involvement in a nationwide response to President Obama’s proposed anti discrimination law. Fourteen religious institutions sent a letter to Obama asking for religious exemption to the proposed piece of legislation that would bar “federal contractors from discriminating in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation.” There is no law currently that bans hiring discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The President cannot mandate that every company abide by this new law without Congress’s approval, however, he can make sure all federal contractors, one fourth of the U.S. workforce, follow the law.

The letter from the colleges was sent on Tuesday, the day after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby allowing family-owned businesses a religious exemption regarding employees’ birth control coverage. Now, Gordon College, as well as Catholic Charities USA and Christianity Today, hope to still be able to discriminate against LGBT individuals in order to preserve their religious freedom. The letter states: “Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom”. The letter continues to ask for “ extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” Gordon College president Dr. Michael Lindsay’s signature on that letter has drawn criticism from Gordon alumni, students, and faculty.

Instead of seeing this antidiscrimination law as a way to widen the Christian community, president Lindsay saw it as a threat. As of now, each Gordon student receives a handbook condoning acts of homosexuality, drunkenness, as well as sex outside of marriage. Some see these so-called “behavioral standards” as offensive.

Gordon College is in Salem, Massachusetts, where the Mayor Kim Driscoll has been weary of the college’s discriminatory actions, such as the handbook and letter to Obama. On Wednesday, the day after the Lindsay’s letter was sent, Driscoll terminated a contract between Salem and Gordon College which allows the school to use the Old Town Hall. Matt Rocheleau from the Huffington Post reports that Mayor Driscoll believes “Gordon’s policies violate a city ordinance prohibiting Salem from contracting with entities that discriminate.” More than 100 alumni, students, and faculty of Gordon College signed a letter to the White House agreeing with the Mayor, and supporting Obama’s legislation.

Since her decision, the Mayor’s office has been flooded with phone calls from anti-gay protesters. “In response, Driscoll plans to donate $5 to a local LGBT nonprofit for each angry phone call she receives” reports Tyler Kingkade of the Huffington Post; the LGBT nonprofit is North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth [nAGLY].
During a time when religious freedoms are encroaching on women and LGBT rights, public service officers face difficult decisions. Mayor Driscoll is a great example of what elected officials should do. Taking a stand on a controversial issue allows the public to know where she stands, proves she will stand up for minorities’ rights, and shows her constituents that she will act on her beliefs. We should applaud Mayor Driscoll for making the hard choice of standing up for LGBT rights, not supporting Gordon College and distancing the city from discriminatory practices. She is a role model for elected officials everywhere and the MWPC is proud to have endorsed her candidacy in the past.

-Philippa Haven

Clinton vs. Warren: Possible Competition for the Democratic Nomination
The most recent question on everyone’s mind is if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is running for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election. So, is she? That is unclear. While some sources quote her as saying she is definitely not running, her progressive supporters are very much urging her to consider it. If she is running, the next question is obvious: would Warren be able to beat Hillary Clinton (who also has not confirmed if she is running or not)? Once again, that is unclear. Some think Warren would have a good chance in winning the nomination. Either way, the questions and discussions are important to consider.
Is she running?
Let’s examine the evidence that Warren may be running. First off, she has been traveling around the US recently and talking to potential voters. While this may seem normal for a Senator in her second year of office, some speculate that the traveling is a way of testing her message and platform for the 2016 presidential race. Moreover, Warren supporters have started a site,, that advocates for Warren in the hopes that she will run in 2016. However, the most recent statements we have from her show that she does not plan on running: "I'm not running for president and I plan to serve out my term," she said in December. But if she was running, she probably would not announce it yet anyway. Clinton has not confirmed or denied that she is running, and people seem to think it’s definite that she wants the nomination. So the questions still remains unanswered.
Could she win?
One survey shows that 51% of Americans (who voted in the survey) believe that Warren could win against Clinton in a primary (CNN Crossfire). The people advocating for her to run are progressives who appreciate Warren’s aggressive stance on Wall Street and student loan reform, which differs from Clinton. Warren would win the votes of these progressives, but those votes may not be enough to win the primary. Clinton would likely use her vast political experience against Warren, as she did with Obama in 2008 - though we all know how that turned out. In my opinion, Clinton would win against Warren. She has a wider mass of supporters and appeals to a greater amount of people, as recent state polls have shown. With that said, two women competing for the Democratic seat would set an amazing new precedent. Perhaps the continuing discussion of Warren running will urge her to at least consider the prospect if she has not yet. Regardless, the conversation about two strong women running for president is pretty exciting in itself. 
For more information:
-Emily Schacter

Women in Corporate Marketing
We all know how silly commercials for tampons and other sanitary products can be, with women dancing around in white clothing and demonstrations with blue liquid. In an article published by the Huffington Post this week, journalist Jillian Berman pokes fun at that issue and exposes the fact that most companies who sell sanitary products are owned and run by men. The first example is Kotex, who used all the previously mentioned marketing techniques over the past few decades when selling tampons. When they recently added women to the decision making process, they launched the enormously successful U by Kotex campaign that made fun of, and apologized for, all their past ads. You can watch that ad here.
The article reveals that 19 of the largest companies that sell their products mostly to women, are run by majority male boards. Only one company, Avon, had a board that was majority women. Another company, Veet, who has just one female member on their board, recently had to take down their campaign after major backlash from their customers. Their ad told women not to risk “dudeness” by having hairy legs. Jillian Berman also interviewed many women who worked in similar companies, that cater to women but are headed largely by men. Those women said that the men used market research to discuss  things such as, “what kind of applicator women wanted for tampons.” Another woman mentioned that her company was going to launch an ad campaign meant to be inspiring to women but it ended up “looking like the cover of the Sports illustrated swimsuit issue”. The article also mentions some reasons why women in these companies are not moving up the corporate ladder, and what can be done in the future to help remedy this.
-Kira Arnott

Girl Summit
This week in London, the British Government, UN, and UNICEF are hosting “Girl Summit”, CNN recently reported.  This event aims to end female genital mutilation or FGM as well as forced child marriage. UNICEF has recently released statistics that reveal at least 125 million women have undergone FGM, and approximately 30 million girls under the age of 15 are at risk. The practice is dangerous and leads to many problems later in life including, “chronic infection, and severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth, and psychological trauma.” Not only is this a concern in the 29 countries where FGM is concentrated, mostly in Africa, but it is also pervasive in Great Britain, where an estimated 137,000 girls are affected or at risk. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to create tougher prosecution laws for parents who let their daughters undergo FGM, as well as mandatory reporting to doctors and teachers. The event is well attended, as many activists from around the world are there, including Malala Yousafzai and girls who have suffered from FGM.
-Kira Arnott

Hobby Lobby Update
In an article analyzing the Hobby Lobby ruling, economic implications of this decision by the Supreme Court are explored, and the decision may set a dangerous political precedent. This ruling further expands the identification of corporations as people. Though the original treatment of corporations as people entitling them to constitutional rights arguably carries many economically beneficial results, this extension of these aforementioned protections to include religious rights is accompanied by the potential for these corporations to wield significant political influence. This influence manifests itself in the political power that corporations are afforded, both in their interactions with their employees, investors, and shareholders, but also in the government, more specifically, in lobbying for or against legislation. Despite the fact that the Hobby Lobby decision alone has a limited scope, the author astutely cites that these types of rulings “have a history of becoming more broadly cited as precedent.” Thus, even though this ruling only affects a small portion of the United States, the precedent that has been set may catalyze a slippery slope towards corporations enforcing more restrictions.
-Caroline Plapinger

Women in the Media
This week, New York Magazine published an interesting article discussing the cycle experienced by influential women in the media. The article observed that often when powerful women appear in magazines that are geared towards women, they are subject to criticism and are charged with succumbing to a stereotypical gender role. Politico magazine observed the phenomena of the princess effect within this media cycle, whereby powerful women are demeaned or undergo an “intellectual flattening” through their appearances in “women’s” magazines. However, this issue is multi-faceted and complex, although the removal of these influential women’s political or career-centered identities in place of a one-dimensional focus on their beauty regimen, workout choices, and/or child care is offensive and sexist, the idea that these conversations should not exist is problematic as well. The article points out that many of these powerful women who have been featured in these fashion and “women’s” magazines embrace this opportunity, and furthermore that these outlets are necessary. The collaboration between powerful women and fashion magazines provide women with the tools for “navigating style and other sexist minefields without compromising their intellectual integrity,” and we need more outlets like this for women.
-Caroline Plapinger

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.

False Claims: Hobby Lobby and the Truth Behind Contraceptives

After the extremely controversial Supreme Court decision on Monday, June  30th, a national debate has arisen regarding the science behind birth control. Hobby Lobby, a for-profit corporation, used the argument of religious freedom in order to be exempt from Obamacare standards in providing certain types of birth control to their employees. The birth control that supposedly goes against their religious beliefs are Plan B and IUDs. On July 1st, Marisa Taylor wrote the article, “Hobby Lobby verdict overlooks the science on pregnancy, experts say”
for Aljazeera America. The article discusses how scientific evidence shows that these contraceptives are
not the same or even similar to having an abortion, as Hobby Lobby claims.

The article makes clear the distinction between pregnancy, abortion, and contraceptives. Pregnancy, as defined by national health organizations as well as the United States government, is “the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall.” Hobby Lobby states that pregnancy begins when the sperm meets the egg, despite the clear scientific definitions. Regardless of the
differing definitions, one fact is made absolutely clear by this article: contraceptives, such as Plan B, ella, and IUDs, do NOT stop pregnancy, even by the Hobby Lobby definition, once it has started. Plan B and ella work so that ovulation does not occur and therefore there is no egg to fertilize. Kelly Cleland, a researcher from Princeton’s OPR, put it bluntly: “The evidence is very, very clear that Plan B only works before ovulation.” IUDs work similarly in that they do
not allow the sperm to reach the egg. Dissenting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke out about this specific discrepency: “The owners of the companies involved in these cases and others who believe that life begins at conception regard these four methods as causing
abortions, but federal regulations, which define pregnancy as beginning at implantation, do not so classify them.”

This article and argument adds to the complexities of the Supreme Court's decision made on Monday. It adds another component to criticize the SCOTUS decision and question the science and meanings behind Hobby Lobby’s stance. James Trussell, a professor and emergency contraceptive expert at Princeton’s Office of Population Research, ended the article
with a great quote:
“You can believe one of two things. Either they [the companies opposing use
of emergency contraception] are very stupid, or they don’t believe in science. But there is no other explanation.”

-Emily Schacter