Monday, September 28, 2015

Planned Parenthood

When most people think of Planned Parenthood they think of abortion, which makes them think of controversy. Understandably abortion is something people want to shy away from. Now more than ever it is a topic that has passionate supporters and opposition.

 Last week the house cast a symbolic vote to defund Planned Parenthood to “investigate” the claims that have been made and the controversial video that has been the topic on every lawmaker’s mind.

Planned Parenthood does much more than abortions. In fact, abortions take up a very small proportion of their services. Other services include: STD testing and treatment, contraception, and cancer screening and prevention. Defunding Planned Parenthood would do more than “stop abortions” it would prevent healthcare for necessary and live saving healthcare for thousands of women.

Fortunately, the bill is expected to be blocked by democrats in the Senate.

The continued efforts by the Republican Party to defund Planned Parenthood could cause the second republican-lead government shutdown in two years.

-Emma Sands

TOMORROW: Pink Out For Planned Parenthood

In lieu of the Planned Parenthood scandal of recent weeks, cities across the United States have been organizing and taking part in various actions to promote the organization and its contributions to women’s healthcare. Cambridge, Massachusetts is no exception. On September 29th, Planned Parenthood in conjunction with Harvard University and the Harvard University College Democrats will be holding an event in an effort to demonstrate widespread support for Planned Parenthood among Boston-area voters.

The event, entailed “Pink Out for Planned Parenthood,” will include a training that aims to teach participants how to recruit other individuals to support Planned Parenthood as well as be active in promoting the organization to others in their respective communities. This action will take place at 7:30pm. Following the training, an additional action will take place where participants will hear stories of patients, staff and supporters of Planned Parenthood. This particular event, which is set to take place at 8:20pm, will be followed by a training in which participants are provided with the tools in which to write letters, share personal stories and take photos in order to saturate social media in pro-Planned Parenthood posts.

As a pro-choice woman, it’s critically important to me that this event attracts a large constituency of attendees. Given the factually skewed, politically biased attacks against Planned Parenthood in recent months, its imperative that pro-choice Americans take action against the anti-choice agenda that has permeated Congressional politics. So get ready to protest—all in pink, of course—in support of the millions of women that have taken advantage of the incredible services Planned Parenthood has to offer since its inception in 1942. Planned Parenthood has given so much to women all across the United States. It’s imperative that we as pro-choice Americans give back to the organization as well.

-Talia Lepson, MWPC Intern

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Carly Fiorina's Candidacy Matters

This past week brought another round of Republican primary debates.  This month brought a newcomer to the main stage event, though.  Carly Fiorina, following a bump in the polls, was brought out of the underdog debate and into the prime time spotlight.  Standing in a crowd of men, Fiorina brought something new to the stage that has not yet existed this election cycle: an appeal to women.  Her presence brings an interesting new twist to the criticism of Republicans that they are leading a “war on women.”  It allows people to perceive the supposed war as a problem within a faction of the party, while recognizing that there is another, lesser seen female side of the GOP.  Generally, women are not as frequently seen in powerful positions within the Republican Party as they are in the Democratic Party, where the current head of the DNC is a woman.  Carly Fiorina offers the chance to change that.
While Fiorina is not necessarily liberal by any means on social issues, she still brings a sense of feminism to the stage.  For example, when asked by the moderator to respond to an insult of her appearances earlier in the week by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, she replied, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”  Furthermore, one of the closing questions pertained to putting a woman on the ten dollar bill.  Unlike the other candidates, who overwhelmingly chose either Rosa Parks or their wives, Fiorina stated, “I think, honestly, it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history,” which is a sentiment yet to be heard within the Republican Party.  She went on to say that women were not in the minority, and thus should not be treated as such within the GOP.  

It is important that, policy aside, such a statement is made on a national platform from within the Republican Party.  For a party that lost the female vote in one of the most shocking examples of the gender gap in history, having a strong female candidate who is willing to discuss women’s issues could be priceless.  Therefore, given her unique appeal to voters who may otherwise be off put by the Republican lineup, Carly Fiorina could be just what the GOP needs to be successful in this election cycle.

"Look at that Sexism!" A Look into the Double Standards of "Likeability" in Female Candidates

“When was the last time that you cried?” “What did she wear to the debate?” “How are you going to balance being a grandmother and running for office?” “She seems so cold.” “Why is she being a bitch?”

 Within society, women are constantly being examined under a sharper lens of public standards. In a society where women in the professional world still “startles” the norm, any woman in a professional environment undergoes far more criticism than their male colleagues and experiences sexist biases on a number of different grounds or topics. What clothing she is wearing, how short/long her skirt is, the amount of makeup she wears on a typical day, how she carries her weight, her physique, questions pertaining to her personal love life, her family life, her parenting choices, there seems that no area is “off limits” for intrusive questions and every area of her life is open to criticism or remarks.   But why has this become a standard of accepted behavior? Why should female candidates prepare themselves for debate on an additional front: their appearance?

The idea of having a candidate that is personable and likeable is not a foreign concept or one that is only applied to female candidates. Voters want to have a “feel good” vibe towards their elected officials, trust that their vote is being cast towards an individual that they would not mind being “friendly” with. Maybe it’s in contrast of dictatorship or communism; the “spirit of democracy” is friendly, warm and personable. Maybe “warmth” is some indicator of the quality of politician that the candidate is, I’m not too sure, but for whatever their reasoning, voters want somebody who is “likeable.” Achieving a status of “likeable” is very much so an easier task for male candidates than female. The patriarchal power structure and “traditional” gender roles for men and women are very much to blame for the expected perceptions we have of politicians. 

When men assert typical “masculine” qualities, wit, intelligence, and assertiveness, they are identified with terms such as “ a strong leader.” When women attempted to breech the gender- role binary and exhibit those exact same qualities, she is instantly demeaned with the labels “abrasive” “rude” and “cold.” Gendered expectations of behavior are coupled with the coinciding behaviors and qualities. On the opposite side, men are also subjected to scrutiny for exhibiting “feminine” characteristics, showing emotions, crying, or appearing too “soft.” In the world of political presentation, to be feminine or exhibit those feminine qualities is to be weak and not taken seriously. The stark difference between the male and female candidates that are scrutinized is that females are already a minority in the field and are already at a disadvantage because of their gender. Women are already “playing in the wrong game” and need to prove their worthiness far before any stance or platform is ever discussed. Amongst a stage of male candidates, any female will already stand out starkly, she’s already on the radar of criticism and any side step away from the expected behavior, will cause a storm of feedback. 

The discriminatory standards for female politicians are not exclusive to one side of the aisle or another. Former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is subjecting herself to the same wrath of criticism as republican hopeful Carly Fiorina. Experience in the game does make a difference in handling the comments, but both Clinton and Fiorina have pioneered as women in traditionally male-dominated fields. This hurdle, preparing to be subject of extreme criticism, can prove to be a deal breaker for younger women; they change games. This barrier is one entirely constructed by society and its gendered behavioral expectations. Fortunately, it is one that can be changed, but not simply overnight. 

One stride towards improvement stems from a mutual respect for the battle that other female candidates are facing. GOP Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina has recently stated that she would not make any “low blows” or “personal comments” about female Democratic opponent, Former Secretary Clinton. Vowing to only question legitimate facts and records, Fiorina is offering an olive branch of sorts to her fellow colleague. However, these peace understandings only extend so far. If November 2016 comes down between these two women, the gloves will come off and the rounds will be messy. While it is comforting to believe that women can be above the bloody fray of “men’s politics,” it is impractical and na├»ve to believe that these women will not do everything in their power to win the election and become the next President of the United States. Everybody in this sphere, men and women alike, understand that when the “rules of the game” are written by and standardized by men, women have to make sacrifices to be able to play. 

-Anastasia Yogas

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lawmakers Work to Stop Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Sexual Assault on college campuses is nothing new; it seems to have always been a growing issue. The facts are staggering, 1 in 5 college students experience sexual assault during their college careers. If those numbers weren’t scary enough, 95% of U.S. campus rapes go unreported. There are many different laws and regulations trying to end sexual assault, trying to help survivors, and prosecute perpetrators. At the core, these laws aim to make an endlessly complex issue less complex, and give guidelines that are effective in helping victims. It is obvious that colleges and universities struggle with knowing what the right way to prevent and deal with sexual assault is. Lawmakers on the state and national level continue to search for the best way to solve this issue.

In Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced a new bill to which will provide new guidelines to handle the sexual assaults that happen on college campuses. After hearing the testimonies of students, State Senator Michael Moore, State Representatives Daniel Donahue and Tricia Farley-Bouvier have introduced two versions of the bill, one for each chamber. This bill will uniformly guide colleges and university on how alleged sexual assaults should be handled, including requirements such as mandatory sexual violence training for staff and students, and a confidential system in which victims can discreetly report an assault to an advisor, etc.

Similarly, federal lawmakers are working to introduce a bill that will aid the sexual assault crisis, but in a much different way than the MA legislature plans to. The law was introduced by US Representative Matt Salmon (R-Arizona), Representative Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas) in July. The Safe Campus Act explains that colleges and universities do not have to take any sort of punitive measures against an accused student unless the student reporting the attack agrees to go to law enforcement. There is a lot of push back to this bill that some believe will only decrease the number of students coming forward about sexual assaults.

With the different legislators, federal and state governments, as well as different campaigns aimed to help victims and stop sexual assault, it is clear that this issue can no longer be ignored. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently announced she would tackle the issue during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa. As the presidential race continues, there is hope that this issue is kept in the minds of presidential hopefuls. There is no easy way to remedy this issue, but it working toward a solution is increasingly important for future generations.

-Courtney Chapin

Monday, September 14, 2015

Presidential Youth Council

Searching the Internet recently, I have noticed more and more about a presidential youth council. The idea is something that I am conflicted about. On one hand having the opinions of well-educated young people could do nothing but benefit the president and the white house. Being connected to the younger generations could keep staff informed on what is important to them and the changes and improvements they want to see around the country.

Mainly there would be benefits to this. It could give the president insight into what young adults are interested in and what could get them more involved in the politics of their country. 

My only concern is that the teenagers and young adults that were qualified for these positions may not be the most informed on what “the kids are up to” around the country. I would assume that any person to be on the council would be highly educated and have an impressive resume and experience. This could mean that they would not have a connection to the young people who aren’t as highly educated.

The council would not be an accurate representation of the country’s youths and their interests. It is however important to have young people’s voices heard when it comes to policy making. As the next generation of leaders, presidents and business people it is important that we are part of the conversation and the direction of policy within the country.

by Emma Sands

International Failure to Meet Gender Quotas in Leadership

Twenty years ago, the member states of the United Nations set a goal that by this point in time, their legislatures would consist of at least 30% women.  The deadline has come and gone, and a recent survey of 190 countries shows that this goal was not met by well over half of those that agreed to the pledge.  Many of the countries missing from the list are ones that may come as a surprise.

The United States is on the list of those who failed to meet the minimum set by the conference, with only 20% of its legislature consisting of women.  India also failed to meet the standard, despite being the most populous democracy, as only 12% of its legislature is made up by women.  These numbers are lower even than those in Afghanistan, which consistently ranks as having some of the worst accommodations for women’s health and education.  Furthermore, of those countries in the United Nations General Assembly, only ten have female heads of state.

The news is not all bad, however.  Some countries have shown surprisingly high rates of women in power.  Rwanda, for example, has a legislature that is 64% women.  Cuba also has a high percentage, with 48% of its legislative body occupied by women.  Despite the overall failure of the participating governments to meet the 30% mark, female representation has risen overall from 11% in 1995 to 22% at the present.  Though there is still a long way to go for gender parity, there is a visible improvement.  In order to remedy their shortcomings, the group of nations has been granted a five year extension, with the hopes that by 2020 all 190 nations will bring female representation in government up to a minimum of 30%.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Anchor Maria Stephanos Steps Down from Fox25

Maria Stephanos, who has been an anchor for Fox 25 news for the past 18 years, announced on September 10 that she will be stepping down from her position to “pursue new professional endeavors.”  Ms. Stephanos has led a long and illustrious career with the news station, starting as a general assignment reporter in 1998.  She was later promoted to the position of anchor.  
For the past few years, Stephanos has been a lead anchor on Fox 25’s prime time news, with programs at 5, 6, 10, and 11 pm.  During her tenure at Fox, Stephanos has covered numerous major events.  In 2004, she covered the first Red Sox World Series victory.  In 2013, she provided on-the-scene coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, as she was already present at the scene with her children to cheer on her husband.  Stephanos continued her coverage of the event by covering the trial of the remaining marathon bomber this past spring.  She has also covered such events as the historic Boston winter, numerous elections, and the Boston Olympic Debate.  Perhaps the most memorable feature of Stephanos’ coverage, however, is her recurring Real People, Real Stories feature, in which she interviewed people from across New England and shared their stories.
Though it is uncertain what will be next for Ms. Stephanos, she has not failed to make a mark on the Boston news scene.  In her announcement, she praised the New England community that has supported her career.  In a tweet following the on-air announcement, Stephanos said, “What can I say? Goodbyes are never easy. I'm excited for the future! I love you New England. To my core. And my soul.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Congratulations Andrea Campbell!

The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus would like to congratulate Andrea Campbell on her victory in Tuesday’s preliminary Boston City Council election.  Campbell toppled longtime Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey in the fight to represent the people of District 4, which includes parts of Mattapan, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Campbell received 1,982 votes compared to Yancey’s 1,159.  According to unofficial results from Boston’s Election Department, 3,422 votes were cast in total.  The other candidates on Tuesday’s District 4 ballot finished far behind both Campbell and Yancey, and as a result, are now out of the race completely.  The municipal election, which is set to take place this November 3rd, will ultimately determine whether Campbell or Yancey will represent the people of District 4 on the Boston City Council.
The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus is proud to have supported Campbell in the preliminary election this past Tuesday and will continue to support her fight to represent District 4 in the municipal election this November 3rd.  Stay tuned for additional phone banking and volunteer opportunities to support Andrea Campbell in her path to victory this November!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Call to Action in Lieu of California’s Fair Pay Act

The gender pay gap is an economically debilitating form of institutionalized sexism that, to this day, permeates the American workforce.  On average, American women earn $.78 for every $1 a white, non-Hispanic man makes.  That being said, however, the gender pay gap for women of color is far worse.  Black and Hispanic women make $.64 and $.54 respectively to every $1 a White, non-Hispanic man earns.  These staggering statistics have severe economic reproductions for women all across the United States.  On average, women who work full time year round will earn $10,876 less in median earnings than their male counterparts.  This gap has a serious impact on the economic security of more than 7.3 million and the state of California decided to take action in
On September 2nd, the California state legislature passed the nation’s most comprehensive piece of equal pay legislation that aims to dramatically decrease the gender pay gap for all women in both the private and public sectors. 
The Fair Pay Act, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, ensures that male and female employees who perform “substantially similar” work receive equal pay regardless if their job tittles differ or if they work in different offices for the same employer.  The bill also stipulates that employees are permitted to ask about and discuss co-workers’ wages without fear of punishment from employers.  These provisions make the bill the strongest piece of equal pay legislation passed in United States history.

Although California’s Far Pay Act won’t provide the framework in which to close the wage gap in its entirety, the bill is an important first step in seriously reducing the gender pay gap and strengthen the economic status of all types of women.  It’s imperative that other states, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pass their own comprehensive equal pay legislation and begin prioritizing women’s economic security in the legislative agenda.
-MWPC Intern Talia Lepson

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis and the Right to Marry

The story on everyone’s minds and newsfeeds this week is Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. There is much confusion and disagreement surrounding her jailing. Her supporters believe she was jailed due to her religious beliefs, while others, including myself, recognize that she was jailed for breaking the law. Davis chose not to issue marriage certificates even after being ordered by a federal judge. 

Many opinions are circling the web and the news. One opinion, mine, is this; the Supreme Court, the highest court in the nation made a decision. SCOTUS ruled that all rights that apply to opposite-sex couples now apply to same-sex couples across the country. The republic that we all love so much was built on the foundation of laws and justice. And this is the law.

Kim Davis, as a government employee, was bound by law to grant those couples marriage licenses regardless of her religious beliefs. We all have a right to our beliefs. It is a fundamental right that is necessary and important for the stability of our country. That does not mean that one is allowed to ignore a judicial mandate and deny others their rights as American citizens. Religion has no place in government. The separation of church and state is fundamental to the welfare of our country. If Kim Davis is unable to separate her religious beliefs from her role as government employee she should no longer be allowed to do that job. Period.
-MWPC Intern Emma Sands