Monday, April 25, 2016

"A Woman's Place Is On The Money"

Many of you have heard of the Treasury’s commitment to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bill. The push for change officially started last Spring under the direction of Women on 20s, a nonprofit campaign dedicated to recognizing the often overlooked contributions of women to American history.  Lawmakers Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D.-NH) and Rep. Luis GutiĆ©rrez (D.-IL) were the first to sign on, both introducing bills last April to get a woman on the 20.  Dozens of lawmakers have since joined the movement. After narrowing pool from 100 American heroines to 15, Women on 20 published an online poll asking which woman voters would most like to see represented on our currency. Over half a million voters chose Harriet Tubman, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt as the four finalists.  In the second round, Tubman won 33.6% of the 352,341 votes cast, solidifying her as the winner. After a year’s work, the Treasury has agreed to accelerate the production of the new $20. Despite backlash, they plan to keep Andrew Jackson on the back of the new $20, a decision many find offensive considering Tubman’s enslavement and Jackson’s slave-owning.

In addition to Tubman, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced his intention to complete a large-scale redesigning of numerous bills by 2020 to commemorate the hundred-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. The $10 will feature (albeit on the back) suffragists/abolitionists Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Lucretia Mott. Lew also suggested displaying historical events at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, on the back of the $5.

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern

White Feminism: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

Recently, stars such as Taylor Swift, Amy Schumer, and Lena Dunham have been called out by feminist groups and people of the social justice world alike as not being actual feminists, but rather “white feminists.” Now, this may sound like a general statement of what they are and what they are presenting themselves to be: white women that happen to be feminists. But the term “white feminism” is not solely an adjective, rather than it is a negative connotation. “White feminism” refers to the practicing of a feminism that assumes white (cisgendered, straight, able-bodied, thin, middle-to-upper class) women as the default, actively avoiding the acknowledgement and understanding on any topic other than gender, therefore leading to cookie-cutter feminism that can only possibly be useful to those it’s intended for: white women. However, feminists that happen to be white aren’t all automatically deemed as “white feminists.” White feminism is just a feminism that ignores intersectionality.

White feminism comes from the fact that most white people don’t have to deal with discrimination based on the color of their skin, or racism. They don’t have to deal with the institutionalized and societal walls that women of color do. “White feminism” assumes that white women experience misogyny in the way that all women experience misogyny, which is incredibly untrue. White women have very much been able to break into industries where it is primarily white-male dominated, while women of color have to face barriers that white women just don’t. Within the media, this is very prevalent. When looking through a bathing-suit catalog and you see a basically nude white woman, she is often seen as “beautiful” and “elegant.” However, if a black woman is seen in the same pose, wearing the same amount of clothing, she is often seen as “trashy” and “ghetto.” The stereotype of the “loud, angry black woman” is a concept that intertwines with this, and is also very prevalent in today’s world. When a white woman stands up for herself and states what is on her mind, she is often praised, and deemed “inspirational and outgoing.” When a woman of color does the same thing, she is often seen as “too loud, opinionated, and angry.” This isn’t a shaming of women embracing their bodies, or embracing their voices. This is a shaming of the hypocrisy, and society valuing white women in a more positive way. Women of Middle Eastern descent that choose to wear a head-covering are constantly harassed for their culture, religion, appearance, and apparel. They have their burkas, niqabs, hijabs, and head-coverings alike pulled off of them by people in the street, solely for the sake of humiliation. This is an issue that white women just don’t have to face, and white feminism does not recognize this hardship that these women have to go through. Along with this, police brutality is very much a feminist issue, because it affects many women, including very saddening cases such as the death of Sandra Bland. Police brutality doesn’t affect white women in the way that it affects women of color today, so it is often ignored by “white feminism.”  White feminism aims to close the wage gap, which is great, but it fails to recognize that many times minority women (Black and Latina) make even less than white women, and it shows no interest of acknowledging that.

Addressing “white feminism” isn’t about silencing these women. It’s about opening up the conversation for more diverse voices to be heard. “White feminists” are not bad, they just have a lot to learn, and a lot to understand. The most important thing that white feminists can do is educate themselves, listen, and engage in the conversation without silencing women of color. True intersectional feminism believes in the equality of all genders, sexes, identities, races, religions, cultures, ethnicity, disabilities, and everything in between. It is about recognizing the issues that other women face, and wanting to help even if the issue doesn’t immediately affect you.  

This video from MTV’s Braless series hosted by Lacie Green with guest Franchesca Ramsey is a great summary:

-Courtney, MWPC Intern

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Women’s Soccer - The Next Battleground for Pay Equity

On March 30th, The U.S. Women’s Soccer team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accusing the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) of wage discrimination on the basis of gender.  The athletes joined the fight for pay equity hot off their 2015 World Cup win, in which they received $7 million less than the men’s soccer team did for losing in round 16 in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 

According to the USSF’s 2015 financial report, the women made about a quarter of what the men did, despite bringing in nearly $20 million more in revenue.  The EEOC also found that the women make $99,000 each if they win 20 games, the minimum number of games required of the team each year.  Conversely, the men make $100,000 each even if they lose all of those 20 games and receive bonuses of $5,000 to $17,000 for each game played beyond the minimum requirement.[1]

"We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it,” said U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo on NBC Today. "We believe now the time is right because we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports and specifically for women's soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights."

The USSF has been pushing back, filing a lawsuit against the union representing the women’s team.  They are hoping the court will rule that the current collective bargaining agreement cannot be revisited until its expiration date, December 31, 2016.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Simmons College political science professor Leanne Doherty notes the potential impact of the women’s team’s courageous move.  She writes,

“The very idea that these women athletes, who are very public figures with strong domestic name recognition, have brought this case forward opens up a policy window that all pay equity activists can step through. The players themselves seem to recognize their power, describing it as their “duty” to call attention to pay inequity between men and women…. They are using their social capital for political power.”

If Doherty is right, we could see the women’s team win their lawsuit against the USSF and spark the momentum needed for the rest of the country to enforce equal pay in all professions.  As forward Alex Morgan understands, however, this is not simply about the pay.  "We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. men's national team," Morgan said. "We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations, and we simply want equal treatment."

--Kathleen Melendy, MWPC Intern