AlterNet.org: Ruth Rosen http://web.alternet.org/authors/ruth-rosen-0 en Hillary Clinton Makes History: America Could Have Its First Female President http://web.alternet.org/election-2016/hillary-democratic-nominee-america-may-well-have-its-first-female-president <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;We bear witness to an historic moment, as we did when Barack Obama became president.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_386144515.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I still remember the night Barack Obama won the presidency. I was with people who, like me, could never have imagined that an African American could become president. The joy in the room was palpable. The impossible had become a reality. When Pete Seeger sang “The Land Is Your Land” at Obama's inaugural, it seemed as if anything was possible.</p><p>That is how many women of my generation feel today. Hillary Clinton has won the nomination, and it’s hard to imagine her losing the election to the loutish, egotistical Donald Trump.</p><p>I think back to when I began teaching women’s history at Berkeley in 1969. Students were stunned to learn that at the first women’s convention in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton had to argue vigorously for women’s right to vote. When I described how Susan B. Anthony traveled the nation fighting for suffrage, insisting “that failure was not an option,” they could hardly imagine anyone caring so much about voting.</p><p>But the vote was important; it implied a kind of independence women had never before experienced. For many men—and women—it meant that women would, for the first time, have a separate relationship to the state. No longer would the men in their family mediate their relationship to the government.</p><p>It took 72 years for women just to get the right to vote. For that simple symbol of citizenship, they petitioned the government, marched through streets, tied themselves to the White House fence, went on hunger strikes in prison and a few became martyrs and died. In the end, it came down to one man in Tennessee whose mother wrote him and begged him to ratify the suffrage amendment to the constitution.</p><p>Those who had fought for so many decades were jubilant. But they knew that the vote didn’t guarantee economic, social or political equality. And so, during the years between 1920, when the vote was ratified and the emergence of the modern women’s movement, women fought for better working conditions, for social justice and for greater equality for women in every aspect of American society.</p><p>President John F. Kennedy certainly didn’t mean to start a women’s movement but he owed women in the Democratic Party because they had worked so hard to get him elected. So he created a Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1963, the Commission released its findings: in every profession, occupation and job, women were undervalued, underpaid and underappreciated. The data they collected could not be denied. Soon, the states began their own commissions and the findings were all the same. No matter what women did, they always suffered from their status as second-class citizens. The assumption that men would take care of and protect women meant nothing to widowers, the divorced or the poor. In newspapers, classified ads still published jobs for men and women on separate pages.</p><p>By the mid-'60s, millions of women began to feel a restless need for change. This is when Hillary Rodham was in college. Equality for women was in the air, inspired by a civil rights movement that had fought against the idea of racial supremacy. If races were equal, why should women accept male superiority? Questioning all authority was omnipresent as young people learned how the government had lied about why the nation was at war in Vietnam.</p><p>This was the political world in which Hillary Clinton grew from a complacent Republican to a Democratic who devotes herself to advocating for women and children. Like other women of her generation, she suffered much ridicule, not to mention the unbearable embarrassment her randy husband created by betraying her over and over again. But she didn’t give up. The truth is, she understood that Bill Clinton was not merely her husband; he was a popular president whose political capital would help shape the rest of her life.</p><p>So she pressed on, working to improve the lives of families. At the U.N. Conference on Women in 1995, she gave a rousing speech that demanded, for the very first time, that women’s rights are human rights.</p><p>People weren’t always sure they liked her. A strong woman, a feminist, who stood by her man? It seemed paradoxical. But it was also smart and led to her career as a senator, and then to the president’s cabinet as secretary of state.</p><p>If you consider her extraordinary experience—as first lady, senator and secretary of state—she is remarkably qualified to become president. From her extensive travels, she knows dozens of leaders around the world, understands the world of the Oval Office, and is all too familiar with the slings and arrows that fly through the nation’s capital.</p><p>The truth is, she is the most qualified individual—not just woman—to be president.</p><p>I never thought this would happen. Ever since the late 1960s, I thought a woman might become president during my lifetime, but I assumed, as was common in my generation, that she would be a conservative Republican, not a woman known for her liberal causes. Why? Because the backlash against the '60s made it almost unthinkable for a liberal woman to become president. Bill Clinton was the only Democrat, aside from Jimmy Carter, who broke through the Republican victories, and he moved to the center and even ended welfare to stay in the White House.</p><p>When I first voted, I didn’t think about the suffragists who had spent their lives fighting for my right to be a citizen. None of us cared; we didn’t know that Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote brilliant speeches that were then given by Susan B. Anthony. It wasn’t part of our experience.</p><p>The young women of today similarly take for granted all the opportunities second-wave feminists made possible. And why not? Hillary Clinton and the rest of her generation worked to change laws and customs so that another generation could move on and challenge what remains to be changed.</p><p>Someday, my grandchildren will take for granted that a woman can become the president of the United States. And so they should. Today, however, we bear witness to an historic moment, as we did when Barack Obama became president. The legacy of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement has not changed the wealth inequality that still crushes millions of Americans. That is why Bernie Sanders has mobilized so many young people. But whatever you think of Hillary Clinton’s politics, this is a time to stand back, and remember how women have been excluded from our political culture. Finally, America will very likely have a qualified woman as its president.</p> Tue, 07 Jun 2016 21:15:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 1057937 at http://web.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics hillary clinton On the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act -- 'We Will Not Be Beaten' http://web.alternet.org/20th-anniversary-violence-against-women-act-we-will-not-be-beaten <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Domestic violence is just the tip of the iceberg. It may take another century before violence against women seems as barbaric and unacceptable as slavery does today.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-09-08_at_7.41.43_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Until the women’s movement organized in the late 1960s and early 1970s, most Americans considered wife beating a custom. The police ignored what went on behind closed doors and women hid their bruises beneath layers of make-up. Like rape or abortion, wife beating was viewed as a private and shameful act which few women discussed. Many battered victims, moreover, felt they “deserved” to be beaten - because they acted too uppity, didn’t get dinner on the table on time, or couldn’t silence their children’s shouts and screams.</p><p>Men slugged women with impunity until feminist activists renamed wife beating as domestic violence, and described its victims as “battered women.” Such women needed refuge, and activists created a network of shelters for women who tried to escape, often with their children, the violence threatened by their partners.</p><p>Throughout the 1970s, feminists sought to teach women that they had the right to be free of violence. “We will not be beaten” became the slogan of the movement against domestic violence. Books and pamphlets argued that violence violated women’s rights. But it wasn’t until 1994, during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, that Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act , legislation that allocated funds to investigate crimes against women, created shelters for battered women, provided legal aid, and protected victims evicted from their homes because of domestic violence.</p><p>Feminists considered VAWA landmark legislation. It gave the federal government the authority to punish domestic violence. Studies showed that the law had some positive impact by creating refuges and forcing the judicial system to deal with domestic violence. But as daily newspapers reported, it didn’t stop violence against women in private or in public - at home, at universities, on streets and in parks.</p><p>Nor did it take long for right-wing opponents to try and weaken VAWA. As an increasingly polarized America bitterly fought over women’s new rights and protections, social conservatives targeted the VAWA as undermining the traditional family and men’s dominant role in society. And each time the legislation came up for reauthorisation, activists had to renew their struggle to protect what they had gained, even as they tried to expand VAWA to include new groups of women. In 2013 for example, opponents wanted to deny Native American, same-sex couples, and immigrant women, the protections provided from VAWA. They lost, but only after a lengthy Congressional political battle.</p><p>Setbacks were of course inevitable. Like abortion, VAWA symbolized women’s new social, economic, and sexual independence from men’s control. In 2000, a sharply divided Supreme Court, in United States v. Morrison, struck down a section of the VAWA that gave women the right to sue their attackers. By a 5-4 majority, the court overturned the provision as unconstitutional because it usurped Congress’s power to regulate "commerce with foreign nations, states and Indian Tribes."</p><p>At the same time, grassroots organizations of women began identifying all kinds of violence against women, including genital mutilation, dowry death, rape, forced sterilization, forced pregnancy, sex trafficking, honour deaths, as well as the custom of throwing acid into the face of a woman who had “dishonoured” her family.</p><p>In 1995, Hillary Rodham Clinton famously declared, at the Beijing UN World Conference on Women, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely - and the right to be heard.”</p><p>Certainly, every Secretary-General of the United Nations heard her and felt obliged to speak against those customs that violated women’s human rights. In 2006, Kofi Annan, wrote that “Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.” Only last week Unicef published a major report, Hidden in plain sight, based on data in 190 countries, which revealed that 120 million girls and young women face serious sexual assault globally.</p><p>Eve Ensler, an American playwright who wrote the highly controversial and Tony-awarded play, “The Vagina Monologues,” has tried to combat violence against women around the globe. Her play sought to teach women to value their bodies. She then renamed Valentine’s Day, V-Day, to encourage women to speak out against the violence they faced. "I was obsessed with the statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime,” Ensler explained, “which is equal to over one billion women."</p><p>And so she created <a href="http://www.onebillionrising.org/">One Billion Rising</a>, which encourages men and women to break the “chain of violence” on V-Day by dancing in flash mobs against violence against women. The movement’s web site functions like an international bulletin board, with posts from harassed female street artists in Cairo to a BBC program about the Yazidi women, a religious group that few people in the West had ever heard about before.</p><p>More than anything, war reinforces the custom that the victors get to rape the “spoils” of war. On June 19th, 2008, the United Nations Security Council declared such rape, when a tactic of war, to be a war crime against humanity. But that has changed little. Every day, in every war zone, we hear about women who have been abducted, kidnapped, and raped by their ethnic group’s enemy. The truth is, millions of women are currently caught between murderous organisations like ISIS, which want to control every aspect of women’s lives, and modern societies who have at least given lip service to the idea of gender equality.</p><p>So far, Americans have not greeted the twentieth anniversary of the VAWA with any significant fanfare. Even without any celebration, however, the legacy of VAWA remains influential. On August 30th, the nation’s highest immigration court decided - for the first time - that a Guatemalan woman who had been a victim of severe domestic violence was eligible for asylum.</p><p>For years feminist immigration lawyers had failed to convince immigration courts that many women will die if they are deported and returned to their husbands. Such a change in American law is a perfect way to note the twentieth anniversary of VAWA, whose great achievement has been to change the terms of debate about violence against women.</p><p>Still, it is not new laws, but the enforcement of them that needs to be addressed. Violence against sex workers by customers and undocumented workers by employers, for example, is widespread, but these women fear reporting violence because of their illegal status. Domestic violence is just the tip of the iceberg. It may take another century before violence against women seems as barbaric and unacceptable as slavery does today.</p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:19:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, Open Democracy 50.50 1018548 at http://web.alternet.org Gender violence against women act Women Are Swelling the Ranks of People Living in Extreme Poverty in America http://web.alternet.org/gender/war-women-newly-invisible-and-undeserving-poor-north-america <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Poor women are often ignored or regarded with contempt in the U.S.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/singlemom.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This piece originally appeared on <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/war-on-women-newly-invisible-and-undeserving-poor-in-america" target="_blank">openDemocracy</a>, and is reprinted here with their permission.</em></p><p>While the rest of the world debates America’s role in the Middle East or its use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. Congress is debating just how drastically it should cut food assistance to the 47 million Americans — one out of seven people — who suffer from “food insecurity,” the popular euphemism for those who go hungry. </p><p>The U.S. Government <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program">began</a> giving food stamps to the poor during the Great Depression. Even when I was a student in the 1960’s, I received food stamps while unemployed during the summers. That concern for the hungry, however, has evaporated. The Republicans — dominated by Tea Party policies — are transforming the United States into a far less compassionate and more mean-spirited society.</p><p>The need is great. Since the Great Recession of 2008, the food stamp program — now called <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap">SNAP</a> (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), has doubled from $38 billion in 2008 to $78 billion in the last year. During 2012, 65 million Americans used SNAP for at least one a month, which means that one out of every five Americans became part of the swelling rolls of “needy families,” most of whom are women and children.</p><p>Democrats defend the new debit card program, which can only be used to purchase food, as feeding needy Americans at a time of high unemployment and great poverty. Republicans, for their part, argue that the programme is rife with fraud, that its recipients (who are mostly single mothers) are lazy and shiftless, and that we must make drastic cuts to reduce government spending. Their most Dickensian argument is that if you feed the poor, they won’t want to work.</p><p>But as the New York Times economic<em></em>columnist Paul Krugman has repeatedly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/opinion/krugman-free-to-be-hungry.html">pointed out,</a> welfare entitlements, including the food debit card, are not only good for families; they also good for the economy. People who receive such help spend the money immediately. Single mother hold down multiple jobs at minimum wages to keep their family together. The debit card allows them to go shopping and to buy needed groceries. Such entitlements boost spending and the economy, rather than depleting it.</p><p>Despite these arguments, the cuts have already begun. On Nov. 1, 2013, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/us/politics/house-passes-bill-cutting-40-billion-from-food-stamps.html?_r=0">Congress</a><a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/millions-on-food-stamps-facing-benefits-cuts/">cut</a> nearly five billion dollars from SNAP and Republicans now want to cut another <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/food-stamp-cuts_n_3957509.html">$40 billion dollars</a>. The stalemate has resulted in the failure of Congress to pass the farm bill, which provides SNAP subsidies to farms, mostly of which are large agricultural corporations.</p><p>Meanwhile, poverty grows, the stock market zooms to new heights, the wealth of the one percent increases, and corporate executives continue to get <a href="http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc512.html">tax exemptions</a> for business entertainment expenses, which allow corporations to deduct 50 percent of these costs from their <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourfuture.org/20131120/cut-corporate-americas-free-lunch-not-food-stamps">annual taxes</a>.</p><p>In all this discussion, the real face of poverty — single mothers — has strangely disappeared. Welfare policy in America has always favored mothers and children. In a country that values self-sufficiency and glorifies individualism, Americans have viewed men — except war veterans — as capable of caring for themselves, or part of the undeserving poor. Women, by contrast, were always viewed as mothers with dependents, people to be cared for and protected precisely because they are vulnerable and raise the next generation.</p><p>As I read dozens of think tank and government <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2013/1012/Food-stamp-debate-holds-up-farm-bill">reports, and newspaper stories</a> however, I am surprised to notice that even strong opponents of the cuts describe SNAP’s recipients as children, teenagers, seniors or the disabled. Why have single mothers disappeared from such accounts about the poor? There are plenty of “needy families,” “households,” and “poor Americans,” but the real face of poverty and the actual recipients of food assistance are single mothers, whose faces have been absorbed by the more abstract language of “poor Americans” and “needy households.”</p><p>Even the strongest opponents of these cuts don’t focus on women or mothers. Instead they publicize pinched-faced children — a better poster image — staring hungrily at food they cannot eat. Or, they discuss the public health impact these cuts may have <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/10/31/1252025/-Don-t-care-that-food-stamp-cuts-will-make-kids-hungry-Think-about-the-economy">on children</a>. According to most reports, even from the Agriculture Department, “children and teenagers” make up almost half of the recipients of food assistance. But they don’t mention the mothers who receive this assistance in order to feed those children and teenagers. From the stories about food stamps, you’d think that only children, teenagers, the elderly and the disabled have gone hungry. </p><p>The words “women” or even “mothers” rarely appear. In a powerful column against the cuts, the liberal and compassionate New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, for example, argued that “two-thirds of recipients are children, elderly or disabled” and <a href="http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/16/why-food-stamps-are-a-great-investment/">warned</a> his readers about the long-range impact of malnourished children. He, too, never mentioned women, who are the main adult recipients of the SNAP program and who feed those children, elderly or disabled. Nor did he point out that those who apply for such assistance are the mothers and women who seek to nourish these children. It’s as though women are simply vehicles — not persons — in the reproduction process of the human race. </p><p>Yet the reality tells a different story. In 2010, for example, <a href="http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/IB-Bean-SNAP-10-11.pdf">42 percent of single mothers</a> relied on SNAP; and in rural areas, the rate often rose as high as one half of all single mothers. What’s missing from this picture — on both sides — is the real faces of hunger, which is not “needy” families, or “poor Americans", but single mothers with “food insecurity” for themselves and their families. According to the <a href="http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/09/who_relies_on_food_stamps.html">Center for Budget Priorities</a>, women <a href="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/142c3b8a8eb18aca">are twice</a> as likely to use food stamps as anyone else in the population. They are the ones who apply for the SNAP debit card, go shopping, takes buses for hours to find discounted food supplies, and try to stretch their food to last throughout the month for their children, teenagers and, less often, husbands. They are the pregnant women with older children whose infants are born malnourished, and the “Americans” who, at the end of the month, make hasty runs to relatives, food banks and even join other dumpster divers.</p><p>When journalists do focus on the women who are recipients of food assistance, they discover a nightmare hiding in plain sight. These women are either unemployed, under-employed or service workers who don’t earn enough to feed themselves and their families. By the end of the month, they and their children frequently often skip meals or eat one meal a day until the next month’s SNAP assistant arrives</p><p>So why have women disappeared from a fierce national debate over who deserves food assistance? I’m not actually sure. Perhaps it is because so many adult women, like men, now work in the labour force and are viewed as individuals who should take care of themselves. Perhaps it is because Republicans find women’s appetite, as opposed to that of children, an embarrassment, hinting of sexual desire. Perhaps it is because this is part of the Republican war on women’s reproductive freedom: a single mother with children is somehow guilty of bringing on her own poverty.</p><p>Whatever the reason, the rhetoric does not match the reality. Once in while, the media publishes or broadcasts a “human interest” story that <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/millions-on-food-stamps-facing-benefits-cuts/">gives</a> poor women a face” “It is late October,” one reporter begins, “so Adrianne Flowers is out of money to buy food for her family. Feeding five kids is expensive, and the roughly $600 in food stamps she gets from the federal government never lasts the whole month. "I'm barely making it," said the 31-year-old Washington, D.C., resident and single mother.” End of story. On to weather and the sports. </p><p>For the most part, however, poor women remain invisible, even as the mothers who feed the children, teenagers, elderly and disabled who live with them. They do not elicit compassion. If anything, they are ignored or regarded with contempt.</p><p>Whatever the reason, Americans are having a national debate about poor and needy Americans without addressing the very group whose poverty is the greatest. The result is that we are turning poor, single mothers, who are <a href="http://www.legalmomentum.org/sites/default/files/reports/single-mother-poverty-2010.pdf">85 percent</a> of all single parents, into a newly invisible and undeserving group of recipients.</p><p>Republicans may view single mothers as sinful parasites who don’t deserve food assistance. But behind every hungry child, teenager and elderly person is a hungry mother who is exhausted from trying to keep her family together. Women who receive food assistance are neither invisible nor undeserving. They are working-class heroes who work hard — often at several minimal wage jobs — to keep their families nourished and together.</p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 12:32:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, openDemocracy.net 939350 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Economy Gender Hard Times USA poverty north america u.s. welfare food stamps snap corporate welfare Center for Budget Priorities hunger women paul krugman nicholas kristof disability What's Driving the Relentless Assault on Abortion in the United States? http://web.alternet.org/gender/why-relentless-assault-abortion-united-states <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Americans have grown more supportive of same -sex marriages, gun control, immigration reform and even taxes on the wealthiest individuals. But the war rages on over abortion.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1372243715275-1-0_8.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ruth-rosen/why-relentless-assault-on-abortion-in-united-states">This article first appeared on OpenDemocracy.</a></em></p><p>Americans have become more liberal, despite the rise of the Tea Party and the election of some of their right-wing politicians.  Teenagers can now buy<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/fda-morning-after-pill_n_3475178.html">“morning after”</a> emergency contraception pills without consulting a physician or a pharmacist. The Supreme Court recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented same-sex marriages. It also upheld the right of same-sex couples in California to wed. As of July 2013, there are now <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States">13 states</a> that permit same-sex marriages. Despite the gridlock caused by Republicans in Congress, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/sunday-review/why-abortion-is-not-like-other-issues.html">more Americans than ever</a> support gun control, immigration reform, same-sex marriage and taxes on the wealthiest individuals. This is why Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.</p><p>Why then, does state after state attempt to restrict women’s access to abortion? </p><p>There are several answers.  David Leonhardt, the Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times  <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/sunday-review/why-abortion-is-not-like-other-issues.html">argues</a> that “Abortion is the relatively rare issue in which the cliché is true: public opinion does actually rest about midway between the parties’ platforms.” </p><p>He is right; Democrats support abortion, even during the third trimester, while Republicans seek to make all abortions illegal. The truth is, Americans are deeply divided over abortion. Polls consistently <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/sunday-review/why-abortion-is-not-like-other-issues.html?_r=0">reveal</a> that they are no more likely to support abortion than oppose it. According to recent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/1576/Abortion.aspx">Gallup polls</a>, about 60 % of the population supports a woman’s right to an abortion during the first trimester (or the first 12 weeks) and 64 % believe that an abortion should be illegal in the second trimester. Only 29% of those polled, however, want to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/1576/Abortion.aspx">repeal</a> Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal.</p><p>Much has changed since the late 1960s when women and physicians fought for the right to abortion, which the Supreme Court legalized in its landmark decision, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade">Roe v. Wade</a>, in 1973.  With the advanced technology of sonograms, both women and men can see that the fetus is not an abstraction, but an actual growing life.  The question for many, then, is when do the rights of the growing fetus trump the right of a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy?  Is it at 12 weeks? 24 weeks? Always?  Or never?   </p><p>Politics, too, has also transformed the political culture. Katha Pollitt, the well-known columnist of the Nation magazine, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/AppData/Local/Temp/in%20email%20to%20author">notes</a> that as a result of the 2010 elections, right-wing Republicans flooded the state legislatures, thereby gaining new power to pass legislation that restricted abortions. The 2012 elections, unfortunately, didn’t change the Republican - controlled state legislatures. </p><p>Another reason states have been able to limit access to abortion is that opponents have been extremely successful at conflating all abortions with the late-term, procedures performed during the third trimester. Though these are rare, they are nevertheless done. Often the woman involved has just discovered that the fetus has an incurable disease, or will be born dead. Nevertheless, the procedure itself is nothing like an abortion performed when a woman is six weeks pregnant.</p><p>This was dramatized in May, 2013 when the nation watched in horror as prosecutors described how Dr. Kermit Gosnell essentially <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/us/kermit-gosnell-abortion-doctor-found-guilty-of-murder.html?pagewanted=all">murdered</a> a baby born alive in a botched abortion. The baby would have survived if the doctor hadn’t “snipped” its neck with scissors. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  This is hardly the typical late-term abortion, but it certainly caused many people, including many liberal supporters, to re-visit the question, at what point should abortion be illegal? Liberal, pro-choice Bloomberg columnist <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-01/kermit-gosnell-and-the-horrors-of-abortion.html">Margaret Carlson</a>, for example, wrote, “There's almost no difference between killing a baby accidentally born alive in a late-term abortion, as Gosnell stands accused of, and killing the same baby in the womb, as more skilled doctors can do."</p><p><a href="http://bixbycenter.ucsf.edu/fs/bios/joffe-carole.html">Carole Joffe</a>, author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars, and a professor at the <a href="http://bixbycenter.ucsf.edu/fs/bios/joffe-carole.html">Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health</a> at the University of California, has championed women’s right to abortion during her entire career. Commenting on the Gosnell case, she <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/04/16/learning-right-lessons-philadelphia-abortion-clinic-disaster/">wrote</a>,</p><p>"This was truly a chamber of horrors: a filthy facility, with blood - stained blankets and furniture, unsterilized instruments, and cat feces left unattended. Most seriously, there was a jaw dropping disregard of both the law and prevailing standards of medical care. Untrained personnel undertook complex medical procedures, such as the administration of anesthesia, and the doctor in question repeatedly performed illegal (post-viability) abortions, by a unique and ghastly method of delivering live babies and then severing their spinal cord.”</p><p>But she was also quick to <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/04/16/learning-right-lessons-philadelphia-abortion-clinic-disaster/">point out</a> that such a gruesome scene would never take place in a society that makes abortion accessible, safe and legal:</p><p>“That such clinics can flourish until the inevitable disaster occurs…is a ‘perfect storm’ caused by the marginalization of abortion care from mainstream medicine, the lack of universal health care in the United States, and the particular difficulties facing undocumented immigrants in obtaining health care.”</p><p>In late June. Americans watched another drama unfold as Texas tried to pass one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the nation. Texas State Senator<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/26/who-is-wendy-davis/">Wendy Davis</a> successfully tried to filibuster (stop) a vote on the legislation.  This required that she <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/26/who-is-wendy-davis/">stand</a> while speaking for 11 hours, because Texas Senate rules forbid someone to sit or to use the bathroom while engaged in a filibuster. Her heroic efforts successfully halted a vote on the legislation. But the bill eventually passed in a special session and will “ <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/24/texas-abortion-bill_n_3488965.html">ban</a> abortion after the 20th weeks of pregnancy, require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, limit abortion to surgical centres, and stipulate that doctors must monitor even non-surgical abortions.” The legislation will effectively close down most abortion providers in the state.  Supporters of the right to abortion are now <a href="http://www.dailytexanonline.com/news/2013/07/18/whats-next-for-texas-abortion-legislation">appealing</a> this legislation to higher courts and then, if possible, to the U.S. Supreme Court.</p><p>As a result of these technological and political changes, and the grotesque publicity surrounding the Gosnell case, many states, including Arizona, Florida, Kansas, and North Carolina, have seriously limited women’s access to abortion.  <a href="http://www.kaiseredu.org/Tutorials-and-Presentations/Bios/Alina-Salganicoff.aspx">Alina Salignoff</a>, Vice President and Director of the Women’s Health policy at the <a href="http://kff.org/">Kaiser Family Foundation</a> has been tracing these state efforts for years. She <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/AppData/Local/Temp/in%20an%20email%20to%20the%20author">explained</a> to me how,</p><p>"Anti-abortion activists have adopted multiple approaches to restrict access by targeting different fronts, including increasing the requirements on both the facilities and physicians that provide abortions to women, as they have done in Texas; and making abortion more difficult for women to obtain by imposing waiting periods, sonograms, gestational limits and requirements for parental consent or notification in the cases of teens.  More recently, states have begun to enact legislation that bans private insurance coverage or plans that will be available to individuals as a result of health reform.”</p><p>Sonograms, politics, right-wing state legislatures, the Gosnell horror—all of these have contributed to America’s continuing abortion wars. But there is one more reason why abortion is such a contentious issue in the United States.  Both the birth control Pill, made available in 1961, and the legalization of abortion in 1973 by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, ruptured the historic tie between sex and reproduction.</p><p>Such a dramatic change naturally disturbed many people.  Sex could now be for pleasure, rather than for reproduction.  And it was women who had gained the new sexual freedom, not men.</p><p>Ever since 1973, abortion has become a symbol of women’ freedom to control their bodies and their reproductive choices, their growing economic independence, and their greater visibility as politicians, professionals, lawyers, professors, and presidents of universities and corporations. Their sexual freedom is not new; but it still symbolizes the fact that men can no longer control their bodies or their choices to have children. They can control their own destiny, and that is what Republicans would like to end.   </p><p>According to the Guttmacher Institute, "in the first six months of 2013, states enacted 106 provisions related to reproductive health and rights; issues related to abortion, family planning funding, and sex eduction. Only forty three provisions aimed at restiricting acces to abortion. Notice that most of these provisions tried to eliminate contraception and sex education, not just abortion. They want to curtail women's sexuality by eliminating contraception as well.</p><p>The fact is, American culture is highly sexualised, but its people are still profoundly uncomfortable about sex in general, and with women's sexuality, in particular.  Fear of women's sexuality is not, of course, the only reason Americans are obsessed about abortion. But along with changes in technology, politics, and debates over late-term abortions, attitudes towards women's sexual freedom - felt and expressed by large populations of both men and women - is one important reason that abortion, and not same sex marriage, still remains the most divisive social issue in American political culture</p> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 09:42:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, Open Democracy 50.50 872807 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Gender abortion You've Got a Long Way to Go, Baby! http://web.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/youve-got-long-way-go-baby <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What the next half century will bring for the women&#039;s movement.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/womens_suffrage_day_in_fountain_square_-_nara_-_553307.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p><em style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; list-style: none; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; line-height: 18px; ">To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from <a href="http://tomdispatch.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=6cb39ff0b1f670c349f828c73&amp;id=1e41682ade">TomDispatch.com here</a></em><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: 14px; line-height: 18px; ">.</span></p><p>In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell <a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?source=search_app#hl=en&amp;tbo=d&amp;output=search&amp;sclient=psy-ab&amp;q=virginia+slims+campaign&amp;oq=Virginia+&amp;gs_l=hp.1.0.35i39j0l3.2176.3495.0.5410.9.9.0.0.0.0.197.1141.2j7.9.0.les%3B..0.0...1c.1.2.hp.A-hvfYOd9Bw&amp;pbx=1&amp;bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&amp;bvm=bv.42261806,d.cGE&amp;fp=400eb12482d0bbe8&amp;biw=1168&amp;bih=474">Virginia Slims</a>, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon.  It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early twentieth century being punished for smoking.  In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality -- independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation.</p><p>As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57565526/womens-lung-cancer-death-rate-almost-the-same-as-mens/">die</a> at similar rates from that disease.</p><p>Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far -- and just how far we have to go.</p><p><strong>Once Upon a Time</strong></p><p>These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work.  Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.</p><p>Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers.  None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies.  All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society. </p><p>As late as 1970, <a href="http://brainsandcareers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&amp;t=2523">Dr. Edgar Berman</a>, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency.  Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers.  Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor.</p><p>The public generally believed that rape victims had probably “asked for it,” most women felt too ashamed to report rape, and no language existed to make sense of what we now call domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, or date rape.  One simple phrase seemed to sum up the hidden injuries women suffered in silence: “That’s life.”</p><p>On August 27, 1970, in response to such injustice, 50,000 women marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue, announcing the birth of a new movement. They demanded three rights: legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay.  These were preconditions for women’s equality with men at home and in the workplace.  Astonishingly, they didn’t include the ending of violence against women among their demands -- though the experience and fear of male violence was widespread -- because women still suffered these crimes in silence.</p><p>Those three demands, and the fourth one that couldn’t yet be articulated, have yet to be met.</p><p><strong>The Hidden Injuries of Sex</strong></p><p>As the women’s movement grew, women activists did, however, begin to “name” their grievances. Once named, they could be identified, debated, and -- with a growing feminist political voice -- turned into policy or used to change the law.   </p><p>It turned out that there were plenty of hidden injuries, which women activists discovered and publicized through consciousness-raising groups, pamphlets, and books.  Rape, once a subject of great shame, became <a href="http://historyinthecity.blogspot.com/2012/01/other-susan-who-wrote-about-rape.html">redefined</a> as a physical assault that had little to do with lust. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_rape">Date rape</a>, for which there was plenty of experience but no name, opened up a <a href="http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&amp;key=201">national conversation</a> about what constituted consensual sex. Few people had ever heard the words “marital rape.”  (“If you can’t rape your wife,” California Senator Bob Wilson allegedly <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25739275?uid=3739560&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=4&amp;uid=3739256&amp;sid=21101467135903">said</a>, “then who can you rape?”)  In this way, a new conversation began about the right of wives to have consensual sex and the nature of power relations within marriage.</p><p>From the very beginning, the mainstream media and the public labeled women activists as “lesbians.” Why else would they complain about male behavior? Provoked by constant efforts to “tarnish” all feminists as lesbians, activists chose to embrace the label, rather than exclude lesbians from the movement. In the process, they also began to write about and then discuss <a href="http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/compulsory_heterosexuality.html">compulsory heterosexuality</a>. Together with a burgeoning men’s gay movement, feminist lesbians and gay men formed the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_liberation">Gay Liberation Front</a> in the 1969. Soon, lesbian feminists created an all-women’s group called the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Menace">Lavender Menace</a>.  </p><p><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/a-brief-history-of-the-birth-control-pill/480/">The birth control pill</a> and the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ruth-rosen/..:Downloads:en.wikipedia.org:wiki:Sexual_revolution">sexual liberation</a> movement of the mid-1960s gave women new freedoms.  Grasping the limitations of such changes without abortion being legalized, feminists soon joined the medical abortion rights campaign of that era. Determined to <a href="http://womenshistory.about.com/od/abortionuslegal/a/Abortion-Reform-or-Repeal.htm">repeal laws</a> against abortion, in New York they testified before the state legislature and passed out copies of a “model abortion bill”: a blank piece of paper. Through “<a href="http://womenshistory.about.com/od/abortionus/a/abortion_speakout.htm">public speak-outs</a>,” they openly discussed their own illegal abortions and explained why they had made such choices. In Chicago and San Francisco, activists created <a href="http://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/CWLUFeature/TribTheater.html">clandestine</a> organizations to help women seek qualified doctors. Some feminists even learned how to perform abortions for those who could not find a competent doctor.  </p><p>Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its famous Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion and ignited the abortion wars that still rage today. You could even say that this is where the culture wars of the coming decades really began, and you wouldn’t be wrong.</p><p>What had feminists started? In essence, they had begun to redefine one “custom” after another as crimes. For instance, one of the greatest hidden injuries suffered by women in those years was the predatory sexually behavior of male bosses. In 1975, a group of women at Cornell University <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/03/10/the_future_of_sexual_harassment/">coined</a> the term <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_harassment#Coining_the_term_and_history">sexual harassment</a>.  Previously, some women had called it “sexual blackmail,” but when legal scholar Catherine Mackinnon used the new phrase in the title of her 1979 book, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300022995">Sexual Harassment of Working Women</a>, both feminists and judges began using it in litigation against predatory bosses.  After Anita Hill’s<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Hill">accusations</a> against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, the phrase became a household term. In that same year, Congress added amendments to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, accepting the feminist argument that sexual harassment violated a woman’s right to earn a living and work in a non-hostile atmosphere.</p><p>If the naming of sexual harassment changed the workplace, the reframing of wife-beating as domestic violence turned a custom into a felonious crime. At the same time, feminists spread a network of battered women’s shelters across the nation, offering havens from marital violence and possible death.</p><p><strong>A Half-Century to Go</strong></p><p>If the women’s movement often surprised and sometimes blindsided men, it also radically expanded America’s democratic promise of equality. Women are now everywhere. No one is shocked in 2013 when a woman enters an operating room or a lecture hall.  More than half the undergraduates at most universities are women.</p><p>Now, if your boss drives you crazy with sexual advances, you can report him for sexual harassment and sue him in court. If your husband beats you, he can be charged with a felony and, in most urban areas, you can escape to a battered women’s shelter. Women like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marissa_Mayer">Marissa Mayer</a>, the CEO of Yahoo!, and <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/25-powerful-women-engineers-2012-8?op=1">Ruchi Sanghvi,</a>head of operations at Dropbox<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ruth-rosen/..:Downloads:Ruchi%2520Sanghvi">,</a> are some of the most powerful players in the <a href="http://www.women2.com/challenging-the-pink-ghetto-women-start-more-tech-companies/">new technology universe</a>. Two women have served as secretary of state and one as national security advisor. Three women sit on the Supreme Court.  Hillary Clinton almost became the first woman president and may still achieve that goal.  Major magazines and newspapers have women executive editors and managing editors -- even the New York Times, which waited until 1986 before reluctantly putting <a href="http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1930510,00.html">"Ms"</a> in front of women’s names on its pages. Hurricanes now bear male and female names. Women in the U.S. military <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/women-in-combat_n_2535954.html">fight</a> alongside men.  They work as firefighters and police detectives, and when a female plumber shows up to fix an overflowing toilet, most people don’t panic.</p><p>Because so much has changed, many people, including young women, believe that the longest revolution is over, that we should stop complaining, be proud of our successes, and go home.  Consider for a moment, though, the three demands made in 1970, and the fourth one that couldn’t even be articulated.  </p><p>As anyone who’s been awake for the last decade knows, despite Roe v. Wade, women can’t access abortion providers in many parts of the country. <a href="http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemapreport.jsp?rep=8&amp;cat=15">States</a> have passed laws requiring pregnant women to watch ultrasound “pictures” of their “babies,” and forced them to endure 24- or 48-hour waiting periods so that they can “rethink” their abortion decisions. In May 2012, Utah established the longest waiting period in the nation: 72 hours. In that year, in fact, anti-abortion legislatures managed to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/anti-abortion-states-2013">pass 43 new laws</a> that, in one way or another, restricted abortion. </p><p>In big cities, finding an abortion provider is often not difficult -- unless of course you are poor (because the government won’t pay for abortions).  Women in rural areas have, however, been hit particularly hard. They have to travel long distances, pay to stay in hotels while they “rethink,” and then, and only then, can they make the choice that was promised in 1973. So yes, women still have the right to legal abortion, but less and less access to abortion providers.</p><p>And what about child care?  In 1971, Congress passed the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_Child_Development_Bill_of_1972">Comprehensive Childcare Act (CCA)</a>, providing national day care to women who needed it.  (Such a law wouldn’t have a chance today.) President Richard Nixon <a href="http://presidentialfellows.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/president-nixon-and-childcare/">vetoed</a> it that December. Using Cold War rhetoric, he argued that the legislation would harm the family and turn American women into their Soviet counterparts -- that is, working drudges. His veto was also payback to his religious supporters in the South who opposed women working outside the home, and so using child care.  It set childcare legislation back until, well, this very moment.</p><p>Ask any young working mother about the nightmare of finding day care for her infant or a space in a preschool for her child.  Childcare, as feminists recognized, was a major precondition for women entering the labor force on an equal footing with men.  Instead of comprehensive childcare, however, this country chose the more acceptable American way of dealing with problems, namely, that everyone find an individual solution.  If you’re wealthy, you pay for a live-in nanny. If you’re middle class, you hire someone to arrive every day, ready to take care of your young children. Or you luck out and find a place in a good preschool -- or a not-so-good one.</p><p>If you’re poor, you rely on a series of exhausted and generous grandparents, unemployed husbands, over-worked sisters, and goodhearted neighbors.  Unlike every nation in Europe, we have no guaranteed preschool or after-school childcare, despite our endless political platitudes about how much we cherish our children. And sadly, childcare has remained off the national political agenda since 1971. It was never even mentioned during the 2012 presidential debates.</p><p>And let’s not forget women’s wages. In 1970, women earned, on average, <a href="http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0193820.html">59%</a> of men’s wages. More than four decades later, the figure is <a href="http://www.pay-equity.org/info-time.html">77%</a>.  When a university recently invited me to give a keynote address at a conference, they asked what fee I expected. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  The best advice I got -- from my husband -- was: “Just tell them to give you 77% of whatever they’re paying the male keynote speaker.”  That response resulted in a generous honorarium.</p><p>But what about all the women -- widowed, divorced, or single -- who can’t draw on a second income from a man?  How can we claim we’ve reached the 1970 equal pay demand when 70% of the <a href="http://www.legalmomentum.org/our-work/women-and-poverty/women-and-poverty-in-america-issues.html">nation’s poor</a> are women and children? This isn’t about glass ceilings. What concerns me are all the women glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children.</p><p>As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it -- not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.   </p><p>Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175641/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit,_the_longest_war/">wrote</a> in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ABOUTUS/Pages/ViennaWC.aspx">declared</a> that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” -- wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation -- what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.</p><p>Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_Back_the_Night">take back the night</a>” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.  </p><p>The daytime <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/28/world/asia/india-rape-victim/index.html">brutal rape</a> and killing of a 23-year-old in India last December prompted the <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2012/12/20121230171747925155.html">first international protest</a> around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.</p><p>So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but without achieving full access to legal abortion, comprehensive childcare, or equal pay -- those three demands from so many decades ago. Nor have we won the right to enjoy public space without fearing violence, rape, or worse.</p><p>I always knew this was the longest revolution, one that would take a century or more to unfold.  It’s upended most of our lives, and significantly improved so many of them. Nothing will ever be the same. Yet there’s still such a long way to go. I doubt I’ll see full gender equality in my lifetime.</p> Thu, 21 Feb 2013 08:48:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, Tom Dispatch 798349 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Gender News & Politics women's movement history future equal rights sex rape GOP Targets African-American Women in Voter Suppression Efforts http://web.alternet.org/gop-targets-african-american-women-voter-suppression-efforts <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> Ever since 1980, African American women have been decisive in creating a gender gap that has helped elect Democratic Presidents.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2004_oh_lines_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>How will the American Presidential election be won in November 2012? By the Republicans buying the election? Perhaps. But money cannot always buy an election. That is why Republicans have spent the last 4-6 years passing a spate of voter suppression laws in “swing states” that will make it more difficult and costly for the young, the elderly, minorities, union members and single and elderly women to cast a vote for Barack Obama.</p><p>Although the Republican effort is not exactly a secret, few Americans are discussing it with the urgency it deserves. The nonpartisan <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/">Brennan Center for Justice</a> at the New York University School of Law says that since the start of 2011, 16 states—which account for 214 electoral votes—have <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/content/section/category/challenges/">passed</a>restrictive voting laws. Each law is different: some curb voter registration drives; others require new and costly forms of identification; and still others insist that voters produce government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The Brennan Center also points out taht:</p><p>“[T]he scope of the suppression movement and its potential impact are <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/voter_suppression_and_john_roberts_new_world_order_20120731/">staggering</a> ... as many as 11 percent of eligible voters—roughly 21 million Americans—lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs. The percentages are even higher among seniors, African-Americans and other minorities, the working poor, the disabled and students—constituencies that traditionally skew Democratic and whose disenfranchisement could prove decisive in any close election.”</p><p><a href="http://www.aclu.org/voter-suppression-america">The American Civil Liberties Union</a> and other civil rights groups have been trying to gain injunctions against laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures, but with mixed success.</p><p>The Republicans argue they are preventing voter fraud. But is there a significant amount of voter fraud? Or is this a partisan effort to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist? The Bush administration spent five years (2002 to 2007) searching for voter fraud and found only <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/voter_suppression_and_john_roberts_new_world_order_20120731/">86</a> cases. The Brennan Center for Justice, as well as the ACLU, have also <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/">found</a> infinitesimal instances of voter fraud.</p><p>The sudden need for unexpired passports, the demand for government-issued photo identification, is simply a flagrant way of suppressing the votes of those who are more likely to vote Obama. The new identification requirements make it difficult, if not impossible, for some citizens to <a href="http://brennan.3cdn.net/92635ddafbc09e8d88_i3m6bjdeh.pdf">exercise</a> their constitutional right to vote. In some states poll hours have been expanded for likely Republican voters and decreased for probable Democratic voters. Many elderly people no longer have their birth certificates. Many minorities and young people don’t own cars and therefore don’t have driving licenses. Young people often don’t have access to any of these records when they live far away from their parents. But those who vote by absentee ballot—suburban voters who tend to be independents or Republicans—are not required to have photo IDs. Ironically, this from a country that has consistently—in the name of liberty and freedom—refused to force its citizens to carry identifications cards.</p><p>What few critics seem to realize is that women—who constitute at least half of all these targeted groups and who vote more often than men—will be even more disenfranchised. Ever since 1980, African American women have been decisive in creating a gender gap that has helped elect Democratic Presidents. And in 2012, these women—in addition to single and elderly women—may be prevented from protecting Obama’s signature health care program, women’s reproductive rights, the right to abortion, funds for Planned Parenthood, and Social Security and Medicare—the very safety net that the Romney/Ryan Republican ticket has campaigned to eliminate or change in fundamental ways.</p><p>Consider the <a href="http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/PetitionApplewhite.pdf">case</a> of <a href="http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/applewhiteetalvcommonwealt/voteridclients.htm">Viviette Applewhite</a>, a 93-year old resident of Pennsylvania. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. but cannot get a photo ID because all her papers were stolen from her purse. On three occasions she has tried to obtain a birth certificate from The Pennsylvania’s Division of Vital Records. Although she paid the fees, she never received one. Now, a newly engaged lawyer has been trying, once again, to obtain her birth certificate. On July 25, 2012, however, the Pennsylvania court <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-15/pennsylvania-voter-id-challengers-lose-bid-to-block-law.html">upheld</a> the law that may very likely prohibit her from voting. (Editor's note: A day after the court decision, the state issued her a voter ID card.)  </p><p>Republicans are thrilled by their successful effort at suppressing women’s votes, particularly those from African American women. The conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh recently <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/media/2012/07/05/511307/limbaugh-when-women-got-the-right-to-vote-is-when-it-all-went-down-hill/?mobile=nc">said</a> “When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill because that’s when votes started being cast with emotion and maternal instincts….” </p><p>Earlier, in 2007, the conservative Fox news guest and celebrity <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/168771/limbaugh-wants-extend-vote-suppression-women">pundit</a> Ann Coulter <a href="http://rawstory.com/news/2007/Coulter_If_we_took_away_womens_1003.html">told</a> the <em>New York Observer</em>, “If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democratic president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.”   </p><p>Now her dream may be coming true. By choosing Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate, Mitt Romney has shown his true agenda. Although Romney has flip-flopped repeatedly on women’s issues, Ryan is a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/paul-ryans-fairy-tale-budget-plan.html">standard bearer</a> for a budget proposal that would ban common forms of contraception and eliminate abortion. He also voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood and against the<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act_of_2009">Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009</a> that promoted fairness in the work place for women. Both men have repeatedly said they are against Obama’s affordable care health program. In addition, Ryan has repeatedly said he wants to eliminate Medicare, the popular medical insurance for the elderly, and Social Security—the country’s only safety net for seniors without pensions.</p><p>Other Republicans have similarly gloated about how voter suppression will elect Mitt Romney. According to one news <a href="http://post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/masters-of-voter-suppression-republicans-employ-many-techniques-to-keep-low-income-voters-away-from-the-polls-648218/">report</a>,  “Former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer (currently under indictment for stealing party funds) acknowledged in a deposition that a 2009 Republican party meeting included discussions about ‘voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.’” The report also revealed that “In December, Paul Schurick, a top aide to former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, was convicted of election fraud for using automated phone calls to suppress the African-American vote during Mr. Ehrlich's unsuccessful 2010 bid." Entered into evidence was one consultant’s memo that described a "<a href="http://politic365.com/2011/09/29/the-schurick-doctrine-%E2%80%94-the-name-behind-black-voter-suppression/">Schurick Doctrine</a>" to "promote confusion, emotionalism and frustration among African-American Democrats."</p><p>The Republicans know exactly what they are doing and they have been astonishingly <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/2012_summary_of_voting_law_changes/">successful</a> at creating different ways of suppressing votes that might re-elect the President. In an August 16th editorial, <em>The New York Times<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/opinion/a-missed-chance-to-reject-voting-barriers.html">criticized</a></em> a Pennsylvania judge for upholding a Republican-backed voter ID law “that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority state residents in November.” The judge acknowledged that he “was aware of the remark made by Michael Turzai, The Pennsylvania House Republican leader, that the voter ID requirement would win the state for Mitt Romney in November” but then, in an outrageous defense of his decision, said that no proof existed that other legislators agreed with Turzai.</p><p>The editorial ended with this <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/16/opinion/a-missed-chance-to-reject-voting-barriers.html">ominous warning</a>: “Many voters won’t be able to participate in the democratic process any longer. Some won’t show up at the polls, unwilling to leap the hurdles placed before them, while others will try to vote and find their ballots rejected. This lawsuit was an opportunity to sweep away barriers to full citizen ship.”</p><p>This is hardly the first time the supposedly greatest democracy on earth has suppressed voting. After the Civil War, the South passed <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws">Jim Crow</a> literacy and poll tax laws to keep African Americans from voting until the passage of the <a href="http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&amp;doc=100">Voting Rights Act in 1965</a>. The United States, moreover, is one of the few nations that prevents former felons, in some states, from voting for the rest of their lives. In 2004, 5.3 million Americans were <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_suppression">denied</a> the right to vote because of previous felony convictions. In the 2000 election, former convicted felons in Florida---disproportionably African American---were prohibited from voting. They would have put Al Gore in the White House.</p><p>Civil Right advocates rightly call this disenfranchisement our new Jim Crow laws.</p><p>Across the country, civil rights groups continue to sue states that have passed laws to suppress voters, something that still may surprise a great number of Americans, not to mention the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the election looms closer and people who cannot meet the new requirements get fed up, feel helpless, and are less likely to go to the polling place on Election Day.</p><p>So this is America in 2012, a democracy in rapid decline. On August 21, TalkingPoints Memo <a href="http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/08/rnc_platform_formally_backs_voter_id_laws_video.php">reported</a> that:</p><p>“The GOP platform committee adopted language on Tuesday supporting states that have passed voter ID and proof of citizenship laws. The citizenship amendment, proposed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), would support laws that make voters prove their citizenship before they are allowed on the voter rolls.”</p><p>When the Supreme Court <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission">decided</a> in a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landmark_decision">landmark</a> case that the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution">First Amendment</a> allowed corporations and unions to give any amount of money to candidates, they turned elections into a arms race for campaign donations. The suppression of voters is the final unraveling of what used to be viewed as a democratic nation.</p><p>It is not too soon to ask the international community to monitor the 2012 American election. This is an emergency.</p><p> </p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 09:18:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, openDemocracy.net 702749 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Republican voter suppression African-American vote Are Male Baby Boomers Doomed To Become Lonely Seniors? http://web.alternet.org/story/152888/are_male_baby_boomers_doomed_to_become_lonely_seniors <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why are women more psychologically prepared for old age?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It’s not just the young in the Occupy Movement who fear for their futures. Many older people, who are marching with them, dread retirement, even if they hate their jobs. They fear social isolation, the loss of friends they enjoyed at work and the freedom of too much unstructured time. The good news is that women are already preparing for what is often called the "third chapter” of their lives. What’s sad is that men of the same age, for a variety of reasons, are largely unprepared and less likely to participate in activities that offer stimulation and friendship.</p> <p>So what is the first generation of women, who spent much of their lives working outside the home, doing that somehow eludes men?</p> <p>They are re-creating opportunities to explore their lives and finding ways to resurrect the world of women’s groups that gave them the confidence to reinvent their lives decades ago.</p> <p>Consider women’s book groups, which are hardly new. Even in the late-19th century, women’s book groups gave “ladies” a way to discuss social and political issues of the day. Oprah Winfrey popularized the current book club movement and they are proliferating with astonishing speed. Cafes host them; book stores sponsor them, friends create them; and the novels and nonfiction they read often conclude with a section of questions designed for groups, accompanied by an interview with the author. As Victoria Skurnick, a literary agent and former editor of the Book of the Month Club says, “There are some books that soar in popularity because so many book groups fall in love with them. Books have always sold well or badly on the presence or absence of word of mouth, and book groups take that fact and multiply it by six or eight or ten.”</p> <p>Most members are women and no one knows how many women meet monthly to discuss books. Whatever they read—religious texts, fiction or nonfiction—the groups provide an opportunity to discuss how the themes relate to their lives or what they think about the world around them. Lubricated with some wine and food, it is both a social and intellectual event that fosters friendships.</p> <p>It’s not that older men don’t read; they just tend to do it in isolation. The same is true about the tendency to avoid signing up for classes meant for educated adults. On many campuses, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute -- or something like it -- offers serious courses on everything from the Art of Bali to the New Arab Revolts. But the majority of the people who enroll are women. (It is the few men, however, who ask most of the questions and offer their comments.)</p> <p>Some of these retired women have even resurrected a new kind of women’s movement for women over 50. In the late '90s, Charlotte Frank and Christine Millen began conversations about their future with 10 friends in a New York City living room. Eventually, this group created a new national movement for women called the Transition Network (TNN).</p> <p>Today, TNN has chapters in 12 cities in the U.S. and attracts professional women who like its edgy rejection of themselves as “little old ladies." They sponsor small peer groups that meet in members’ homes, echoing the consciousness raising groups of the late 1960s and '70s. These are members who take feminism for granted. They’ve worked most of their lives, “and now, in the wake of widowhood, a lost job, or retirement, are seeking to reinvent their lives.” TNN also offers specialty groups for women who want to travel, see and discuss theater and films, socialize over exotic lunches, or become caregivers for other women in need.”</p> <p>In short, TNN is a national organization, “a relevant voice for women who continue to change the rules."</p> <p>These are only a few examples of what women are doing as their children leave home and their working years end. Google “women in transition” and you’ll find endless resources and groups devoted to helping women meet others as they reinvent their lives. Entrepreneurs know this is a growth industry and workshops for women in transition are popping up all over the country.</p> <p>So what are men doing? Some male (and female) intellectuals, scholars and writers joke that they don’t retire. And they’re partially right. But for men whose work was yoked to organizations, corporations, manufacturing, unions, and other institutions, the future often seems suddenly empty. Some play golf or cards or hunt with other guys; and there are groups of men who get together at a particular café, sometimes daily. Some take up cooking or gardening, and enjoy the domestic pleasures they never had time for before. But all too many sit home alone and experience too much social isolation. All too often, they depend on their wives to provide companionship.</p> <p>Google “men in transition” and you discover that there are, in fact, a growing number of groups aimed at men. But most of the organizations appear to be therapeutic, with counselors or religious organizations helping men with unemployment, alcoholism, post-prison, post-military life, or post-corporate life. Men have not created anything like the Transition Network, which encourages self-exploration and a self-conscious exploration of ideas and feelings. Nor are they like to do so. TNN fits the experiences of many women. Men are not the ones who created such a movement 40 years ago. (And the “men’s movement” of that era was small.) Given their history and socialization, men of this generation would likely find it alien, if not odd, to engage in such personal and vulnerable discussions at an older age.</p> <p>Instead, many suffer in silence. Their isolation is terribly sad, as well as an immense waste to society. Yet there are other ways men could counter the isolation of retirement. They have endless talents and could be tutoring young people in after-school programs in academic subjects and sports. I recently visited a high school where men were doing exactly that, tutoring kids in computer skills, math and science, and passing on their knowledge of how to build and sail boats, fix old cars, use tools, and write applications. Their faces glowed with excitement as they passed on their expertise.</p> <p>As more of the Baby Boomer generation retires, a growing number of businesses will cater to these transitions, just as they have throughout every cycle of the lives of the Baby Boom generation. Women are already way ahead of the curve, creating and participating in a vast network of activities that makes retirement more inviting, engaging and exciting. True, many of these activities have a class dimension; they have been created by middle-class educated women, so some participation requires a solid retirement nest; but many do not.</p> <p>Men need to have something that builds on their life experiences, and we all benefit if they do. Otherwise they will dread the looming horizon of the third chapter of their lives.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis, was a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at U.C. Berkeley and the author, most recently, of “The World Split Open:How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. </div></div></div> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 06:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 668275 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Gender women men age Tom Friedman Tries to Scapegoat Baby Boomers -- He Should Remember That We Helped Forge American Prosperity http://web.alternet.org/story/152559/tom_friedman_tries_to_scapegoat_baby_boomers_--_he_should_remember_that_we_helped_forge_american_prosperity <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Baby boomers did not contribute to the economic decline of America. Actually, they helped create consumerist prosperity with teenager allowances and middle age purchases.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Baby Boomers, who have now morphed into “young seniors,” certainly did not contribute to the economic decline of America.  On the contrary, this huge demographic bulge—as we have moved through our highly-publicized life cycle-- helped create the country’s consumerist prosperity with our teenage allowances and middle age purchases.  </p> <p>Yet running through the debate on the national debt is the subterranean belief that “young seniors,” once known as Baby Boomers, are stealing from future generations by having too many hip replacements and using up too much medical care to stay healthy and active. </p> <p>Just recently, for example, <em>New York Times</em> columnist Tom Friedman, as he wandered through the streets of Greece,  <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17friedman.html">wrote</a> with Athenian authority that Baby Boomers were responsible for this country’s huge debt. Just because Eric Cantor and seventy-eight million other people fit into the rather vague category (1946-1964) of the Baby Boomer generation doesn’t mean that a particular generation caused the housing bubble, or turned our nation into one gigantic gambling casino.  </p> <p>Yes, Virginia, there truly are people who daily bet against the economic health of the nation.  </p> <p>This is hardly the first time that Tom Friedman has seemed delusional.  He supported the Iraq war because he somehow believed that President George W. Bush would fight the war in Tom’s way, for Tom’s beliefs, for Tom’s goals.  What was he thinking—or smoking? Now he wants us to applaud as he substitutes ‘generational clash” for the former “clash of civilizations,” which he has decided is the real struggle our nation faces in the future. </p> <p>Let’s get real. If Friedman accuses Baby Boomers of “behaving badly,” is he still fighting the cultural wars?  If so, he’s right that some boomers have largely been responsible for expanding democracy by fighting for the human rights and legal equality of racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians and disabled.  Did we dance and smoke too much?  I’m not sure.  But we didn’t drink nearly as much as the “greatest generation” and many of us have spent our lives fighting for the common good, especially the preservation and health of the planet. </p> <p>But if Friedman is accusing the baby boom generation of creating the debt that will burden the next generation, he ought to resign from the Times with dignity, before his analyses get him laughed off the Sunday morning talk shows. </p> <p>Unfortunately, Friedman is not alone in believing that the Baby Boom is  responsible for the nation’s economic decline. True, President Bill Clinton, another Boomer, helped create the financial crisis by deregulating the financial industry.  And true, some Boomers in the financial industry turned the country into a gigantic casino, while the corporate sector has outsourced America’s skills to workers in other countries.  Also true, George W. Bush nearly bankrupted the country with two wars and tax cuts for the wealthy. </p> <p>But is this part of Boomer culture, or what market fundamentalists have accomplished since President Ronald Reagan first dabbled in what his vice-president once called “voodoo economics?”  And Ronald Reagan was no Boomer. </p> <p>Surely, Tom Friedman must read his colleagues Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and know that those who created the housing bubble and the madness of the subprime mortgages, who outsourced jobs, crushed unions, have tried to dismantle government, destroy public education, erode health care for the poor, do not represent the views of a particular generation.  They represent the ideological insanity of  right-wing Republicans, market fundamentalists,  who are holding our country hostage to their belief in markets, as opposed to the health and welfare of the common good.  Indeed, as ardent fans of Ayn Rand, they don’t believe in a common good.  Greed is good.  Self interest is what makes the country great.</p> <p>If right-wing Republicans get their way, and refuse to raise revenue, we may indeed leave a tattered America, including an immense debt to the next generation. But this horrific burden is the result of right-wing Republicans who have given incompetent CEOs millions of dollars in bonuses and but refused to cut the taxes of the wealthy.   </p> <p>Baby Boomers are not the problem.  There has been no generational cry to dismantle government, public education, keep the financial industry unregulated, outsource jobs or keep profits hidden out of the country, or any refusal to tax the wealth.  It is not Baby Boomers who prowl the corridors of power as they search for ways to eradicate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  </p> <p>Oh, that we were so powerful. The truth is so much more complicated</p> <p>Friedman’s problem is that he confuses generational clash with the clash between classes.   Is the Baby Boomer generation responsible for the lack of progressive taxation that created and maintained a broad middle class until the 1980s, when “greed became good?”  Who created the insane idea that the rich need tax cuts while the poor need to pay their fair share?  </p> <p>There is a simple and clear way to avoid burdening the next generation with debt.  It’s called taxes.  It’s our dues to the common good.  Students today are shocked to learn that the much-publicized prosperity of the 1950s was achieved when the very wealthy paid as much as 90% in taxes.  They are unaware that the wealth of this nation depended on making things, not simply betting for or against a particular stock or commodity or the failure of this bank or that insurance company. </p> <p>I realize it’s old fashioned to talk about class struggle, but the reality—which Friedman misses with his muddle-headed analysis---is that the wealthy have successfully waged class warfare against those who used to be proud members of unions and enjoy the security of a middle class life. Now unions have been crushed with concessions by businesses that operate in a global economy and in an atmosphere of greed. </p> <p>Nor does Friedman even mention the impact of a global economy. Does he also believe that Baby Boomers all over Europe are responsible for the growing economic crisis in the European Union? </p> <p> The idea of a “generational clash” is bogus and Tom Friedman should be ashamed of such a simplistic and unsubstantiated analysis.   But these are the pundits that our newspaper of record pays to explain the world to us, which is why we look elsewhere for intelligent and penetrating journalism. </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis, is a former columnist for The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Studies at U.C. Berkeley and the author, most recently, of The World Split: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America, 2006. </div></div></div> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 05:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 667896 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Economy class students debt taxes baby boomers social security prosperity common good generational clash 'Between Two Worlds': New Film Explores Jewish American Identity and the Fate of Israel http://web.alternet.org/story/150941/%27between_two_worlds%27%3A_new_film_explores_jewish_american_identity_and_the_fate_of_israel <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">&quot;Between Two Worlds&quot; takes us on a journey of the increasingly contentious factions within the American-Jewish community.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Time is running out. Israelis know that. So do American Jews. If Israel refuses to cease building settlements in the West Bank, the newly unified Palestinian government will ask the UN General Assembly to ratify it as a new and sovereign state in September. Only Israel and the United States are expected to vote against the adoption of this resolution.</p> <p>What then? Israel will no long be occupying "territories." It will be in violation of international law by occupying a sovereign state. As my late uncle would have said, "This can't be good for the Jews."</p> <p>Such a vote is hardly the best way to create a two-state solution. Yet this just may happen, deepening world opinion against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and causing rippling consequences that may endanger the very existence of Israel as a sovereign nation.</p> <p>Jewish voices from the left have been trying to prevent this for decades. <em>Tikkun Magazine</em> just celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. J Street, a relatively new Jewish-American organization that seeks a fair and just negotiated peace agreement, attracted over 2,000 participants in early March to its second national conference in Washington D.C.</p> <p>Shortly after, in April, I spoke at a conference at New York University about women's liberation and Jewish identity. Many of the panelists revealed how early and contemporary feminists were deeply critical of Israel policies and how much they desired Israel to live up to the very ideals that propelled them into the civil rights, anti-war, and women's movements.</p> <p>Yet silently standing in the middle of that auditorium was the perennial 900-pound elephant--in this instance, Israel. Some women saw any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic; others viewed such dissent as a continuation of their long-held values. That the conference didn't explode into warring factions was testimony, I think, to our maturity and age. Been there; no one wanted to do that again.</p> <p>Since time truly is running out, <a href="http://www.snitow-kaufman.org/#who">Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman</a>'s new film, <a href="http://btwthemovie.org/"><em>Between Two Worlds</em></a>, couldn't be more timely. They are well-known and highly respected for their investigative documentaries, among them <a href="http://www.snitow-kaufman.org/#ourwork"><em>Thirst</em></a>, an exposé of the privatization of water. They have earned a stellar reputation for making documentaries that speak powerfully to audiences who didn't know they cared about an issue before the film was screened.</p> <p><em>Between Two Worlds</em> takes us on a journey of the increasingly contentious factions within the American-Jewish community. For each person who passionately wants the Israeli occupation to end, they present someone who remembers the terrorist acts they have suffered at the hands of Palestinians.</p> <p>The film opens with the Jewish Film Festival, founded by Deborah Kaufman in 1981, and an annual cinematic treat for people living in the Bay Area. In recent years, the festival has drawn 35,000 people to its many Israeli, American, and foreign films that deal with Jewish themes. In 2009, however, the festival screened the film <em>Rachel</em>, about the young Rachel Corrie who was killed by a bulldozer as she protested the destruction of Palestinian homes. The festival was no longer a community; it was now at war with itself. The audience became contentious. Outside, people picketed the festival without having seen the film. Dissent about Israel was now, according to them, prohibited.</p> <p>It was hardly the first time that the festival had screened a film critical of the Israeli occupation. But this time the American-Jewish community was deeply divided. The festival director was subjected to what he called "Internet rage"; Jews spoke bitterly about "us" and "them," both groups Jewish Americans. The chilling effect was palpable, not only at the festival but across the country.</p> <p>It's hard to imagine a more enthralling and provocative film about the American-Jewish community at this moment in history. The questions raised at the festival and elsewhere tore apart friends and families and caused internal civil wars within individuals: Who is entitled to speak for Israel? Does being Jewish mean unconditional loyalty to Israel or following the values one was taught as an American Jew?</p> <p>Although the film is clearly aimed at the hearts and mind of American Jews, it takes a brief detour to Jerusalem to capture a story that further reveals our nation's complicated relationship to Israel. Both the state of Israel and the city of Jerusalem had given the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles the right to build a new Museum of Tolerance, designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, right in the very heart of the city. The problem, however, was that they were planning to build this museum in the cemetery and over the graves of Muslims. The debates between those who are horrified by such desecration and those who remind us that Jordan used Israeli gravestones to pave roads is riveting. Israelis and Americans are hardly of one mind; many remember the rage they have felt when Jewish cemeteries have been destroyed.</p> <p>Back in the United States, the film takes us to a noisy debate among students who are deciding, at the University of California at Berkeley, whether to divest funds from two corporations that sell military equipment to Israel. The students are passionate and articulate. Their stories as Americans, Israelis, and Palestinian students are frightening, convincing, bracing, tragic, and sorrowful. And they are being repeated across the country on many campuses. In the end, the motion to divest is defeated, and advocates, including many Jews, symbolize their inability to criticize Israeli policies by leaving with their mouths taped shut.</p> <p>What is remarkable about this film, aside from the choice of fascinating stories and memorable characters, is that Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman have managed to produce a balanced documentary about the growing civil war among those American Jews who view unconditional loyalty to Israel as the core of their Jewish identity and those who view Jewish values of social justice and equality as that which fuels their activism.</p> <p>The even-handed character of <em>Between Two Worlds</em> is perhaps due to their own families, which they briefly discuss in the film. Kaufman's father was a famous Zionist activist and Snitow's mother was a Communist. The result of growing up with these beloved parents, who held such absolute convictions, has taught both filmmakers, blessed with agile minds, that they can and must contemplate ambiguity and ambivalence.</p> <p><em>Between Two Worlds</em> is just starting a tour of many film festivals, including one in Jerusalem. Eventually, I hope, many American Jews will see it and come out, as I did, provoked, educated, and, as usual, torn apart. If no peace negotiation is reached before September, this beautiful, passionate, and riveting personal documentary may well end up as historical documentation of what American Jews did--and did not do--before the General Assembly created a new Palestinian state.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis, is a former columnist at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her most recent book is The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Changed America. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at U.C. Berkeley where is she is writing about why women have been drawn to the Tea Party. </div></div></div> Fri, 13 May 2011 15:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, Dissent Magazine 666292 at http://web.alternet.org World World Media Belief israel palestine jews jewish What Obama Can Learn from the Social Movements That Changed the World http://web.alternet.org/story/148742/what_obama_can_learn_from_the_social_movements_that_changed_the_world <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">History reminds us that any social movement that changes the terms of debate will eventually change the national conversation. Why don&#039;t Democrats have the guts to do that?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In the wake of the election, progressive movements and their members are debating what went wrong. Some say the media amplified the bizarre statements of the Tea Party. Still others argue that Obama didn’t offer sufficient leadership or remind us what he had actually achieved during his first 18 months in office. Many blame no one, knowing that midterm elections bring a backlash, regardless of who is in power.</p> <p>All of these are basically true. But something gets lost in this wringing of hands or resigned acceptance of inevitable defeat. Barack Obama ignited a hope for change and then squandered the opportunity -- right in the middle of high unemployment, terrible economic anxiety, and widespread fear of a declining America -- to hold tightly to the terms of debate that vaulted him to power and might have resulted in many fewer Democratic losses.</p> <p>But he is not alone. Progressives all over the country sat back for 18 months without pushing him to guard those terms of debate, namely those of equality, fairness, decency, and a society that must depend on the state to protect the poor and the vulnerable. During his presidency, FDR confided to unions and progressive activists that they had to “force” him to do things that would be politically unacceptable. Progressives didn’t do that during the last eighteen months. Had they pushed much, much harder, we might have kept more people in their homes, and had a national jobs program that would have softened the terror of having no livelihood.</p> <p>It is true that Obama faced an obstructionist Republican Senate minority. But he would have changed the terms of debate if he had allowed Republicans to filibuster and read telephone books for two weeks over the question of taxes. Imagine the spectacle. Americans would have perked up their ears, a new national conversation could have eclipsed the Tea Party, and many people would have agreed that the wealthy didn’t need tax cuts and that they should expire.</p> <p>History reminds us that any social movement that changes the terms of debate will eventually change the national conversation.</p> <p>Look back at the successes of the modern women’s movement. They didn’t win all their battles, but they forced the nation to debate why men rape 92 year-old women or 3 three year- old girls and gradually people began to recognize that rape is not about sexual lust. They also forced the nation to consider what constitutes sexual harassment at work -- for which there existed no language before the movement -- and over time, the public began to understand why sexual blackmail undermined a woman’s civil rights and her right to earn a living. By openly discussing “date rape” and “marital rape,” activists launched a heated debate over what is acceptable and what is not. In the end, many laws, policies and social customs changed dramatically.</p> <p>But it didn’t stop there. Violence against women and incest against girls had been painful individual secrets. By openly discussing them, women even convinced the UN’s General Assembly in 1993 to vote for a convention that described such violence as a violation of their human rights. A decade later, rape as a tool of war also became a violation of women’s human rights, replacing their traditional role as part of the spoils of war.</p> <p>The demand by women to control their own bodies, and to decide whether to have a child, whether to terminate a pregnancy, changed the terms of debate so radically that the country is still wrangling over the implications of a woman’s right to control her own reproductive choices. In fact, it has even become a litmus test for politicians.</p> <p>The women’s movement didn’t win all its battles. But it did change the terms of debate, redefining traditional customs as crimes. That was its great accomplishment and that is why the nation is still debating much of its movement’s agenda from the late 1960s and 1970s.</p> <p>By now, most people know that a large segment of white women in the nation either sat out this election or switched to the Republicans out of economic fear. Yet Obama did little to remind women how much he had, in fact, done for them: He ended the gag rule; he made sure that women could sue for discriminatory pay; and his health care program and the stimulus helped many women protect their families and keep their jobs. But he needed to shout these from the White House because women’s fears, amidst so much unemployment and so many foreclosures, certainly eclipsed what he actually did for them. In short, he didn’t give white women a reason to vote for him. It was minority women who gave him their votes. Had he courted all women and addressed their needs for economic security and child care, the conversation might have been quite different.</p> <p>What Obama, Democrats and progressives failed to do during this electoral cycle was to define and then proudly grab the terms of debate. If you look back at all successful social movements, all their great accomplishments, some of which changed laws, were to change the terms of debate. The Civil Rights movement forced Americans to question the truthfulness of racial supremacy and the fairness of racial inequality. The environmental movement asked whether we could protect the planet’s health and sustainability if we raped all of its resources. And the gay and lesbian movements, by encouraging people to leave their closets, forced Americans to recognize the ordinary humanity of their gay friends, neighbors, and relatives. Just recently, a new movement launched by young undocumented college-aged immigrants is encouraging students to come out of the shadows and, following the successes of gays and lesbians, proudly say “I’m undocumented and unafraid.”</p> <p>These are the social movements that change the conversation. Instead, Obama, Democrats and progressives allowed the well-organized, oil-funded Tea Party and its media echo chamber to turn the mantra of “no taxes , no government, no deficit” into the terms of debate. No wonder they have so many victories to celebrate after this election. <br />  </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, a former columnist at the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, is a Professor Emerita of History, currently teaching at U.C Berkeley. Her most recent book is "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America" (Penguin 2007) " </div></div></div> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 664132 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Gender News & Politics election democrats obama social movement midterms Why Women Dominate the Right-Wing Tea Party http://web.alternet.org/story/147436/why_women_dominate_the_right-wing_tea_party <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Without its grassroots female supporters, the Tea Party would have far less appeal to voters frightened by economic insecurity and the disappearance of a white Christian culture.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Why have American women become so active in the right-wing Tea Party movement? Could it be that they are drawn to the new conservative Christian feminism publicized by Sarah Palin? Without its grassroots female supporters, the Tea Party would have far less appeal to voters who are frightened by economic insecurity, threats to moral purity and the gradual disappearance of a national white Christian culture.<br /><br /> Most Americans are not quite sure what to make of the sprawling right-wing Tea Party, which gradually emerged in 2009 and became a household name after it held nationwide Tea Party rallies on April 15, 2010, to protest paying taxes. Throwing tea overboard, as you may remember, is an important symbolic image of the colonial anger at Britain’s policy of “taxation without representation.”<br /><br /> Many liberals and leftists dismissed the Tea Party as a temporary, knee-jerk response to the recession, high employment, home foreclosures, bankruptcies, and an African American president who had saved American capitalism by expanding the government’s subsidies to the financial, real estate, and automobile industries. Perhaps it<em>is</em> a temporary political eruption, but as E.J. Dionne, columnist at the<em>Washington Post </em><a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/how_obama_changed_the_right_20100620/">has argued,</a> the movement also threatens the hard-won unity of the Republicans. “The rise of the tea party movement,” he writes, “is a throwback to an old form of libertarianism that sees most of the domestic policies that government has undertaken since the New Deal as unconstitutional. It typically perceives the most dangerous threats to freedom as the design of well-educated elitists out of touch with “American values.”<br /><br /> Who are these angry people who express so much resentment against the government, rather than at corporations? Since national polls dramatically contradict each other, I have concluded that the Tea Party movement has energized people across all classes.<br /><br /> One important difference, however, is race. At Tea Party rallies you don’t see faces with dark complexions. Another important distinction is that men and women are drawn to this sprawling movement for a variety of overlapping but possibly different reasons. Both men and women seem to embrace an incoherent “ideology” which calls for freedom from government, no taxes, and an inchoate desire to “take back America,” which means restoring the nation to some moment when the country was white and “safe.”<br /><br /> Men drawn to this movement appear to belong to a broad range of fringe right-wing groups, such as militias, white supremacy groups, pro-gun and confederacy “armies." Some of these groups advocate violence or vow to overthrow the government, and have even begun to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread their hatred through social media.<br /><br /> Women also play a decisive role in the Tea Party and now make up 55 percent of its supporters, according to the latest <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/35094.html">Quinnipiac poll.</a> Hanna Rosin reports in Slate <a href="http://www.slate.com/id/2253645">magazine</a> that “of the eight board members of the <a href="http://www.teapartypatriots.org/">Tea Party Patriots</a> who serve as national coordinators for the movement, six are women. Fifteen of the 25 state coordinators are women.”<br /><br /> Why, I’ve wondered, does this chaotic movement appeal to so many women? There are many possible reasons. Some of the women in these groups are certainly women who love men who love guns and who hate the government and taxes. Professor Kathleen Blee, who has written widely about right-wing women, suggests there are probably more religious right-wing women than men in general, that Tea Party rallies may attract more women who are not working and therefore can attend them, and that the Tea Party emphasizes family vulnerability to all kinds of external danger.<br /><br /> Many men and women attracted to the Tea Party also belong to the <a href="http://www.carm.org/christian-identity-movement">Christian Identity Movement.</a> They are right-wing Christians who promote fundamentalist views on abortion and homosexuality. But women come to the Tea Party from new and surprising venues, like the Parent-Teacher Association or groups organized specifically to elect women to political office. As Slate recently noted, “Much of the leadership and the grassroots energy comes from women. One of the three main sponsors of the<a href="http://taxdayteaparty.com/about/">Tax Day Tea Party</a>that launched the movement is a group called <a href="http://smartgirlpolitics.ning.com/">Smart Girl Politics</a>. The site started out as a mommy blog and has turned into a mobilizing campaign that trains future activists and candidates. Despite its explosive growth over the last year, it is still operated like a feminist cooperative, with three stay-at-home moms taking turns raising babies and answering e-mails and phone calls.”<br /><br /> Some of these religious women also have political aspirations and hope to use the Tea Party to gain leadership roles denied by the Republican Party to run for electoral office. To counter<a href="http://www.emilyslist.org/splash/signup/splash01/index.pl">Emily’s List,</a> which has supported liberal women for electoral politics, right-wing conservative women created the <a href="http://www.sba-list.org/site/c.ddJBKJNsFqG/b.4009925/k.BE63/Home.htm">Susan B. Anthony List,</a>which is successfully supporting right-wing women in their efforts to run for electoral office. To blunt the impact of liberal feminists,<a href="http://www.cwfa.org/main.asp"> Concerned Women for America,</a> a deeply religious group, supports women’s efforts to seek leadership positions within the Tea Party. <a href="http://www.iwf.org/">The Women’s Independent Forum</a>, a more secular group of right-wing women, seeks to promote traditional values, free markets, limited government, women’s equality and their ability to run for office.<br /><br /> Some of these women are drawing national attention because they have embraced a religious “conservative feminism.” Among them are evangelical Christians and, according to a recent cover story in <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/2010/06/11/saint-sarah.html"><em>Newsweek</em>,</a> they view Sarah Palin -- who ran for the vice presidency in 2009, has five children and a supportive husband, describes herself as a feminist, and gave up the governor’s office in Alaska to become a celebrity and millionaire--- as the <em>leader,</em> if not<em>prophet</em> of the Tea Party.</p> <p>As a result, Palin is mobilizing right-wing religious women across the nation. They like that she wears makeup, still looks like a beauty queen, and yet is bold and strong minded. They don’t seem to care that she uses “Ms.” instead of Mrs. Nor are they bothered by her<a href="http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm">crediting Title IX</a> (legislation passed in 1972 that enforced gender equality in education and sports) for her athletic opportunities. On ABC News she told her interviewer, Charles Gibson, “I’m lucky to have been brought up in a family where gender has never been an issue. I’m a product of Title IX, also, where we had equality in schools that was just being ushered in with sports and with equality opportunity for education, all of my life. I’m part of that generation, where that question is kind of irrelevant because it’s accepted. Of course you can be the vice president and you can raise a family.”<br /><br /> Palin belongs to a group called<a href="http://www.feministsforlife.org/">Feminists for Life</a> whose slogan is “Refuse to Choose.” When she described herself as a feminist at the start of her vice-presidential campaign, she explained that she was a member of this group, led by Serrin Foster, who has carved out a successful career on the lecture circuit by trying to convince young women that you can be a feminist by making the <em>choice</em>not to have an abortion. When I interviewed Foster several years ago, I asked her how very poor or teenage girls were supposed to take care of these unwanted children. Since she is against taxes and government subsidies for social services, she evaded my question. She said that women should not be alone, that others should help. In the end, the only concrete solution she offered is that adoption is the best solution for these young women.<br /><br /> Just recently, Palin once again dubbed herself a “feminist” and set off an explosive debate about what constitutes feminism in the United States. She describes religious conservative women as “Mama Grizzlies” and urges them to "rise up” and claim the cause of feminism as their own. Palin encourages her followers to launch a "new, conservative feminist movement" that supports only political candidates who uncompromisingly oppose abortion.<br /><br /> The response to Palin’s effort to draw women into the Tea Party varies widely. Her "sisterly speechifying,” writes Jessica Valenti in the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/28/AR2010052802263.html?sid=ST2010052804193"><em>Washington Post</em>,</a> “is just part of a larger conservative bid for the hearts and minds of women by appropriating feminist language."<br /><br /> Writing in the conservative <a href="http://article.nationalreview.com/434723/sarah-palin-a-feminist-in-the-pro-life-tradition/kathryn-jean-lopez?page=1"><em>National Review,</em></a> Kathryn Jean Lopez responds, “Palin isn't co-opting feminism, She's reclaiming a movement that was started by Susan B. Anthony and other women who fought for the right to vote — and were staunchly pro-life.” This is true; 19th-century suffragists wanted to protect the status of motherhood and were against abortion. "The feminist label doesn't have to be so polarizing,” argues Meghan Daum in the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-0520-daum-fword-20100520,0,4933552.column"><em>Los Angeles Times</em></a>. “Boiled down, feminism just means viewing men and women as equals, and seeing your gender "as neither an obstacle to success nor an excuse for failure." So if Sarah Palin "has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she's entitled to be accepted as one."<br /><br /> Here is a great irony. Since 1980, when the backlash began attacking the women’s movement, young secular American women have resisted calling themselves feminists because the religious right-wing had so successfully created an unattractive image of a feminist as a hairy, man-hating lesbian who spouted equality, but really wanted to kill babies. Now, Palin is forcing liberal feminists to debate whether these Christian feminists are diluting feminism or legitimizing it by making it possible to say that one is a feminist.<br /><br /> When I read what women write on Christian women’s Web sites, I hear an echo from the late 19th century when female reformers sought to protect the family from “worldly dangers.” Frances Willard, leader of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Christian_Temperance_Union">Women’s Christian Temperance Union</a>, urged millions of women to enter the public sphere in order to protect their families, to address the decadent consequences and casualties of capitalism, to win suffrage, and to fight for prohibition, all in the name of protecting the purity of their homes and families.<br /><br /> For many contemporary evangelical Christian women, their motivations are similar. They want to enter the public sphere or even run for office to eliminate abortion, protect marriage, contain sexual relations, oppose gay marriage and clean up the mess made by the sexual revolution. All this is part of a long and recognizable female reform tradition in American history.<br /><br /> At Tea Party rallies, you often see women carrying signs that read “Take back America.” Not everyone is sure what that means. At the very least, however, it means taking back America from an expanding government, from taxes, and more symbolically, from the changing racial complexion of American society.<br /><br /> Within a few decades, the non-white population will constitute a majority of the citizens in the U.S. Many white evangelical Christians feel besieged and the women, for their part, feel they must publicly protect their families from such rapid and potentially dangerous changes. They feel that some faceless bureaucrats or immigrants or minorities, described as “they,” have taken over our society and threaten the moral purity of American society. What they don’t fear is that corporations have taken over the American government and have distorted its democratic institutions.<br /><br /> AlterNet's Adele Stan, who has 15 years of close scrutiny of the extreme right under her belt, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news/147307/the_tea_party_is_dangerous%3A_dispelling_7_myths_that_help_us_avoid_reality_about_the_new_right-wing_politics/">has warned</a> that we should take the Tea Partiers seriously, and that we dismiss them at our peril. The Tea Party panders to fear and resentment. But they are hardly a lonely minority. A recent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181/tea-partiers-fairly-mainstream-demographics.aspx#2">USA Today Gallup survey</a> found that 37 percent of Americans said they "approved" of the Tea Party movement. It is not a movement that Americans should ignore. History reminds us that the politics of fear and resentment can quickly turn into a dangerous and powerful political force.<br /><br /> But the Tea Party is not only a grassroots movement. Behind the women at the kitchen table, there is money, and plenty of it. Writing in the<em>New York Review of Books</em>, <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/oct/22/something-new-on-the-mall/?page=1">Michael Tomasky</a> reminded readers that "Money is the ultimate lubricant of politics and that the potential money supply for Tea Parties and other.contributions is virtually limitless."<br /><br /> Tomasky also underscores the fact that the Tea Party is not about short-term electoral victories. It’s about the long-term project of resurrecting the power to protect free markets, deregulation, and for the religious right to gain political power.<br /><br /> Men and women may not join the Tea Party for the same reasons, but without its grassroots female supporters, the Tea Party would have far less appeal to voters who are frightened by economic insecurity, threats to moral purity and the gradual disappearance of a national white Christian culture.<br /><br /> For good or ill, Christian women have moved mountains before in the America past. The abolition of slavery and the prohibition of liquor are just two examples. Now they have helped organize the Tea Party and their new conservative feminism may just affect American political culture in unpredictable ways. Perhaps they will gain a new self-confidence and political influence by straying from the Republican Party. Or, as in the past, they may disappear into their homes and churches and become a footnote in the history of American politics. For now, it is too soon to tell how the Tea Party, let alone its female members, will fare in the future.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Mon, 05 Jul 2010 10:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, openDemocracy.net 663124 at http://web.alternet.org The Right Wing Gender The Right Wing christians conservatives right-wing sarah palin tea party Gender Apartheid Online http://web.alternet.org/story/147233/gender_apartheid_online <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We will know a critical threshold has been reached when every magazine asks of every news story, &quot;What does this mean for women and girls?&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Forty years ago, feminists demanded that special "women's pages," which featured fashion, society and cooking, be banished from newspapers. Instead, they insisted, newspapers should mainstream serious stories about the lives of women throughout their regular news.</p> <p>Forty years later, the new media have re-segregated women's sections. The good news is that they are no longer about society, cooking and fashion. Most are tough, smart, incisive, analytic, and focus on events, trends or stories that the mainstream online news still ignores. The bad news is that they are not on the "front page" where men might learn about women's lives.</p> <p>Does this trend signal success or failure? As an early activist in and scholar of the women's movement, I'm concerned that all we have gained after four decades are stand-alone feminist online magazines and web sites and the "right" to have separate women's sections embedded in other magazines. This is the women's pages of 1969 redux, even though these sections promote a broad array of serious subjects from a strong feminist perspective. Nor are all the editors of these online men who have cast women as "the other." Many are feminists who, for whatever reasons, have created these special women's sections.</p> <p><em>Salon</em>, for example, has Broadsheet, which produces excellent stories about issues or trends that affect half the population. <em>Slate</em> has Double XX, which recruits talented and thoughtful women to write stories that offer an important feminist perspective. <em>PoliticsDaily.com</em>has a "Woman Up" section that is a collective women's blog. <em>OpenDemocracy,</em> a British online magazine, has 50/50, a separate section that focuses on news stories about women around the world.</p> <p>The list is long. Many are web sites or magazines that have their own special women's section. Even the<em>New York Times</em>, to the surprise of many journalists, has an online series called the Female Factor. Here you find fascinating articles that belong with the regular news about women in corporations, political news from Germany, or problems faced by the newly retired. But because they focus specifically on women and are online, they are mostly unknown to readers of the print version of the<em>New York Times</em>.</p> <p>Some online magazines have no obvious special section. In order to access news about women on <em>Truthout,</em>for example, you have to go to "issues" and then click on "women." (When did half the population turn into "an issue?") <em>The Huffington Post</em> tends to place blog posts about women and "women's issues" in the Style or Living section.</p> <p>Consider the <em>Inter Press Service</em>, which describes its mission as "giving a voice to the voiceless" - acting as a communication channel that privileges the voices and the concerns of the poorest and creates a climate of understanding, accountability and participation around development, promoting a new international information order between the South and the North.</p> <p>Women, however, do not appear on the regular Inter Press Service. Instead <em>IPS Gender Wire,</em> a separate magazine, provides outstanding news about women's lives around the world. In each issue, <em>IPS Gender Wire</em> repeats the fact that "Women do not get half the media's attention, or an equal voice in expression - only 22 percent of the voices you hear and read in the news today are women's. In its stories IPS redresses this huge imbalance - covering emerging and frontline issues while asking an often forgotten question: What does this mean for women and girls?</p> <p>The news stories that appear on <em>IPS Gender Wire</em>have focused on political opportunities for women in Senegal, investigated whether Namibian women are being sterilized, discussed women's debates in Lebanon about whether to don the hijab or bikini, and exposed sexual assaults against detained female immigrants by guards in Texas. And it never stops reminding readers that women are "Half the world's population, but not with half the share of wealth, well being and opportunity."</p> <p>Think about it. Many of these sections are terrific and cover wonderful stories. They are not about fashion, cosmetics and wrinkle cream. But do men read them when they are clearly "marked" for women?" I don't know, but the party line from writers and publisher is "of course." True, some of my male journalist friends know about some of these sites. But I can't find many ordinary men who regularly read these online magazines who even know that <em>IPS Gender Wire</em> exists, or who regularly click on Broadsheet. And most of my female friends have never even heard of the <em>New York Times'</em> Female Factor.</p> <p>The quality of the writing and analysis in these "separate sections" is quite high. So what's my problem? My concern is that gender equality will only emerge when men are educated about women's lives and when women stop being quarantined as "the other." Why aren't stories that explore women's responses to the Taliban or Islamism, reproductive health issues, new forms of contraception, the growing majority of women in American higher education, or the estrogenic impact of cosmetics on women's health mainstreamed on the "front page" as part of the news about foreign policy, national security, ecology, pollution, or health care?</p> <p>True, when the story is about the appointment of Elena Kagen to the Supreme Court, the story automatically lands on the front page. But not when honor deaths kill hundreds of women in Pakistan.</p> <p>The educated online audience reads a great deal about wars and conflict and I would be the last to deny the importance of these stories, whether they are about Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or Thailand. But it is rare that we also read about the women and children who suffer the "collateral damage" of these military battles or who constitute the majority of refugees or displaced persons.</p> <p>Off the record, those who write for these "special sections" freely admit to me that some of the publishers of the magazine would rather not cover these women's stories "on the front page." Since they won't speak on the record, I can only tell you that writers for these sections are happy to have an oasis in which to offer a feminist perspective on the world events, where they don't have to fight editors who still view women as "the other," and where they can expose, debate, and re-think how we would re-organize the world "if women really mattered."</p> <p>As a result, they are resigned to write for a segregated news section because it allows them to publish such stories, provides them jobs, and gives writers opportunities to publish important stories about half the world's population.</p> <p>So what would success look like? Right now, we have countless stand-alone women's news magazines and web sites such as <em>Women's E News</em>, <em>Feministing,</em> <em>Jezebel,</em> <em>Ms. Blog,</em> <em>Rh Reality Check</em>, <em>New Agenda</em>. Or, we have these special women's sections embedded in the new gender apartheid of online news magazines.</p> <p>Success, in my view, will come when women's news is mainstreamed. News about women is linked to the health of the planet, the education of half the world's population, the reproductive opportunities for or constraints on half the world's people, the hidden injuries of sex, the violence against girls and women, and the poverty of women and children.</p> <p>By now, most international organizations have embraced the fact that elevating women's status though education and reproductive choice results in a higher living standard for an entire population. Sadly, that widespread and obvious consensus has not yet penetrated the news media. We will know we've succeeded when every magazine asks of every news story, as <em>I</em><em>PS Gender Wire</em> does, What does this mean for women and girls?</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, teaches history at the University of California, Berkeley. Her most recent book is "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America." (Penguin 2006) </div></div></div> Wed, 16 Jun 2010 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 662591 at http://web.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Gender gender media women bylines writers Why You Should Fear Your Sofa, Baby Stroller and Nursing Pillow http://web.alternet.org/story/145215/why_you_should_fear_your_sofa%2C_baby_stroller_and_nursing_pillow <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Flame retardants in everyday products cause cancer, birth defects or endocrine disruption in every animal species studied.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>For good or ill, California often leads the nation's social and cultural trends and legal standards. California's passion for organic, local food, for example, has spread across the nation. When the state demanded lower vehicle emissions, manufacturers rushed to produce vehicles compliant with California's regulations. With nearly forty million people buying consumer products in one state, manufacturers across the nation, as well as in China, tailor their specifications to meet California's regulations.<br /><br /> Here's the "ill" part. In 1972, California passed legislation requiring flammability standards for upholstered furniture and baby products like high chairs, strollers and nursing pillows. Manufacturers met these new standards by using inexpensive, toxic and untested flame retardant chemicals. These flame retardants contained hazardous halogenated chemicals similar to PCB's and Dioxins, two of the most toxic classes of chemicals, Untested in humans, these brominated and chlorinated flame retardants can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological and reproductive or endocrine disruption in every animal species studied. As a result, one state's law has become the de facto standard for the country and poses a serious threat to everyone in the nation. Californians, in fact, have earned the dubious honor of having the highest amount of toxic flame retardant chemicals in their bodies of any people on the planet.<br /><br /> Environmental health experts speak about "the body burden," of the many dangerous chemicals we ingest that compromise our health. Once you bring these products into your home, the flame retardant chemicals, which are not chemically yoked to the upholstery foam , escape as dust into your living room and bedroom, adding millions of pounds of toxic chemicals to homes across the country. This toxic household dust, according to research studies, not only enters our bodies, but also contaminates soil, water and ends up in our food.<br /><br /> Most people are blissfully unaware of these flame retardants. Across the country you see people who are worried about dangerous toxins carrying their "BPA-free" water bottles. But they are unaware of the pounds of potential endocrine disrupters and carcinogens floating around their living rooms and bedrooms.<br /><br /> Just ask Arlene Blum, a 64-year old Berkeley scientist who became famous as the first woman to climb most of Mount Everest in 1976, who led the first all-women's ascent of Annapurna in 1978, and is the leading scientific advisor fighting against dangerous flame retardant chemicals. Blum, who received a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971, recently founded a non-profit organization, The Green Science Policy Institute, that provides unbiased scientific information to government, industry, and non-governmental organizations about chemicals used in consumer products in order to protect the health of people and the planet.<br /><br /> Her first major effort attempted to decrease toxics began in 1977. Her research and an article she wrote for the prestigious journal Science helped convince the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban a fire retardant known as Tris that damaged DNA and was absorbed into children's bodies from their sleepwear.<br /><br /> She then tried to force chemical companies to prove that their chemicals pose no danger to human health. Most Americans don't know that companies are not required to prove that their chemicals were safe for human health. Writing in <em>Science</em> in 2007, editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy noted that "In Europe, the chemical industry is required to establish safety before a product can continue to be marketed." Not so in the United States, where the EPA or consumers must first prove harm. Kennedy supported Blum's effort to "ban the use of the most toxic fire retardants from furniture and bedding unless the manufacturers can show safety. Not surprisingly, (<a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/">sciencemag.org</a> Vol 318 23 Nov. 2007) chemical manufacturers launched a fear campaign in opposition." As a result of heavy lobbying, and considerable funding for the opposition, the legislation was defeated in 2008.<br /><br /> Blum thought she'd start again with products made just for infants which pose no fire hazard. California's flammability state law requires that baby strollers, infant carriers, bassinets and nursing pillows contain the toxic flame retardant chemicals in the foam. Working as a scientific adviser, Blum helped launch a campaign to get a law passed that would ban these toxic chemicals from baby products. Mark Leno, a liberal State Senator, sponsored the bill (SB 772) which successfully passed the State Senate. Supporters include Friends of the Earth, MomsRising, the National Defense Research Council, many other environmental groups, the NAACP, and firefighters who knew that deaths from fires are rare in baby products and far less dangerous than the chemicals.<br /><br /> But the chemical industry launched their own campaign to defeat the bill, funding the opposition by creating front groups opposed to the bill. On a previous bill, they spent seven million dollars in one quarter with one lobbyist. They also got the California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, whose motto is "Dedicated to Economic Development," to oppose the bill and brought a group of African Americans to the state legislature where they testified that banning the chemicals constituted environmental injustice, because most fires occur in poor neighborhoods.<br /><br /> Fire data isn't good enough to show whether or not the use of toxic flame retardants are effective at reducing deaths. Fire deaths did decline in California since their introduction, but they declined even more in other states where toxic fire retardants were not required or used. Firefighters also pointed out that smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire-safe cigarettes are far more effective in reducing fire deaths than chemical retardants. Nonetheless, a group of minority legislators, accompanied by a few intimidated white liberals, changed their vote and the bill failed in August 2009. The exploitation of minorities to kill the bill was a clever tactic. But it is not environmental injustice to improve the health of poor people.<br /><br /> So why should you care about this? Because it's part of health care reform. It's preventive medical practice to keep people and animals from ingesting the chemical dust that accumulates in human bodies, even when the foam is covered with cloth. Three chemical companies -- Albermarle, Chemtura and Israeli Chemical Limited make profits from producing these chemicals and our world has become poisoned. Blum is now working with scientists and manufacturers to create more sustainable furnishings, electronic and building materials. In an interview with the <a href="http://pubs.acs.org/cen/emailhtml/cen"><em>Chemical and Engineering News</em>,</a> she said, "I believe that using green chemistry to develop safer material is not only vital for the health of the world but would also be more profitable for industry." At the same time, however, California is considering legislation that would make flammability standards for mattresses even more dangerous.<br /><br /> Blum is as relentless and persistent as when slogging up rock and snow-covered mountains. Her Green Science Policy Institute has already stopped the passage of five different flammability standards that would have required the use of hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic flame retardant chemicals around the world. To give one example, she convinced four states not to replicate California's flammability standards.<br /><br /> Those who have watched Arlene Blum in action know that the chemical companies have encountered a fiercely determined scientist who possesses endless stamina. "It's hard to turn around an organization and people on a dime," Sara Schedler, a lead author of a report on flame retardants for Friends of the Earth, told "Inside the Bay Area, of the <em>Oakland Tribune</em>," "She did it." Schedler called Blum" one of the most remarkable scientists I've ever met. She just lives and breathes her care for the world and she has the background to translate science for policymakers, legislators and the general public." For her part, Blum is cautiously optimistic. Next year, she notes, the same legislation to ban toxic chemical from baby products will be brought before the California legislature. Meanwhile, she relies on a relentless campaign to educate the public. "Parents," she told me, "should check labels and avoid products that say they meet Technical Bulletin 117, the California furniture flammability standard. We as consumers have to demand to know exactly what are the chemicals in our products AND what are the health problems associated with these chemicals. We have to demand that chemicals are proven safe before they are put on the market and in our homes."<br /><br /> Yes, the public needs to be educated. But politicians and agencies tasked with protesting our health must also resist the chemical industry's lobbying. Some good news is that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently announced that they will undertake a three year phase out of DecaBDE, a persistent and toxic chemical that has been used as a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pbde/">flame retardant in consumer products</a>. But Blum is not convinced that the substitute will be any safer. The EPA has also just announced actions to address "Chemicals of Concern." That the EPA is looking seriously at the biological and environmental harm caused by chemicals is a good sign after decades of neglect.<br /><br /> None of this news, however, affects the flammability laws in California, which impacts much of the nation. The real goal is for chemical companies to bear the burden of proving that their chemicals are safe. We should not have to suffer potentially serious illnesses in order to prove harm.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle is a professor emerita of history who teaches at U.C. Berkeley. </div></div></div> Sun, 17 Jan 2010 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 660710 at http://web.alternet.org Personal Health Personal Health pcb flammability standards upholstered furniture strollers nursing pillows dioxins Mr. President, War Crimes Must Be Investigated http://web.alternet.org/story/137402/mr._president%2C_war_crimes_must_be_investigated <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The country I care so much about has breached some of the most important international conventions. Yet no one has been held accountable.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The memos about torture released by the Obama administration are horrifying to read. Nothing new, here, but they are like a punch in the stomach all over again. This is my country? This is the nation that stands for freedom and decency?</p><p>I understand why President Obama doesn't want to prosecute those who believed they were acting under laws written by the Office of Legal Counsel. But that is not the only policy he and other Democrats can pursue.</p><p>First, the men who wrote those memos should be investigated for disbarment. They acted in ways that are unconscionable and unprofessional, to put it mildly.</p><p>Second, neither the President nor Congress should investigate these crimes. They must be pursued by a special independent investigator who has no political ax to grind. Now you may well ask, who approves of torture? Well, hardly anyone, except those in the Bush administration who justified or directed these war crimes.</p><p>Third, how can we allow a sitting federal judge to remain on the bench--for life-- when he provided legal justification for torture? I speak here, of course, of Jay.Bybee, who should resign or be impeached.</p><p>Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because the country I care so much about has breached some of the most important international conventions in modern history and yet no major leaders have been held accountable. If the investigation goes straight to Vice-President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, then so be it.</p><p>Remember the debate over whether President Ford should have pardoned President Nixon for his violations of the constitution? The best argument for that pardon was that Nixon HAD been held accountable and had to resign his office. He had, in short, received a serious punishment.</p><p>President Obama's instincts are right to avoid a drawn-out partisan conflict over the past. But if we are truly a nation of laws, committed to the decency and morality we embrace, we cannot let people who justify or commit torture and other war crimes to escape prosecution. Those who agree should make their voices loud, joining Amnesty International, the ACLU and many thousands of other Americans who will not allow war crimes to be committed in their name.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Sun, 19 Apr 2009 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 655064 at http://web.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties bush torture cheney war crimes What Kind of Economic Stimulus Do American Women Want? http://web.alternet.org/story/127613/what_kind_of_economic_stimulus_do_american_women_want <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Advocates of women&#039;s equality have mobilized to make sure women are included in the &quot;new&quot; New Deal.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Ever since Barack Obama won the presidency, American women -- battered by the George W. Bush administration's assaults on their rights --  have sensed the possibility of change and mobilized to make sure that the new president hear their voices and recognize their needs.</p><p>No surprise here. During any great political transformation, women have almost always demanded greater equality. In the midst of the American revolution, Abigail Adams famously warned her husband that the new republic must not ignore the needs and rights of half the population. "Remember the Ladies," she wrote to him. "Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."</p><p>Adams understood that women become very angry when liberal change is in the air, but realize they will not be among its beneficiaries. It happened during the French revolution and during the 1960s, for example. It's happening again.</p><p>That's why advocates of women's equality quickly mobilized to press the Obama administration to reverse Bush's policies and to make sure he included women in whatever "new" New Deal might be necessary to keep the United States from sliding into the Second Great Depression.</p><p>For his part, President Barack Obama has proved that he "gets it", that he understands women's lives and seeks to improve their economic prospects, domestic dilemmas, and reproductive rights. Within the first month of his presidency, for example, he reversed Bush's "global gag rule" on funding contraceptive and reproductive-health services to women across the planet. This will result in many fewer abortions and deaths, and give women much greater control over their lives.</p><p>He also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reversed a Supreme Court decision that prevented women from suing for equal pay after six months; and he expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program (which Bush had refused to do), thus setting an important precedent for universal healthcare, at least for children.</p><p>But advocates for women workers have felt great anxiety about whether the Obama administration would make sure that women -- along with men -- would be included in the $787-billion stimulus package that on 17 February 2009 completed its passage through both houses of Congress. It's not that they don't care about male workers; on the contrary, they know that men have been hit harder and more quickly because they work in manufacturing and construction. That leaves many women as breadwinners who cannot support their families on the salaries they earn in the economic sectors they traditionally inhabit.</p><p>As early as April 2008, the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions (chaired by the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy) issued a report entitled "Taking a Toll: The Effects of Recession on Women"; this argued for a safety-net for women, who usually have fewer assets, earn less than men, work in more part-time jobs, and increasing cannot provide for their families.</p><p>In the summer, Gwen Moore -- the Democratic congresswoman from Wisconsin, who once received welfare as a single mother -- teamed up with other like-minded women to reframe the stimulus package by trying to persuade the Democratic National Convention that poverty is a women's issue and that a forthcoming Obama administration must expand the safety-net that vanished when former President Clinton eliminated "welfare as we know it" in 1996.</p><p><strong>A Raised Voice</strong></p><p>Alongside these initiatives, concerns about whether the recovery plan would help single women workers and working mothers surfaced repeatedly during the last few months. Feminist economists voiced public concerns that the new administration's "shovel ready" recovery plan focused too exclusively on male jobs. In a widely quoted op-ed, author and former philosophy professor <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/opinion/09hirshman.html">Linda Hirshman asked</a>: "Where are the jobs for women in the stimulus planning?".</p><p>There is no doubt that women could be quickly trained for such construction projects, as occurred during the second world war. But would Congress fund this?</p><p>Remembering the gender and racial discrimination that characterized the New Deal, 1,200 women historians and economists (including myself) urged President Obama not to repeat FDR's mistakes of directing most jobs to white men. Their petition asked the president to require affirmative action for all federal contractors, and to set aside apprenticeship and training programs in infrastructure projects for women and people of color. They also argued that more money should be spent on projects for health, childcare, education and the social services, the economic sectors where women traditionally work.</p><p>The voices of women insisting upon such equality in the recovery plan have been loud and insistent, even though the establishment media have tended to ignore them. Leaders of national women's groups were quick in grabbing a seat at the table of Obama's transition team and lobbied hard for the stimulus legislation to include women workers as part of the recovery plan. Blogs and essays written by women have ricocheted through cyberspace, urging Congress to include women and minority workers, along with white men, in the stimulus package.</p><p>And what was the result? It depends on how you view the entire stimulus plan. Many well known economists have argued that the recovery plan needed to be much larger. More than one-third of the funds, moreover, went to tax cuts, which will provide less of a stimulus than spending. As a result, women and other low-wage earners didn't get nearly enough jobs.</p><p>The back-story is that President Obama has been held hostage by troglodyte Republicans who still believe that a dismantled federal government, a free and unregulated market, and tax cuts for the wealthy are the solution to America's economic collapse. Using the tactic and rhetoric of "bipartisanship", the new president chose to make serious compromises in order to secure sufficient votes from these Senate Republicans. For all his efforts, he received almost no Republican votes.</p><p>When Republicans fumed about money to fund comprehensive contraception, for example, Obama and other Democrats decided to strip it from the bill to secure necessary Republican support. (Conservative Republicans not only oppose abortion; their war against contraception has been vehement and persistent.) Most reproductive-rights activists, however, are confident that Obama will quickly insert it in another piece of legislation.</p><p>Republicans also cut programs that disproportionately target women and children, including Head Start for low-income children, Violence Against Women, school improvement and food stamps and aid to states, all of which stimulate the economy by supporting the "social" infrastructure, not only the physical infrastructure. The irony is, as Mimi Abramovitz writes: "Contrary to popular wisdom, spending on services like health care and education produces a bigger bang for the economic-stimulus buck than billions of dollars devoted to roads and bridges. Japan's Institute for Local Government, a nonprofit research group, says that Japan learned this truth the hard way."</p><p><strong>A New Momentum</strong></p><p>Still, women's persistent lobbying and advocacy produced some very positive results The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research group, concluded: "The provisions providing relief to low- and moderate-income families and to states facing serious budget shortfalls are among the most effective economic stimulus in the package. Low-income and unemployed families will spend benefits or tax refunds quickly to meet household expenses."</p><p>In their report "How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Addresses Women's Needs," The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) offered a similarly positive assessment: "The Obama Administration and House and Senate leaders have developed a strong plan for economic recovery to preserve and create jobs, help people through tough times, protect vital public services, and invest in our nation's future."</p><p>The NWLC cited a host of measures -- funds for childcare and early education, expanded unemployment insurance for low-income workers, child support, healthcare, direct assistance for low-income households, education and job training, job opportunities for women, tax benefits for those who really need such relief -- to argue that "the Conference Agreement on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a number of measures that are especially important for women and their families."</p><p>All true. But let's get some perspective. The legislation only funded $2 billion for childcare, even as the United States spent $52 billion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related research in 2008 alone. Mass transit and major infrastructure projects, moreover, were shelved to increase tax cuts, in a nearly futile effort to appease Republicans.</p><p>It's quite clear that Republicans would rather let the ship go down than help Obama succeed, even though the stakes are so very high for all workers. The Nobel-prize winning economist <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05krugman.html">Paul Krugman warns</a>: "Let's not mince words: This looks an awful lot like the beginning of a second Great Depression".  So far, his (cautious) predictions about the American economy, since at least 2004, have turned into the very reality he hoped might be averted.</p><p>In this political climate, women remain pawns in the struggle between the two parties. Nevertheless, hope remains alive because advocates for gender equality know they have a president on their side. Asked whether the Obama administration was friendlier to women's advocacy groups than the last administration, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), laughed and replied: "Are you kidding? The difference is like night and day."</p><p>Women leaders, scholars and activists are not going away. Once mobilized, they intend to remain visible and vociferous, reminding legislators that they are not "a special interest-group", as both parties tend to view them, but half of the nation's citizens.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Wed, 18 Feb 2009 10:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 653685 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Gender Economy women obama financial crisis stimulus plan great depressions Women Are Not 'Pork' http://web.alternet.org/story/124190/women_are_not_%27pork%27 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Dems struck a family planning provision from the stimulus bill. What happens to the economy when a woman has a child without the means to support it?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p class="dropcap">Responding to President Obama’s request, House Democrats <a href="http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/01/27/stimulus-finalized-without-medicaid-family-planning-expansion" target="_blank" linkindex="120">cut a provision</a> from the stimulus package that would expand contraceptive family planning for Medicaid patients -- usually poor women and girls.</p><p>Why did this happen?</p><p>For years, reproductive justice activists have argued that the religious right’s real agenda is not just to eliminate abortion, but to end the historic rupture between sex and reproduction that took place in the 20th century.</p><p>I understand why that rupture is unsettling. Ironically, I was on my way to lecture about Margaret Sanger in my history course at UC Berkeley when I heard the news. Sanger was vilified for wanting to give women the choice of when or whether to bear children. In short, she challenged all of human history by proposing an historic rupture between sexuality and the goal of reproduction. But if reproduction ceased to be the goal, sexuality might become yoked to pleasure.</p><p>That is the legacy the religious right has fought against, and it’s that agenda that cut funding for family planning.</p><p>House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) <a href="http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/01/27/oh-grow-up-boehner-titillates-tank-stimulus" target="_blank" linkindex="121">said</a>, “How you can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?”</p><p>Well, here’s the answer. Consider the teenage girl who’s sexually active. What happens to the economy when she bears a child without the means to support it? Conversely, what happens when she finishes her education, enters the labor force, earns a salary, and pays taxes? Do we want an unemployed poor woman to have more children than she can already feed, or do we want her to have access to contraception, get her life back on track, and hopefully find work instead of raising another child she cannot afford at this time?</p><p>The Congressional Budget Office also <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/01/27/womens-groups-protest-dropping-contraceptives-provision-in-stimulus/" target="_blank" linkindex="122">reported</a> that by the third year of implementation, the measure would actually save $200 million over five years by preventing unwanted pregnancies and avoiding the Medicaid cost of delivering and then caring for these babies. The same CBO report found the House version of the stimulus would have a “noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years, with much of the mandatory spending for Medicaid and other programs likely to occur in the next 19 to 20 months.” During the first three years, the CBO report said, the cost and savings are negligible.</p><p>This decision was an unnecessary political capitulation to Republicans. According to the AP and the <a href="http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/nation/01/27/0127obama.html" target="_blank" linkindex="123"><i>Austin American-Statesman</i></a>, the president was “courting Republican critics of the legislation” who had argued that contraception is not about stimulus or growth. Unfortunately, too many people have uncritically accepted that argument. But many others have noted that the package is filled with provisions for health care, which certainly includes family planning. Many other provisions, moreover, are also not growth-oriented, and yet it was poor women’s bodies that Democrats bartered for the approval and votes from Republicans that they don’t need and will seldom get.</p><p>That same morning, <i>New York Times</i> columnist Bob Herbert <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/opinion/27herbert.html" target="_blank" linkindex="124">asked</a> “Why anyone listens to [Republicans]?” Why, indeed. They want the Democrats to fail. They want the new president to fail. And so they described women’s bodies as “pork” and asked that the funding be cut for contraception.</p><p>Women’s groups are legitimately outraged at what has happened. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America <a href="http://www.plannedparenthood.org/newsroom/press-releases/medicaid-family-planning-provision-expands-health-care-women-23642.htm" target="_blank" linkindex="125">called</a> the measure a “victim of misleading attacks and partisan politics.” Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/category/congress/" target="_blank" linkindex="126">said</a>: “Family planners are devastated that President Obama and Congress have decided to take funding for critical family planning services out of the stimulus. Their willingness to abandon the millions of families across the country who are in need is devastating.”</p><p>“The Medicaid Family Planning State Option fully belonged in the economic recovery package,” <a href="http://www.womenstake.org/2009/01/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-plan-addresses-womens-economic-needs.html" target="_blank" linkindex="127">said</a> Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “The Republican leadership opposition to the provision shows how out of touch they are with what it takes to ensure the economic survival of working women and their families.”</p><p>While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended the measure as recently as last Sunday, President Barack Obama and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, bowed to Republican pressure and agreed to drop the measure. And although the Senate has not yet voted, it’s unlikely that funding for expanded family planning will be approved. In short, the Democrats decided it just wasn’t worth fighting about. According to the Washington Wire, one House Democratic aide <a href="http://uselectionatlas.org/NEWS/index.php?date=1233096460" target="_blank" linkindex="128">said</a>, “It ended up being a distraction and it will be removed.”</p><p>So, poor women who want reproductive health care and contraception are both “pork” <i>and</i> a “distraction.” Is this the change we have dreamed about?</p><p>President Obama certainly believes in contraception for poor women and girls on Medicaid. He won the election, as he recently <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17862.html" target="_blank" linkindex="129">pointed out</a>. He doesn’t have to cave in to Republican demands to restrict women’s choices and health care.</p><p>The best way he and Democrats can handle this terribly misguided decision is to pass legislation to fund expanded family planning as soon as possible, before half the population wakes up and realizes that once again, women have been treated as expendable, and that their bodies have been bartered for political expediency.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, a journalist and historian, is professor emerita of history at the University of California, Davis and a visiting professor of public policy and history at UC Berkeley. For 11 years, she wrote op-ed columns for the Los Angeles Times, and from 2000-2004 she worked full-time as a political columnist and editorial page writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. </div></div></div> Fri, 30 Jan 2009 10:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, Religion Dispatches 653238 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Gender gender economy family planning reproductive justice stimulus Sarah Palin and Feminists for Life http://web.alternet.org/story/96991/sarah_palin_and_feminists_for_life <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">McCain&#039;s veep pick is a proud member of Feminists for Life, which tries to convince young women that choice means giving up the right to &#039;choose.&#039;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Many people are unfamiliar with Feminists for Life and wonder what the choice of Sarah Palin, who is against abortion rights, signals to the electorate.<br /><br />Well, let me tell you something about Feminists for Life. In 2003, I decided to investigate this group and its energetic leader, Serrin Foster. What did it mean, I wondered, to be a feminist and actively fight against the right to choose when or whether to have a child?<br /><br />So I went to a church in sprawling, suburban, wealthy Danville, California to hear Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, speak on "The Feminist Case Against Abortion" to a huge crowd of mainly high-school students.<br /><br />Founded in 1972, one year before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the historic <i>Roe vs. Wade</i> decision that made abortion legal in the United States, Feminists for Life now focuses exclusively on practical alternatives to abortion for college-age women.<br /><br />No woman, argues Foster, should ever have to choose between having a child and a career. "Abortion is a reflection that society has failed women," she tells high school and college students as she tours the country.<br /><br />"Women deserve better choices," she says and points to practical alternatives and resources available to a young woman who has an unwanted pregnancy. She can choose single parenthood and use food stamps or temporary assistance to needy families. She can choose adoption. Or, college-age women can pressure school campuses to offer child care and family housing so that they never, ever, have to choose between a pregnancy and an education.<br /><br />Feminism is all about having choices, Foster told me, after her talk. I couldn't agree more. Young women, she says, should have the right to bear a child and have access to high-quality, affordable child care. Again, I heartily agreed.<br /><br />But Foster is cleverly disingenuous. When I asked what she does to promote child care, her answers were vague and evasive. When I read the organization's brochures aimed at campus physicians and psychologists, I found nothing about campaigning for child care. The real goal is to convince professionals to persuade young women to "choose" to bear a baby.<br /><br />Despite its protestations, Feminists for Life is not really about choice. You can see this on its Web site, where the slogan "refuse to choose" appeared repeatedly. Nor does the organization challenge the real difficulties working mothers face. Instead, it cleverly appropriates the words "feminist" and "choice" to convince young women that abortion is always an unacceptable choice.<br /><br />Part of the problem is that Foster either does not know her history or purposefully distorts the past. She spoke that night as though she had invented the idea of child care and describes pioneer feminists of the 1960s and 1970s as selfish, diabolical creatures who never wanted women to have the choice to bear a child.<br /><br />But she's wrong. The three demands made at the first national march in New York City in 1970 included child care, equal pay for equal work and the legal right to "choose" an abortion. Many feminists, moreover, spent years trying to persuade the institutions where they worked that real equality for women required family-friendly policies, including child care.<br /><br />Foster also accused Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America of supporting abortion in order to stay in business. But I had to wonder about her own financial goals when I saw, in the organization's magazine, that I could buy a "stunning new logo pin" in either sterling silver or 24-carat gold for $75.<br /><br />In the end, I decided that Feminists for Life is neither about feminism nor about choice. It is a cunning attempt to convince young women that choice means giving up the right to "choose."<br /><br />Sarah Palin is the inexperienced woman Sen. John McCain has chosen as his running mate, hoping that she will attract the vital female vote.. It's the worst kind of affirmative action, choosing a person he barely knows, who is completely unprepared to assume any national office. It's like nominating Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. It's all about ideology and not about competence.<br /><br />To put it bluntly, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton. Nor does she have the vision and brilliance of Barack Obama. This is an incredible insult to most American women. Just how stupid does he think we are? <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Fri, 29 Aug 2008 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 649415 at http://web.alternet.org Election 2008 Election 2008 Gender sarah palin feminists for life "One Tough Broad from the Bronx": An Oral History of Bella Abzug http://web.alternet.org/story/93746/%22one_tough_broad_from_the_bronx%22%3A_an_oral_history_of_bella_abzug <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The oral testimonies in this biography offer a textured portrait of one of the most powerful women to challenge and change American society.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><i>Bella Abzug: An Oral History: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Joe McCarthy, Pissed off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet, and Shook Up Politics Along the Way. -- By Suzanne Braun Levine and May Thom</i><br /><br />The title says it all. Wherever people fought for social justice and human rights in mid-twentieth century America, Bella Abzug was there, organizing and strategizing, brash but brilliant, abrasive yet empathic.<br /><br />Abzug knew herself well:<blockquote>There are those who say I'm impatient, impetuous, uppity, rude, profane, brash and overbearing. Whether I'm any of these things, or all of them, you can decide for yourself. But whatever I am -- and this ought to be made very clear at the outset -- I am a very serious woman.</blockquote>To capture the extraordinary life of this very "serious woman," Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom, both former <i>Ms. </i>editors, have collected parts of her unfinished autobiography, along with interviews with family members, journalists, activists, politicians, and friends, and shaped these into a chronological narrative of her life.<br /><br />The result is fascinating. Everyone who encountered Abzug seems to have a "Bella story." Sometimes people contradict each other, presenting different views of her formidable personality and her many political battles. More often, their collective memories offer a layered and textured portrait of one of the most powerful women to challenge and change American society during the last century.<br /><br />Between her birth in 1920 and her death in 1998, Abzug fought for a series of progressive causes. She was among a handful of pioneering female attorneys who graduated from Columbia University in 1945, and she practiced civil rights and labor law for twenty-five years. She was also a consummate activist and organizer who successfully challenged laws and customs. She fought for the rights of union workers and African Americans, protested the use of the atomic bomb and the Vietnam War, waged endless battles to advance women's rights, and spent the last years of her life promoting environmentalism and human rights.<br /><br />When she plunged into the women's movement during the late 1960s, Abzug infused feminism with her fierce, strategic, take-no-prisoners spirit. As Geraldine Ferraro reminds us,<blockquote>She didn't knock lightly on the door. She didn't even push it open or batter it down. She took it off the hinges forever! So that those of us who came after could walk through!</blockquote>To many activists, she seemed indefatigable and indomitable. In 1970, at the age of 50, she campaigned for a congressional seat with the slogan "This woman's place is in the House, the House of Representatives." On her very first day in office, she introduced a bill to end the war in Vietnam. The next day, she authored legislation for comprehensive childcare, which passed Congress, but was vetoed by President Richard Nixon. In the name of defending human rights, she quickly joined a small group of representatives who supported the new gay liberation movement.<br /><br />Like many activists of her generation, Abzug was constantly watched by the FBI. Her radical past always threatened to sabotage her effectiveness as a leader, something Levine and Thom fail to address. Her husband had been a member of the Young Communist League, although according to journalist Doug Ireland, Abzug herself never joined the Party. A product of the popular front culture of the 1930s, she had remained a sympathetic "fellow traveler."<br /><br />Her past surfaced when, as a member of Congress, she authored legislation to fund a National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. Given her leadership skills, feminist activists wanted the Carter administration to appoint her as chair of the conference. First, however, she had to be vetted by the government. Midge Costanza, Jimmy Carter's public emissary to women and racial and ethnic minorities, recalls what happened: "The FBI called me and said, 'Are you serious? You want this background check done immediately? There's a whole room of files on Bella Abzug!'"<br /><br />Despite her decades of radical activism, Bella Abzug ended up chairing the Houston Conference, an historic event whose "real significance," remembers journalist David Broder, "was to bury the idea that so-called women's issues are a sideshow to the center-ring concerns of politics." At stake was nothing less than the future direction and reputation of the American women's movement. "Bella and all of us were worried," recalls Gloria Steinem, "that this huge conference would break apart in the bright light of national publicity." With Abzug at the helm, however, the 20,000 women who attended the conference passed a progressive and visionary <i>Plan of Action</i>, which included, among its many controversial planks, the right of sexual preference, the rights of minorities and welfare mothers, reproductive freedom and the Equal Rights Act.<br /><br />Abzug's private life often struck those who knew her as a bold social and political activist as surprisingly conventional. During her last year of law school, she married Martin Abzug and raised two daughters in a New York suburb. Before any public appearance, she took her time selecting her outfit, applying make up with great care and choosing among her many signature broad-rimmed hats. (Early in her career she had decided that she needed to don a hat in order to be taken seriously as professional woman.)<br /><br />But her personal life was also complicated. To Robin Morgan, a feminist poet, writer, and activist, she bragged, "Before either you or my daughters fell in love with a woman, I was for gay rights." Yet despite her early support of the gay liberation movement, she had difficulty accepting the fact that both her daughters chose women as their life partners. To Morgan, she lamented, "Both my girls, where did I go wrong?"<br /><br />A resilient woman, Abzug usually recovered from political failures with a fighting spirit. But when her husband Martin died, she was simply devastated. Theirs had been a great love affair. When asked how she had survived such a stormy political life, she once wise-cracked, "great sex."After his death, Abzug wrote,<blockquote>My reputation is that of an extremely independent woman, and I am. But I was dependent, clearly, on Martin. He would embrace me in his furry chest and warm heart and protect me from the meanness one experiences in the kind of life I lead.</blockquote>"I don't think that she ever, ever, ever got over the fact that Martin was no longer there," remembers Gloria Steinem. "She was a slightly different person forever." Abuzg's good friend, the actor Joe Bologna, understood how much Martin had anchored Bella's life. When he imagined her reunion with him in heaven, he pictured this scenario: "When she gets to heaven, Bella would greet Martin warmly, maybe share a couple dances, maybe a little sex. But having done that, I'm convinced that she immediately began petitioning God for better living conditions for the people in hell."<br /><br />During the last years of her life, Abzug sought to promote women's rights as human rights and to connect economic justice with the health of the planet. At the U.N.'s celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, an exhausted Bella Abzug rose from her wheel chair to give her final speech:<blockquote>I personally have been fighting for human rights for sixty-five years and especially for the rights of women ... the role of women here today and the men who are our allies is to scale the great wall of gender apartheid. Because unless and until we scale that great barrier we will not eliminate the abuses of human rights that have dogged women every single day of  their lives ... And no matter how steep the passage and discouraging the pace, I ask you never to give in and never to give up.</blockquote>Reading this unconventional narrative, filled with so many different voices and stories, was a great pleasure for me. I realize, however, that I bring to this kaleidoscopic narrative a historian's knowledge of the events, an activist's memories, and a journalist's familiarity with most of the people Levine and Thom interviewed.<br /><br />I'm not so sure whether younger readers would have the same experience. Although the editors provide an excellent timeline before each chapter of her life, the book requires a broad knowledge of the historical context in which Abzug fought her political battles. When I asked my undergraduate students about Bella Abzug, some knew her name, but none could describe any of her historic achievements. This is not familiar history to them, and I fear that this narrative, as marvelous as it is, will be best appreciated by those who know the history of social movements or fought along with Abzug, rather by those who were born after her death. That is why this book left me with such a longing for a well-written, definitive biography of the larger-than-life Bella Abzug, a book that would place this remarkable woman within the context of mid-twentieth century American social and political movements.<br /><br />Until that book is written, however, we should welcome this captivating narrative that reminds us why we must resurrect her life and legacy. Future generations should know what one tough broad from the Bronx achieved within her lifetime.<br /><br /><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Wed, 06 Aug 2008 07:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, Wellesley Centers for Women 648731 at http://web.alternet.org Gender Gender Investigations Books feminism activism bella abzug Now Let's Talk About Populism for Real http://web.alternet.org/story/90468/now_let%27s_talk_about_populism_for_real <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new book explores the real populist vision that lies behind the shallow rhetoric to which we&#039;ve been subjected during this election year.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><br /><br />Although <a href="http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/mk8/">historian Michael Kazin</a> has rightly observed that both the left and right have used populist appeals against “elites” throughout the 20th century, there was, in fact, an actual Populist movement that took root during the infamous “gilded age” of the 1880s and 1890s.<br /><br /><br />In his new book, “The Populist Vision,” Charles Postel offers an original and riveting account of the Populist vision that jump-started 20th-century social reform movements and is still relevant to our contemporary American society.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />We can easily imagine how Populists viewed their world. Our generation of Americans also feels disoriented by living in a shrinking world. In the late 19th century, writes Postel, “The traumas of technological innovation, expansion of corporate power, and commercial and cultural globalization” left many Americans reeling from the speed of change. “Corporations grew exponentionally amid traumatic spasms of global capitalist development. The rich amassed great fortunes, a prosperous section of the middle class grew more comfortable and hard times pressed on most everyone else.”<br /><br /><br />Out of this alienating and disorienting experience grew a Populism that previous historians have often simplified.  Some have viewed Populists as radical visionaries who dreamed of a utopian, egalitarian American society. Still others have characterized them as nostalgic, rural reactionaries who yearned for an Edenic, agrarian past.<br /><br /><br />Postel, however, offers a far more nuanced interpretation.  Armed with a wide array of sources, he convincingly argues that American Populism, for all its flaws and failures—it eventually failed to promote racial equality—was fundamentally a modern social movement that offered a “divergent” path to the creation of a modern capitalist society.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />By excavating the ideas, lives and organizational activities of Populist activists, Postel demonstrates that the women and men in the Populist movement largely valued “business methods, education and technology” and embraced the ideas of modernity and progress. He vividly describes, for example, the rich intellectual debates that rippled through the movement. “Few political or social movements,” he writes, “brought so many men and women into lecture halls, classrooms, camp meetings and seminars or produced such an array of inexpensive literature.”<br /><br /><br />By scrutinizing their politics, Postel also reveals that the Populists, who decried the corruption of the traditional political parties, sought “a new type of politics that would deliver rationalized, nonpartisan and businesslike governances.”<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />For the Populists, argues Postel, the Post Office represented the ideal government agency. An elaborate bureaucracy, the Post Office simply delivered a necessary service without favoring special interests or interfering with the lives of its customers. This was “the Populist vision of an alternative capitalism in which private enterprise coalesced with both cooperative and state-based economies.” The <a href="http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2505">Farmers Alliance</a>, for example, “pursued the dramatic expansion of government regulation and control in the country’s economic life. This included demands for the public ownership of railroads and the telegraph. ... At stake was who should be included and who should wield shares of power—a conflict that all concerned understood as vital to the future of a modern America.”<br /><br /><br />Most historians of the Populist movement have focused largely on one region of the country, or exclusively on farmers or miners. Postel instead provides a far more expansive view of this national movement by including black and white farmers, wage earners, miners, railroad workers, rural women and bohemian urbanites. Taken together, those who participated in such a broad-based movement not only ranted against banks and farm policies, but also scrutinized the wages of workers, education, women’s rights, business, religion, race, science and technology.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />It is Postel’s focus on women, however, that makes his interpretation of Populists so convincing. For decades, historians of gender have argued that whenever you study women as part of any social movement or political event, your interpretation will very likely change. We now know, for example, that middle-class women—for good or ill—have led most of the social and reform movements in our country’s past. <br /><br /><br />By including women, Postel discovers a modern sensibility that other historians of the Populist movement have missed. Like their male counterparts, rural women sought a different path to progress and capitalist development. By taking seriously the dreams and hopes of women farmers, Postel explores the female Populists who struggled to end the whiskey trade that threatened their earnings and families, dreamed of leaving field labor for a modern education, fought for the right to vote, and sought their own economic independence as telegraphers, clerks, teachers and even professionals.<br /><br /><br />The Populist movement attracted hundreds of thousands of women. Why? Because it was the only institution that offered women equal political participation. In addition, it also “offered rural women hope for an expanded social cultural environment, improved methods in the kitchen and garden, a more just configuration of marriage and family relationships, and increased opportunities for education, employment, and perhaps participation in political affairs. In short,” writes Postel, “the Alliance movement attracted large numbers of women because it raised the prospects of a more independent and modern life.” And this vision of female independence, he emphasizes, is incompatible with an older historical description of “rural protest representing tradition-bound farmers heroically defending their communities and homes from the encroachments of modernity. ...”<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Aside from demonstrating the modernity of Populism, Postel’s great insight is that the particular way American capitalism developed was not “predetermined.” The Populist struggle to develop a more regulated and equitable capitalism, he argues, was not defeated because it was a backward, traditional, agrarian movement. The Populist vision of progress lost because its participants could not defeat the more powerful political and economic interests they battled.<br /><br /><br />Elegantly written, meticulously researched, “The Populist Vision” is an enthralling history of the movement that created the most pervasive political impulse in American politics. Postel’s book has won both the Frederick Jackson Turner and Bancroft awards, which it justly deserves. His work also helps us to understand the actual Populist Vision that lies behind the superficial and shallow rhetoric to which we’ve been subjected during this election year.<br /><br /><br /><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><i> <a href="http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Rosen/rosen-con0.html "> Ruth Rosen </a> teaches history at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of “The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America” (Penguin, 2006) and is a frequent contributor to <a href="http://www.dissentmagazine.org/ "> Dissent Magazine </a> and <a href="http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/"> Talking Points Memo</a>. </i></div></div></div> Fri, 04 Jul 2008 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, Truthdig 648072 at http://web.alternet.org Democracy and Elections News & Politics Gender Investigations Books the populist vision charles postel Shutting Down Transparent Government, Bush-Style http://web.alternet.org/story/61878/shutting_down_transparent_government%2C_bush-style <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How the Bush government is now trying to prevent you from being able to use the Freedom of Information Act.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Disgraceful, shameful, illegal, and yes, dangerous. These are words that come to mind every time the Bush administration makes yet another attempt to consolidate executive power, while wrapping itself in secrecy and deception.<br /><br />And its officials never stop. In May, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/22/AR2007082202441.html?nav=rss_nation">filed</a> a lawsuit seeking information from the White House Office of Administration about an estimated five million e-mail messages that <a href="http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/090607N.shtml">mysteriously vanished</a> from White House computer servers between March 2003 and October 2005. Congress wants to investigate whether these messages contain evidence about the firing of nine United States attorneys who may have refused to use their positions to help Republican candidates or harm Democratic ones.<br /><br />The administration's first response to yet another scandal was to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/22/AR2007082202441.html?nav=rss_nation">scrub</a> the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request section from the White House Office website. One day it was there; the next day it had disappeared. Then, Bush-appointed lawyers from the Justice Department tried to convince a federal judge that the White House Office of Administration was not subject to scrutiny by the Freedom of Information Act because it wasn't an "agency." The newly labeled non-agency, in fact, had its own FOIA officer and had responded to 65 FOIA requests during the previous 12 months. Its own website had listed it as subject to FOIA requests.<br /><br />For those who may have forgotten, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966 to hold government officials and agencies accountable to public scrutiny. It became our national sunshine law and has allowed us to know something of what our elected officials actually do, rather than what they say they do. Congress expressly excluded classified information from FOIA requests in order to protect national security.<br /><br />Scorning accountability, the Bush administration quickly figured out how to circumvent the Act. On October 12, 2001, just one month after the 9/11 attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft took advantage of a traumatized nation to ensure that responses to FOIA requests would be glacially slowed down, if the requests were not simply rejected outright.<br /><br />Most Americans were unaware of what happened -- and probably still are. If so, I'd like to remind you how quickly democratic transparency vanished after 9/11 and why this most recent contorted rejection of our premier sunshine law is more than a passing matter; why it is, in fact, an essential aspect of this administration's continuing violation of our civil rights and liberties, the checks and balances of our system of government, and, yes, even our Constitution.<br /><br /><b>On Bended Knee</b><br /><br />Lies and deception intended to expand executive power weren't hard to spot after 9/11, yet they tended to slip beneath the political and media radar screens; nor did you have to be an insider with special access to government officials or classified documents to know what was going on.<br /><br />At the time, I was an editorial writer and columnist for the <i>San Francisco Chronicle</i>. From my little cubicle at the paper, I read a memorandum sent by Attorney General John Ashcroft to all federal agencies. Short and to the point, it basically <a href="http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/011012.htm">gave them permission</a> to resist FOIA requests and assured them that the Justice Department would back up their refusals. "When you carefully consider FOIA requests," Ashcroft wrote, "and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decision unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records."<br /><br />He then went on to explain, "Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information."<br /><br />And what, I wondered, did such constraints and lack of accountability have to do with finding and prosecuting terrorists? Why the new restrictions? Angered, I wrote an <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/01/06/ED125108.DTL&amp;hw=The+Day+Ashcroft+Censored+FOIA&amp;sn=002&amp;sc=658">editorial</a> for the <i>Chronicle</i> about the Justice Department's across-the-board attempt to censor freedom of information. ("All of us want to protect our nation from further acts of terrorism. But we must never allow the public's right to know, enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act, to be suppressed for the sake of official convenience.")<br /><br />Naively and impatiently, I waited for other newspapers to react to such a flagrant attempt to make the administration unaccountable to the public. Not much happened. A handful of media outlets noted Ashcroft's memorandum, but where, I wondered, were the major national newspapers? The answer was: on bended knee, working as stenographers, instead of asking the tough questions. Ashcroft had correctly assessed the historical moment. With the administration launching its Global War on Terror, and the country still reeling from the September 11th attacks, he was able to order agencies to start building a wall of secrecy around the government.<br /><br />In the wake of 9/11, both pundits and the press seemed to forget that, ever since 1966, the Freedom of Information Act had helped expose all kinds of official acts of skullduggery, many of which violated our laws. They also seemed to forget that all classified documents were already protected from FOIA requests and unavailable to the public. In other words, most agencies had no reason to reject public FOIA requests.<br /><br />A few people, however, were paying attention. In February 2002, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2002/leahy-gao.html">asked</a> the General Accounting Office (GAO) to evaluate the "implementation of the FOIA." Ashcroft's new rules had reversed former Attorney General Janet Reno's policy, in effect since 1993. "The prior policy," Leahy reminded the GAO, "favored openness in government operation and encouraged a presumption of disclosure of agency records in response to FOIA requests unless the agency reasonably foresaw that disclosure would be harmful to an interest protected by a specific exemption."<br /><br />And what was the impact of Ashcroft's little-noticed memorandum? Just what you'd expect from a presidency built on secrecy and deception -- given a media then largely ignoring both. The Attorney General's new policy was a success. On August 8, 2007, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government <a href="http://www.cjog.net">issued</a> "Still Waiting After All These Years," a damning report that documented the Ashcroft memorandum's impact on FOIA responses. Their analysis revealed that "the number of FOIA requests processed has fallen 20%, the number of FOIA personnel is down 10%, the backlog has tripled and the cost of handling a request is up 79%." During the same years, the Bush administration embarked on a major effort to label ever more government documents classified. They even worked at reclassifying documents that had long before been made public, ensuring that ever less information would be available through FOIA requests. And what material they did send out was often so heavily redacted as to be meaningless.<br /><br /><b>"Soft Crimes" Enable Violent Ones</b><br /><br />Six years after Ashcroft instituted his policy, some of our legislators have finally begun to address what he accomplished in 2001. In April, 2007, the House of Representatives <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2007/opengovt.html">passed legislation</a> to strengthen and expedite the Freedom of Information Act.<br /><br />On August 3, Senators Pat Leahy, once again chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn (R-TX) successfully shepherded the Open Government Act into law, despite strong opposition from administration outrider Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who had earlier placed a hold on the bill. Like the House bill, the legislation <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN00394:@@@D&amp;summ2=m&amp;">attempted</a> to make it easier to gain access to government documents.<br /><br />Will it make a difference? Probably not. The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government <a href="http://www.cjog.net/headline_foia_reform_bill_approved.html">views</a> the legislation as too weak and compromised to be effective against such an administration. Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/22/AR2007082202441.html?nav=rss_nation">notes</a> that the administration might well succeed in claiming that the White House Office of Administration is not an "agency." "It's obnoxious, and it's a gesture of defiance against the norms of open government," Aftergood told the <i>Washington Post</i>. "But it turns out that a White House body can be an agency one day and cease to be the next day, as absurd as it may seem."<br /><br />It's not only absurd; it's dangerous. This is an administration that believes it has complete authority to ignore the law every time it mentions the supposedly inherent powers of a commander-in-chief presidency or wields the words "executive privilege." Its non-agency claim is but one more example of its arrogant defiance of laws passed by Congress.<br /><br />Ashcroft's quashing of the FOIA, following on the heels of the Patriot Act, was just the beginning of a long series of efforts to expand executive power. In the name of fighting "the war on terror" and "national security," for instance, Bush <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011101-12.html">issued</a> an executive order on November 1, 2001 that sealed presidential records indefinitely, a clear violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act in which Congress had ensured the public's right to view presidential records 12 years after a president leaves office.<br /><br />And what did this have to do with preventing a potential terrorist attack? Absolutely nothing, of course. It just so happened that 12 years had passed since Ronald Reagan left the Oval Office. Many people believed, as I did, that locking down Reagan's papers was an effort to stop journalists and historians from reading documents that might have implicated Papa Bush (then Reagan's vice president) and others -- who, by then, were staffing the younger Bush's administration -- as active participants in the Iran-Contra scandal.<br /><br />When the White House claimed that its administrative office was not subject to the FOIA, an August 24th editorial in the <i>New York Times</i> -- now more alert to Bush's disregard for the rule of law -- <a href="http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/082407T.shtml">asked</a>, "What exactly does the administration want to hide?" It rightly argued that the "administration's refusal to comply with open-government laws is ultimately more important than any single scandal. The Freedom of Information Act and other right-to-know laws were passed because government transparency is vital to a democracy."<br /><br />How true. It's taken a long time for our paper of record to realize that "soft" crimes are actually hard assaults against our democracy. The restrictions on FOIA and an executive order to seal presidential records may seem tame when compared to the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and Guantanamo, not to mention warrantless surveillance, the extraordinary rendition of kidnapped terror suspects to the prisons of regimes that torture, and the imprisonment of so-called enemy combatants.<br /><br />But don't be lulled into thinking that the act of censoring information, of shielding the American people from knowledge of the most basic workings of their own government, is any less dangerous to democracy than war crimes or acts of torture. In fact, it was the soft crimes of secrecy and deception that enabled the Bush administration's successful campaign to lure our country into war in Iraq -- and so to commit war crimes and acts of torture.<br /><br />You don't have to be a historian to know that "soft" crimes are what make hard crimes possible. They can also lead to an executive dictatorship and the elimination of our most cherished civil rights and liberties.<br /><br />Historian and journalist Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, teaches history and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. A newly updated edition of her book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0140097198/ref=nosim/?tag=nationbooks08-20">The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America</a> was published in January 2007.<br /><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Sun, 09 Sep 2007 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TomDispatch.com 641339 at http://web.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties bush foia Why Working Women Are Stuck in the 1950s http://web.alternet.org/story/48370/why_working_women_are_stuck_in_the_1950s <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Though most mothers are in the workforce, Americans remain trapped in a time warp, convinced that women should and will care for children, the elderly, homes and communities.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->A baby is born. A child develops a high fever. A spouse breaks a leg. A parent suffers a stroke. These are the events that throw a working woman's delicate balance between work and family into chaos.<br /><br />Although we read endless stories and reports about the problems faced by working women, we possess inadequate language for what most people view as a private rather than a political problem. "That's life," we tell each other, instead of trying to forge common solutions to these dilemmas.<br /><br />That's exactly what housewives used to say when they felt unhappy and unfulfilled in the 1950s: "That's life." Although magazines often referred to housewives' unexplained depressions, it took Betty Friedan's 1963 bestseller to turn "the problem that has no name" into a household phrase, "the feminine mystique" -- the belief that a woman should find identity and fulfillment exclusively through her family and home.<br /><br />The great accomplishment of the modern women's movement was to name such private experiences -- domestic violence, sexual harassment, economic discrimination, date rape -- and turn them into public problems that could be debated, changed by new laws and policies or altered by social customs. That is how the personal became political.<br /><br />Although we have shelves full of books that address work/family problems, we still have not named the burdens that affect most of America's working families.<br /><br />Call it the care crisis.<br /><br />For four decades, American women have entered the paid workforce -- on men's terms, not their own -- yet we have done precious little as a society to restructure the workplace or family life. The consequence of this "stalled revolution," a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is a profound "care deficit." A broken healthcare system, which has left 47 million Americans without health coverage, means this care crisis is often a matter of life and death. Today the care crisis has replaced the feminine mystique as women's "problem that has no name." It is the elephant in the room -- at home, at work and in national politics -- gigantic but ignored.<br /><br />Three decades after Congress passed comprehensive childcare legislation in 1971 -- Nixon vetoed it -- childcare has simply dropped off the national agenda. And in the intervening years, the political atmosphere has only grown more hostile to the idea of using federal funds to subsidize the lives of working families.<br /><br />The result? People suffer their private crises alone, without realizing that the care crisis is a problem of national significance. Many young women agonize about how to combine work and family but view the question of how to raise children as a personal dilemma, to which they need to find an individual solution. Most cannot imagine turning it into a political debate. More than a few young women have told me that the lack of affordable childcare has made them reconsider plans to become parents. Annie Tummino, a young feminist active in New York, put it this way: "I feel terrified of the patchwork situation women are forced to rely upon. Many young women are deciding not to have children or waiting until they are well established in their careers."<br /><br />Now that the Democrats are running both houses of Congress, we finally have an opportunity to expose the Right's cynical appropriation of "family values" by creating real solutions to the care crisis and making them central to the Democratic agenda. The obstacles, of course, are formidable, given that government and businesses -- as well as many men -- have found it profitable and convenient for women to shoulder the burden of housework and caregiving.<br /><br />It is as though Americans are trapped in a time warp, still convinced that women should and will care for children, the elderly, homes and communities. But of course they can't, now that most women have entered the workforce. In 1950 less than a fifth of mothers with children under age 6 worked in the labor force. By 2000 two-thirds of these mothers worked in the paid labor market.<br /><br />Men in dual-income couples have increased their participation in household chores and childcare. But women still manage and organize much of family life, returning home after work to a "second shift" of housework and childcare -- often compounded by a "third shift," caring for aging parents.<br /><br />Conservatives typically blame the care crisis on the women's movement for creating the impossible ideal of "having it all." But it was women's magazines and popular writers, not feminists, who created the myth of the Superwoman. Feminists of the 1960s and '70s knew they couldn't do it alone. In fact, they insisted that men share the housework and child-rearing and that government and business subsidize childcare.<br /><br />A few decades later, America's working women feel burdened and exhausted, desperate for sleep and leisure, but they have made few collective protests for government-funded childcare or family-friendly workplace policies. As American corporations compete for profits through layoffs and outsourcing, most workers hesitate to make waves for fear of losing their jobs.<br /><br />Single mothers naturally suffer the most from the care crisis. But even families with two working parents face what Hochschild has called a "time bind." Americans' yearly work hours increased by more than three weeks between 1989 and 1996, leaving no time for a balanced life. Parents become overwhelmed and cranky, gulping antacids and sleeping pills, while children feel neglected and volunteerism in community life declines.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the right wins the rhetorical battle by stressing "values" and "faith." In the name of the family they campaign to ban gay marriage and save unborn children. Yet they refuse to embrace public policies that could actually help working families regain stability and balance.<br /><br />For the very wealthy, the care crisis is not so dire. They solve their care deficit by hiring full-time nannies or home-care attendants, often from developing countries, to care for their children or parents. The irony is that even as these immigrant women make it easier for well-off Americans to ease their own care burdens, their long hours of paid caregiving often force them to leave their own children with relatives in other countries. They also suffer from extremely low wages, job insecurity and employer exploitation.<br /><br />Middle- and working-class families, with fewer resources, try to patch together care for their children and aging parents with relatives and baby sitters. The very poor sometimes gain access to federal or state programs for childcare or eldercare; but women who work in the low-wage service sector, without adequate sick leave, generally lose their jobs when children or parents require urgent attention. As of 2005, 21 million women lived below the poverty line -- many of them mothers working in these vulnerable situations.<br /><br />The care crisis starkly exposes how much of the feminist agenda of gender equality remains woefully unfinished. True, some businesses have taken steps to ease the care burden. Every year, <i>Working Mother</i> publishes a list of the 100 most "family friendly" companies. In 2000 the magazine reported that companies that had made "significant improvements in 'quality of life' benefits such as telecommuting, onsite childcare, career training, and flextime" were "saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruitment in the long run."<br /><br />Some universities, law firms and hospitals have also made career adjustments for working mothers, but women's career demands still tend to collide with their most intensive child-rearing years. Many women end up feeling they have failed rather than struggled against a setup designed for a male worker with few family responsibilities.<br /><br />The fact is, market fundamentalism -- the irrational belief that markets solve all problems -- has succeeded in dismantling federal regulations and services but has failed to answer the question, Who will care for America's children and elderly?<br /><br />As a result, this country's family policies lag far behind those of the rest of the world. A just-released study by researchers at Harvard and McGill found that of 173 countries studied, 168 guarantee paid maternal leave -- with the United States joining Lesotho and Swaziland among the laggards. At least 145 countries mandate paid sick days for short- or long-term illnesses -- but not the United States. One hundred thirty-four countries legislate a maximum length for the workweek; not us.<br /><br />The media constantly reinforce the conventional wisdom that the care crisis is an individual problem. Books, magazines and newspapers offer American women an endless stream of advice about how to maintain their "balancing act," how to be better organized and more efficient or how to meditate, exercise and pamper themselves to relieve their mounting stress. Missing is the very pragmatic proposal that American society needs new policies that will restructure the workplace and reorganize family life.<br /><br />Another slew of stories insist that there simply is no problem: Women have gained equality and passed into a postfeminist era. Such claims are hardly new. Ever since 1970 the mainstream media have been pronouncing the death of feminism and reporting that working women have returned home to care for their children. Now such stories describe, based on scraps of anecdotal data, how elite (predominantly white) women are "choosing" to "opt out," ditching their career opportunities in favor of home and children or to care for aging parents. In 2000 Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute in New York, wearily responded to reporters, "I still meet people all the time who believe that the trend has turned, that more women are staying home with their kids, that there are going to be fewer dual-income families. But it's just not true."<br /><br />Such contentious stories conveniently mask the reality that most women have to work, regardless of their preference. They also obscure the fact that an absence of quality, affordable childcare and flexible working hours, among other family-friendly policies, greatly contributes to women's so-called "choice" to stay at home.<br /><br />In the past few years, a series of sensational stories have pitted stay-at-home mothers against "working women" in what the media coyly call the "mommy wars." When the <i>New York Times</i> ran a story on the controversy, one woman wrote the editor, "The word 'choice' has been used ... as a euphemism for unpaid labor, with no job security, no health or vacation benefits and no retirement plans. No wonder men are not clamoring for this 'choice.' Many jobs in the workplace also involve drudgery, but do not leave one financially dependent on another person."<br /><br />Most institutions, in fact, have not implemented policies that support family life. As a result, many women do feel compelled to choose between work and family. In Scandinavian countries, where laws provide for generous parental leave and subsidized childcare, women participate in the labor force at far greater rates than here -- evidence that "opting out" is, more often than not, the result of a poverty of acceptable options.<br /><br />American women who do leave their jobs find that they cannot easily re-enter the labor force. The European Union has established that parents who take a leave from work have a right to return to an equivalent job. Not so in the United States. According to a 2005 study by the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change and the Forte Foundation, those who held advanced degrees in law, medicine or education often faced a frosty reception and found themselves shut out of their careers. In her 2005 book <i>Bait and Switch</i>, Barbara Ehrenreich describes how difficult it was for her to find employment as a midlevel manager, despite waving an excellent résumé at potential employers. "The prohibition on [résumé] gaps is pretty great," she says. "You have to be getting an education or making money for somebody all along, every minute."<br /><br />Some legislation passed by Congress has exacerbated the care crisis rather than ameliorated it. Consider the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which eliminated guaranteed welfare, replaced it with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and set a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. Administered by the states, TANF aimed to reduce the number of mothers on welfare rolls, not to reduce poverty.<br /><br />TANF was supposed to provide self-sufficiency for poor women. But most states forced recipients into unskilled, low-wage jobs, where they joined the working poor. By 2002 one in ten former welfare recipients in seven Midwestern states had become homeless, even though they were now employed.<br /><br />TANF also disqualified higher education as a work-related activity, which robbed many poor women of an opportunity for upward mobility. Even as the media celebrate highly educated career women who leave their jobs to become stay-at-home moms, TANF requires single mothers to leave their children somewhere, anywhere, so they can fulfill their workfare requirement and receive benefits. TANF issues vouchers that force women to leave their children with dubious childcare providers or baby sitters they have good reasons not to trust.<br /><br />Some readers may recall the 1970 Women's Strike for Equality, when up to 50,000 women exuberantly marched down New York's Fifth Avenue to issue three core demands for improving their lives: the right to an abortion, equal pay for equal work and universal childcare. The event received so much media attention that it turned the women's movement into a household word.<br /><br />A generation later, women activists know how far we are from achieving those goals. Abortion is under serious legal attack, and one-third of American women no longer have access to a provider in the county in which they live. Women still make only 77 percent of what men do for the same job; and after they have a child, they suffer from an additional "mother's wage gap," which shows up in fewer promotions, smaller pensions and lower Social Security benefits. Universal childcare isn't even on the agenda of the Democrats.<br /><br />Goals proposed in 1970, however unrealized, are no longer sufficient for the new century. Even during these bleak Bush years, many writers, activists and organizations have begun planning for a different future. If women really mattered, they ask, how would we change public policy and society? As one writer puts it, "What would the brave new world look like if women could press reboot and rewrite all the rules?"<br /><br />Though no widely accepted manifesto exists, many advocacy organizations -- such as the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the Children's Defense Fund, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Take Care Net and MomsRising -- have argued that universal healthcare, paid parental leave, high-quality subsidized on-the-job and community childcare, a living wage, job training and education, flexible work hours and greater opportunities for part-time work, investment in affordable housing and mass transit, and the reinstatement of a progressive tax structure would go a long way toward supporting working mothers and their families. (In these pages in 2003, Deborah Stone documented campaigns on many of these issues by organizations in California, Massachusetts and Washington.)<br /><br />Democrats don't need to reinvent the wheel; these groups have already provided the basis for a new progressive domestic agenda. And if Democrats embrace large portions of this program, they might attract enough women to widen the gender gap in voting, which shrank from 14 percent in 1996 to only 7 percent in 2004.<br /><br />This is an expensive agenda, but the money is there if we end tax cuts for the wealthy and reduce expenditures for unnecessary wars, space-based weapons and the hundreds of American bases that circle the globe. If we also reinstate a progressive tax structure, this wealthy nation would have enough resources to care for all its citizens. It's a question of political will.<br /><br />Confronting the care crisis and reinvigorating the struggle for gender equality should be central to the broad progressive effort to restore belief in the "common good." Although Americans famously root for the underdog, they have shown far less compassion for the poor, the vulnerable and the homeless in recent years. Social conservatives, moreover, have persuaded many Americans that they -- and not liberals -- are the ones who embody morality, that an activist government is the problem rather than the solution and that good people don't ask for help.<br /><br />The problem is that many Democrats, along with prominent liberal men in the media, don't view women's lives as part of the common good. Consciously or unconsciously, they have dismissed women as an "interest group" and treated women's struggle for equality as "identity politics" rather than part of a common national project. Last April Michael Tomasky, then editor of <i>The American Prospect</i>, penned an essay on the "common good" that is typical of such manifestoes. It never once addressed any aspect of the care crisis. Such writers don't seem to grasp that a campaign to end the care crisis could mobilize massive support for this idea of the common good, because it affects almost all working families.<br /><br />Now that Democrats are emerging from the wilderness, there are scattered indications they are willing to use their power to address the mounting care crisis. The Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, one of the largest caucuses, has access to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has supported previous efforts to address the care crisis. The Senate has just created a new Caucus on Children, Work and Family, a sign, says Valerie Young, a lobbyist with the National Association of Mothers' Centers, that "this is no longer a personal problem -- it's a national problem." Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd says he will introduce legislation that would provide paid leave for workers who need to care for sick family members, newborns or newly adopted children. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas has just introduced the Small Business Child Care Act, which would help employers provide childcare for their workers. Members in both houses of Congress are reopening the discussion of universal healthcare reform.<br /><br />The truth is, we're living with the legacy of an unfinished gender revolution. Real equality for women, who increasingly work outside the home, requires that liberals place the care crisis at the core of their agenda and take back "family values" from the right. So far, no presidential candidate has made the care crisis a significant part of his or her political agenda. So it's up to us, the millions of Americans who experience the care crisis every day, to take every opportunity -- through electoral campaigns and grassroots activism -- to turn "the problem that has no name" into a household word. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Mon, 26 Feb 2007 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, The Nation 638362 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics women children working moms family values feminine mystique Note to Progressives: Challenge Market Fundamentalism http://web.alternet.org/story/47466/note_to_progressives%3A_challenge_market_fundamentalism <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If progressive causes are to get anywhere in the next Congress, we need to challenge the ingrained belief that the market can solve our problems.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Women have gained the potential for enormous power in D.C. with Nancy Pelosi's election as speaker of the House. The Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues will grow to become perhaps the largest in Congress, but the question remains: How will these newly empowered women use their power?<br /><br />Among the issues on the wish list of newly elected women, according to Women's eNews, are women's health, educational equity, sex trafficking, women in prison and international domestic violence.<br /><br />All are important but will go nowhere if women leaders don't challenge market fundamentalism, the exaggerated and quite irrational belief in the ability of markets to solve all problems, an economic fundamentalism that has dominated our national political debate for a generation. Without directly challenging market fundamentalism, they will ultimately fail to improve the lives of ordinary American women and their families.<br /><br />Put it this way: What do catastrophic climate change, the widening gulf between the wealthy and the poor, America's obesity epidemic, and our society's lack of care for the young and the elderly have in common? Each has powerful special interests who insist that we need to let the market work its private magic and that government action would create more problems than it would solve.<br /><br />These interest groups also block any effort to enlist the government by invoking the arguments of market fundamentalism: Privatize everything, rely on yourself and expect nothing from your government.<br /><br />Market fundamentalism has become like the air we breathe; we hardly notice it. Every time George W. Bush argues for more tax cuts, he relies on the unquestioned assumption that we all embrace market fundamentalism. Like religious fundamentalism, it is based more on faith than on reason. Through constant repetition, however, the American public has been bullied into believing that private spending is rational and efficient, while public spending is always wasteful and unproductive. (Tell that to people in New Orleans.)<br /><br />Progressives and liberals have assumed that Americans would eventually turn against these ideas, much as they become disillusioned with the Iraq war. But the truth is, neither the women in Congress nor progressives outside of D.C. challenge market fundamentalism directly. Two decades of the reign of market fundamentalism have impoverished both the language and aspirations of progressive Democrats.<br /><br />Instead, they dance around market fundamentalism; they try to gain support for their cause without directly attacking the 800-pound gorilla that sits in Congress, in our deteriorating schools, and at the bottom of the gulf between those who hold stocks and those who wait for their next minimum-wage paycheck.<br /><br />Ideas that are not challenged or questioned become even more deeply entrenched. We have private "security guards" who are doing the work of soldiers in Iraq, but who are not accountable to the military. When Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, many of us imagined that the Bush administration's callous and incompetent failure to rescue the people of New Orleans and to provide the leadership to rebuild the city would lead to massive disillusionment with the administration's market-oriented rhetoric.<br /><br />But has it? I'm not sure. Many people saw Bush's incompetence, but they also viewed it as one more example of the government's incapacity to solve problems.<br /><br />This is a huge problem for liberals and progressives. Even if a decent Democrat wins the White House in 2008, his or her ability to offer compelling leadership and to propose new progressive solutions will be limited if market fundamentalist ideas remain unquestioned. Ditto for the women in Congress who think they will push women's issues on to the national agenda.<br /><br />So, it's necessary -- no, urgent -- that we immediately challenge market fundamentalism every chance we get. Between now and the 2008 election, we need take every opportunity -- on blogs, among political progressives -- to explain to others why this exaggerated faith in markets is so dangerous and misplaced.<br /><br />Fortunately, there is now a resource to help us make these arguments. The <a href="http://www.longviewinstitute.org/">Longview Institute</a>, a progressive think tank with which I am affiliated, has just launched a market fundamentalism resource page, designed to help people recognize and refute these arguments. Longview's Fred Block, a sociologist at the University of California at Davis, has long been articulating the dangers of market fundamentalism. The plan is to steadily add new arguments and new material, but what is already there provides plenty of fodder for a collective assault on the irrational ideas that support market fundamentalism.<br /><br />Market fundamentalism is what prevents us from having universal health care, mass transit, affordable housing, trains that cross the nation, subsidized care for the young and elderly, and government efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The list, of course, is endless.<br /><br />Aside from ending the war in Iraq, there is nothing more important we can do to improve our domestic future. Ending the reign of market fundamentalism is a precondition for every kind of progressive cause.<br /><br />For a quarter of a century, conservatives have tried to convince us that we, rather than the government, should be responsible for what is know in other industrialized nation as the "common good." If we don't attack the effort to privatize every public service that belongs to this common good, we will ultimately fail to move this nation in any progressive direction. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Wed, 31 Jan 2007 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 638037 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics nancy pelosi progressive causes market fundamentalism Feminist Rebel Reveals Past of Incest http://web.alternet.org/story/45276/feminist_rebel_reveals_past_of_incest <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bettina Aptheker&#039;s memoir shows how she broke free from her father, the most famous Marxist historian in the United States -- and the man who molested her.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><i>Part of this review appeared on Dec. 3 in the book review section of the San Francisco Chronicle.</i><br /><br />Bettina Aptheker adored her political, erudite father, who was a well-known Communist. "When I was a little girl I wanted to be just like my father," Aptheker writes. "Whatever he did, I did, or tried to do." And one thing that Herbert Aptheker did extremely well, according to Bettina, was to deny any reality he didn't want to acknowledge.<br /><br />Emulating her father, then, meant sharing his denial of the many questionable political realities, evading intellectual complexities she could not yet articulate, ignoring her own feminist observations of women's lives, restraining her sexual desire for women and, most of all, repressing childhood memories of her father's sexual abuse.<br /><br />Determined to be his loyal, perfect daughter, Aptheker writes that she repressed this memory, so that she could function in her father's world. Her denial allowed her to become one of the few female leaders of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley in 1964 and to play a major role in the trial of her childhood friend and comrade Angela Davis, who was acquitted of murder charges. Her denial of her deepest desires and memories also allowed her to marry and raise two children.<br /><br />But denial eventually catches up. Outside, Bettina Aptheker appeared confident and productive. Inside, she lived with constant anxiety and serious depression. "Incest survivors know despair," she writes. "It is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill despair. ... It's a different feeling. All through childhood, all through my twenties, I had this feeling. It was bottomless, endless, bone-deep, down to the marrow. I choked on it, fell prostrate with it. It was connected to a self-loathing so deep, so limitless, so without end that suicide seemed the only possible relief."<br /><br />As she began to sift through her childhood materials and memories to write her memoir, <a href="http://alternet.bookswelike.net/isbn/158005160X">Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became a Feminist Rebel</a>, Aptheker suddenly remembered what she had repressed all those years. The memory was not recovered by therapy; it just suddenly appeared, and she collapsed to the ground:<br /><br />"My father and I played other games too, beside baseball. I was three or four years old when we began playing 'choo-choo train.' ... My father was behind me, and then the train arrived 'at the station,' and we had to wait for the 'passengers' to get off and on. Our train rocked back and forth, back and forth, and my father had his right arm tightly around me. He was the 'locomotive' even though he was behind me. Our train shuddered just before it was supposed to leave 'the station,' except it didn't leave. ... And then he stood me up and we went into the bathroom and he washed me off, very gently. It didn't hurt. He never hurt me. And I knew not to tell. As I grew bigger we played different games, but they all had the shudder. Older still, I knew it was not a game. I still knew not to tell because he told me 'terrible things will happen.' My father stopped molesting me when I was thirteen and we moved to a new house."<br /><br />Soon after I read this shocking revelation, a colleague asked me whether it was really necessary for her to reveal this incest to the world. The answer, I believe, is that Bettina Aptheker's life and intellectual biography make no sense without understanding what she suffered and repressed. Although she describes this incest in one short account, it is a thread running through her efforts to become her own person.<br /><br />Her revelation is not an act of vengeance. Nor does she write with rancor, but rather with boundless love and forgiveness that grew as she acknowledged her love for women, embraced feminism and moved in new intellectual directions. She never brought it up for discussion with her father. On the contrary, it was Herbert Aptheker, during the last year of his life, who asked if he had hurt her during her childhood. She told him the truth, and assured him that she had long forgiven him. He believed her, but couldn't remember the events. Gradually, that changed:<br /><br />"After his heart attack, still in the hospital, he said, 'you've forgiven me.' It wasn't a question. It was a statement. I said, 'Yes, I have forgiven you.' He made the statement repeatedly in the months following, reassuring himself. That was how I came to realize that he had hid own knowledge of the incest. It was always present in his consciousness, just under the surface, as it had been in mine."<br /><br />To be a successful and loyal daughter, Bettina Aptheker needed to repress these childhood memories. As she freed herself of her father's rigid Marxist worldview, she gained a new freedom to integrate a feminist analysis into her intellectual work, to embrace aspects of her Jewish heritage, as well as Buddhist practices, and to create a lasting partnership with a woman who "taught her the meaning of hope."<br /><br />Though she describes episodes of debilitating despair, Aptheker's stunning memoir is not primarily about incest; it is ultimately a political, intellectual and emotional story of one woman's redemption. Once read, it is not easily forgotten.<br /><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Tue, 12 Dec 2006 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 637432 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Investigations Books bettina aptheker herbert aptheker marxism incest Bush Dismantles Child Care http://web.alternet.org/story/42507/bush_dismantles_child_care <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America&#039;s child care crunch is more dire than ever, thanks to Bush&#039;s gutting of government programs that assist working families.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->What kind of society have we become? Before members of Congress departed for recess, they gave President George W. Bush -- hardly known for his wisdom or compassion -- the right to define what constitutes torture and to suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus. But our elected representatives couldn't find time to pass the Labor, Health and Human Service appropriations bill which, among things, funds child care.<br /><br />The "Child Care Crisis" -- the absence of anyone to care for America's children, elderly and disabled -- has turned into the new millennium's version of the "<a href="http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/38124.html ">Problem That Has No Name</a>," It is the 800-pound elephant that sits in Congress, our homes and offices -- gigantic, but ignored.<br /><br />And, it keeps getting worse. According to a <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/ChildCareSubsidyReport.pdf ">new 50-state report on child care policies</a> just released by the National Women's Law Center, the Bush administration has successfully dismantled government services for children. State funds for child care assistance have fallen for the fifth year in a row. The problem will soon become catastrophic when large numbers of single mothers bump up against their five-year life limit on welfare.<br /><br />The report portrays a bleak picture of our national child care deficit. Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of NWLC, says that: "The new federal welfare work requirement [passed this year] creates more demand for child care assistance without providing enough funding to meet that demand." No big surprise here. Many of us always knew that the elimination of guaranteed welfare -- replaced by Temporary Assistance to Need Families -- was designed to reduce the number of women on the welfare rolls, not to reduce poverty.<br /><br />The report also finds that states are failing to adequately compensate providers. Helen Blank, NWLC director of leadership and public policy, describes the consequences of paying child care workers such poor wages:<blockquote>Low-income children are denied critical early learning experiences. Parents find it difficult to access the child care they need to work. And providers, who are often low-income women themselves, face earning less or going out of business.</blockquote>Poor working mothers face other barriers as well. Two-thirds of the states have raised the income eligibility and copayments for child care and 18 states have long waiting lists. All of these barriers to adequate childcare make it extremely difficult for women to work, feel confident that their children are safe and to get off welfare.<br /><br />But do either Democrats or Republicans think this constitutes a threat to the national security of our society? No. In fact, more than three decades after Congress passed -- and President Richard Nixon vetoed -- the 1971 comprehensive child care legislation, child care has all but dropped off the national political agenda. And, with each passing year, the child care crisis only grows larger, burdening the lives of working mothers. But it never reaches our nation's political agenda.<br /><br />Anti-feminists naturally blame the women's movement for abandoning their children for the impossible ideal of "having it all." But it was journalists and popular writers, not women's rights activists, who created the myth of the "superwoman." Feminists of the 1960s and 1970s always knew that women couldn't do it alone. In fact, they insisted that men share the housework and child rearing and that government and business should provide and subsidize child care.<br /><br />Single mothers naturally suffer the most from the child care crisis, but even with two parents, there is not much time for family life. Parents become overwhelmed, children feel cranky, workers quietly seethe and gulp antacids and sleeping pills, and volunteering in community life gradually vanishes.<br /><br />Overworked American families, whose time spent at work has increased three extra weeks between 1986 and 1997, suffer from what sociologist Arlie Hochschild has called a "<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/news/qa/1997/05/visions.html ">time bind</a>." But both social conservatives and the Religious Right, who glorify "family values," refuse to support any national effort to help working families regain a sense of stability and balance.<br /><br />Conventional wisdom also reinforces the widespread myth that child care is not a problem, that American women have gained equality, entered a new post-feminist era and that it's time for disgruntled feminists "to move on." This is hardly new. Ever since 1970, the mainstream media has been pronouncing the death of feminism and reporting that women have returned home to care for their children. The early 21st century version of this journalistic narrative describes -- with a certain celebratory tone -- how elite, wealthy and predominantly white women are "choosing" to ditch their educational credentials and "<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/IndustryInfo/story?id=2518821&amp;page=1 ">opting ou</a>t" in favor of home and children.<br /><br />What's missing in all these stories is the fact that the vast majority of ordinary middle-class and low-income working mothers have to work. They have no choice. Such stories also obscure the reality that an absence of quality, affordable, and accessible child care and flexible working hours greatly contributes to a woman's so-called "choice" to stay at home.<br /><br />Poverty -- like the child care crisis -- remains invisible to mainstream America and largely outside the national political discourse. Yet, in 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that poverty rates in U.S. had increased for the fourth straight year and had jumped from 31.6 million people in 2000 to 37 million, including 13 million children.<br /><br />Rather expanding Head Start, the government issues vouchers that all too often result in inadequate child care. And many mothers who can't get subsidized child care assistance reluctantly leave their children with irresponsible relatives or babysitters they have good reasons not to trust.<br /><br />While the media celebrates the highly-educated career woman who quits her job to become a stay-at-home mom, the government requires single mothers on TANF to leave their children somewhere, anywhere, so that they can fulfill their requirement to work and get off welfare.<br /><br />Congress's indifference to child care, however, is merely one example of this country's failure to address poverty and the growing child care crisis. It's easier to sacrifice cherished civil liberties in the name of fighting "the war on terror" than to address the need for superior education, universal health coverage, climate change, subsidized child care, mass transit, and affordable housing, all of which constitutes real national security for families and their children.<br /><br />Look into the mirror. What are your values? Is your sense of security only tied to a national security program that has resulted in two failed wars and an unprecedented assault on our democratic rights? That is the question that all Americans should ask themselves before they cast their votes in November. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. A new edition of her most recent book, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America (Penguin, 2001), will be published with an updated epilogue in 2007. </div></div></div> Wed, 04 Oct 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TomPaine.com 636698 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics child care social programs A Wave of Sexual Terrorism In Iraq http://web.alternet.org/story/38932/a_wave_of_sexual_terrorism_in_iraq <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Behind the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and her family lies a far larger story of what&#039;s happened to women in Iraq since they were &#039;liberated&#039; by the Bush administration.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Abu Ghraib. Haditha. Guantanamo. These are words that shame our country. Now, add to them Mahmudiya, a town 20 miles south of Baghdad. There, this March, a group of five American soldiers allegedly were involved in the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza, a young Iraqi girl. Her body was then set on fire to cover up their crimes, her father, mother, and sister murdered. The rape of this one girl, if proven true, is probably not simply an isolated incident. But how would we know? In Iraq, rape is a taboo subject. Shamed by the rape, relatives of this girl wouldn't even hold a public funeral and were reluctant to reveal where she is buried.<br /><br /><br /><br />Like women everywhere, Iraqi women have always been vulnerable to rape. But since the American invasion of their country, the reported incidence of sexual terrorism has accelerated markedly -- and this despite the fact that few Iraqi women are willing to report rapes either to Iraqi officials or to occupation forces, fearing to bring dishonor upon their families. In rural areas, female rape victims may also be vulnerable to "honor killings" in which male relatives murder them in order to restore the family's honor. "For women in Iraq," <a href="http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE140012005">Amnesty International</a> concluded in a 2005 report, "the stigma frequently attached to the victims instead of the perpetrators of sexual crimes makes reporting such abuses especially daunting."<br /><br /><br /><br />This specific rape of one Iraqi girl, however, is now becoming symbolic of the way the Bush administration has violated Iraq's honor; <a href="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1107AP_Iraq_Rape_Investigation.html">Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki</a> has already launched an inquest into the crime. In an administration that normally doesn't know the meaning of an apology, <a href="http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/07/07/africa/web.0707iraq.php">the American ambassador</a>, Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. both publicly apologized. In a fierce condemnation, the <a href="http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/KHA249664.htm">Muslim Scholars Association</a> in Iraq denounced the crime: "This act, committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Shame, yes, but that is hardly sufficient. After all, rape is now considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court.<br /><br /><br /><br />It wasn't always that way. Soldiers have long viewed women as the spoils of war, even when civilian or military leaders condemned such behavior, but in the early 1990s, a new international consensus began to emerge on the act of rape. Prodded by an energized global women's movement, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a <a href="http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1772e.htm">Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women</a> in 1993. Subsequent statutes in the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as the <a href="http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGIOR400062005?open&amp;of=ENG-385">Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court</a> in July 2002, all defined rape as a crime against humanity or a war crime.<br /><br /><br /><br />No one accuses American soldiers of running through the streets of Iraq, raping women as an instrument of war against the insurgents (though such acts are what caused <a href="http://www.globalpolicy.org/intljustice/tribunals/2001/0803icty.htm">three Bosnian soldiers</a>, for the first time in history, to be indicted in 2001 for the war crime of rape).<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Still, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the effect of humiliating, endangering, and repressing Iraqi women in ways that have not been widely publicized in the mainstream media: As detainees in prisons run by Americans, they have been sexually abused and raped; as civilians, they have been kidnapped, raped, and then sometimes sold for prostitution; and as women -- and, in particular, as among the more liberated women in the Arab world -- they have increasingly disappeared from public life, many becoming shut-ins in their own homes.<br /><br /><br /><br /><b>Rape and sexual humiliation in prisons</b><br /><br /><br /><br />The scandal of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib focused on the torture, sexual abuse, and humiliation of Iraqi men. A variety of sources suggest that female prisoners suffered similar treatment, including rape.<br /><br /><br /><br />Few Americans probably realize that the American-run prison at Abu Ghraib also held female detainees. Some of them were arrested by Americans for political reasons -- because they were relatives of Baathist leaders or because the occupying forces thought they could use them as bargaining chips to force male relatives to inform on insurgents or give themselves up.<br /><br /><br /><br />According to a <a href="http://hrw.org/reports/2003/iraq0703">Human Rights Watch report</a>, the secrecy surrounding female detentions "resulted from a collusion of the families and the occupying forces." Families feared social stigma; the occupying forces feared condemnation by human rights groups and anger from Iraqis who saw such treatment of women by foreigners as a special act of violation.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />On the condition of anonymity and in great fear, some female detainees nevertheless did speak with human rights workers after being released from detention. <a href="http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE140012005">They have described</a> beatings, torture, and isolation. Like their male counterparts, they reserve their greatest bitterness for sexual humiliations suffered in American custody. Nearly all female detainees reported being threatened with rape. Some women were interrogated naked and subjected to derision and humiliating remarks by soldiers.<br /><br /><br /><br /><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/women/story/0,3604,1220673,00.html">The British Guardian</a> reported that one female prisoner managed to smuggle a note out of Abu Ghraib. She claimed that American guards were raping the few female detainees held in the prison and that some of them were now pregnant. In desperation, she urged the Iraqi resistance to bomb the jail in order to spare the women further shame.<br /><br /><br /><br />Amal Kadham Swadi, one of seven Iraqi female attorneys attempting to represent imprisoned women, told the <i>Guardian</i> that only one woman she met with was willing to speak about rape. "She was crying. She told us she had been raped. Several American soldiers had raped her. She had tried to fight them off, and they had hurt her arm. She showed us the stitches. She told us, 'We have daughters and husbands. For God's sake don't tell anyone about this.'"<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1214698,00.html">Professor Huda Shaker</a>, a political scientist at Baghdad University, also told the <i>Guardian</i> that women in Abu Ghraib have been sexually abused and raped. She identified one woman, in particular, who was raped by an American military policeman, became pregnant, and later disappeared.<br /><br /><br /><br />Professor Shaker added, "A female colleague of mine was arrested and taken there. When I asked her after she was released what happened at Abu Ghraib, she started crying. Ladies here are afraid and shy of talking about such subjects. They say everything is OK. Even in a very advanced society in the west it is very difficult to talk about rape."<br /><br /><br /><br />Shaker, herself, encountered a milder form of sexual abuse at the hands of one American soldier. At a checkpoint, she said, an American soldier "pointed the laser sight [of his gun] directly in the middle of my chest... Then he pointed to his penis. He told me, 'Come here, bitch, I'm going to fuck you.'"<br /><br /><br /><br />Writing from Baghdad, Luke Hardin of the <i>Guardian</i> reported that at Abu Ghraib journalists have been forbidden from talking to female detainees, who are cloistered in tiny windowless cells. Senior US military officers who have escorted journalists around Abu Ghraib, however, have admitted that rapes of women took place in the cellblock where 19 "high-value" male detainees were also being held. Asked how such abuse could have happened, Colonel Dave Quantock, now in charge of the prison's detention facilities, responded, "I don't know. It's all about leadership. Apparently it wasn't there."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />No one should be surprised that women detainees, like male ones, were subjected to sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib. Think of the photographs we've already seen from that prison. If acts of ritual humiliation could be used to "soften up" men, then the rape of female detainees is hardly unimaginable.<br /><br /><br /><br />But how can we be sure? In January, 2004, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. military official in Iraq, ordered Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba to investigate persistent allegations of human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib. The <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4894001/">Taguba Report</a> confirmed that in at least one instance a U.S. military policeman had raped at least one female prisoner and that guards had videotaped and photographed naked female detainees. <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/040517fa_fact2">Seymour Hersh</a> also reported in a 2004 issue of the <i>New Yorker</i> magazine that these secret photos and videos, most of which still remain under wraps by the Pentagon, show American soldiers "having sex with a female Iraqi prisoner." Additional photos have made their way to the web sites of <a href="http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/10509">Afterdowningstreet.org</a> and <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/abu_ghraib/2006/03/14/introduction">Salon.com</a>. In one photograph, a woman is raising her shirt, baring her breasts, presumably as she was ordered to do.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />The full range of pictures and videotapes are likely to show a great deal more. Members of Congress who viewed all the pictures and videotapes from Abu Ghraib seemed <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-05-12-congress-abuse_x.htm">genuinely shaken</a> and sickened by what they saw. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn called them "appalling;" then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle described them as "horrific." Ever since the scandal broke in April 2004, human rights and civil liberties groups have been engaged in a legal battle with the Department of Defense, demanding that it release the rest of the visual documents. Only when all those documents are available to the general public will we have a clearer ¬and undoubtedly more ghastly ¬record of the sexual acts forced upon both female and male detainees.<br /><br /><br /><br /><b>Sexual Terrorism on the Streets</b><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Meanwhile, the chaos of the war has also led to a rash of kidnappings and rapes of women outside of prison walls. After interviewing rape and abduction victims, as well as eyewitnesses, Iraqi police and health professionals, and U.S. military police and civil affairs officers, Human Rights Watch released a report in July, 2003, titled <a href="http://hrw.org/reports/2003/iraq0703/2.htm#_Toc45709963"><i>Climate of Fear</i></a>: Sexual Violence and Abduction of Women and Girls in Baghdad. Only months after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, they had already learned of twenty-five credible allegations of the rape and/or abduction of Iraqi women. Not surprisingly, the report found that "police officers gave low priority to allegations of sexual violence and abduction, that the police were under-resourced, and that victims of sexual violence confronted indifference and sexism from Iraqi law enforcement personnel." Since then, as chaos, violence, and bloodletting have descended on Iraq, matters have only gotten worse.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />After the American invasion, local gangs began roaming Baghdad, snatching girls and women from the street. Interviews with human rights investigators have produced some horrifying stories. Typical was nine-year-old "Saba A." who was abducted from the stairs of the building where she lives, taken to an abandoned building nearby, and raped. A family friend who saw Saba A. immediately following the rape told Human Rights Watch:<br /><br /><blockquote>"She was sitting on the stairs, here, at 4:00 p.m. It seems to me that probably he hit her on the back of the head with a gun and then took her to [a neighboring] building. She came back fifteen minutes later, bleeding [from the vaginal area]. [She was still bleeding two days later, so] we took her to the hospital."</blockquote><br /><br />The medical report by the U.S. military doctor who treated Saba A. "documented bruising in the vaginal area, a posterior vaginal tear, and a broken hymen.'<br /><br /><br /><br />In 2005, Amnesty International also interviewed abducted women. The story of "Asma," a young engineer, was representative. She was shopping with her mother, sister, and a male relative when six armed men forced her into a car and drove her to a farmhouse outside the city. They repeatedly raped her. A day later, the men drove her to her neighborhood and pushed her out of the car.<br /><br /><br /><br />As recently as June 2006, <a href="http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53936&amp;SelectRegion=Middle_East&amp;SelectCountry=IRAQ">Mayada Zhaair</a>, spokeswoman for the Women's Rights Association, a local NGO, reported, "We've observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />No one knows how many abducted women have never returned. As one Iraqi police inspector testified, "Some gangs specialize in kidnapping girls, they sell them to Gulf countries. This happened before the war too, but now it is worse, they can get in and out without passports." Others interviewed by Human Rights Watch argued that such trafficking in women had not occurred before the invasion.<br /><br /><br /><br />The <a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41722.htm">U.S. State Department's June 2005 report</a> on the trafficking of women suggested that the extent of the problem in Iraq is "difficult to appropriately gauge" under current chaotic circumstances, but cited an unknown number of Iraqi women and girls being sent to Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Persian Gulf countries for sexual exploitation.<br /><br /><br /><br />In May 2006, <a href="http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1186558,00.html">Brian Bennett</a> wrote in <i>Time Magazine</i> that a visit to "the Khadamiyah Women's Prison in the northern part of Baghdad immediately produces several tales of abduction and abandonment. A stunning 18-year-old nicknamed Amna, her black hair pulled back in a ponytail, says she was taken from an orphanage by an armed gang just after the US invasion and sent to brothels in Samarra, al-Qaim on the border with Syria, and Mosul in the north before she was taken back to Baghdad, drugged with pills, dressed in a suicide belt and sent to bomb a cleric's office in Khadamiyah, where she turned herself in to the police. A judge gave her a seven-year jail sentence 'for her sake' to protect her from the gang, according to the prison director."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />"Families and courts," Bennett reported, "are usually so shamed by the disappearance [and presumed rape] of a daughter that they do not report these kidnappings. And the resulting stigma of compromised chastity is such that even if the girl should resurface, she may never be taken back by her relations."<br /><br /><br /><br /><b>Disappearing women</b><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />To avoid such dangers, countless Iraqi women have become shut-ins in their own homes. Historian Marjorie Lasky has described this situation in "Iraqi Women Under Siege," a 2006 report for Codepink, an anti-war women's organization. Before the war, she points out, many educated Iraqi women participated fully in the work force and in public life. Now, many of them rarely go out. They fear kidnap and rape; they are terrified of getting caught in the cross-fire between Americans and insurgents; they are frightened by sectarian reprisals; and they are scared of Islamic militants who intimidate or beat them if they are not "properly covered."<br /><br /><br /><br />"In the British-occupied south," <a href="http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/060806Z.shtml">Terri Judd</a> reported in the British <i>Independent</i>,"where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi's Army retains a stranglehold, <a href="http://www.wluml.org/english/newsfulltxt.shtml?cmd%5B157%5D=x-157-178591">women insist</a> the situation is at its worst. Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death."<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />Invisible women -- for some Iraqi fundamentalist Islamic leaders, this is a dream come true. The Ministry of the Interior, for example, recently issued notices warning women not to go out on their own. "This is a Muslim country and any attack on a woman's modesty is also an attack on our religious beliefs," said Salah Ali, a senior ministry official. Religious leaders in both Sunni and Shiite mosques have used their sermons to persuade their largely male congregations to keep working women at home. "These incidents of abuse just prove what we have been saying for so long," said Sheikh Salah Muzidin, an imam at a mosque in Baghdad. "That it is the Islamic duty of women to stay in their homes, looking after their children and husbands rather than searching for work---especially with the current lack of security in the country."<br /><br /><br /><br />In the early 1970s, American feminists redefined rape and argued that it was an act driven not by sexual lust, but by a desire to exercise power over another person. Rape, they argued, was an act of terrorism that kept all women from claiming their right to public space. That is precisely what has happened to Iraqi women since the American invasion of Iraq. Sexual terrorism coupled with religious zealotry has stolen their right to claim their place in public life.<br /><br /><br /><br />This, then, is a hidden part of the unnecessary suffering loosed by the reckless invasion of Iraq. Amid the daily explosions and gunfire that make the papers is a wave of sexual terrorism, whose exact dimensions we have no way of knowing, and that no one here notices, unleashed by the Bush administration in the name of exporting "democracy" and fighting "the war on terror."<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Thu, 13 Jul 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TomDispatch.com 635442 at http://web.alternet.org War on Iraq World The Care Crisis http://web.alternet.org/story/35686/the_care_crisis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What women talk about when men are not listening. (Hint: it&#039;s not sex.)</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->If you think its about sexual prowess, you'd be wrong. If you think it's about size, forget it. And if you imagine we follow the various pissing contests going on among male liberals, you're too self-absorbed. It's about what I call the Care Crisis.<br /><br />During the last week, I've had a series of conversations with intellectual, liberal women who, like most of our male friends, companions and husbands, want to restore American democracy, end the war and free up our nation's wealth to support the health and well being of our nation's citizens.<br /><br />We care about the common good. We believe in a public good. We agree with those liberal men who are writing about how Democrats will have to be more than a "collection of aggrieved out-groups," to quote David Brooks (<i>New York Times</i>, April 27). We agree with Brooks that "the message voters respond to best is notions of shared sacrifice for the common good...people are ready for an appeal to citizenship."<br /><br />Multiculturalism and identity politics, gloats Brooks, are dead. Fine by me. Gleefully, Brooks announces that "Democrats are purging the last vestiges of the New Left and returning to the older civic liberalism of the 1950s and early 1960s."<br /><br />But here's the rub: Notice the years Brooks chooses as the historical moment to which we should return--before American women began demanding the equality that is essential to their citizenship.<br /><br />In these conversations you men never hear, this is what we discuss: For four decades, working women have poured into the paid labor force. Yet American society has done precious little to restructure the workplace or family life. The result? Working mothers are burdened and exhausted, families are fractured and children are often neglected. The dirty little secret, we repeatedly tell each other, is that it is both profitable and convenient to our government, business and many men, for women to wear themselves out trying to do the unpaid work of caring for children, caring for the elderly and caring about the social networks of our communities.<br /><br />It's as though Americans are trapped in a time warp, certain that women will still do all this caring, even though they can't, because more than half are outside their homes working in the paid workplace. And so, we have the mounting Care Crisis.<br /><br />But somehow male progressives and liberals continue to view these problems as those of a special interest group and part of identity politics. Yet it is the core dilemma faced by most middle class and working class American families, all along the political spectrum.<br /><br />These are some of the war stories we share with each other:<br /><br />A distinguished op-ed editor rejects an opinion piece that describes the need for high-quality, affordable, accessible child care because "It's been written about thousands of times." He's right. But nothing's changed.<br /><br />A distinguished editor tells a journalist that he doesn't really want articles about "women's" problems because he's more interested in addressing the public good. Hasn't he heard that women hold up half the sky and then-some?<br /><br />Fortunately, one person may have found a way around these gatekeepers who are so bored with vital changes that have never been addressed and implemented.<br /><br />Joan Blades, co-founder of the online activist web movement, Moveon.org, has launched a <a href="http:www.momsrising.org">grassroots virtual campaign</a> dedicated to making working mothers's private choices and dilemmas a central part of our national conversation and political agenda.<br /><br />She and her co-author Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner have just published <a href="http://alternet.bookswelike.net/isbn/1560258845">The Motherhood Manifesto</a> (Nation Books), a book filled with elegantly accessible stories that reveal the problems faced by working mothers in the early 21st century Without using the F word, they also prescribe such essential changes as paid parental leave, flexible working conditions, after-school programs, universal health care, excellent, affordable and accessible child care and realistic living wages.<br /><br />Maybe, just maybe, you'll finally hear us. True, it's boring to discuss the vital needs of working mothers and families, when nothing ever changes. But while you're talking about the common good, consider this: There is nothing more vital to the common good of our nation than the well-being of our working mothers and their families. And that, dear gentlemen, is where the votes are. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Wed, 10 May 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TPMCafe 634560 at http://web.alternet.org Economy Economy Talking Taxes http://web.alternet.org/story/34825/talking_taxes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Contrary to what the right would have you believe, our tax dollars really are hard at work.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->I don't need to remind anyone that it's time to pay your taxes. But when will progressive politicians, intellectuals and activists learn to counter the Right's mantra that we get nothing for our hard-earned tax dollars?<br /><br />What we all need to do, however, is to figure out how to explain to ordinary Americans why, in fact, we do pay taxes. The Republican mantra -- "shrink government and lower taxes" -- is fundamentally dishonest. They want us to believe that we are heavily taxed by an oppressive government and get nothing in return.<br /><br />The truth is, our quality of life is far safer and more convenient because of government ordinances, regulations and inspections. Follow me through a typical day and I'll show you what I mean. Government services and regulations may seem invisible, but they're everywhere you look.<br /><br />I wake up and brush my teeth with water whose purity is inspected by government agencies. I pour some cereal and milk into a bowl. No creepy crawlers appear; both are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Federally mandated labels on the cereal box and milk container, moreover, list the ingredients contained inside.<br /><br />I leave home and in the middle of the street intersection are city workers doing maintenance on the sewer system after California's most recent ferocious winter storms. I get in my car, reassured that the smog device in my 20 year-old care recently passed the state's stringent test. On the way to the BART station, I look across the bay and see a breathtaking view of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. When I first arrived in California, some 30 years ago, before the state enacted stricter pollution controls, a brownish haze masked such magnificent vistas.<br /><br />As I drive, I slow down for city workers fixing potholes. I pass the public library where I often do research. I stop at lights and signs that regulate traffic and keep drivers from murdering all the kids walking to public schools. I park and walk to a Bay Area Rapit Transit subsway station, financed with public money. From the window of the train, I see cars locked in gridlock on an interstate freeway funded by the federal government.<br /><br />In a café, I turn on my computer, remembering that a Pentagon agency created the Internet and that the federal government subsidized the development of the chips that now drive my laptop. To complete some research, I call a colleague at the University of California at Berkeley, the world's premier public university. The U.C. system has educated hundreds of thousands of undergraduates who, as educated and skilled workers, have fueled this state's economy.<br /><br />By now, I have a headache. So I take some ibuprofen, tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.<br /><br />It's time for lunch, and I'm meeting a former graduate student from China, who is now an American-based professor. I don't even think about the hygiene regulations or public health inspections that allow us to enjoy eating in a restaurant without worrying about getting sick from contaminated food. She asks if it's possible to earmark your taxes so that you don't pay for the war in Iraq. I wish.<br /><br />On a walk between storms, I see San Francisco police officers dealing with a car accident and hear the shrill siren of a fire truck racing toward some emergency. We stop at a corner convenience store that's prohibited by law from selling liquor and tobacco to minors.<br /><br />Once at home, I make a reservation for a future holiday hiking in one of our great national parks, paid for by tax dollars. Last month, I spent four glorious days cross-country skiing in Yosemite, yet another taxpayer supported national park.<br /><br />I finish reading my students' papers for tomorrow's seminar. Rarely do I remember that it's the taxpayers of California who pay my salary and give me the opportunity to teach and write. I finally put those envelopes with my tax checks -- my dues for using all these services and infrastructure -- into the mail.<br /><br />As a slip them into the mailbox, I think about the right-wing's unbelievable success at persuading Americans to believe that they are heavily taxed and receive nothing in return for their hard-earned dollars.<br /><br />What progressive politicians, intellectuals and activists need to do, perhaps every day, is to remind Americans how many times, during a single day, they actually see their tax dollars at work. Otherwise, the idea of a public good will simply become one of those quaint phrases from a distant past. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Historian and journalist Ruth Rosen currently teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. </div></div></div> Wed, 12 Apr 2006 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TPMCafe 634052 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics The Elusive Women's Vote http://web.alternet.org/story/26758/the_elusive_women%27s_vote <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new book that tracks women&#039;s voting trends doesn&#039;t tell us enough about how women will vote in the next elections.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ever since American women won the right to vote in 1920, politicians and pollsters have been trying to predict how women will vote and whether, as a group, they will transform American political culture.<br /><br />For most of the 20th century, women voted according to their ethnic, class or racial interests. In 1980, however, the first real gender gap appeared. Men cast 54 percent of their votes for Reagan, compared with 46 percent of women, creating an 8-point gender gap. This partisan disparity continued and reached its zenith in the 1996 election, when Bill Clinton won the women's vote by 11 points. It nearly vanished when John Kerry won the female vote over George W. Bush by a mere 3 points.<br /><br />Had more single women voted, many analysts have suggested, Kerry would have won the race. Instead, so-called "security moms" reelected a man who they thought would secure the lives of their families.<br /><br />The day after the 2004 election, two unlikely collaborators -- Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake -- decided to track the trends and opinions of American women.<br /><br />Their survey data, translated into accessible prose by writer Catherine Whitney, resulted in a book, <i>What Women Really Want: How American Women Are Quietly Erasing Political, Racial, Class, and Religious Lines to Change the Way We Live</i> (Free Press), whose subtitle is maddeningly misleading. Nothing in their research (which included interviews, focus groups and polls) proves that women are erasing the political, racial, class and religious lines that divide them. Nor does their research reveal whether or how women will vote in the next elections.<br /><br />Much of what they learned, in fact, is probably more useful to marketers than to politicians. Nor is this book filled with heart-stopping revelations. It's hardly news that women are leaving the corporate ladder to start small businesses, redefining their roles at home and in the workplace and seeking flexibility to ease their stressful lives.<br /><br />Yet the authors' research does reflect opinions and behaviors that have the potential to transform American political culture. For example, single women are the fastest growing demographic group in this nation's population; one-third of American women, in fact, are single, which includes those never married, divorced and widowed. Many of the never-married women, moreover, appear to be satisfied with their situation and are unwilling to wait until the right man appears. Instead, they are increasingly choosing to bear and raise children alone.<br /><br />Studies have shown that single, divorced and widowed women tend to vote for Democratic candidates. This is a constituency that crosses many traditional divisions and could, in theory, wield tremendous political clout. But many of these single women, especially the young, don't bother to vote.<br /><br />Unfortunately, this book does little to explain their apathy or disinterest. (The authors didn't study male voters.) Nor does it suggest how politicians should address them to awaken their political passions. "What Women Really Want" gives us a glimpse of women's desires for greater support at home and improved conditions at work, but it says nothing about what women are willing to do, inside or outside of the voting booth, to achieve those dreams.<br /><br /><i>This article originally appeared in the LA Times Book Review.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, professor emerita at UC Davis and senior fellow at the Longview Institute, is the author, most recently, of "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America." </div></div></div> Thu, 13 Oct 2005 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 631028 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Investigations Books Get Hitched, Young Woman http://web.alternet.org/story/26033/get_hitched%2C_young_woman <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Bush administration only believes in accountability and personal responsibility when it involves women&#039;s sexuality and their reproductive choices.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Why have "out-of wedlock" pregnancies suddenly entered the national debate over President's Bush's astonishingly incompetent failure to rescue the poor in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina?<br /><br />The answer is obvious: It's a great way to change the subject, and to remind us that in contemporary America, only unmarried mothers fail to demonstrate "personal responsibility."<br /><br />Never mind that neither the Pentagon nor Congress can account for the $200 billion that have been spent waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or that George W. Bush has saddled the nation with a monstrous national debt. Never mind that he sent tens of thousands of young people to Iraq on cooked-up intelligence and that no government official has taken responsibility for the torture of prisoners. Or that Afghanistan is once again the world's leading exporter of narcotics. Never mind that Bush chose Michael D. Brown, an inexperienced and incompetent crony, to run FEMA, with disastrous consequences.<br /><br />The Bush administration only believes in accountability and personal responsibility when it involves women's sexuality and their reproductive choices.<br /><br />Consider what's happened ever since Katrina stormed through the Gulf Coast. For the first time since the 1960s, Americans watching the news rediscovered poverty. Suddenly, everyone could see that Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy had not, in fact, lifted all Americans into the middle class.<br /><br />What a perfect moment to change the subject and blame poor African-American women for causing the poverty the world witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina.<br /><br />Without skipping a beat, Rich Lowry, editor of the <i>National Review</i>, proclaimed that the "The root of it [the poverty exposed by Katrina] is the breakdown of the family. Roughly 60 percent of births in New Orleans are out of wedlock."<br /><br />Lowry then went on to propose a "grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the left in exchange for the right's support for more urban spending…"<br /><br />Clueless liberals quickly accepted Lowry's clever reframing of the problem. Nicholas Kristof embraced it as an "excellent suggestion" in his <i>New York Times</i> column. Even former Sen. John Edwards, who attacked Bush for supporting the privileged, rather than the poor after Katrina, called on everyone to speak "hard truths" about the out-of wedlock pregnancies that condemn so many people to perpetual poverty.<br /><br />Don't get me wrong. Stable two-parent families--absent violence, drugs or alcohol--usually offer children the best chance to escape poverty. But Lowry and his cheerleaders have it backwards. The decline in teenage pregnancies since the early 1990s, particularly among African-American girls, indicates that young women are, in fact, taking greater personal responsibility.<br /><br />As <i>New York Times</i> reporter Jason DeParle revealed in his book <i>American Dream</i>, it is poverty itself -- not a lack of personal responsibility--that is the main reason for single-parent families. With amazing gall, conservatives have shredded the safety net and then blamed unmarried mothers for their own neglect-the-poor policies.<br /><br />Spending millions of dollars to promote marriage and sexual abstinence, for example, has not improved the "personal responsibility" of poor boys and men. Eliminating contraception from sex education classes, restricting access to abortion, and postponing the "morning after" pill has not changed the fact that we still have higher teen pregnancy rates in the United States than in Europe. Ending welfare--without providing affordable child care and health care, paid family leave and a higher minimum wage---hasn't kept working women and their families from plunging below the poverty line.<br /><br />Poor women, moreover, are not the only ones choosing to raise children by themselves. Single women--across all racial and class lines--are now the fastest growing demographic group in our population. One-third of American women are currently single, and growing numbers of them are choosing to bear and raise children alone. Despite conservatives' glorification of "family values" and "the traditional family," only one-quarter of American households now include two parents and children.<br /><br />The reasons why so many women are remaining unmarried differ considerably, but they are not all that mysterious. Having gained a minimal degree of independence as paid workers, some are unwilling to put up with abusive or violent relationships. Still others may be reluctant to settle for anything less than a partner committed to an egalitarian marriage.<br /><br />The fact is, women's lives have dramatically changed during the last 40 years, but neither our government nor our society have made the necessary changes that should have accompanied the entry of such huge numbers of women into the labor force.<br /><br />Meanwhile, social conservatives gaze upon the human consequences of their policies, are embarrassed by what they see, and then attack unmarried mothers for their lack of personal responsibility--and condemn them for the poverty exposed by Katrina.<br /><br />A nifty argument, if they can get away with it. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, professor emeritus at U.C. Davis and senior fellow at the Longview Institute, is the author, most recently, of "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America." </div></div></div> Wed, 28 Sep 2005 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, TomPaine.com 630741 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Old Women Out in the Cold http://web.alternet.org/story/21647/old_women_out_in_the_cold <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">An army of economists and pundits have debunked the president&#039;s claims that Social Security is in &quot;crisis.&quot; What they don&#039;t publicize, however, is that the president&#039;s plan for private accounts would deepen the crisis faced by vast numbers of elderly women.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->My 91-year-old friend Alice, like many elderly women, has outlived her modest savings. All that stands between her and destitution is the $800 check she receives from Social Security and small contributions from a handful of caring friends and relatives. She is not alone. The Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C., estimates that half the women over 65 would fall into poverty without Social Security income because 70 percent of Social Security beneficiaries over 85 are women. For one-third of all unmarried female seniors, Social Security is, in fact, their only source of income.<br /><br />Worried that his privatization plan is in peril, George W. Bush has been touting its benefits to widows. But they regard his proposals with particular suspicion. Since women tend to live longer than men and spend fewer years in the workforce, they depend more heavily on Social Security during the last years of their lives. They therefore stand to lose the most if they don't have a guaranteed safety net when they are seniors.<br /><br />But do women of all ages understand their stake in this debate? An army of economists and pundits have vigorously debunked the president's spurious claims that Social Security is in "crisis" and that its trust fund will go "bankrupt" in 2042. What they don't publicize, however, is that the President's plan for private accounts would deepen the crisis faced by vast numbers of elderly women.<br /><br />To educate women, the National Council of Women's Organizations, which represents almost 200 women's groups with more than 10 million members, held a national press conference in early February to express its strong opposition to private accounts. Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, wants women—who earn a median salary of $30,000—to understand that "Social Security provides women with life insurance, disability income, and spousal benefits, and all of these will be at risk if privatizers have their way."<br /><br />The Bush administration naturally has it own network of female cheerleaders. Among them is the Independent Women's Forum, whose job is to fabricate the ideal of the self-made woman who requires no help from anyone, a rugged individualist who can pull herself up by the straps on her stiletto pumps. Just who is this independent self-made woman? Ask the millions of working women who do the unpaid work of caring for their children and their elderly parents or spouses if they need any assistance from social services. Ask the millions of women who work for low wages at Wal-Mart, nursing homes or other women's homes if they feel like independent self-made women.<br /><br />Professional women—the real target audience courted by the Independent Women's Forum—may seem like rugged individualists, but scratch the veneer and you'll often find that they have benefited from generous state fellowships, government loans, parental sacrifice or wealthy husbands. Scratch a little deeper and you'll also discover that it was the women's movement and affirmative action that gave the "self-made woman" a chance to walk through what were once closed doors. The Independent Women's Forum, for example, wants to persuade me that I'm a self-made woman. But I'm not. Back when Nelson Rockefeller, a moderate Republican, was governor, New York State paid for my undergraduate education. The citizens of California, who once understood that a highly-skilled workforce is what would fuel California's economic engine, funded my doctoral education. As a result of affirmative action, universities began hiring women faculty members, and I repaid my debt for all this assistance by teaching thousands of university students. The truth is that hardly anyone is "self-made." Every day, we use sewer systems, ride on interstate highways or subways, surf the internet and send kids to schools that we created by investing in our society's public life.<br /><br />Crucial as it is for women's long-term economic security, Social Security is not perfect; even now it discriminates against low-income workers, the majority of whom are women, because they pay more than their fair share of the payroll taxes that fund the system. So what's the solution? Why not exempt people who earn less than $30,000 from payroll taxes? Instead of keeping the cap at $90,000, why not raise it so that the wealthiest among us, those with the greatest financial security, can help those with the least? With this one progressive change, Social Security would bulge with surplus funds well into the next century.<br /><br />We live in a world in which none of us know who will lose a job or become ill and need a helping hand. Real reform in Social Security should express our core conviction that we're not isolated, self-made men and women but a society of individuals who should care for the most vulnerable. It is not only unfair to allow elderly women to live in poverty—it's also immoral. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, professor emerita of history at the University of California, Davis, is a senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute in Berkeley, California and the author, most recently, of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America<i> (2001). </i></div></div></div> Thu, 31 Mar 2005 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, The Nation 613940 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics The Toxic Terror of Diamond, Louisiana http://web.alternet.org/story/21286/the_toxic_terror_of_diamond%2C_louisiana <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In one of the most remarkable tales ever told about the environmental justice movement, an African American community fought for, and won, the human right to breathe clean air.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->If Steve Lerner's book <i>Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Chemical Corridor</i> (MIT Press) is made into a film, it will be promoted as the inspirational story of how a tiny African-American community in Louisiana successfully battled Shell Chemical Company and won the right to breathe clean air.<br /><br />But it will not conclude with the predictable, upbeat Hollywood ending. True, it would include an Erin Brockovich-type heroine who goes up against one of the most powerful corporations in the world. And yes, this deeply religious and tightly knit community eventually gets Shell to pay to relocate families to new homes. But the film would have an ambiguous ending. Although the residents win their battle, the community itself is dispersed and dismantled, friends and families scattered in different directions.<br /><br />Lerner's story of Diamond, La., is one of the most remarkable tales that has ever been told about the environmental justice movement, which began in the early 1980s. Through the voices of the major characters in the battle, he offers a vivid account of how a local struggle for clean air gradually gained international support and became part of the global campaign to redefine environmental health as a human right.<br /><br />Today, many Americans think of themselves as environmentalists. But, as Lerner points out, they mostly view environmentalism as protecting the habitat of grizzly bears, whales, owls and other endangered species; reducing air and water pollution; and preserving redwood trees and pristine wilderness areas. Ask some of these folks what "environmental justice" means and they will often reply, "Well, it's about trading pollution credits" or, more vaguely, "It's about the right of all people to live in a healthy planet."<br /><br />The reason many can't give a better answer is that the environmental justice movement is almost invisible in this country.<br /><br />Environmental justice refers to the demand by poor and minority communities in the United States (and elsewhere) to protect their families and neighbors from becoming the toxic waste dumps of cities and corporations. For the most part, African-American activists in urban communities and American Indians on reservations have led the movement.<br /><br />As Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University writes in the foreword of this book, "All communities are not created equal. If a community happens to be poor, black or located on the 'wrong side of the tracks,' it receives less protection than affluent white suburbs."<br /><br />In short, these communities have emphatically declared, "Not in my backyard," which leaves cities and corporations with no place to site industrial plants or to dump toxic wastes. The poorest of the poor have challenged us all to change our environmental policies and practices so that no human beings are harmed by industrial or toxic contamination.<br /><br />Let us set the scene. Diamond is a small subdivision of the larger company town of Norco – which stands for the New Orleans Refinery Corporation. It is wedged between the Shell/Motiva Refinery and a Shell Chemical plant, just north of New Orleans on the Mississippi River. This African-American community, whose residents have known their neighbors for generations, traces its roots back to the Trepagnier Plantation, where their ancestors worked as slaves. In 1811, these slaves launched the largest slave rebellion in American history. When the descendants of these slaves lost their agricultural land to Shell, they relocated a short distance to Diamond.<br /><br />Diamond is not a pretty sight. The view from the homes, writes Lerner,<blockquote>is of heavy industry at work. There are catalytic cracking towers, stacks topped by flares burning off excess gas, huge oil and gasoline storage tanks, giant processing units where oil and its derivatives are turned into a wide variety of useful chemicals, and a Rube Goldberg maze of oversized pipes. The clanking and crashing of railroad cars coupling and uncoupling can be deafening, and the eerie sight of the superstructures of gargantuan oil tankers soullessly moving up the Mississippi to dock and unload their crude oil completes the industrial landscape.</blockquote>For decades, many residents in Diamond suffered from severe respiratory problems. In some cases, their homes were only 12 feet from the Shell refinery, now classified as "a fenceline community" by environmental justice activists. They routinely experienced what Robert Bullard has called "toxic terror, never knowing when a chemical assault would harm, or even kill them."<br /><br /><b>The Injuries They Endured</b><br /><br />The incident that stoked this community's sense of outrage took place in 1973, when 16-year-old Leroy Jones was cutting the grass at the home of Helen Washington, an elderly woman who was indoors taking a nap. Just as the plant released a plume of gas, a spark from the lawnmower ignited the vapor and flames from the explosion engulfed both the boy and the woman. Both died from their burns.<br /><br />Later, Shell said it had no record of the event that had so inflamed the community's anger. Residents of Diamond, however, remember that Shell bought the old woman's lot for a pittance and sent the boy's mother $500. No apology was ever offered.<br /><br />In 1988, another incident traumatized the community. An explosion at the plant killed seven Shell workers, blew out the windows and doors of homes in Diamond, and spewed 159 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, requiring the evacuation of 4,500 people. According to Lerner,<blockquote>Shell eventually paid out $172 million in damages to some 17,000 claimants for the 1988 explosion, but many blacks felt that white Norco residents had received money for damages they had not really suffered.</blockquote>Between 1993 and 1997, residents of Diamond tried to make Shell pay for relocation of the entire community by filing a class action suit. At the last moment, their attorney asked for a monetary award, rather than funds for relocation. By changing the request to a monetary award, the attorney received a higher percentage of the final settlement.<br /><br />In 1998, yet another event mobilized the community to confront the Shell Chemical Company. In early morning, overpressure caused the iron roof to blow off a massive storage tank at the Shell Chemical plant. The roof flew over the Washington Street fenceline and landed on the site of a former high school. Had children been playing there, they would have been killed or seriously injured.<br /><br />This is when residents became firmer in their resolve that it was just too dangerous to live next to the plant. But their property values were already severely depressed because of their proximity to a refinery and a chemical plant. So members of the community created a group called Concerned Citizens of Norco. They asked Shell to buy their homes and relocate them so that their families could breathe clean air and avoid dangerous releases and explosions.<br /><br />As is often the case, middle-aged churchgoing matriarchs led the battle. Faith shaped the community's belief that it would prevail. The Greater Good Hope Baptist Church in Norco yoked together a community that kept fighting. These women were determined not to back down, even after they lost battle after battle with Shell.<br /><br />Marjorie Richard, who would eventually be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award for her relentless determination throughout this struggle, led the way. Her home was directly across the fenceline from the plant, and many family members had suffered severe illnesses and early deaths from respiratory problems.<br /><br />Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal – a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, Calif. – and brother of the author, visited Diamond during the last years of its struggle. Sitting in Richard's living room, he "could hear the loudspeaker for the chemical plant [as it] blared terse orders that echoed right into Marjorie's living room. The fumes from the plant made me thoroughly lightheaded and queasy within two hours. A small black boy, curious about us, was riding his bicycle back and forth in front of a chainlink fence that separated the plant from Marjorie's front yard."<br /><br />Once she began fighting, Richard never stopped, telling all who would listen that Diamond residents suffered from toxic releases that made their eyes and sinuses sting, worsened asthma, and often brought on coughing and headaches. Even the traditional tomatoes that residents had grown as farmers wouldn't survive in the contaminated soil. As one woman told the author, "The stems die and then the tomatoes dry up like prunes. And you are afraid to eat it."<br /><br /><b>The Community Organizes</b><br /><br />However, the white population in Norco, which lived just behind a wooded divide, viewed its quality of life quite differently. Lerner is especially deft – and honest – at describing their point of view. "Talk with some [white] Norco residents," writes Lerner, "and they will tell you that they love Norco, that the smell from the plants is not so bad, that a lot of people in town live to a ripe old age, that statistically they are in better-than-average health, and that the explosions at Shell are ancient history. People in Diamond who complain about the pollution are 'just out for a buck' some Norco residents claimed."<br /><br />Why was their perspective different? Lerner suggests a few answers. Many whites who live in Norco worked for Shell, which didn't hire residents from Diamond. As a result, they knew how the plant functioned and understood that some releases functioned as a safety valve. They also benefited economically from Shell's presence and tended to live a greater distance from the plant. In the end, Lerner suggests that whites felt less resentment toward Shell, were more likely to ignore any negative health consequences, and probably escaped suffering diseases associated with extreme poverty.<br /><br />But white residents were also hesitant – even intimidated – about speaking out against their employer. Dewayne Washington, a resident of Diamond told Lerner:<blockquote>Why are they [whites] happy living right there? If they are to breathe the [polluted] air, at least they are getting paid. But Shell is not doing anything for me. You go back there [on the white side of Norco] and you see [Shell] uniforms all over ... Some of them feel obligated [not to bad-mouth the company] because they work there. But they [Shell officials] haven't hired anybody from my community in the last roughly 20 years.</blockquote>By themselves, the residents of Diamond could not have forced Shell to pay for their relocation. The best deal Shell offered was to buy only half the homes of Diamond, which would have divided families and the community. But some parents depended on their children to shop and care for them. Many children needed their parents to care for their children. Siblings wouldn't move and leave part of their family in Diamond. CCN therefore refused the offer.<br /><br />The engagement of other environmental health activists made all the difference. Michael Lerner of Commonweal, for example, visited Diamond many times over two years. He went with Janet Moses, a pediatrician from Boston, and her husband, Bob Moses, the legendary civil rights leader who had been the leader of SNCC.<br /><br />Convinced of the justice of the community's cause, Lerner recruited friends of Commonweal to witness the struggle in Norco and even helped organize a busload of environmental grantmakers to see firsthand what was going on in Diamond.<br /><br />Other groups that provided support and assistance included the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, EarthJustice, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, the Refinery Reform Project, Greenpeace, the Coming Clean Campaign, the Environmental Health Fund and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.<br /><br />During the last years of their struggle, the national Coming Clean Campaign convened its first annual meeting in New Orleans. The campaign brought together activists and organizations concerned with the chemical, nuclear, and petrochemical plants in Louisiana, often called the "Chemical Corridor" or "Cancer Alley."<br /><br />At the end of meeting, these environmental activists visited Norco and walked a picket line in front of Shell headquarters in New Orleans. As a result of this growing attention, wrote Michael Lerner, "Norco came to be identified, locally, nationally, and internationally as a community where a struggle that was every bit as important as the civil rights struggle of the 1960s was being played out. But while the civil rights struggle was about the right to vote and to equal treatment under the law, this environmental justice struggle was about the right to live in a place where you could safely breathe the air, drink the water, and touch the earth."<br /><br />Soon, Diamond began attracting even more assistance from attorneys, consultants, foundation supporters, and environmental activists from around the country. Greenpeace offered celebrity "Toxic Tours" of the region. It also publicized the plight of Diamond residents by threatening to bring a Greenpeace ship up the Mississippi River and moor it next to Shell's facilities in Norco.<br /><br />Eventually, Richard took the battle to Congress and, with a grant from the Sierra Club, to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in 1999. There, writes Steve Lerner, "members of the delegation wore buttons that read 'U.S Environmental Racism Must Stop' and passed out information packets about their struggle." They also promoted the "idea that environmental injustices suffered by people of color in the United States were human rights violations." Richard went to the Netherlands (home of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group) to speak with top Shell officials.<br /><br />Eventually, Shell agreed to negotiate, if only for the sake of public relations. At the time, Shell was busy promoting its "green goals" and trying to fashion an image of the company as a socially responsible corporation that was sensitive to environment issues and the welfare of communities near its facilities.<br /><br />Meanwhile, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg was fast approaching, and environmentalists threatened Shell that they would focus international attention on the plight of Diamond residents. Shell decided that damage control was far less costly than such negative publicity. By June 2002, Shell reached a historic agreement to buy up the home of anyone in Diamond who wanted to relocate. Those who chose to stay would receive generous home improvement loans that would be forgiven over five years.<br /><br /><b>Winning the Battle, Losing the Community</b><br /><br />Although major environmental organizations provided invaluable assistance to Diamond activists, such collaboration is not all that common. In a very real sense, mainstream environmental organizations and local environmental justice activists come from two very different worlds and are often concerned about two different kinds of environmental dangers. "The likely reason for this," writes Steve Lerner,<blockquote>is that many environmental activists have yet to see the connection between the preservation of wilderness and the cleaning up of heavily contaminated poor communities, despite the fact that the decontamination of brownfield sites in many parts of the country already provides living space for many Americans who might otherwise live in an area that was previously farmland, rangeland, or forest.</blockquote>When large groups fail to help environmental justice groups, however, they deprive local activists of invaluable "lobbying talents and resources" and rob them of the political support they need to control releases from chemical plants.<br /><br />What many environmental activists also fail to understand, explains Lerner, "is that this emerging movement is a civil rights issue. By highlighting the disproportionate toxic burden that some poor and minority communities endure, environmental justice activists have effectively opened a new front in the long struggle for civil rights."<br /><br />The legacy of Diamond is significant. Gary Cohen of the Environmental Health Fund thinks that "'the Diamond struggle will be seen as a watershed event where the toxics and the environmental health movement learned that bringing international pressure to bear could yield an environmental justice win and help leverage a larger engagement with one of the largest corporations in the world.'"<br /><br />Out of this struggle, moreover, has come the awareness that all industrial plants must have "buffer zones" that protect residents and their homes. "What is needed," writes Lerner, "is new legislation that will protect residents of settlements adjacent to highly toxic and explosive industrial facilities."<br /><br />But Lerner also understands that such legislation is just a beginning. As his brother Michael later wrote, "To get environmental contamination under control will require fundamentally restructuring society on a sustainable basis. That is the vision and it is every bit as compelling as the vision that moved us from monarchy to democracy, from slavery to equal rights and women as property to the women's movement today."<br /><br />So what happened to Diamond? CCN was unable to win the right for the entire community to be moved together. "Most residents I interviewed," writes Lerner, "feel whipsawed by conflicting emotions about staying and leaving. On the one hand, they want to get out of Diamond to escape the pollution from the Shell plants; on the other hand, they want to stay because of the close ties they have with their neighbors." Still, in the end, "most residents have decided that the environmental conditions are so distressing that despite their ties to the community they are ready to leave."<br /><br />As a result, Diamond has basically disappeared.<blockquote>Within months, nearly every home in Diamond was bulldozed, burned, or disassembled as residents took Shell up on its relocation offer and moved to safety. The residents had won their struggle, but their beloved community was transformed into another fenceline ghost town. It was a victory for the residents to have won the relocation offer from Shell, but it was a bittersweet victory that meant the end of their community and the severing of the ties with the land, their neighbors and their churches.</blockquote>If this were a film, it is the kind of ending that an independent filmmaker would understand, but probably not Hollywood producers determined to send audiences away with an inspirational message that the system, after all, always works in the end. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, professor emerita of history at the University of California, Davis, is a senior fellow at the <a href="http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/">Rockridge Institute</a> in Berkeley, Calif. and the author, most recently, of "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America" (2001). This article was reprinted with permission from Dissent Magazine<i> (Winter 2005). </i></div></div></div> Sun, 20 Feb 2005 21:00:01 -0800 Ruth Rosen, Dissent Magazine 612976 at http://web.alternet.org Environment Environment Investigations Books The Summer When Everything Changed http://web.alternet.org/story/19641/the_summer_when_everything_changed <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The momentous events of the summer of 1964 &amp;#8211; forty years ago &amp;#8211; created many of our current cultural, social and political divisions.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Even though we're rapidly approaching the 2004 presidential election, it often seems as though we're still shadowboxing over the meaning of the 1960s.<br /><br />This is the 40th anniversary of a momentous summer that created many of the cultural, social and political divisions that make it so difficult to find independent voters who haven't yet decided how they'll vote in November.<br /><br />Consider what happened during the summer of 1964. More than 1,000 Northern college students, black and white, "went South" for Mississippi Freedom Summer. They lived among the segregated Southern rural poor, taught in Freedom Schools, and tried to register black citizens who had been denied the vote. Every day, their lives were at risk. At night, cars filled with armed white vigilantes chased them down dark, single-lane country roads.<br /><br />My parents would not sign the consent form required to join Freedom Summer. "I'm not allowing my daughter to enter a war zone unarmed," my father said.<br /><br />Though I vehemently disagreed, he wasn't entirely wrong. Some activists died. Early in the summer, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three civil-rights workers, disappeared and were later unearthed from a dam in August. (Schwerner's mother had been my biology teacher in high school). The deaths and beatings of white young people forced a nation still indifferent to black casualties to recognize the violence that had terrorized the Southern civil-rights movement.<br /><br />Many of these college students returned home transformed. They had stood up to authority and challenged received wisdom about racial superiority. No surprise, then, that many of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement, which erupted in early fall at the University of California at Berkeley, had been among those who had fought segregation in the South. No surprise, either, that some of the young women in the civil rights movement jump-started the feminist revolution after they had learned to question the "natural order of things" and because some felt they had been subordinated or exploited during Freedom Summer.<br /><br />In early August came the surprising news that Vietnam, a country most of us couldn't find on a map, had attacked one or more U.S. Navy destroyers. On August 7th, Congress, with only two dissenting votes, quickly passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that authorized the funding of the Vietnam War. Few of us who opposed the war the very next day could have imagined that it would shadow the next decade of our lives. And even now, after former Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara and many others have acknowledged that those attacks never happened, it's hard to believe how little it took to convince Congress and the American people that Vietnam, like Iraq, represented an imminent threat to our country.<br /><br />Later that month, the dream of a racially integrated society also collapsed at the Democratic National Convention, held in Atlantic City. Long excluded from the political process, African Americans had formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and demanded to replace the state's all-white delegation at the convention. Afraid to lose Southern whites to Republicans (which happened anyway when Richard Nixon launched his infamous "Southern Strategy" in 1968), the Democratic Party shamelessly granted the MDFP token representation and refused to seat the delegation. Many African Americans in the party felt betrayed. The alliance with white liberal Democrats was shattered and many date the growth of separatism and black power from that humiliating moment in Atlantic City.<br /><br />As the summer turned into autumn, the country was at war. The media began to notice that a new "sexual revolution" was gradually changing campus culture. At the same time, the news of the Free Speech Movement, just then erupting in Berkeley, rapidly spread across American college campuses. Police hauled off 800 students for protesting the university's prohibition against recruiting civil rights activities on campus.<br /><br />Across the nation small groups of students, inspired by the news of a youth movement, joined local civil rights movements and began protesting an escalating war. In the wake of the student movement came new struggles to protect and expand the rights of women, gays, and the environment.<br /><br />The summer of 1964 is when the sleepy 1950's ended. During those months, and in the years that followed, many of us lost our innocence. Official lies led to skepticism, which eventually gave way to cynicism and political indifference for too many Americans. The demand for equality – for minorities and women – created new fault lines and irreversibly altered the political landscape.<br /><br />The two presidential candidates both came of age during this decade. But President George W. Bush essentially skipped "the sixties." He drank, rather than inhaled. He played fraternity pranks, honed his cheerleading skills, and later ducked the draft, even though he didn't oppose the war.<br /><br />Unlike Bush, Sen. John Kerry fought in Vietnam. Later, he risked his future by joining other anti-war veterans; he even testified before Congress about why that war had to end.<br /><br />In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry identified himself with the dreams of a generation of young people who had hoped to change the world: "It was the beginning of a great journey – a time to march for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for women, and for peace. We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did. But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected."<br /><br />Bush, by contrast, is a master at exploiting the politics of fear, and has instead tried to repeal or restrict – by law or executive order – women's reproductive rights, protection of the environment, freedom of information, and has promoted a foreign policy guaranteed to give peace not much of a chance.<br /><br />To be sure, the summer of 1964 was less sexy and far less photogenic than Woodstock, the event that has become the stock image of the 1960s with its half-naked, drugged and dazed young people writhing in the mud. But if you want to understand the present, you should never forget that it was the summer of 1964 that changed the trajectory of our country. From that decisive summer sprang new demands for an expanded democracy. But it also ignited the cultural wars and political divisions that still separate us today, forty years after the battles of the sixties began. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at the University of California, Davis, is a senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute in Berkeley, California and the author, most recently, of "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America" (2001). </div></div></div> Mon, 23 Aug 2004 21:00:01 -0700 Ruth Rosen, AlterNet 608242 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics What's Wrong with Curves? http://web.alternet.org/story/18569/what%27s_wrong_with_curves <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The SF Chronicle has retracted this story.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><i>Editor's Note: We recently ran a column by Ruth Rosen of the San Francisco Chronicle, stating that Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves, gives money to militant anti-abortion groups. The Chronicle has retracted Rosen's column and issued the following correction.</i><br /><br />Two recent columns contained errors involving contributions made by Gary Heavin, founder and CEO of Curves, the women's fitness chain. Ruth Rosen's April 29 opinion-page column stated that Heavin "has given at least $5 million of his profits to some of the most militant anti-abortion groups in the country." That characterization is not accurate. The column specified that the money went to "three Texas organizations to fund 'pregnancy crisis centers.' " Only one of the recipients, Care Net, operates pregnancy crisis centers that are designed to dissuade pregnant women from having abortions while offering other support services to encourage adoption. Heavin has pledged to give Care Net $1 million over the next five years, according to a Curves spokeswoman. The largest of the pledges -- $3.75 million over five years -- goes to the Family Practice Center of McLennan County, which provides a variety of health-care services to Central Texas residents, many of whom are uninsured, according to the Curves spokeswoman. The Catholic-run center does not provide abortions but is not actively involved in the anti-abortion movement, the center's CEO said.<br /><br />The other recipient of Heavin's pledge, $250,000 over five years, was the McLennan County Collaborative Abstinence Project, which promotes sexual abstinence among teens. Its director said that, as a matter of policy, its staff would not discuss abortion when making presentations. The column presented the contributions as a percentage of the company's annual gross revenues. But the Curves spokeswoman said that those pledges, as well as millions of dollars in donations to a wide range of charities, came from Heavin's personal wealth. The column also referred to Heavin's comments in a "recent Christianity Today" article that he "is proud to support these organizations." In fact, the interview was published in the January-February issue of Today's Christian, a magazine affiliated with Christianity Today. In it, Heavin expressed his anti- abortion views but did not talk about his support for any specific organization.<br /><br />In addition, Jon Carroll, in his April 20 Datebook column, erred in referring to Heavin's comments as appearing in "Christianity Today" and by stating that Heavin "donates 10 percent of Curves profits" to "anti-choice groups." He also wrote that Heavin's recipients were allied with Operation Save America, a radical anti-abortion group. As stated in a May 4 clarification on Rosen's column, Operation Save America has praised those recipients on its Web site but does not provide financial support, nor does it have a formal alliance with them. The Chronicle regrets the errors.<br /><br /><br /><br /><!-- The following has been retracted<br><br>For women of a certain age, Curves -- a physical-fitness chain -- seems like a blessing. No men, no mirrors. No expensive membership fees, no complicated dance-step routines.<br><br>Just walk in and change into your frumpiest sweats. Get a 30-minute complete workout on a circuit of hydraulic machines, arranged in a sociable circle so you meet other women. Nothing to remember: A pre-recorded voice tells you when to switch machines and do aerobics on rubberized mats. Get dressed and you're out the door.<br><br>What's not to like? Curves is inviting, rather than intimidating. Unlike many gyms, Curves fitness outlets don't feel like "meat markets" or look like nightclubs. By offering easy and accessible exercise, Curves helps some 2 million overweight and overworked middle-age women lose weight, get fit and improve their health -- just what public-health officials hector us to do.<br><br>Not surprisingly, Curves is wildly successful. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, it now boasts 7,500 outlets and is the fastest-growing franchise in the world.<br><br>There are 68 outlets within 25 miles of downtown San Francisco. Most of them are tucked away in nondescript strip malls or office buildings, which keeps monthly membership fees as low as $29. Such modest locations also enhance the profits of franchise owners, who pay $29,000 to open a Curves outlet, plus a monthly royalty fee of $395. (For many women, it's a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to start a small business.)<br><br>So, is there any reason why you shouldn't rush out to join the Wal-Mart of gyms that's helping so many women improve their health?<br><br>Well, yes. The owner, Gary Heavin, has given at least $5 million of his profits to some of the most militant anti-abortion groups in the country.<br><br>Heavin, like his next-door neighbor George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, found redemption as a grown man. Before founding Curves in 1992, he went bankrupt, lost custody of his two children and served a six-month jail sentence for not paying child support. In prison, he became a born-again Christian.<br><br>In 2003, Heavin and his wife gave away $10 million -- 10 percent of their company's gross revenues -- to charities. At least half of that money went to three Texas organizations to fund "pregnancy crisis centers" supported by Operation Save America -- the same organization that blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on God's retribution for abortions and whose purpose, as described on its Web site, is to "unashamedly take up the cause of pre-born children in the name of Jesus Christ."<br><br>By offering the same health services provided by Planned Parenthood -- except abortion -- anti-abortion activists hope that privately financed alternatives would force the closure of any clinics that don't insist "you must carry your child to term."<br><br>Heavin, as he explained in a recent Christianity Today article, is proud to support these organizations. But at a few Bay Area outlets, both members and owners seemed surprised to learn this.<br><br>Leslie Warren, an Oakland hair stylist, quit a Curves outlet Wednesday because of Heavin's support of anti-abortion activism. In response, the franchise owner told Warren that Heavin does not use profits from Curves to support such organizations.<br><br>Some members, of course, share Heavin's religious beliefs. At 5-foot-3 inches, Brenda Hadley, a student adviser at Texas A & M University, had ballooned to 165 pounds. "If it wasn't for God sticking with me and the special relationships I've made with the Curves ladies," she told Christianity Today, "I'd still be sitting in my apartment watching movies and stuffing myself with Big Macs." Hadley said she lost 32 pounds at Curves.<br><br>Annie Lamott, a Bay Area writer whose last book was titled "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith," had a different response to Heavin's anti- abortion contributions. "I like Curves a lot but I love women's rights more. I hate the idea that this right-wing fundamentalist is making a profit on these places that make it easy for women to exercise. I don't see how, in good conscience, someone like me, a staunch feminist and progressive, can in any way contribute to any organization that undermines women's rights."<br><br>Here, then, is a feminist dilemma. Curves targets Baby Boomer women -- many of whom consider themselves feminists -- precisely because it offers a refuge from gyms that cater to musclemen or singles. Yet Heavin's contributions to anti-abortion groups goes against many women's deeply held belief that they should have the right to make their own reproductive choices.<br><br>What to do? Your decision. There are alternatives, including just plain walking. --><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Sat, 01 May 2004 21:00:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 605497 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Bush Mobilizes Women http://web.alternet.org/story/18461/bush_mobilizes_women <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A new generation of activists is galvanized against the assault on choice. At Sunday&#039;s March for Women&#039;s Lives, the generations will meet to defend against the erosion of rights.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->George W. Bush didn't seek office hoping to launch a new wave of the women's movement. But the president has angered so many girls and women that he has helped mobilize a national march to protect women's rights.<br /><br />On Sunday, April 25, an expected 1 million marchers will stream into the streets of the nation's capital for what is billed as the "March for Women's Lives." The last large pro-choice march drew 750,000 people in 1992.<br /><br />According to Alice Cohan, the event's director, the march's major sponsors -- NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority, the National Organization for Women, the Black Women's Health Imperative, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the ACLU -- will ensure that "we get numbers too large to ignore."<br /><br />"Many people," says Cohan, "now realize that Bush could actually succeed in banning abortion. We've got to remind people of what life was like before, when women died from illegal abortions."<br /><br />Many older women, of course, remember those desperate times and will be marching to defend Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.<br /><br />But one-third of the participants, according to Krystal Lander, the campus program director of Feminist Majority, will be college-age students, many of whom have fund-raised to pay for their plane or bus fares to Washington. Among them are students from nearly all of the University of California and California State University campuses.<br /><br />"The response has just been amazing," says Lander. "Bush's relentless attempts to confer personhood on the fetus and to choose judges who are opposed to abortion have galvanized young women all over the nation. They get it now; it's real. Bush is educating a whole new wave of young women, more than anyone could have imagined."<br /><br />Juliet Linderman, a 17-year-old senior at San Francisco's Lowell High School, is one of those young women who is outraged by Bush's attempts to make abortion illegal. She couldn't afford to travel to Washington and knew that many other young people would also want to have an event in San Francisco.<br /><br />So, with two of her friends, Juliet has organized a rally, especially designed for people her age, for noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, in Dolores Park.<br /><br />"It's personal now," she says. "I don't take women's rights for granted anymore." The aspiring journalist is also worried about "Bush's attacks on the environment, education and health, the war in Iraq, tax cuts and, well, everything else I care about."<br /><br />With a certain sense of excitement, she adds, "Thank goodness, I can finally vote in November!"<br /><br />Heidi Seick, a 32-year-old technology analyst, is another youthful San Franciscan mobilized by Bush's assault on women's rights. She has organized some 20 friends, all professional young women, who will join the march as a delegation. They've named themselves "San Francisco Choice Chicks."<br /><br />Linderman and Seick are hardly alone in worrying about the many ways the Bush administration has tried to roll back women's rights. Last week, the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit research and policy center in Washington, released a report that details how Bush's policies have adversely affected American women. In addition to the administration's attempt to ban sex education and abortion, these are some of the "low profile" examples cited in the report:<br /><br />-- Bush's budget would cut funding for emergency shelters, rape crisis hot lines and other domestic violence services.<br /><br />-- The administration's political agenda has distorted scientific information. The National Institute of Cancer, for example, posted an inaccurate statement that abortion causes breast cancer.<br /><br />-- A plan to privatize Social Security would particularly harm women workers, who generally earn less than men.<br /><br />-- Budget and tax cuts will reduce or end services and programs needed by working mothers.<br /><br />-- The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped cases challenging sex discrimination in employment.<br /><br />The <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/AdminRecordOnWomen2004.pdf">list</a> is not short, and covers 10 key areas that affect women.<br /><br />Here, then, is a success story for President Bush to publicize as he campaigns for re-election. In three years, he has managed to mobilize several generations of women -- a feat not matched by feminists for more than 30 years.<br /><br /><i>Ruth Rosen is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Mon, 19 Apr 2004 21:00:00 -0700 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 604902 at http://web.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Climate Change Warnings -- Again http://web.alternet.org/story/18311/climate_change_warnings_--_again <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Pentagon and the World Bank have both issued dire warnings about global warming but the Bush administration refuses to confront this growing threat to national security.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->The Pentagon has warned that global warming is a serious threat to our country's national security.<br /><br />Dryly entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for U.S. National Security" (October 2003), the Pentagon report first appeared in the British press, Fortune magazine, a small number of American newspapers and then began circulating on the Internet.<br /><br />Andrew Marshall, a highly respected 82-year-old defense adviser in the Department of Defense, commissioned the Pentagon study. He also led the sweeping review of the military ordered by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and runs a little-known Pentagon think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, which has evaluated risks to national security for four presidents.<br /><br />The authors of the study -- Peter Schwartz, a CIA consultant, and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network in California, are tough-minded analysts, not your stereotypical tree-hugging environmentalists.<br /><br />Their report, however, reads like the script for a horror flick. "The purpose of this report," they begin, "is to imagine the unthinkable." To accomplish this goal, they "interviewed leading climate-change scientists."<br /><br />Extrapolating from the present, they predict that dramatic climate changes may lead to rising seas, mega-droughts and famine within 20 years. Some European coastal cities, such as The Hague, could sink under the ocean, Britain could be plunged into a semi-Siberian climate, Bangladesh could become uninhabitable and drought could destroy the American breadbasket.<br /><br />California would be especially hard hit. "Failures of the delta-island levees in the Sacramento River region in the Central Valley of California" could create an inland sea that would "disrupt the aqueduct system that transports water from Northern to Southern California because saltwater can no longer be kept out of the area during the dry season . . ."<br /><br />In response to such catastrophic changes, the authors argue, some regions or countries will defend dwindling supplies of water, food and energy with all kinds of military strategies, including nuclear weapons. Widespread rioting and regional conflict could even push some areas of the planet to the edge of anarchy.<br /><br />Global warming, they conclude, must "therefore be viewed as a serious threat to global stability and should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern."<br /><br />So far, the reframing of global warming as a national security threat has fallen on deaf ears at the White House.<br /><br />But what would you expect? The Bush administration, after all, has said that "the jury is still out on global warming," suppressed scientific data on global warming in a 2002 annual report on the state of air pollution and published a 2003 "comprehensive" report on the environment without including any information at all about climate change.<br /><br />Jeremy Symons, a whistle-blower at the Environmental Protection Agency, told the British newspaper the Observer, that "This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies."<br /><br />Symons's desire for scientific impartiality is shared by many respected scientists who have protested the Bush administration's manipulation or suppression of scientific evidence.<br /><br />Robert Watson, now chief scientist for the World Bank, has also warned that the Bush administration must not ignore the Pentagon's dire warnings.<br /><br />For decades, human-rights proponents have been advocating an expanded definition of national security -- one that includes the health and welfare of citizens. With both the World Bank and the Pentagon worried about global warming, President Bush now has an opportunity to broaden his militaristic view of national security and include climate change as well.<br /><br />The Pentagon's report is already breathing new life into the <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=18283">McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act</a> that was narrowly defeated last year. A staff member of Sen. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, says that he plans to hold hearings on global warming and the national security.<br /><br />The Bush administration says it was shocked when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred. Now, the Pentagon is predicting an eventual environmental Armageddon.<br /><br />Don't say we weren't warned. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Thu, 01 Apr 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 604476 at http://web.alternet.org Environment Environment The Battle Over the Sixties http://web.alternet.org/story/18008/the_battle_over_the_sixties <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Democratic nominee will be drawn into a political and cultural fray over issues that galvanized a generation during the 1960s -- racial equality, abortion, gay rights and more.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Although we're rapidly approaching the 2004 presidential election, it often seems that we're still shadowboxing over the 1960s.<br /><br />Whoever becomes the Democratic presidential candidate will be drawn into a political and cultural fray over racial equality, abortion, gay rights, environmental sustainability and economic justice -- all issues that galvanized a generation during that tumultuous decade of 1963-1973.<br /><br />The two leading candidates, in addition to the president, are Baby Boomers. Yet, the experience of that generation has affected them differently.<br /><br />George W. Bush basically skipped the 1960s. He drank, rather than inhaled. He played fraternity pranks while others boogied to the Stones. He was a cheerleader while his classmates protested official lies. He didn't fight in -- or against -- the war in Vietnam. He never joined movements that promoted first-class citizenship for racial minorities, women or gays and lesbians. He never fought for new protections for the environment.<br /><br />Nor was he part of the Silent Majority of Baby Boomers who avoided the chaos of the era, led sober, responsible lives and went on to join the workforce and raise families.<br /><br />Bush, instead, was a privileged son who took for granted his eventuall entitlement to power. He did some sporadic time in the Texas Air National Guard while others worked in the Peace Corps or fought in the war against poverty. He worked, off and on, at businesses his father gave him to run, while many of his classmates carved out careers dedicated to changing society.<br /><br />Truth be told, he didn't really become a responsible man until he was forty.<br /><br />Call him the anti-'60s president. His views on abortion, same-sex marriage, waging war and social and economic justice were not forged during his youth. They were hatched as part of a middle-aged quest to pursue his family's dynastic political power. His views are far more conservative than most of the huge generation that embraced greater tolerance and liberal social attitudes.<br /><br />Whoever wins the Democratic nomination must be able to demonstrate that Bush's views are outside the mainstream of American society and that he has shown precious little of the "character" or compassionate conservatism on which he based his 2000 campaign.<br /><br />Fortunately, we have two Democratic candidates superbly prepared for the battle that lies ahead.<br /><br />Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) clearly grasps the changes that have transformed our society. He embraces racial and gender equality, as well as gay civil rights. He understands the critical necessity for environmental protection and energy independence. He comprehends, at a visceral level, the daily struggle waged by the working poor for economic dignity. He instinctively knows why our national security requires that the rest of the world respect -- not resent -- the United States.<br /><br />A charismatic and charming campaigner, Edwards has helped remind many Americans of their core principles and values. Unlike the president, who works hard to manipulate our fears, Edwards appeals to our hopes for greater fairness and a safer future.<br /><br />With a few minor exceptions, the views and positions of Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.) closely mirror those of his younger rival. Kerry is also a forceful and articulate campaigner who has proven his ability to respond to political attacks with a rapid and powerful response.<br /><br />Like Bush, Kerry was also a privileged son. But the choices Kerry made tested his character and gave him a well-deserved reputation as a man of courage and conscience.<br /><br />Unlike Bush, Kerry was a bona fide member of the Vietnam generation who fought both in and against the war. As a decorated veteran and distinguished anti-war activist, Kerry has been able to appeal to large segments of his generation, particularly Vietnam veterans, who previously remained fairly detached from the electoral politics.<br /><br />Bush never expected that a former Green Beret would stand on a Des Moines stage and tell an audience how John Kerry saved his life in Vietnam. As Robert Poe recently wrote in Salon.com, "By the time he was finished, something remarkable had happened: A presidential challenger had, as the world watched, grown larger than the incumbent president."<br /><br />Afterward, the 2004 presidential election suddenly morphed into a referendum on character.<br /><br />Kerry's engagement on both sides of the Vietnam War -- in addition to his decades of experience in the Senate and expertise in national security -- is the major advantage he brings to the cultural wars still at the center of American politics.<br /><br /><i>Ruth Rosen is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.</i><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Mon, 01 Mar 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 603658 at http://web.alternet.org Election 2004 Election 2004 Suffering Suffrage http://web.alternet.org/story/17990/suffering_suffrage <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In some states, a young offender could finish probation, work and pay taxes, but never be able to vote again -- a clear instance of taxation without representation.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->While we're all focused on elections, can you guess which Californians are prohibited, by law, from voting? People you may not know: every prison inmate and former felon who is still on parole.<br /><br />Few people realize that voting rights are left up to the states -- a legacy of the South's post-Civil War effort to prohibit newly freed slaves from voting.<br /><br />California's voting laws, however, are relatively liberal compared to the 14 states that permanently bar ex-felons from voting and the 29 states that prevent criminals from voting while on probation. Only two states -- Maine and Vermont -- follow the European pattern of allowing all inmates and ex-convicts to vote.<br /><br />You're probably thinking this has nothing to do with you. But you would be wrong. It could affect your troubled teenager. As New York defense attorney Andrew Shapiro has noted, "An 18-year-old first-time offender who trades a guilty plea for a nonprison sentence may unwittingly sacrifice forever his right to vote."<br /><br />That's right: In some states, your child could finish probation, work and pay taxes, but never be able to vote again -- a clear instance of taxation without representation.<br /><br />The people most affected by these laws, as you might suspect, are not white-collar criminals or suburban teenagers. In California, they are disproportionately African American and Hispanic men, part of the exploding population of people on parole for past drug crimes.<br /><br />Nationally, almost 4.7 million adults are barred from voting. Of that number, 13 percent of African American men -- 1.4 million individuals -- are disenfranchised because they are in prison, on parole or on probation.<br /><br />"This is not just a criminal justice issue, but one of basic democracy,'' said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project in Washington, a nonprofit research organization on criminal justice.<br /><br />We should never underestimate the impact of such widespread disenfranchisement on our electoral process. According to Human Rights Watch, Florida law -- which permanently denies the vote to ex-offenders -- prevented more than 400,000 people (including one-third of Florida's black men, or 200,000 residents) from casting a vote in the 2000 presidential election.<br /><br />Human Rights Watch concluded "that the inability of these ex-offenders to vote had a significant impact on the number voting for Vice President Gore." Chris Uggen, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota, found that if ex- convicts had been allowed to vote in the last presidential election, Gore would now be sitting in the White House.<br /><br />We began this nation with the rather narrow view that only white men who owned property could vote. Since then, we have extended suffrage to all citizens, but not to former criminals.<br /><br />These laws originated during one of our least glorious historical periods. Between 1890 and 1910, Southern states crafted criminal disenfranchisement laws -- along with literacy tests and poll taxes -- that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to wield any political power.<br /><br />In 1901, Alabama lawmakers even inserted a provision in the state constitution that disenfranchised any person guilty of the felonious crime of "moral turpitude.'' (In the South, that could be attributed to a black man who directly spoke to a white woman.) The Alabama legislature declared that its goal was to establish and preserve white supremacy.<br /><br />We are the heirs of this shameful legacy. We are also the only democratic society that indefinitely bars so many felons from re-entering society, endowed with the rights and responsibilities of their citizenship.<br /><br />Widespread disenfranchisement in poor communities also tends to lower voter turnout in general. "The reason," Mauer told me, "is that there is little interest in elections when so many men cannot cast a vote. And that's not going to lower recidivism rates. We want parolees to be more -- not less -- connected to society and to assume the obligations of citizenship."<br /><br />Politicians and strategists agree that the major parties refuse to address this blight on our democratic process. Republicans resist giving the vote to ex-convicts because they know they will lose political power. Democrats, for their part, have hesitated to take on the issue, for fear of appearing soft on crime and because former offenders don't contribute to their campaign coffers.<br /><br />But denying the vote to an entire class of Americans is indefensible and profoundly undemocratic. Joe Loya, a disenfranchised felon, eloquently expressed this sentiment a few years ago:<br /><br />"Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen's space. I want to walk calmly into a polling place with other citizens, to carry my placid ballot into the booth, check off my choices, then drop my conscience in the common box."<br /><br />Hear his words. They may be the battle cry for the next struggle for universal suffrage. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Sat, 28 Feb 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 603588 at http://web.alternet.org Election 2004 Election 2004 Why Single Women Must Vote http://web.alternet.org/story/17862/why_single_women_must_vote <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Unmarried women are the demographic-swing group that could decide a close election, oust President Bush and alter the political landscape in Congress.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Forget the angry white men of 1994, the soccer moms of 1998 or the NASCAR dads of 2002. This year, Democrats believe that single women -- one- fifth of the nation's population and 42 percent of all registered women voters -- are the demographic-swing group that could decide a close election, oust President Bush and alter the political landscape in Congress.<br /><br />Who are these unmarried women? They are never-married working women, divorced working mothers raising kids alone and widows who are worried about their economic security.<br /><br />Last December, Celinda Lake and Stan Greenberg, two well-known Democratic pollsters, released the results of a survey that Democrats are taking to heart. "Unmarried women represent millions more voters with very clear concerns about the economy, health care and education," said Lake.<br /><br />To this, Greenberg added, "If unmarried women voted at the same rate as married women, they would have a decisive impact on this (2004) election and could be the most important agents of change in modern politics."<br /><br />The problem is that single women just don't exercise their electoral power. In the 2000 presidential election, 68 percent of married women went to the voting booth but only 52 percent of single women cast a vote.<br /><br />That means that 6 million single women failed to vote in an election that hinged on a little more than half a million votes nationally and a few hundred votes in Florida.<br /><br />The survey showed that single women could have altered the outcome of the 2000 election. Had single women -- who favored former Vice President Al Gore by 31 points -- voted at the same rate as married women in Florida and other swing states, Gore now would be sitting in the Oval Office.<br /><br />How do we know that single women would help elect a Democratic president? We don't necessarily; they are not particularly tied to any one party. But 65 percent of the single women surveyed -- a diverse group that crossed class, regional, ethnic and racial lines -- said the country is headed in the wrong direction.<br /><br />The reasons for their disgruntlement are not hard to fathom. Single women, who mostly earn modest salaries, are not great supporters of either tax cuts for the wealthy or huge expenditures for war or the military.<br /><br />Instead, they worry about economic security, health care, good schools and Social Security. They are also more likely to hold progressive views on abortion, gun control and gay rights -- all wedge issues that will influence voters' decisions in the next election.<br /><br />So how do we mobilize this huge and diverse group of single women, described by Page Gardner, who manages the Women's Vote project, a nonpartisan research organization, as "the single largest demographic group of nonvoters?"<br /><br />Democrats have already started reaching out to this untapped group, which includes 16 million unregistered single women and 22 million who are registered but don't vote.<br /><br />In 2002, the Democratic National Committee launched a training program called Democratic Voices to prepare women to spread the Democratic Party's message to their friends and co-workers. The DNC plans to expand this outreach during the 2004 election.<br /><br />But the party must be strategic. It needs to discover why this group feels so detached from politics or what keeps these women from registering and voting. Democrats also need to be more inclusive and explain how their policies and goals would address and improve the lives of single women, not only those of "working families."<br /><br />They also might remind single women of the three generations of women and (a few good men) who braved relentless ridicule, social stigma and personal ostracism during the 70 years they campaigned for a woman's right to cast a vote. Although they launched the struggle for suffrage in 1848, it wasn't until 1920 that women became full-fledged citizens who could vote.<br /><br />Opponents of suffrage, amplified by millions of female voices, argued that women didn't really want to participate in the political process and were quite happy, thank you very much, to let men make the decisions and shape the future of the nation.<br /><br />Single women need to prove these opponents were dead wrong. If she were still alive, Abigail Scott Dunaway, the 19th-century Oregon suffragist would explain that they also have a debt to those who came before us. Speaking to the single women of her time, she said:<br /><br />"The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times ... The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future."<br /><br />Spread the word: Single women could elect the next president.<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Mon, 16 Feb 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 603294 at http://web.alternet.org Election 2004 Election 2004 Leave No Worker Behind http://web.alternet.org/story/17704/leave_no_worker_behind <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Striking workers in California aren&#039;t just fighting for &lt;i&gt;their&lt;/i&gt; rights. If corporations come out on top, everybody loses.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Cynthia Hernandez, a petite and pretty 21-year-old grocery worker, felt exhilarated, rather than weary, after traveling by bus from Los Angeles to Northern California. Riding with her were her 2-year-old daughter, 50 other union members and religious leaders of all denominations from Southern California.<br /><br />She was part of the "Grocery Workers' Justice Pilgrimage," representing 70,000 workers who have been striking Safeway and have been locked out from other Southern Californian supermarkets for the last four months. They're struggling to keep their health-care benefits, a problem that will eventually affect many middle-class workers.<br /><br />The pilgrimage journeyed north to persuade Steven Burd, president, chairman and CEO of Safeway, who lives in Alamo, to return to the negotiating table. Knowing that Burd is a devout evangelical Christian, religious leaders hoped to "change his heart" and to appeal to the faith he professes.<br /><br />They also came to deliver 10,000 cards -- written by shoppers, children and congregants -- that asked Burd to resume bargaining until labor and management reach a fair settlement that protects the health care of all workers.<br /><br />As the bus arrived in Alamo on a chilly but sunny morning Wednesday, they were warmly greeted by Northern Californian religious leaders and community supporters. Together, they held a prayer vigil in front of Alamo's Safeway.<br /><br />"Mr. Burd, lift up your eyes and see the people who are suffering, " said a rabbi. "We need affordable health care," said a minister. After each religious leader spoke, the crowd of several hundred chanted, "Do not close your ears to the cry of the needy."<br /><br />The 4-month-old strike has, in fact, devastated the lives of many workers, some of whom have lost their homes and had their cars repossessed. Many can no longer feed their families and are deeply in debt. "I don't know how I'll pay the rent next month," Hernandez told me. "I have nothing left."<br /><br />Then, the peaceful crowd marched toward Burd's home, chanting "Health care now!" To their delight, passing drivers honked in solidarity and a few neighbors rushed out of magnificent homes to offer unexpected words of support.<br /><br />Because only a small delegation of religious leaders were allowed to climb the private road to the gated Alamo Ridge community, the striking workers never saw the wooded forests and rolling hills that shelter the 15 families who live in this exclusive enclave.<br /><br />Stationed at the gate was Guy Worth, who would only describe himself as "Mr. Burd's personal representative," but who turned out to be a Safeway security guard. He received the bins of cards and then, much to his evident discomfort, found himself drawn into a prayer circle with religious leaders.<br /><br />On the way back, I asked Hernandez what we in Northern California should understand about the grocery workers' strike.<br /><br />"What happens to us," she said, "will happen to everyone else in the country. If our strike is broken, then employers will know they can end health care for all workers."<br /><br />The grocery workers oppose Safeway's effort to raise the amount they must contribute to their health-care costs. The union also refuses to accept a "two-tier" system in which future employees will receive lower wages and benefits than current workers.<br /><br />With a turnover rate of 30 percent a year, grocery workers would soon be reduced to the kind of subsistence-level pay earned by nonunion workers at Wal-Mart, which, says Safeway, is why the corporation, to stay competitive, must curtail wages and benefits.<br /><br />"It's a race to the bottom," said Hernandez, as she wheeled her sleeping daughter in her stroller. "If we 70,000 workers don't get decent wages and health-care benefits, some of us will end up on welfare and most of us will use the public health care system. And who's going to pay for all these public services? The taxpayers, of course! Well, I don't want to live like that. Why shouldn't our employer pay a living wage and health benefits so that we can retain our dignity as workers?"<br /><br />The Rev. Carol Been, a Lutheran minister in the Bay Area, echoed Hernandez's sense of urgency. "There's a race to see which employer can pay the least to its workers and the real issue, of course, is health care."<br /><br />The striking workers certainly know that. So, by the way, did voters in New Hampshire's primary, who told pollsters that health care was even more important than the economy and the war in Iraq.<br /><br />Workers such as Hernandez are desperately trying to hang on to their middle-class dignity. They deserve our support. There, but for good fortune, go the rest of us -- and probably sooner than we may realize. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Sat, 31 Jan 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 602797 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics Health-care Meltdown http://web.alternet.org/story/17602/health-care_meltdown <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A single-payer health care program is on the table in California, proposing to drastically reform the broken system.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->"It's enough to make you sick," wrote one woman whose doctor no longer accepts HMO patients, forcing her to find a new physician.<br /><br />Her e-mail was among hundreds of responses I received after suggesting in a recent <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/12/29/EDGS53U1CM1.DTL">column</a> that we should consider replacing our broken health-care system with a single-payer system.<br /><br />Many described how they and their doctors are drowning in the insurance paperwork and procedures demanded by their HMOs. Some confided the shock they experienced when their health plan abruptly ended its contract with their primary-care physicians.<br /><br />Still others wrote about their struggle to keep up with escalating insurance premiums, rising drug costs and greater deductibles. Those who had been recently laid off worried about living without health insurance if they couldn't find a new job.<br /><br />They are hardly alone. In California, according to most estimates, there are 7 million uninsured people, about 9,000 health plans and only 58 percent of physicians who now accept new HMO patients. Health care is also the issue that has caused pitched battles between workers and management, as evidenced by the now three-month-long grocery strike in Southern California.<br /><br />We need to provide affordable, reliable and uninterrupted health care for Californians. The question is, what is the best way to achieve the goal of universal health care?<br /><br />One way is to require employers to either provide health insurance for their workers or to pay into a state fund to do so. That is what Senate Bill 2, the recently passed "pay-or-play" plan, would require in 2006.<br /><br />SB2 is a good start because, according to Anthony Wright, executive director of Heath Access, "it would at least spread the risk and cost among employers and help preserve and stabilize the health insurance we already have. "<br /><br />But there are serious disadvantages to such a plan. The United States is the only country that yokes health insurance to employment, already a growing burden for business. More requirements could affect the ability of California businesses to remain competitive. SB2, moreover, would only cover 1 million of the 7 million Californians who lack health insurance.<br /><br />There is, however, another proposal on the table -- a single-payer health system -- that would overhaul employer-based health care. SB921, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, would create a state health insurance plan in order to provide universal health care for Californians.<br /><br />In Kuehl's words, "You would have a card, just like your health (plan) card now, but you could walk into any hospital, any pharmacy, any doctor's office, any dentist, and they would know you're covered."<br /><br />"But isn't this socialized medicine?" worried readers have asked me. No, it's like Medicare. The state would simply finance and administer health-care reimbursements as a private insurer does now; it would not own the health facilities or employ the medical staff. Patients, not the government, would choose their own health providers.<br /><br />But how can we afford this? Oddly enough, a single-payer plan could prove less expensive than our so-called health-care system.<br /><br />Under a single-payer plan, California would drastically reduce the 10 percent to 35 percent that insurance companies now spend on administrative overhead, advertising and profits -- not to mention multimillion-dollar bonuses for their executives.<br /><br />By contrast, single-payer plans -- such as Medicare or the Canadian health-care system -- have administrative overhead costs of 2 percent or 3 percent, little advertising and no profit. By using its purchasing power, moreover, the state could also buy drugs in bulk at discounted prices. Because everyone would be eligible to receive primary care, expenses for emergency care and hospitalization would likely decline.<br /><br />Eligibility would be based on residency, rather than on employment. The plan would be financed by a payroll tax on all employers, employees, the self-employed and recipients of unearned income.<br /><br />SB921 clearly faces an uphill struggle. Still, Kuehl deserves kudos for initiating a much-needed conversation about how to provide the most cost-effective way to protect the health of every Californian.<br /><br /><i>Ruth Rosen writes for the San Francisco Chronicle.</i> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Tue, 20 Jan 2004 21:00:00 -0800 Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle 602589 at http://web.alternet.org News & Politics