Irony.

15 Apr

So apparently anti-choice crusader and former presidential prospect Michelle Bachman believes women should have the ability to make their own choices when it comes to healthcare. Hummmm. This is interesting considering she does not believe a women should be permitted to have an abortion even in the case of rape or risk to material health. 

I do not have the time to fully comment on this post from Gawker.com now, but I wanted to share. I will revisit this. Promise. 

I’m Baaaaaack!

15 Apr

Well hello loyal readers (all 2 of you),

Over the past few months I have been explicitly told by a handful of my dear friends that they missed my blog and that I should bring it back. So, after about a year-long hiatus, I’m back.
You’re welcome.

This probably isn’t the greatest timing on my part given that my General Exams begin next week, but hey, procrastination is the mother of creativity, and quite frankly, I think much of the material I have been studying over the past 12 weeks is particularly relevant to the discussion I wish to facilitate about political pundit Hilary Rosen commenting that potential First Lady Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life.”

After a few years of media reprieve, the Mommy Wars are back, kids. Given that my master’s thesis was about this very phenomenon, the recent discourse swirling around the interwebs about working and stay-at-home moms is of great interest to me.

In case you are not privy to Rosen’s comments, here’s a link that will sum it up nicely for you. If you don’t want to read that, then here is the SparkNotes version of what went down: On April 11, Rosen appeared on CNN’s AC360 and made the comment that Ann Romney had no business giving her husband advice about women’s economic issues because she had never worked a day in her life. 

This is only true if you don’t consider raising 5 children      “work.”

I have one child and culling her into a rational,     thoughtful, articulate, well-mannered, intelligent, compassionate, kind, and productive little human is the hardest job I have ever had. Ann Romney has worked her ass off. No doubt. She just didn’t get paid for it.

Now, all that being said, I think Rosen was SPOT ON about Mittens not using his wife as a sounding board for women’s economic issues.

Ann Romney has never once had to struggle with making ends meet. She has never had to deal with a boss who didn’t understand the importance of her kid’s soccer game. She has never had to struggle to pay for childcare while working a low-wage pink or blue collar job. She has never had to worry about choosing whether to pay rent or buy groceries. She has never had to swallow her pride and stand in line at the social services office to apply for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or Food Stamps because if she gets a second job to make ends meet, DHS will cut off her daycare subsidy.

In sum, she has never had to struggle financially to care for her kids.

Ann Romney raised her kids in a very privileged bubble.

Much of the discourse about this issue has centered on a mother’s “right” to choose whether to stay home or work outside the home, and that society should be respectful the the choices individual mothers make. I agree. Except that most mothers don’t get to choose whether to stay home or work. Most American mothers HAVE to work whether they want to or not. In 2008, 71.4 % of women with children under age 18 were in the labor force. I would venture to say that while a significant portion of those women enjoy their jobs and are happy to be working, many would much rather stay home and raise their kids full-time. Even Mitt Romney has acknowledged the changing cultural landscape in this regard, commenting that times have certainly changed from when he was growing up and mom stayed home while dad went to work.

I fully agree with Rosen that Ann Romney is not the person who should be advising a potential (dear god, I pray not) President about women’s economic issues. But, if Mittens is elected, I would hope that he would be willing to extend the privilege of staying home to raise kids to those women and men who don’t make hundreds of thousands or millions a year. That he would reconsider his “women on TANF should have the dignity of work” policy. Or, if he’s not willing to do that, then he should create policies that provide working and middle class families with affordable, high-quality child care options and quality pre-school and after-school programs.

Whether a woman has the luxury of staying home to care for children full-time or not is kind of beside the point. Mommy wars discourse is good for headlines, but ultimately bad for women because it undermines the real issues and struggles women face when they are attempting to raise children in a society that does not value care-based labor. The conversation we should be having is not whether Ann Romney worked (because she did), but rather, how can our society create a cultural climate in which mothers and fathers can raise their children without fear of losing their jobs. We should be talking about the creation programs, policies and resources for parents that will alleviate, or at least reduce, the strain between being a parent and being an employee.

I hope the conversation takes this turn. But in the meantime, if Mitt Romney wants someone to advise him about the economic issues facing women, he should call me.

Is the New Federal Reserve Rule a Gender Issue?

10 May

The Federal Reserve enacted a new rule requiring credit card companies to consider only individual income, not household income, when issuing new accounts. The rule becomes mandatory in October of this year, and you can read more about it here.

This sounds, on its surface, like a perfectly legitimate requirement: If you don’t earn any money, they’re not going to give you credit. Simple enough, right?

Um, wrong. Apparently, this new rule is a gender issue.

According to this post written by parentwin on BlogHer.com, the new rule discriminates against women and stay-at-home parents:

Behind that face are women and men who stay home to take care of their kids while their spouses work, providing the more disposable income. To prevent these men and women from being approved for credit takes their legs out from under them, squelches their independence and deems the work they do worthless.  Now I don’t care if you don’t think being a stay at home parent is a career or even a job. This isn’t about needing appreciation for the work done or not done. This is about being forced into a box because of personal life decisions.

At the risk of sounding like an anti-feminist bitch, I must respectfully disagree.

People are forced into boxes every single day because of personal life choices. It’s the American way. It’s also the American way to bemoan the consequences of these life choices. Smokers and obese individuals complain about higher insurance premiums; dangerous drivers have their licenses restricted or revoked then argue it’s not fair; irresponsible spenders balk at the exorbitant interest rates on a car or home loan; the list could go on and on. Now you can add non-income-earning individuals complaining they can’t get credit. I’m certainly not exempt from this either. As a single mother, I am firmly placed into a box of my own making, and I bitch about it from time to time as well. We all bitch about our boxes.

But the assertion made by parentwin that this rule  “squelches their independence and deems the work they do worthless” is poppycock. Women who rely solely on their spouses for financial support ARE NOT INDEPENDENT. And it’s not just credit card companies who devalue domestic work – it’s our ENTIRE SOCIETY. I realize this may sound trite, but it’s true. Just ask Leslie Bennetts, whose book The Feminine Mistake explores the economic impact of stay-at-home parenthood and argues that in order for women to truly be independent, they need their own incomes.

Here’s a snippet of a review from booklist.com:

Drawing on interviews with hundreds of women as well as sociologists, economists, legal scholars, and other experts, Bennetts lays out the dangers of giving up careers. She looks at how new divorce laws have altered alimony, reducing the likelihood of a lifetime guarantee of support for stay-at-home mothers after divorce. She details the impact of a loss of income on medical and retirement benefits and weighs it against lifelong financial needs. Bennetts encourages women to consider a “fifteen-year paradigm,” viewing their lives beyond the years of motherhood and asking themselves what they want from life when their children are grown and gone. Allowing women to tell their own stories of economic abandonment, Bennetts presents a cautionary tale for women pondering giving up economic independence.

I tend to agree with Bennetts. I’ve read her book, and it resonated with me. As the daughter of a mostly-stay-at-home mother, this book made me fearful for my mom, Cathy, who hasn’t worked consistently since my sister was born in 1990. Upon hearing about this new Fed rule, I called my dear momma her to get her opinion.

“It’s disturbing to me because of the work that I do at home. I take care of our bills and of our finances. Whether I contribute to the earning power of the household, I definitely contribute to the management of the household,” she said. “Kenny (my dad) could be a reckless spender and still get a credit card, yet I could be very conservative and be denied because I have no proven income. That doesn’t seem right.”

My smart mother has a point. Just because one member of a household doesn’t earn an income doesn’t inherently mean he or she is fiscally irresponsible; it just means that they don’t earn an income. Fortunately, my dad is the type of guy who respects and values the work my mother does around the house. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him make a snide remark about my mom not contributing financially to the household. But this didn’t make my mom feel any better the time she went to get a cell phone and the clerk said the company would require a deposit. She said she was embarrassed that she was 50-years-old, hadn’t had a late payment on a bill in more than 25 years, but couldn’t even get a phone in her own name, something I did easily at age 18.

My mom also made the point that my 21-year-old sister, Jane, is far more of a credit risk than she is, yet Jane, who works two jobs, could easily apply for and get credit. “I kind of understand where they are coming from,” said my mom of the Fed’s new rule, “but why will Jane get a credit card offer when she has no proven track record of creditworthiness? I think it’s unfair that all my years of household management are for nothing when it comes to money.”

But I still have to wonder if this is really even the issue? The Fed is just protecting its assets. It makes perfect economic sense to determine the creditworthiness of an individual based on his or her own personal income. I strongly doubt the members of the Federal Reserve sat around their marble meeting table and said “let’s stick it to all the stay-at-home moms out there.” Of course, this may be an unfortunate consequence of the rule, but it certainly wasn’t the goal. If I was unemployed living with my parents, would it be appropriate for me to use combined household income on a credit card application? Most would argue no, and I’m quite positive my parents would agree.

Spit your Venom or Swallow your Voice?

3 May

 I ran across this post on thefbomb.org earlier this week and have not been  able to quit thinking about it.

If you don’t have time to read to original, here’s a summary:  The author,  Annie A, was talking with the grandfather of a friend after a basketball  game when the pair spotted a young woman in a skimpy cheerleading  uniform. The  old man commented on the woman’s attire, saying: “Seems  to me that  if  a  girl wears  basically  nothing, like that one  is, She’s just  asking for some  boy to  knock her down and  rape her.  Wouldn’t even be  his fault,  walking  around dressed like that.”

 Annie said she just walked away, mumbling “that’s kind of harsh” under  her breath. She  explains  how she felt ashamed, embarrassed and angry for not voicing her  opinion, and  was frustrated with herself for not knowing what to say.

Most women have probably found themselves in a similar position at some point;  some ignorant ass makes a sexist (or racist, or otherwise repugnant) comment or joke and, despite strong personal opinions to the contrary, the woman (or intelligent, sensitive, enlightened man) stays silent.

Why do we do this?!

Part of me thinks it’s somewhat a product of shock. We are literally stunned into silence by the ignorance, sexism and misogyny of others. We simply don’t know how to respond to such shallow, hateful, and boorish comments on the spot.

I also think perhaps many times we just don’t want to make waves. This has sadly been true in my case more than once. Even though I am disgusted, angry and appalled, I just keep quiet because I don’t want to start an argument in public or come off looking like some crazy feminist psycho-bitch, which I’m quite sure is exactly how I would be perceived if I reacted the way I wanted to.

Besides, how do you even begin to explain to someone how fundamentally WRONG they are? If someone feels that way in the first place, or finds humor in rape, violence and hatred toward women, how effective will it be to tell them that every two minutes in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted? How much impact will it have to explain that 1 in 4 college-aged women will be sexually assaulted before they turn 25? Will it matter if you explain that victims of sexual assault have increased rates of  PTSD and depression, and are more likely to suffer from eating disorders, substance abuse, and STDs? Will they change their beliefs if you tell them sexual assault victims also have higher rates of suicide?

Probably not.

It would also probably not be very effective to scream (as I have wanted to many times)  “ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS?! You think RAPE is funny?! You think just because a woman is wearing (insert description of outfit here) she is ASKING to be sexually assaulted?! F*** you, you ignorant, immoral, disgusting, misogynistic, piece of s**t.”

So if you can’t effectively educate, and you can’t scream and rant, but you also can’t in good conscious stay silent, then what in the hell are you supposed to do? Is there an appropriate way to address these types of comments? What about when the person making them is in a position of authority or someone who would typically garner respect (like Annie A’s friend’s grandfather)?

I wish I knew the answer.

What I do know, however, is that I will from this point forward never swallow my voice in a situation like that again. I will make a conscious effort to say SOMETHING in response; to hold my head high and have the courage to use my words and my knowledge to not do nothing.

The “Miss Representation” of Katie and Barbara

27 Apr

I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on a screening of the forthcoming documentary Miss Representation yesterday afternoon. The incredibly well put-together film highlights, among other issues, many of the dangerous cultural ideologies surrounding women’s bodies as objects of sexual pleasure, their (lack of) leadership abilities, and even their value as human beings.

In addition to the commentary of feminist scholars from all over the country, the film uses the voices of powerful women like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, journalist Katie Couric, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, comedienne Margaret Cho, and Academy Award winning actress Geena Davis to demonstrate how perverse and pervasive these ideologies are.

One of the many points emphasized by director Jennifer Siebel Newsom was the idea that women are far too critical of one another, and that they are often arbitrarily pitted against one another by the media, creating sensationalized “catfights” that don’t actually exist in real life.

What struck me the most, however, was not the content of the film, but what occurred literally minutes after I left the auditorium.

On my way to pick up my daughter from daycare, I was listening to the radio when the on-air talent (and I use the word ‘talent’ loosely) started discussing the announcement made by CBS news anchor Katie Couric that she is leaving her post in June. Couric is the first woman to ever lead a major network newscast solo, and despite lukewarm ratings, her tenure at CBS is a major step for women and  particularly for women in journalism (who, for the record, are highly sexualized and often delegitimized as just ‘pretty faces’). Couric is reportedly planning to host a daytime talk show on ABC which would premier in early 2012.

Only seconds after revealing this newsworthy tidbit, the male dee-jay  comments about the rumor that Barbara Walters is not terribly excited  about Katie’s plans  given her status as queen-bee on the ABC daytime talk  show “The View.”

According to this article in the New York Daily News, Barbara’s  spokeswoman dismissed these claims as “ridiculous”, and went so far as to  say she is Katie’s “biggest booster.” Despite this, the media apparently just  can’t  resist the opportunity to pit two hard-working, talented women  against one  another.

What’s sad is that I might not have even noticed this subtle spin had I not  literally just watched Miss Representation. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve read or heard similar stories and not thought twice about the legitimacy of the claim.

I won’t be making that mistake again.

Perhaps Barbara really was overheard expressing her trepidation about the potential competition from Katie’s yet-to-be announced talk show. If that’s the case, then A) who really cares? and B) Barbara needs a reality check.

It was she, after all, who paved the way for Katie’s success. You would think the woman responsible for almost single-handedly shattering journalism’s glass ceiling would support all of her predecessors and applaud their successes – even ones that might encroach upon her territory. Eighty-one year-old Barbara is, after all, a product of second wave feminism and the “you-can-have-a-family-and-kick-ass-career-too” ideology. And that she did. Maybe her intention was not to lay the groundwork for other women to succeed in the media industry, but regardless of intention, that’s what happened. Katie, on the other hand, is (chronologically) more of a third wave feminist (and she is a feminist, at least according to this article on Jezebel.com), an ideology that fundamentally rejects the idea that women have to “have it all” in order to be happy. Perhaps this is why she is not choosing to renew her contract with CBS news. Or maybe not. Maybe she really just wants to be able to engage in more “multi-dimensional storytelling.”

Either way, both Katie and Barbara (and Connie, and Lisa, and Leslie and Rachel, and other successful female journalists) should be proud of the barriers they have broken down for women in media. In return, the media ought not to pit them against one another like two well-suited bimbos in a prime-time mud-wrestling contest. They deserve more respect than that.

This woman is my she-ro.

22 Apr

Professor tells republican students to \”f-off\” in email.

Just a little something I wanted to share. I’m pretty sure anyone who would even be the least bit interested in my blog would also appreciate it.

Back to the coat hanger?

21 Apr

Oklahoma’s newly elected Republican Governor Mary Fallin has not wasted any time making abortions harder to get for Oklahoma women. Today marks Fallin’s 100th day in office, an opportunity she used to sign into law two bills further restricting access to abortion. One bans the procedure past 20 weeks gestation and the second prohibits insurance policies sold in Oklahoma from covering elective procedures.

According to an article published in the Oklahoman, 20-week-old fetuses have the capacity to feel pain, making the measure one of “human compassion” according Republican Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa, the author of the legislation. The second bill essentially eliminates insurance coverage for abortions in the state. It functions primarily to prevent access to the procedure for lower-income women, as the cost of a surgical abortion ranges from $350-$550 according to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization dedicated to reproductive health education, research and policy.

Perhaps Gov. Fallin and lawmakers in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and soon Utah and Virginia (all states with recently enacted or pending restrictions on abortion) are itching to see more cases like this one in Ghana where a 28-year-old mother of 4 recently died after complications resulting from a botched illegal abortion. Her mother and son-in-law were subsequently arrested and charged with abetment since they knew about the procedure. The “physician” who performed the abortion, however, is on the run. Interestingly, abortions are legal in Ghana, but more than 10 percent of maternal deaths are caused by unsafe practices or a lack of post-abortion health care.

While it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to go back to the days of back-alley abortions where women used coat hangers, drugs, self-inflicted trauma or other horrifying methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies, it’s even harder to imagine why state governments are all but forcing women to have children they don’t want or can’t take care of. There are a whole slew of studies conducted in the U.S. and elsewhere suggesting unwanted children are a social, economic, and emotional burden. Not only that, but at the same time governments are making it more difficult for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, they are also slashing social support services budgets, cutting funding for programs like WIC, limiting welfare benefits like food stamps and TANF, and further restricting access to medicaid benefits.

What a great idea; force women to have babies they don’t want, then refuse to provide the social support systems they need to take care of them.

It’s also pertinent to question why state governments have overlooked evidence suggesting that safe, legal abortions actually have a positive social impact. In their book Freakonomics, economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner outline a correlation between the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and a sharp national decrease in violent and non-violent crime rates 18-20 years later.

Perhaps I should mention here that I used to be staunchly pro-life. I didn’t think abortion should be legal except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother was at risk.

My now 5-year-old daughter, Lola

Then I got pregnant.

I was a 20-year-old college student with a part-time, barely minimum wage  job and an unstable relationship. I was all of 4-weeks along when the two  little lines turned pink, and I was completely terrified by the idea of  motherhood. Because I was so early in my pregnancy I was eligible for an RU-486 abortion, which is non-invasive and basically chemically induces a  miscarriage.

Dr. George Tiller

I called the clinic of Dr. George  Tiller (who was assassinated outside of his church by a pro-life radical in 2009) and scheduled an appointment.

My decision not to go through with it, though, has nothing to do with policy, law, education, restrictions, money or morality. I simply made what I felt was the right decision for me at the time.

But that experience has irrevocably changed the way I view women who seek abortions. While I don’t think abortion should be used as a form of birth control, I fully support a woman’s right to receive a safe, legal, abortion if she so chooses, and I don’t think states should require waiting periods, ultrasounds, mandatory counseling, or impose other methods of intimidation, harassment, or discouragement.

These new, more restrictive laws in Oklahoma and elsewhere have reinforced the idea that “the personal is political.”  I, for one, do not appreciate Mary Fallin or anyone else telling me what I can and can’t do with my own uterus. I resent the notion embedded in these laws that I am not intelligent enough to make a decision about what is best for me and my body. Furthermore, I find it ludicrous that at the same time some members of government are trying to take away the rights of women to control the contents of their uterus, politicians who support reproductive rights are being chastised for even using the word!

On March 31st, 2011, in a floor debate in the Florida House of Representatives about the coordinated attack on privacy and women’s health, Representative Scott Randolph said “if my wife’s uterus was incorporated,” the legislature “would be talking about deregulating.”

The House leadership then added freedom of speech to its targets by formally chastising Rep. Randolph for using the word “uterus.” His spokesman said that “uterus” was “language that would be considered inappropriate for children and other guests.”

Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Florida.

Inappropriate for children? Where do children come from?!

This exchange prompted the Florida ACLU to launch incorporatemyuterus.com, a website where women can go and unofficially incorporate their uterus.

“The point is that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government. But I say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife’s uterus

was incorporated or my friend’s bedroom was incorporated, maybe the Republicans would be talking about deregulating,” – Rep. Scott Randolph.

Inherent in feminist theory is the idea that women should have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, and some feminist theorists like Shulamith Firestone have argued that women’s liberation requires a biological revolution in which women must seize control of the means of reproduction in order to eliminate the sexual class system.

As soon as technology overcomes the biological limits of natural reproduction, the biological fact that some persons have wombs and others have penises will no longer matter culturally,” (in Tong, 2008, p. 75).

Radical? Yes. But, if technology were to replace biology, then it would render null the abortion debate and remove politicians like Mary Fallin, Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Dennis Daugaard (R-South Dakota) and other anti-abortion advocates from the bedrooms and bodies of American women.

I hope I don’t start seeing headlines about women dying after complications associated with illegal abortions, but I have a feeling that if this trend of more restrictive abortion laws continues, the sales of wire coat hangers will increase.

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